Some farmers may disagree, but I find working in a warm summer rain is one of the greatest pleasures of farming. The key to enjoying it is a solid set of rain gear: rubber boots, waterproof bib overalls and a non-leaky rain jacket are essentials. If it is a bit on the chilly side, a thick wool sweater and a good pair of socks are also necessities. Properly attired, I feel sheltered, invincible and unstoppable.

I relish the change of pace, the break from the heat of the sun. The colors in the field are particularly vibrant against the gray sky. Nature is doing work for me, watering the crops without me needing to turn on any irrigation.

The moment my rain jacket no longer keeps me dry or my feet become soaked, the day can shift from enjoyable to frustrating to miserable in the span of a few water logged minutes. Suddenly, I can only see all the tasks that the rain will prohibit me from accomplishing: weeding, tractor work, mowing. Pruning and dead-heading when plants are wet can spread disease. I am cold, and the endless list of farm tasks spins out in front of me.

Although the forecast for the week ahead calls for mostly clear skies, we have had a particularly rainy and cool spring and early summer. Some crops are delayed.

I was beginning to worry that the season was turning into the only other truly rainy season I can remember. It was spring of 2009, and I was farming at a small organic farm in western Massachusetts. Dan, the head farmer, specialized in heirloom tomatoes and garlic, planting his rows on a narrow strip of land bordered by large-scale, conventional corn fields.

That year, it rained nearly every day, much more than this year. When it wasn’t raining, it was cloudy. The fields stayed wet, farmers had difficulty working their land, and many crops simply rotted in place.

To make matters worse, the big box stores in New England, like Home Depot and Lowes, started selling tomato plants infected with a fungus called late blight. Late blight is the disease that decimated the crops during the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s. Before 2009, there had never been a widespread outbreak in the United States. In muggy, wet weather, its spores can spread rapidly and over miles, quickly infecting acres of farmland planted to tomatoes and potatoes.

Late blight exploded across New England that year, hitting both organic and conventional farms alike, even reaching Martha’s Vineyard. At Dan’s farm, the tomatoes looked healthy at first. In their sandy loam, they grew tall and lush and set heavy, green fruit. But then, before the fruit could ripen and seemingly overnight, late blight set in. It was as if the grim reaper had passed through the field, touching each plant as he went. We harvested the tomatoes still green in the hope of salvaging them, but as they began to ripen, lesions appeared on their shoulders that slowly began to spread and expand.

I was new to farming then and could not have fully grasped the enormity of this loss. Dan’s entire income, and his family’s income, depended on the success of those five acres. Because he specialized in heirloom tomatoes, a majority of the farm was planted to a crop that was almost a 100 per cent loss.

Since 2009, late blight has made an appearance in New England every year, but without the same level of destruction. Many farmers use copper fungicides on their tomatoes and potatoes as a preventative to the disease or move their crops into greenhouses. Under cover, the plants are less susceptible because the leaves stay dry and the plastic protects against airborne spores.

At Slip Away a few years back, we lost our entire tomato crop to disease, but I was never able to confirm if it was late blight. Until recently, we have never really had a strong tomato crop. Our mornings of heavy fog and cooler temperatures are not ideal, and the nitrogen-loving plants struggle on our sandy soils. Last year, we moved the entire crop into a new greenhouse and coddled the plants along. Come August, we were harvesting fruits from plants that grew over our heads. Fingers crossed for another season like that one; so far, so good.

But the weather is always an uncontrollable factor. Two unusually strong summer storms have brought hail to the fields of Martha’s Vineyard. In the west, particularly in Colorado, hail has become an increasingly regular occurrence. Farmers there are investing in hail insurance and utilizing caterpillar tunnels, structures built from greenhouse plastic on low hoops, in an attempt to provide some coverage to their crops. Thankfully, on the Island, we do not see hail frequently, but we are adjusting to increasingly irregular and unpredictable weather patterns.

We’ll hope for the best here on Chappy and on other Vineyard farms.