Although mild weather allowed us to offer a larger than usual variety of vegetables self-serve on the porch this fall, temperatures are staying lower and veggies are getting scarcer–most likely, if you stop by you’ll only see carrots, but more on that later. You, our customers, are ultimately the judges of how successful a season we had, but from our perspective 2012 was an exceptionally productive year despite certain setbacks.
We started off our season with a very poor batch of greenhouse soil which ended up affecting the quality and quantity of our own plants as well as some of those we sold this past spring. Luckily, the problem was caught quickly enough to prevent any really long term issues–we stopped using the substandard soil as soon as we realized the problem, and only our earliest plantings (onions, early broccoli, cabbage and kale, early lettuce, and perennial herbs like thyme and oregano) suffered. Our experienced crew and our managers ensured that subsequent plantings went in like clockwork, and the care they require was given in a timely and efficient fashion–the result being consistent, abundant supplies of most everything we can offer. Routines and systems developed over a number of years were executed with a precision and efficiency unknown before (thanks largely to Taylor Bemis, Ward Cheney and key returning members of the field crew). The downside to these highly developed routines and systems is that crops whose requirements don’t fit within one of our current ‘templates’ tend to fall between the cracks or, more aptly, get lost in the weeds. Witness our first, much heralded crop of ginger, which you may have heard about in a previous e-mail sent out last winter, but which you didn’t hear much about thereafter–because it failed, strangled by weeds and neglect as our weekly lettuce plantings and seedings of herbs and greens ticked along like well-oiled (well, functional anyway) machinery. Whoops.
The dreaded SWD fruitfly (Spotted Wing Drosophila) with its jagged ovipositor and penchant for laying eggs (which hatch into rather unappetizing maggots) into just ripening fruit, did appear–but not early enough to affect our strawberries, and late enough as well that we only needed to spray our blueberries a couple of times. I’d be interested to hear experiences from customers who grow fall-bearing raspberries–did you spray? What? And did it work? If not, were your berries ruined?
Other problems seem less tractable. Despite going to extraordinary lengths to protect our squash crops–growing resistant varieties, covering with row cover, spraying with the rather ineffective materials we’re allowed to use–zucchini plantings were dying in record time, some before they even began to produce fruit. Our winter squash and pumpkin crops (all three acres of which we covered until they were in bloom) did better than last year, but not well enough to justify all the extra labor that went into them. And our basil, though it lasted several weeks longer than last year, still succumbed to disease around mid-August, over a month short of the frosts that used to lay it low.
On a more positive note, the new bird netting system installed by John and Taylor Bemis to protect the blueberries is not only infinitely easier to install and remove, but far more effective than previous methods. In addition, our ‘new’ blueberry planting (now in its third year?) looks to be prospering and may begin to produce fruit in the next year or two. Despite the specter of late blight throughout much of the summer and fall, our (sprayed) tomatoes remained productive through September and beyond with overall yield and quality that was outstanding. And our new tactic of releasing parasitic wasps to control European Corn Borer caterpillars resulted in largely worm-free corn (at least until the arrival of the Corn Earworm, a different species not targeted by the wasps) and larger yields of ripe (red, yellow and orange) peppers, which also often fall prey to European Corn Borer. This year also marked the first time we used a subsoiler (more aggressive than the chisel plow that we have traditionally used to break up compacted soils)–it’s tempting to credit this new practice with the huge yields of huge carrots we enjoyed this year, but, like most things, there’s almost certainly more to the story.
And speaking of high carrot yields, we are still sitting on a large quantity of carrots, so if any of you missed out on ordering a 25 lb bag this fall, or have already gone through them, we still have plenty available at $27.50 per bag–just e-mail if you’re interested and we’ll make arrangements for a pick up.
In addition, I would like to recognize all those individuals involved in our sales efforts–farmstand and farmer’s market crews both, in particular Liza Bemis who ties production and sales together and makes it work. More than successful crops and other triumphs in the field, more than the celebrated farm vista, more than the farm tradition, what makes Hutchins special are the customers and the farm stand crew, interacting, sharing enthusiasm for the produce and the ensuing kitchen alchemy that transforms lovingly raised ingredients into the only form of art that we (literally) consume every day and that (literally) sustains us–food. A heartfelt thank you to all our wonderful customers who continue to seek us out and are so generous in their appreciation of our efforts. Here’s to a good winter, and we’ll see you in the spring.