Written by Josie Gilmore, GoFarm Community Food Intern
So far this season, our local food shares and mobile market truck have been packed full of our favorite greens. As the summer season kicks off, kale, lettuce, and other leafy favorites are always the first to arrive due to their ability to weather the erratic snows and high, dry temperatures that are characteristic of early spring in Colorado. This summer has been particularly arid; so far 2022 is set to be on par with 2012—an incredibly dry year. The difference, says Derrick Hoffman of Hoffman Farms, is that Colorado got ample snow this past winter to provide enough moisture to keep growing. As the heat picks up throughout July and August, the climate will become too hot for leafy greens, which can become bitter and wilt in the heat. By late July, Colorado farms will transition to harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and the whole rainbow of delicious summer snacks.
We spoke with Hoffman Farms (Greeley) and SoCliff Farm (Lakewood) about their biggest hurdles this season. Besides the common denominator of labor challenges, each farm has its own unique set of difficulties due to its individual microclimate—the specific climate on the farm itself. For example, Hoffman Farms is located in a valley, which exposes them to slightly colder temperatures and lends itself to a later summer season. The wind has also been “interestingly” strong this year. Wind damage includes blown over hoop houses and bent metal poles, making it difficult to maintain the consistently warm and humid environment that summer crops require to thrive. Hoffman explains that the wind has even been strong enough to create static electricity on the ground, which consequently dried out and killed their early beet and spinach crop.
At SoCliff Farm, like other farms in the area, there are growing concerns surrounding the balance of manual labor and self-care. Besides delaying crop growth, the increasingly hot summers provide a challenge to the workers, who ask themselves: how can we get this work done without bringing harm to our health? Anica, one of the farmers behind SoCliff, says the key is to “be nimble,” approaching these unprecedented times by realizing there might not be weather patterns that we can rely on in the future. Nonetheless, that first bite of a summer tomato in late July is enough motivation to keep putting in hard work, sharing good eats with our community, and weathering these storms together.
You might be thinking, ‘So, what does this mean for my local food share?’ It means you should enjoy those leafy greens while you still can! Farmers are harvesting them now before it’s too hot and the greens become too bitter. Though the heat of summer might not be good news for greens, it means we could start to see some late-summer crops in our shares even sooner, as early as mid-July! These are the delicious ‘fruit’ parts of the plant- tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini squash. Plus, now that we’re through what is often the most temperamental season in Colorado (spring), we should get more consistent weather (hopefully) and see more variety and quantity in the shares! Eating seasonally, especially in Colorado, can be unpredictable, but also deliciously rewarding.