On behalf of Seed2Need, I would like to thank you for the fruit you donated this year to help us provide fresh produce to families in our community suffering from food insecurity. I am sending you a copy of this year-end report so you see what went well, what did not go so well and our plans for 2020.
2019 Year-End Report
This year, our primary crops were green chile and tomatoes. In September, Seed2Need volunteers also gleaned 31,467 pounds of apples and pears from orchards in Corrales and the North Valley. All of this produce was donated to Roadrunner Food Bank and to six food pantries in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties:
- St. Felix Pantry
- Casa Rosa Food Pantry
- The Storehouse
- Rio Grande Food Project
- St. John’s Episcopal Food Pantry
- The New Mexico Veteran’s Integration Center
Our total 2019 harvest is currently 57,839 pounds. Although we still have 3,000 broccoli plants in the ground, that harvest is expected to be minimal. After the broccoli plants started setting heads, growth came to a standstill after five nights of temperatures in the low 20s.
- We had a great chile crop. The plants were large and productive and the chile was hot and meaty. Green chile is our most popular crop.
- For years, one corner of the garden has consistently shown poor plant growth and low productivity. We nicknamed this area “The Bermuda Triangle”. Every year, we test the soil and measure water flow but the test results have never explained the difference in productivity. Because there are large elm trees 40-50’ from this corner of the garden, this spring we decided to test for invasive tree roots by digging a 3’ deep trench along that edge of the garden. Cutting those tree roots seemed to correct the problem. This year, “The Bermuda Triangle” was as productive as any other part of the garden.
- In an effort to make Seed2Need more sustainable, we asked our core volunteer team to assume leadership roles. 25 members of our core team stepped forward and we tested the new leadership structure in August and September. I am pleased to report that this new leadership structure worked well and we intend to keep it permanently in place.
- We continued working with Silver Leaf Farms, a positive and productive relationship that started in 2018. When Silver Leaf Farms has produce that they cannot sell due to minor blemishes, Seed2Need picks it up at their storage facility and distributes it through our normal distribution channels. This increases the amount of produce donated and it provides Silver Leaf Farms with a charitable contribution. In 2019, Silver Leaf Farms donated 11,175.5 pounds of lettuce, cucumbers and squash. Thank you Silver Leaf!
- In 2019, volunteers contributed over 3000 hours helping Seed2Need prune fruit trees, transplant seedlings, plant tomatoes and chile, glean fruit and clean up the gardens at the end of season. We could not do a project like this without the help of the schools, athletic teams, churches, businesses and members of the general public that volunteer their help.
- Fungus – We had to clean and disinfect our greenhouse twice this spring to combat a fungus that was infecting the tomato and chile seedlings.
- Weather – 2019 was a difficult weather year. In April we had a hard frost that reduced our fruit harvest from 48,333 pounds in 2018 to 31,467 pounds in 2019 and in May the average temperature in Corrales was 9 degrees cooler than in 2018. That slowed plant growth. Once the weather warmed up, it turned hot almost overnight. During our peak tomato harvest which is in August and September, the average temperature was 2 degrees higher than in 2018. That affected fruit set on the tomatoes as well as the length of time it took the tomatoes to ripen.
A study conducted by Cornell University found that when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees or falls below 50 degrees, tomatoes do not set new fruit and they are slow to ripen. That is because temperatures outside the 50-85 degree range inhibit the production of lycopene and carotene, the pigments responsible for giving tomatoes their color.
Researching Heat Impact
To examine this impact, I downloaded Corrales weather history from 2014 through 2019 and compared the average pounds per tomato plant to the number of days within the 50-85 degree temperature range. Although it is unlikely that temperature is the only factor responsible for the reduction in the tomato harvest, I found it interesting that our tomato harvest was the highest in the years we had more days in the 50-85 degree range, i.e. 2013 and 2014.
To further illustrate the impact of temperature on our tomato harvest, I am providing two graphs that compare 2013 and 2014 (our largest harvests) to 2018 and 2019 (our smallest harvests). The red and blue lines designate maximum daytime temperatures and the green lines mark the 50-85 degree range. Our tomato harvest usually begins in late July and peaks in August and September. If you compare 2014 to 2019, these graphs make a pretty convincing argument that high temperatures in August and September had an negative impact on our 2019 tomato crop.
- Increase chile production by reducing the spacing between the rows from 6’ to 3’.
- Reduce the number of tomato varieties planted and focus on the varieties that were most productive in 2019. Also increase the plant spacing on indeterminant varieties to improve air circulation and make the crop less susceptible to fungus.
- Install fertilizer injectors on the chile and tomatoes and periodically inject calcium to reduce blossom end rot.
- Continue the transition to the new leadership structure to make Seed2Need more sustainable.
- Recruit additional volunteers by serving as a mentor at the 2020 Sandoval County Master Gardener training
Thank you again for helping Seed2Need provide fresh fruits and vegetables to families in our community suffering from food insecurity. Together, we are making a difference. Have a Merry Christmas!
Penny Davis, the Board of Directors and the volunteers of Seed2Need