REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (as of Sept. 18)
(Starksboro) With our sandy soils we have fared better than many folk this year. However, the spring was still appalling, and it has taken all the summer to recover. The fall crops look good but not great. Prices are strong, and hopefully that will make the difference.
(Shoreham) There have been some bad experiences with veggies on clay this year, what with 6 inches of rain in May and 9 inches in June. I'd guess that 60 percent of my potatoes planted on June 22 rotted, and they were on some of my nicest loam on a side hill! The July 6 planting looks all right (they were planted out of sheer desperation- local wisdom has a July 4 deadline) but unfortunately they are all the oddball varieties I'd reserved for last, in case there wasn't enough space! My direct-seeded melons all rotted except those that were subsequently devoured by slugs, and I have a long list of succession plantings that were missed because I couldn't get in the fields.
(S. Royalton) Things are starting their death spiral. Melons had a great season but watermelon did not do as well. Weather has been cool so there has been slow growth on greens. Toms are starting to look pretty diseased, lots of corn coming in and skunks.
(Madison NY) Cool, dark weather has slowed down salad greens. It's also making it hard to get potatoes out of the ground. Onions are bumper, so are winter squash and leeks. High tunnel peppers and tomatoes are still producing well and we are now sowing winter greens in them. Storage carrots and beets are way behind. They were sown 3 weeks late do to wet weather and flooding. Parsnips look great and we have them under row cover in order to keep rust flies out. We have a horrible time with them every year, sometimes losses are more than 50 percent. I hope that by feeding the infected roots to our new flock of sheep instead of leaving them in the field or composting them we can break the cycle.
(Plainfield) My season has been unpredictable, kind of a roller coaster, not all bad, but cool and wet and slow for some crops. Still waiting on some plantings: corn, lettuce, Chinese greens. I am hoping for a warm October. Great carrot crop. Weak winter squash and pie pumpkins. Scabby potatoes, undermining the theory that drought causes scab. Still waiting for ripe colored peppers to mature in a greenhouse. Cabbage, kale, chard look great. Serenade and a fish and seaweed spray have kept next year’s strawberry crop looking fit. They have been cultivated and hilled with a Lilliston. Cherry tomato greenhouse winding down, except the Favoritas, which have all their leaves and are still loaded with green fruit. Finally mowing fields, planting cover crops, turning compost.
(North Poultney) We've had the best crop of ripe and green peppers we've had in years. Usually by now we'll have more spotting and the new blossoms will slow down, but they're still coming. With onions, we had great luck with growing on plastic for the first time this year. The tops did decline as usual but made good size without having to spray. First 3 plantings of cukes did well, after that the leaves started browning and died on the last planting. Squash bugs seem to be getting worse on our farm. Glad to see some sun again and warmer temperatures to ripen our tomatoes and lettuce mix.
(Argyle NY) Leaves are changing, so maybe an early fall? Row covers were put on many crops last week when temps were below 40 degrees at night. It's been a year with very few insects but lots of late-season diseases (mostly cucurbits). We are planting the Chandler strawberry plants (plugs) that we raised ourself from tips quite successfully (and saved lots of money). Fall brassicas look real good and we're on our last patch of sweet corn that never had any insect issues. Farmers' markets have been quite strong all of September, which is great due to the large diversity of fall/summer crops, and finally having spinach back in full production helps also!
(Wilmington) Wanted: between 800 and 1000 Atlantic Giant, Prize Winner or Big Mac Pumpkins in Sept. Janet Boyd, The Boyd Family Farm, 802-464-5618.
(Stamford) Still picking peppers eggplant and pole beans. Cukes are gone. Was a good year for them. Jalepeno was a bumper crop. Selling gladiolas everyday. Sales are really good, everyone loves flowers. Might move deeper in that direction next year. Tomato crop was a disaster. Along with the poor weather I just couldn't keep up. Many other growers had poor results this season too. Winter squash still needs to be harvested, this week for sure. Everything ran late this year but overall I was satisfied under the circumstances. Did all the market days with full compliment of produce. Restaurant sales were good. Gained new customers and some old ones back. Still have a month of markets left this season. The summer is just about gone. I will miss it for sure, but also looking forward to wrapping up the season this year.
(Little Compton, RI) The last two months have been nice with timely rains and sunny weather. However, we are still feeling the effects of the June rains. Our field tomatoes have never been worse as they are full of low quality fruit. Another big loss will be our winter squashes and pumpkins. Even though we replanted on plastic, we did not get good growth before powdery mildew came on two weeks ago. No large pumpkins for the CSA this year. Our greenhouse hanging cherry tomatoes are coming on strong. We grew ten different varieties and Whole Foods is buying up the mixed varieties by the barrel.
KEEP YOUR FRESH SPINACH AND OTHER PRODUCTS SAFE!
National attention once again is focused on food safety due to the contamination of fresh, bagged (I repeat, bagged) spinach grown in California. There is no evidence that fresh bunched spinach is involved in this episode, so you can reassure your customers about that. However, now is the time to make sure you are following the Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) necessary to prevent microbial contamination of fresh produce.
