The Downside of Year-Round Farming

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Photo by Carol Ann Sayle

In Central Texas, we are fortunate to be able to grow produce year-round. At times, however, this fortune seems like a good case of bad luck. For instance, vacationing farmers from the northern states, touring farms in more moderate climates, while their own farms lay under six feet of snow, often stop by our farm stand. They can't believe all that we grow in the winter months. But we are envious of them, as we would also love to tour other farms, but alas, we are constantly at work on our own.

Between each of our main seasons, hot and cold, there is a little tenderness in the weather that we note as "spring" and "fall," a few weeks that we totally enjoy. At the height of each season, however, the extremes of the heat and the cold can make farming a suffering situation. Our ground never freezes, but our fingers and toes surely do as we harvest in a cold wind that sinks down upon us from far away Canada, with chilly drizzle hitting our faces and temperatures in the mid-30s.

We must harvest, no matter what, because folks will come to our farm stand the next day, and they would be disappointed to find that we wimps failed to harvest produce.

For those days, we pause to thaw our hands with a tiny electric heater in our harvest shed and then head out again. We must harvest, no matter what, because folks will come to our farm stand the next day, with weather that has miraculously improved over the harvest-day conditions, and they would be disappointed to find that we wimps failed to harvest produce.

In the hot season, which we have just entered, our field-work day begins at sunrise and ends in early afternoon, as the heat and humidity can be unbearable. In the afternoon, we wash produce and store it in the walk-in cooler, and we clean tomatoes, crate them, and carry them into the air-conditioned farm house. They camp out stacked in crate towers in our guest bedroom until market day, and during the height of the season, also in the living room, where they have the best view of the television set.

Over the last week, the lettuce, spinach, greens and cool-weather flowers season has ended and summer's tomatoes, squash, and flowers are beginning. Today, lettuce and the first sunflowers are blooming in adjacent beds. The tall sunflowers provide afternoon shade for lettuces making seeds which we will save for fall planting. We'll harvest that future lettuce from November to May 1st. But there will be no tomatoes, at least none worth having, with that salad. Perhaps strawberries instead. And in the summer, the fresh, ripe tomatoes will be paired with basil and goat feta cheese, or sliced thickly and piled upon a sandwich with native purslane and fresh mayonnaise. Forget the heat, I'm ready for that!

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Carol Ann Sayle is co-founder and co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, a five-acre urban, organic farm in Austin, Texas.

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