August 2016 Newsletter – Tomatoes are here!

Part of my job description at the farm I worked at before Hutchins involved giving occasional farm tours to various groups of people. These tours were generally off the cuff, unscripted affairs with questions entertained and answers attempted. On one particularly memorable occasion I was asked where I lived, which I answered by pointing to one of several houses located on the farm. The questioner responded: “Wow, you don’t even have to worry about the weather!” In retrospect I suppose she meant that I didn’t have to worry about turning on my windshield wipers during my nonexistent commute, but at the time I was flummoxed: I’m quite sure that I worry about the weather more than any dozen average people on the street, possibly as much as the weatherman, ship’s captains and school superintendents.

All of which is prefatory to the inevitable lament about the weather—or lack thereof. Long time farmers, as a rule, don’t allow themselves to blame the weather for their failures: ‘guess I should have gotten water on that more quickly’ they might say, ruefully kicking at a dead plant. Despite their obsession and strong ambivalence about weather, farmers generally consider it in bad taste to even complain about it. Partly that’s because they’re afraid griping will give customers the idea that crops aren’t doing that well and that they’ll stay away. The primary reason, however, is our complete, frustrating inability to affect, control, even predict the weather with any real precision or consistency. Confronting the complete insignificance of all our plans, hopes and efforts is discomfiting in the extreme and can cause all manner of anxieties and crises. When conditions are dire, we are presented with two equally unappealing alternatives: the complete indifference or the active malevolence of the universe. A rain shower now and again is refreshing in so many ways. Of course a protracted period of unending rain is as disastrous in its way as the unrelenting pleasant weather we’ve been suffering through, prompting one to be careful about what one wishes for. Not, as I have become convinced, that wishing will make anything so.

Irrigation gives the farmer a comforting illusion of control, and most of the time is an effective insurance policy for a stubborn dry spell, but when rainless days stretch into dusty weeks and months the endless rounds of moving sprinkler lines, setting up irrigation filters, fueling the pumps, not to mention running over and ruining aluminum pipe, takes on a Sisyphean flavor—particularly when all our efforts and all our special equipment aren’t enough to get the dang carrots to germinate properly. We also suffer the guilt of the privileged when we think of those farmers without the capacity to irrigate sufficiently or at all, another reason for me to quit whining.

This season has tested our resolve in ways that most seasons have not, but the good news is that, so far at least, our irrigation systems, stretched to the breaking point, have saved our behinds. We haven’t been able to make everything work, and we may have somewhat less broccoli and cabbage this late summer and fall, but for the most part, crops look great. The birds have been a bit harder on the corn than usual, and some of the ears have been smaller on average, but the quality has been great, and looks to continue. Tomatoes really do well under dry conditions (as long as you can get water to the roots)—we appear to be on the verge of another outstanding tomato year, with ample production and fantastic flavor. Our garlic crop is likely the best I’ve seen since moving to Concord, with a high proportion of huge bulbs, and the onion crop is likewise one for the record books, thanks primarily to the tireless efforts and creative innovation of Dan Kamen, and the indomitable field crew in May and June who first planted them for days on end, then weeded them for additional days on end.

Blueberry season is officially over for us. The apples have set a fairly light crop after last year’s bumper and haven’t yet begun to ripen, but August is a great time to visit as our stalwart crops like lettuce, carrots, kale and beets continue to come in, and new crops like ripe peppers, leeks, sweet onions and shelling beans make their debut appearances. For some folks (not everyone, I know) the real reason to stop by is the tomatoes—they’re in their prime now in every way, and it’s only a matter of time before we begin the ‘bounty basket’ volume discount.

Anyway, the drought has been challenging, and although we got some very welcome soaking rain recently, it may persist. We’re encouraged at how well most crops look despite the lack of rain, and we encourage you to stop by and share in our gratitude for our limited ability to ‘make it rain’ and keep even a very dry New England Summer feeling like a bountiful season.

-Brian Cramer, Farm Manager


August 2016 Newsletter – Tomatoes are here!
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