A Note From Layton | Carrots, Crows and Crop Loss

September 22, 2023

By Layton Guenther

Farms for the Future
Quail Hill Farm

Over the last couple of years, I’ve shared this same piece of insight, but it bears repeating: farming is all about timing.

Arugula, scads of mustard greens, kale, collards, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, bok choi, broccoli raab, leeks, spinach, mesclun, mache, claytonia, chervil, cilantro, dill, parsley, sage, parsnips, garlic, fennel, celery, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, winter squash, rutabaga, watermelon radish, daikon radish, and dry beans.

All of the aforementioned crops, and likely many more, will show up in our 2023-2024 Winter Share. Each and every one requires a sixth sense for sowing dates: too soon, and crops will ripen well before the third week of November. Too late, and the dwindling daylight of early autumn will fail to nourish our winter crops to fruition.


From roughly the Summer Solstice onward, we hit all of our planting targets, timing-wise: winter squash and dry beans were sowed on time; fall brassicas like cabbage and cauliflower are tucked in and thriving on Birch Hill and Town Lane; and parsnips (sowed, actually, in April!) await a few hard freezes to convert their starches to sugars en route to our winter larder.

But beyond the orchestral precision with which we plan our crops, there are a slew of environmental factors that dictate crop quality– and indeed, survival! I wrote last month about torrential downpours that can wash out seeds from their rows; unforeseen disease pressures (like our garlic rot) can wipe out crops in a blink of an eye. The 2023 Farmer’s Chagrin Prize, however, goes to the murder of crows which, we believe, has completely devoured our entire crop of storage carrots.

The crop started off fine enough: sometime around August 12 or so I stolidly sowed about 5,400 linear feet (just north of a mile’s worth of carrots, a projected harvest of 3000 pounds) in our Town Lane field. A slow germinator, the lowly carrot can take upwards of ten days to make itself known in the rows, but sprout it did and we looked to have a decent stand on our hands. Four beds, 450’ per bed, three rows per bed.

Now a month later, over 90% of the seedlings have vanished, along with two beds of beets and about 60% of our rutabaga crop. Crows have been known to maul our fields from time to time– tomatoes, popcorn, melons and even cover crops– but this is my first experience with them devastating a fall crop of carrots. Since we’re past the point of being able to successfully plant another crop, we’ll be holding on to a couple of plantings on Birch Hill and Town Lane that were intended for fall bunching carrots. A pittance, but better than nothing, and the lessons of community farming continue to humble, amaze, and occasionally fill with consternation.

In other, more positive news: click here for the results of our 2023 Great Tomato Taste-Off! Jane Weissman, maestra of the day’s festivities, has tabulated over 100 ratings sheets and shared the winners of this year’s contest. Thank you to Jane, farm staff and countless volunteers without whom we couldn’t have pulled off such a lovely event.


Enjoy the Equinox, and see you in the fields,


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