As temperatures peaked at 90 degrees on the Vineyard last week, Blackwater Farm owner Debbie Farber worried about her chickens.
“Have you ever seen a chicken pant?” she said. “Chickens are not happy in this weather. I’m just trying to keep them cool and give them plenty of water. That’s all you can do.”
The pigs were having an easier time of things, wallowing deep in the mud to stay cool. “Pigs can’t sweat so they have to keep themselves in the mud,” she said. “They’re really not dirty animals at all. They get an unnecessary bad rap.”
A midsummer check with farmers across the Island found the predominant theme was the heat.
Ms. Farber’s tomatoes are two weeks early, but the lettuce that has been thriving through a cool spring and early summer is suddenly rotted and wilting.
Rusty Gordon at Ghost Island Farm in West Tisbury uses shade netting on leafy greens and in the greenhouses to protect the plants from the scorching sun. He uses it over arugula, salad greens and lettuce.
“Every spring we’re going to get a lot of rain and in the summer we’re going to get a drought, so I’m working a lot with the shade netting and trying to come up with a different method of growing through the summer,” Mr. Gordon said. “It’s expensive but you buy it once and have it forever.”
In addition to netting, Mr. Gordon is experimenting with 12 varieties of kale this year.
“It was such a big thing last year,” he said. Varieties include red and white Russian kale, red ursa, toscano and winter red.
Ask Lisa Fisher at Stannard Farms in West Tisbury how she feels about the weather this year and she’ll give you a raspberry.
“The bipolar weather you mean?” she said. “It’s hard to adjust . . . the weeds are winning and it’s too hot.”
Ms. Fisher is one of a handful of certified organic farmers on the Island, and battles her share of bugs and weeds. The heat has only worsened the pest issue, she said.
Her chickens are laying only every other day, and she said her arugula took a “thrashing” earlier this spring in the rain. Some of the other seedlings didn’t make it, also because of the rain. But the garlic scapes were long, green and tasty, sorrel was lush and haricots verts are coming in nicely. Tomatoes are also on the way.
“We’ll keep at it as best we can,” she said with the can-do attitude prevalent among Island farmers.
Jefferson Munroe of the Good Farm in Vineyard Haven is raising 2,500 meat chickens this year and said the heat has been a struggle.
“The heat wave was tough for them; we spend more time giving them water, but we haven’t installed any air conditioning units yet,” he smiled. “We’re thinking about it.”
Mr. Munroe also is raising pheasants and turkeys.
At Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown, Simon Athearn said some crops have been slow to come in due to the rain.
“We don’t even have pink tomatoes in the field,” Mr. Athearn said, though the farm has been picking greenhouse tomatoes for several weeks.
Morning Glory corn is in, but that, too, has been affected by the rain. They will be picking corn nearly daily from now on. Mr. Athearn said he was concerned that successive plantings would all come at once after the heat wave, but it appears that is not the case.
The farm has its own cultivated blueberries coming in this week and Mr. Athearn said he expects it to be a good year for peaches. The farm is growing shallots for the first time this year. Harvested this week, they were curing in the barn and will be available this weekend.
Mr. Athearn had good things to say about green things.
“Green beans seem perfection this year,” he said, and “we’ve had phenomenal lettuce all the way through.” The farm is growing a new kind of salad lettuce this year, called Salad Nova. A normal head of lettuce has 43 leaves; this breed has 143 leaves.
Perfect for a salad mix, the tiny lettuce leaves have “robust coloring” and the “flavor of a full-grown lettuce head,” Mr. Athearn said.
“We’re really proud of it,” he said. “It’s selling out the door.”
This column is meant to reflect all aspects of agriculture and farm life on the Vineyard. Remy Tumin may be reached at 508-627-4311, extension 120, or email email@example.com.