“I have to say, it is a phenomenal year here!” says chef Brian Kingsford. He was waxing enthusiastic about a place where he spends almost as much time as he does in his well-regarded Providence restaurant, Bacaro. The chef starts most days out at Confreda Farm in western Cranston. He picks by hand basil and heirloom tomatoes and works closely with farmer Vin Confreda to select corn, peppers and other fresh vegetables. The close relationship Kingsford has with Confreda is readily apparent when the chef says he wants to have an in-depth conversation “with my farmer” about the bounty of this season’s produce and its exceptional quality.
With so much having been reported on the severe drought that has plagued the Midwest this summer, and the popularity of “farm-to-table” menus at the state’s restaurants, those of us who dine out often should have more than a passing interest in how the harvest is coming in this summer. Unlike the middle of the country, we in southern New England have fared reasonably well this year. The amount of rainfall is approaching the average for the year, thanks to the heavy rains that visited our area this summer.
In fact, chef Kingsford explained the finer points of summer rain on the cornfield. “Heavy rain is not the farmer’s friend,” he began. “But too little rain is bad also. The storms that came in early August actually were not harmful to the crops,” he explained. “When flash-flooding occurs, the ground does not get soaked [so the growing harvest is not harmed].”
According to the USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Service, a newsletter on crop production and weather, fruit development throughout New England is ahead of schedule and vegetables are coming in abundance. The Rhode Island reporter, Paul Brule of Farm Service Agency, wrote that the state’s produce is “a good- looking crop so far. Sweet corn, I think it’s been the best season in a long time. Small vegetables are great right now. There has been enough rain that they have a nice color and size and the taste is good too.”
Elsewhere in New England, the first apples in the northern part of the region have been picked, and fruits such as blueberries and peaches are in excellent-to-good condition with above average fruit set and size. Even cranberries in southeastern Massachusetts finished blooming by the first week of the month and showed potential of a good crop.