by Zoe Sarvis, staff writer
The mountains of the Blue Ridge are prone to quick-changing weather, but some would question if this summer was slightly more extreme than others. As the Warren Wilson College workers of the farm and garden geared up to keep Wilson’s beautiful property and reputation alive, Mother Nature stepped in to challenge them.
All across the state of North Carolina, those with gardens or farms were feelings the pressure as each day brought more moisture. For Warren Wilson, this means practicing patience, understanding nature, and getting a little wet.
“Not all the crops were washed out, but the majority of our southwest field was,” said garden manager Patrick Ross.
That particular field was the home of most of the summer crops such as peppers, eggplants, squash, and tomatoes. The campus garden does not compete with local gardens, but does have 25 community supported agriculture (CSA) members. The garden also usually provides about 20-25% of the food in both cafeterias on campus, but Ross was disappointed about how little food the garden is able to provide to the cafeterias this year.
“The summer weather really kept us from having a fall garden,” Ross said. “We were unable to start cultivation until this past week.”
While crops were limited, the garden still had a blossoming hoop house, where their cherry tomatoes, honey dew melons and tomatoes were plentiful. Now that the fall semester is here, and the crew has more hands, they will begin to bring life back to the garden.
On the other side of the garden, the bee crew was swamped—literally. The rain brought equally frustrating circumstances to two members of the bee crew, senior Cecile Parish and junior Ben Malmborg.
“Two hives had to be completely removed due to the overwhelming amount of rain,” said Malmborg.
Out of the twelve hives, the ten remaining hives will have to be moved out of the bog.
“Unfortunately we can not move them until landscaping is able to clear out new land to rebuild the hives on,” said Parish. “Landscaping has yet to make it down to the garden and until then, the date of when the two hives off campus can return is still unknown.”
Where the garden lacked produce, the bees lacked honey.
“The rain seemed to come in as soon as the blooms were coming out,” said Parish.
Over on the farm, the workers felt relief as they were able to harvest their hay and barley before the rain came. According to senior Kate Wheeler, Wilson’s farm beat the rain, but unfortunately other farmers in the area still have barley and hay standing in their fields, and were unable to harvest. The rain did unfortunately affect the corn on campus, causing it to have splotchy patches.
The farm’s beef herd was mainly living in the lower pastures, which are right on the river. Although the pastures do not necessarily flood, they are much more susceptible to standing water. The herd had to be moved more swiftly during the rain in order to get the livestock out of the gathering water. Although the rain gave the farm some difficulties, it also brought some good.
“During the summer you are looking for forage for the animals, trying to find where they are going to go next,” said Wheeler.
The large amount of rain brought in a flood of lush greenery for the animals to eat, which helped the crew move the herd quicker than they usually would be able to.
“The rain made the job more labor intensive,” said Wheeler. “Work is fun, but it’s kind of frustrating to be at work, and be ready to work, but you kind of just have to wait. The rain is a natural break for us, we just have to stop.”