Those sad, tiny excuses for carrots came from my garden. On my knees, fingernails full of dirt I dug them up one-by-one this past weekend. I’d let them go for more than a month longer than their “maturity” date hoping that when I did harvest I’d find something bigger around than my pinky finger. As you can see, I had no such luck.
What you can’t see is that the tomatoes and bell peppers in the background are also bite-sized. My Amish Paste Tomatoes looked more like grape tomatoes and my big, heirloom slicing varieties resembled over-plump cherries more than anything. Slicing would have been futile; we ate them whole instead. The only thing that didn’t seem to suffer this year was flavor. The carrots were as crisp and sweet as ever. They just didn’t last long amounting to less than a mouthful each.
Any other year I’d have chalked all of the above up to my black thumb and notorious inattentiveness to detail. This year however, as I talk to more and more growers, it’s hard not to blame it — at least to an extent — on Mother Nature. Even those whose crops were not damaged by late blight didn’t always fare well. The same unseasonably cool temperatures and in some cases abundance of precipitation that are partially blamed for aiding in the rapid spread of what ended up being the tomato farmer’s equivalent to bubonic plague led to a poor growing season for a great majority of professional and hobby growers alike. And the tomatoes weren’t the only crops that suffered.
While the perils of the growing season and their origins have been largely covered in the media, the after-effects that are likely have been largely un-addressed. For those that eat conventionally grown foods there may be a less noticeable difference in price — at least a portion of conventionally grown crops could be protected with chemical applications to ward off disease. But for those who eat organically, the pocketbook may be in for a surprise come winter.
If my harvest and that of the numerous growers I’ve talked to are any indication, tomato product prices won’t be the only ones to rise either. In fact, the only crop I’ve heard a nearly universal positive report on this year were peppers. My banana peppers were more than prolific, my hot varieties followed suit. Only my bell peppers performed poorly, but in their case mine seem to be the exception rather than the rule. And for once, I’m happy to hear that something I grew underperformed.
Still, with the growing season here in the north coming to a close and only a meager stash put up for winter, I can’t help but feel disappointed in the year’s bounty — if one can even call it that. I’ve taken to frequenting Amish Vegetable auctions more than ever before, hoping to scoop up what little extras are available. But it seems even their gardens haven’t fared well here this year. Even there, already the prices are rising. It’s a rare year I’ve seen produce at an auction go for what it has been here recently.
And I suppose this is what worries me most about the coming winter. This summer organic farms have faced a devil’s bargain of their own — spray with a copper preventative or face losing all of their crop. This winter it’ll be organic eating families who do — pay the high price that we’re likely to see on organic shelves or go back to conventional grown options, back-into the (more) industrialized food chain.
If you eat primarily organic, I want to know, what are your plans for the winter? Are you prepared to pay higher prices for foods or will you make the switch back temporarily?