Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tomato Late Blight

I hate to start out my blog on a negative note, but I thought it was rather important to inform people of what is going on in the land of farmers due to all the rain that has been dumped on the Northeast this simmer.

While it is nice to see the sun these past couple of days, it is not without some regret that there have been some casualties in the farming world. Nick and I are CSA members at Full Moon Farm. Full Moon Farm is a 155 acre certified organic vegetable farm now located in Hinesburg, Vermont. Now in its tenth year of production, Full Moon Farm is committed to connecting consumers to their local food sources and producers. For those that are unfamiliar with CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture), a CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. To find a CSA near you go to the Local Harvest website.

Back to the bad news. It was a couple weeks ago that we received an email from the farmers at Full Moon Farm telling the members the unfortunate news that all of the farms tomato plants had to be pulled up and destroyed due to Late Blight. Here is that email:

"Hi Everyone-
Rachel and I have been torn apart about how to write what is coming next. Thankfully, there is a story in the

New York Times:
that spells it out pretty clearly. Our farm along with almost every other organic and many conventional, has been inflicted with late blight. It is a crop destroyer for tomatoes and potatoes.

For those of you who may have been members in the past, you know how much we love our heirloom tomatoes. The incredible flavors make the odd shapes, sizes and colors worth it. We love our daily tomato, basil and garlic sandwiches. We (really Rachel) usually cans 40-60 quarts of tomato sauce and salsa every year. Our Sun gold cherry tomatoes are always a hit with the kids (Addie loves them).

This year....we will have none. We started to destroy the tomato plats yesterday and hope to have the process completed by the end of tomorrow. We are doing this in order to try to save the potato crop which so far shows far fewer signs of infection. We might be able to save a few more of our potatoes because they are underground and may take longer to get the infection to the fruit (on the tomato it is instant). While we are not going to get our full harvest (we don't usually dig them until late August or September), we might be able to get 30% or maybe a little more or less.

The NYT article tells it like it is. It is nice that home gardeners will get a refund from the big box stores that imported the host plants into the region...but so far we have not heard anything about farmers restitution.

We actually feel slightly lucky compared with some of the wholesale farmers listed in the article as our pain is somewhat spread out with each of you. We will still lose the money that we would have made at the farmer's market ($6,000-$10,000), and we will work our best to get you your money's worth in the share. But this season is certainly a challenge with respect to the range of summer crops that we love to provide for you in the late July through September parts of the season. Our melons are late (and underperforming due to lack of pollination from all the rainy days), corn is late, tomato's ...well enough said, and eggplant and peppers are also underperforming.

We hope this article helps you understand what we are gong through. We apologize.

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/29/dining/29toma.html

-Farmer Dave"

The photo above was sent by Farmer Dave of a late blight afflicted tomato plant before it was destroyed. While it is one of the unfortunate risks we take as members of a CSA, there are so many other benefits which I plan to bring to you in the next couple of months. When you go to buy local/heirloom tomatoes at the store or farmer's market this season and are concerned with the higher prices, I hope you will take these farmers' struggles into consideration.

Lucky for Nick and I, the heirloom tomatoes that we planted in our small front porch garden are doing spectacularly, so we won't miss out on tomato heaven this summer. I hope to post some wonderful tomato recipes in the next couple of weeks so stay tuned!

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