Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Here we are in mid-June and some days it's hard to know if summer is going to arrive. The season has been off to a crazy start as far as weather is concerned, and weather pretty much determines everything else around here. Many farmers I've spoken to have been having a rough time these past few weeks. Some new farmers have mentioned that if they were farming for the first time this season they might already be thinking of quiting.

Our farm hasn't been an exception. We've already marked the end of our rhubarb crop, which was only a fraction of what it has been in past years. Everything else has been slow growing. We've lost some crops to pests or inability to properly weed amidst the wet, much soil. After doing farmers markets since the beginning of May, we're only barely starting to break even at each of them.

Last week ended up being particularly bad in my books. While cultivating in the field I lost a tractor part in the bed. In fact, the part fell off and then got cultivated into the bed. I had to track down a metal detector (luckily a friend working on the farm brought one the next day) and eventually found the part. The following day the chain broke on our compost spreader. It was an easy fix, but took time nonetheless. All this after not having had any break downs yet this year.

The weather, of course, puts everyone in a sour mood. Day after day of cold and rain makes it hard to keep spirits up. Even though it's allowed us to get particularly organized in the office and the barn, it's still been a bit much for everyone. We'd all rather be in the fields every day at this point and providing a full-to-the-brim market stand to our customers.

By the end of last week I was making plans for how we might adjust our crop plans in the event that things didn't get better. What could we do for winter crops that might help to mitigate the losses from the summer? What are sure-fire crops that we could still get into the ground and have in storage?

Even now that it has dried up we're learning the impact of the past months' weather. Some potatoes have blight. Some crops are getting lost amidst the weeds because we haven't been able to get into certain beds to hoe with the moisture.

Amidst all of this there are still a number of things that are going well. Some of the strawberries have managed to hang on through the moisture and we had a good pick on Saturday for our Sunday markets. The spinach has been loving the cool and rainy weather, providing a bumper crop that we haven't had in years. The kale and cabbages are doing very well and we have many, many heads of lettuce maturing.

It has been an excellent year for cover cropping. With the moisture, we've been able to get cover crops seeded in many parts of the fields. Some have already been turned in and re-seeded, others will go in over the next few days. This goes a long way toward maintaining and enhancing the soil.

When we have had a nice day here or there the results are dramatic. The following morning plants have visibly changed overnight -- they're taller, greener and fuller. That's always an incredible sight to see.

The first CSA boxes of the season are packed in the cooler and ready to go into Vancouver tomorrow morning. along with a shipment of lettuce to a local distributor. Hopefully Solstice brings a change in the weather next week.

And we still have fun at the markets, whether we're losing money or not. Last week at the Langley market the children from Glorious Organics made sun placards and marched through the market calling for some rays. It worked.

It's amazing what a little sun can do.


  1. ahh-yes, I know. The weather has been tough here too in Ontario where i farm. It's gotta get better, but it's hard working so hard and seeing the weather determine if your work does or doesn't pay off. Hang in, it's gotta get better!

  2. Thanks for the note, Linda. Nice to connect with other farmers and share experience. We're still not getting the heat, but things are growing nonetheless (just a bit slower).