Farmer's Diary Fall 2017

Farmer's Diary Fall 2017

TRYING TO PLAN AHEAD

It would seem that no matter how intentionally one plans, no matter how thoughtful one is about having the right equipment, right attitude, right everything, there is nothing to be done some days to get everything to go right on the farm. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, as folks used to say when they were more accepting of unfortunate circumstances.

It is too easy to lay the blame at the feet of the local weather prognosticator. Those guys usually get the blame for most of a farmer’s short-sightedness, unfortunate planning faux pas or other miscarriages of fortune. But the fact of the matter is that no matter how well the winter planning meetings go, there will almost always be some sort of unforeseeable f ly heading into  the ointment.

However, such is the “adventure” of being a farmer. As frustrating and predictable—if unintended—as these circumstances may be, “wrinkles” are what tend to make farmers creative, patient and keepers of the long view. Some will say, “things could always be worse” (most of the time!). It is why there is usually a pile of what looks like junk and cast-off debris out behind the barn. There is frequently a goldmine of spare parts that can be rigged up to fix the cultivator which just shed a bolt which caused the whole rig to twist itself into a pretzel. It would always be better if things would break down when there was more time to fix them and if the right bolt was at one’s fingertips. Fix-ups on the fly are not apt to solve the problem.

We have had very few equipment problems this year because we spent a lot of time this past winter tightening, greasing and replacing what looked like predictable problems. That being said, we have experienced an unusually wet spring and early summer interspersed with significant 90°+ heat waves. This has caused the early short-season crops to ripen too quickly and the long season crops too slowly. Those 50° and 60° days in July really put the brakes on tomato, pepper and eggplant production and there’s not a darned thing to be done about it.  The plants were beautiful and clean, the best they have been in years. They were laden with green fruit and the Tomato Festival just around the corner. The only solution in this case may be to buy in and pray for a very late frost as we may be picking tomatoes into late September the way things look right now. In this case the creative solution may be to tent the rows to protect the bounty that we don’t get in August and may be able to harvest later, if we are so fortunate.

Most likely, if farming was like office or factory work, none of us would be doing it. Rote days are basically boring even if the “fun” of farming is not always fun.

John Lee is the manager of Allandale Farm (Boston's last working farm), which specializes in naturally grown local produce. Each summer, John manages an outdoor children's program on the farm. He writes for local news outlets and is deeply involved with farming and locally grown issues in Massachusetts.