Encouraged and Frustrated

The momentum of the food movement here in our community continues to grow in exciting ways. We’re coming off the farm’s best sales week ever, we have some beautiful gardens producing lots of great food and we’re picking up lots of new customers.  There is much to find encouraging.

But we continue to be plagued by the menace that threatens to ruin it all–deer.  Coming home last night about 8:30 we saw 13 of them just from the time we crossed our property line to the time we reached our house, including 3 eating the buckwheat cover crop in one of our gardens.

A few days ago I discovered that they had destroyed our okra crop.  They had just walked down the rows and eaten the buds out of all the plants.  We’d worked hard to establish that garden, the biggest on our farm.  I had high hopes for the okra and was optimistic that it would sell well.  But, alas, there will be no okra on White Flint Farm this year.  I plowed up the ruined plants they’d left behind.

Then Friday night they destroyed much of our winter squash.  That was another punch in the gut and another large garden and important crop down the drain.

The remnants of a spaghetti squash

The remnants of a spaghetti squash

Sometimes they only take a couple of bites, just enough to ruin the squash

Sometimes they only take a couple of bites, just enough to ruin the squash

These are crops that historically the deer haven’t bothered.  They were things we could count on even if we lost other gardens.  Google it and you’ll find many websites (including extension service sites) saying deer don’t eat watermelon plants, cantaloupe plants, cucumber plants, okra, squash, peppers, etc. (all of which have been heavily damaged by deer on our farm the last two years). Now it seems that nothing is safe from them.

We’re near our wits end.  My neighbor, a large scale conventional vegetable farmer, folded his tent last year, concluding that it is just impossible to grow food here anymore.

Demand for good food is growing here, as we have been hoping it would.  But unless we can figure out a solution to the deer issue, we aren’t going to be able to meet the demand we’ve been trying to help generate.  Very frustrating.