Farm News- June 25, 2009

Circle Brook Farm
Circle Brook Farm

Hello Everyone,

The cool wet weather continues to make life difficult here on the farm. Unfortunately I have an even worse weather phenomenon to report. On Monday evening the Andover farm was hit by a quite severe hailstorm. Virtually all of the crops in these fields were damaged. The plants with softer leaves, such as lettuce, spinach, and other greens suffered the worst damage. About 20% of the tomato plants were damaged beyond recovery. The peppers which were flowering and beginning to set fruit, had all the flowers and fruit ripped off. The pea plants were flattened and the peas are pockmarked with white spots. The bok choy, which looked beautiful and which I expected to deliver in the share this week, has had most of the outside leaf destroyed. The summer squash which was just beginning to fruit has lost all of the large outer leaves and the young fruit are riddled with holes. What this means for the CSA members is that greens will be rather scarce for the next 2 or 3 weeks. Lettuces, cauliflower and broccoli will be smaller than usual. It also means that the warm weather crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant will be delayed by at least 2 weeks from their normal start date of late July. It was truly heartbreaking to see the damage to so many crops that were growing so beautifully and that we have worked so hard to plant and maintain. I confess that I am quite discouraged and disheartened, but I don’t give up easily. We will forge ahead, make the best of what is left, and replant those crops which we are able.

In last weeks update I mentioned spraying, which prompted an inquiry from one of the members. Since I imagine there are others who may be concerned about this issue, I thought I should address it. I have at times heard conventional farmers say that one of their crops is organic. When asked to explain they say that since there was no need to spray that crop it became organic. In the same way that simply not spraying a crop does not make it organic, spraying a crop does not preclude it from being organic. Almost all organic farmers use sprays to control insects and disease, as well as for foliar feeding.

As a certified organic farm we are allowed to use various products which are approved for organic production by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and reviewed and evaluated by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute). These products may be elemental, such as copper or sulfur, which are fungicidal, or biological such as bacillus thuringensis (Bt) which affect only Lepidoptera family insects (caterpillars). They may also be natural insecticides derived from plants such as pyrethrum, which is derived from a chrysanthemum, or neem oil from the seeds of the Neem tree. All of these products breakdown quickly, are not persistent in the environment, and have low toxicity to humans and other animals. One of my favorite products as a fungicide is called Sporan which contains essential oils of clove, rosemary and wintergreen. It works well and it smells great too! While there are cultural methods employed to minimize pest problems such as crop rotation, there are still times when pests can do sufficient damage to seriously reduce yields or render a crop unmarketable. Timely spraying, done when pests first arrive or emerge (many overwinter in the soil) can do much to control the problem before populations explode out of control. While I have spoken to a few organic farmers who say that they don’t spray, I believe that what they are guaranteeing their customers is produce laced with holes and worms in their broccoli or cabbage. I have also spoken to the members of one of these farms and been told about all the crops they don’t receive.

I strictly adhere to the rules governing what is allowed in organic production and do not spray any crop that is close to being harvested.

The share for this week will be:
Escarole, Red leaf lettuce, broccoli, baby salad turnips (edible tops) and peas. 

Farmer John

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