Monday, January 27, 2014

Seeds as Swords

Seeds are this farm's best defense
What time is it? What year is it? Hep!

Regardless of time and date, here I am, poring over the last of my favorite seedy (as in seed, you dirty birds) catalogs. I don’t want to miss a thing. Diversity is where it’s at, y’all! We like providing our members with shares that are as varied as possible. In the heat of summer, when families solanaceae and cucurbitaceae dominate–tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cukes, to name a few–we try to shake up the crops that surround those staples to hopefully stimulate creativity in our comrades.

But diversity has also saved us—literally. Let’s use the 2013 season as an example. If I could reference all of the crop loss we had, a person glancing at the list might think our farm failed in a miserable fashion. In fact, let’s go ahead and talk about all of the crop failure. (Joe will murder me for this, but I am my own woman!) Why the heck not? In my opinion, seeing the amount of failure juxtaposed against the full shares we did provide says a lot. It says that prioritizing diversity can save our farm--and also, incidentally, it can save the palate of our members. Win-win. Now, let’s do this!

What were our nemeses last year, you ask? We had three big ones, the last of which was literally ginormous. Floods (emphasis on the plural), deer, and one giant groundhog waddleth and eateth. Let’s break it down into two categories.

Flood – Claimed 29+ varieties! Included in this hit-list were Hon Tsai Tai, Fava Beans, Tiger Eye and Vermont Cranberry beans, Cylindra and Blankoma beets, Roodnerf brussels sprouts, Copenhagen Market cabbage, Paris Market carrots, Violetta Italia cauliflower, Drumstick flowers, Italian White sunflower, two types of calendula, Pincushion, Lincoln leeks, Sugar Ann peas, Munchener Bier and Cincinnati Market radishes, Winter Bloomsdale spinach, Dr Wyche’s Yellow tomatillo, Des Vertus turnip, Purple Orach, Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled cress in spring, and a handful of herbs, such as Caraway Sprinter, Fernleaf dill, Black cumin, Caribe cilantro in spring, Arat Root parsley, and on...

Deer/one fat groundhog – Claimed 21+ varieties! Included in this massacre were Romanesco broccoli; Perpetual spinach; Pink Passion, Fordhook Giant , and Red Rhubarb chard; Pennsylvania Dutch Buttered and Bear Paw popcorn; Painted Hills and Ashworth sweet corn; Nigra Hollyhock; Red Leprechaun, Jericho romaine, Red Velvet, Webb’s Wonderful, and Cracoviensis lettuce; Winter Bloomsdale spinach in fall; Georgia Jet, Murasaki, Bonita, and O’Henry sweet potatoes; Purple Peacock; and so forth.

On top of these 50 (listed) full crop losses, we had partial losses, such as three varieties of carrots and 3 Root Grex beets, which only grew to tiny nubs because the animals kept eating the tops; the almost complete loss of two varieties of collards because of the deer; limited winter squash production due to disease. The list goes on. And so did the stress. And the post-stress laughter, mainly by me and our former partner, Katie (we giggle at incredibly inappropriate times).

But that’s just it. These lists of crop losses are not a complaint. In fact, we felt pretty proud of our season when all was said and done. We felt like warriors battling unknown serpents of the underworld with our swords, and we slayed 75% of them, gol’durnit. Sure, our CSA shares weren’t everything we hoped them to be. Sure, we lost over 50 varieties due to flooding and animal pests, among others. Stress city.

But this is where our seed order comes in. We plant many varieties for a reason. Or for a couple of reasons. First of all, we love to try new crops and keep ourselves and our members inspired and interested and well fed. But, to restate with your patience, we also plant so many varied plants to protect us from whatever farmie craziness lies ahead—it seems to change dramatically from one year to the next these days.

So, as long as we can’t predict these onslaughts that will inevitably present themselves, we’ll dream big with this year’s seed order. It’s our best defense. And it’s incredibly fun and hope-filled. And while we can’t promise our full 2014 crop list will make it through the whole season, we can say from experience that even if we lose more than 50 varieties, that still leaves 150+ to work with for our CSA members. And to us, that ain’t half bad.

If you’re not familiar with us and would like to see photos of our 2013 shares, click on our Photos/2013 tab or check us out on Facebook.

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