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Keeping It Green

Maybe I was a little harsh.  My last report on my bi-weekly CSA pick up pointed out the meagerness of some of the offerings.  I’ve been noting all summer the harsh effects of climate change (f/k/a global warming) on home gardeners across the country.  According to an email that I received this week, re-posted below, we are not alone.  Larger local growers, as well, have felt the impact of unpredictable weather this season, which has run the gamut from drought to flooding, and has resulted in various pests brought in on the winds of Irene, blight, rot, increased sick days and low worker morale.  I just wanted to take a minute to say that I do try to give a fair and accurate picture of this – my first – CSA experience, but it doesn’t always capture the whole picture.  This is why I have invited others to tell me their stories, share their experiences, suggest additional alternasources, and, now, why I am forwarding the (very thoughtful) message I received a couple days ago from the organizers of my CSA and the farmers who grow some of the pretty awesome food I’ve been eating this summer.

Recently at a farmers market in Fort Greene, I saw signs from GrowNYC calling for donations to help organic/local farmers whose crops were damaged or wiped out by Hurricane Irene.  Their efforts are still underway.  One of their suggestions for how to help, in addition to direct donations, is to commit to eat locally as much as possible in September (the “locavore challenge”).  I’m encouraging all of you/us to continue this commitment through the end of the year, since it will take more than a month’s effort to help the farmers recover losses from a season screwed up by the environmental mess that we’re in.  Please share your stories here and beyond about what you are doing to participate in an extended locavore challenge (if the Occupy Wall Street protesters aim to make it through the winter, so can we).  Updates ahead on ways I’ve been putting my CSA treats to work.  Please pass along your recipes, suggestions, etc., on where/what/how to advance the local-eating agenda.

Here’s the email….

Chris and Eve have sent an update about the difficulties they’ve experienced this growing season, which I’ve shared below. We’ll be sending everyone an end-of-season survey later on, but if you have any feedback to pass on to the farmer before then, feel free to email the core group at


On behalf of the KWT CSA core group

From the farmers:

This has been a challenging last couple of months and although we were not wiped out by the hurricane the amount of rain has been a huge issue affecting the quality of many crops.  Not just with organic growers, as conventional farmers in the northeast are experiencing similar challenges and losses.

Under the circumstance we try to stay optimistic about the situation. All seasons are different and rarely are they void of conditions at some time that will have an impact on quality, quantity or diversity.    Farms in the northeast can be impacted by one or more problems like pests, drought, disease, flooding or other issues  outside of the farmers control.   Other farms even 100 miles away may have a totally different growing experience in a season.

I met with Cornell cooperative extension today to seek professional help (as I do throughout the season) regarding three different crop disease issues  and one pest issue tied directly to the wet weather.  They believed the steps that we had taken were sound and accurate given the tools we have under the national organic standards.  I also learned about the vast damage and loss of  crops in our region to conventional farmers who can use chemicals as a tool.  That didn’t make me feel better; I just wished conditions were better.

In conclusion, we are disappointed that we were struck with tomato blight this year,  that we have received almost double our annual rainfall total (most of which in the last month and a half),  that we were hit with damaging hurricane winds and pests and insects that were transported with winds.  What does this mean for crops:

Cracking and rotting of root crops like sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes and carrots.  Tomato quality and loss due to blight which kills the plant and cracking and rotting due to excessive rain.  This means we have to throw out a lot of produce.  Heavy rain and pooling of water leads to leaf disease on all kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, head lettuce, beans beets and many more.  In extreme cases plant roots can suffocate leading to the plant wilting to the ground.  That has happened to broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts.  Seedlings that wilt off or get damaged by heavy winds and pounding rains.  Seeding schedules get thrown off because the ground is too wet to work.  Cultivation and weeding schedules are difficult to maintain.  Farm help doesn’t want to work and morale is affected and sick days increase.

These are some of the issues that are a result of the extreme weather we are experiencing.  We don’t like some of the challenges it has created and we feel grateful that it wasn’t worse for us and our csa members.


QUESTION: And you?  What will you do to keep it green?  Go ahead … gimme the dirt!

5 responses to “Keeping It Green

  1. Maybe one of the major advantages of locavore is deciding how to ward of critters. Agent orange helicopters spreading pesticides are too large to swarm Brooklyn backyards. But bugs do exist and they are force of nature. I recently heard tales of “crazy ants” invading southern climates in the USA.

    “If one gets electrocuted, its death releases a chemical cue to attack to the colony, said Roger Gold, an entomology professor at Texas A&M.

    “The other ants rush in. Before long, you have a ball of ants,” he said.

    The entire article is at:

    Apparently, pesiticides were really potent before WWll, but when they started being used to eliminate “human” pests messing with delusions of global takeover, the world rallied and I think outlawed some of them.

    But when the ants come rushing in or mice or rats drop pellets in the bread cubbard, idealism tends to get thrown out the window. People want ghost buster machinery. I hope we can find a middle ground if something like the “crazy ant” spreads north. In the mean time, I think I’ll eat more nuts.

  2. Ralph ⋅

    This is the first time I’ve heard about ‘crazy ants’, I’ll have to do some reading up on them. I guess it should be no great surprise something like this would happen since life has evolved for millions of years to get to where it is today. While we use technology to ‘overcome’ so many problems, we are beginning to see that nature responds by taking a different route to circumvent our interference. Whether it be pesticides, genetic modifications, or our next ‘advance’ of technology, nature always prevails, often causing problems worse than those we are trying to eliminate.

