Genesee Valley Organic Community Supported Agriculture

Notes from the Farm - October/November 1997
By Elizabeth Henderson

The long dry spell of the summer was broken by welcome rains in time to save the winter squash and germinate the seed of the late carrots.  Then, of course, the weather turned very wet and humid and for the first time we lost most of a planting of lettuce and an entire planting of spinach to fungal diseases.  But the poor amount of spinach has been more than compensated by the abundance of tomatoes.  And so it goes...

Aside from the rot on the lettuce and spinach, crops are looking good for the fall.  There will be lots of carrots, beets and potatoes, adequate supplies of leeks and onions, and high quality garlic for braids and for seed.  You will all be excited to know that we have a bumper crop of turnips and rutabagas. Defying the drought, every turnip seed I planted came up!   After an absence of a few years, Jerusalem artichokes are back.  Daikon radishes, parsnips and burdock round out the roots.  In the greens department, there are red and green kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, savoy, red and green cabbage, collards, senposai, bok choi, tat soi, Chinese cabbage, and red and green chard. The Brussels sprouts are infested with gray aphids.  We may try spraying them with a concoction of Safers soap and garlic.  We'll let you know if it works.

At this writing, the orange cauliflower plants have not yet formed heads.  We await with curiosity this new variety, developed by a Geneva breeder, which is higher in beta carotene than white cauliflower.  The six varieties of winter squash responded to the drought differently: the acorn squash is bigger than usual, the spaghetti squash was not bothered at all, the delicata, sweet dumpling and buttercups are small, and the butternut is sizing up too late for much of it to ripen. There are enough pie pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns to go around.

On a farm, there is almost always  a crop that is not quite up to market standards, but is perfectly good to eat.  Much of what we farmers eat is these "factory rejects," but we can't eat them all.  It has felt very good to be able to share this food with gleaners from St. Joseph's House of Hospitality. Staffer Ken Bristol has brought several groups to the farm to glean corn, beans, and greens.

Every harvest season, the population of Wayne County swells by 4-5000 (no one seems to know the exact number). Migrant farm workers come to pick the apples, harvest the vegetables and work in the processing plants.  They come from Florida, Jamaica and Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala and other points south.  The Multicultural Arts program is a local effort to make these strangers in a hostile land feel a little more welcome.  Every year Rose Valley contributes cilantro, garlic, green tomatoes and zinnias to the Mexican Fiesta.  I went to the celebration again this year.  As usual, the food was excellent, a popular Mexican band blasted out compelling rhythms, and there were games and a piñata for the children.

Under a huge tent in the yard of the Sodus Elementary School, it is a mind blowing experience to be surrounded by close to a thousand Spanish speaking people, mostly young men, but women and children too.  A totally different culture.  We hardly see them in our daily lives in Wayne County, except maybe at the grocery store on Saturday evenings.  Yet this is the reality of our food system.  Without their low paid labor, the cheap food would not be in our supermarkets.

I attended another Wayne County gathering recently - a meeting of apple growers who have formed a cooperative to sell juice apples.  The big  news at the meeting  was the announcement that  week of the Mott price for juice apples: the price is the same as last year.  Unless these growers can find alternate markets, they are dependent on this one purchaser who has the power to set the price.  In the South, where there are other big companies, the price for juicers is higher.   To get the Mott price to cover production costs, growers have to be "good managers," that is, they have to squeeze their labor hard. Fantasy insert: apple growers attend Mexican Fiesta and forge a team with the farm workers to squeeze Mott instead for a better price.

I will be gathering  no moss this fall.  My efforts to articulate the painful realities of our food system and to create a movement to change it will take me many miles.  In October, I will be a speaker at a national conference on Community Food Security in Los Angeles.  Less than a month later, I will be the keynote speaker and do a workshop on CSAs at the Tilth conference near Seattle. The west coast has the added attraction of opportunities to spend time with my son who is teaching in Oakland public schools.  In early November, at least three other GVOCSA core members and I will give workshops at the northeast CSA conference in Massachusetts.

There is some very sad news from the farm.  I will be leaving Rose Valley at the end of this season and it will be the last year for the GVOCSA at this farm. I do not have words to tell you how hard this move is for me.  I came here nine years ago hoping  never to move again.  For the time being, I am living in Wolcott and can be reached evenings at Mail can still go to the Rose Valley address.  See the letter from the Core elsewhere in the newsletter on the future of GVOCSA.

Providing  you  with vegetables and working together with you at the farm has been a wonderful experience for me.  I hope to find a way to continue to work for and with you in the future.  Greg Palmer feels the same way.  Our GVOCSA community has many creative resources.  Perhaps we will find a way to build something new to take the place of Rose Valley.  In the meantime, let us savor the rest of this season of good food together.

Copyright © GVOCSA 1997. All rights reserved.