August Rains and Riding the Wave into Fall

These last 2 months in the Pioneer Valley, at least at Riverland and Picadilly Farms, have been the season of HEAVY—heavy irrigation through a long drought; heavy downpours; happily heavy harvests of cucumbers, melons, and more; and tomato vines so heavy with fruit some have toppled their staked trellises.

At Riverland a few weeks ago, as I turned from coaxing little Cayden to show me some of his first walking steps and headed out of Rob and Meghan’s kitchen, I witnessed firsthand one of those extremely heavy downpours.  Seems these torrential rains are frequent enough that everyone is sure the drought is over and a few of the farm crew follow their urge to squeeze work between the fits of pelting rain—it most probably will let up just as suddenly as it came, and it would be good to finish the day’s work before too late.  We look on from the shelter of the barn as the rain beats down on fragile beds just seeded with spinach.  Rob wonders if the spinach sprouts will be able to muscle their way through the crust that he knows this soil will form in the wake of such pounding rain.  That’s the second seeding of spinach to be followed by such a punishing downpour.  Nevertheless, there is much to be thankful for, and they’re headed into the season of coasting.

Rob and Meghan have been able to pause here at the peak of the season, take a moment’s breath, ponder their New England farming life, and appreciate the wonderful support network of fellow farmers and shareholders, “…We have to make the most of this time producing enough crops and generating enough income to carry us through the winter.  I’d be willing to wager that every farmer I know has this same drive which in its own way is motivating and comforting at the same time.  I like to be able to call up one farmer friend or another at 5am without wondering whether it’s too early to call.  I like to be able to commiserate about late blight, crop losses, flooded fields, or weather that’s too dry to do anything but irrigate.  I find having that support network in this incredibly tough profession is important to your mental health and wellbeing.  As CSA farmers, we have the advantage of not only having the support of our farmer friends but also the support of you wonderful farm members (which is overwhelming).  It’s your investment in us and your annual commitment to what we do here that gets us out of bed in the morning.  It’s obviously more than your financial commitment.  It’s the personal connections that we have with you, your kind words and gestures, and your genuine excitedness and interest in the happenings on the farm.  While every season has its challenges, we are able to do this day in and day out “time and time again” because you are behind us.  So next time you take a bite of kale, slurp up some tomato sauce from a bubbling pot…Pat yourself on the back because you too had a hand in producing each one of those crops.”

From this vantage point, looks like the brassicas (like Brussels sprouts and kale pictured here) are doing well, and Rob reports we’ll have plenty of sweet potatoes in our late fall share boxes.

Jenny Wooster at Picadilly gives a nice view from the peak of harvest: “This week marks the middle of our harvest season. At the farm, we feel a distinct shift to late summer. The mornings are cooler, afternoons not quite as blazing. The work is changing as well. While the harvest will stretch out through November, many of our tasks are through. Just about everything is planted, and the weeds have mostly been weeded. A touch more fertilizing, almost finished with irrigation. The students on the crew are finishing up and heading out. Yep, we’ve reached that time of the year where we either ‘got it’, or we didn’t. Too late to re-plant, no more time to ‘rescue weed’. The time for farming heroism is done for 2012 (barring any unforeseen hurricanes or blizzards, that is). Now we can take a moment to reflect, up here at the pinnacle of the season, looking back over all those fine spring greens and a summer of yummy tomatoes and corn and melons. Looking forward to those rich fall meals of roasted root vegetables and squash and cabbage. Now begins the time I enjoy most on the farm, riding the long wave of the harvest from here to the hard frost. And it’s all looking pretty good from here.”