Dear West Hartford CSA MembersSeptember 8, 2011 at 10:59 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
As members of our Community Supported Agriculture program you have made the courageous and gracious choice to share in both the bounty and risk of farming. We are proud of having been able to bring you so much fresh, nutritious, delicious sustenance up until this point. Unfortunately, it looks like the distributions will now go through a few leaner weeks because of the rain from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
What is the problem?
To understand why, it helps to know something about flooding in general and Adamah’s agricultural land in particular.
First – flooding on farms: The typical rainfall in Connecticut brings less than an inch of rain but the state received between 9 and 11.5 inches from the combination of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. This much water alone would cause problems for plants but flooding on a farm is not just a case of plants struggling to survive from drowning. Flooding is when a river or stream overflows its banks and covers areas that normally only get rainwater. The CT Department of Agriculture issued a message that said, in part:
“Flood waters are likely to contain contaminants. These may come from upstream septic systems, lawns and roadways, industrial sites or overflow from municipal sewage systems. Contaminants may include: untreated sewage, oil and gas or other chemical contaminants. biological pathogens that could be in flood waters include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
The edible portion of fresh fruits and vegetables that have come in contact with flood waters either in the field or subsequent to harvest may be a public health hazard if consumed and are considered adulterated by state law and the federal Food and Drug Administration and must be destroyed.” http://www.ct.gov/doag/lib/doag/commish_and_gov/message_to_agriculture_food_safety.pdf
Second – Adamah’s land: There are two fields at Adamah: Beebe Hill is the upper field and the Sadeh (Hebrew for field) is the lower field. Beebe Hill is a south facing slope, which makes it ideal for growing early spring and late fall crops since it has a longer growing season. The majority of the crops are grown in the Sadeh, a large, fertile, flat field surrounded by the Hollenbeck River. The Hollenbeck begins in Goshen CT, about 9 miles from the Sadeh and is usually just a small stream at the point it reaches Adamah’s land. However, the combination of Irene and Lee caused the Hollenbeck to overflow and pour into the Sadeh.
So, what does this mean for Adamah and the Jewish Local Greens CSA?
We are confident that the farm is not downstream of any factories so we are not concerned about industrial pollution, per se. There is the possibility of contamination from sewage from septic systems, or from animal waste that washed into the river (you know the saying about what bears do in the woods?). There is also the potential for chemical contamination from oil, gas, or other materials from automobiles and other vehicles on roads and parking lots between Goshen and Adamah. So, we are going to follow the directive of the CT Department of Agriculture and only deliver produce that we believe will not pose a health risk to our members.
Specifically, this means that we can only distribute produce where the edible portion of the crop has not come in contact with flood waters. In addition, even if the crops that are currently fruiting survive the flood, we will not distribute them due to the possibility that they might contain contaminants from the river. Therefore, the next three or four distributions will be less than ideal. Over the course of the rest of the season we will be distributing food that falls into one of six categories:
- Food from the flooded field – Winter squash, a food that is cooked before eating and the skin is not eaten, so the edible portion has not come in contact with flood waters;
- Produce harvested before the flood- such as garlic, onions and this week’s potatoes;
- Produce whose edible portion was not yet developed at the time of flooding- such as cabbage or broccoli that hadn’t headed up yet and turnips and rutabagas whose roots hadn’t formed yet;
- Food that was harvested fresh from Beebe Hill which did not flood at all- such as kale, collards, herbs and late fall crops;
- Adamah value-added products, such as sauerkraut, which was made from produce harvested before the flooding – a reminder of the value in preserving the bounty when we have it;
- Produce that we may be able to buy in from other local farms – we are not yet sure what we will be able to find at a price we can afford, as so many farms in our area have sustained damages and are grappling with the same issues.
What should JLG members do differently?
Members should be sure to cook winter squash and refrain from eating the skin. According to health officials it is safe to eat as the edible portion did not come in contact with flood waters and we have washed it with antibacterial sanitizer.
What about the rest of the season?
The day after Irene’s flood we began seeding quick growing crops like spinach, salad mix and radishes in Beebe Hill, our un-flooded field. G-d willing, these should be available in 3-4 weeks. Thus, by mid-October we hope to have quite a bit more to distribute and the shares should go back up to a more normal size.
There is also the possibility that some of the produce in the Sadeh may survive, including broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, storage turnips, rutabaga, cauliflower, and chard. These are items that are currently in flood waters but the edible portion of them has not yet formed and the notices that we have received from official sources indicate that there should be no risk in consuming them. However, there is also a strong possibility that these plants will not survive the flood damage to develop properly. They may die before maturing or they may develop abnormally and not produce good food. We will just have to see how they do.
Your commitment to us as CSA members is a show of your hopefulness for a better, healthier food system. We cherish your dedication and trust in us and in local, sustainable agriculture. We promise to do our best to get you the most high quality produce within our means during this challenging time. We will keep you informed as the story of this dramatic farming season unfolds.