Dear Friends,

So it’s finally the end of the season…and time for the end-of-year synopsis.  We usually try to write a comprehensive midseason update, but frankly, we were too busy trying to keep the season afloat to sit down and type you a letter.

How was the farming year you ask? Well, I would say it was the most difficult and unsatisfying one yet.

The beginning was actually pretty nice, with a lot of anticipation for a good season. April, and the first part of

May were quite pleasant and with exception of some inconsistent germination of our early baby greens, all was well.  By mid to late May we got quite a bit of rain just when we needed to plant all of our summer crops.  The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, watermelons, cantaloupes, winter squash, were all planted out much later than usual, pushing back their harvest a couple of weeks.  June brought a couple of giant downpours, which flooded out some of the peppers, tomatoes, and melons that were planted in some lower parts of one field.  Only 5-10 percent of plants died but it probably was the beginning of some of our future disease problems, which wiped out the peppers and stressed out other crops nearby.  Late blight was discovered in June in Sagaponack, which was really bad news for our tomatoes and potatoes.  By July, late blight had spread all around Long Island, infecting our potato crop, and  forcing us to kill all the plants by mowing them prematurely.  It was the best looking crop of potatoes that we had ever grown, and it was sad to have to end it so early in the year.  Luckily, thanks to 6+ inches of rain in June, the plants grew like mad and we were able to have decent sized potatoes to give out in the shares this year.  The yield was much lower than it would have been if they were able to grow for a few more weeks.

Late blight in June also means we have to start spraying the tomatoes early and often, to even hope to come through with a crop.  Even though we did spray quite a bit, it wasn’t enough to compete with the horrible amount of rainfall from mid-August through October.  We had 22 inches of rain during August, September, and October.  A large portion of our crops are either producing, or nearing maturity during these months and many crops were severely affected by various diseases caused by the excessive periods of wetness.

Here is a list of the crops that were either wiped out, or negatively affected by the weather this year.

Winter squash – Entire 1st seeding was followed by very heavy rains and nothing germinated.  We got whatever seed we could get to replant because we had no more seed leftover, and planted a second planting.  It came up reasonably well and looked pretty nice until downy mildew started. We had some okay looking squash in the field until phytopthera wiped out almost everything in October.  Almost all of the squash just began to decay in the field.  The Acorn squash we had already picked started to grow fuzzy white mold all over.

Bell Peppers – We were able to harvest some peppers, but then the fruit started to get sunken soft spots and mold.  Soon after many of the plants died as well.

Eggplants – We cut back on the amount of eggplants after the Colorado potato beetles completely defoliated our crop in 2010.  Although we harvested some eggplants it wasn’t very many and overall the crop was not great. They also suffered from all the rain.

Cucumbers –  During one of the early wet periods we were unable to prepare the soil  and  the plants grew too large to transplant successfully.  The second planting was also large but we gave it a try. Ten days later we turned them in to the soil and direct seeded a nice planting.  They were doing quite well and we were hopeful.  Unfortunately, it was late in the cucumber season, and with the poor weather diseases stressed out the plants very quickly.

Kales –  Our harvest of Toscano and Green Kale was very small because many of the leaves looked really bad with big yellow decay spots.  We picked whatever leaves were nice looking.

Rutabaga – Our first planting did not germinate at all.  It was very wet at the time, but it is still somewhat mysterious why they didn’t germinate.  An acre of carrots right next to them germinated wonderfully.  We had to wait until Hurrcane Irene passed to seed them again, putting the seeding into the early part of September which is very late for Rutabaga.  So we had some small ones, and but not that many.

Parsnips – Well we really tried with these.  We planted about ½ an acre and tried our best to keep them nicely irrigated for 3 weeks or so until they germinate.  We had okay germination but then the weeds really took off and we didn’t have time to hand weed the beds.  So they went back into the ground and we replanted salad mix, which is far easier to grow.

Zucchini 2nd planting – Looked great until Hurricane Irene shredded the leaves. We picked it maybe once or twice.

Corn 2nd planting – Doing well until Irene knocked it over.  It stood back up partially and then the raccoons had a feast.  A really big feast.  They must have been very happy.

Things to look forward to next year!

We have a very nice, very large planting of strawberries, which should bear a wonderful crop providing the weather is nice.  Strawberries grow for an entire year before we harvest a single berry.

We are planning on planting our summer crops as early as possible, probably using plastic row covers so we can harvest your favorite crops early than usual.  In case the weather turns bad in September we would like to have the end of July and all of August to harvest nice tomatoes, baby watermelons and cucumbers.

The great thing about farming is that you get to try it all over again next year starting with a clean slate.

Here’s to a restful winter and way overdue time spent with family.  Farmers have to make up for their absence all season long during a few short months from December through February, so Maggie and Galen and I will be making up for lost time sitting by the fire and relaxing….and maybe looking through just a few seed catalogues!

Best wishes to you and yours!

Warmly,
Farmer Matthew

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