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 email@example.com.
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.
The scallions I started from seeds last year came back after being outside all winter. The ones inside grew all winter long on a window sill. A few of the outside ones grew flowers this year and I got some seeds from them. A quick way to get a few growing without the seeds is buy a bunch of organic scallions in the store. Pick a bunch with the largest roots still on that look healthy. Cut the tops off so you have the roots and bulb with about an inch or two of stalk to stick out of the soil when you plant them. You can plant them close together since they grow straight up. Within a couple days you will be able to see the growth, and soon after a new shoot will appear. I use the shoots rather than pulling up the whole thing to use the bulbs. I cut the largest shoots off the ones with the most shoots and they just keep growing back. I believe that like onions they help keep bugs away too. For a dollar or so invested you can have fresh scallions for over a year.