Snow in Early October!
This is early even for Minnesota. First dusting was on 10/10, then we got this snow on 10/12. 3 inches total. Digging carrots in the snow for our Monday CSA boxes was a first.
This wasn't even the worst though. Earlier that weekend it got down to 19 degrees on Friday night. We still had quite a bit of product in the field and were unsure what prolonged freezing would do to even the hearty crops, such as kale, brussels sprouts, leeks and spinach. We also had a lot of cauliflower and a fair amount of broccoli left too. We harvested as much as we could fit in our cooler and hoped for the best. All the winter squash got out, the big leeks, some brussels sprouts (just in case), peppers, herbs, greentop beets, and romanesco.
A week or so later, the mature broccoli was too damaged to harvest and the small broccoli looked ok, but had somewhat of a mealy texture. That all got disced. Some tiny little heads of cauliflower, although frozen solid for over 24 hours, still look and taste fine. They are just ridiculously tiny. The texture may be a little off too--it's hard for me to tell as I'm being super critical knowing what it went through. It's a shame to lose perfectly fine product to a very early cold snap, especially when our August was so cool and the crops weren't ripening as fast as expected. Such is farming. This year in particular, the weather threw us some crazy curveballs. Most certainly the weather is our most formidable challenge as farmers and I suspect that these challenges will only heighten in the future. Diversity of crops and hoophouses proved extremely useful to us this year, although the hoophouse didn't help keep our tomatoes alive after the outside temp dropped below 28 degrees last Thursday. Darn. Having very healthy plants (due to healthy soil) also seems to help mitigate some weather-related stress: namely drought and frost this year.
Now we get back to our inside farm lives a bit. Time to re-organize the office, hit the bookkeeping, evaluate, analyze, plan and market. Oh yeah, and the harvest season isn't over yet either. We still have the majority of our root crops in the ground, hoping it will dry out enough next week to get in and mechanically harvest. There is also still a fair amount of field clean-up to do too--again, whenever it is dry enough to do fieldwork. Not looking like it will dry out anytime soon--another spat of rain on the way for the rest of this week. It will be Thanksgiving before we probably have everything wrapped up, and hopefully get our garlic planted too!!!
All in all though, we had a successful year. We were very pleased with the quality and quantity of our crops, especially once the drought broke in August. It is always splendid to end the year on a good note, even if that note comes a bit earlier and colder than expected. We built a great base to move forward on in the coming years. Here's one thing we found: we can grow really great Brassicas on this farm. Perfect since we came from a Brassica-loving farm and we too have special fondness for them. Our cauliflowers were so big and beautiful it almost made me cry (especially when the frost got some of them...). It was truly a pleasure to grow food for everyone this season. If you contributed either through support, labor, eating, or just by reading here, thank ya very much. We're looking forward to next season already (and some naps in between). Beyond anything else, I've learned that to stay in this business, farmers must be optimists. And we think next year will be our best one yet!
As one CSA member coined it: Cauliflowerzilla