Growing Organic Fruit

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The sweet cherries are incredible this year! This morning while we were sorting and packing for market the crew had a great conversation about some of the differences between local and organic. So, it feels like a good time to share how we grow our organic fruit. Our fruit is not “unsprayed;” if you’ve got a backyard tree you know that all the bugs and larva and fungi and bacteria want to eat your fruit too, and it takes a lot of care to get fruit that looks and tastes good. We try to practice preventative general management in our orchard, and we keep insects at bay whenever possible with interventions like pheromone disruptors. We also spray with non-synthetic substances like clay, sulfur, and botanicals to control pests and rot. Rot is the biggest issue for us—as fruit ripens, decomposers get very interested! We don’t know how conventional local growers handle this, but given the battle with rot we could see how it would make sense to reach for fungicides, a lot. 

Organic management takes a lot of time. We spend a lot of time sorting, and we compost or feed to chickens a lot of fruit with rotten spots. Our cherries cost $1 more per pint. There are so many trade-offs we all make every day, and let’s face it—things are complicated. We won’t be offended if it makes sense for you to buy non-organic fruit! But we wanted to make sure that you are educated consumers regarding the trade-offs involved. Xxoo! J&J

Update to our CSA Members

Dear past West Haven CSA members,

We’re writing to let you know that we need to hold off another year before re-starting the CSA. This was a very hard decision to make. We still think that CSA is the right thing for our farm-- but not yet.

When we’re growing for CSA it’s so important to us, we really throw ourselves into it. Because of the commitment we make to growing so many different crops across the whole season, CSA doesn’t give us space to experiment with re-balancing crops so rotations works better and we can address water needs, weed control, and pest issues.

In the past, when we asked ourselves the question, “how much food can we grow?” our response was to max things out. That worked, but farming with climate change is like starting over—our old models and assumptions don’t work, and there’s a lot we need to re-learn about creating a resilient cropping system. For the past 10-15 years we pushed the soil pretty hard, which we could do when conditions are ideal but it doesn’t work now that the weather is so variable. In the past two years we had the driest June (2016) and the wettest June (2017) we’ve experienced in more than 25 years. We need to build the farm’s resilience and get a better handle on this extreme variability before we are comfortable committing to grow crops for CSA. We are excited to think of farming in a new way, and figure out how much we can sustainably grow, given our soil and water resources. We have good hopes that we can develop a more resilient farm and go back to CSA.

In the meantime, we are still planning to go to farmers’ market and will continue wholesaling to restaurants and GreenStar. For us, this means that when there are crop failures we don’t feel responsible like we do when we’re growing for the CSA, and, with another year off from CSA we can grow a smaller variety of crops on less ground while we continue to do major cover cropping.

As a sign of our commitment to you, we are planning a you-pick area just for past CSA members again. We’re also working on options for CSA members who want to stay connected to the farm during this non-CSA time, maybe something like paying in advance and getting a discount on produce at market, or even joining our wholesale distribution list. If you’d like us to follow up with you about those options (they’re still in the works) let us know and we’ll keep you in the loop.

Thanks for your patience with us, you are an amazing community!

Love, John and Jen

A CSA Sabbatical for 2017

Dear West Haven CSA members,
 
We’ve been operating a CSA since 1992, wow!  It feels like a long time.  It IS a long time!  There’s a whole generation of West Haven CSA babies out there, some of them have grown up to work on the farm and move on to other things.  The CSA model makes so much sense to us, it’s why we started farming in the first place.
 
2016 was a ridiculously challenging year, but the drought taught us something important: the farm is not as resilient as we want it to be.  The soil is tired.  We’ve always planted cover crops, but not enough to get the land through prolonged periods of no rain.  The weed load is intense, and after 25 years of growing small-seeded vegetables there are some persistent problems that need to be addressed in order to make the farm more sustainable. 
 
So, we are going to take a sabbatical from CSA this year. Our plan is to focus on growing a small number of crops, and growing tons and tons of cover crops.  You’ll still find our produce at the Farmers’ Market and at local stores, but it won’t be a super broad selection—not broad enough to provide for a CSA.  Our hope is that after a year of being pampered, the soil can go back to handling a wider variety of crops in a healthy way.
 
In the meantime, we’re planning something special for you, our loyal and amazing CSA members—a tide-you-over you-pick garden!  We’ll plant flowers and probably some cherry tomatoes right near the front end of the farm, and will let you know when they’re ready.  We’re planning that there will be no charge, it’ll be a “thank you” for being such great CSA members and sticking with us all these years.  We’ll put out an occasional newsletter, too, just to keep you up to date with how things are doing.
 
Thanks again, you rock!
 
Love, Jen and John

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