Farmer Alex’s End of Season Update

crew_zc_v5_123005000002285004With the sun setting before 5:00, frosty mornings, long reaching shadows, a kitchen full of butternuts, and my waistband tightening…it must be November. We recently closed the books on another successful season here at Sandbrook Meadow Farm. Although like every year, there were wins and losses, we maintained great variety and quality of produce from week to week.

The biggest challenges this year included the intense heat, lack of rain, and torrential downpours when it did precipitate. We are still begging for rain to make up for the deficit, and also to water the crops we still have in the fields. I don’t think I have ever had to irrigate in October before this year, much less November! Let’s all hope the water tables get replenished over the fall and winter. The long stretches of dry weather over the past few years have been concerning to say the least. We are hoping to add a new well to the farm next year which will hopefully alleviate some stress during future drought conditions. There were times this year where it took me a week to water all the crops, and then had to start the process over again immediately. Despite it being a significant financial investment, a new well with greater flow capacity seems necessary.

It is much quieter on the farm these days. We are still pulling veg from the fields to supply our fall CSA, markets, and wholesale accounts, with excess produce being delivered to the Flemington Food Pantry on a weekly basis. There is still a significant amount of produce to be distributed over the next couple months. It is fascinating how various cultural conditions affect crop flavor and aesthetics from year to year or successions within the same growing season. You may have noticed that the carrots for example, changed in shape, texture, and flavor throughout the year. We planted seven successions of carrots in 2016 and each one was different. Soil structure, nutrients, water or lack thereof, and temperature all played major roles in contributing to the end product. These factors affect every single crop we grow. Some of them we can control like amending the soil, and growing crops in their preferred season. Others conditions are more difficult to manage, such as excessive rainfall and uncharacteristically hot or cold weather. Examples of crops reacting to cultural conditions include bland strawberries after significant rain, bitter lettuce in July, and grainy tomatoes that lack flavor in September.

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One of the best hidden gems about this time of year is the changing flavors. Greens that can be a little bitter create sugars after a couple frosts. Root vegetables respond to freezing temperatures similarly as they convert their starch stores into sugars. This is a survival mechanism as plants prepare for the deep freeze of winter. With the sugar water coursing through their veins, these winter crops can withstand much colder weather as the sugars lower the freezing temperature of water, much like salt on icy roads. The byproduct of this natural process is unparalleled sweetness and flavor. If you missed out on getting into our fall share this year, I highly recommend you get involved next season. The carrots right now are my favorite crop that we’ve produced all year! The sweetness is unbelievable.

Speaking of sweetness…I married an incredibly sweet and beautiful human being in October. Many of you have met Jill at the farm or farmers’ market over the past couple years. You can thank her for making the herb area the best it’s ever been this season; introducing honey bees back to the farm with fellow beekeeper and assistant farm manager Megan; and keeping me in line. The last of those being the most arduous endeavor. Needless to say, I feel like the luckiest man on the planet to be able to spend my life with Jill.

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It being mid-November also means that the 2016 elections have come and gone. Opportunities to vote however are still available. It is the ordinary choices now that can make the biggest impact. Vote with your everyday decisions. Support the businesses and organizations that you believe in. Be conscious of how your dollars impact people and the earth. The voice of the ordinary can sometimes manifest itself in the most extraordinary ways. Be passionate and compassionate. Be gentle on the earth, and be gentle to each other. As always, thank you for your continued support and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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As most of you know, the majority of our farming costs occur during the months
prior to the actual start of the season. (In fact, next year’s garlic is now in the ground!)
Therefore, as an incentive for your early support, members who are paid in full by January 1st will receive a 5% credit bonus! Sign up today!

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