After surviving catastrophic wildfires, devastating ice storms, and extreme and prolonged heat waves, farmers are wondering what mother nature has in store for us this year. We are still struggling to overcome supply chain shortages from COVID shutdowns and the high cost of goods manufactured from petroleum like plastics, tires, and nylon rope. What I have learned through this is the importance of flexibility, being positioned to move quickly, and recognizing failures then learning from them.
While the wet weather has provided much needed reprieve for Oregon, it made early groundwork to prepare seed and planting beds nearly impossible. Frost late in May and heavy rain storms in June were damaging to blooming fruit trees and flooded many productive regions of Oregon and Washington. When the field is too wet, equipment gets stuck or causes more disturbance to the soil than desirable. Our farmers are four to six weeks behind schedule compared to previous years, simply because they could not get their tractors in the field to plant. Even those crops we and other farmers were able to plant on schedule made little progress growing in the cool temperature. Delayed harvests and low yields have made it more challenging to manage, find, and keep the skilled labor crews hired to pick and package fresh foods.
As if weather adjustments have not been enough, earlier this year, a Striped Cucumber Beetle reared its ugly head throughout the Willamette Valley with a vengeance. Our crop advisor team at Pratum Co-Op was able to help us identify and treat the insect; however, by the time the equipment could get onto the field to make the application, much of the damage had already been done. This beetle feeds on the soft leaves of many cucurbits such as our watermelon and pumpkins. Once they begin to feed, the population grows and spreads rapidly, and may transmit other harmful diseases to plants. And man - did they love our baby melon plants!
This particular species of beetle has been a new problem for us, as we typically deal with its common cousin Spotted Cucumber Beetle. So how did it find and target us? After research we discovered the adults like to overwinter in sheltered areas like wood piles. If you remember from the story about our farm ground, this year's melon field was the area most recently cleared of Christmas Tree stumps, which we pulled and piled late last fall to prepare for planting. This provided the perfect overwinter hosting environment–we unknowingly built a beetle motel next to our most valued crop.
Even with starting from transplants, our crops are approximately two weeks behind the harvest schedule. What can be found now at the stands are from crops that we grow in bags in our greenhouses. We also have hanging flower and tomato baskets. Next year we plan to add more potted starts and plants people can take to grow at home. I believe it is evermore important that people are given back some ownership and pride in the raising of food in order to establish resiliency and freedom.
We are preparing for a short season and focusing on serving through our local retail outlets. I cannot believe how high prices are climbing at our grocery stores and we recognize the impact this has on growing families and those on fixed incomes…hell, even those of us just trying to fill our gas tanks. Our prices will also rise on certain crops as we need to recover our hard costs of fuel, fertilizer and labor; however, our self-serve and honor system payment structure is still in place.
If someone is short on money and needs to feed their family, we hope they can pay us on their next visit. Those who can afford to live without exact change provide help where someone else is in need. We accept cash, check, Venmo, and SNAP and EBT vouchers. Please check our social media for the most up to date information about what is in stock!
Thank you for your patience as our plants catch up with your food cravings!