Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Farmer Russ says that this is the kind of year for bankruptcy on some farms.  These are the hard times that you pray never come and hope you have enough reserve to make it through.  We are running irrigation pumps from the ponds from 4:30 in the morning until 9 each night.  We pray for rain because the ponds are not bottomless.  Irrigation water out of the ponds is also just a substitute and not a replacement for a good rain.  The fuel costs of running just the water pumps is staggering.  There will be reduced yields in many crops and sometimes reduced quality.  When a plant is forming it's flower or fruit it needs exactly the right amount of water and sun at exactly the right temperature to form an ideal product.  A miracle of life that is around us every day and that we sometimes overlook in perfect conditions.
     You also asked if prices would increase.  Our operation is two-fold; retail and wholesale.  We can't exist without both of these.  On the retail side we come to Farmer's Markets like Cheverly.  Communities where we have grown close to our customers, and know them by name.  We know what they like, what produce they wait for all season.  We know many times what they do for a living, how big their families are, how many kids they have in college, or if they have a medical problem.  We know what it costs to put healthy fresh food on the table every night and we feel like we're partners in helping our customers to do this.  We hate to raise our prices and we haven't raised them on most of our produce in several years.  Yes, we have to make a living too, but we try always to be very fair.  On the wholesale end, we unfortunately don't get to determine the prices.  We have to accept what they offer or they will go elsewhere.  In a bad year for one region the big chains will just pull from another.  They have to stay in business as well.
     On a good note, in a dry, hot year you will have a reduced incidence of disease in some crops and have less need for crop protectants.  Another benefit is that the fruit will be sweeter because the sugars get concentrated.  The stress of the heat and the drought is physically and mentally challenging, but the fact that halfway across the world in some God forsaken land young men and women the same age as our boys risk their lives every day and don't have the benefit of a few stolen minutes of air conditioning and an ice cold Gatorade, puts the whole thing in perspective and allows us to keep plowing ahead.
     Additionally, on 6/29 we found a baby girl in the cabbage patch.  Kallie Marie Shlagel was born to our oldest Karl, and his wife Apryl.  New life gives us renewed strength and optimism.
Last market day everyone got to meet Farmer Russ, as I had to take Karl's market in Rockville.  This week I'll be back and I'll be bringing: Huge sweet onions (wait until you see these babies), spring onions, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, cantaloupes, watermelon, peaches, blueberries, blackberries, green beans, kale, collards, cabbage, squash, zucchini, specialty peppers and we just started picking eggplant.  I'll also be bringing ciders. I've enclosed a few pictures of Luke doing tractor work in a cloud of dust and some of irrigation water raining down.  See you on Saturday.      Eileen Shlagel

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