Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Year In Review

I wanted to briefly talk about some of our successes and failures for 2008. Organic farming has its challenges and we met them head on. Our Fremont property started out with tremendous growth and potential due to its well drained soil and ample rainfall. Most prized in these early plantings were our potatoes and carrots. Also, the sand soil grew some tremendous lettuces and mustards when it did rain. Sandy soil provides ample tilth but can turn to a sandbox quickly with a week of warm dry weather. This became the trend after the second week of June and continued throughout the entire summer. We were adaptable to the weather though. One portion of the Fremont property has a heavier soil type known as "muck ground". It takes a long time to dry out after spring rains but is tremendously fertile. We chose this ground for many of the late plantings like Swiss Chard, carrots and beets. The excellent moisture retention provided good germination rates and crops thrived despite near drought conditions. I would consider these plantings to be the most professional crops we've ever grown due to uniformity, rate of growth, and disease resistance. Many of you had your fill of Swiss Chard I'm sure...however this crop provided a drought alternative when we couldn't grow lettuces.

The Marysville property was pretty much a wash this year. April and May rains really didn't allow us to work up the clay based soil for a good spring crop. We have committed a lot of time and compost to this piece of ground and have seen very uneven results. Our fall root vegetable and green crops have been excellent the past two years though.

Our critical mistake of 2008 was the "attempt" at growing heirloom tomatoes at Marysville. I have found in many cases that heirlooms taste the best when grown in low hummus but minerally rich soil. We produced tremendous heirlooms in 2006 and 2007 this way. We kind of abuse our heirlooms a bit -lots of calcium, greensand, lime and rock phosphate, but minimal water. Generally, once fruit sets are heavy, I tend to stop watering the plants. Fruits tend to ripen quicker and have a much deeper, more pronounced flavor. Nonetheless, our heavy rains in May and early June created a serious disease problem. We had a terminal case of early blight. We gave the plants a nice top dressing but they didn't recover. So, 2008 was a crop failure for heirloom tomatoes, all 107 varieties.

Disappointment is part of market farming. 2009 will renew our plans for tomato excellence and I have a feeling our customers will be ready. We did save our own seed stock for some of our more rare varieties like Nelson's Golden Giant, Morning Sun and Berkley Tied-Dyed Pink.

Our biggest success this year was the potato crop. We achieved record yields, some that were 100 percent higher than standard performance. Notable varieties included Huckleberry, Red Thumb and Island Sunshine. Red Thumb is a red fingerling that we didn't offer for sale. That's because the seed is rare and expensive. We decided to save all of our Red Thumb for seed stock. In 2009, we will plant all 700 pounds of Red Thumb with an expected yield of 7,000 to 14,000 pounds. This beautiful fingerling has uniform A and B size, and has a tender waxy texture. Ohioans love their red potatoes.

2008 was a difficult year to say the least. In 2009 we are aggressively growing in size and scope. Our tractor fleet will grow from two to five. Acreage will expand from approximately fifteen acres to perhaps forty. We've charted over 160 different products that we would like to grow with an emphasis on onions and root vegetables. In addition we are working the CSA programs so that vegetables are rotated more frequently. We look forward to growing for your family next season, please contact us anytime.


No comments: