This spring and summer have been unusually cool. The last time we as farmers experienced a season this cool was the year we started in 2004. That year we planted 10,000 tomato plants that did not yield a tomato. The plants were enormous but froze in the fall before getting a chance to ripen their fruit. We normally get a first frost on September 15th. Our first year we received a grant to try the plastic mulch that we now use for most of our warm season crops. The tomatoes planted on plastic yielded tomatoes that year. The tomatoes were ready about the same time as usual for tomatoes planted in bare soil. Since that first year we have improved our growing techniques and usually have eggplant and peppers by August 1.
When I plan for the CSA, I try to not plant too much that is ready at one time since we can’t give you $50 in food one week and none the next. I expect certain crops to be ready for CSA around the normal dates. This week I am frustrated – we have plenty of food just not what I wanted to give you in a week that will end in mid-August. We planted 3,000 tomato plants, 4,000 pepper plants, 1,500 eggplant. The plants are looking great but are just setting fruit on many plants. It is hard to know exactly what we will get and when the first frost will come but we are likely to only get two thirds or even half of normal on these crops. All of the costs to produce them have been the same and the picking labor will be less. We often pick $5-10 of fruit per plant on these crops. Losing $3-5 per plant times 8,500 plants is $34,000. We will work to make sure CSA gets tomatoes, peppers and eggplant when they are ready. It is not a planning error that we don’t have these summer crops on time–just a cool weather situation. I don’t know exactly how much cooler this year is but the nights especially have been noticeably cooler than normal and most of the days 10-15 degrees cooler as well.
In better news at least the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant look healthy and productive, just slow. We do plant insurance crops like beets, carrots, kale and chard that hold well in the field and that can be picked when needed. We have food for CSA just not the summery crops that I wanted and I know people are all waiting for. Our fall broccoli and cauliflower plantings look like the best we have ever had. We are well past the half way point of the CSA season and look like we are going to be able to finish the second half with some great food. We planted our fall greens, radishes, etc. last week and they have emerged. I hope we can find time to weed them while being understaffed and busy harvesting everything that is ready.
I’m curious where your temperature data is coming from. Since May 1, only 13 days have seen temps more than 6 degrees below normal, and while May had a 5 day stretch that was more than 10 degrees cooler than average, Since June 1 only 9 nights were more than 7 degrees below average. I don’t have any August data yet, but so far it’s a pretty normal summer!