This week is one of the warmest weeks we’ve had this summer. Finally! As farmers though, we must start thinking forward about our management plans for the fall. Already, farmers are beginning to consolidate their crops and planting the last of the late summer and early fall cover crops. It is important to plant cover crops early enough to allow them to get established. These cover crops will be tilled into the soil next spring and contribute organic matter, nitrogen and other trace nutrients necessary to productive soils in organic systems. It may seem like summer just arrived, but time flies when you’re a New England farmer.
This season, green is the new red. Late blight has taken hold in many tomato fields in the state and the region, and consumers are perfecting their fried green tomato and picalilly recipes. But the season’s not over yet, and if it stays hot and dry, the New Entry farmers just might have a surprise in store that translates to a little more red in your shares.
While we can’t count our chicks before they’ve hatched, so far, due to the various planting styles, field locations, varieties and overall diversity inherent to our multi-producer farm model, World PEAS farmers appear to be doing better than most established farms with their tomato harvest this season.
Some of you who follow local food issues may have heard the recent news that a disease called late blight is jeopardizing tomato and potato crops in every state in the northeast. So extreme, is late blight’s devastation, particularly to organic growers, that John Mishanec of Cornell University’s integrated pest management program likened it to an “nuclear explosion in the tomato crop” in a recent New York Times article.
It isn’t much of a surprise that many of you may never have heard of late blight before this year, after all it isn’t often a major problem in this part of the world, owing to the fact that it cannot survive harsh New England winters. This fungal disease thrives in damp, windy conditions, much like those we have been experiencing with record frequency this spring. Undoubtedly, everyone has heard of late blight’s impact as the cause of the Irish Potato Famine. While late blight is present in some soils, and sometimes emerges in September, the epidemic this season is believed to be caused by the mass dissemination of infected seedlings bought at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Kmart beginning in April. All four retailers sourced many of their tomato seedling from a single seedling company, Bonnie Plants. Bonnie Plants is located in Alabama, where the winters are mild enough that the disease is able to survive, but where hot summers keep it in check.
Once the disease was imported to the northeast, after the risk of frost had passed, with the weather this spring, the disease spread rapidly. Many CSA and other farmers in our area have ripped out their entire tomato crops, which for non-CSA farmers may account for more than 20% of their income. Late blight has been spotted in the fields of most of our farmers, and given our self-imposed pesticide restrictions, our options are limited. Early spraying of Oxidate (registered for use on organic farms) has kept some farmers’ plants looking good, and we hold our breath to see if we will be amongst the few with red tomatoes this year.
This week in the fields has been a bit manic. Some crops are doing just what they should be doing, some crops are a bit behind the season, and some crops are sadly failing altogether. The disease late blight has started taking its toll on the tomatoes in many of the New Entry fields. Unfortunately, it’s not a disease that can be cured, and many of the farmers in the state, including the New Entry folks, will be financially impacted by this devastating disease.
On a better note though, the bees have found their pollinating ways to dozens of other crops, and coming into fruit with great fervor are the eggplants, peppers, squash, beans and much, much more. The weather has turned, the days have finally dried out and the summer sunshine is a welcomed treat. While we may not be swimming in tomatoes this summer, we will certainly have an abundance of other fresh, local summer veggies to enjoy.
We are looking forward to seeing you this Thursday, August 6th at our Open Farms Tour behind Richardson’s Dairy at 1471 Bridge Street (Rte 38), Dracut, MA 01826. View Map. The event will take place from 5-7:30 PM. We expect a record number of guests and you will be directed to nearby parking upon arrival. There is a lot to see so please try to arrive on time
The tour includes visits to both Richardson’s and Smith training farms (located three miles apart). We will provide a shuttle to get you from Richardson’s Dairy to Smith Farm, and back. We ask that as many guests as possible take the shuttle since parking at Smith Farm is limited.
5:00 Welcome and sign-in at hoophouse- directly behind Richardson’s Dairy
5:15 Explanation of World PEAS CSA by Matthew Himmel
5:25 Walk in the fields and interview farmer Bill LeBoeuf
5:40 Meet with Youth Farmers from UTEC at their farm site
5:55 Return to hoophouse- UTEC “Fresh Roots” Students Serve Appetizers
6:10 Speech from New Entry Project Director Jennifer Hashley
6:15 Q&A with Technical Assistance Coordinator McKenzie Boekholder
6:30 Shuttle to Smith Farm
6:45 Meet with Farmers Noeuth Deth, Adisson Toussaint and Verna Makarutsa at Smith Farm
7:30 Shuttle back to Richardson’s Dairy. End of Tour.
This week the field is inspiring. The sun is shining, and it finally feels like summer! The eggplants are bursting with flower and fruit that will be ready in weeks to come. The beans are ready to explode with tasty pods and the tomatoes, even though we are concerned about late blight, are starting to turn to the green-ripe stage.
