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JOURNAL #8, May 17, 2020

Posted 6/5/2020 4:39pm by Esther.

Farming During a Pandemic Journal #8, May 17, 2020

Licking Creek Bend Farm

Michael Tabor Arriving at the farm on a cloudy, windy, wet, cold day felt like I took a trip back to November.  Sunday morning, May 10th, brought a frost with 20° temperature.  Most of our tomatoes in the high tunnel were wiped out.  About 20% of the new needles on the Douglas Fir trees were also damaged (see the brown on the tree) but the other varieties of Christmas Trees are fine.  Some of the summer squash even under 3 layers of protective cover were hurt.      

On the positive side, the new apples seem unhurt and we're waiting to see about the pears, peaches and other fruit.  The spring garden has been filled with compost and ready for planting.  Our "hardening" green house is bulging with beets, swiss chard, broccoli, kale and more. These will be transplanted this week.  Our overwintering herbs, left at a neighbor's greenhouse, that came back loaded with white flies (a common occurance), are now free of insects due to the soapy spray we used and are ready for transplant. 

Our onions are all coming up and we'll have plenty of green and purple scallions for our CSA customers and farm markets.  The garlic is ready to send up their "scapes" that will also be available for making pesto and in any dish where tasty garlic is warranted (that could be all dishes!).        

Dawn broke on Tuesday with clouds filling the sky.  Temperatures are supposed to be sunny in the 80's at the end of the week but this morning it is 37°. I'm munching on cooked apples, cinnamon and oats with my morning coffee.  I'm hoping for no wind or rain so I can spray all the nutritious potions on the trees.  A farmer has to be optimistic - cynicism or negativity is not an option      .

On Wednesday it's again 37° and I'm going to finish spraying the fruit trees that have exchanged their blossoms for leaves.  The "Surround", a protective clay combined with an organic spray will hopefully discourage the plum cucurlio, the scourge of our fruit trees.  The staff started their day using 4 gallon solo backpacks (picture of Laura) to reach areas of the trees I couldn't spray. I spent a good chunk of the day working with the Christmas trees.  Rather than use herbicides, I burned the spots where I'll plant this year with a propane torch and kill the weeds and ready the ground for this year's seedlings.  Our trees, when they're ready in 8-15 years, are  mostly bought for many many years by the same customers who appreciate pesticide-free, sustainably grown methods.  Next week we're planting 200 trees to replace those sold last Christmas.  

The nights on the farm are very quiet so here's a bonus memory from my early days on the farm. ....

"TRAVELING THE BACK ROADS SO I WOULDN'T GET WEIGHED" When I first started farming in 1972, I wasn’t able to “break even” – the cost of raising and harvesting feed (oats, wheat and Corn) was simply too much for me to afford to nurture the hogs, sheep (over 100!) and goats (we made cheese). So, I started searching for ways I could earn some cash to support the farm operation. This is often the way a lot of farms operate – the wife or husband holds down an outside job in order to pay farm bills.  I also started growing vegetables and there were several fruit trees already on the farm I started caring for. What I did do was an adventure and gamble and, I suppose I can talk about since the “statute of limitations” is long past.  It was probably highly illegal and could have cost me jail time (I’d been arrested a few times at civil rights and anti-war protests). I bought an old dual-rear end stick-shift “International 45” truck with a 20 foot body and 6 wheels, loaded it up with over 300 boxes of apple cider pressed in Fredereick, MD and trucked it down to 2 Florida co-ops and a community health food store near Sarasota.

I came back with a pre-ordered load of pesticide-free citrus – Duncan grapefruit, Mineola oranges, avocados and other pesticide-free fruits that were not available in stores because they had not been dyed, waxed and factory processed.  I went around from family orchard to co-ops and filled the truck with fruit prohibited by the Florida Citrus Commission (“Come to the Florida Citrus Tree” song by Anita Bryant, songstress of the Industry). The corporate-growers and processors felt that un-processed Florida citrus was not pretty enough to compete with California’s which was not as tasty by prettier.  So only processed citrus was allowed to be sold out of state and by limiting the amount, the prices were artificially inflated. I smuggled the citrus out of the state, through the back roads (…..”so I wouldn’t get weighed”) in the dead of night, through swamp land. 

The Industry had armed guards protecting the Suannee River boundary and could legally pursue you if spotted, into Georgia. (Eventually I did get caught and jailed one time, but that’s another story). So, I took the pre-ordered citrus to the Washington area co-ops – Glut, Beautiful Day Trading Company, Stone Soup and Fields of Plenty (such wonderful names!), TPSS and Bethesda Co-ops as well as our farmers market in Adams Morgan, one of the first neighborhood market in the DC area. 

I want to be clear, that was in my “yute” (I'm from Brooklyn in the 50's) and our markets today are completely compliant with all government regulations and we don't sell produce not grown in our region! Eventually I sold all my animals and for the last 43 years have been growing pesticide-free vegetables and fruit and sometimes bring down produce from my neighbors who also grow produce pesticide-free or IPM (integrated pest management). But that was another time!

Our markets start the first week in June and we're pleased to announce that our CSA Subsidy Program now has 20 families signed up, thanks to your generous support both financially and through connecting families to the program. We'll keep truckin' and hope to see you at our CSA pick ups in Takoma Park and markets: Tuesdays, Brookland, 4-7pm at 10th and Otis, under the bridge by the Brookland Metro Saturdays, Adams Morgan, 8am - 1pm at Suntrust Plaza, 18th Street and Columbia Rd.

FARM VISIT DAY, SUNDAY, MAY 31, 2020 11:00AM - 4:30PM (cancelled for this season)