Farmer’s Journal: handling the end of a hot summer

It has been another hot summer as a farmer. This is my 11th season. When I first moved to Oregon in 1996, we could expect one to two weeks of really hot weather during the summer. Now, we anticipate a prolonged one to two months of daily temperatures above 90F.

Head farmer, Matt Dybala, handles the heat on our Organic farm

You have to be kind of stoic in the heat. On the most extreme high heat days this past summer, the thermometer hit 108 here in Williams, Oregon. Stoic or not, I did change up our field plan during the heat. I was able to have everybody working under shade by mid-morning.

We were harvesting Oregano. That’s a crop that’s going into its third year of rotation, and it accumulates rapidly using our mechanical leaf harvester. This allowed our farm crew time to process and wash several thousands of lbs of fresh material under covered shelter from the hot afternoon sun. Our region is recognized for cool mornings and hot afternoons during July and August. Daily temperatures peak in the late afternoon.

And of course there’s ice cream involved to boost morale. We also have a year-round creek on our farm with a few deep swimming holes. I encourage everybody, as soon as they’re done working, to go jump, cool off, and spend the rest of their day somewhere trying to stay cool.

Throughout the entire growing sesason, you have to stay positive as a farmer. Winter is focused on setting production goals and field planning. Everything is on paper and field work is minimal. Cool-season weeds are not very competitive. However, ambitions can become challenges in the heat of July. It’s a peak time for plants to mature, both crops and weeds. And if you’ve under-planned or over-planned a specific element, it can become difficult.

Head farmer, Matt Dybala, works the tractor on our organic farmNow, we are in a transition to fall. The weather has perceptibly changed here. The nights and even the mornings have gotten much cooler. So it’s a great time to plant over-wintering herbs and cover crops. We still enjoy warm afternoons to achieve good germination in September and October, while harvesting the remainder of our vegetative herbs.

By the time winter arrives by late November, we’ll have a nice solid cover in our fields to protect our topsoil.