farming can be hard at times, like when you work really hard and then something out of your control destroys much of what you have done. a letter to our CSA members.
As I drove away from the farm today to deliver shares, the closer I got to Milwaukee the more normal the day seemed. It has been a tumultuous week at the farm. We experience extreme flooding at our home farm on Tuesday. The scattered storms hit Campbellsport with hard and sustained with heavy rainfall. We were basically in heavy storms for 7 hours, and this after the soil and water table was already saturated from previous rains. I cannot find any accurate rainfall totals for Campbellsport, but our neighboring community, Lomira is reporting 6 inches. I will say that a 5 gallon bucket left outside was full except for 2 inches at the top!
The garden at our home farm was completely covered in at least a foot of water that was damned up by the road with a culvert completely inadequate to move the runoff from the storm through to the other side of the road to allow it to move into the Milwaukee river. Subsequently our new hoophouse also had 1 foot of standing water. The water has finally drained away through the culvert, but we have lost most of the crops at the home farm including parsley, arugula, hon sai tai (the asian green trial for the year) radishes, lettuce mix, broccoli, and some fall carrots. They sort of looked ok for half the day(despite being covered in soil) but now they are wilting and dying.
This photo below was taken at the break in the rain on Tuesday from about 2-6pm. This is also when I scrambled to harvest the kale, fennel, and chard for shares this week from the portion that wasn't yet flooded. After this picture was taken we received another 2-3 inches of rain that night, completely covering the crops you can see in the picture in water. I have honestly never seen anything like this. Carrots completely under water! The second round of storms later that evening subsumed our basement sump pump as well. We were able to keep the water to about 1 foot level with supplementary pumps and fortunately only our water heater was damaged as other other things are on blocks.
Our other land that Jeff manages is slightly better situated, but upon visiting it for the first time when I got back from deliveries I was dismayed to see the heavy clay soil holding water around all the crops despite the sight being on a slope and quite high in elevation. This can be bad news for root veggies and the site is home to a large quantity of carrots, potatoes, leeks, parsnips, and beets that admittedly I am worried about. The site is far to wet to drive any equipment on so any harvesting in an attempt to save these crops will have to be done by hand.
THE GOOD NEWS!
First of all, I want to thank the our worker shares and employees for providing emotional support on Tuesday when this was happening via text message. We are lucky to have people who care working with us. It is not easy to lose so much especially when your livelihood depends on it! And also on a more practical note It looks as though the crops in the our larger hoophouse will be ok which we are delighted about, but there are still set backs as the soil is very very wet even in the hoophouse. We also have squash, onions, garlic, shallots, cabbage already in for the season. So basically with a few deliveries left for some of you and a fall/winter share yet to come I write to let you know that there is a chance that what we had planned for to be an abundance will really be a bit less variety and abundance. Hopefully you understand--seeing now what we are dealing with here-- and hopefully I'm over-reacting and all root crops from the more well-drained land will end up being ok as we scramble to harvest them so they don't rot in the ground. So will do our best to make it a great rest of the season, and just want to let you know that the fact that you are a part of our CSA and support us when @#$% happens makes all the difference in the world. Heck, you could just go to the grocery store--they don't complain about floods there--you just get what you need and get out of there....right?
Jeff Schreiber has been farming organically for 10 years. In 2011 he started Three Sisters Community Farm with his wife, Kelly.