This is the last week of boxes for everyone. Thanks for your support through another growing season, with its ups and downs. We hope you have (mostly!) enjoyed our vegetables and that you will sign up again for next season.
For those who are leaving our program, whether it's because you are moving away or because this way of buying your produce is not appropriate for your present lifestyle, we thank you for the time you have been with us, and hope you will continue to support local producers in any way you can, wherever you live.
Down on the farm: This is one of those weeks when I ask the crew to perform "magic"-they go out into a field of sick and dying tomato plants and look for some decent tomatoes. They've had too much practice doing this, so they are remarkably skilled at it. This week the tomatoes will be smaller and many will have white spots inside them. Those spots can be caused by feeding by silverleaf whitefly nymphs (young whiteflies) which results in "tomato irregular ripening". The outside of the fruit may eventually appear to ripen, leaving the inside with those white spots which are not visible until we cut it. A potassium deficiency can also cause white areas inside the fruit. It is more common in hot weather and, it seems that, as the plants get older and sicker (all are affected by viruses now), they are not able to take up all the nutrients they need very efficiently. We should have enough of the warm weather crops to fill the boxes for this last week, but I'm a little concerned about the greens. We lost most of the seeds from one planting date, due to rain. But I think there are enough out there to cut this week. If not, we'll have to substitute something else.
We have often been asked what we do all summer. My first answer is: what do farmers up north do all winter? So, here's what happens on this farm: we are actually growing a few crops until June 8, since we have the little summer market here. At the same time, the crew has already been busy taking up plastic mulches as we have finished with some beds. So, they will finish that, and the fields will be disced up.
We haven't planted cover crops for several years because of the operations that require heavy equipment to be in the fields during the summer: cleaning the ditches, leveling the fields, and applying compost. I like to use a cover crop so this year I decided to plant one anyway. The worst that will happen is we might have to destroy some of them early to get into the fields. The cover crop we are using is a hybrid of a sorghum and a Sudan grass. (In parts of the country it is used for hay crops.) It has the advantage of being sterile, so it doesn't produce volunteer seedlings which could become an additional weed problem. If fertilized well, and allowed to grow unchecked, it will get about 8' tall. But one of my reasons for growing it is to capture any leftover nutrients in our fields, so they don't travel into the water table. I don't intend to fertilize it, so a lot of it will not get too big. And we'll mow it early in some blocks so we can allow it to break down in time to start making the beds and putting down plastic mulch for early crops.
If you are not familiar with the term "cover crops", they are crops that are grown in the season when the "cash crops" are not being grown. Why? Soils are supposed to be covered. It is very rare that you see a soil in a natural state that doesn't have a native mulch and/or plants growing on it. Even in most areas that are identified as deserts, there are tiny plants growing, dead leaves covering the soil, and often a natural pebble mulch. If soils are not covered, it is generally difficult for the soil microorganisms to survive. And, the majority of those microorganisms are beneficial to plant life.
Farmers sometimes keep the soil tilled bare in our constant effort to control weeds. But, using the right cover crop and managing it correctly can actually help to control many weeds. The additional organic matter that a cover crop adds also helps most soils to hold nutrients and water. If you want to learn more about cover crops, check the SARE website: http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Topic-Rooms/Cover-Crops
After the fields are cleaned up and the cover crops are planted, our crew will get a few weeks of well-deserved rest. When they come back, they will continue spreading compost, cleaning and fixing up our equipment and buildings, and beginning to make the beds and put on the plastic mulches. In order to begin harvesting when our Summer Market starts in September, and to have enough ready for the beginning of boxes in October, some crops need to go in the fields by the end of July.
Larger south Florida farms have a shorter growing season than we do, because it is difficult to grow most vegetable crops in our hot humid summers. The south Florida farming season has traditionally been based on producing vegetables when there were good markets for them. Farmers here wanted to sell their vegetables along the East Coast of the U.S. when there wasn't much produce being produced in other parts of the country. That system worked well and supported the development of our intensive, expensive south Florida production systems- until it became easier for Mexico and other countries to sell their produce in our country during the winter. Of course, it is difficult for U.S. growers to compete with the prices those countries can charge since their production costs-especially labor-are so much lower than ours. So, more growers here are going out of business-often selling their land for development or to bigger growers. Like so many industries, we now have fewer, but larger producers who grow the majority of our produce. Several farming operations based in our area farm over 15,000 acres in several states, and sometimes even in other countries. They are also brokers for produce from other farms and other countries. Yes, there are more people starting farms like ours-even much smaller-but our share of the markets is tiny, since most consumers don't care where their produce comes from, as long as it is cheap.
If you are spending time in other areas during the summer, we hope you get to visit farm markets and enjoy their local produce. (Check localharvest.org if you need help finding places to buy it.) I realize that I am "preaching to the converted" here, but, if you are buying directly from a farmer, realize that they are not getting rich, so please pay the price they charge without trying to bargain. If there are brokers or resellers, that may be a different matter. If you can't tell the difference, try to find a market manager and ask. They should be identified, but many markets don't do a good job of that. (Now I will get down off my soapbox for today!)
