Friday, August 27, 2010

Week of August 23 2010 : Victory

(Here is a picture of our scare eye watching over our seventh stand of sweet corn. Unfortunately our sixth stand was damaged by birds. A few pecks are visually unsettling and exposes the ear to additional damage. The birds have avoided the corn since the scare eye took up patrol. Not often does a cheap and easy solution actually work!)

We won the Best Tasting Cherry Tomato award at the Geauga Fresh Farmers' Market. Woo Hoo!!! Our winning entry was the Sun Sugar.

Whenever taste is the topic of discussion, the discussion usually includes heirloom varieties and hybrids. Heirloom tomatoes are the most widely discussed but heirlooms of all vegetables exist.

Some people misunderstand hybrids. Hybrids are created using cross breeding and natural selection which are normal biological processes. Hybrids are not created using genetic modification.

Heirlooms are generally known for their superior taste and poor growing characteristics. Hybrids are generally known for flat taste and superior growing characteristics. But, of course, there are exceptions to these generalizations.

One of the many rewarding aspects of growing vegetables for market is discovering and learning about all the varieties then matching our experiences with the demands of the customers.

So when the Geauga Fresh Farmers' Market patrons voted our cherry tomato the best tasting, that affirmed our experiences and decisions of which varieties to bring to market.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Week of August 16 2010 : Geese

The Canadian Geese have arrived. Geese land in the open field that adjoins our fields then wander into the orchard in search of apples. The reason geese bother me so much is they are a sure sign that fall is here.

The irritating "squawks" of a huge flock of geese pierced my ears. I first noticed the geese while harvesting our Acorn and Blue Hubbard squash. I was surprised to notice them because I was busy hustling to beat the early sunset. Geese, winter squash and shorter days are a powerful combination of signs that cannot be ignored. NOOO!

The squash, including pumpkins, were timed to mature well after Labor Day but the hot summer hastened maturity. Although the squash are beautiful and certainly tasty, we are in no hurry to sample any just yet. Good thing the squash have great storage qualities.

The squash will easily store until Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. In fact, last year we had one Blue Hubbard left over from market. We gave it to Nathaniel and he played with it all winter and into July before it showed any signs of aging.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Week of August 9 2010 : Triple Double

Here is a picture of our daughter scouting the corn field for the first time. Yeah for the smiles! She was born June 28 and this stand was planted June 29. Mother and daughter were still in the hospital and our son was in bed when I snuck out at sunset to plant this last stand.

We knew our lives would become more hectic by doubling our children, doubling our field capacity, and doubling our markets. When we write up the post season report, a phrase like 'very aggressive' will be appropriate. But this season and it's challenges provided several opportunities to learn about farming from yet another perspective and who we are as people.

Farmers focus on field operations. Smart farmers also focus on marketing techniques. And it has become clear to us that successful farmers are vigilant about defining priorities, making decisions and managing time.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Week of Aug 2 2010 : Really

This is the time of year when I remind myself how much I really enjoy market farming. Its easy to like growing early in the season when temperatures are cool, moisture is sufficient and pest pressure in minimal. But late season heat, drought and relentless pests really test one's mettle.

The challenges arrive on cue each year. Each year I bring out my notebook. The notebook contains past problems, solutions and results. I read old notes and add new notes. Although I certainly do not have all the answers, I am ready to take in any problem and work out a solution.

But like I said, relentless pests really test one's mettle including my own. This week, after a particularly busy market, after unloading the trailer, after spraying DiPel on the broccoli (for cabbageworm) and on the sweet corn (for corn borer and earworm), I washed my hands and headed inside to escape these pests and read some goodnight books to my son.

A new stack of library books was on the floor. I eagerly sifted through the pile to see what I would be reading tonight. What did I find?


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Week of July 26 2010 : Peg Leg

(Here is a picture of Nathaniel enjoying sweet corn and watermelon. We had him out in the field picking his dinner; he had fun snappin' ears and thumpin' melons. Well, maybe not snapping ears, more like bending stalks. But he really can thump melons. He screams with delight at the dull sound of a ripe Moon & Star watermelon. We think he actually understands the difference because he looks at us with confusion when he thumps a landscaping rock).

Our growing and harvesting season is at the peak. Our summer crops are thriving and fall crops are coming in too. Of course this leads to busy times at market. We need as much improvisation as we have busy to succeed with harvesting and marketing. The challenges creep in from every angle.

Last week while setting up for market our pop up canopy would not pop up. One of the 4 legs was somehow jammed. Seriously? This? But in the context of the Golden Rule of Problems, the most unlikely problem at the most inconvenient time, this was expected. Eager customers were arriving 1/2 hour early looking for sweet corn and here I was mystified by a tent. Always look for the opportunity in any situation.

Selling to the early customers emptied enough crates such that I could stack them upside and make a peg leg for the canopy. By the start of market we had a functioning and safe canopy.

After market we discovered one of the snap releases was bent, probably during the previous week's surprise thunderstorm.