Steve’s Weekly Update for 8/18/10

Dear members,

Climatology 2010: Sunday we had the biggest flood that I have ever seen at Mesa Top: 3+ inch per hour rainfall intensity for about an hour and a half.  Something like 5” of rain fell during that time with a bit of hail mixed in.  There was damage to our greenhouse, as the winds ripped off the plastic skin and damaged the roof structure.  Also, a section of driveway that had not been re-graded allowed quite a bit of debris and muck to be deposited in places where we sure do not want it to be.  The canyon behind the farm house, drainage for a 250,000 acre watershed, roared for a day and night and into the next day.  There was some significant crop damage, but not as extreme as in a full-on hail storm.  One picking of chard was wiped out.  Also some of the summer squash plants were seriously damaged.  You will see some “hail dimpled” squash this week

This morning I got out and looked around the wider landscape. Hundreds if not thousands of yards of silt was washed down off from the ridges, and into the stream beds.  The earthen structure that we built on Arroyo Salado with an NRCS EQIP grant to slow flood waters and help stabilize the stream beds while also holding water to restore the aquifer had held well.  The spillways performed perfectly.  The storm surge had caused water to rise almost to the top of the structure.  The back of the structure was seriously eroded off in places, but is not that much the worse for wear.  Boulders had washed down along the edges of the roads and off of the ridges.  Every possible water holding area was full.  There is so much silt everywhere that in some pastures the grass is partly buried under it.

I will be curious to see how the landscape and the garden respond!  The squash will grow out of this, as will the chard.  From the standpoint of the vegetables; now that the sun is shining again, they will grow, grow, grow.  And the native grasses, some of which have already grown and seeded twice this season, will grow some more.  There is more grass on the pastures than I have ever seen out here.

Overall, the farm and its surroundings took the flood well.  The landscape is resilient and the farm is designed to sit gently on the land.

Steve’s Soapbox: Yesterday in Las Cruces, a group of leadership people from the NMSU College of Agriculture and Home Economics met with the Executive Committee of the Beef Industry Improvement Initiative.

We spoke about the growing list of policy and regulatory changes, led by climate change and greenhouse gas emission controls that are likely to drive up energy costs and impact the cost of operating farms and ranches, especially here in the west.

Along with the public policy questions, there is a need to assure that American Agriculture in all of its diversity is supported and strengthened even as the public and the government who “regulates” on their behalf, seek to protect, increase and perfect environmental protections.

Farmers and ranchers are a creative and adaptable lot, and want to give the public what it wants, in all aspects, from food to environment. So the question remains, when new costs are added, who pays?

We came up with the idea of preparing “fact sheets” that we believe will be useful to policy makers, and to citizens, explaining how new mandates that the public wants can effect agriculture, and specifically, primary producers, that farmers and ranchers on the ground who actually grow our food.  The fact sheets will illuminate costs to agriculture and will raise the question of who should shoulder these costs

It is important to understand that the more costs are added onto producers, the more regulatory burdens are created, the greater the tendency toward larger and larger business (this is a trend that is detrimental to small and mid scale farms) because only the largest operations have the means and resources to address those new requirements.

“Who pays” is the all important question….  Of course CSA members will see these info sheets as soon as they are available!

This week’s Cow stories:  update on Mesa Top cows, Jim Miller Ayrshire projects and more:

This week the Ayrshire herd, 6 momma cows with milk, will leave Twin Mountain, and move over to Kurtis’s Farm.   Three young heifer calves and a young bull calf will move up closer to Denver where Colleen can watch out for them.  The big move will happen Saturday if all goes as planned.

It looks great for the future on the Front Range.  The grass is plentiful, and the hay is affordable.  There is a larger pool of workers and entrepreneurs interested in healthy livestock based farms and food businesses.  There are more existing small dairies, and more facilities that have been closed down and may be available for lease or to be reopened.

The steps to building another Ayrshire dairy on the Front Range are moving along quickly, made urgent and immediately necessary by the total meltdown of the farm family at Twin Mountain.  I will spare you the details, but it is tragic and sad.

We will hope to have a good supply of the Ayrshire cheddar and Gouda from Twin Mountain to last us until we are receiving cheese from a new dairy family.

Welcome to Collen and Kurtis!  So far, since I bought this herd of Ayrshires in 2007, each step taken, gathering the lessons learned and moving on from one dairy to another has improved the herd, and the cheese.  We can all hope to be supporting the Front Range dairies partners for a long time to come!

This week’s cheese share update:

This week the cheese share will be a piece of Romano and a smoked cheese.  These are dependent on availability.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:

This week, we continue with Vida Verde tomatoes.  There are not quite so many available as last week for shares.  But we also have “B” fruit, which is very ripe and perfect for processing.  You can order the “B” fruit for $3.75 per pound.

You can also order basil for pesto and drying.

We also have some special items from Southern Colorado farmers:  beets and Carrots from Hobbs family Farm, and green beans from White Mountain farm.

Mesa Top salad is back this week, and along with Mesa Top kale.

We continue to include Elijah Farm’s lemon cucumbers and hail dimpled summer squash from Mesa Top.

This week may be the last Shiraz peaches of the year.  Please take this opportunity to buy in bulk if you want to process or freeze peaches: $1.60 to $2 per pound depending on quantity.

David Banikarim’s fabulous Persian Melons will hopefully be available this week in large enough numbers to offer as part of your share!

Membership news:

We are offering a tasty bonus for new members who sign up in September; their choice of peanut butter or a piece of artisanal cheese – help us spread the word!

Thank you for your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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