Well, it appears that “Miserable May” is going to follow “Awful April”. Never thought I would grouse so much about it, but life as a farmer has me laser-focused on weather. 90% of my life I didn’t even look at the weather forecast. Now I am checking it multiple times a day to know that the rain is going to start in 117 minutes according to Accuweather, so that I can plan what we can get done before the raindrops fall.
The heavy snowpack late, the frequent and heavy rains, has us quite a bit behind normal in planting. Our North field is nearly a mud swamp. We could lose several mid- sized tractors in that field and not find them for a couple of years! It will be two weeks before we can plant that field which will be okay for most crops, but we may end up short on peas this year.
Good news weather-wise, we seem to be in a period of frost-free nights at our location. Hopefully I won’t jinx us, but it looks like we will not have any more sub 40 degree days at our location on the hill. For those of you unaware (as I was before farming), in the spring the frost will settle in the valleys. That is why so many farms were built on the top or near tops of hills to get more land drying breezes and a few more days of frost-free growing. This warmth will be good for our warm loving plants, tomatoes, peppers, melons, etc.
We are planting about 50% more than we did in 2016, but not evenly across all products. Cipollini Onions, First Kiss Melons, Sugar Ann Snap Peas, Hoophouse Tomatoes, Luscious Corn, Delicata Squash, Green Towers Romaine, Strawberries (Earliglow, Cavendish, Galletta, Jewel), and Blueberries (Chanticleer, Blue Ray, Patriots) will be leading the way with added volume. These are the products we ran out of frequently because of the high demand for them.
Planting wise, we already have:
- just under 700 tomato plants in the ground in the hoophouses (8 varieties including 3 cherry varieties)
- nearly 20,000 onions in the ground (mostly cipollinis)
- our earliest snap peas and shell peas (3 succession plantings for 2600 feet)
- many of our famous head lettuces
- 4000 stalks of corn (sweetness (early variety) and luscious)
- normal cold crops, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, chard, beets, carrots, etc.
On the employee front we are in our best shape ever. We have the seasoned and capable year round crew in place:
- Mike P – my son, who is now in the MOFGA Journeyman program, orchestrates our electrical, mechanical and irrigation designs and implementation
- Mike C – maestro of operating the heavy equipment
- Meghan – our soil science specialist and seedling expert
- along with my wife Debbie and me
For returning summer help we have Carleigh, our uber high-schooler in her 3rd year with us and nephew Frank Pecoraro. We also have some new additions to the team, one college and several high-school students along with one of our delightful neighbors. We also have our first H2-A workers, 2 young men from Jamaica who collectively have 15 years experience on farms in America. Lloyd and Pete are with us from April until September.
We are anticipating a great growing year (despite the slow start) and are looking forward to providing Raymond and the surrounding communities with exceptional certified organic produce that people can have confidence in for the health and well-being of their families.
– Farmer Frank