Friday, June 5, 2009

farm report....

This was sent to all members of the Pennypack Farm CSA...

Farm Notes ~ June 4, 2009
From Farmer Fred

We've just wrapped up the first week of summer share distribution, and we hope everyone was happy with the strawberry bonanza. Not only were the berries easy to find in the patch, they had mouth-watering flavor. But let's consider the cold-hard cash value question. I just checked at Whole Foods and saw that a quart of California organic strawberries was selling for around $4. On Wednesday, June 3, Pennypack Farm members could pick up to 3 quarts of strawberries, and take 3 more item besides.

Those three items could include a three-quarter pound bunch of kale with fronds 18 inches long and stalks so tender and sweet they snap in your fingers. Another two items (out of many to select from) could include a half-pound each of spinach and arugula. Sorry to pound our own drum here, folks. But the fact is that a Pennypack Farm share is a great value. At a cost of $450, a small share works out to $18 a week over the 25-week season. We strive to meet or beat an equivalent supermarket shopping basket value each week. We're off to a good start in that effort.

In Community Supported Agriculture, members take the bitter with the sweet, and we know that there will be crop failures as well as triumphs. At the moment, some of our spring broccoli is looking a little peaked. Broccoli needs a lot of available nitrogen, and we took a gamble by trying to reduce our purchased organic fertilizer input. Last fall we sowed a cover crop of legumes, which were supposed to add a significant amount of nitrogen to the soil for following crops to use. But it didn't seem to work out that way, at least not for the broccoli beds. We will harvest less broccoli in the coming month than we planned, but there will be much more coming in the fall, so we hope to make up for any shortfall.

We're trying another experiment in sustainability this season, which is to use biodegradable, corn-based plastic mulch on some beds. Each season we use thousands of row feet of disposable plastic sheeting as one of our primary weed control methods. We'd love to reduce or eliminate all this waste. But the corn-based plastic has only been commercially available for the last year or so, and it may not function as well as "real" plastic, or biodegrade completely in our conditions. I'll report back on this effort later in the season.

The weather this spring has been very cool and damp. One result has been an explosion of slugs. We use organic slug bait on a few crops, but it isn't that effective under these conditions. As a result almost all of our leafy greens have some slug holes. We've even seen slugs on mustard family crops like kale, which is quite unusual. Hopefully we'll turn the corner on summer soon and the heat will end the slug problem. Remember that week of 90-degree weather back in April? We're ready for some more of that!

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