Just so you know, this post is fairly old… as you read it, know that any prices/dates/hours displayed here may no longer be correct. For the most accurate information head over to our home page for hours and then select different offerings from the home page for specific information around those things.
Finally got around to recording an update here in early May of 2023. Our PYO strawberry season is about half over at this point (it started a little earlier than most years). We talk through some of the challenges of the last month or so, go through the updates of the different areas around the farm (strawberries, tomatoes, row crops, etc) and catch you up to date!
View Full Transcript
Hello everyone, welcome back to another episode of Conversations with Yoder’s Farm. I’m Eldon and Lowell is with me today. Lowell, welcome to the podcast. Thank you, Eldon. I’m exhilarated. Exhilarated? To be here. That’s fascinating. If you could just move your little mic down just about that much. This mic? Yeah. Because right now if you breathe through your nose, you hear it. That’s better. All right. Well. If you want I could just hold my breath through the whole podcast. No, that would get, you wouldn’t get a lot of words in. So today’s main… I would hope it’d be a short podcast if we did that. Yeah. I’d like to do most of the talking. Yeah. So today’s May the 8th, 2023. And it’s been, I don’t know, a month and a half, two months since we did an episode. So I thought we’d just catch people up to date on what’s going on here at the farm. Get together and chat. Yeah. Like have a conversation. I thought I could catch you up on what’s happening on the farm. Okay. Let’s, let’s hear it. So what’s going on at Yoder’s Farm these days? You have to ask me questions because I can’t just talk blindly. Okay. Well, we’ll do the standard thing where we kind of go through the different items. How’s the corn maze looking? Great. That was quick. Yeah. Check. Yeah. Well, you planted the West edge of it the other day. Yeah. With some beans. Another crop. So I guess you define the West edge. Yeah. As long as it all comes up. Soybeans to be exact. That’s correct. Not green beans. Yeah. So we’ve been doing some field work lately. We can go ahead and, you want to talk about that a little bit? Which field work? Well, like. The row crops. The row crops. That’s the. I call them row crops. Scientific term. You know why I call them row crops? Man, what a dumb podcast. Because we plant them in rows. It’s true. You mean like, yeah, so corn and soybeans, which we harvest for grain. Correct. Yeah. So we planted our corn a couple of weeks ago, which was timely pretty much. And then we had a, man, I’m just not in a good frame of mind for this right now. We had a cold snap. Had some frosty weather. So forth kind of late part of April. So we actually held off planting our soybeans, which hopefully will prove to be smart. And so we just, then last week, I guess we rolled on the soybeans and punched them in thanks to. Pretty much everything is in now then, right? The row crops. Row crops. Yeah. Excuse me for not being more specific. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of a, we’re pretty small in the grand scheme of things. I mean, a lot of people do many acres. We do some, but it’s a piece of what we do here on the farm. Exactly. A piece of our diversification. One more thing to add into all of the chaos this time of year. But now that’s done, it’s a matter of waiting till fall for them, more or less. Looking at rains. Yeah. Yeah. So the corn maze, as you mentioned, we had planted a cover crop on that rye. Actually we spun it on with our fertilizer application in the fall. And so that was a pretty good stand for that. A good stand for just being spun on from a truck. It’s an ideal cover. So we let it, I mean, I actually had it headed out. So it was several feet, three, probably three to four feet tall. So yeah. Hand motions on a podcast that people can’t see. So that’s, it’s terminated now, the cover crop. So we’ll let that- It’s kind of mellowing down. Yeah, mellowing down and be a nice thatch. And hopefully here in about a month and a half, we’ll plant the corn into that. For the corn maze. Yeah. So hopefully it’ll give us a nice seed bed and then a nice kind of a thatch on the top to help us conserve as much moisture as possible. Yeah. Though we’re all hoping we get a lot of rain this summer. After strawberry season. After strawberry season. A couple of showers between now and then. And then- Yeah. So, I mean, it’s the, it’s when the rain comes and just sits on you for days and days. You get those big lows, low pressure systems that get stuck from the omega blocks up in the Northeast and they sit here and spin and spin and they can’t get out to the coast. That’s when it’s a problem for strawberries. Yeah. Seems like if the rain just kind of moves through and like we had what, I guess at some point we want to transition into strawberries. But so about two weekends ago, it was right after, no, it was the week after we opened. So let’s go ahead and just talk about strawberries then. We had like two inches of rain one night. And part of, a little bit the next day, right? We were picked up pretty good, but that Friday was- All kinds of runs together. We were closed that Friday. Yeah, for rain. Yeah. Even though it didn’t really rain that night. It mostly rained the night before. Yeah. Like in a 12 hour period. Yeah. And then we were open that Saturday after