You are on page 1of 4


year our harvest total was 61,678 pounds. That brings the total donated since 2010 to 437,000 pounds. Our
primary crops were green chile, tomatoes, broccoli and cabbage. In September, we also gleaned apples and pears from
orchards in Corrales and the North Valley. All of the produce was donated to Roadrunner Food Bank and to five food
pantries in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties – St. Felix Pantry in Rio Rancho, Casa Rosa Food Pantry in Placitas, The
Storehouse in Albuquerque, Rio Grande Food Project in Albuquerque and St. John Episcopal Food Pantry in
Albuquerque. Produce was also donated to Haven House, a domestic violence shelter for women and children.

What went well in 2017?

1. In 2016, we had a poor tomato harvest because it was hot and tomatoes do not set fruit once the temperature
exceeds 85 degrees. We addressed this problem in 2017 by planting twelve tomato varieties that were developed to
withstand high heat. These varieties set fruit despite the high temperature and we harvested 18,988 pounds in 2017
compared to 15,898 pounds in 2016. However, the tomatoes were slow to ripen. When we had our first hard frost in
October, the vines were still covered with large, green tomatoes.

When I researched this problem, I found an article published by Cornell University that said tomatoes are slow to ripen
when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees or when the temperature falls below 50 degrees. At these temperatures,
lycopene and carotene, the pigments responsible for giving tomatoes their typical orange to red color cannot be
produced. To test this, I downloaded the Corrales weather history from 2014 through 2017 and graphed the number of
days that the temperature stayed between 50-85 degrees. When I compared this graph to our harvest history, I found a
very strong relationship. The greater the number of days that the temperature stayed between 50-85 degrees, the
larger the harvest. A copy of the graphs is attached.

Strategy for 2018: We will limit our tomato varieties to the 4-5 heat tolerant varieties that performed the best in 2017.
We will also focus on determinate varieties that produce tomatoes earlier in the season. Examples include Legend,
Celebrity, Florida 91, Phoenix and Heatmaster. We will also plant a winter cover crop of winter wheat, winter rye,
Austrian peas, hairy vetch and crimson clover to improve the soil.

2. This year’s chile crop was the best we have ever grown. The plants were large and productive. The chile was hot and
meaty. Green chile, a staple in our local diet, is very high in vitamin C and it is one of our most popular crops.

3. We had a heavy apple crop this year. During the first three weeks of September, we harvested apples five days a
week from orchards in Corrales and the north valley. Volunteers included church groups, schools, local businesses and
the general public. This year we harvested 29,100 pounds of fruit, compared to 20,500 pounds of fruit in 2016.

Strategy for 2018: This year, we harvested fruit in the evenings as well as on the weekends. However, because there
were fewer hours of daylight during evening work sessions, large orchards tended to require multiple harvest sessions
and multiple volunteer groups. In addition, Roadrunner Food Bank was unable to pick up the fruit after 5 pm. In 2018,
we will make better use of our time by focusing on the large orchards and scheduling two harvest sessions each
Saturday in September, one from 8-12 and the other from 1-5 pm.

What went wrong in 2017?

1. Each year, Mother Nature hands us a few new challenges. This year our primary challenge was a heavy infestation of
squash bugs. Squash bugs do a tremendous amount of damage, not only to squash plants, but also to other cucurbit
crops such as cucumbers and melons. Squash bugs over-winter, they reproduce at an amazing rate and they are difficult
to control.

Our 2017 cucumber and squash crop was planted in mid-May. By July 1, we were harvesting squash and cucumbers.
Thirty days later, squash bugs had killed most of the plants. This reduced our cucumber and squash harvest from 17,000
pounds in 2016 to 4,700 pounds in 2017. Squash bugs produce one to two new generations each year. In 2018 we will
address this problem by planting our squash much later to give the 1st and 2nd generations of squash bugs time to die.
We will also plant a trap crop of blue hubbard squash. The trap crop will be sprayed to reduce the squash bug
population. The trap crop will not be harvested or donated.

2. This summer, we hired an assistant farm manager. The intent was to make Seed2Need more sustainable by having
an additional person responsible for farm operations. Unfortunately, it did not work out. We intend to repost this
position by the end of November so we can get an assistant farm manager in place by April, 2018 when field preparation

In the following graphs, the vertical axis is pounds and the horizontal axis is month and week. Month and week are recorded in the format MMW where MM is month and W is week.
Example: 061 means the first week of June, 104 means the 4th week of October.

Weekly Tomato Harvest 2014-2017 Our peak tomato harvest has been getting later
each year. This weekly graph shows that in 2014
peak tomato harvest was week four of August. In
2015 it was week one of September, in 2016 it was
week four of September and in 2017 it was week
four of October. In all cases, the tomatoes were
planted in mid-May. The number of tomatoes
planted in 2014-2016 was approximately the same.
However, we planted significantly more tomato
plants in 2017.

Despite planting an equal or greater number of

3000 tomato plants, our harvest has continued to decline.
When we had our first hard frost at the end of
2000 October, our plants were still heavily loaded with
green tomatoes.

So...Why were the tomatoes so slow turning red?

061 073 074 081 082 083 084 091 092 093 094 101 102 103 104 111 071 072
According to Cornell University
2014 2015 2016 2017 (,
when temperatures exceed 85 to 90 degrees ,
ripening slows significantly. At these temperatures,
lycopene and carotene, the pigments responsible
2017 Tomato Harvest for giving tomatoes their typical orange to red
Number of Days Having Temperatures Ranging from 50-85 Degrees appearance, cannot be produced. As a result, the
25 fruit can stay in a mature green phase for quite
some time. Tomatoes also dislike cool
temperatures. Temperatures lower than 50
degrees will cause a type of chilling injury and it may
20 take 2-3 days for tomatoes to return to their
previous levels of photosynthetic activity, even after
just a brief chill period.

15 Based on this information, I compared our 2017

tomato harvest to Corrales weather history for the
period May 1 -> October 31 (see the graph to the
left) and found that there appears to be a strong
10 relationship between the size of the harvest and the
number of days having temperatures ranging from
50-85 degrees.

5 Strategy for 2018: We plan to do two things to

increase tomato production. First, we will plant a
winter cover crop that will be tilled under in the
spring to improve the soil. Second, in 2018, we will
0 plant determinate tomato varieties that are both
May June July August September October
heat tolerant and that a shorter "days to harvest".
2014 2015 2016 2017 We tested 12 varieties of heat tolerant tomatoes in
2017 and in 2018 we will plant determinate varieties
that performed the best. Examples include
Celebrity, Dixie Red, Heatmaster,Phoenix and
35000 Cumulative Tomato Harvest 2014-2017 Tribute.







061 073 074 081 082 083 084 091 092 093 094 101 102 103 104 111 071 072

2014 2015 2016 2017