"You give them something to eat" – Jesus of Nazareth
Thursday, September 14
This year in our Community Supported Agriculture farm shares we have provided twice the amount of fruit that we did last year. Weather conditions and additional plantings have a lot to do with the increase this year. However, fruit trees and shrubs are also long-term investments that, for the most part, continue increasing their yields as they grow. These plantings serve as a reminder of the value of planning, patience and diligence, not only on the farm, but in other areas of life as well.
Organic fruit production is a very tricky undertaking, as their are so many pests and diseases that can ruin a crop, and fruit tree plantings in general can take 5-10 years to get profitable returns from. For this very reason some of the fruits we are now harvesting were part of the very first plantings on the farm five years ago. Planting fruits require foresight, planning the proper spacing and for the shading effects on adjacent plantings as the trees grow over the years. Diligent care, pruning every spring, watching for fungal infections and diseases, keeping grass and weeds away from young plants, protecting them from pests, and keeping them watered as they establish are all necessary to see fruitful returns in the future. Even then, you must keep at these tasks for years before you might harvest your first fruits.
The rewards, though, are among the sweetest we get at the farm! Proper planning, hard work, and patience are all rewarded when you bite into that first juicy peach, crisp apple, or sweet strawberry. Visitors to the farm are always more enamored by our raspberry plantings than any plantings of potatoes or onions! And as it should be, often in life the most rewarding things come from the areas we have invested the most time, energy, and patience.
Fruits we harvested for the first time this year at 5 Loaves Farm included strawberries, plums, and peaches. Last year we established the strawberry patch over by the farm shed, and in June we had enough strawberries to include them in the CSA farm shares as well as stock our farmers market stand. Our plum trees were planted four years ago, and this year we finally got a few ripe plums. The peach tree is younger, only in the ground for two years, but in July it pumped out a small basket full of beautiful peaches. We look forward to many more of them as these trees, along with our apple and pear trees, continue to grow.
While we have harvested small amounts of blueberries before, this was the first year they produced enough to be taken to market and included in the CSA farm shares. Some of these plants were originally planted five years ago, but being mowed down by rabbits during harsh winters a few years back, and picked clean by the robins and catbirds before they fully ripen, has kept us from reaping a rewarding crop. So, last summer we relocated and consolidated our blueberry plantings, and earlier this summer we invested in putting a bird netting cage over them.
The elderberry and mulberry trees have literally grown like weeds. With all the rain we’ve gotten this year, it’s been a good growing season for almost all plants (especially the weeds!), and with the elderberry and mulberry trees now solidly established, they have had explosive growth this year.
Also benefiting from the weather this year have been both of our varieties of raspberries. Last summer’s drought left most of our black raspberries small, hard, and inedible. But both the addition of a beehive right next to them, and ample rains gave us a bumper crop this July. The red raspberries also took a hit in last summers drought, but seem to be recovering nicely this year. Even being hit by an insect pest that girdles and prunes off the end of new growth, there was enough water and pent up growth potential that the raspberries ended up regrowing two, three or even four new shoots out of the places where they had gotten pruned off! So we look forward to the fall raspberry harvest which is just beginning!!
We will continue to expand and diligently invest in our fruit plantings, with more currants, elderberries, beach plums, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, and gooseberries all going in the ground this year. And as the years progress, we only hope to see more and more fruitful harvests that we get to share with our community!