two inches of rain. Of course there was some mud places. Right. But yeah, so the berries were actually in decent shape. Yeah. It says what I was saying, is what kills you with strawberries is more when the rain just sits around. Sits on there. Yeah. Or as it did in 2018, we had like 10 inches one week. That was a bad week. Sure. I’m still struggling to get over that one. I trust your memory recall, but more than mine. It was about the first or second week of May. Yeah. And- I actually almost does ring a bell just as far as how depressed you were. What a bad week. So. Yeah. So we’re what? About three weeks, just starting our third week of pick your own season? Yeah. Saturday, so we opened on a Friday. Opened on April like the 21st, I think. Somewhere like in there. Which is almost as early as we’ve ever opened. It’s like the 17th or something was as early as we’ve ever opened. Right. In 2012. Sure. Yeah. But yeah, so this was early. And yeah, so we’re recording this on May the 8th, you said. So we’re entering our, in our third week. Yeah. Yeah. A few days. I sent out the email this morning. That’s- The midweek email? The midseason email. Oh, I was going to say midweek. And I noticed that last year when I sent it was a week from now. Really? Yeah. Yeah. We’re definitely a little bit ahead. I was actually surprised that it came on as quickly as it did. Yeah. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, I guess, because everything’s been a little bit early. But it felt like. Okay, so normally you figure a month from bloom to berry. Yeah. But then often on the front end, your first ones, you know, I would almost figure more like 40 days. Okay. Because you’re usually dealing with cooler temperatures on the front end. Well, we had near the first part of April and maybe even the very end of March, we had some very warm weather. Like- Yeah, there was a- Maybe in the 70s, maybe even brushing into the low 80s. And I think that really kind of, the crop was a little bit advanced anyway, and then it kind of pushed it, is my theory. And then it’s been kind of weird because then the last half of April, the first part of May here has been cooler than normal. And so- Yeah. We had a frost event, at least a borderline frost event, after we opened on like the 20th, it was a few days after we opened. So like the 24th. Something like that. 25th. Yeah. It’s like the Tuesday, Wednesday or so. Which is pretty unusual for us. I mean, I think one other time we’ve covered, pulled road covers after we’ve opened. Yeah. In 2020. Okay. It was 2020. Mother’s Day weekend. So yeah, that was unusual. That must’ve been a late year. I mean a late opening year. Yeah, I don’t know what time we opened. Probably around the first of May or a few days in the spring. So this year we kind of, there was that little bump in warmth that kind of pushed things along a little bit and then it cooled again. Yeah. But that early warmth is kind of what made us open early maybe. Right. It was just a first wave of berries. Yeah. And we’ve had berries along, but it’s not been overwhelming. Like some days we’ve run short. We try to rotate our fields. So we pick some one day and rest the other one for the following day. And sometimes it’s been difficult to not let people pick the reserved stuff for the following day. It’s just kind of hard to, like you’d about have to have someone out there policing it. Yeah. Which I mean we kind of do, but we’re not quite as tight as some farms. And yeah, so then, so the cooler weather kind of slowed ripening down then even once we were opening. So for example, last Thursday we were closed all day ripening. And then Saturday we basically got picked out halfway through the day. Which was very common across the strawberry universe. Yeah, universe. Because yeah, so a farm Charlotte, south of Charlotte was picked out. Some stuff in Virginia Beach, another farm close by here. So yeah, seemed to be a common theme. But then it warmed up over the weekend. So we ripened, quickly ripened a bunch of berries back up and I expect this week will be pretty good. Today is Monday and there was a small horde in the field. There was a large horde. Okay, I only saw it when it was small. Seriously? Yeah. You didn’t see the part? Gracious. But yeah, I didn’t. I was busy trying to get other work done. Yeah, that’s fine. I mean, I was just for a while there it was crazy. But yeah, it thinned out quite a bit. Yeah. Very good. So that kind of catch up on strawberries? You want to talk about projections? Pretty much. Well, I think we had really spoke doom and gloom about berries some on here. We did. And I’ve been actually pleasantly surprised. I don’t know what all to attribute that to. But some of the crop actually looks much better than I had feared it might be. So we’re thankful for that. And I don’t know if it’s going to be like the world’s greatest strawberry year for us. But I don’t think it’s going to be the worst year either. Yeah, which we at one point we were like, man, it was going to be the worst year in 10 years. Yeah. Like we were wondering if we should even open almost. Yeah, it’s been quite crazy. And then, well, the other benefit, I guess, that with the cooler weather, I really do think it’s going to the plants haven’t went vegetative yet. So they’re not done. Okay. Right. They’re shooting runner. I mean, shooting blooms. Blooms. Blooms. Yeah. Not shooting runners. Runner is a sign of being vegetative. So it’s kind of like the end of the season. You start seeing runners. It’s the end of its cycle, basically. And it’s thinking about the next generation, not the strawberries. So yeah, I would anticipate rolling right into June a ways, probably. About like normal, even though we started early. Yeah. So for all our moaning and complaining, it actually might turn out to be a pretty good year. Yeah. For which we’re grateful. We are grateful. Yes. I mean, I like to think that some of it we try to manage things as best we can. Right. Some of it’s out of our control as well. I have been trying to be very intentional about fertilizing and just doing everything we can in our power to keep them going. And then the rest you leave up to God and whatever the weather gives you and all that stuff. