Friday, October 4, 2013

Local Produce Ups and Downs

Summer has come to a close, and our local vegetable growers are happy to see it go. The start of the season had potential for being a great growing season; the weather was cooperating and farms were a week or two ahead of schedule.

That all changed on June 29th when we had a major thunderstorm that came up from the south and swept through Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. This storm flooded farmers' fields and brought in a favorable environment -moderately warm, humid, wet weather- for a pathogen called Phytophthora infestans. This pathogen is referred to as late blight, and it affects plants like potatoes and tomatoes.  Acres of crops can quickly fall victim.

Tomato plants showing signs of late blight
One of the prized jewels of our FarmSource program is our tomatoes. By mid July, farmers started to see signs of late blight affecting their tomato plants. Our primary grower for our slicing tomatoes is Brenckle's Farms and Greenhouses, and we got word from them that their first crop of tomatoes was totally wiped out by late blight. They wouldn't have tomatoes for us until their second harvest (mid-August), they said  three weeks after we normally have tomatoes available. Fortunately, not all of our local farms were affected by late blight and we able to have tomatoes as originally scheduled from Ohio partners like Weir Farms. Luckily for Brenckle's, growing conditions improved in late summer, and at my last visit, they had an abundance of healthy tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and peppers.

Lettuce was also affected by the June storm. Two weeks prior, we were receiving beautiful heads of leaf lettuce from Yarnick's Farm in Indiana, PA. This lettuce was the first FarmSource produce item that we featured on the salad bar for 2013. Lettuce has always been sourced from California, and this was the first year it was sourced locally. Unfortunately, the storm I referred to earlier wiped out the entire crop, and our inaugural year of local lettuce was cut short.

The end of the growing season is coming to a close and though it was a challenging summer, we're happy to report that the farms that we purchase from made it through successfully. We're already working together to plan for 2014.We have some really creative local items in the queue for next year, so stay tuned!

Until next time,

Jamie

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