Lately I have been thinking of two pieces of advice I received at two different phases of my life. One was from my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Bogosian. In 10th grade he told my class (paraphrasing) "the harmfulness of a substance is a function of dose and time of exposure". A high dose for a short time can be harmful, but so can a low dose for a long period of time. The other piece of advice came from Andy Dunham, my former employer at Grinnell Heritage Farm. He told me that after the floods of 2008, he learned not to harp on bad news or apologize too much in his newsletters to CSA shareholders. Don't deny setbacks but keep the tone positive, he said.
I'm trying to follow both those pieces of advice this week and for the rest of the season. As I've dealt with the aftermath of the herbicide drift that occurred last week, Mr. Bogosian's advice came back to me yesterday like a mantra for our modern life. We are exposed to chemicals from all sides, and looking after ourselves is a matter of harm reduction rather than total avoidance. I believe low doses of certain chemicals over a long period of time are harmful, which is one of the reasons why I choose to eat organic and to farm organically. To me, it's a conservative stance; we don't fully know the concentrations or the consequences of the chemicals that may be in or on our food, so its best to minimize our exposure as much as we can. I have sent air and plant samples from the farm for testing but I will have to wait weeks, probably months, before I get any results. Even when I have those results, I am not sure exactly what they will tell me, beyond the presence or absence of particular herbicides. I cannot put everything on hold until then.
Given these circumstances, I have to make a judgment call about the produce on the farm. Since the drift occurred, most of the plants have recovered and are no longer showing obvious signs of damage. I think that a combination of time, natural recovery, moisture, lower temperatures, and the foliar sprays I have been using have all contributed to this recovery. Some plants are still showing significant damage and its uncertain how long they will be affected and whether they will survive or produce a full yield. I am once again amazed at the resilience of plants. Just when I have written them off, they surprise me again. I've decided that given the recovery I've seen in most of the plants over the last week and the willingness that many of you have indicated to continue receiving produce from the farm, I will proceed with the CSA as I intended. If any of you are uncomfortable with continuing to receive produce from the farm, I fully understand and will make a refund of your CSA payment less the produce you have already received. You came into this arrangement expecting chemical free produce and that is what I intended to deliver. I feel its important at this juncture to give you that "out" before the season continues. I welcome any questions you have and as always I will try to be as transparent and honest as possible about what I am doing. I will continue to make individual decisions about whether to market produce or not based on its condition in the field.
I'm also trying to follow that second piece of advice and so I do not want to belabor the herbicide drift and its aftermath. I can say at this point that what happened has prompted a very necessary dialogue on the farm about how to avoid chemical drift in the future and we are working towards making some significant and exciting changes as a result. As is often the case, what initially seem like disasters often turn into blessings in disguise.
One of my favorite parts of farming is the first harvest of any crop. After all the planning, work, uncertainty, and worry that accompany each planting, the payoff comes in that first harvest. There are a number of new crops in the share this week, including sugar snap and snow peas (which should be available next week as well), kohlrabi (and again next week), and new potatoes, which will continue through the harvest of mature potatoes in four to six weeks.
The sour cherries this week come from several trees on the farm that predate my arrival there significantly. It has turned out to be an excellent year for local fruit so far, probably in part due to the fact that many trees did not bear any fruit last year because of the late frost that killed early blooming flowers. I think the late spring (which delayed flowering until well after killing frosts) and significant moisture have also contributed to the abundant fruit. Be forewarned the cherries do have pits and as their name suggests are not very sweet. However, I will say that the best jam I ever made was from sour cherries (sugar can do wonders) and I love to snack on them this time year.
For wild edibles this week, I am offering purslane (repeat from two weeks ago), which has sized up significantly with the heat and moisture, and mulberries. Although there are native red mulberry trees, these mulberries come from Asian white mulberries, which are a common introduced species in our area. Mulberries were originally imported to the eastern United States for silk production, since silkworms will only feed on mulberry leaves. The berries ripen from green to red to dark purple, resembling a long narrow blackberry. Mulberries are not particularly sweet, especially when compared with other berries that we commonly consume, but they do have a good flavor and work well when cooked or used in baking. Because of their thin skins and high water content, they do not store well, so use them as soon as possible after you receive them.
For delivery Friday, July 5. Please e-mail email@example.com with your order (for items from all categories) by 11 pm on Tuesday night, July 2. If you would like 1 unit of each produce item listed under "Standard" below, simply put "standard share" in the subject line. If you are getting the standard share, extra items will need to be ordered separately.
Carrots and beets are both sizing up and could be available as soon as next week. There are also zucchini babies growing on the plants, so they may also make an appearance next week. I will be beginning garlic harvest within the next two weeks and will make the transition from offering scapes to uncured bulbs of garlic at that time.
Thank you again for your e-mails of support and encouragement. Although I haven't responded individually to all of them, know that I've read and appreciated each one.