Monday, September 7, 2009

"Everyone Will Know You're a Farmer Now!"

We recently pulled up all of the old broccoli and cauliflower plants to make room for the fall planting. As you can see, there was quite a lot of plant debris. Maia, one of our young farmers, observed the mess in my car. As she watched me prepare to climb in and drive home, she declared, "Everyone will know you're a farmer now!"

My life as a gardener included successes and failures, but the failures were relatively small in scale and only affected my family (who were so happy about the other fresh produce they were eating, they weren't bothered by anything else). But I've found that making the switch to "farming" and producing food for other families can magnify both the victories and the not-so-stellar endings.

Last year I grew a small patch of broccoli with lovely results. This year I (along with the hard-working HG crew) planted bed after bed of broccoli and cauliflower seedlings. We devoted quite a bit of space to these plants, so we were anticipating a good harvest. We watched the plants grow large, with big healthy leaves.

Then.... nothing. Or almost nothing. A couple of the plants produced sad little heads of cauliflower, but really there was not much else to speak of. The other gardeners and I looked at the seemingly healthy plants and shook our heads. We waited and waited, but eventually knew that the plants were hogging lots of great garden space and needed to go. So, the plants went to feed the chickens and goats. What a bonanza! They were thrilled.

I did a bit of research and learned that there are many reasons why cruciferous plants may fail to produce a head. Some sources said that uneven spring temperatures (long periods of cold followed by hot, instead of a steady progression) could be the problem. Also, over-rich soil can produce lush plants but no heads. Whatever the causes for this year's problem, we're going to scale WAY back on our broccoli/cauliflower production next year until we can get things worked out, and only then will we expand to growing it on a larger scale.

It's humbling to see that, despite your best efforts, nature isn't performing the way you'd like it to. And really, it's that - not my messy car - that really makes me feel like a farmer.

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