Looking Back on 2022

In 2022 we celebrated our 10th season at Tinicum CSA! It was an incredibly satisfying milestone for the farm, filled with extremely bountiful harvests and propelled forward by a caring, committed farm crew.  In terms of personnel and production, it was an extraordinary year. Through it all we had a fun time growing tasty veggies for y’all. And I am very grateful to you, the 2022 CSA Members, who will always hold a special place in my heart for joining us this season.

If you need to sign up for 2023, you can do that here.

So let’s take a stroll through the highlights of our 10th season. 

Best Farm Crew

I was lucky to work with an excellent crew this year who knew how to work through all sorts of challenging weather and laugh at the same time. While we weeded carrots and greens we discussed the finer details of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or the ways in which 90s era Star Trek really was the golden age for the franchise. Most importantly, each day was defined by our shared enjoyment of farming. Good farming is as much attitude as it is work ethic, and the 2022 farm crew brought both to the table.

Elliott reliably provided excellent playlists during CSA pickups and a steady sense of calm. Sarah took on Tuesday distributions and made great connections with CSA members. I’m glad that she’ll be back next year at Tuesday Pickups. Whatever the task, Stephen always moved faster than the speed of light and brought along endless cheerfulness. Tait brought a burst of energy when we needed it most for big harvesting projects. And we all wished we could clone Rori, so she could be there everyday. We’re thrilled that she is coming back full time next year as the Assistant Manager. It will be her 4th season working on the farm. Big thank you to Joe, Elliott, Sarah, Rori, Stephen, & Tait for setting such a high standard of excellence.

We still have spots open for our 2023 Crew. If you know anyone who’s interested, send them our way.

Rori, Sarah, & Elliott
Rori, Elliott, Sarah, & Joe

Joe Fernandez

I am especially grateful for getting to work with Joe for two seasons. While Joe came to the farm to learn as much as possible about our farming systems, I learned a great deal from him. He showed me how to streamline tomato trellising and that’s a major reason why our tomatoes were so great this year. We never tired of talking shop about farming – how to improve our methods and how to work well as a team. Although I will miss Joe in the coming year, I’m glad to count him as another trusted colleague and friend in the vegetable farming world. Joe and his partner Yi are starting a farm of their own on their recently purchased property in Wayne County, PA. I’m happy that I’ve been able to help them along their farming journey.

Thank You Volunteers

We’re also grateful for the volunteers who helped us out in 2022. Whether it was harvesting onions, squash, or cleaning onions we had fun working with you and we got a lot done. We’re looking forward to the 2023 Onion cleaning party.

Thank you to Mike from the Frenchtown Hardware Store for joining us on a number of harvest days out in the field.

Thanks Mike!

And thank you to Harriet for continuing to help us with many CSA distributions.

The Drought

2022 was also defined by the worst drought since the farm’s inception. We received almost no rain for over 2 months. We met this challenge with seemingly endless rounds of irrigation– moving pipes, and even setting up additional drip lines on crops that we typically don’t use drip on. To keep things alive and growing, I would wake up before sunrise on the weekends throughout the summer just to get a head start on watering. It was very exhausting, but we were able to maintain continuous high quality lettuce production through the drought, while protecting all of the other crops from dying. In retrospect, the drought was tempered by the nearly perfect intervals of rain received in May and June. In essence, we couldn’t have been better prepared for the dry conditions that followed.

Silver Linings in the Drought

In spite of all the difficulties the drought brought, we also benefited from it. For most farmers, it’s actually worse to have too much rain. If wet conditions persist for too long, crops succumb to fungal diseases. With the drought, not only did many crops delay their usual downturn in production, many exceeded their yield potential and broke new records. Crops that benefited included onions, melons, summer squash, winter squash, carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. There were some odd exceptions of underperformance, with the peppers and eggplant, which normally do well in drier conditions. This was hardly a problem though, given the success of so many other important crops.

How did the crops do overall in 2022?

Really well! Here are some highlights:

  1. We reached a Grand Total Yield of 90,393 lbs, our highest yield in the farm’s history. And we did this without increasing the acreage.
  1. Lettuce made it into every share! Each season we attempt to have lettuce every week. It’s normal to skip it a few times, but this season we achieved our goal. Lettuce production reached an all-time high of 5,516 lbs.
  1.  Tomato production soared to 7,571 lbs. and had an extended presence in the CSA shares.

Year of the Potato

The last time I declared that it was the “Year of the Potato” was in 2018. The quality and quantity was memorable and it was amazing because they performed well in a very rainy season. 

This year we hit the highest yield ever of 10,094 lbs! Growing good potatoes requires following through on a number of crucial steps– green sprouting, timing planting with a substantial rain event, proper planting depth, weekly hilling, and good watering management. One element out of the farmer’s control is the weather, which is why I attribute some of our success in 2022 to the good intervals of rainfall in May and June. Once the drought set in, the potato plants were already well established and growing tall. 

