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  • Writer's pictureThe Farmer's Wife

CSA Shares Delayed 1 week

Good afternoon All,

I am sorry to share that we're going to need to delay our CSA Share start date this year due to the spring we've had. The weather we've been dealt this spring has resulted in losing a lot of plants due to the flooding and frequency of the rains. We're behind in planting and the stuff we have planted isn't doing great because it's so wet. (This is the exact opposite of last season!)

When you sign up for a CSA, you're understanding the shared risk and shared reward aspect of supporting your local farmers. Most people sign up because they want access to fresh produce on a weekly basis that's grown with integrity! I think that many folks also sign up knowing that they're here to back up the local farmers when shit hits the fan. As first generational farmers we really appreciate your support and understanding as we navigate this hard time together.

Unfortunately, this year the spring is part of the 'shared risk' of farming whereas we've only delayed the start date to our CSAs a couple of times in the last 12 years- so this is not standard. In previous years there is such 'shared reward' that there isn't even enough room in the CSA boxes to fit everything! If you're gambling with produce instead of scratch offs, a CSA is always going to pay out more than you lose; that's our track record at least!

I shared this photo to social media last week and was explaining that this is the current state of our greens & kohlrabi patch. Well, it's dried out more but the plants underwater died, and the ones that were too waterlogged are yellowing and stressed out. Below is the same area in the fields and you can see where the standing water sat and killed plenty of plants.

That's not all of them though!!!!!

I'll show you the same field from the other direction:

So as you can tell, these rows are long. I am showing you both sides because you deserve to be in-the-know! The higher side is doing AOK, not fantastic growth rates because of the water logged soil, but on this side of the field the kohlrabi's are growing and they have nice color!

Our first bean crop rotted in the ground (pic below). The seeds were planted when the weather was good for a couple days- no rain! So we got out there and direct seeded the beans (noting that they're seeds, not plants that were transplanted into the field).

Then we got rain for a few days and Ben went out there and cultivated the field; he used a piece of equipment to open up the ground so it could dry out. Well it rained a few more times and it ended up being too compacted because as you can see here- the seeds did germinate but they couldn't push up through the topsoil as it was still too wet. We've got a lot of clay out here in Oak Park.

The seed below is dead; it did germinate but the plant itself died before it could break the surface. That's not a huge deal though- it means the beans are behind a touch but this is a variety that we can replant for another couple months. We actually seed bean patches 3+ times a year so we have a consistent supply of beans. Same with cucumbers, zucchini and pickles; among a few other varieties. So this spring we'll just plant one extra time (or more depending on how it goes of course).

We do a lot of succession planting. Meaning that we're planting the same varieties multiple times throughout the summer so we have them for the whole harvest season. We'll get another piece of ground worked up and get more beans seeded as soon as it's dry enough!

There are plenty of other losses out there but I won't bore you with the details. The ones I mentioned above are the worst, and the other losses are more minor (losing a handful of a variety, as opposed to losing a whole patch). We're replanting and reseeding as much as we can, as fast as we can. Every minute in the fields right now makes a difference!!!

I want to go in depth a little more about what we're doing about this and how we've tried mitigating the losses. Ben actually started planting some of the fields in the opposite direction. So instead of east to west rows, there are parts of our fields that are now north to south rows. The reason Farmer Ben changed this isn't because it'll make harvest easier, irrigation easier (assuming we'll need that sometime this summer) or anything else really- it's simply because that corner of the field was higher, and it was dry sooner!! So naturally we put the big money crop in that spot- the tomatoes. We've only got about 75% of our tomatoes in the ground because we needed to save some of the high ground for the peppers and a few other really important varieties. We're hoping the fields dry out soon so we can plant the remaining tomatoes!

Peppers were planted this afternoon in the other part of this high field. I was really scared because of this bad storm coming tonight but like Ben reminded me- these plants are already unhappy. They've been in the trays for 2 weeks longer than they should have. If we wait for the storm tonight, wouldn't we just wait for all the storms next week to pass, too?

Watermelons are planted on the highest ground in middle of the field by the road. They're isolated in the middle of the field because nothing else is getting priority- until after the melons (and a few other varieties) are in the ground. Watermelons are doing OK, but they do appreciate dry heat so we're hoping to be able to see more of that in the coming forecast. Every time we look, there is more and more rain in the 10-day forecast so we're praying that isn't the case!!!

Here is a picture of the alpaca field as we call it. It used to be fenced pasture for alpacas and the organic matter in this field is absolutely beautiful. The soil scientist we worked with for some of our tests was very impressed and said it's been a long time since he's seen 6% organic matter in soil.

This ground is a little lower in the center- so we literally just avoided it. We didn't plant squash there, knowing that with this rain coming up we're expecting to lose anything in that spot anyways. So we saved the plants and we got permission from Uncle Dan to put a bunch of squash in over at the field at his house in Elk River. It's a bit of a drive but we're very pleased to have some ground to work that's sandy. It drains very good so even if we did get big rains down there, the squash would still be doing good!

We're very disappointed to have to push the CSA Season back a week. I'm sure that we're all frustrated by that; we're all losing money and now we don't even get veggies next week.

We've invested thousands of dollars and hours into making sure everything went as planned this spring, as we do every year. Now we're replanting, spending more money on seed, fuel for the tractor, employee wages, etc. so we're basically paying for the same jobs to be done 2x this spring instead of once. This comes with the territory. We're not the only ones- every crop farmer around us has similar problems right now. Fields underwater and seeds rotting. The only difference is that they don't have a blog to send to hundreds of Members, they can take this loss in the quiet of their own homes.

Ours is broadcasted for everyone to see which is definitely challenging. It's hard to articulate but our CSA program and our farm is an extension of ourselves. We couldn't be Ben & Jodi without the farm... Failure with our crops is equivalent to failure throughout. It's a very heavy feeling when you care so deeply. The worst part of farming is having to show the failures. The wins are easy to celebrate together.

That being said, we're doing everything we can to make sure that the rest of the CSA Season goes perfectly. We're delaying one week of our CSA program but we've got another 15 weeks of fresh produce to look forward to!

CSA Shares are going to be starting exactly one week past the planned start date. So if you were supposed to pick up June 17th, your first pick up will be June 24th.

Tonight's storms don't look good. The risk for severe weather is out there and looming off in the dark clouds that are moving in. If you're not aware- north central MN has a chance of 2 inch hail this evening. We're outside of the 'danger zone' but mother nature has taught us to expect the unexpected; or you will be unexpectedly humbled once again.

Sorry for the bad news, I really am.

~The Farmer's Wife

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Hannah Ender
Hannah Ender

We're in this together! Thanks for all your hard work 💗


Terry P
Terry P

No worries, Jody and Ben! This is what happens in real life. Those of us who garden are experiencing the same thing.

Keep up the awesome work, and try not to stress about what God and Mother Nature are doing!

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