The Whippoorwill Farm community supported agriculture program is still accepting members for the coming season, after a wobbly financial year.
The CSA, which serves between 300 to 400 families each summer, moved in 2004 from Thimble Farm to a 43-acre lot of farm land off the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road.
The space has better potential, according to farm manager Andrew Woodruff, but it has presented more problems, from poor irrigation to a lack of capital and, last year, a bad growing season.
Announcing an operating deficit of $81,600 last fall, the CSA appealed to its members for additional donations to help keep the enterprise afloat.
It received more than $40,000 in additional contributions in September but despite the donations the farm closed early in November, ahead of the posted date of Thanksgiving.
Now with the farm poised to open for business Mr. Wooddruff acknowledges that the membership numbers are currently below even conservative estimates.
“There are many reasons why CSA members could be hesitating to sign up,” he wrote in an e-mail to past members. “If you have been on the fence about joining, now is the time to make your reservation. If you have friends who might be interested in the CSA, please encourage them to give us a try. We are excited about this year and believe you won’t be disappointed.”
CSA members are initiated by purchasing shares in the farm’s produce, with share holders entitled to portions of whatever is harvested on the farm each week. Whippoorwill offers a sliding scale of payment schemes, from a full seasonal share which feeds three plus at $760 form mid-June to Thanksgiving to a full five-week small share, feeding one to two people available from mid-July to mid-October.
For those who do have shares, the news is good.
An upgraded greenhouse features foot-high tomato plants and a wide range of seedlings. Outside, peas, beets, carrots, onions and potatoes are growing and, after a break of several years, U-Pick Strawberries are back. Fenced off from browsing deer, the berry patch is due to be open to CSA members by next week and later to the public if there is enough to go around.
“I am relieved to tell you that we are in better shape going into this season than any I can remember,” wrote Mr. Woodruff in a recent newsletter to CSA members.
“I feel we are poised to have the best season ever, as long as the weather cooperates, because we have our labor in place, our equipment running and a master plan for planting and caring for our diverse crops that will make the farming operation more efficient and productive.”
For every 26.000 words spoken, someone says “farm.”
That’s according to the online British National Text Corpus.
In another arguable point of interest, farms are more popular on paper, where the word ranks 1,461th and is written once out of every 14,000 words.
More trenchant analysis of Island agriculture has been provided by all previous writers of this column but sadly this represents much of what this reporter knows about the subject to date.
On Saturday morning I walked to the garden where my roommate’s grandfather, Don, was at work in his vegetable patch. The plan was to exchange a few pleasantries and be on my way to breakfast, but Don had different ideas.
“Wanna help,” he said, with no hint of a question mark. Moments later I was getting a planting lesson wearing his garden gloves.
Shovel, hoe, pull out plant from pot holder —
“Be careful! I want an artist’s hands at work,” Don barked, coaching from a chair outside the vegetable garden.
Loosen the soil again, plant the seedling, and fill. Then the most crucial part: press down around the plant, making sure to keep the lower leaves free of soil.
Don, who is 88, plants things that he likes to eat and he knows will work — lettuce requires too many chemicals to fight off rabbits, and there are a few summer’s worth of corn before corn borers get wind of it.
Everything being planted Saturday was tried and true though, and by mid-August each seedling would be producing food.
Before long we had planted peppers, zucchinis, onions and cucumbers. They joined rows of potatoes and tomatoes at the rear of the patch. The work is far from done though: a big stack of straw bales sits waiting to be distributed for one thing, and there are dahlias to be planted.
“There’ll be more to do,” said my new mentor as he headed back down the garden.
This column is meant to reflect all aspects of agricultural activity and farm life on the Vineyard. To get in touch with Sam Bungey, please call 508-627-4311, extension 133, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.