By Lauren Kaplan
Winter has touched all parts of the farm, it seems. As of last week, the last carrots of the year are finally (!) out of the ground. The winter-kill oats and peas have been, well, winter-killed into a dense matted blanket that will protect the soil underneath until the spring, while the rye cover crop remains an impossibly lush green carpet. The greenhouse has transitioned to a winter wash station, the tunnels have transitioned from tomatoes to hardy winter greens, and the fields are frozen.
With the year winding to a close, we've been reflecting on the arc of the season, from the challenges we encountered and the losses we suffered to the overall beauty and bounty of the season.
The weather this year took us for a ride. On June 1 we were pelted by marble-sized hail, which destroyed our first harvest of zucchini and strawberries and many of our newly-planted pyo peppers, cherry tomatoes and sunflowers. A prolonged wet spring gave way to a wet early summer: perfect conditions for disease, from which a number of crops (our peppers in particular) suffered significantly. And there was significant pest pressure in our early potatoes, and in our cucurbits: first cucumbers and then winter squash.
But there were high points too!
After weeks of measley pepper harvests and a few weeks where we thought the plants were finished, our pepper plants picked up with the drier, sunnier weather of early autumn; they surged with new growth and new fruit! Amazingly, we found ourselves harvesting poblanos until nearly November. Our carrots, thanks to years of refining a system of direct seeding, rolling (to ensure good seed-to-soil contact), flaming and hand weeding, have been fantastic this year. Red beets and sweet potatoes did very well, the kohlrabi were colossal, and the raspberries and blueberries are always highlights of the season.
We trialed some new crops, including Sugarcube cantaloupe, rainbow carrots, purple top turnips, sweet corn and speckled chicories. The high tunnels that pumped out some 18,500 lbs of tomatoes over the warmer months, are now providing shelter for a thriving crop of kale, cut greens, and mixed Asian greens such as bok choi, yukina savoy, tatsoi and napa cabbage.
Overall, we grew over 195,000 lbs of food this season -- and donated nearly 26,000 pounds of food to Poughkeepsie area food banks, schools and soup kitchens. Thanks to our heated high tunnels, we're still growing, and donating.
And vegetables aren't the only things we grew this season. We grew some wonderful relationships with our fantastic crop of interns this year, and think of Fiona, Liz, and Sarantia (and all the things we learned from them, and with them) often. And we have cultivated some new relationships that have allowed us to provide some of our produce to the Poughkeepsie City School District and to Vassar College students in their brand new dining facility.
As we take this last week of the year to go home to our various corners of the country and be with our families, I at least am spending some time reflecting on how grateful I am to be a part of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project family. This has been my best year of farming yet, and so much of that has to do with the wonderful people that make up this team, and with you amazing CSA members who go out of your way to bake for us, to smile while you're working, to ooh- and aah- over the produce we've grown, to volunteer over the winter for no other reason than that you like working in the soil, and to thank us: your voices of appreciation are what keeps so many of us going, doing the work that we do.
Thank you! We look forward to continuing to grow for and with you in 2018.