“The Year the Grinch Stole Tomato Season”

Our old friend and fellow farmer, Megan Haney, opened her farm’s weekly e-newsletter thusly:

“Had Dr. Seuss lived through this summer, he might years from now be hailed as the man who gave us … “The Year the Grinch Stole Tomato Season.”  Only the culprit in this case is the Late Blight, and Cindy Lou is nowhere in sight.”

Our culprit wasn’t just late blight, though I think late blight definitely put in an appearance.  It was also early blight, septoria, and general wetness.  I think we were in a bit of denial about our field tomatoes over the past couple of weeks, hoping that if we just left them alone they would eventually recover and do their thing.  A walkthrough before today’s harvest, however, revealed the painfully obvious:  our tomatoes were going nowhere (dying plants and very, very little fruit production) and needed to go, as they possibly posed a treat to our still reasonably healthy greenhouse tomatoes and our potato beds.

So, if you smelled or saw smoke rising from our hill this morning, those were our tomato plants meeting their maker.  Kate and I pulled the plants while Sonya tended the fire, which we decided was the way to go rather than bagging the plants and hauling them to the dump as we did last month (this was precautionary; since late blight spores are so easy to spread, any infected plants must be removed from the premises or burned…simply composting them is not wise.)  Of course, the rain returned and snuffed out our fire, so I’ll be trying to finish the burn tomorrow while the gals are at the Bridgton market.

Just to state the obvious, this is a huge bummer.  Tomatoes are an important part of our business and are usually a big part of everyone’s shares around this point in the season.  Last season (not a great one, either, but one that’s looking better and better by comparison) we were able to give folks several pounds each week for many weeks.  We will continue to pass along what we can get from the 2 rows of cherries and 2 rows of “bigs” growing in the greenhouse…savor them!  The end of our field tomatoes raises all sorts of other issues as well, and I’ll quote Megan again since she states it so well (Megan and Sonya worked together for several seasons at Riverbank Farm in Roxbury, CT.  Megan has since started her own veggie operation, Marble Valley Farm, in Kent, CT, where she has a CSA and a hopping weekend farm stand.  Megan’s e-newsletter is well worth subscribing to simply to experience the author’s humor, intelligence, enthusiasm, and clever wordplay.)  She says:

“As much as I’ve been in denial about it, I can’t overstate the importance of this epidemic to myself and my fellow vegetable farmers in our community, most of whom count tomatoes as an anchor crop.  We’re far better off than the 19th-century Irish, but we’re looking at significant income losses, some pressing short-term management questions (how to prevent the blight from affecting our potatoes?), as well as some long-term ones (is this year’s weather a consequence of global climate change, and are we going to have to let go of tomatoes as a cash crop?).”

Good questions, all.

Thanks to our Allen Ave. CSAers for braving the rain this afternoon to pick up this week’s bounty and for your kind words of support and encouragement during the very wet end of what was, obviously, a very challenging day.

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