Also, I finally got to try out a companion planting technique I’d read about from a Cornell University research trial. I planted strips of buckwheat and red clover every 5 rows of potatoes to attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs and spotted lady beetles that prey on the Colorado Potato Beetle pest. Sure enough, once these cover crop strips had grown even a few inches I began to notice lots of ladybugs spending time on the potato plants. I also witnessed one eating Colorado Potato Beetle larvae. In addition to the practical benefits, the flowering buckwheat provided a lovely aesthetic.

Drone Photo of Potato Patch With Buckwheat Strips

Cover Cropping

In 2022 I was hoping to plant a summer cover crop combination that included the tropical legume sunn hemp. We grew sunn hemp successfully in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, the drought prevented me from being able to plant it. So I’m glad that I managed to seed lots of buckwheat before the dry conditions set in. Once it grew tall and flowered we all took a moment to walk out into the lush field, buzzing with thousands of bees and other pollinators. It felt good to know that we were adding organic matter to the soil and feeding the bees at the same time.

Year of the Carrot

2022 also included extraordinary carrot production. Folks usually tell us how good they taste and we typically have decent yields. This past year we reached an all-time high of 4,738 lbs. 

What blew my mind was some of the individual harvests from some of the carrot beds. Before 2022 I would consider a good yield for a single bed to be somewhere between 400 – 500 lbs. In the photo below, the crew is standing behind our highest yield of 850 lbs. from a single bed.

Year of the Squash

Summer squash did so well that we kind of got tired of harvesting it. In a typical, wetter season, the early plantings die sooner and production remains steady as new plantings take their place. Because of the drought, the early plantings kept on producing as new ones matured, resulting in higher yields. We reached a stunning total yield of 7,149 lbs.

Winter Squash had a comeback performance this season. We grow small amounts of Delicata, and a large amount of Butternuts, including the mini-Butternut, Honeynut. Given the challenges we faced in 2021 it was especially meaningful to reach an all-time high yield of 7,828 lbs. Not only did the dry conditions help with production, it also resulted in higher quality fruits with a much longer shelf-life. It was so satisfying to see the greenhouse filled with such an immense bounty of high quality Winter Squash.

My Niece & Nephews Survey The Butternut Squash

Crops We Grew More Than a Ton (2,000 lbs) of:

  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Cabbage
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Melons
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Summer Squash
  • Winter Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

An Abundant Season

This season felt particularly successful because of how well the crops produced. With a fortunate combination of planning, excellent staff, weather, skill, and experience we had the most abundant year to date. Ironically, this can be overwhelming to some folks, given the sheer amount of veggies available at any given pick-up. Our goal is to maximize the value of the shares for you. We also don’t want anyone to feel overwhelmed, and we want you to know that you’re never obligated to take everything listed on the boards at your pick-up. Of course, when crops do better than expected we want to harvest as much as we can to give you the highest possible value. Not every season will be as abundant as 2022, which is why we craft a crop plan that can ensure good production even when conditions are less ideal. 

New Equipment

We were excited to use a couple of new pieces of equipment this past year. In an effort to maintain larger soil aggregates we began using a Spader. This nifty tool breaks through compacted layers of soil, but is gentler than a rototiller, and still makes a good seed bed for transplants and direct seeded crops.

We also put together a set of 3-row cultivators to improve weed control. Any improvements in mechanical weed control makes life easier for us as farmers. On many occasions we didn’t have to use hand tools and instead I was able to use this set of cultivators.

You Invested In Your Community

Signing up for a CSA goes beyond just getting fresh local veggies for your family. You should all be proud of how you invested in your community.

  1. By joining Tinicum CSA in 2022 you supported the livelihoods of 6 people. Thanks for helping the farm to provide meaningful work for folks interested in farming!
  2. We received 9 Donated Shares, which shows a continued spirit of generosity. This 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! 

So far we have 1 share donated for 2023 and our goal is to get to at least 10. Visit our website here to Donate A Share.

  1. And the farm continued to donate extra kale, lettuce, squash and other veggies to Rolling Harvest Food Rescue, helping to fulfill their mission of connecting local farmers with neighbors in need

Special Announcement

Our 10th Season ended with the birth of Althea Ellen Crooke on November 4th. Amanda and I feel so lucky to have this new person in our life and we’re already imagining her playing in patches of clover on the farm next year.

Sweet Potato, Butternut, & Althea

I’m looking forward to 2023!  

P.S. – Sign Up For 2023 Here

Drone Photo of the Farm from Tinicum CSA Members Andrea & Paul of Bartholomew Studios