Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Season Ending CSA Letter

We’ve woke up to frost on the ground for more than a week now. The mountain behind Mr Hunter’s farm, across the creek, is ablaze in color. It’s especially magnificent late in the evening, when the sun’s set on our place but is still shining on the mountain. Rye has a tenuous hold in the upper field. I’m pulling up tomato stakes and bundling miles of twine. Orion’s up overhead when I first get up and stagger out into the darkness. What all this means is that it’s autumn. Furthermore, it means that our season’s ended, and our CSA deliveries have stopped.
I want to thank all of you for being a part of what we do this year. We did our best week after week to provide a diverse and nourishing box, sometimes surprising ourselves with what we were able to pick and sometimes sheepishly dropping off boxes that seemed, to us, paltry or repetitive. The box loading every Wednesday morning is joyous and nerve wracking. We wonder if we’ve provided you with the fixin’s for many fine meals, or if you take one look inside and then run down to Ingle’s.
We had a great tomato season this year. They were not only abundant but tasty. We kept our lettuce mix going all summer, no easy feat, and brought the broccoli in early. Our Mokum and Chantenney carrots made us happy, as they always do. As one of my market customers says, “You have the best carrots. They’re ugly, but they’re good.” We kept the deer out of the green beans, so were able to give you some in mid-summer. We managed to keep them out of the squash more often than not. They got the cucumbers, the okra and most of the winter squash, including Isiah’s pumpkins. We lost all of our onions due to an over-zealous neighbor mulching them while I was away last winter. It’s the same neighbor who helps us grow our garlic, so perhaps we came out even. Anyway, we try to provide some kind of allium every week – kinda hard when all the onions died. Sorry about all the leeks.
We had planned to grow potatoes and sweet corn on a leased field in the next valley over, a plan we had to abandon after the tractor inferno. We can’t grow good potatoes here due to a fungus, aptly, named Carolina potato wilt.
Speaking of the tractor inferno, it seemed to be the characterizing catastrophe for the year. It was ugly, as anyone driving past at the time can attest to, and, due to some quick thinking and heroics on my part, there was no loss of life. I still remember my initial reaction: “Thank God, at least we saved the livestock!”
Nonetheless, it put a tremendous burden on all of us this year. All ground was prepared late, things were planted late and some things weren’t planted at all. Several succession plantings were made on ground that was prepared by hand, or with a rototiller. It sometimes took us a day and a half to prepare beds that would otherwise have taken 45 minutes. A number of smart-aleck friends have said that it was good practice for when the oil eventually runs out, but, on the whole, I’d have rather had the tractor. We’ve been through a lot, that tractor and me, and neither of us will quit. It’s running now, in it’s own sputtering little way, and I’m going to give it a complete rebuild this winter. (Truth is, for years I’ve been saying, “Just get me through this year, and I’ll rebuild you. But I need to get through this year!”
Other fun news this year was our ongoing troubling relationship with the deer. They hit us harder and harder every year. My first few years here, I rarely saw one. And then they began to nibble. Then devour. It’s getting a bit out of hand. As of today, we lack a few gates and a few short runs of fencing between the greenhouses, but, other than that, there’s a fence, ten feet high and a bit more than two thousand feet long, surrounding the farm. And, it seems to be working. It had better. If the deer pressure continues as it has the past few years, we will be unable to continue growing food. We can’t continue to let them have the bulk of it, give you the rest, and have none left over. Not to worry. The fence is holding.
Our CSA venture proves to be the most rewarding aspect of farming. I started it after eight years of growing for and selling at farmer’s markets, exclusively. I dared not start a CSA until I was confident the farm had grown to the degree that we would be able to provide adequate shares. I sometimes think I jumped the gun. Many of you have told me I did not. The thanks we receive from you, week after week, is somehow more meaningful than the thanks we receive from market customers. Perhaps because you’re in it for the long haul with us. Perhaps because you have the right to complain but don’t.
Many of you joined because it’s the easiest way for you to get fresh veggies. Others joined because you don’t want to support the corporate food chain. Others joined because you believe in keeping farms part of your community and part of your landscape. Every year it is driven home to me, harder and harder, how valid all of these reasons are, and how important all of these issues are to our small community and to the world at large. We’re going to keep doing what we do, and we’re happy that you’re along with us. We never expected it to be easy. We just sometimes wish it was a little less hard. This farm is here because we sell vegetables, and for no other reason. We have no other sources of income. That’s rare, both in Asheville and across the country. All to often, sustainable agriculture is sustained by capitol from somewhere else. We‘re not doing it that way. We’re doing it with old equipment and second hand tools. The scrap yard is my favorite parts store. And we’re having a blast doing it and we’re going to keep on turning over ground and coaxing vegetables to grow and somehow or another filling boxes every week. Your CSA membership is a vote for self-control of your food system. It’s a vote for small-scale, family oriented businesses of every kind.
The bottom line, however, for you, is whether you got your money’s worth or not. We sincerely hope you were happy with your involvement with us this year, and will be with us next year. That’s for you to decide.
We’re in a two year drought, but there’s still water every time I fill my glass at the kitchen sink. Gas is expensive, but I can still buy it whenever I need to, pour a bit in the pump, and spray some water on my fields. I complain about the age and the condition of our equipment, but I can keep it running, and can always scrape together enough cash for the necessary tools. The corporations take a greater and greater role in our food supply every year, but we have just as many CSA members as want and our markets are full of people every week-end. It’s bitter, icy cold every morning, but the sun still comes up. We’re blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Not a day goes by that I don’t say that to myself, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about farmers the world over with no water at all, or with no choice of what to plant, or with no hope of keeping their farms. All in all, we’re pretty lucky.
The winter sees me completing the deer fence, rebuilding the tractor, and building another greenhouse. I’ll also help a friend sell some Christmas trees, and also help another friend with a habitat restoration project. That first sentence lists what should help make some money for next year. The second sentence should make enough to see me through the winter.
My friend Carolyn worked on an organic farm in Texas this year. This is her favorite joke: A farmer from Texas meets a farmer from North Carolina. The farmer from Texas says, “I can get in my truck in the morning and drive all day. Then I get up the next morning and I drive all day. Then I get up the next morning and I can drive all day and I still haven’t gotten to the other side of my farm.” And the farmer from North Carolina says, “Yep. I used to have a truck like that.”


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