Hello Food Farmers,
I’d like to start off by saying that we are so grateful that our members are willing to share the risk of growing food with us—we can only hope that this crazy season will turn around and give the plants we all enjoy a chance to flourish. All of the emails and words of support really help keep our spirits up—we know that we face a year of increased workload as we try to make the best of a bad situation, so thanks for hanging in there with us. We’ve had a few days to assess the condition of the crops, so here’s our perspective on the impact of the flooding at this point. (Those of you who received shares on Thursday already got some of this info, so it may be repetitive.)
Here’s what we wrote in the newsletter for last Monday’s Summer Share delivery:
The early potatoes are doing well. Tomatoes both in the high tunnel and outside are looking really good. The onions, leeks, and garlic are vigorous. The chickens are out on pasture and doing well, happy for lots of bugs and green grass. We’re really hoping we don’t get soaked in the next few days because most things are pretty happy!
Needless to say, we did get soaked—the farm rain gauge showed 7.8” of rain overnight on Tuesday, and we got another 1.3” mid-morning deluge on Wednesday to put us over 9” for the day, and a total of 12.1” in an 11 day period. Taking a look around first thing Wednesday morning was awe-inspiring, as we saw water moving like we’ve never seen. We constructed a dam to form our irrigation pond in 2000, and since then the 10” overflow pipe has always been sufficient to handle any excess water. In fact, the pond generally fills only with snowmelt as most rain soaks into the ground before it reaches the pond. With this amount of rain on already saturated soil, water was shooting out of the pipe like a fire hose and rushing over the spillway, which has never had water in it in 12 years. None of the culverts on our farm roads could keep up with the flow and water was running over the roadways.
There are a number of ways that your farm weathered the storm very well: most of the veggies are grown on level ground, so we only had major soil loss from erosion in a few fields, but we did lose a moderate amount of soil from the fields with no cover crops. We did have portions of some crops wash out due to the sheer amount of water moving across the fields, especially small-seeded crops such as carrots and parsnips. We are also very fortunate that water doesn’t run off of anyone else’s land onto the veggie fields; this limited the amount of water moving across the land (and the resulting erosion) and means we don’t have to be concerned about contaminated water coming in contact with the veggies.
The bad news is that since our land is so level, it takes a long time for our soil to dry out. This means that while immediate physical damage from the water isn’t severe in most cases, we expect to have significant crop losses as plants suffer from sitting in saturated soil for a long period of time. We expect that some things will recover and others won’t, but we can’t predict how it will all turn out. For now, we’re just hoping for heat, sun and wind to dry out the fields as quickly as possible to limit the damage. We just got another half inch of rain yesterday, but the sun is shining as I write this, so hopefully this week will be good to us.
As if the flood wasn’t enough, we are seeing unprecedented insect numbers this year. It started with aphids in the greenhouse this spring and in a few outdoor crops, to an infestation of a new pest that I wrote an earlier blog post about—the Variegated Cutworm—that is threatening many crops both outdoors and in the greenhouses. On Friday we just discovered potato beetles and their larvae. This is nearly a month earlier than we’ve had them in the 10 years since we began a new crop rotation system to control them.
The other unfortunate byproduct of the wetness is that it delays mechanical weed control (tractors and mud don’t mix) in the crops and makes for a lot more hand weeding. We know there’s a lot of cleanup to be done all over, but if you have any extra time to volunteer in the coming weeks, please give us a call. Again, thanks for your support and we look forward to sunnier days ahead.