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

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