Genesee Valley Organic Community Supported Agriculture


Notes from the Farm -January, 2002

by Elizabeth Henderson

After the trials of the summer drought, nature did her best to soothe us through a long, mild fall. With our new well ready to pump water into the trickle irrigation system, and some rain from above, fall crops grew abundantly. Though adequate for our crops, the rain has yet to replenish water tables to their normal level in Wayne County. As the hours of daylight grew shorter, so did our work days. We were grateful to be able to provide ample shares, clean up from the season, and prepare for winter at a relaxed pace.

Overall, fall crops did well. Our huge effort at watering broccoli transplants set out during the drought paid off with a good crop of broccoli in October and November. We matched our goal of 7 weeks of broccoli in your shares. The warm days of November and December brought an extra flush of broccoli side shoots which we shared with the few families who responded to our invitation to come and pick. We had plenty of mizuna, Swiss chard, spinach, collards, and kale to put in shares, and enough left over and still growing to provide our own families with greens for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. We were able to put lettuce in your shares every week for 26 weeks this year:only one CSA member complained that it was too much.

The first frosts held off till September 30 and October 1, and we were still able to pick cucumbers and zucchini for another week. The extra weeks without frost helped the winter squash ripen up. But unlike other years, when it has been very obvious which squash was ripe and which was not, the squash was uneven this year. We apologize for any unripe squash you may have received. The additional rat caging we constructed saved what we did harvest from rodents. The hoop house protected the eggplants from the first frosts, so we picked the last flush after the middle of October. Unfortunately, rodents in the hoop house ate methodically through the peppers, starting with the ripest, then leaving deep tooth marks on all the rest. We will need to come up with a solution to that problem for next year. The warm weather also helped the carrots, which had germinated so late because of the drought. We did not have much extra for bulk, but at least we did have carrots for the last week, and sweet ones at that. At the very end of the season, we even had some excess greens and root crops to sell to Abundance Cooperative Market.

The fall rains also allowed us at long last to work up the beds on the Barn Field and to seed them with a rye cover crop. Interns David and Rebecca did the major portion of the cover crop seeding. The only beds we left bare through the winter are the few beds of root crops we harvested too late to seed down to rye. The oats we planted on the beds we plan to use early next spring grew thick and lush in the late warmth, making up somewhat for the organic matter we lost by not being able to plant buckwheat. As of this writing, the oats are still green. Within a few miles of the farm, we hunted down two large piles of manure to use in our composting. Equipment hassles have prevented us from trucking them home so far, but they are high on our list of priorities for the near future. We hope eventually to produce enough compost and vermicompost (worm castings) of our own so that we can stop purchasing them.

With the help of CSA members, we planted garlic in two mornings. We put more pounds of seed in the ground than last year in hopes of having a larger crop for 2002. How much we harvest depends so much on the weather. Garlic size was down this year because of the freakishly dry weather in April and May. Garlic likes a moist spring and a dry stretch during harvest time in mid to late July. We also mulched a bed of hardy leeks to put in shares next spring.

We lost some of the final lettuce in the greenhouse to white mold. CSA member Jana Lamboy, a plant pathologist, was able to identify the pathogen and brought a team of three scientists, headed by Helene Dillard, chair of the department at the Geneva Experiment Station, to the farm to inspect the soil in the green house. They prescribed a biological remedy, Serenade, microbial organisms that will consume the white mold fungi. Serenade is on the list of approved materials for certified organic farms.

All of us from the farm plus Marianne Simmons from the Core attended the NE CSA Conference, "Growing our Food, Building our Movement, Changing our World," at Frost Valley YMCA Center in early December. The opening keynote speakers were Gloria and Steve Decatur from Live Power Community Farm in Covelo, California. The Decaturs told the story of their farming since 1973, and of founding the first CSA in California in 1988. Gloria spoke to the central theme for the conference, reading from a Hopi poem which announces the end of the "era of the lone wolf," and concludes: "We are the ones we have been waiting for!" Steve emphasized how important it is for CSAs to ask more of their members, "providing a context for giving," for it is through participation that they will find their heart in the garden.

