Meeting the Challenge of 2020

Greetings food fans!

I hope you are all finding time to rest, reflect, and move into the new year with gratitude, peace, and purpose. While the 2020 season was full of unprecedented challenges, it was also a year of farm resiliency, milestones, and abundance.

Responding to the Pandemic

By mid March the farm crew and I began a conversation about how to ensure everyone’s safety as we embarked on our 8th season. In addition to installing hand-washing stations and requiring masks, we also decided to switch to a boxed share format. Although this new-to-us system was more work on our end, we were pleased with the results. Our 2020 CSA pick-ups ran very smoothly and safely. Plus, everyone still had a chance to enjoy the perennially popular pick-your-own raspberries, cherry tomatoes, & flowers.

My nephew, Levi, enjoying the flower patch

One of the unpredictable pandemic challenges came in the form of a major delay in our potato seed shipment, which pushed back our planting date. While society struggled to find toilet paper, we struggled with getting our potato seed on time. There was even a partial cancellation of a portion of our seed order. Fortunately, other local farmers helped us out and offered their extra potato seed to make up the difference. Though we still had an average yield, we fell short of where we hoped to be on some of the early varieties. This dilemma showed us how vulnerable larger supply chains can be, and how it can have drastic effects on food production. Thanks to our strong local farming community we were still able produce one of the most popular and important crops.

As ever, I am particularly grateful for getting to work with an excellent farm crew. Big thank you to Phoenix, Isabelle, Peter, Stephen, Rori, & Beth for persevering through a difficult season and having fun along the way.

Farmer’s-Eye View of the Weather

As a farmer, I can tell you that Climate Change is causing more unpredictable extreme weather. The year started with the most challenging cold, wet spring in the farm’s history. We even had to delay the season by a full week, pushing back the first two pick-ups. Beginning with a severe frost on April 16th, we continued to have frosts well into May. The early crops grew slowly and we even lost some broccoli. It was a stressful time, but we worked as a team to successfully care for the vulnerable veggies until the weather warmed up and it became easier.

After making it through this difficult spring, we also endured heavy rainfall and strong winds in the form of Tropical Storm Isaias. We even had to postpone a CSA pick-up. This storm slowed down some of our summer crops including cucumbers, eggplant, summer squash, and tomatoes. In spite of this challenge, we still managed to deliver diverse abundant shares as we moved from summer into the fall.


Given all of the challenges of 2020, you may be wondering how the season went overall and the answer is: Really Well!

1. We exceeded our membership goal well before the first CSA Pick-Up. Given the tough year for many local businesses, this is especially encouraging. It shows strong demand for our healthy, locally grown produce, and the wholesome farm experience Tinicum CSA provides to y’all.

2.  We reached our highest total yield to date of 61,110 lbs of produce, surpassing 2019’s total yield by 8,074 lbs.

3. We had the best melon harvest on record of 6,140 lbs.

4. We had one of the best winter squash harvests of 5,017 lbs.

5. And lettuce production soared to a record amount of 4,046 lbs.

Speaking of harvest amounts, here’s our annual list of crops we grew more than a ton (2,000 lbs) of in 2020:

  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Melons
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Summer Squash
  • Winter Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Highlight: Great Cover Cropping

I’m happy to report that the new seeder we purchased is extremely effective. In the past, we used to march around the fields with handheld seeders, planting one type of cover crop at a time. We’ve always grown combinations of cover crops, and now we’re able to plant 4 types of cover crops in a single pass! Not only did it halve the labor time, it helped to fulfill our commitment to improving the soil. In addition to growing old standards like rye & clover, it was personally satisfying to grow Sunn Hemp (Crotalaria), a tropical legume that I learned about in Peace Corps Paraguay. We even took some time as a farm crew to have fun wandering through the Sunn Hemp as it grew nearly 6ft tall, towering over us.

You Invested In Our Community

As Tinicum CSA Members, you should all be proud of how you’ve invested in your local community.
While it may seem like you’re only buying a season-long membership for your own household, you’re doing a whole lot more.

1. In 2020 you supported the livelihoods of 7 people. The farm provided employment for 3 full timers including myself, and 4 part timers. At a time when folks are struggling to find jobs, your investment really made a difference. By being mostly outdoors, the farm is a place where we’re able to work in a safe and healthy environment.

2. We received 11 Donated Shares, demonstrating a continued spirit of generosity, that helps Tinicum CSA be a part of the local effort to reduce food insecurity by providing healthy produce to local families in need for an entire season. Thank you!

3. Given surplus yields, we also donated lots of kale and lettuce to Rolling Harvest Food Rescue, helping to fulfill their mission of connecting local farmers with neighbors in need.

Happy News!

I got engaged to the lovely Amanda Midkiff of Locust Light Farm! I’m so glad to spend my life with someone who is as crazy about plants as I am : )

I’m looking forward to the 2021 season!

In Gratitude,
Farmer John

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