News from the farm: July 21, 2010

What's going on at the farm?

      Hey guys!  Hope you all had a nice week.  It finally started raining, and now it won’t stop:)  Just like a farmer, to never be satisfied with the weather L  Seriously though, we have had over 4 inches in the past week alone.  That is a lot for one week!  Usually the crops like an inch of rain a week, although with this heat and high evaporation maybe two.  But four!  Yikes.  I need to be careful what I wish for.  One problem it has created (and I will make sure to let you know the benefits too!) is the presence of Southern Stem Blight in our peppers.  We had seen a hint of this prior to the rain, the blight being exacerbated by wet conditions I had been holding off on irrigating the peppers too much.  With the rain, the blight has taken off, as one plant pathologist explains “Warm weather and high soil moisture, particularly following a dry spell, create favorable conditions for the development of southern blight.” Gee, those conditions sound familiar.  I have known other farmers to have problems with this disease before, but in my ten years, have never experienced it personally.  I am still trying to figure out where it comes from or how it came to be here this year.  Certainly I have had overly wet conditions before without  this outcome.  The disease makes itself known pretty quickly as the pepper plant itself starts to wilt then die, within the same day usually.  Yesterday we went through and took all the infected plants out of the field in order to help stop the spread of the disease.  About half the crop still remains and looks healthy, lets hope they stay that way.  THE PEPPERS YOU HAVE RECEIVED ARE FINE TO EAT, don’t worry that your peppers may have disease and you may be eating that.  That is not the case. Your peppers are fine, we took the diseased plants out of the field.  Despite that, the disease affects the stem of the plant (at the base where the stem meets the soil), not the peppers themselves. The peppers themselves ‘die’ or ‘rot’ as the plant dies from the stem infection.  Conventional farmers spray their soil with Methyl Bromide, a highly dangerous fungicide that has actually been banned at this point and is in the process of being ‘phased out’.  Once banned, farmers are allowed a certain amount of years to still use a chemical while looking for another alternative.  Many of the conventionally grown strawberries are grown in soil that was first gassed with Methal Bromide.  From an organic or sustainable standpoint, the gassing is negative in that it kills all of the beneficial fungus and bacteria in the soil as well as the not so beneficial.  The idea behind organic farming is to try to create a balanced mix of microorganisms in your soil naturally.  If the beneficial counterpart is not present in your soil, you can try to ad it!  One Biological ‘fungicide’ is SoilGard which is the living fungus Gliocladium virens.  This is a sustainable or organic way to fight the Southern Blight, or Sclerotium rolfsii, as the G. Virens is a natural predator of the S. rolfsii.   By introducing one fungus to the soil and allowing it to attack another, no chemicals need to be used.  Hopefully the beneficial fungus will win and live on in the soil for years.  This product is still called a ‘fungicide’, although it is a biological one.  This is were a consumer could easily get confused, as I am sure I would if I were not in this line of work and thus knew the difference between a biological and chemical fungicide.  Frequently I hear folks ask venders at market if they ‘spray’.  I know they are really asking if the vender grows organically, or more specifically if the vender spray’s with chemicals.  I sympathize with the consumer as the issue can be confusing.  I ‘spray’ at times but only with organically approved materials. 
            All that being said, what does this mean for the peppers?  I don’t know yet.  By already losing half the crop there won’t be as many as you usually get in August (pepper month), I can say that much.  Lets hope that is as bad as it gets.  I will keep you informed.  As for how the rain has affected everything else and how everything else is doing, well just great!  Phew! 
            Watermelon, Squash, Cucumbers and Cantaloupe are all growing like crazy and look good.  The next planting of cucumbers and cantaloupe will be ready soon!  And aren’t we excited to have more of the delicious watermelon!  I had some from the grocery store last night at a cook out and it really just did not compare if I do say so myself J  The tomatoes keep cranking out, although we will see our first planting naturally say good bye in the next couple of weeks and the second plantings start to bear its fruit.  Butternut, potatoes and onions are still stored under the shed for future distribution to you all as well.  The eggplant has slowed down, but will get a second wind as it usually does in a couple of weeks. 
            Well, that is the news from the home front.  Let me know if you have any questions, concerns or feedback, I love to hear from you!  Elise.

What's in the box?

Full Box
Crop Amount  

Little Baby Flower Watermelon - One larger
Tomatoes - 4 lb.
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes - 1 pint
Pepper medley Colored bells, Jalapeños
Summer Squash - 2 lb.
Onions - Two
Cucumbers - 1 lb.

Half Box
Crop Amount  

Little Baby Flower Watermelon - One
Tomatoes - 2.5 lb.
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes - One pint
Pepper medley Poblanos, Green bells, Jalapeños
Summer Squash - 1 lb.
Onions - One