Fall Farm Work Requires Flexibility
Have you ever paid attention to the 10-day forecast of the weather? Maybe when you were looking ahead to a beach vacation? If you have, you know that weather forecasting is not very accurate -- even 5-days out.
Earlier this week, the forecast said we might be getting freezing temps this weekend. Now, it shows no freeze until the end of the month! Even when these first freezing temperatures do come, we know that even variations in the local topography can create micro-climates – resulting in temperature differences from one town to the next.
That’s why we have to plan (and plant) according to the “average weather” pattern here in Sandstone. The first frost usually hits in the latter part of September. And because of that, we stopped planting several weeks ago (late August), because -- on average -- there isn’t enough time for the plants to grow and for us to harvest anything.
And, recognizing how fickle the fall weather can be, the last things we plant must be hardy enough to survive the first frost. The cold does slow down their growth, but doesn’t kill them. In addition, we deploy low tunnels each fall -- tunnels that protect the plants and give them an extra boost of warmth.
It would have been great if we had anticipated this later-than-usual warm weather. We would have kept planting and would still be harvesting lots of stuff. But even the professional meteorologists aren’t very accurate 10 days out, and I don’t know any farmers that gamble 6-8 weeks out.
In fact, this warm weather has it’s down side. Since we expected that cold weather to slow down our garden’s growth (and harvest times) that’s how we scheduled our last planting. But now, the ongoing warm days have caused many of our crops to come to fruition sooner than we expected.
The good news for our customers is that, thanks to the warm weather, we are still harvesting eggplant and tomatoes. Although our harvest schedule wasn’t timed perfectly, you’ll be getting some great stuff as long as we have it growing!
Fruitfulness Through The Frost
As we mentioned, those first mild frosts don’t kill everything. And we plan our garden accordingly. What we sell and deliver at this time of year are things that can survive the cold.
Cabbage and kale. Beets and carrots. Stuff like that. And while we weren’t able to harvest some produce like potatoes or squash this season, these are also things that are easily stored through much of the winter and eaten in the colder months.
That’s why so many people traditionally enjoy fall meals built around delicious root vegetables -- rich stews and casseroles. And what is Thanksgiving without some squash and plenty of pumpkin pie!
No Need To Bundle Up … Yet
Not only are the plants enjoying this warmer weather, but It makes our garden work more pleasant. Believe me, when the winter cold comes early, it can be miserable. Try harvesting fruit while wearing gloves!
But this year – after all the work it took to get this new property in shape – our morale is up!
This year we are working at a comfortable pace and getting more done. Part of the reason is we have a larger team and no one had to leave early to get back to college. But farm work is a lot more bearable when it is cool (not biting cold!) in the garden.
Saying Goodbye Is Never Easy
These are the last few weeks for four of our hard-working interns. Each has made this a special season. Sometimes the work is tedious, but everyone encouraged each other through the tough times and there was always plenty of good cheer around the dinner table. Along with the hard work there was plenty of fun and laughter -- and deep and pleasant conversations. Each team member has been a blessing, making this team very productive week-in and week-out – and in many ways the team was more like family.
The sister team of Beth and Debi Card have each played a big role in the short time they were here. And in the last week, their brother JD joined them for a visit as well. When they go back to Florida, we will all miss their smiles and laughter – especially our four daughters.
Jed English has worked with us for several summers and has not only spent countless hours in the garden, but many have enjoyed the results of his real passion – baking mouth-watering breads each week in our wood-fired oven. And don’t forget, he researched, planned, and built the wood-fired oven! Having him as part of our team has been a great blessing. He was always willing to put in the hard work, and his servant attitude was evident week after week.
He hopes to make bread-baking his full-time profession, so when he returns to Charlotte, NC, he will be looking for opportunities to continue his craft. We wish him Godspeed and hope that we will have an opportunity to enjoy some of his mouth-watering sourdough creations in the future!
Although Joel English (Jed’s cousin) had visited the farm several times in year’s past, this was the first time he stayed all summer. He was a great help on our farm and provided great leadership in guiding the efforts at Osprey Wilds Environmental Center to get their garden started.
Joel’s time at Abraham’s Table Farm “has been phenomenal,” he said. “I have enjoyed the work, the play, and most of all the community. The work is fulfilling despite it being hard, and everyone here is always ready to have some fun together. Most importantly, the community is sincere. The people genuinely care about you and are always ready to lend a listening ear. I have had a wonderful summer that was surprising impactful.”
Would he encourage others to be an intern here? “I am convinced that it will be worth it for them,” he stated. “It's amazing being a part of producing wholesome food with a group of kind, intentional, authentic people.”
After he returns to Georgia, he hopes to start his own farm with his family and community. “I will definitely miss the deep relationships the most," he said. "There is something powerful about people uniting in a common goal on a daily basis.”
And with a twinkle in his eye, he concluded, “Last but not least, I will miss a refreshing jump in the Kettle River after a long day of work.”
Anyone wanting more information about working at ATF next season should just send an email (email@example.com) expressing your interest. It won’t be long before we start forming next year’s team.