I’m sure the farmers aren’t the only ones enjoying this glorious November weather. Seriously, who doesn’t love a clear, colorful, 70° day?
In the not-too-distant past, frost would reliably kill the summer fruit crops by mid-October. This season, however, we’ve been picking tomatoes and peppers along with the cabbage. At first, the crew was skeptical of Dan’s insistence that we leave the Sun Gold vines up even as we dismantled the other tomato rows. When it comes to tomatoes, I have a favorite, albeit cheesy, motto: In August they’re hot, but October they’re not. One of Dan’s specialties, however, is proving me wrong. True to form, he cultivated a fan club eager to buy his November harvest at the farm stand (you know who you are). Rather than grumble over my miscalculation, I offered a rebrand. Fall Gold: less juicy than a Sun Gold, but the best-tasting tomato this side of the equinox. Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Even though it doesn’t feel like it, Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. For us, holiday prep goes something like this:
1. Harvest the last of the beets and cabbage.
2. See how CSA renewals are shaping up.
3. If time allows, decorate the Tin House.
The beet and cabbage harvest is almost complete, but not entirely. These crops do fine in repeated, light frosts, but they won’t withstand a hard freeze, which we can normally count on by Thanksgiving. At this point, we’ve harvested 80% of the beets and 75% of the cabbage. Problem is, we’re 100% maxed out for space in the walk-in cooler. If it wasn’t so warm out, we could use the trailer that serves as a satellite storage unit, but the A/C only gets the trailer down to 60°, which isn’t cold enough for these items. But if it’s too warm in the trailer, that’s because it’s still plenty warm outside, i.e. as long as the weather holds, it’s okay to leave these crops in the fields. The minute the mercury drops, however—which could be any day—it’ll be a mad-dash race to haul in as much as we can. Contending with so much abundance seems to be our November lot in life, but coming off a lean summer of drought, it feels like a miracle. It's as though the fields are trying to make up for lost ground.
The period for CSA renewals began in late August and ends January 15, when we open up to new members. If current members renew by early November, they receive a bonus Thanksgiving pickup. Most members are eager to take advantage of this giveaway, so the lead-up to the holiday gives us a good sense of how many members will be returning, and the health of our business overall. Last year, 66% of the membership received the pickup. As of this writing, ten days before Thanksgiving, 60% is on board, with the last-minute procrastinators still coming in (you know who you are). This means that even as we continue harvesting for 2022, more than half of the 2023 operating budget is in the bank. And we probably would have hit last year's 66% mark were it not for a higher-than-usual number of long-term CSA members making the hard decision to not renew. Most members who don't come back are first-year newbies who learned our CSA model isn't a good fit for them. We never take it personally, and we always welcome them to continue supporting the farm at the farm stand. This year, however, we'll be losing quite a few veteran members who have been with us for 10-15 years. They have all offered heart-felt explanations for why, and these tend to fall into three categories: 1) they have moved or will be moving, 2) they're now sitting on an empty nest with fewer mouths to feed, and 3) they've found that the long drive and volume of food is a heavier burden than it used to be. Of course it’s sad to say goodbye, but we are so grateful to these members for years of loyal support and fond memories. You all know who you are, and we hope to see your smiling faces back at the farm sometime in the future.
Will we have time to decorate the Tin House before the big Thanksgiving pickup? Hard to say. If time allows, I’ll be clipping bittersweet from my favorite spots around the farm and on nearby roads. Bittersweet is an invasive vine whose red and yellow berries make a beautiful fall display. It’s free if you know where to clip, and when the holiday is over, you can toss the vines in the compost with zero guilt.