What's in your box this week: tomatoes and/or cherry tomatoes eggplant summer squashes watermelon corn butternut squash cucumbers arugula or kale (both in large boxes-we hope) spaghetti squash (large boxes only)
A little housekeeping: If you haven't yet, please send Donna (firstname.lastname@example.org) an email to let her know whether or not you will be continuing next season. (This is just to hold your place. Payments will be due in Sept. You will receive an email in August letting you know the exact date.) The new season will start on Oct. 2.
Final statements will be emailed after you receive your last box. If there is anything due on your account, please pay promptly. If you have a credit on your account, Donna will ask if you want to "roll it over" to next season, or receive a refund-just let her know.
If you have still have some empty vegetable boxes, try to remember to give them to your delivery person this week. Or, if you live close enough to the farm, drop them off (even after the end of the season) at the little tent where boxes are picked up (and where our summer market will be).
Summer program: Our summer program will be the same as it has been for the last 3 summers. There is a $20 fee to join-that payment is the membership fee for the whole 6 weeks of the program. You'll receive the weekly list by e-mail on Sundays, and you can come to the little tent at the pickup site on the farm to buy what you want on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8:30 AM until 6:30 PM. Yes, you are welcome to come both days in the week, if you want. (Sorry-there is no delivery available during the summer program.)
So, if you are going to join, mark on your calendar these dates when our little summer market will be open: Early season: Tuesday, May 30 Friday, June 2 Tuesday, June 6 Friday, June 9 September: Tuesday, Sept. 5 Friday, Sept. 8 Tuesday, Sept. 12 Friday, Sept. 15 Tuesday, Sept. 19 Friday, Sept. 22 Tuesday, Sept. 26 Friday, Sept. 29
Please understand that there will ONLY be warm-season crops (not all of them each week). That may include: summer squashes; greens such as arugula, baby kale, mustards, and/or Asian greens; microgreens; cucumbers; winter squashes such as butternut and Seminole pumpkins; eggplants; okra; southern peas; melons; and corn. When tropical fruits are available locally, we try to include them (longans, lychees, or mangos), and we generally have honey from McCoy's and LeDuc's Apiaries.
Donna has put up the simple application and additional information on our website (www.veggies4u.com). There areplaces left for this summer so it's still on there. Please send or bring your $20 payment. It can be put into the mailbox at the pickup site-just be sure to designate who it is from and what it is for. This program is not limited to our current subscribers so, if you have friends or neighbors who would like to sign up, we would be glad to have them. They can sign up on the website, too. If you-or they- need directions to the farm, Donna will supply those to you.
EXTRAS: The best way to order extras is to email Donna at email@example.com 2 PM the day before you get your box. If you are ordering later than that, please call 561-638-2755 and leave the message on the machine, since we don't always have time to check email in the mornings. (Those ordering for Monday boxes should call and leave a message, since you don't receive this list in time to order by email.)
Cut flowers require earlier orders since we don't keep a supply of them here. We order just the number of bouquets that we need from the other farms.
Locally grown Flowers (for Monday and Tuesday boxes, order by noon on the Friday before your box; for Thursday and Friday, order by noon on Wednesday). For information about these flower growers and some pictures of their flowers, check the Subscriber Business Links on our Subscriber section. (sorry-there are no flowers from Seed to Bloom this week.)
Caribbean Exotics, Delray Beach: long- stemmed Heliconia-large, impressive "ginger" flowers $20 plus tax (most stems are about 3' tall)
McCoy's Honey-raw, unfiltered, locally produced http://www.mccoysfloridahoney.com/ 3 lb. plastic jug $14.00 each (orange blossom, palmetto, or wildflower) 1 gal. (12 lbs.) $52 (orange blossom or palmetto) 8 oz. bee pollen $12
LeDuc "Flavor Pict" Honey (some hives are on our farm, some are in Loxahatchee) Honey 1 qt. glass jars $17
Herbs (some are from our farm, some from Pontano Farms) $3/bunch basil chives cilantro?? It bolts in warm weather so there may not be any. lemon balm (It's like a lemon mint) mint (This generic mint is actually spearmint.) specialty mints: chocolate mint, apple mint, orange mint oregano parsley rosemary sage "tarragon" thyme
Lemongrass $3 for 1/2 lb. (about 5 stalks)
Microgreens, sandwich bag $3 (mix may contain radishes, arugula, red kale, and/or mustard greens)
Larger greens $3/bag (large bunch or head) Swiss chard- red only NEW! Tuscan kale (bigger than baby, but not full grown)
From Yagnapurush Farm, Loxahatchee: MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE: 'Namwah' bananas -$1.60/lb. or 3 lbs for $4 short and slightly chubby
Tomatoes (probably no extra red tomatoes or cherry tomatoes available) Green tomatoes $2/lb.
Other vegetables from our farm: Okra $4/lb. Eggplant $3/lb. Butternut squash $1.50/lb. NEW! Spaghetti squash $1.50/lb. Yellow squash or zucchini $2/lb. Jalapenos 3 for $2