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Waltham Fields Community Farm (incorporated as Community Farms Outreach, Inc.) is a nonprofit farming organization focusing on sustainable food production, fresh food assistance, and on-farm education. For more information about Waltham Fields check out our website!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Notes from the Field - Mid-Season Musings

It's been a funny season so far.  In May, we didn't get any rain until the last day of the month.  June was a bit better, book-ended by an inch or two of rain in the beginning and end of the month.  And then July came on, relentlessly hot and dry.  None of the irrigation systems could keep up with the depth of dryness in the parched soils.  Every so often we'd get a threat of rain, or even a few drizzles from the sky, but never anything that amounted to what Dan would call "having a significant impact on agricultural crops" until the hail and wind storm on Tuesday.  That morning, we delayed the harvest as thunder rolled and lightening lit up the sky, but no rain came to pass.  We ended the day in much the same way, all of us standing in the doorway, watching the giant redwood sway in the gusty storm while golf ball sized hail bounced off the pavement.

Walking out after the storm to assess the damage, we saw our beautiful fall crop of collards tattered and torn, ripe and green cherry tomatoes scattered on the ground and dings in all manner of fruiting crops.  Although everything was desperate for a good soak, it was an unfortunate way to finally get it.  Over the next couple of weeks, you'll see the damage of the storm play out on the stand, as we bring in those torn collards, frayed lettuces and dinged cucumbers.  You've already seen the long term impact of the warm and very dry May in a few crops: potatoes, radishes and turnips all germinated poorly during that time and they were almost non-existent on the stand.  Now, another few weeks will come to pass that exemplify what it means to "share the risk" of a CSA growing season.  The veggies may not look quite as beautiful as we strive for, but they taste just as great.

This week also marks the halfway point in the CSA season.  We're starting week 10 a bit slower than we expected.  Peppers are starting to come in but eggplant and tomatoes are really taking their time.  You heard last week from Zannah about the plight of the eggplant at Gateways, though we're still holding out hope that they'll turn a corner.  I can't figure the tomatoes, though.  Maybe this happens every year but it's more noticeable because it's a week or so later, but I'm making myself crazy waiting for all the fruit out there to ripen.  Some plants look strong and healthy, some have a fair amount of septoria leaf spot and early blight, soil borne diseases that we deal with annually.  But all of them have a great fruit set on them.  It's just all still green.  Except for the 300 pounds we've harvested so far.  If there's one thing the July heat wave was perfect for, it was ripening tomatoes.  Every day for the past two weeks, I'd walk out to the tomatoes, waiting for the great red flush to begin.  No such luck.  It's got to happen sometime, but I've given up trying to predict when that will be.

The cucumbers, squash and zucchini are starting a slow decline, though we should see some amount on the stand through the rest of the month at least.   We've got one more planting of squash and zucchini to come on over at our Lyman fields but I think we've ridden the peak of the cucumber harvest.  Summer onions are still looking good and we'll have some more Red Longs this week and hopefully some nice Walla Wallas soon as well.  We'll start picking a new planting of chard, kale and collards, and despite the hail, the plants are looking beautiful in the front farm field.

This past weekend, the sunlight and the air felt like autumn.  And as much as I'm anxious for all those tomatoes to ripen to really mark the summer season, I'm also looking forward to the arugula, mustard greens and salad turnips that were seeded just after the hail/rainstorm last week.  They won't be on the stand for another 3-6 weeks but the germination is looking fantastic.  I'm feeling optimistic about fall...

Enjoy the harvest,
Erinn Roberts, Farm Manager

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