The heat has arrived and with it the big flush of blueberries. We started out with plenty of picking help last Thursday and then spiraled out of control at the beginning of this week. I always try and line up enough extra help so we can pick and get other chores done on the farm. We need to have six to eight people every day for the next two weeks to keep the berries picked on time. With fewer than this we fall behind on all the other things on the farm. Tying the tomatoes up to the trellis, cultivating and weeding, building trellis in the peppers and flowers and more. Every year it is the same, so I don’t know why I am surprised and it always works out. I try to get out and help pick too but end up spending most of my mornings taking care of the other duties, irrigating, picking the other vegetables for market the rest of the show must go on too. Blueberry picking is really the most enjoyable job on the farm and the staff has fun doing it as there gets to be quite a banter out in the field. At least the wholesale lettuce season is over, I cut the last of Weaver Street’s lettuce on Monday so now I can have my mornings free to chase the other items around.
One of yesterdays tasks was to clean out the turkey brooder to get ready for the next batch of birds, which come tomorrow. The shavings and droppings are shoveled out and spread on the beds of one of the sliding tunnels, great stuff for that soil that we use so intensively. A thorough cleaning including spraying down the walls and floor with chlorine to disinfect a bit. After it dries out well we put in a new batch of shavings about three inches deep. Over that goes a layer of newspaper that they will be on for the first three days while they learn to eat (and read I’m sure) the right food instead of the wood chips. Finally a draft ring goes in and the newly disinfected feeders and waterers. Now we are ready for that early morning call from the post office. Forty broad breasted Bronzes to eventually join the Bourbon Reds out in the field. We get this group later because they grow so fast, they would be forty pounds if we got them at the same time as the others. This way everyone runs together and finishes up at the same time.
We had an interesting group of visitors last week from the EPA. These are some of the folks who are responsible for registering pesticides for farmers to use. Now we don’t use many pesticides (remember that a pesticide is anything that kills a pest, even organically approved materials) seeing as how we are committed to sustainability and organic practices, so we wondered why they would want to come see us. Turns out that while they have pretty good data and an idea of how soybeans and corn grow they don’t have a clue as to how an intensive horticultural operation works, how the crops actually grow and how one could grow them without pesticides. There were entomologists, biologists, pathologists and the much maligned agricultural economist. We described how we maintain soil fertility, rotate crops and what strategies we use to deal with pest problems. They seemed genuinely interested and as a sign of how things are changing in the world of big Ag and regulation they actually are trying to measure the costs and risks of using a pesticide over using other techniques such as we us.