Week number 12 is already upon us… today I want to explain some of what goes on on the farm so members have a better understanding of how things work day-to day.

THE EMPLOYEES: Almost weekly we have to hire new people as some people don’t show up, quit, get fired. The staff that packs is constantly changing and even some of our more senior staff that have been with us for years are leaving. It is very difficult to find quality workers that want to do this kind of work. Even if you pay well, people are not used to the long hours and physical nature of farm work. In addition, the seasonal nature of produce farming does not offer employees stability so they are always looking for another job. Winter CSAs have helped a little bit but only enough to keep 2-4 out of 25 or so employees.

THE WEATHER: Never predictable. Always changing. This stresses the plants, animals, and humans on the farm. This year we have had many extremes. Very hot weather which caused otherwise staggered plantings—such as melons, greens, peppers, eggplants—to mature at once. Now we are in a cool wet spell which has caused late blight again and has spread to our tomatoes and potatoes. Even though the hot dry weather was intialy good to mature crops early, it also destroyed some of most sensitive and stressed the surrounding vegetation which caused all the wildlife to eat at the local smorgasbord (Norwich Meadows Oasis of course). So we are battling the deer, raccoons, woodchucks, rabbits, and bugs.

THE FARMERS: we are under constant pressure to keep an even keel on ship that has direction but cannot predict the seas and is at the mercy of all the unexpected circumstances. Agriculture is subject to biological functions that cannot be controlled easily. Unlike widget making that is under a roof and can be produced in an industrial fashion, we are constantly guessing, praying, hoping, that things turn out OK. There are not a lot of aspiring farmers and there is a shortage of trained people in agriculture. The price structure and perishable nature of our product do not allow us to wait for a better price or store for later.

An example of what we deal with on a daily basis:
The ugly: Yesterday we came back with half a truck load of produce because it rained both Sunday and Monday (less cash flow and more compost) This same truck needed to be unloaded, washed, and loaded for Wed CSAs. It took 3 people until 11PM to load it and deal with the returned vegetables. This morning, a water line ruptured and delayed chicken and vegetable processing.

The good: The bright side is that we love what we do and have a great loyal following amongst our CSA members and farmers market customers. We have had a not so bad crop this year, despite the losses and we are hoping for a good fall crop. One of our tomatoes placed second in a taste testing.

Other points that need to be conveyed to members: Good tasting heirloom tomatoes must be picked ripe which means they will have splits and can be soft. People must refrain from squeezing and over handling the produce especially these tomatoes as they will be damaged. For example, at the farmers market despite all our efforts we compost and or sample of each market day anywhere from 200-400 lbs of mostly heirloom tomatoes that are soft or bruised from handling!

The value of a share containing 3-4 lbs of heirloom tomatoes only is way more than what people pay and if we have a shortfall in produce due to a compressed season we will take the increased value into consideration.

– Zaid