by Susan Houghton
July 6, 2001
Well, July 2nd we got a FREEZE! not just a frost, no, no, not us.
I arrived at the farm at about 6:15 am. Ray went with me. I got out of the van, walked into the office, cleaned the old grounds out of the coffee maker. Ray came in the door and said that it was frost. I dropped everything; we went out and hooked up every hose we could, and spent the next hour "washing" the frost off the plants we could reach.
First we had to take the ends off the hoses and blow the ice/slush off of them! Never, never had we seen a frost in July, much less a freeze. I knew the farm was low, and prone to late frosts, and early frosts, but certainly did not expect this.
The sweet potato plants (350 of them ) had a glazed, slimy green look already, the potatoes had tips/tops that were definitely frosted, all the green beans (900 feet), yellow beans (900 feet), purple beans (900 feet) were black, the peppers and tomatoes and basil are gone (over 1,000 transplants), the celery (well we don't know, the book says it will bolt to seed if the temperature goes below 50 degrees F) looks ok.
I am trying real hard to say this is a blessing in disguise. I was already thinking we should concentrate on lettuce, kale, parsley, leeks, carrots, and beets. That is what that our low muck ground will produce well, and none of them are likely to freeze out.
The farm's new Board was meeting that morning, and showed up just before 8 am to see us drenched, already tired from dragging hoses.
They saw what happened (once in over 100 years! and with no warning that there was a chance of freezing!) and couldn't believe their own eyes!
I had just thrown the last of our transplants into the compost pile last week, and it really is too late to expect tomatoes/peppers/basil to produce a marketable crop on this piece of ground in this state. I have called other organic farms in the state and found a few tomato and pepper plants for the CSA (Community Supported Association) members, but it certainly won't be for any market crop.
I am so glad we started a CSA - everyone has been extremely supportive! It probably hurt my pride worse that I didn't see it coming, than the members are worried about not having tomatoes.
What an incredible job of education I did before people bought shares; I convinced everyone that it was about supporting the farm, and the farmer, in the event of a "natural disaster." I did not plan the disaster to prove a point, never thought anything would really happen, but, well we have had two already - first a 5" in one day rain (I have pictures of the garlic under water), and now this freeze. And still no one has said even once that they are disappointed. My Board Is so excited that people are telling them it is okay - they are not going to get mad and sue us.
In fact, many will come Saturday to help replant - they want to help us succeed - team building! community interdependence! all of us in this together! Incredible! Wonderful people that bought shares!
I can't begin to tell you how that feels - and then I stop to think of other farmers around me like the ones that lost their apple trees last summer because of fireblight, and see how much they are missing because they don't have community support.
Or my friend L, who has lost the dairy because consumers just don't understand.
My real goal is to show other farmers that it DOES work and to show consumers that farmers and neighbors are worth supporting.Marketing myself and the farm is the secret, not marketing a crop.Susan Houghton
Giving Tree Farm
Lansing Michigan 48906