The week before Thanksgiving and the fieldwork is nearly done. 99% of the plastic has been pulled and the fields have been laid to rest for the winter. No more weeds, diseases and insect pests to be concerned about. Now is an excellent time to reflect upon what worked and what didn't; this, the end of the season. I'll call this "Lessons learned in 2009."
2009 will definitely go down as a very difficult growing season. We started out so well with May temperatures in April allowing us to work most of the fields quite early. Then came May with cool and wet weather; then, as I'm sure you know all too well, came a cold and wet summer followed by an absolutely gorgeous fall. And a warm fall too so we got a lot of field work done that otherwise might not have gotten accomplished.
We had to juggle the planting locations of some crops because of where they were scheduled to go was under water, or at least very wet. I didn't want to plant the ornamental pumpkins down next to the woods but it was either there or they weren't going to get planted at all. Where I was going to plant them - well, let's just say it was a bit too wet then, and most of the summer was as well. The squirrels really enjoyed my choice of planting area as did the woodchucks and quill pigs. Lesson learned for this year, although there really wasn't much anyone could have done.
Lesson 2 involved trapping and relocating pests around the farm. Yes, they're all cute early in the season but once they start eating our crops they tend not to be quite as cute as they once were. Next year we'll start trapping and relocating much earlier in the season, pretty much as soon as we see them out in the spring; whilst they're hungry. Trapping them is only a temporary solution as I walked the fields this week, I don't think we affected the population at all; more critters move in as soon as there is an opening.
Lesson 3: Just because, in 27 seasons, we've never had late blight, doesn't mean we won't get it. Be prepared! Have plenty of fungicides on hand, leave spray rows in case you need them, make sure your equipment is up to par and have an aggressive plan just in case you need it. Be ready to jump on a problem like this at all times; be vigilant in field scouting. Have several people trained to spot diseases in the field - more eyes are always better. Set up a schedule so our crops can be scouted three times a week during the month of July.
And finally lesson 4 - There are good people out there that want to farm! I've had the opportunity to work with the best farm crew I can remember since starting here. All have worked hard, in less than ideal conditions, to make our research farm better than in any previous year. We had many challenges this season but the crew all attacked them head on and the results were favorable. Without the hard work, dedication and passion for farming we wouldn't have had the successful year we had. Thanks to all.
Until next week, Brian