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FRESH FROM OUR FARMERS: Still farming, rain or not, in Valley Ford

“We’re having an unusually dry year,” Jess Flood, wife of the farm’s general manger Nick Papadopoulos, of Bloomfield Farms in Petaluma says, “and we may have to rethink what we grow this summer.”

In the middle of winter, these farmers are surprised to find themselves irrigating the fields. Typically, or at least recently, the organic farm’s extensive winter cover crops receive sufficient rainfall to flourish. In addition, the dry-farmed potatoes, one of the farm’s signature crops, rely on a buildup of rainwater. Without adequate rain, they must irrigate and, possibly, search for a new suitable field for potatoes.

Farming techniques shift a bit, too, when Mother Nature leaves the land thirsty.

“With so little rain, plants are stressed,” Flood explains, “and when they are stressed, they are more vulnerable to disease and to bugs. We’ve seen an uptick in aphids, which would normally die off in the rain.”

For an organic farm, this means spending more time in the fields, looking closely at the plants. The farm is lucky to be situated in the path of strong winds from the coast, blowing through Valley Ford. These winds blow beneficial insects that live in the farm’s hedgerows into the fields of crops, which helps keep the pests under control.

Even with the season’s challenges, the farm is thriving. The current harvest includes arugula, dandelion greens, mache, nettles, Chioggia beets, Bull’s Blood beets, red chard, green chard and other sturdy leafy greens. There’s a delicious salad mix and several varieties of head lettuce, including Cherokee, Little Gem, Speckled Trout and Romaine, along with fresh rosemary, thyme and mint.

Currently, eggs are limited but the number will increase when new baby chicks begin laying in a few months. By fall, there will be estate honey, too, as the farm has added a lot of new hives, which Flood oversees.

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