And now, to finally follow up on those sweet potato slips…they grew to produce about 2,300 lbs. of quality roots! What a haul.
Volunteers, including some of the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation folks, provided some much needed muscle for ripping out 800 feet of vines and digging. (At the end of one big work day we all we rewarded with BBQ cooked on site.) We also had help from Inter-Faith Food Shuttle staff and volunteers.
A second fertilization and planting them in an area that had been only minimally tilled since the last season made a big difference, we think. The yield of usable tubers would’ve been higher, but some unwelcome residents did quite a lot of gnawing on them – and they helped themselves to the watermelons, too. The rodents hide under the vine cover, and our red tailed hawks don’t seem to spot them. (A local family with hogs on their homestead made use of the mangled potatoes.)
Our tomato yield was this season’s disappointment. We lost the battle against tomato fruit worms, and overall plant vigor and fruit production was low. This probably had something to do with the plants having to deal with the hoop house soil, which was compacted from grading during the structure’s construction (boy, we put that tiller through the ringer). When it comes down to it, soil is everything.
But crop diversification helps balance out these kinds of losses. In addition to the sweet potatoes, our watermelons performed fantastically. We harvested about 4,500 lbs. of juicy goodness from 800 feet.
This summer we’ve expanded our operation to include “selling” some of our produce to Raleigh restaurants, including Garland, Poole’s Diner and Beasely’s, in exchange for a market-value donation to the non-profit organization Passage Home. Passage Home’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty for communities in Wake County by connecting families and neighborhoods to resources and opportunities. (The rest of our produce is still routed to Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and other organizations that feed the hungry.)
Growing crops for chefs has provided new challenges. For one, we have to be even more aware of the vegetables’ appearance, so minimizing insect and disease damage is even more of a focus. Because we’re growing for chefs who like to get creative with their dishes and sometimes cook with less common vegetables, we’ve also gotten to venture into new crops, such as tatsoi, pink-eyed peas, meslcun mix and daikon radish. And we get to have a little more fun when seed ordering: things like purple carrots, green striped tomatoes and orange watermelon are possibilities now!
And another way we’ve grown – this fall we welcomed a second full-time employee, Anna Brockenbrough, as our farm technician. Anna comes from a culinary arts background, which is quite helpful now that we’ve stretched into the world of chefs. She’s interested in the slow food movement and horticultural therapy. She volunteers at the Helping Horse Therapeutic Riding Center in Wake County. Anna is known to be a bit mischievous and has an uncanny ability to sing a line or two from a song and get it stuck in people’s heads all day, her specialty being ‘80s pop tunes…
Here are some more pictures of our summer bounty. Our onions, okra and potatoes did well, and with the help of volunteers we made about 50 beautiful garlic braids from some of the bulbs we harvested and then dried in a shady, warm building:
And as always, we focused on creating habitat and food sources for beneficial insects:
Well, that’s quite a bit of info – in the next post we’ll talk fall crops. Thanks for reading!