Happy New Year from Tinicum CSA! It somehow seems fitting that December 31st, 2018 ended with rainy weather. In fact, 2018 was the wettest year on record for the farm, and with the exception of 2011, Pennsylvania’s wettest year ever recorded. Bucks County experienced +18 inches above normal rainfall, reaching a total of 66.2 in. for the year. This proved a particular challenge for anyone growing food in the region, including your farmers.
According to New Jersey State Climatologist, David Robinson, “The ocean surfaces and atmosphere have gotten warmer, So with that you have more moisture in the atmosphere. And the warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture.” The weather has always been the most notorious x-factor in farming, but with climate change it poses an even greater challenge to farmers and a real threat to our food security. This year’s rain was remarkable because it wasn’t due to any one major weather event, like a hurricane. Most of the increased rainfall in 2011 was due to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Instead, 2018 had almost constant rain week after week. This kind of weather makes it extremely difficult to prepare ground for planting and creates conditions that promote plant disease. And in an organically managed system it can be difficult to prevent fungal diseases from wiping out whole plantings of certain crops. In addition to the rain, we experienced excessive heat this summer. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “the Summer of 2018 ranked as the fourth hottest summer on record for the contiguous United States.”
So you may be wondering, how did things go for Tinicum CSA in 2018? The short answer is: Really well! When I think back on 2018, I bear in mind these 3 highlights:
1. We grew 51,846 lbs of produce, surpassing 2017’s yield by 936 lbs. This increase in production feels good considering the difficult growing conditions.
2. We exceeded our CSA Membership goal. This means that the farm’s CSA model is continuing to prove itself sustainable and indicates that we’re doing a good job of offering high-quality produce and an enjoyable experience for our Members.
3. We received 10 Donated Shares, which shows a consistent generosity of spirit in our community. This helps Tinicum CSA be a real part of the local efforts to address food insecurity by providing healthy, abundant produce to people in need. Thank you!
I attribute much of the growing success to the wonderful sandy soil on the farm. Without the seemingly magical quality of “well-drained” soil, I do not think we would have been able to deliver such good shares in 2018. Though not all of our crops did as well as they could have, a majority of them exceeded my expectations. Many of my farmer friends in the area had a much harder time this year than I did. So I count myself fortunate to be growing on sandy soil. The difference between my experience and theirs was so great that I sometimes feel like renaming the farm “Climate Change Resiliency Farm Project”… or “Until the River Rises Farm.” Either way, I want to maintain an attitude of counting my blessings.
Speaking of counting, it’s fun to think of 2018 in terms of which crops we grew more than a ton of.
Crops we grew more than a ton (2,000 lbs) of:
– Sweet Potatoes
– Summer Squash
– Winter Squash
All of which are popular crops, continuing our efforts to grow what people want to eat.
2018: The Year of the Potato
We grew 5,931 lbs, only 69 lbs shy of 6,000 lbs. This was accomplished with the same number of beds as in 2017, but was an increase of 2,128 lbs over last year. The research that Stefan and I had done a few winters ago and our subsequent improved growing practices, including “green-sprouting” is definitely paying off, and it feels good to turn a popular crop like potatoes into a more reliable crop.
-2018 was our best Onion production year to date and we were able to begin distributing them on June 30th and continued to offer them in every share until the end of the season.
-Pick-Your-Own Raspberries worked out! We included them in the Pick-Your-Own offering for several weeks.
As your farmer, I feel a personal responsibility to grow great veggies for y’all. Each season I make small adjustments to the Crop Plan and do my best to adapt to the unique challenges presented by the weather. Some years have been marked by a month’s-long drought, or late frosts. This year was so incredibly wet that I sometimes felt like I was engaging in Improv-farming. For example, I’d go into a work day with a particular plan to transplant seedlings in the field and within an hour I’d be doing something completely different indoors. Sometimes the rain would clear out for long enough to finish a field task and then we’d have to quit our indoor task to take advantage of the fleeting sunny skies.
As we begin 2019 I am mindful of the unpredictability of our weather, grateful for the resiliency of crops grown on sandy soil, and thankful for the supportive CSA Membership that makes it all worthwhile. I sometimes refer to the Distributions as a “twice a week veggie performance” and it’s so satisfying to have an audience like all of you. I hope everyone has a restful winter and I’m excited to be growing for you, in what I hope is a drier year.