Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 SAGE Production in Review

Summer produce waiting delivery in the SAGE shed
As the 2013 year concludes, we've been busy analyzing and summarizing; how many volunteers, how much produce, number of farm field trips, etc.  The end of the calendar year is a bit arbitrary when we're looking at school programming at SAGE as the school year runs from the fall to spring, between two years.  The end of the calendar year is an alright time though to look back on SAGE production numbers and contemplate changes for the coming season.

This year marked my second growing season at SAGE so I have two seasons worth of values and experiences to compare.  There are actual production yield numbers and then there are all the odd variables that affect those numbers; planting dates, irrigated or dry, pest outbreaks, etc.  I've pulled a couple interesting comparisons out to highlight.

Squash!  This year was the year of squash.  In it's versatility, diversity and shear vigor, there is a lot to make a farmer smile.  Our summer squash production increased 112% while our winter squash production went up 340%!!  The difference is all because of a little bug, the cucumber beetle.  Last year they decimated our freshly transplanted squash, practically overnight.  Learning from experience, this year we planted the squash out and promptly covered them with Reemay (floating row cover) to keep the buggers off them until the plants were big enough they could handle being a little munched.  It was beautiful to see a whole quadrant of the garden blanketed with big, beautiful squash leaves and then when the first frost killed back the leaves, to see all the different kinds of squash scattered among the field.

Harvesting Tomatoes - 2012
Tomatoes.  Last year we harvested nearly 1,500lbs of fresh, ripe tomatoes whereas this year we barely harvested 500lbs.  A few differences: Last year we irrigated and this year we didn't.  This year I waited until the NCCC crew arrived to plant out tomatoes which ended up being about 2 weeks later than last year. That's potentially two weeks of hundred of pounds of tomatoes being harvested before the first frost killed off the plants.  This year we also planted out more cherry tomatoes than large slicing types. Oh, and there was that early September rain....

Weighing Produce
The 2013 season we grew more cooler weather vegetables; collards, cauliflower, lots of onions, herbs, broccoli, mustard greens, etc.  Whereas last year had higher yields of summer vegetables; cucumbers, eggplants, hot peppers, tomatoes, green beans (a deer helped us harvest a good amount of our green beans this year!).  Overall I don't mind the difference.  Looking at the needs of our community, the local hunger relief agencies really appreciate fresh produce during the "off" season whereas our generous community donates a significant amount of homegrown summer produce reducing the amount we need to provide.  Perhaps that's the future of SAGE -- still growing some of those delicious summer veggies, but affording more space to those "shoulder" season crops which are much needed, but weigh a little less...

Garden Manager

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Assessing the Damage

Smelly decaying dinosaur kale
Walking up to SAGE today there was still a stench to the area.  Not as strong as last week when the snow started to melt, but still distinct.   It's the smell of decaying brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc).  I'm not sure how many people know that smell, but it is unique and in an odd way I love that I recognize it.  I know what different crops smell like as they're decomposing and I love that fact.  I know that sounds weird, but there's a comfort to being so familiar with the plants I partner with and it's also a solid reminder that there is no hiding from the cycle of life and death in farming.

Looking good!

Right now the biggest causality at SAGE is the dinosaur (lacinato or black) kale.  Big and beautiful just a few weeks ago, it is now drooping, a putrid yellow color and smelly.  Luckily most of the Red Russian kale survived and is now a beautiful deep purple after all the cold.  The choi greens (bok, joi, pak), mustard, leeks and chard (protected under Reemay row cover) all survived the cold relatively well (they're alive).   Beets hidden in the insulating qualities of the soil are beautiful and will soon be harvested for Stone Soup.  I appreciate that some things made it through.

Chard, safe under protective Reemay

There are some major bummers we're facing. We'll miss having so many kale plants to harvest from this winter as that was a staple of the produce we delivered, twice a week, to hunger relief agencies last winter.  Patience, another lesson of farming, will now be our practice as we wait for the plants  that survived to bounce back before we start harvesting again. This is the season when fresh food is in short supply at hunger relief agencies, but when demand is still high.  So we'll continue working, with freezing fingers and bright red noses, to do all we can with what we have as we refine the varieties we grow, contemplate the crop protection we utilize and drum up support and resources for protective structures like hoophouses.

Thanks for your support through the winter and please don't shy away from visiting SAGE simply because of the's something to be experienced and brings a better understanding of the reality of growing food (at least that's what I tell myself!).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Help the CEC simply by shopping Amazon!

SAGE under a blanket of snow!
With winter weather blanketing Corvallis and the holiday shopping season under way, there is an easy way to help support the Corvallis Environmental Center.  If you ever use Amazon to make online purchases, you can go through this portal and for every dollar you spend, the CEC receives a percentage!

A frosty Hen and Chick succelent in the shed planter boxes
My first preference for shopping is to purchase local products from local stores as that keeps our money circulating in our community. When that doesn't happen though please think about clicking on this link, click the box that is in the lower left hand side of the page (it says "Click here to begin shopping!...") and then continue on shopping. There are no additional costs to you, no logins, and no strings attached and to help the CEC!