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Strength in Diversity


by Linda Halley, General Manager | When the heavens opened up on August 16 and kept it up until September 3rd, farmers knew the season had taken a turn. Half of the summer’s precipitation fell the second half of August, much of it coming fast and furiously. Equally bad were the heavy, stagnant air and cloud cover that prevailed between the storms. Roots can’t breathe when the soil is too wet and leaf diseases take hold, traveling from plant to plant, when the air is too moist. The sun and wind this past weekend were our friends.

We will spend some time this week assessing the impact the wet weather has had on crops. Surely it hastened the end of the melons and summer squash. It will give the tomatoes a good test of their resiliency. Some varieties will succumb to disease. Others will prove their worth and will find a place on next year’s planting plan.


However, the news is not all bad. It is just a reminder of the strength and wisdom of diversity. Carrots and celeriac will survive, and even thrive, in a rainy fall. Pastures will go into winter vigorously and with the reserves it takes to make it through winter. Our little filter strip of native prairie, just below the cemetery, has really taken off. The rudbeckia (black-eyed susans) are blooming — not bad for an establishment year. The rain set back our planting dates for winter grains, but adequate soil moisture will help them germinate once they get in the ground.

There is no doubt in my mind, after a lifetime of farming, that our seasons are changing and we farmers have to adapt. Maintaining a diverse mix of crops and enterprises is the best insurance of sustainability over time. Gwenyn Hill has only just begun to go down that road. Pastures, hay fields, perennials like apples, berries and asparagus, edible dry beans, grains and livestock will all weave together to form a strong and resilient farm. We envision a farm here for generations to come, no matter what Mother Nature brings our way.

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