Now imagine for a moment that your entire livelihood depended on the ability to work outside, say, 5 days a week through a spring like this. And that to get anything meaningful done, it had to be not only not raining at the moment, but the ground had to have dried out sufficiently from the previous rain. And imagine your frustration when, just as it seems that things were drying out (just 2 days from the last cloudburst), and just as you were preparing to start catching up… it rained again. Hard. Bummer.
Such has been our reality at Featherstone farm for the past 2 months. Our late winter glee at the end of the drought has slowly given way to anxiety and frustration. Persistent rain is a big issue no doubt, but it’s also been exceptionally cool all spring; crops are growing very, very slowly.
For those of you new to our CSA program- and to local/regional agriculture in general- I’d like to offer a very quick backstory on this. For a farm like Featherstone to fill boxes of produce all season, it needs to be in the field planting, over and over and over again, from early April until the end of July. We have, for example, 8 succession plantings of broccoli over the course of the season, to ensure a more or less constant supply for our members / customers.
When we’re thrown off our schedule- for any reason- for more than a few days (much less weeks!), it takes a real toll. This spring’s planting has been more disrupted than any I can remember in 20 years. Our neighbors in the world of corn and beans have never seen anything like it either. Hundreds of acres of cornfields to the south and east of us were under 3 feet of water just 2 weeks ago. Many farms remain unplanted in the first week of June!
The good news is that a) we have the driest, least flood prone fields in the entire region (we’ve learned our lesson on this over the years, and are very careful which fields we rent), b) we have very sophisticated tool systems in the field, which can be adapted to be hugely productive in less than ideal conditions, and c) we have a terrific field crew, folks who are willing to work at almost any time (Sunday morning at 8?… last night at 9?… both?!) when things finally dry out. With such great soil, tools and employees, we’ve managed to keep up remarkably well through the past month.
I know from experience that the issues we’re experiencing right now are temporary headaches. That with sufficient soil moisture we’re very likely to see strong crop yields and high quality, eventually. It’s just frustrating to have to scramble so often, weekend after weekend (why does it always seem to start drying out on Friday night or Saturday afternoon?). And I do worry, mightily, about what this all portends for the long term future of agriculture in our area.
There, I’ve got it off my chest! No more belly aching about the weather! Next week will be sunny, the crops will be growing beautifully, and I’ll be singing a different tune altogether.
In the meantime, I will say how much all of us at Featherstone Farm appreciate your patience and support through all of this. Having customers like you who think about where their food comes from, and who understand that we can’t just snap our fingers and produce ripe strawberries… this means so much to all of us. Thank you!