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, and I was going to mention too, there was like a terrible hail storm. Oh, right. Man. I forgot about that. Yeah. That was like the weekend after we opened or? No, it was before we opened. Was it right before we opened? I think it was a couple of weeks before we opened. Yeah, it was like a week before I think. It was a Thursday night. It was a Thursday night. So that was what, five miles away there was really bad hail. And then someone was just in the greenhouse today and I mentioned that we were thankful about the hail storm. And they said, really? You ought to get it here. It was like down here at my shop on 29, it was huge hail. Yeah, like that could have been a crop failure kind of a thing. Yeah, that’ll seriously get you. So yeah, lots of, I guess I would say we’re pretty optimistic about how things are going. I guess. People seem really happy with the strawberry crop. The flavor has been spectacular this year. So especially in Ruby June, we grow several varieties, Chandler, Ruby June, and some Albions. This seems to be our last year on Albions. They just kind of can’t get them other places. So yeah, but the Ruby June in particular, goodness gracious, they’ve been amazing. Like even, I mean, I would say that, like eat a few berries here and there. So yeah, overall, I guess we’ll do it again. But we’re quickly pivoting towards trying to figure out what we want to do next year. And so all that stuff like plant numbers and acres. It’s like you got to stay on top of it, like get stuff flowing for the following year. Right, you have to put orders in pretty soon. Every year they send the stuff earlier and earlier. It seems like I’ve already gotten two flyers from plant suppliers. Of course, everything’s up. Right, again. Again, yeah. Man. That’s why we have to keep ratcheting up on our prices. Yeah, it’s amazing how many inputs there are before you end up with a red strawberry. Sometimes you wonder if customers think about, well, I’m sure they don’t because I don’t think about it with other things. Did you want to talk about volume pricing and the challenges of volume pricing? No. Okay. Not really. It seems like I’ve seen more and more people like today leaving with buckets that take two hands to hold. I just wonder if we should mention something about that. I just don’t think it’s really fair to us. I wonder if that would be something we should have our staff talk to them about as they come in. I wonder if there should be a sample bucket filled that they can see or something. I don’t know. Yeah. Or do we post about it sometime? I don’t know. Or do you just go up on your price a little more? I don’t know. It’s just… We like volume pricing, selling buckets before they go to the field. People are done. They don’t have to check back out. It’s not that majorly simplified as things as long as you have berries for them to pick. But it just feels like maybe people don’t value the berries quite as much. I see them scattered along the lane or whatever. I think that’s generally because they fill them too full. I think that’s part of it. They walk back to the car. Maybe in their mind they think that if they’re extra or they haven’t… I don’t know. I mean, it doesn’t… There’s all kinds of psychology probably going on. Anyway. People, got to love them. Yep. Got to love them. It wouldn’t work without them, what we do. That’s true. Does that pretty much wrap up strawberries? Anything more you want to add? For now, we can discuss it more later. I thought maybe this would be a good time to interject this question that we got on our podcast. We got a question? Yeah, from a listener, Justin Clark. From a loyal listener. He sent a question. From our only loyal listener. Well, yeah. One of two maybe. I think he’d sent a question earlier that we had talked about a couple years ago. He sent us a question that I was going to run past you. Run past me. And let you answer it. He said, a podcast question for you. As the strawberry season is kicking off and we come out of a cold March that had us pulling row covers constantly, please rank your favorite on-farm activities from favorite to least favorite. That’s pretty good. Pruning and suckering a full house of tomatoes, pulling row covers on and off every morning and evening for seven consecutive days, building a one-mile stretch of five-strand barbed wire fence, giving yourself a mild second-degree burn while cooking breakfast on the way to pulling row covers. That’s good. I’m sure there’s not a lot of good options in there to start with your favorites. Yeah, I’m going to say most of those are down the list of ways. Well, let’s see. But yeah, burns can linger. True. Kind of cause problems throughout your day. They