2022 CSA Newsletter #5

Last week was a short work week for the students last week due to the Independence Day holiday. Much of the work completed was around the hoophouses and working with the tomatoes. I mentioned last week that since we grow indeterminate varieties that need to be trellised, they need weekly upkeep throughout the season. The biggest task is getting the string dropped for all the plants. Lots of farms use a reusable twine, like baling, that is hung once and ready to go for multiple seasons. We don't do that for two reasons. The first is that I'm concerned with the potential of any disease over-wintering on the twine and I don't really see an efficient way to sanitize them at the end of the season. The second reason is more from an environmental stance. Even though the twine would last for a few seasons, it would still end up in the landfill at some point. We use a biodegradable twine that can just be cut down with the plants and be deposited with the plant material in our hedgerows. That's way more efficient than having to unwrap or unclip each plant at the end of the season.

Well, all the string has finally been dropped for the tomatoes. And even though it takes a while to get done (which is partly due to how hot it is at the top of the ladder), it's more efficient than in the past. This year's amazing student worker Laura, who was one of last year's amazing student interns, came up with a brilliant way to speed up the process. Instead of going up and down the ladder with a box of twine, all the string is pre-cut to the appropriate length (9, 10, 11 or 12 feet) and ready to go. This year she took it to the next level (albeit towards the end of the needed amount of strings) by measuring 4 at a time from 4 different boxes. I love order of operations! I also had an idea during one of my mornings atop the ladder in the blazing sun. I even wrote it down in my Farm Ideas notebook. Since I know in the late winter what is going to be planted in each hoophouse and the greenhouse, why not get the string dropped before it gets too hot and is a little slower?  Now that all the string is dropped and the plants are all clipped to the twine, we will be in the houses weekly to wrap them around the twine and prune off the "suckers". We also approach this a bit differently than other farms. Many farms will use tomato clips weekly that attach to the twine and around the plants at 8-12" intervals. Again, that's a bit too much plastic for me that will end up in the landfill. They will last for multiple seasons but they need to be sanitized yearly and will degrade over time. This year we are experimenting with just using clips for connecting the plants to the twine instead of what we did in the past of tying a looped knot at the bottom. I think it'll end up being more efficient in the long run because it's a straightforward process. I've had folks struggle with tying the right type of loop around the plants and thinking about the best place for it to go. With the clips they attach to the string and under a branch on every plant the same way. A little less thinking can sometimes make the work more efficient.

I swear that I'm not getting paid for every time that I use the word efficient this week but it's something that is extremely important on a small-scale farm. We want to maximize our labor daily because everything that we do throughout the season is connected. I stress that with my students and it is one of the big takeaways that I want them to have when they are through with the program. 

The CSA choice this week contains much of the last of the spring crops on the farm. There will still be the salad turnips, lettuce mix, kale mix and some swiss chard. There will be some more herbs this week, as well as more black currants. This weekend, we added the currants to some pancakes for breakfast. The tartness of the currants went so well with the maple syrup and butter. If you have a dehydrator, I also recommend putting the currants in there to use at a later date in scones or muffins. The black currants are still open for u-pick, so come on by anytime to get larger quantities. This week there will also be scallions and the first of the hot peppers. The varieties that will be in the share this week are jalapenos and purple cayenne. One of the jalapeno varieties is new this year. It is a pale yellow variety named Arriba. I haven't tried one yet but it is apparently a little milder than the green ones in this week's share. The only new variety that I've tried so far is an unripe Red Devil's Tongue. The name just sounds hot and the plant is loaded, so Zach and I were a bit curious. According to the company that we bought the plants from, its Scoville Unit range is 300-500K ripe. To put that in perspective, the orange habaneros we grow top out at around 300K. I will definitely label them when they are ready. Scallions will also be a part of the share this week.

Have a great week!

-Farmer Todd