    Assuming most of the people on this blog are growing plants or about to do so, we have our own little piece of nature to ‘control’. I for one do not and have not used any chemical pesticides for quite a few years. Fairly recently I started listening to a number of gardening podcasts, one or two of which believe in letting nature control itself by creating a garden’s own little ecosystem. This year I didn’t plant any grass in my yard’s unused space. Instead, weeds are growing which attract beneficial insects, and red clover which I planted last year grew back and is naturally breaking up the soil and putting nitrogen into the ground. I guess this is the too long way of saying that you have some control of what goes on in your own garden and containers. Working with nature rather than against it will with a little time lead to a healthy garden, and fresh healthy food for you to eat in return.

    Most everyone I know has had a less than spectacular growing season this year. I can only imagine what farmers who rely on crops to make a living are going through. There is little doubt that there will be a few less farmers next year due to hard times caused by nature, and government’s ever more ridiculous policies and regulations placed on small farms. Support local farmers. When buying produce check the label and see where the item was produced. Select items grown close to home, not thousands of miles away. You will be supporting local farms, and helping to save the environment by helping to eliminate the fuel and energy consumed in shipping long distances and storage. If enough demand is placed for local produce farmers may need to hire more help and create a few real jobs. To borrow a saying, ‘Go local, buy local- barter is better”.

  3. Susan Reiners ⋅

    Global warming really came home for me in the summer of 2001. In 1980 my then 13-year-old son and I visited Alaska. The highlight of our trip was looking down on the huge Mendenhall Glacier as fog lifted, and watching skyscraper-sized chunks of deep sapphire blue ice “calve” off the face with a sound like a cannon and fall into the sea. Boats got too near the wave at their own peril.

    Twenty-one years later that same son wanted to take his son and brothers to Alaska, and specifically to Mendenhall. Imagine our amazed horror when the magnificent spectacle had shrunk into a pile of filthy slush about the height of a backyard garage in just 21 years! If so much can change in less than a generation to a vast river of ice in existence for thousands of years, imagine the effects on the rest of us.

  4. Revel

    Wow, I love all these comments so much. The more we share news we’re hearing (the ants), suggestions for making this a better place (barter is better), and our stories of what we’re seeing first hand (the chunks of ice off calving the glaciers), the more we really come to know what is happening in the world and how we might better respond to it. My life is so much richer for all of you joining in and sharing these things. Thank you so much for this.

    I find myself conflicted, too. There is so much to do to try to right the so many wrongs. But there’s limited time to do them. I’m acutely aware of this, like most weeks, on Sunday night. Even though tomorrow is a holiday. There’s the question of how best to spend my most precious resource of time: do I go down to Occupy Wall Street, talk to the demonstrators, share what I’m hearing from them? Do I do some fall tending to my garden? Do I cook for the week to make the rest of it easier? Do I pay bills? Do I get off FB? Well, at least the latter.

    For now, again, thank you my friends and fellow revelers. The world’s a better place for you all being in it.

  5. Ralph ⋅

    I listen to a lot of programs, many ‘end of the world’ type shows. Some, too ridiculous to waste my time on get dropped after a show or two. Those topics range from 2012, comets we can’t see until they hit Earth, ‘War of the Worlds’ type invasions by aliens, and aliens building the pyramids. A number are less extreme and seem plausible based on news, research, or science. Some of those topics involve destruction by changing weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, and the like. Then there are the very likely topics- loss of jobs, shrinking food supplies, potable water vanishing at an astonishing rate, world financial problems, and the inevitable collapse of the US Dollar as we know it.

    Aside from weather, climate, food issues, and the dollar’s collapse, Earth’s being hit by a meteor of significant size is actually a pretty likely event. We can do a little something to push most of these things a bit in the right direction. Starting with the main theme of this blog, plant a garden and try to grow some food. Every plant produces oxygen and if it produces something edible that’s a little more food available for someone who really needs it. Gardens reduce heat concentrations which abound in and around cities. The concentration of heat from buildings and pavement cause hot spots which interact with natural weather patterns.

    Don’t buy things with too much plastic packaging. Aside from landfills of plastic, there’s a hugh collection in the Pacific Ocean floating around- and now fish are eating that plastic. It’s too early to tell what effect eating fish which ate plastic is doing to us. Genetically modified crops, particularly corn, soy, and sugar beets are on store shelves and thanks to lobbyists there is no label to let you know what is modified or not. Crazy ants, pollution, earthquakes, volcanoes- and just when you thought you’ve heard enough a meteor ‘has our name on it’.

    The problems sound endless. With people making small adjustments to their habits, millions of little changes add up. Some wildlife is actually returning to NY city! Beavers in the Bronx, deer on Staten Island to mention a few. Some rivers that were once polluted now have fish. All is not lost, but we can not just sit idly by and do nothing. Plan for next year’s garden. Fix those dripping faucets. Turn off lights when not needed. Keep air conditioning a few degrees warmer, your heat a few degrees cooler. Drive your car less and combine trips when possible. Even if you couldn’t care less about our planet you will save money, and doing some good will be a by-product.

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