The bees are happy, the farmers are working hard and the plants are ready to declare productivity. Summer, welcome. Enjoy the fruits of the sun’s energy and the farmers’ toil.
New Entry’s annual Farm Tour will be next Thursday, August 6th from 5-7 pm. This is the opportunity throughout the season to meet the World PEAS farmers and view some of the farms where they are training and growing your veggies.
Since the Farm Tour coincides with your pickup times in Andover and Market Street Market, we are willing to coordinate pickup of your CSA share at the Farm Tour instead of your normal location.
If you are interested in attending the Farm Tour and would like to pick up your share at Richardson’s Dairy, please indicate this in an email to Kimberley at firstname.lastname@example.org, in which you should identify yourself as a CSA member from either Andover of Market Street Market. Please let us know no later than July 31st. You may RSVP after July 31st if you decide to attend the event, but your share will still be delivered to your normal pickup location.
New Entry’s farmers attend a six-week, 18+hr classroom training and associated field trips in which they learn about enterprise budgets, market opportunities, farm resources and the inherent risks and risk management strategies associated with farming. They then continue on to participate in a 12-session series of hands-on, field-based practical skills workshops throughout the growing season to learn new skills. Individuals receive many hours of technical assistance and consultation. All farmers develop detailed farm business enterprise plans which they implement in the field.
Join the farm tour and speak with project staff and farmers to learn about our beginning farmer training programs, our farmland preservation efforts, and farm employment resources. Meet and network with other project supporters who believe in our mission. All ages are welcome!
The tour will begin at the training farm at Richardson’s Dairy, at 1471 Bridge Street (Rte 38), Dracut, MA 01826. View Map
As I inspected the New Entry fields this week, a third-year farmer approached and greeted me. It is my job every week to make sure that farmers have the information and resources they need in order to do a good job at the farms. As I was asking this farmer how he was, if he needed any help, how his crops were, etc., a huge smile crossed his face. See, it’s my job to ask about bugs, slugs, grubs and any other dud that might be plaguing the farm fields. Before I could specifically ask about the bugs this week, the farmer said to me, “I think the bugs are very smart. When it is raining, they come and eat all my plants. As soon as the sun comes out and the weather is good enough for me to do away with them, they go away!” In one concise thought, this farmer gracefully articulated the essence of farming: If it’s not one thing, it’s another!
In farming there is always something that keeps farmers on their toes- as soon as the rain comes, so do the bugs. As soon as the rain stops and the bugs take a few weeks for a mid-summer vacation, the plants pine for rain. This job of a farmer is a never ending cycle of problem solving and adventure, and the New Entry farmers have come to have a sense of humor about most things that happen in the fields.
This week looks like a more promising weather pattern than the last several weeks, and just because the rain has let up a bit doesn’t mean the farmers and crops are working any less. In fact, there are many things being tended to in the fields, and by week’s end, the fruits of the farmers’ labor will be gracing your tables. Take this time, appreciate the challenges and enjoy the fresh veggies.
-McKenzie, Technical Assistance Coordinator
In his Cambodian homeland, Mr. Kim worked on his family’s farm. When he came to the U.S. he began backyard gardening and was able to bring some of the produce grown to local markets. He farms his plot at White Gate Farm in Dracut very intensively, using carefully timed irrigation for consistent yields of even heat sensitive crops such as lettuce, which he is therefore able to grow through the hottest week’s of summer.
For the 2009 CSA, Mr. Kim will grow green onions, lettuce, tomatoes, bitter melon, garlic chives, mustard greens, sweet potato roots, watermelons and amaranth for the CSA. In addition, he grows chili peppers, jalapeño peppers, Japanese eggplant, pumpkin vines, mustard greens, Cambodian pickling spice and long beans for local restaurants, wholesale markets and the Lowell Farmers’ Market.
Mr. Kim has demonstrated a viable part-time farming operation, has served as a mentor for other Cambodian farmers, and has been invaluable to New Entry because of his role as a leader in the Cambodian community. He is always eager to meet with CSA shareholders, students and reports and shares his knowledge with other beginning farmers. New Entry staff occasionally look to Mr. Kim for assistance in translation when working with other Cambodian farmers with limited English capabilities.
In addition, Mr. Kim regularly returns to Cambodia to visit family and pass along some of the novel farming skills he has developed since graduating from the New Entry Farm Business Planning class in 2004. In particular, he has focused his efforts in a rural agriculture region, teaching Cambodian farmers how to improve their soil with compost and how to create effective irrigation systems.
Mr. Kim is surely an example to many new farmers who see by his example how much can be accomplished with hard work, patience and meticulous record-keeping.