Essex Farm Note

Week 29, 2018

The week was suffused with the sound of the well driller’s bit, and the unfamiliar sensation of not enough water, which feels a little like being broke. The new well, just south of the office at the front of the farm, is not related to this drought but is the tail end of the conservation project we started last fall. So far, at 200 feet, we have not hit water. Here’s hoping there’s something good just a little deeper down. Meanwhile, we transplanted several thousand plants to Blockhouse Field on Monday, ahead of predicted rain that did not come. We got a tease of a shower – two tenths of an inch – which was just enough to dampen the dust. For now, that feeling of water poverty is really just a feeling. Dig a toe three inches under the surface of the soil and it still finds moisture. The plants are growing, slowly. If we don’t get a good soaking we’ll need to get creative about grazing, or else break into the supply of next winter’s hay.  

Our weekly chicken slaughter was more complicated than usual this Wednesday. The processing line starts at the kill cones, where the chickens, upside down, are dispatched with a tiny knife that severs brain from spine. Then they are bled, scalded, and de-feathered in the plucker before getting cleaned and chilled. The scalding is the trickiest part. The water has to be pretty close to 153 degrees and the timing just right. This week, the water temperature kept dipping too low, and nobody could figure out why, until Mark literally debugged it. A tiny insect had crawled into an orifice of the scalder, a living sabot, six-legged wrench in the farm’s works! Lesson of the week: you’re never too small to disrupt.

We’re seriously considering organic certification for the whole farm, again. We’ve gone back and forth several times on this big decision. Certification wouldn’t change our practices (we already follow the standard), but would get us a better price on things we sell wholesale, like extra vegetables, and our wool. The question we get stuck on is whether it’s worth the fees and paperwork. Also, just recently, the board that controls the protocols voted to weaken the standard, including allowing hydroponically grown produce to be labeled organic. This change (along with some others) benefits a minority of large producers. A lot of farmers find the notion of soil-free organics nonsensical. Soil health underpins the theory of organic production from beginning to end, and I believe it’s key to human health. So, what to do? A coalition of farmers and advocates is creating a new add-on certification called Real Organic, in pilot this season, that excludes hydroponics and CAFOs and affirms soil health and animal welfare; we could consider co-certifying with them. Let us know your thoughts as we mull it over, members.

We’re spending some focused time and effort this week to remind members to settle any late or outstanding bills with us. Special thanks to Russ, Katie and Anh Thu for cleaning up the books! And thanks to each and every member for your loyalty and support. You are the force that makes this living world spin. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this emotionally-but-not-quite-literally parched 29th week of 2018. Like us on Facebook to see what we post there, or find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on insta/web at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

– Kristin & Mark Kimball

drilling.jpeg