Becky here. I thought it was probably about time I give you guys a quick update on how the farm is doing. Overall? The farm is GREAT right now. We have never been in such good shape rolling into summer. I’m actually feeling extremely nostalgic right now because this is the week, three years ago, that I started the farm. Three years ago, the second week in June, I planted my very first crop: sweet potatoes. I’m laughing to myself right now remembering what a hot mess that initial season was. The first year, I was literally using leftover, soggy fertilizer from Nathan (whom I bought the farm from). And I just remember literally running through the fields to shake the fertilizer out of the bag. And I was using all this jerry-rigged equipment that my friend, Jim Richardson, gave me. It was just a hot, somewhat disorganized mess to get those sweet potatoes in the ground. After purchasing the property, I needed to get some crops going as soon as possible so that I could actually generate some income from this big ‘ole investment, but getting a diversified vegetable farm started literally from the ground up, in the middle of June, by myself, was a challenge. The only thing I could really plant at that moment in the season was sweet potatoes. After those were in the ground, of course, I planted long beans, which were the first crop I ever harvested - they were ready before the sweet potatoes. I can’t tell you how hard that summer was, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. Despite the challenge, I somehow managed to capture a favorite photo of that first long bean harvest.
But this year, three years later, it just feels like we're in such a different place. For example, my awesome employee Gianna is out there with the fertilizer spreader, calmly making these straight, perfect beds. And the sweet potato slips, mature shoots grown from actual sweet potatoes that you plant instead of seed, are getting tucked into the ground with admirable efficiency. And now we’ve got a tine weeder that’s weeding the sweet potato beds before they ever have a chance to get weedy, and it’s just crazy to imagine the summer three years ago when I was running around with a moldy bag of fertilizer. I can’t stop chuckling with glee at just how far we’ve come, and just how distant that manic potato-planting seems. Of course, we’re always growing and improving, but right now I feel like VRDNT is a well-oiled machine. It kind of makes me emotional. I’ve really been feeling the weight of this three-year anniversary lately. It’s a happy weight, to be sure.
Seasonally, we’re in full transition mode. We’re at the point of the year where all of the early spring crops that were more cold-tolerant are really wrapping up. Things like carrots, broccoli, and the cabbages are really done. Adios! See you next year! And now, we’re moving into the season of the tomato, the pepper, the eggplant - things that are more heat tolerant… cucumbers, too. This week and next, we’re planting our final rounds of crops before we take a big planting break as the summer’s peak heat sets in. The last things we’re getting in the ground are sweet potatoes (déjà vu), long beans, and okra. After that, we won’t really plant anything from mid-July through mid-August. At the end of August when things start to cool down a bit, we’ll get busy planting and seeding again, preparing for fall crops.
I hope everyone is getting excited for the peak of summer crops. It’s about here! Everyone should be getting lots of tomatoes and cucumbers. (Want more tomatoes? Keep a lookout for a *potential* announcement about a bulk tomato sale.) But part of what keeps the CSA interesting through the hottest part of the year when plants can’t really thrive is our storage crops. Growing and storing high-quality storage crops for a summer CSA is something that is only easily happening in year three of owning VRDNT. What we do is this: grow crops better suited for cooler temperatures, harvest in early summer, and hold these in cold storage to distribute in peak summer, through the worst of the heat. Customers can expect to continue to receive storage onions, potatoes, cabbages, carrots, and beets in their shares throughout the next couple of months. We’re harvesting most of those crops in bulk now, and getting them out of the ground before they just cook in the fields.
We’re handling the heat as best we can over here. Mostly, we’re just trying to keep everything, including ourselves, wet. (A wet bandana around the neck does a lot to cool the body temperature!) Even though we technically can grow some crops throughout the heat of the summer in Texas, growing through July and August has serious downsides. When the leaf temperature of most plants gets above 95 degrees, they can no longer photosynthesis. All the enzymes in the leaf that are needed to run those photosynthetic processes literally just degrade in the heat. When the temperatures get too hot, they literally just can’t even grow, and that’s why some crops will start to look scorned and shriveled come July. Even though the plants have access to lots of light - usually a necessary thing for vegetable production - leaf temperatures just get too hot and plants literally won’t photosynthesis. That’s really the biggest danger - that the plants just kind of stand still and stop producing. But, most of the plants like tomatoes and peppers, will hopefully just kind of standstill, hang on, and when we get some cooler weather, hopefully, bounce back.
One day I hope to have some shade structures at the farm that will help crops make it through these hottest months, but for now - a project like that which requires a huge capital investment is a far away dream. Who knows, maybe in another 3 years I’ll be writing about the summer when we farmed without shade cloth, and what a hot mess that was. For now, we’re just going to keep doing what we can, relying on storage crops as a key factor to extend the season and get you a variety of vegetables all summer long.
Melons should be here at the beginning of August, and isn’t that exciting?
Thanks for reading!