Friday, September 17, 2010

Is the Share Getting Smaller?

By Nina Berryman

Some of you may have noticed the share seems a little smaller these last few weeks. This may seem strange since it’s the middle of August, which is usually the peak of the season. The truth is, it is and it isn’t. The number of items on the table at the pick-up has decreased over the past few weeks, but the number of items on the U-Pick has increased. The reason the U-Pick has increased is simple, these crops have recently started to produce in the quantity that everyone can pick them.
The reason the items on the table at the pick-up has decreased is more complicated. The culprit: the hot, dry weather. Over a month ago I wrote an article about our lack of rain and hot temperatures, and I described the different irrigation techniques we use to compensate. Since then it has only continued to be hot and dry. In July there were 19 days above 90 degrees, the average is 10 ( Some vegetables have reputations of thriving in the heat, such as tomatoes and eggplant. In fact we even plant them in black plastic mulch to heat up the soil so they grow faster. However, this summer seems to be even too hot for some of these heat-loving plants. There is a maximum temperature at which plants can set fruit (meaning the flowers develop into vegetables). According to one source, eggplant set fruit best between the temperatures of 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit ( For tomatoes, fruit setting is “poor” at 26 degrees Celsius, which is about 78 degrees Fahrenheit ( Another source said fruit setting is “inhibited” at 30 degrees Celsius, which is about 86 degrees Fahrenheit ( It seems the paste tomatoes are hardier in this hot weather than some of the larger, heirloom varieties (Friday’s pick up from last week can vouch for the bounty of pastetomatoes and the scarcity of the larger varieties).
There are also of course the crops that don’t like hot temperatures, and they are suffering even more than they usually do in a typical summer. Everyone loves lettuce heads, but they sadly fall into this category. Over the winter when we made our planting schedule we decided we would transplant lettuce every week because it is so popular. On one of the recent and rare lettuce harvests our intern Kirsten said, “I think this is only the second time I’ve harvested lettuce this summer.” She started in the beginning of June. Some of our lettuce plantings have completely dried up and fried. Almost all have bolted before they even sized up.
The result of all this is less variety on the table during the pick-up. One of our returning shareholders suggested I write an article reminding people of the basic premise of a CSA: that shareholders share the risks as well as the bounty of agriculture with a farmer. In my own curiosity I calculated the value of last week’s share based on the prices we sell the same vegetables for at farmers markets. Not including U-pick, both Tuesday and Friday were above the weekly value of a small or large share. We are proud to say that everyone is still “getting their money’s worth” of vegetables, even on a small week, even disregarding the U-pick.
So please, everyone do your rain dances and wish for the best! I’m writing this on Saturday evening and I just checked the weather forecast and according to the National Weather Service “showers are likely” for tomorrow!

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