I've been working some hours at the farm where we are getting our CSA share this summer. (For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a CSA is where you purchase a share in a farm and then you receive a box of produce every week.) This morning, I "weeded" a row of potatoes.
When the farmer took me out to the field, she asked if I knew what a potato plant looked like. When I said "no," she showed me a plant and described in great detail all its features. It was pretty obvious which were the potatoes as they were about 18" high and the scraggly weeds were only about 8". I wondered why she was going on and on about the looks of the plant until I realized that the row I was looking at was already weeded. The other rows were a tangled mess of weeds about 18" high covering 12" high potato plants.
My job was to extricate the plants from their tangled prisons so that they could see the sun. Without sunlight, some of the plants had already died and others were stunted. I worked 1-1/2 hours and I only got through one row. I think I now understand why some farmers use roundup-ready veggies, much as I detest the practice. I've never seen such a crop of weeds in my life as are in the fields at this farm.
Last week I spent my farm morning washing mixed greens. There were 3-4 of us working for 3 hours and we only got through 3 boxes of the greens because we had to spend so much time picking out the weeds and grasses that had been harvested along with the salad mix.
The farm is organic so no weed-killer allowed, but I wonder. Isn't there a better way? Wouldn't it be more efficient to weed the rows of potatoes when the weeds were little? Isn't it easier to weed the mixed greens before you harvest them? This is this particular farmer's first year so it seems to me that she's learning some things the hard way, but what do I know. Has anybody out there run a sizeable organic farm and can you tell me if farming organically is really supposed to be this much work?