Fresh Earth Farms - CSA

Happy New Year 2024!

2024 Garlic!

When I looked at my calendar I noticed it was December 2023 so not only is it a good time for you to buy your share but also for me to buy another calendar! Order through the store or if rejoining just send in the money via check, Zelle or Paypal. Let me know if you have any questions!

And while you are at it, how about ordering one to many of our add-on products like eggs, coffee or mushrooms? We now have prices for everything in our store so do not hesitate!

Might as well tell all your friends, neighbors, co-workers to join as well!

Tech News

With all the tech stuff we farmers have to do these days I decided I need to add a new section of the newsletter called Tech News.

Two companies you may have heard of (I’m not sure I have) — Google and Yahoo — have decided to make the lives of email users better by making the lives of farmers more difficult. What they doing is forcing us farmers (and I suppose other organizations who send out emails to their customers, but who cares about those organizations) to “adhere” to their email “requirements” so that there is a “reduction” in “spam” (my scare quotes, not theirs). I suppose this is a noble cause but why not use AI to solve their problem instead of putting their problems on us poor farmers? Anyway, I had to put on my sysadmin hoodie and add some DNS records to my domain — like I have extra DNS records just lying around the farm. The reason I mention this is if you don’t receive this newsletter, or more likely the February newsletter, it is probably in your spam folder. If so, please let me know so I can find that sysadmin hoodie and try to resolve the issue.

Also, while I had my hoodie on, I decided to modify the newsletter format for delivery via email. Let me know if you like the new look!

How about some sunflowers to brighten our otherwise dreary winter.

Farm News

Last newsletter I talked about the 100 Farms study we participated in with the University of Minnesota. To briefly summarize, they were looking for the cause of decreases in high tunnel production over time. They had four hypotheses: Salt accumulation, low nutrient levels, changes in pH, and fundamental soil issues. Their results eliminated the first two hypotheses but couldn’t rule out the last two. I mentioned I had a fifth hypothesis which I’d outline in a future newsletter. Let’s have this newsletter be that newsletter.

I hypothesis that the reason that high tunnels’ production decreases over time is the increase in disease levels in the high tunnel’s soil — in particular verticillium wilt. Let’s look at the reasons for this hypothesis.

First, we had our tunnel’s soil tested two years ago and it was found to have a high presence of verticillium. QED!

Just because you have it doesn’t mean it is the cause of the issues across the state. We need more Farmer Chris! Sure, the second reason I think this is that verticillium affects a large, diverse selection of crops. It isn’t a one crop or one family disease. So having it present in the soil would make many crops falter in their production.

Alright. You’re making a bit more of an argument but I’m still not convinced. Ok. How about this: another factor that is interesting about verticillium is that it affects different plants differently. One crop could succumb quickly to verticillium whereas another may not die until it is past the usual time for harvest. For example, spinach isn’t affected by it until after its vegetative stage so those farmers who grow spinach in their hoop houses probably don’t see the problem. But when they say rotate into tomatoes they suddenly see a decrease in the production of their tomato plants. We’ve certainly seen this.

Ok, I’m starting to get your point but do you have anything else to back you up? Sure! This past year we planted sweet potatoes in our high tunnel. We also planted sweet potatoes out in the field. Sweet potatoes are not susceptible to verticillium. In the field we grew them on black plastic. In the high tunnel after we planted them we placed black landscape fabric in the aisles. So we created the two environments to be as similar to each other as possible. When looking at the production, the indoor sweet potatoes produced better than the outdoor sweet potatoes. If there were “generic” production problems in hoop houses, say like fertility or pH or soil structure, then we should have seen worse production of the sweet potatoes in the high tunnel. But we didn’t. So I contend it isn’t something that is a general growing issue and instead is something specific but that affects a wide assortment of crops — but not every crop.

Ok, you convinced me. Got anything else? Yes, and this I think is the most effective data. Two years ago we did an experiment where we grafted half of our tomato plants onto verticillium resistant rootstock. We then transplanted them plus non-grafted tomatoes into the high tunnel. The plants on the grafted rootstock performed far better than the non-grafted plants. Not just a little better but very noticeably better. And the grafted plants kept producing into the fall when the others had already given up. So it seems to me that verticillium is the cause of the decline in production in our high tunnel, and therefore it has to be the cause of decline in everyone’s high tunnel! QED again!

Actually our one example doesn’t prove this is true everywhere but I suspect that many of the high tunnels have verticillium. Verticillium is quite ubiquitous and easily transmitted through infected seeds. It is also hard to get rid of since it has so many hosts. So perhaps the next study for the 100 farms should focus on diseases in high tunnels. It is something to consider.

Joke of the Week?

Starting your own farm is easy, but picking all of the vegetables?
That’s the harvest part.

As always, let me know if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, orders, jokes or other things you think would interest me or our farm fans!

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