This week as we plowed our finished beds and seeded a cover crop of winter rye we also met to figure out our next season’s rotation. It was a good day to meet because the surrounding twenty five acres of soy had just been harvested. It was a clean slate. This allowed us to survey the fields and weigh all our options towards expanding our vegetable production.
First was “old business”, we discussed each bed one by one. Did we plant too much or not enough? How did each variety produce? Should we adjust the spacing in the row? Should we increase or decrease the days between plantings? We began with the vine crops of zucchini, squash, and cucumbers. Certain varieties like ‘Dunja’ zucchini or ‘Corinto’ cucumbers were healthy and prolific. Others were prone to disease or less productive. They even became conductors of pests and disease which ultimately affected the healthy plants. We continued our analysis crop by crop, row by row. Discussing new varieties and eliminating a few old ones.
Having the different perspectives present at the meeting is crucial. Some of us only see what is growing in the fields. Others see only what sells on the tables. My job is to anticipate the needs at the stands and CSA based upon a variety of factors such as last year’s sales records, and this season’s members list. The weather, the day of the week, or if locals are coming back or going out of town, etc… Mostly I use spread sheets to calculate this but there is always a lot of guesswork. I may not always know the precise day when one crop is starting and another crop finishing. Or at the farm they may not know that greenbeans and cauliflower are flying off the shelves while hot peppers and specialty eggplants sit like still life subjects waiting to be painted.
Communication during the busy season can be tricky. In the fields you’ve either got your hands in the dirt, or the deep chug of the tractor, there is poor phone reception or a crew awaiting direction. At the stands and at the CSA you may be unloading the trucks, with a customer, or working through a line at the register, if you are running supply chances are you are driving in the truck or attending an amish produce auction and can’t answer the phone. I often feel that if we could improve upon our communication we could really be so much more efficient and things would run so much smoother. Perhaps next year we can implement some new system or technology, but until then I enjoy these end of the season meetings looking over the freshly plowed patches of soil and the face to face brainstorming sessions that bring hope and clarity to another season.