Wow, its been quite a while since I posted. Moving an entire farm to new land is kind of a hard, insane thing to do. The weather this year has been insane as well, with way more rain than average, a cold hard winter that wouldn’t let go, and wild fluctuations in temperature. Combine the two and, well… I haven’t had a lot of extra time or energy! But here’s a few things that have happened recently.
Our pick-your-own tomatoes got late blight just as they were about to ripen. They were looking very nice and loaded with green tomatoes, and then over the course of a weekend, half of them died completely. Its a heart breaker, and it happened just like this last year. There’s one kind of cherry tomato that we grow, “Matt’s Wild” which is blight resistant. It’s a pain in the butt to grow; it is, as its name suggests, extra wild and hard to trellis and contain, but we will keep growing it for its resistance to blight. There is one kind of fungicide that is approved for organic production, but I would never use it in the pick-your-own section. Despite being OMRI approved, it’s nasty stuff, and can do irreparable harm to the vision. We grow another kind of blight resistant tomato in another field that we pick for shares, so people aren’t tomatoeless. Its sad, though, to not be able to taste all those awesome paste and heirlooms I was so excited to try.
I drove the truck to Penn Yan the other day to pick up cover crop seed and pig feed for Jonny. I get those things from Lakeview Organic Grain, which is located on a side street right in the town, next to the rail road tracks. Its great to have them near enough to go pick up seeds, and not have to get them delivered. The cover crops are for planting in the ground that had earlier crops and is now tilled up. The cover crops help keep down weeds, prevent erosion, and aerate and add organic matter to the soil for next year.
Our neighbor Bill, who was a professional welder for many years, was wandering around the farm some weeks ago and saw our jerry-rigged row maker, attached to the back of the tiller with door hinges. It’s made out of wood and circles cut out of old bathroom dividers. The purpose of the invention is to roll behind the tiller to mark out the bed in a grid to plant into, so that the crops stay the same distance from each other. It’s a smart idea and design, but it’s falling apart, and needs a revamp. “I can build that better,” he said. We described how it works, and the problems it has, and he went back to his barn and banged and welded away, and then came by with the new invention, painted red. We took it for its maiden voyage last week, marking out beds for some fall spinach, and it worked perfectly. I told him he should patent it, but he still wants to perfect some invisible things. If any of you farmers out there want one, though, I can give you his number.
Farmer Erin, who started Mud Creek 6 years ago, is back in the Rochester area. She’s been enjoying the freedom of a year tied to nothing, traveling, exploring, learning, and being. After a while, she missed the area and moved back. She has time and energy, though! Over the next few weeks, she will be writing a number of posts about the challenges we farmers face, and they will be posted here. Here’s Erin’s letter to our members:Hi folks, it’s “Farmer” Erin, and I’m back in town! Some of you might remember me well, as founder of Mud Creek Farm — some of you who are new to the CSA might only have heard rumors of me. At the end of last fall I made the difficult decision to move out of the area, and I passed the torch to “Farmer Ruth.” I can honestly say that Ruth has done an incredible job as the new farm owner/operator, keeping the true spirit of the CSA alive, and feeding hundreds of families delicious sustainably-grown vegetables every week! She did all this despite the setbacks of having to move the entire farm to new land, construct a parking lot, a greenhouse, a cooler, a washing and distribution shed, break in and learn the intricacies of ten acres of new fields… all this while dealing with a winter that wouldn’t end, a summer that wouldn’t start, and twice the average expected rainfall for the area. From afar, I read articles about the soggy summer, secretly rejoicing that this was my chosen year to not farm! The hard work and dedication of Ruth, Johnny, Josh, and the rest of the farm crew, have given me the opportunity to spend the last year taking a break from full-time farming, letting my body and mind rest from seven straight seasons of growing vegetables. I am so grateful for their ability to step in and take up the reins, allowing the farm to continue while I had the chance to explore other sides of myself besides “Farmer.” Though the letting-go process for me was challenging, my complete trust in their abilities to run Mud Creek Farm made it easier. What a true joy to be able to walk away from something in the community I had set in motion and see it continue to succeed. Now, some folks might be thinking, “Back in town? I thought Erin moved away!” Well, I tried to. I followed my heart all the way, like the courageous fool I am, only to realize that sometimes the universe has plans for you that aren’t necessarily what you expected, and sometimes they are even better than you could have imagined. I helped Vietnamese nuns grow a garden in the Catskill mountains, moved hives of bees to a lavender farm in the French Alpes, attended the first Maine Seaweed Harvester’s Festival, cultivated inner happiness at a Buddhist monastery, and picked up a great country recipe for pate from a grandmother on a remote farm in the Pyrenees. And I toured half of Tuscany, only to feel nostalgic for the Finger Lakes region! So, after a long, hard winter, a summer of travelling, meditating, and a lot of deep reflection, I have come to the conclusion that I love the Rochester area, and that I want to keep growing things. Though I will not be working for Mud Creek Farm, I will be starting some kind of new venture soon, possibly involving fruit trees! Having had the incredible gift (that few farmers are allowed) of being able to step back, breathe, and look at the bigger picture for the past year, I’d like to share some of what I’ve been thinking about. In the spirit of “back-to-school”, over the next four weeks I will write a series of guest essays for the Mud Creek Farm Newsletter, as we educate ourselves about the larger underlying issues which affect not only our local CSA farms, but everyone who eats. Sept 20th: 1. How We Eat the Climate Sept 27th: 2. The Next Generation of Farmers & Land Accessibility Oct 4th: 3. “No Farmer, No Food” — Personal Sustainability of the Body, Mind, & Soul Oct 11th: 4. Small Potatoes and Industrial Food Economics Stay tuned for these guest blog posts, enjoy your veggies, and the nice cool early-fall weather! I hope to see you all soon! – Erin