I was talking on Sunday to a friend of mine who has a very large farm of mostly conventional crops. “Everyone’s farming organically this year” he told me laughing. We were discussing the seemingly endless fierce wind that has plagued our area since late March.
The strong wind has made it pointless to spray crops — illegal, actually. Even a slight breeze can cause drift away from the target crop and onto another one, but the wind we’ve been having would blow the spray for a mile. Unfortunately, it also blows in pests and diseases from other farms. So on the few days that the wind has stopped, we and every other farmer in the area have been out spraying. Of course all of our sprays are organically approved.
Strong wind makes even the simplest task more difficult, as anyone who has ever driven across the Bay Bridge on a blustery night knows. There are many tasks that we simply can’t do on the farm if the wind is blowing hard enough knock a hat off your head. Spinach and arugula leaves blow away as you cut them. Tender transplants wilt and dry just minutes after being planting.
Irrigation water from sprinklers simply blows away, most of it evaporating into the dry air without ever reaching the plants that so desperately need it. We are watering as much of the farm as possible right now with drip and furrow irrigation, neither of which sprays the water into the air.
Tillage — preparing the soil for planting — is one of the biggest tasks in the spring, for us and most other farms in the state. We don’t like to till if it’s windy enough to blow soil into the air and off the farm. But it’s been unavoidable this year; there’s simply too much work to get done. Yesterday winds gusting to 45 mph blew so much dust into Sacramento that it obscured visibility on the interstate.
Luckily for the TFF crew, much of the day’s work right now is in the two places probably best protected from the wind on our farm: the strawberry field and the cherry orchard. Even so, you might need to rinse a light coating of dust off those items, which we don’t wash here on the farm, when you get them home.