She walks to the shed, grabs a straw hat and looks at the crops smiling. Sunshine radiates over her Beardsley Community Farm shirt and hiking shoes. She walks over to where the tomato plants used to be.
Khann Chov, Beardsley Community Farm manager, is examining the mildew on several columbine plants showing the toll they took after the abundance of rainfall over the summer.
“We didn’t have our first tomato until July and we usually have them in June,” Chov said. “I know a lot of people were having problems with their tomatoes. Plants need sunshine to ripen.”
According to the National Climatic Data Center, from Jan. 1-Aug. 31 Knoxville has received 51.37 inches of precipitation, which is 17.47 inches more than the average. It is also the second highest amount of rainfall since 1910.
The Beardsley Community Farm located in Knoxville donates their produce to local non-profit organizations, but the farm has been affected by the abundance of rainfall in more ways than one.
“The yields for this season have been very low,” Chov said. “We’ve had to cancel a lot of work days. We don’t have very much to do under shelter, and it’s not safe for our volunteers. With a community farm we depend on our volunteers to help. It definitely slowed things down a whole lot.”
Beardsley Community Farm has rainwater collection tanks designed by University of Tennessee engineering students with the capacity to store 8,400 gallons of water.
“We’ve never run out of rainwater before, and over the summer with the rainfall the tanks were extremely full,” Chov said. “We use a drip irrigation system to water our crops, so if there is too much water then the leaves can get wet, which will just burn the plant because it acts like a magnifying glass.”
Beardsley Community Farm isn’t the only farm experiencing low yields this year. Chov has a community-supported agriculture share subscription with a local farmer. She pays a set fee and picks up baskets of vegetables every Saturday starting in May and ending in November.
“They’ve cancelled pick-ups four or five times because the yields were so low,” Chov said. “That’s the thing with the rainfall; if you plant something and the rain washes it away then it won’t grow.”
Despite the challenges the abundant rainfall has presented, Chov said she’s sure that the community will continue to support one another.
“With a community farm, we don’t have the pressures like other farmers,” Chov said. “We grow vegetables and we donate it to supplement people’s diets, but they also get their food from other places. That’s the good thing about community supported agriculture. It’s about supporting our farmers no matter what whether it’s a good year or a bad year.”
Kate Wiggeringloh, an AmeriCorps worker at Beardsley, acknowledged all the work that volunteers put into the farm.
“We would not be successful without our volunteers,” Wiggeringloh said.
Chov doesn’t solely blame the rain and thinks the effort put in has a lot to do with what your garden will produce.
“I know people think with an abundance of rain, ‘Oh! I don’t really have to garden,’” Chov said. “But that’s not the case. There are so many factors that go into gardening. All the factors are connected. It’s the work that you put in your farming that matters.”
Chov and Wiggeringloh talked about the upcoming work day while looking over a Beardsley Community Farm calendar for a fundraiser. Both are very positive about the farm’s future.
“We’ve had bad years before, but we’ve become quite established despite that,” Chov said.