Potato planting was a complete success! We had over 20 people show up, many of them kids. Seemed like everyone had a great time, got a little exercise, a little fresh air and not too much sun. All the potatoes got planted. A beautiful day in many ways. So thank you to all that made it Sunday afternoon. Your help will benefit all the members of the farm!
Wait. How does putting in a couple hours of fun planting potatoes provide a benefit to the other 300+ members? This would be a good time to explain why volunteering to help is so beneficial. Last year our potato planting party got rained out. So the work crew planted the potatoes during the course of the following week. Since there are only a few of us it took the better part of a week to get them all planted. With so much time spent on potatoes other things were put off – most importantly weeding. One of the biggest time users on a farm is dealing with weeds. The smaller the weeds, the easier and faster it is to get rid of them. Put off weeding too long and the task becomes increasingly more difficult. So by having volunteers help plant to potatoes we have freed up a significant amount of labor to tackle weeds this week.
“So what”, you say. So we get rid of a few weeds. Time to explain the horrors of weeds! Weeds work against us farmers in a great many ways. The first issue is that they compete with our vegetable crop for moisture, nutrients and sunlight. The fewer weeds we have around our plants, the bigger and faster the plants will grow. So that in itself is a good thing.
Second, the weeds make harvesting more difficult and time consuming. If the weeds get too big, which isn’t uncommon, it is hard to find the crop underneath. This is especially true of onions. Onions do not compete well with weeds and they can be overrun quite quickly. Once overrun it is far harder to find them and harvest them. The harder it is, the more time consuming it is. More time harvesting, less time managing weeds. It is a vicious circle.
Third, weeds make preparing the soil for planting as well as the actual planting more difficult. Weeds leave behind residue that can clog planters and cultivators. Less weed residue allows for easier planting. Easier planting, less time dedicated to planting and more time dedicated to weeding. The circle continues.
Fourth, the weeds make it more difficult to remove the drip tape at the end of the season. This may seem minor but when you lay miles of drip tape anything that slows you down takes a lot of time. More time pulling up drip tape, more money spent on this task and less that can be spent earlier in the year weeding.
Fifth, and maybe the worst part: Weeds create weed seeds, which create more weeds the next year. Every weed we kill before it goes to seed reduces the number of potential weeds by thousands. More weeding now, less weeding later. So by having people come out to plant potatoes today we have prevented billions of weeds from coming up next year. Wow!
Bottom line: There is a direct and exponential effect of volunteering. The volunteers Sunday provided more than a little help planting potatoes. They lessened the weed pressure for this season and the next few seasons. They provided us an opportunity to get the weeds this week when they are smaller rather than next week or the week after when weeding becomes increasingly difficult. The better our weed management, the better and more abundant vegetables! The more vegetables the better, right? And that is why they deserve such a big “Thank You!”
We will have a number of other opportunities to help out. The next one will be a tomato planting party in May. The date is still to be determined but stay tuned. In the mean time, if you are looking for a less physical way to help your farm, you could refer new customers our way. We provide a $25 credit to your account for each new member who was referred to us by you. The sooner we sell out, the less time we have to do marketing and the more time we have for weeding. So even if you can’t make it out for the on-farm volunteer events you can still help make your farm successful and increase the amount of vegetables you receive. We appreciate all that you do for us to make it easier to provide you with great quality produce.