Whoever would have thought, nine weeks before the longest day of the year, we would have to engineer a way to protect sensitive summer crops from freezing wintry weather? Whoever would have thought that Ann and I would retire from going to the farmers market? It was financially unthinkable and personally unfathomable. Whoever would have thought enough people would become CSA Farm Share shareholders of Elmwood Stock Farm to allow us a decreased farmers market presence?
2020. It’s been a year like no other. Thank you for seeing us through it all.
About the Weather
No doubt, the unpredictability of weather patterns is more problematic than it used to be. Two years ago we had twice the normal rainfall. This year’s hard freeze in mid-May was a test, for sure. A big percentage of our summer-season vegetables can be wiped out by a good frost, much less freezing temperatures.
Instead of staking tomatoes as we normally would at that time, we had to pull all the frost blankets out of the barn where we had tucked them away for safe keeping all summer. We laid each blanket over rows upon rows of cold-sensitive crops, some with wire hoops underneath supporting them and others resting on the plants’ foliage itself. Then all the row covers had to have sandbags or bricks laid along the edges as wind weights. All the while, in the back of our minds, we did not know if this was enough to save them from the cold.
To hedge our bets we covered some of the tomato plants with row cover and actually uprooted 8,000 or 9,000 of them and put them back in the warm greenhouse, not knowing how much of a setback that would cause, but knowing they would be alive. Some tomato plants left in the field survived, but most were done for. The thousands of twice-planted transplants—second time by hand—took a while to re-establish their root systems, but we had something to work with.
The funny thing was, the various varieties of reds and pinks and yellow tomatoes got all mixed up in the process of pulling up and replanting, making the rows look odd and slowing us down at picking time, reminding us what a year 2020 has been. Our vegetable harvest did not fully recover from that single cold snap until late August, maybe September.
About Farmers Markets
Elmwood Stock Farm tour goers have heard me say that I would be at Lexington Farmers Market on Saturdays for the rest of my life, because it was that important for me and the customers that were counting on us being there for their food. When COVID-19 arrived, that ended overnight. The farm does not stop, no matter what is happening outside the farm gate, and we had to be here to care for the plants and livestock entrusted to us. We could not put ourselves in a position to dishonor our CSA members who had already invested in us to provide their sustenance, plus all of our additional customers who looked to us regularly as their source of local, organic food.
I remember sitting at home, having coffee in my favorite Louisville Stoneware mug, eating my two eggs and avocado in a ceramic bowl that first Saturday in April. I had not gotten up at 3 am, grabbed a couple of hard-boiled eggs and metal to-go coffee cup and bolted over to the barn to load 60 or 80 crates or boxes of various veggies, nor spent most of the Friday before making sure all the veggies and tables and tents and signs and stuff it takes to host a farmers market booth were packed.
It has taken the months since for it to sink in that this is what our farm life is like now. We miss the hugs and laughs and kind words of our farmers market friends more than I can express here, but dang it was a lot of hard work to make it all happen.
Buying Local Food Online?!
In light of this major change, our crew created and then recreated an online shopping cart to give customers access to our foods. People suddenly could see all the cuts of beef we have, for example, and make thoughtful purchases from the comfort of their home, rather than seemingly impulse buy at the market. We now inventory all our meats in tenth of a pound increments for making the purchase price clear. We update the inventory every day—multiple times a day, sometimes—and ask everyone to check back in every so often. For example, we just picked up more pork and ground turkey from the abattoir, so breakfast sausage is available again, and I have my eye on some jumbo turkey legs unless someone nabs them from the online store first. There are veggies and eggs online, as well, and their availability also fluctuates.
We’ve made changes to the store based on customer feedback, as we want it to be as user-friendly and intuitive as possible. If you have questions or need assistance ordering, give us a call, and Betsy will be glad to help.
Some people like to come to the farm to pick up their orders, mostly to get out of the house and see the livestock. Curbside service is available here, if you wish. Many of you like the home delivery option and simply leave a cooler on the porch, or wherever, for us to drop off your goods. It doesn’t get more convenient than finding a package of wholesome, organic food on your doorstep. Saturday at the Lexington Farmers Market is a popular pick up point for others, and in the spring, we plan to return to Hyde Park Farmers Market on the square, too.
Our logo redesign was our project to celebrate 20 years of Elmwood Stock Farm’s organic food farming. Having been through such a rough season, it feels like a beacon of hope for a bright future.
2020 will soon be behind us and who knows what 2021 will bring. One thing is for sure: We can’t count on the weather to cooperate.
Thanks for your support. —Mac Stone