Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Starting the delivery season

I should be washing dishes right now, but realized that I had to write at least one post for June! And the topic's been on my mind for most of this month...when to start harvesting and delivering vegetables to the farm's subscribers. It was a really tough call this year as the early crops weren't growing as I'd hoped/planned. Usually, I use the timing of the sugar snap peas to determine when I start deliveries, but with the loss of my Asian greens crops (bok choy mostly) to cold, wet, flea beetle, you name it, and slow growth and sparser than hoped for germination on my salad green, spinach, herb and chard plantings, there wasn't necessarily enough other produce to deliver along with the sugar snap peas! Plus, every week that I delayed past my hoped for start week of June 21 would be a tough loss of revenue for the season.

So on Sunday, June 19th, I walked my field, saw that the first plantings of salad greens and spinach were big enough to harvest and that the first picking of sugar snap peas was ready, and decided that I would start my deliveries that week. Monday morning, Jeremy and I cut the first bed of salad greens, which didn't yield nearly enough, so we went on to the 2nd planting as well. We did the same for the spinach, hoping that there would be enough to make deliveries (now a necessity!) worthwhile. After weighing and packaging the greens, I made the decision to do a partial run for the first week, delivering to 25 downtown subscribers out of the almost 40 that would normally get vegetables on my 'downtown' week. And of those deliveries, the majority didn't get enough vegetables for a full package, so I owe them additional vegetables later in the summer when there's more produce (fingers crossed!).

This week, I again decided on a partial run, 22 out of 40, but all with full packages. We cut greens from the 3rd planting which yielded the same poundage as plantings 1 & 2 combined. And the first planting of sugar snap peas definitely came into its own, yielding about 15 lbs over 250 linear feet, with another 15 lbs from the 2nd planting of close to 400 linear feet. Next week, that 2nd planting should yield lots more too.

It's amazing how much of a difference the weather at different planting times can make. The first 2 greens seedings were done when the weather was still pretty cold, so by the time they started growing well, the 3rd had already almost caught up, and in the end, surpassed them for production. I wonder how many years it will take before I can look at a row of salad greens and get an accurate estimate on how much they'll all weigh once cut. One thing's for sure, I'm definitely increasing the linear feet I plant for early greens next year!

So for this season, I won't be making full subscription deliveries to all my clients until July :( I guess I should feel lucky as I hear of many farms and gardens which haven't started producing anything yet due to wet fields and a cold spring. And certainly being able to start deliveries 'on time', even if abbreviated, is a vast improvement over my first year where I didn't have enough volume of produce to bring anywhere until September ;P I should feel quite lucky that my field has produced as much as it has considering it's a new field (for me and my vegetables). It's certainly been a different experience so far as this field is much wetter than my previous one (which was a slightly sloping hill on a higher part of my farm), and having been worked a lot more over the years (by previous croppers), has a lot less organic matter and more compaction. It will definitely be a few years before it will be in a state that 'guarantees' any sort of vegetable production ;P

Hopefully as the season progresses, I won't have to stress so much over having enough vegetables to deliver to subscribers. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there aren't any major crop failures, and that this year, the tomatoes don't get blight. So far, they're looking healthy and happy...but so much can change overnight! Sometimes I can't believe how much my life has changed, with my whole livelihood dependent on so many uncontrollable factors. But perhaps there's some peace to be found in that. All I can do is work hard and do my best and the rest is out of my hands. In my previous city working life (as in most of yours I'm sure!), so much that could go wrong with work had to do with people and politics, which is much more frustrating because you feel like maybe you have power over the outcome. I've accepted that I have no power over the weather ;P