August Newsletter 2023: Drier days ahead?

The use of the word “unprecedented” has increased to the point where its meaning and import seem to be eroding, with each new singular event thus characterized detracting from the impact of that strong word meant to describe vanishingly rare events. As we feel our way in the age of climate change, relative reality, artificial intelligence, democratic collapse and authoritarian resurgence, unprecedented events come to seem as common as fruit pies. The ubiquity of these extraordinary events renders even the most incredible among them unremarkable as they take their place among the growing ranks of the impossible and unheard-of.

That said, though it has been a bizarre season in Concord, we can be thankful that our parade of anomalies—double digits below zero for a couple days in an otherwise very mild winter, high twenties in mid-May, weeks of punishing humidity and unending rain culminating (and ending, we hope) in our recent 4” gully washer that cut canyons feet deep in our farm roads, and awakened freshets that usually go dry in April—seem relatively mild in the context of reports from other places, both near and far. So far catastrophe has spared us, though each forecast of rain brings a vague premonition of disaster.

Apart from actual flooding—extended waterlogging of soil which will stunt and eventually kill any plant so affected—our biggest concern is with spread of disease. The vast majority of plant diseases (apart from viruses) are only able to initiate and spread in the presence of water. Many diseases require a fairly extended period of leaf wetness to establish a foothold, but once present, can spread rapidly. A secondary concern is the uncontrolled growth of weeds when soils remain wet—even tiny weeds can’t be easily killed in cloudy, humid weather, and when it’s actually raining, weed control is a fool’s errand.

To our surprise, however, many of our crops seem to be thriving: The long-awaited tomatoes seem to finally be coming around, with impressively large plants laden with loads of green fruit finally beginning to blush and redden; luminous eggplant hang, impossibly numerous, among the lush, spiny foliage; long rows of green beans nod under their loads of slender pods in various shades of green and yellow; potato plants begin to collapse and senesce above their hidden troves of tubers, the expiring plants announcing that they will soon be ready to dig.Other crops too numerous to mention are plentiful at the farmstand and at our markets, but some shortfalls are inevitable in the best of years, and this year may be more common than usual.  Several corn plantings went wading up to their knees several times, to their detriment, so corn may be scarce at times. Likewise, there may be some gaps in lettuce supply. Conventional wisdom has it that wildlife pressure on crops is more intense during drought conditions, but this year’s monsoons have been accompanied by hosts of vertebrate pests, including deer, groundhogs, coyotes, geese, turkeys, and flocks of corn-loving birds. We make considerable efforts to fence critters out of target crops, but fences that work for deer, don’t necessarily work for turkeys, and both of them seem to enjoy grazing our lettuce.

As our college students rapidly depart to their far-off centers of higher ed (and we cry about their departures), we are looking for a few more folks to join us for the fall in both the field and stand (full-time only, our part time positions are all occupied right now) please see our website for more details if you know anyone interested.

Our fingers are crossed that the puddles and springs will dry, water tables will recede, the river will fall and the sun shine for awhile before the next round of rain. Most crops are remarkably resilient, and, over the years, many plantings I had about given up on have surprised me in the end. We will continue our round of seeding, planting, weeding, and harvesting with highest hopes for what remains of the season and hope that you have an opportunity to visit and help us celebrate and enjoy the continued bounty or our stony, soggy garden spot, even in these unprecedented times.

With high hopes of a bountiful fall season, we will be extending our Sunday hours until 6pm starting this weekend (Aug 13th), so our regular hours through the rest of the season will be Tuesdays-Sundays 11am-6pm, closed on Mondays as usual.

The farmstand is regularly full to capacity these days, but please check our website as always for the most up to date listing of what is available. We hope to see you soon at the farmstand, or at the markets!
-Brian Cramer, Liza Bemis, and the Hutchins Farm Crew
Jennie and Lizzy harvesting in the rain
Cherry tomatoes ripening on the vine
Eggplant and summer squash harvest – truck one of two that day
August Newsletter 2023: Drier days ahead?
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