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Hail No

June 1, 2011

For better or for worse I ate no strawberries during my time in California.

There had been some talk of going picking. But there was no reason to believe that the first strawberries of the season would even bear a passing resemblance to the magnificent fruits we got from our CSA during the days Mrs. Fussy and I lived in the region. We were very spoiled, and since then it’s exceedingly rare to find a strawberry that comes close.

Although the strawberries on the buckwheat crepes at Café Fanny looked like they might come close. It was one of my last meals in California and I eschewed the crepes with fresh, seasonal fruit for the simpler ones with homemade jam. That could have been a mistake. At least now there is a passing chance that I’ll be able to enjoy strawberries this summer. Because if the ones at Fanny were as stunning as they looked, I might be in trouble.

I can’t recall if strawberries were ever included in the fruit share from our CSA last year or not. Actually, our farm doesn’t grow the fruit we get, it comes from neighboring producers. But the whole region was clobbered by a hailstorm, which has wreaked havoc on the crops.

According to Roxbury Farm’s original schedule the first delivery was going to be June 6. That’s not going to happen.

Members got an email about the storm that came through with half-inch sized hail and torrential rains that were so intense it killed one of their cows. Some crops were covered, and they were protected. Others were not. The good news is that lettuce was among the crops completely destroyed by hail – last year there was a lot of lettuce, and I’m neither a big fan of washing salad greens nor eating salad. The bad news is that my favorite spring vegetable of peas was moderately to severely damaged. Sniff.

Last year was a bountiful harvest. This year may be a bit thinner, but I do have faith in the abilities of the farm to find a way to produce enough food to feed my family this spring, summer and fall. It is also a good reminder that joining a CSA is not without its risks.

But neither is farming.

And if you want to support small-scale agriculture, it’s important to support local farmers. I suspect, but haven’t heard for certain, that the effects of these spring storms will be seen throughout local farmers markets this spring, and possibly into the summer. Produce may be uglier and it may be more expensive.

Roxbury Farm is lucky to have a base of support from over 1,000 member households. Not all producers are so lucky. In fact they mentioned in their email that neighboring apple orchards have lost four of their past five crops to hail damage. Hail makes nasty welts on and disfigures growing apples to the point where they cannot be sold on the wholesale market. And this can be devastating.

This makes Golden Harvest’s investment in a distillery an even smarter idea.

A cider press doesn’t care what an apple looks like. And a still is far less critical than local cider snobs about the nature of the juice. If it’s sweet, it can be fermented. And if it can be fermented, it can be distilled. And if it can be distilled, it can be turned into vodka. And brandy. And applejack. And pommeau.

Maybe we can look forward to more farm distilleries opening up in the region? That would be awesome. Because organic corn and cover crops like rye can be made into whiskey. Plums can be made into slivovitz. Grapes can be made into brandy. Even the skins, seeds and stems left over from the winemaking process can be turned into grappa.

I have no idea how this farming post turned into a booze post. But farmers are going to have to get crafty, and I guess I’m just hoping that we can all reap the benefits of their creativity. Hail may pose a serious setback, but I hope local producers can persevere. And if there is anything I can do to help, just let me know.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2011 11:57 am

    Your readers can help support one area farmer whose crops have been affected by the recent rains: Farmer Jon’s Produce in Selkirk, NY. They (Farmers Jon & DJ) are not certified organic, but they grow under sustainable practices. They’ve had to dig up and replant a ton of produce in the last couple of weeks. They have a CSA that is $400 for the season, which nets the member $448 in produce (bonus!). The CSA for Farmer Jon’s is a little different than receiving your produce box weekly. Instead, members visit the farmers markets where FJ is a vendor (Delmar, Vorheesville and the new one in Glenmont) and pick out the items they want.

    Jon & DJ have invented a punch card system that allows you to purchase as little as $3-$5 of produce or as much as you need on any given week. There are 20 spots available with just 10 current members. They sure could use a few more! The punch cards are in $112 increments, making the share easy to split with friends. Jon & DJ are friends of ours, they’re friendly and knowledgeable, and they’ve been farmers since they were teenagers. Plus they grow a HUGE variety of produce (and have pork, cornmeal, eggs, more). Please see blog link above for a full listing and bio. They’re working on joining another weekly market since the one at the JCC on Whitehall Rd. is now defunct. Please email Farmer Jon right away at farmerjon at mhcable dot com if you’d like to join.

    And thanks for asking Daniel B…the weather hasn’t been kind to any area farmers. Anything we can do to advocate for them will help. The fact that you are addressing the issue of crop loss and shareholder flexibility brings to light the plight of people who grow our food.

  2. Raf permalink
    June 1, 2011 2:27 pm

    I hear they’re offering a special on naturally tenderized beef.

    • Britin Foster permalink
      June 1, 2011 6:41 pm

      oh Raf, that’s funny.

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