Ocean Air Farms is opening their gates to the community a little early this year.
Paul Madeira and his wife Julie Jo Ayer Williams are hosting their annual celebration of food and farming on Sunday — a month earlier — with horseback and hay rides, a trampoline for the kids, live music, lunch and a dessert potluck.
There will also be raffle items, sheep shearing and beekeeping demonstrations and fresh veggies for sale. But because of the time of year and a slow start to the growing season, the annual squash slingshot is off.
“In the fall it’s just kind of different,” Madeira said, referring to the glut of zucchini and other produce the farm has in September. “We don’t have the excess to be tossing.”
This year’s long rainy season has pushed production at both Ocean Air Farms and Kerby, Oregon-based Cron back by about a month. Tomatoes and corn, which usually show up at local farmers markets in July, are just now making their debut, Madeira said. He expects his winter and fall crop of carrots will be good, but they likely won’t begin making an appearance until late summer.
Madeira said he also lost a good part of his strawberry crop because the wet season started early.
“There were 9,000 plants that got caught in that October storm we couldn’t get in,” he said. “We couldn’t shape our beds and lay our plastic and fertilize and be on top of the dirt that was just wet, wet. It kept raining. It wasn’t even like we had a dry day or two.”
Madeira said the farm had to rely on its older strawberry plants that are not producing as much.
Despite the late start, the variety of produce at the farmers market is good, but rather than putting out all 20 of the crops he grows, Madeira said he’s down to about 15.
Over in Oregon, Cron and Promiseland farms are also feeling the pinch, Madeira noted.
“We’re all hoping there’s going to be an October month that is good so we don’t get squashed out of an entire month of income because it was a short season,” Madeira said. “I’m not hoping for too much in October after what happened last year.”
Rhett Nelson at Cron, also known as Nelson’s Family Farms, said the farm lost its onion crop because it was too muddy and wet to plant.
“We couldn’t get it in the ground and by the time it got planted it didn’t do very good,” he said.
Meanwhile, several recent heatwaves have slowed Cron’s eggplant and tomato production, Nelson said. Last year, Nelson said he was bringing tomatoes and corn to Crescent City in July. This year he has just begun picking tomatoes.
“If it gets above 70, tomatoes won’t bloom,” he said. “The tomatoes already had quite a lot of fruit on it, we’re just waiting for that to ripen (but) it’s also been behind because of the spring.”
Along with the corn, Nelson has been bringing squash, beans, peppers, lemon cucumbers, pickling cucumbers and a variety of summer squash. He said he will also bring peaches and nectarines from Roseburg.
Even though the abundant precipitation appeared out of the ordinary, Nelson said it’s part of a normal cycle. Kerby receives about an average of 60 inches of rain a year, he said, but this year it received 100. And it’s typically dry and in the 80s to 90s during the summer with about two weeks when the mercury inches toward 100 degrees, Nelson said.
Once the rain let up and Madeira could get into his fields the season has been nice. There have been plenty of warm days and days with no wind earlier in the summer. He’s hoping that the selection will improve as the summer heads into its final weeks.
Madeira said the annual Shin Digg he and his wife host is a way to give back to the community and it has grown larger with each year. Another reason Ocean Air Farms is hosting its celebration early is because Madeira and Williams will welcome their second child in September.
“The more people we can expose the farm to, the more customers I’m going to gain because what we’re doing is truly authentic,” Madeira said. “We really are a family farm growing things completely organically. We’re just trying to grow the best food we can.”
The Shin Digg will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday at the farm, 190 Bolen Lane in Fort Dick. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/oceanairfarms/.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.