In the 4 pre-conference mini-schools, and 44 workshops, experienced CSA farmers, core members and support organization staffers shared detailed information and visionary ideas. There were nitty-gritty sessions on soil fertility, crop production, CSA organization, land tenure, labor, children on the farm, how to build support networks, mentoring and apprenticeships, research on CSAs, and many aspects of CSA business management, including share pricing, and fair payment to farmers and farm workers. And bigger picture sessions on CSA and social movements, GMOs, revisiting the CSA dream, and CSA and agricultural policy. Outstanding CSAs, like Brookfield Community Farm and Caretaker Farm, shared their stories. Jered Lawson recounted his experience in Japan working on Tekei farms. Some of these sessions were taped, so if you missed the conference, you can contact the Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources (www.csacenter.org) to get copies.

Helen rated the children's program as outstanding. The food, supplied by local farms and prepared by the Frost Valley kitchen staff, was excellent. The culture that goes with our agriculture was well represented in displays of paintings, photos, and a poetry reading by Scott Chaskey. The audience greeted Suzy Polucci's skit, "Rambi Picks Up Her Share," with chuckles and guffaws. Paul Rosenberg, accompanied by the Walker Family Band, led us in contra and folk dances from around the world. The Northeast CSA Conference brought us steps closer to realizing our vision of a food system that integrates spiritual, social, economic and environmental ideals.

Since the conference, Greg, Ammie and I have finished up our accounts for the year. We began our search for interns, spending an entire day each interviewing two good candidates. We had an enjoyable get together with the Kraais to pay our rent on land, buildings and equipment, and to celebrate our annual lease signing. Our lease is a 5-year rolling lease, which means we renew it yearly, but both parties have to give 5 years notice to end it. We have begun designing the planting schedule and seed orders for 2002.

Greg and Ammie are spending the winter on home improvements, firewood, and cross-country skiing with Helen. They will be doing some classroom volunteering, and giving some presentations to Helen's and other classes in her school. She is loving public school, and will perform in a production of "Annie" in the spring with the rest of her childcare gang. As usual, the entire farm team will attend the NOFA-NY Winter Conference.

Sadly, on November 29, I attended a memorial service for long time CSA member Jane Whiting. It was comforting to be there with old CSA friends Pat Mannix and Janet Laird. I was deeply moved by Janes daughters words about her mother who did not proselytize, but quietly went about her way, buying and cooking locally grown food, supporting efforts for local empowerment, cooperation and peace.

In November, I learned that I had been selected as one of three Farmer Educators by the NE Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE). Remarkably, this honor will not mean more work! Instead, SARE will compensate me for the work I have been doing voluntarily, giving farm tours, workshops, and serving as a source of information for other farmers, researchers and Extension educators. Through the winter, I will give a number of workshops and keynote speeches at conferences for organic farmers, help NENA make urban farming plans for the coming season, and pursue the development of Social Stewardship guidelines for organic agriculture. I will also continue work on the Growing New Farmers project, which is developing materials and resources to help more people get into farming and learn to farm successfully.

Greg, Ammie and I are very sure that for us bigger is not better. The new 6 1/2 acre Barn Field may give you the wrong impression. We do not plan to increase the size of the GVOCSA. The new field provides the space we need for good rotations, so that every year, some of the beds can spend an entire year in a clover/grass cover crop. We want to concentrate on doing what we are doing better, and on sharing skills among the three of us so that we become more or less interchangeable and truly share responsibility for the farm. Our most cherished goal is to make the farm sustainable for us and for you. The local food system we are creating together - our farm, the Kraai's Crowfield Farm, the Austin's Heidenreich Farm, Blue Heron Farm, Abundance Cooperative Market, Lori's, the Northeast Neighborhood Association in Rochester - this is peacework. We are laying the groundwork for a loving and peaceful way of life. These are difficult times, but let us hope our thoughtful and cooperative way will prevail, and that some day, we will live in a just and fair world of peace, love, and abundance.


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