Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to the Land

Why it means something to support local farmers, or, a letter from Hearty Roots Farm:

Dear East Williamsburg CSA Member:

It's been a while since you've heard an update directly from the farmers at Hearty Roots - unless you've talked to one of us
personally, in which case you're probably tired of hearing complaint after complaint about this season's weather!

Well, I'm afraid that we're not ready to stop complaining yet. "Merciless" is the only word that seems appropriate for the conditions that we've faced in the Hudson Valley this season. Our neighbors, who have been at it much longer than we have, are saying that it's the most difficult growing season they've ever seen. Certainly that's true for us.

We did finally have one week of summer weather just now-- warm days, and an inch-and-a-half of rain, that's just about perfect. Unfortunately, during the rest of June, July and August the skies were not so friendly. Rainstorm after rainstorm turned our normally very well-drained fields into swamps. Unending wet weather brings with it disease, which affected our carrots, potatoes, lettuce, onions, radicchio, and, of course, tomatoes. Flooding in the fields wiped out newly seeded plantings of beets and salad greens. Unseasonably cool days prevented our pepper plants from producing as they should. And muddy fields meant we couldn't get on our tractors and cultivate (i.e., weed) our crops on time, nor plant them on time.

At one point in May, I remember looking at our fields of newly planted carrots and worrying that we would have TOO many carrots this year. Then, when the floods came, the water table rose above the bottom half of all of those carrots, causing them to turn to mush in the standing water.

So we regret very much that our late summer shares, which we always plan to keep bountiful, are less than ideal this season. Please understand that we've done everything we can to keep the shares plentiful - including no longer selling any produce to restaurants, which we normally do with surplus veggies, in order to make sure that our members are taken care of first. And we've re-tasked some of our crew members, who during a normal year might be picking tomatoes right now, with planting extra salad greens for the shares in upcoming weeks.

What's the bright side? Well, the weather has taken a turn for the better, for now. This is allowing our fall plantings of cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes and squash to perk up, and we have been tirelessly weeding them to keep them happy. So we're hoping to have a rebound in the coming month's harvest.

The real bright side, though, comes from you, our members. A season like this one could easily cause a relatively young farm like ours to go under. If we were dependent on farmers markets for our income, we might have ended this season in unrecoverable debt. While we are definitely taking a real economic hit this year, both personally and as a farm, the Community Supported Agriculture model will allow us to get through this season, and onto more bountiful seasons in the future. And we will be stronger for it - having learned how to deal with even the most difficult weather conditions, we will have learned
to grow even more bountifully in the future, and we promise to share that bounty with all of you. Thanks to all of you, very sincerely, for your support this season.

--Benjamin & Miriam

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