This Week on the Farm 10/28
I can’t believe it is the end of the season! Tyler and I are very pleased with how this season went, especially given the early flooding in June that basically wiped out all of our cabbage crops for the year. Other crops made up for the loss of those crops in increased productivity (ie the beans, more beans, and extra beans!), but we are looking forward to cabbages, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, etc. in everyone’s boxes next year. We now know the topography and soil structure variations in the back field where the flooding caused the most damage, so I am confident that we will be able to address those issues next spring.
We are also going to tweak our irrigation system next year, which should help overall productivity. With the current system we have to run an entire field of drip tape at one time. We did this because the valves that connect the drip tape to the header line were significantly cheaper than ones that can be turned on/off, and when you are working on a budget you sometimes are pennywise and pound foolish. After this year we learned that the extra expense of being able to turn on/off individual drip lines is worth it and we will be replacing all of the valves for 2014.
Before I mention anything else Tyler and I would like to thank all of the people who came out to the farm to help us each week this season. Without all of their hard work (and it is very hard work), especially on Wednesdays, we would not have been able to harvest, wash, and pack your boxes. Over the course of the season over twenty five people have helped us on harvest days, so providing food to this many families is really a group effort!
On this last newsletter of the 2013 season, I wanted to make sure that you are all aware of the current legislation that will impact all local farmers, be it CSA farms like us, or even market growers. The Food Safety & Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 as a way to shift the focus from responding to food contamination to preventing it. I think that everyone agrees that this is an excellent idea, but the current wording of the law is extremely problematic. The current version of the law provides exemptions for many small farms, but in many cases these exemptions can be rescinded without proof of any contamination having occurred, or if you are considered a “facility.” With our partnership with Lapacek’s Orchard for the apple share, we are considered a facility and would not be exempt from the FSMA.
Here are a few of the requirements that will impact how we are able to farm:
Composted Manure can only be applied if there is a 45 day interval between application and harvest. Current National Organic Program (NOP) guidelines do not require an interval. Example: We would not be able to apply Chickity Doo Doo to direct seeded lettuce in the spring because by the time we were able to harvest the lettuce, especially if it is a warm spring like 2012, the lettuce may have bolted.
Uncomposted Manure can only be applied with a nine month interval between application and harvest. NOP guidelines require 90 between application and harvest for non-root crops, and 120 days for crops that are in contact with the soil. Example: We normally apply horse and cow manure in late October or early November once our season is over. We would not be able to harvest any crops from those fields until the end of July, effectively cutting eight to nine weeks off of our season.
Water testing is required so that we know the nitrate levels of the water and to make sure that there is no harmful bacteria in the water. Farms like us that are not on municipal wells will be required to test our water every three months. Additionally if we hold water in a bulk tank, those “reservoirs” will be need to be tested once a month. Example: Based on the current legislation, the cost to test our water each year would increase sixteen fold. That would total about 5% of our gross income. That number is significant enough that we would be forced to pass that cost onto our members.
There are more rules that will impact our ability to farm, I just don’t have the space on this newsletter to write about them all. To learn more go to http://www.youngfarmers.org/fsma-facts/#top.
To send a comment to the FDA electronically go to http://www.regulations.gov and make sure to identify your comment under Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0921 and/or Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 0910-AG35. With your help we and other farmers will be able to continue farming and to provide you with safe, locally grown produce.