What’s in a Year

Thank you, thank you, thank you. As the daylight of 2009 fades and I look back on the past season I am overwhelmed with gratitude towards everyone who has been a part of the CSA this past year. 2009 will go down in the history of his farm as the year all of you did the heavy lifting, supporting us through what was the worst farming year in living memory. I have been crunching harvest numbers the past week and can’t believe how extensive the loss was across so many crops. On average we were down 35 to 40% in our harvest numbers. The beating we took in the months of June and July was countered somewhat by average yields in August and September. But, there were a few crops that really did well over the many successions we planted. Some of the best performers were: broccoli 5655 lbs., carrots 7057 lbs. leeks 2166 lbs sweet peppers 2607 lbs. greens (all together) 5966 lbs. cucumbers 5858 lbs. winter squash 12952 lbs and watermelon 2750 lbs. Every year we have our bright points –most years just have more than this one did. Let us all hope that we have earned some karmic credit with mother-nature this year and the skies will shine brighter come the spring.

After the last CSA pick-up the farm crew and I spent a week cleaning up the farm, crunching numbers and making lists of things for me to do over the winter. In spite of all the tough breaks we had this summer we had a stellar crew. They were focused, mature, and just plain pleasant to spend the day with. If we can do half as well next year I’ll be quite happy. Here’s the report on their whereabouts…Douglas headed down to Vermont to work on a startup farm with some friends there, Kelsey is interviewing for next season with farms all over the Northeast and Kate and Bethany will be living here for the winter, trading room for shepherding and working odd jobs around the area (including babysitting -call us if you would like to get in contact with them).

Thanks for all of your surveys and the overwhelming positive comments about our work this difficult year. We take your comment to heart and try to reshape the CSA each season to reflect your needs as members. On the crops front there were many suggestions and we are working on how to tweek the field plan and take account of as many of your thoughts as possible. We heard many time that you would like more broccoli and were planning on adding a least two plantings (which would give us another months worth of harvests). Another suggestion we heard many times was the desire to know more about what is coming in your share for the week. In response, will post on the website each Monday the produce we’ll be harvesting for the week. There were also many requests for cooking demos and we have spoken to the chefs at El Camino, Wild Oats Bakery and Back Street Bistro about sharing their skills with fresh produce here on pick-up days next summer. We are also looking at expanded hours for CSA pick-up to allow all of you more flexibility with you share. More details about all of these changes and a preliminary event calendar with cooking demos, farm potlucks and other new fun stuff will be coming you way in the New Year.

If any of you are looking for a great event this weekend look no further than the MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program’s Annual Auction. MCHPP is a vital organization that serves over 26,000 meals each year and provides food through its pantry for more that 2500 local folks. The auction is a stellar event with lost of great music related items (signed guitars, concert posters, etc. as well as services from local businesses (you can bid for share in the farm if you haven’t singed up yet!). The emcee is WCLZ radio personality and CSA member Ethan Minton –and he doesn’t hold back! The auction will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. this Saturday, November 21, at the Brunswick Golf Club, 165 River Road, Brunswick. The evening will include delicious hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, fantastic silent auction items, a raffle, and a lively live auction. Tickets are $15 each, or $25 for two. For ticket information, please call MCHPP at 725-2716.

I have been settling back into this hemisphere and time zone for the past couple weeks –glad be back where its not 90 degrees everyday and the sun moves comfortably across the southern sky. My trip to Africa was amazing. One day I was working the farm full tilt with fall falling all around and forty eight hours later I was trying to keep hydrated and learn to understand English with a Shona accent. The two weeks I spent outside Harare, Zimbabwe were focused on trying to create a good foundation for food production at an orphanage that cared for sixty children aged six months to eighteen years old. Most of the kids had lost both parents due to the raging aids epidemic that currently infects between fifteen and twenty percent of all adults.

My days there were filled with figuring out little problems that would allow us to address bigger ones. Things like where to develop the garden so that the food wouldn’t be stolen every night or how to deal with rainfall that is nonexistent half the year and torrential the other half. Over the two weeks we were able to dig some drainage ditches, amend the soil with lime and micronutrients, plant some test plots of cover crops and make a crop plan for the year to come. I found it invigorating to be able to spend a couple weeks looking in detail at these few acres, trying to understand the ecology of the place and how to best create some systems for long-term growing of food. In addition to the garden project, I also worked with some other volunteers who were starting up a small diary goat herd and poultry operation at the orphanage. All of these activities were filled with meals, interaction and help from the kids, each of them eager to be a part of what was going on.

My sponsors and traveling companions were Greg and Mary Penner who live here in Brunswick and have been involved with the orphanage from its beginnings ten years ago. If you would like to learn more about the orphanage and see some photos of the kids go to http://www.zimbabweorphanageproject.org/how_to_help.html

The next six weeks here are the farm are usually pretty quiet. Right now the ewes and remaining lambs are still eating cover crops in the fields and take just about an hour or so to care for each day. The rest of my time is spent balanced between my kids and repairing equipment, making endless lists and getting ready to place seed orders for the coming season.

After the New Year we’ll start spending more time with sheep in preparation for February lambing, ramp-up apprentice hiring and get ready to fire-up the greenhouse for the first seedlings in March.

Thanks again for your support this year as well as your deposits for next year’s CSA share. Hopefully you have a few root vegetables or squash left for Thanksgiving. We’ll see you around town.

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