November 2021 Newsletter: Thank you all for a great season!

October ended with a round of weather that has become familiar to us this season: multi-day, multiple inch rain events, swollen rivers threatening to flood, roads becoming rivers. It’s easier to accept now than it was in early July, but still–what a contrast from last year’s unending blue skies and dust!

As the season ends, as usual, we enter this liminal time with a confusing mixture of emotions—most palpable, this season especially, is relief, mixed with regret for the things we should have done, pride in the things we actually did, melancholy at the inevitable passing of time, joy at the promise of a new season springing from the death of the old.

Our relief is particularly poignant this year because of the many difficulties and challenges that arose during the unfolding of 2021. Big challenges like the continued spread of the coronavirus and the resulting confusion, and the seemingly endless procession of heavy downpours that kept rivers out of their banks and farmers out of their fields for long stretches during what should have been peak growing season, and the small difficulties (often spawned by the big) like staffing difficulties, unexpected disease outbreaks in some crops, machinery breakdowns, supply chain problems, material shortages, and a hundred others. Not to complain overmuch, but I’m ready to see the end of this year. It is certain that next year will bring its own set of problems and challenges, but, at least for a little while, I can imagine they will be easily overcome, and, at least until it starts, I’m confident that the 2022 growing season will be the best ever.

Many acres that were fully planted in 2020 remained waterlogged and impassible this year, but we are fortunate enough to have adequate high and dry fields to accommodate widespread changes in planned locations for plantings so that we weren’t left in the unfortunate position of watching armies of transplants slowly stretching and turning yellow in their plug trays awaiting a dry spot to spread their roots. Most of our scheduled plantings went in on time, or close to it, if not in the places that they had been designated in the early, planning stages of the season. Much of our planning, particularly regarding crop rotations and soil-improving cover cropping, encompasses multiple years, so going dramatically off script during an exceptional season has consequences in the short and the long term. We’re hoping the weather gods relent in the upcoming year, allowing our productive bottom land fields to come up for air and take the pressure off the poor, sandy, upland tracts that we end up overexploiting.

There were some notable successes in 2021—garlic and onions, which do much of their growing early enough to have avoided the worst of the weather, performed admirably, and though we sold out (as always), our supply actually lasted weeks longer than usual. Flowers were a bright spot, tended to by a tireless and resourceful Huey Harn-Chen, who in her first year overseeing our cut flower program, did (and continues to do) an exceptional job. Apples, which tend to be an odd-numbered year phenomenon here, came through unusually intense disease pressure under Dave Rice’s expert supervision to give us an admirable crop. Kale never fell out of fashion, and though our second and third plantings (out of five total) have long since succumbed to disease, our first planting, planted on April 8th at a tighter than usual spacing, inexplicably, mysteriously, still looks fabulous, with big, pristine leaves in tufts atop five-foot tall stalks (think Truffula trees). Also, though our tomatoes pooped out early, their cousins the peppers and eggplants (after a slow start) really came into their own starting in late August, continuing to grow and pump out fruit until frost shut them down earlier this week.

We bid farewell last week to Brian Daubenspeck, who, four years ago, started a successful stint as a manager here at Hutchins. He arrived with limited experience, but with a great deal of determination, interest, and intelligence, and quickly made himself indispensable in the farm operation. His practicality, attention to detail, sense of humor, and strong curiosity about how things work and why things happen made him a key member of our team and a joy to work with—his absence will be keenly felt, especially by his ‘replacement’, Ted Thompson, with whom he worked closely over much of his time here. Daubs will be missed, but we are relieved to have such an outstanding new manager right at hand.

This year also marked the return of an old crew member (a 2016 alum) in a new role—harvest manager. Jon Bergan did an outstanding job of training and overseeing the crew, keeping them on track, maintaining a positive, enjoyable work environment while making sure everything was getting done. Our thanks to Jon, and we’re thrilled that he’ll be returning next year.

This year’s crew, both field and farmstand, deserve especial thanks for their resilience, reliability and good humor in dealing with endless days of rain and mud, multiple heat waves in June and July, cranky managers, a confusing COVID situation, and any number of other confounding issues—hats off to all, and our gratitude for their considerable efforts.

And, of course, our customers, who energize us, motivate us, inspire us, and sustain us. We are so grateful that we are able to grow all that we grow and sell the majority of it right here, directly to the folks that will, presently, be peeling, slicing, dicing, cooking and otherwise preparing it as part of their daily meals. We consider it a rare privilege to be able to rely on such a simple, straightforward and satisfying marketing strategy—thank you for continuing to patronize Hutchins Farm, and playing such a fundamental role in the life of this enterprise.

We will be attending the Cambridge Central Square Farmers Market and the Somerville Union Square Farmers Market until Thanksgiving, and the honor system self-serve set up on the front porch of the Farmstand in Concord starts today – please remember that self-serve is check or exact change only! We will keep an updated list of what you might find on the porch on our website under the “what’s at the stand” tab – please check there before heading over to see if there were any weather delays or other issues preventing us from putting the produce out.

Thank you all again for a wonderful season, we will see you in the spring!
-Brian Cramer, Liza Bemis, and the rest of the Hutchins Farm crew

Some (But certainly not all!) of our fall crew
Pumpkins lit on Halloween overlooking the farm

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