One of the victims of the wet cold spring that we had this year was our basil crop. Downy mildew is what usually kills our basil crop eventually , but this year it came especially early, and before we were able to harvest any of our own basil. However, thanks to the generosity of the Oles Family Farm, some of our farm staff was able to visit their beautiful farm and harvest a bit of basil to bring back and share with our community!
Each growing season has it’s winners and losers and this spring our cole crops (i.e.; cabbage & broccoli), radishes, spinach, and lettuces were clear winners. However, we lost our first five (yes five!) plantings of carrots and all of our basil due to cool wet weather. Downy mildew is a black mold that forms on the underside of basil leaves, and causes them to yellow and wilt. Usually late August, when the plants are large and bushy, which limits airflow around the plant, and when the weather starts to get a bit cooler, especially at night, creates the perfect conditions for downy mildew. But this year our young plants showed signs on nearly every single leaf just a few weeks after transplanting.
Basil is such a staple summer crop, and you just can’t go a summer without a fresh pesto dish, or without a few fresh leaves thrown on a pizza, or in a egg & veggie fritatta. So I contacted the Massachusetts Ave Project, a local urban farming and healthy food distributor here in Buffalo, to see if they could help us locate some local organically grown basil. They put us in touch with the Oles Family Farm which operates Promise Land CSA in Alden, NY. They very generously said they would share some of their basil crop if our staff wanted to come out and pick it. This turned out to be a great opportunity for some of our youth staff to see first hand rural agriculture in our region, and the evening that we visited provided great weather for us to enjoy the pastoral beauty of the Ole’s farm.
This year’s experience with our basil crop perfectly highlights the values of connection, generosity, and redemption that are so important to us here at 5 Loaves Farm. None of us can make it on our own; relationship is a basic human need for survival, and our connection to the farming community around us is vital in our success as farmers. 5LF has also tried to be a model of sharing generously with those around us, but it is just as valuable to receive, be inspired by, and celebrate the stories of the generous souls that surround us and support us. And while the lost basil crop looked like a bad situation, it ended up being redeemed into a valuable opportunity for our youth staff and chance to strengthen and make new connections with the growers in our area.
We are grateful for the Oles generosity and the continual lessons we learn as we cultivate the land together!