affect everything else. I hate it when they’re at a place that bumps everything else or something like that on your finger. It’s kind of like a bee sting. I’d much rather get stung on my arms or anywhere else. But if you get it on the wrong finger, I don’t use gloves generally to work my hives. It’s usually fine unless I basically if I grab a frame and pinch one, that’s when they get you. And then it can be very annoying when it’s like one of your fingers that you use a lot. Okay, so it’s pruning tomatoes, pulling row covers for seven consecutive days. And the burn, what was the other one? Building fence. Building fence. I haven’t built just a lot of fence. I’ve helped some. You’d probably do that just for the experience. Five miles of fence. Oh, that’s right. It was a lot of fence. That’s a lot of fence. Yeah. Man, that sounds like a job. No, it’s a one mile stretch of five strand. So basically five miles of fence. I wonder, does that mean, I wonder what the post situation is, if he’s putting posts in as well. Yeah, I’m assuming we can make assumptions along the way if we need to. I’ve seen some barbed wire fences is tacked to trees, but I doubt that’s what he had in mind. Yeah. I don’t mind suckering tomatoes, which is kind of odd maybe, but- For sure. I mean, it’s not like maybe a joyful task, but I generally just, I do a lot of vine work in the greenhouses, especially in the winter time. Right now I’m way behind because I’ve been busy with strawberries, but I just turn a podcast on. In fact, right now that’s kind of where I go to get away from people. I just assume leave the front facing jobs or whatever to the public, to other people. And then I just go off and listen to a hunting podcast and prune tomatoes. So I’m going to put that on the top of my list. Sounds good. And then I’m going to do, I’ll probably just go on and do the burn next because- Get it over with. Get it over with. At least I’m getting breakfast, you know? That’s true. Yeah. So that’s a good thing. Put something on to take the burn away and drink more coffee and probably get over it. And then probably the fence and then the road covers I’m guessing, because road covers are a pain, no doubt about it. Yeah. Maybe some of that is, what do you say, influenced by your recent experiences with road covers. Could be. Well, you had a shot there too, that one weekend when dad was gone. Oh yeah. That was like one of- You had to pull him the wrong way. That was one of our worst pulls that, I mean, probably that I can remember. I don’t know. I remember some early on, like in the middle of the night. Well they were wet and really wet because we had a bunch of rain. The wind was out of the east. We almost always get west wind, so we generally pull them to the west. And then deploy from the west to the east with the wind. And man, the wind was fighting us. Our ryegrass was out of control. Fortunately we had good attitudes. It was wet and muddy. We started with decent attitudes. I was just happy. Yeah, so we covered everything up and then it got seriously cold that weekend. That was Easter weekend, I think. Yeah, I think it was. That was pretty chilly. The only benefit to that cover, so he said pulling, covering, and uncovering. The only benefit to, like that was a cool snap for about three days. And we left them on for three days. I hate covering and uncovering. That’s what I hate. Yes, you do. And rye covers, they’re great. They do a good job generally. But people don’t talk about the damage they do very much, too. They can do a lot of mechanical damage. We’ve had a ton of wind this spring. Do you want to kind of explain what mechanical damage means? Well, they just beat and flop on the plants. Yeah, so they mess up leaves and stems. Yeah, unfortunately most of the time ours have been covered lately while the plants are actually really pushing up all the plastic. It hasn’t been too bad. But the last couple of years, you can look down the west side of the row and it’s almost like some of the plants are just pounded on that west side. So like stunted. They look worse than the other side. Interesting. So I don’t know if maybe we would have them tighter over the plants where they wouldn’t give as much. Maybe more bags and just kind of stretch them tight. Maybe that would lessen it. We sometimes have some slack in there and I think maybe it tends to give and flop more. I’ve also heard people say that’s hard on your rye covers. You can’t get rye covers to last very good either these days and they’re honking expensive. Everything is. Everything is, but especially rye covers. And then we get these little mini whirlwinds that… What are they called? Dust devils? Something like that. Yeah. Definitely seems to be of the devil for sure. They whirl and swirl. And I don’t know if it has to do with heat buildup under the covers. It’s often on days like when we leave them on for three days in a row. And some of those days it’s usually your front comes in and then it’s high pressure, maybe not a lot of wind and it’s a little indecisive, the wind is. And I don’t know if it’s something about a field with some hot… Something about the covers and the heating that goes on and if it causes these micro drafts or something like that. Something. Yeah. I mean, why else would it do that? I don’t know. Well, we lost a brand new cover to this. What? Half of one. Early April? Yeah. Early April, early April, early April, early March. It’s a brand new cover and I never saw it, but I saw it