Can Farmers Take Time Off in the Summer?
It's peak growing and harvesting season, so how can our farming friends take a break?
There's a saying you'll hear repeated amongst the produce farmers in this part of North Carolina: don't make any life decisions in August.
August is hot, humid, and often droughty. It comes towards the end of what's likely been a long summer of early mornings and long days. It can make anyone question their decision to farm. What's more, if you talk to longtime farmers, they all say the summers are getting longer and hotter. We've only been farming in North Carolina a few years, and we've already seen things get more extreme.
Our first summer here, we had more than a few desperate, sweaty moments where we seriously wondered if we could make a go of farming in this climate. We quickly realized that we were going to have to make our farm season work for us, rather than stick with the traditional farm calendar of long hard work in the summer and long time off in the winter. Instead, we've decided to turn the season around, by growing more in spring, fall, and winter, and scaling things back as much as possible in summer.
What does this look like? Well, on our future, forever farm, it means a whole lot of hoophouses for growing greens into the winter and plenty of space for storage crops like carrots, beets, and radishes. We're working on that, but in the meantime, we have taken one major step in the right direction by creating an annual August CSA break.
Beginning this week, we're on a two-week break from packing CSA boxes. We take this time to focus on pulling out summer crops like cucumbers, basil, and early-season tomatoes, prepping beds, and planting fall crops like broccoli, turnips, and kale. It feels amazing to get all this planting done without having to simultaneously fit in CSA harvest. This week we're also making tomato sauce for the year. We have far too many tomatoes, and we can do farm planning work inside while the sauce cooks down on the stove.
Some of you may be glad to hear that we also take a much-anticipated long weekend to head to the coolest part of the mountains to relax, sleep, and not think about the farm. This keeps the hurdle of August far more manageable, and we begin the second half of the CSA season with renewed energy. Did you hear that? We've made it halfway through our 30-week CSA season! That is serious cause for celebration. If all goes well, in the future, we'll be able to leave the farm for a longer chunk in August and truly catch up on sleep. For now, I'll take this. I've been counting down for weeks. Three more days and 12 more beds to plant!