Welcoming June with smiles (and a little pouting)

The crew just wrapped up a great week of field work with a harvest of sweet snap peas. We spent the morning in our field of spring crops harvesting colorful red and gold beets, dandelion greens, baby bok choy, humongous heads of lettuce, escarole, and Italian parsley. The cool dewy morning followed by warm sun and breeze are just what we need for the fields to dry out so that beds can be fertilized and prepped for a week of transplanting to come: our next succession of tomatoes, eggplants, leeks, and celeriac were ready to go out into the field this week but planting was delayed by the rainy weather. Heavy rain also put a real damper on what we thought would be our peak week of strawberry harvesting. We started out strong last week with a record harvest for CSA shares followed by another 25 pint flats for market. But then the rain came on Friday and the clouds hung around through Monday. We managed to harvest just barely enough for CSA shares again on Tuesday morning before afternoon thunderstorms brought an hour of torrential rain. Although it is disappointing to lose so many sweet berries to heavy rain, we aren't at all surprised and have come to accept that it is one of the riskiest crops we can grow: wet weather is typical for this region in late spring and the harvest window for strawberries is a mere 4 weeks at best. We are all so accustomed to the abundance we find in supermarkets that we often fail to appreciate just how precious our food is: summer's first fruits are a lovely reminder to savor every precious bite. We hope you enjoyed them as much as we have!

Additionally, we know we aren't alone in our strawberry stress: many small farmers have been fretting over this crop since early spring when hard frosts threatened tender blossoms and weeds competed with every plant for sun and soil nutrients. The other week a young grower from our cooperative, Tuscarora Organic Growers, contacted me to see if I could help transport several flats of strawberries over to the cooperative's warehouse for distribution. He is a member of the Amish community in Path Valley just north of our farm and is new to growing strawberries. When he made the delivery he lamented that he didn't know what to do with so many berries and had to throw away an entire day's harvest because he found no way to distribute them. He moaned, "my back is tired, Audrey." "I know how you feel!" I replied, remembering the day before when we had four times the yield I anticipated and I frantically picked 90 quarts of berries until dark. The vagaries of farming can be heartbreaking at times, but as my conversation with Jake from Walnut Ridge Farm reminded me, its a heartbreak that comes with a great sense of community and incomparable satisfaction. Exchanging our strawberry woes, I felt so proud to be among the next generation of growers in our cooperative: diverse in our religious and cultural backgrounds, we are nevertheless united by a determination to craft a livelihood that reflects our unique values and allows us to work alongside family and friends. At the beginning of what we hope to be a lifetime of farming, we, like Jake and many family farmers in our region, are constantly learning by trial and error. I don't think we'd have it any other way.

Our strawberries were looking mighty fine at market last Sunday...

Then a lot of rain happened...

And we ended up with a whole lot of berries that looked like this.

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Bending Bridge Farm


9478 Sweetwater Rd.  Fort Loudon PA 17224  |  717.494.1132  |  contact us