Being a farmer is tough! It requires a lot of forethought, flexibility and patience. This spring has tested all of these qualities thus far. Last season being my first year, gave me a lot of ideas and things to plan for, for my second season. I moved my operation to different part of the field to a higher and dryer spot allowing me to work the soil much earlier than last year. Getting the soil worked early is vital to getting plants in early.
- Forethought: I had to plan this year more than last season where I just flew by the seat of my pants and felt my way along. The plan this year is to provide 20 members with an assortment of weekly produce and attend the Lake Forest Park Farmers Market. The plan was to start the CSA in May and start the FM on their opening day in May. Neither happend. This was in part do to the wet and cold spring we’ve been dealing with. The other part that kept this from happening was the influx of insects eating my plants. This is where flexibility comes in.
- Flexibility: (In my opinion, is one of the most important attributs to have) I had an idea of how much to seed to start this season, comparing last seasons production needs and I also had a better idea of when to start seeding. I had my field layout, bed system and inter-cropping planed. My seeds were growing and ready to be planted while I prepared the soil. I had early cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and onions all ready to go in march! I was so proud. The transplants were in, sitting in the cold soil, now just waiting for sun to come out to get them on there way. As the days passed I noted that a few plants were disappearing. I dint think too much of it because the slugs usually get a few plants throughout the early season. A few more days passed and I saw that more plants were gone. I started a search on the surface of the soil for the culprit and only found little slugs and very few. None of those large juicy ones that can eat a large plant. I thought to myself “there is something fishy going on here” . I examined the remains of a half disappeared transplant and concluded that something in the soil was attacking the plants. I dug up several leftover root cubes that used to have tops and found THE CUTWORM!!!!! I didnt know it at the time but after some research I defined it. For those of you who dont know what it looks like it is a small moth larva usually gray and opaque colored. They get the name “cutworm” because the attack most small vegetables and cut them down like a logger would cut a tree. They cut through the stem about 7/8ths of the way leaving just a thread behind. I discovered they also will eat the plant and suck it down beneath the soil. What can you do when you plant 200 cabbage plants and 50 of them are cut and more are being cut all the time. I did what a good farmer would do and got down on my hands and knees to start picking cutworms out from under the eaten plants. I spent many hours crawling (being flexible) collecting, killing and feeding cutworms to the chickens.(they love them) I thought this would slow them down, and it did for a while. But now what do I do i have lost over 20% of my crops in the first 2 weeks of planting them? I decide to seed replacements and replant those. Nature always throws a curve ball and you have to come up with a way to cope with her.
- Patience: Having to replant 20% of starts, deal with cold days, sleet in mid April crushing small beets, strong winds almost blowing your greenhouse down, heavy rains crusting soil over, crows eating your potatoes and waiting for that warm sun to shine are all things you have to deal with in the spring. I wish plants would grow much faster to out compete all of these factors but they dont. So what I must do is wait patiently. Farming can be painstaking but its the challenge, coping with nature’s curveballs and enjoying the bounty after its been harvested and that I enjoy.