I would love to be a fly on the wall of next December, because here on the eve of the summer solstice, I still can’t put my finger of what kind of season 2023 is shaping up to be. Weeks without rain. Then late May-frosts. Then more weeks without rain. Then wildfire smoke turning the sky an Armageddon orange. And now a solid week of rain. Who knows how things will look in December, but for now, I’m happy for blue-grey skies—and the rain.
Our summer apprentices arrived three weeks ago, and as promised at their April orientation, the first week was a baptism by fire. Adam Li started on a Monday, and his inaugural field tasks were relatively easy—pruning kale and weeding strawberries. By Day 2, however, he was up to his neck in greens, the first CSA pickup just hours away. Mia Goren’s first day was much more intense. No sooner had she arrived than she was loading, unloading, hauling, and installing tomato posts, one of the toughest jobs on the farm. On her second day, she, too, was up to her ears in greens. Adam and Mia bring a youthful energy that has me and Dan hearkening back to our early days at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, when farm work was totally new, totally exhausting, and totally inspiring. Adam just completed his freshman year at UMass Amherst, majoring in sustainable agriculture. Mia just completed her BA in psychology at SUNY New Paltz and will be headed off to a graduate program at Slippery Rock University in the fall. Who knows what their futures hold, but for now, we’re happy to have them on our team.
Leading a crew of novices is very different from leading a crew of seasoned farmers. It calls for different expectations, different systems, different tools, etc. The big challenge lies in matching those differences with the demands of the season. This season we’re facing higher-than-usual bug pressure, most likely due to an unseasonably warm winter. Row cover is our best defense against pests, but it’s not easy to work with, and occasionally in the past I’ve given into co-worker pressure to go commando. But not this year. In fact, quite the opposite. This year, everyone quickly learned how to install the hoops that hold the cover up, how to unfurl the cover so it doesn’t blow away, and how to lay the rebar that anchors the cover to the ground. We’ve covered everything that absolutely needs it (brassicas and eggplant), and plenty that doesn't but which certainly appreciates it (zukes, cukes, sunflowers, peppers, and beans). We have the willing hands, so rather than seek reasons to cut the row cover corner, we’ve embraced the row cover dance.
We’re also planting more of the labor-intensive crops that customers love but which I never had enough hands to pick in volume. Beans. Zucchini. More beans. And more beans. Picking bush beans is hard on your joints—you squat in a single position for hours on end, and just when you’re sure you’ve found every friggin’ bean, you see 50 that you missed. It’s the sort of job that cries for a crew—preferably with strong backs and knees—and this year we’ve got it.
There’s plenty more to tell, but not enough time to tell it. Winter squash and sweet potatoes were planted last week. Half the farm got cultivated this week. Tomatoes got their first stringing. The peas are finally starting to roll in. For four straight days, we mulched our brains out. The jury may still be out on the 2023 season, but we’re riding the wave as it rolls in. This week, it’s gonna be a wet one, and that’s okay. If next week it’s back to dry, we’ll be ready for that, too.