Year of Hardship

Unfortunately, this is turning out to be the worst growing season we have experienced (and, from the stories our elders tell, among the worst there has ever been around here). We are making the best of it, but many crops are having at least partial crop failures due to the constant rain and flooding with little to no good weather in between.

The only crops currently without moderate to major disease issues are the lettuce, onions, and the cucumbers. The onions, carrots, and other smaller crops are being choked out by weeds because we cannot weed them without destroying them in the sodden, clumpy ground. The lettuce has bottom rot and the cucumbers have some powdery mildew, but not enough to do much to them. All the rest of these diseases are causing some losses, from small to large.

Tomatoes – Early Blight (moderate) – slight yield loss, still progressing
Broccoli – Clubroot followed by black rot (total loss of all plants, only harvested a few tiny heads)
Cauliflower – Clubroot (total loss of all plants and NO harvests were taken)
Fava Beans – Chocolate spot and/or Rust (major) – high yield loss due to plants weakening and dying and also, aborting of flowers
Zucchini – Bacterial Wilt on 2/3 plantings (major, fatal to at least 50% of plants), remaining planting powdery mildew (moderate)
Winter Squash – flood stunting, Powdery Mildew (moderate), Bacterial Wilt (25% of plants killed)
Potatoes – Stunting, Early Blight (moderate) – yield loss
Peppers – Southern Blight (minor, killed one plant outright and seems to be gone now)
Peas – Downy mildew (crop reduction, although still gave a reasonable crop)
Bush Beans – Combination Alternaria leaf spot, Root Rot, and White Mold (major, severe stunting of at least 50% of plants and slow and creeping death of others. Minor spread to bean pods, major crop loss due to failure of many plants to set pods at all)
Kale – severe stunting, probably Clubroot – no real harvest at all so far, as plants have failed to grow to size able to sustain it and may never do so
Watermelons – severe flood stunting
Corn – total loss of first planting due to flood washout/burial, 3 out of 4 plantings afterward suffering from moderate to severe stunting or poor emergence

And these are just some examples.

We spent more money than ever this year in trying to expand the plantings, making the soil more fertile, liming everything, etc. and a lot of it has just rotted in the ground or been pummeled or washed away. This is definitely a heartbreaking year and a year in which I do not expect to even come close to making back my initial investment. I have to just be happy to get anything back at all, I suppose, and I do know that farming is a lifestyle of great risk as well as great reward. Hopefully the next few years treat me better because these last few have not been favorable, and I cannot keep doing things the way I do if it’s going to keep ending up this way.

I have also been noticing certain varieties of plant doing better than others under this stress so I will note them here:
– Beans : Dragon’s Tongue – the most unaffected by Alternaria, and yielding the best under stress out of the 5 varieties I planted. Also is the biggest, most substantial, slowest-to-get-tough, most flavorful bean I grow (it just isn’t perfect for freezing, but acceptable) – and is an heirloom besides.
– Zucchini : Cocozelle – ‘Dark Green’ and ‘Dark Star’ are doing nowhere near as well as these. They are my biggest plants this year and the only ones I have harvested more than 2 fruits off of. My Early Yellow Prolific summer squash are practically useless as they are severely stunted and I have only harvested 1 so far.
– Basil : Mrs. Burns Lemon – The only basil I have been able to harvest so far. ‘Mammoth’ is barely growing. Standard sweet basil is meh, growing but not well. Lime basil is barely there, as is the purple and other specialty basils.
– Cucumber : Stonewall – I’ve been planting Stonewall because it is downy mildew resistant – I used to have severe problems with this disease in years past. I no longer do, and Stonewall seems to yield me a few bushels of well shaped fruit no matter the conditions.
– Lettuce : Mayan Jaguar, Flashy Butter Oak – both setting pretty (although a bit mini-sized) heads. Lettuce in general seems to love the cool, wet summer (it doesn’t like heat or dry weather much). MJ and FBO are just the best looking of the 7? varieties I have in.

There is still plenty to be thankful for though. Though the hay season has also been difficult to complete, we have sold enough to mostly cover the taxes, and haven’t had any rained on so far. We do have some regular customers and supportive family members. We always meet interesting new people. One of our ‘farm friends’ helped us recoup some monetary losses from our flooded fields. One of our new batch of chickens laid her first egg last week and I expect the others will soon follow. And, at the least, we have had another year of experience, and will harvest at least something to help feed us through the winter. If it can’t get any worse, then next year can only be up from here.

Living life one acre at a time.