Even though plants don’t go in the ground until March, the farming season really begins in November. Most plants are out of the field by then, and farm is put to bed for the winter, so our thoughts turn to planning the next season. Last November, we set a harvest target of 8,000 pounds for 2019, and as of the 6th of November 2019, we harvested 7,905 lbs. With three rows of carrots, three rows of green onions, as well as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli still left in the field for another two weeks, we should hit 8,000 by the end of the calendar year!
Pounds are only one way that we measure the work of the farm:
- We also harvested 38 different kinds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs
- If we sold our produce through a CSA or farmers market, the direct market value of our crops was around $30,000
- We harvested and delivered produce 50 times from May-November
- We added more cultural and specialty foods including 5 lbs of ginger in the hoophouse! We also grew epazote (a mexican herb) for the first time, and it was wildly productive. We also grew dill for the first time and it was an underachiever.
We learned a lot and know what we need to do better next season for these crops (mostly choose a better variety, and fertilize more). Every farming season has its triumphs and disappointments, and the goal is to steadily increase the former, and minimize the latter as much as possible.
Our summer squash production was huge. We averaged almost 3 pounds per bed foot of squash, the highest of any crop. Whenever new gardeners ask what they should grow at home, we recommend zucchini. It’s almost bulletproof, and grows productively in most soils. It is important to keep it watered regularly, and plan for two or three plantings across the season to keep production high.
We struggled with carrots and broccoli in 2018, but we crushed them in 2019! We grew almost 500 pounds of carrots and we are on track to grow even more in 2020. Everyone loves carrots and they are one of the crops that genuinely tastes better when grown locally. Broccoli is the absolutely most requested vegetables from food bank customers, and we finally had really solid production over the whole season with nice sized heads.
Lettuce is another crop that we struggled with in 2018 but, with closer attention to choosing different varieties for different seasons, we really streamlined production. One of the most joyous things about the way we grew lettuce this season is that we mixed all the varieties for each season together and planted them together. They were so beautiful to watch grow, and volunteers regularly commented on how lovely they made the farm.
We had a crop failure in the greenhouse of eggplant and peppers which resulted in no eggplant at all, and only a few dozen pounds of peppers this season. We know what went wrong, and we are on track to fix the problem for the 2020 season. Proper heat, lighting, and fertilizer in the greenhouse are critical to the success of those babies in the greenhouse.
Our tomato crop was afflicted on both ends. As soon as the tomatoes started turning red on the vine, the neighborhood crows started pecking holes in them. We have never had crows act like that on the farm before, and they didn’t stop until we put up some flashy tape that kept them out of the tomato rows. The remarkably cool, wet summer we had also resulted in the tomatoes getting late blight in September, meaning that we lost an entire month+ of production moving into the fall. They went from having a few brown speckles on the stems to the whole plant turning black in about 10 days. We ripped them out, and a volunteer took them to a local industrial composting facility. The kind of composting we do on the farm doesn’t kill the late blight, and any compost we made from those plants would have added more disease to the beds it was applied to. Despite these challenges, we still harvested over 500 pounds of tomatoes this summer.
Despite some challenging weather, this was our most productive, organized, and comfortable season yet. For the first time we weren’t working on any major infrastructure projects, so all of our focus was on crop production and teaching our students, interns, and volunteers. We want everyone who comes to the farm to learn something new and leave knowing that they made their community stronger and more resilient. A huge thank you to everyone who helped out this growing season and to our South King County community that continues to provide endless love and support.
If you are interested in the specific pounds we harvested this season, take a look at the chart below.