hanging in the tree. And it literally just must… And it went over top of a power line and went into a tree like 200 yards beyond. Fascinating. So it must have spun it up like that in one of those things. Then I saw one down here the day we left it covered three days. A survey after that, and they almost did that, but we had enough bags, it kept everything down. Yeah. I guess it’s a good reminder to go heavy with the bags. I don’t know. I guess. But I’ve had them ripped covers too. True. Yeah. All sorts of mess. Very weird. We got a bag sewer that we’ve repaired some. That was through the recommendation of someone else. A bag sewer? Oh, right, right, right. You’re repairing the… It’s like to repair rips in road covers. I thought you were repairing your gravel bags with them. Right. Yeah. They’re not cheap, but neither are road covers. So if the road cover itself is in good shape and you can repair a rip or keep a seam from ripping it on does good stuff. Yeah. Very good. Let’s see. Should we talk about tomatoes a little bit? You said you… Yeah, this is getting pretty long. There’s a lot of vine work you should be doing. Yeah. So it’s always kind of the thing with tomatoes this time of the year. You know, you’re juggling all the outside stuff and at some point… We’re actually picking in all three greenhouses, but we’re going to start stopping the picking. I mean, so at some point you just pick what you have and you kind of forget the vine work, but you got to at least be able to walk around the greenhouses and not let it turn into a jungle. So, but yeah, production has been very good and some of them have… Some of the tomatoes have been around for quite a while, so they’re starting to get pretty long. The vines, they’re indeterminate, so the longer you push that out from the pot in which it is rooted, the worse fertilizer uptake is, it seems like. And then sometimes your fruit quality can suffer too. And often it coincides with the weather warming up and so that can also cause some fruit issues as well. So yeah, we’re picking in three houses. I didn’t realize you were still picking in the first one. Yeah, still giving a few. Maled big dina is in that house. Okay. Which it’s a decent tomato. Yeah, I’m not a tomato connoisseur. It’s done pretty well for us. The terraros are in the middle house. They’re plugging along, kind of doing what they always do. Terraro-ing. They’re a little more growthy than I like. I think I’ve complained about them before. And then the big house, the grafted BHN 589s are doing… They’re doing very well. We’re really pleasantly surprised with the grafted ones. They’re really big. Yeah, they’re getting a little bit more normal size now. So maybe those early ones… easier to pack into boxes, but really pretty tomato in there. They’re loaded up and doing very well. And the beauty of those is I have not leaned and lowered them once. Really? So very little vine work because there would have been no way I could have kept up with that house. Sounds to me like we need to do three houses next year. Well, I think they definitely have their place. I think it fits very nicely in the spring house. I’m not sure how they would do through the winter. Would there be any other… I mean, I’m sure there’s a bajillion varieties of tomatoes. Would there be something else that would have the same, similar qualities as far as vines? Well, the BHN 589 is a determinate tomato. A bush kind of tomato. But I think putting it on this graph makes it a little less that way. It still needs a lot of pruning. Leaning and lowering at some point or not necessarily? Yeah, potentially. I mean, but not as much as like a terrarium. I don’t think… I think I would have had to lean and lower it already. But I mean, these could maybe use it here at some point. If we decide to… well, it’s only May the whatever. Well, I think that’s about all that I know to talk about. Anything else that I should bring up before we close? And do you answer your wife’s phone call? I don’t know that she listens to the podcast. I told her I’d call her later. Sounds… She shouldn’t be too offended. No, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Yeah, I think enough ground for one day. Enough ground for one day. We can always rehash stuff later. Fair enough. But it’s been, you know, every year challenging. Every spring is challenging. This year is no different. If it wasn’t challenging, it wouldn’t be any fun. I guess, and everyone would do it. It’s like those people who say money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s like, well, I’d like to give it a whirl sometime. You like to try without the challenges? Maybe it would be a nice… I’d like to try a spring without so many challenges sometime. We can talk about our sweet corn sometime too. We are delving back into that realm again and all our summer plans for crops, etc. Yeah. All right. Well, sounds like we have things for next time. Well, this has been a real blessing to be here with you, Alden. I just really appreciate it. It’s always good to catch up. That Dr. Pepper that you gave me. Well, hopefully it gives you the strength to get up and do what needs to be done. Wish you all the best. Yeah, well, same to you. Same to all of us. Yes. All right. Well, if you ever need more information about Yoder’s Farm, head over to the website, yodersfarm.com. Thanks for listening if you made it this far, and I hope you have a good rest of your day. We’ll be back at some point. Till then, see ya. God bless.