Hey friends, we've been ordering seed, revamping our greenhouse, attending conferences and making lots of plans. Winter on the farm is pretty fun! I even broke my wrist (don't worry--it's healed now), and you can see in the photo above, the warm winter has allowed us to keep picking salad greens (you can too--come on over). One big project has been upgrading the CSA on-line registration, which involves several other departments at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Since we're just moments away (fingers crossed!) from having it ready for you, we thought this would be a good time to refresh your memory about the year that was...
No, we didn't drown in months and months and months of rain. That was 2018.
No, it did not get so hot that my sandals melted off my feet in the field. Twice. That was 2017.
2019 we had the drought.
It all started so perfectly. We had a warm, early spring. There were u-pick strawberries in your first week and zucchini in your second. Unheard of for us! By mid-June we had green beans and weeks upon weeks of onions--our best onion/shallot/scallion harvest ever! The kale and collards punked out, but there's always something that doesn't grow quite right.
We tried an extra-early crop of Korean melons that garnered mixed reviews. Some of us loved the crunchy, mildly-sweet, little yellow melons, but others were left wishing they were sweeter. The same seemed true for the Asian pears. This was the first year our pear trees produced enough to provide everyone a respectable few pounds. Maybe it's because I'm often a little dehydrated from working in the fields all day, but again, a fruit that's crisp, juicy and mildly sweet really hits the spot for me. Some of you wanted something sweeter. Regardless, we were surprised and delighted that this year every month we were able to offer some kind of fruit in your share--strawberries in May and June, Sun Jewel melons in July, Asian pears and watermelons in August, sun gold cherry tomatoes in September (I don't usually call tomatoes fruits, but these little babies are so sweet they sail right past fruit into the category of candy), apples in October and November (thanks, Homestead Farm!) and persimmons in November (thank,s Jennifer Amerkhail and Dave Vernon!).
I was a ball of positive energy until about July when we had our last rain. Then in the August heat, the plants started to wilt and we could feel our own bodies shift into heat survival mode. By September, it was a true miracle that so many of our crops were still churning out peppers, tomatoes and squash.
I'm grateful that our soils were healthy enough to retain what little moisture we offered. We were able to irrigate our fall salad greens and roots, since they're planted in a pretty small space, so all was not lost for the end of the season. But sweet potatoes and winter squash took our biggest hit. They were munched on by desperate groundhogs and deer, and some water-thrifty weeds outcompeted them. Without rain or irrigation, neither crop was able to recover in time by the first frost. Honestly, we had replaced a water pump on the well that feeds that section of the farm at the end of 2018, and at first it seemed like that would give us the water pressure we've been needing for those back fields. But it turns out we were wrong, so it's back to the drawing board.
Speaking of irrigation, I want to give a shout-out to a spot on the farm you rarely hear about--the native tree nursery. The nursery has a new metal fence to keep out deer, a new well, and a spectacular volunteer named David Laughlin who spends a dozen hours a week weeding. This was our best year yet for the nursery--we potted 10,000 trees in the spring and their survival rate was terrific. Thousands of those trees are now protecting streams across the state of Maryland.
Overall, I was incredibly pleased with our dear farm in the 2019 season. We hit some rough patches, but we pulled out all the stops to make sure you got a good share throughout. We bought sweet potatoes (thanks, Potomac Vegetable Farms!), we made flower bouquets, we dried hibiscus for tea, and even my 11-year-old daughter baked cupcakes--all to make sure you all know how much we appreciate you. And I think it's a beautiful testament to the concept of CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, that we were able to withstand variable weather conditions, while still growing organically and donating 20,435 pounds of our harvest to low-income members of our community. Phew! It worked for another year!
Ready to sign up for 2020? Stay tuned! Prices will be the same and pick-up sites and days will be the same. And we'll have a convenient new option to pay in 4 installments for all options (26-week, 13-week and low-income). Can't wait to see you for 2020!