A practical GAPs self-assessment for farms, with worksheets that can be printed out, is at: www.gaps.cornell.edu/farmassessmentws.html. A very detailed self-audit for growers is at: http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/filelibrary/5453/4362.pdf. The ‘Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables’ from the US Food and Drug Administration is at: www.foodsafety.gov/%7Edms/prodguid.html
To summarize what GAPs are, I’ve adapted the following from the Cornell Univ. pamphlet ‘Food Safety Begins on the Farm’ which can be printed from: www.gaps.cornell.edu/PUBS/PamphletEng.pdf
STEPS TO MINIMIZE PATHOGEN CONTAMINATION DURING PRODUCTION AND HARVEST OF FRESH PRODUCE
Select Produce Fields Carefully. Review land history for prior use and applications of sludge or animal manure. Choose fields upstream from animal housings. Know upstream uses of surface water and test water quality as needed. Prevent runoff or drift from animal operations from entering produce fields.
Use Manure properly. In the fall, if applying manure to planned vegetable ground, do so preferably when soils are warm (>50°F), non-saturated, and cover cropped. In spring, incorporate manure at least two weeks prior to planting. Whenever possible, incorporate manure. Do NOT harvest produce within 120 days after fresh manure application. Keep records of application rates, source, and dates. Avoid root / leafy crops if manure is applied in spring. Plant agronomic or perennials crops where manure is applied in spring.
ABSOLUTELY DO NOT SIDEDRESS FOOD CROPS with fresh or slurry manure or manure ‘tea’ or mulches containing fresh manure. It is OK to sidedress with mature composts or compost teas.
Exclude Animals. NO grazing of livestock near produce fields. Minimize wild and domestic animal traffic in produce fields.
Assure Irrigation Water Quality. Municipal drinking water is low risk. Potable well water is minimal risk if the well casing is maintained and livestock are excluded from the active recharge area. Surface water is higher risk. Test water quarterly or at intervals during the season (beginning, mid or high draw, and at harvest), especially if water source passes near livestock or sewage treatment. Maintain records of water tests. Filter or use settling ponds to improve water quality. Use potable water for crop protection sprays. Where feasible, use drip irrigation to reduce crop wetting and minimize risk. Apply overhead irrigation early in the day so leaves dry quickly.
Maintain Cleanliness During Harvest. Check that harvest containers are clean and in good repair. High-pressure wash and sanitize bins prior to harvest and clean bins daily during harvest. Remove excess soil from bins in field. Ensure that packing containers are not overfilled and protect produce adequately from bruising and damage. Avoid standing in the bins during harvest to reduce pathogen spread by shoes. Minimize bruising of produce during harvest. Remove excess soil from produce in the field.
Promote Worker Hygiene. Teach workers about microbial risks and the importance of hygiene. Provide and maintain clean restrooms in or near the field and in food handling areas. Supply soap, clean water and single-use towels for hand washing and enforce use.
Promote Cleanliness at U-Pick. Invite customers to wash
their hands prior to entering fields. Provide clean and convenient restrooms.
Supply soap, clean water, and single-use
towels and encourage use.
Keep Produce Cool. Cool produce quickly to minimize growth of potential pathogens. Use ice made from potable water. Store produce at appropriate temperatures to maintain good quality. Do not overload coolers.
Post-Harvest Handling. Use potable water for all produce washes. Maintain clean water in dump tanks by sanitizing and changing water regularly. Chlorinate wash water and monitor chlorine levels. Maintain 150 ppm for leafy vegetables and up to 500 ppm for other crops if conditions warrant. (note: organic growers will have to dilute this water to 4 ppm prior to draining it in order to meet national standards, check with your certifier). Maintain water pH at 6.0-7.0 to assure that the chorine is effective. Provide a final rinse if using >100 ppm chlorine. Avoid tank water temperatures more than 10°F cooler than produce temperature (so produce won’t absorb wash water). Clean and sanitize loading, staging, and all food contact surfaces at end of each day. Exclude all animals, especially rodents and birds from the packing house. No smoking or eating in packing area.
Transportation and Refrigeration. Check and clean trucks prior to loading. Sanitize if animals were previously hauled. Pre-cool vehicles prior to loading. Ensure that refrigeration equipment is working properly.
ADVICE SOUGHT FOR GREENHOUSE PROJECT
The UVM Extension Master Gardener program offers a certificate training program to inmates at four state correctional facilities. The women participants at the Southeast State Correctional Facility earn required community volunteer hours by growing produce for their facility as well as the food bank. A grant has provided them with a 20 by 40 foot greenhouse and this fall they will try to grow crops for winter harvest. They need and would appreciate guidance from an experienced greenhouse grower. Your advice could be provided through visits to the greenhouse and/or emails to their vocational counselor. The amount and duration of time contributed is determined by you. Willing to help? Please contact Pepper Tepperman at 802-674-1113 or email email@example.com
TRIBUTE TO RAY PESTLE
For 31 years, starting in 1945, Ray Pestle was the Windham County Agricultural Agent with UVM Extension. He followed that with another 30 years of consulting for farmers. He was still scouting fields this past summer shortly before he passed away at age 85. Ray was an encyclopedia of agriculture. He knew about cows, and he knew about crops. He knew all the pests of vegetables and fruits. He knew soil, he knew fertilizers, and he knew marketing. To top it off, Ray knew taxes, and he helped many farm families prepare their returns every year. Ray was also a gentleman. He was humble, and he treated everyone with respect. Rather than resist new ideas, he embraced them. He loved to learn, he loved to teach, and he loved the land. Ray helped a lot of people, including a clueless young extension agent who arrived in Vermont in 1990. We will all miss him.
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