(May 29) Dear customer:

I regret to inform you that Mother Nature has not been so kind to us here at Hadley Street Farms. That crop of tomatoes I promised so long ago is not looking too good. You could call it a crop failure.

Weeks of rain — cold, driving rain, so hard and so frequent it makes the tiny hairs on the plants bristle in pain — and temperatures going backwards this spring have taken their toll. On even the nicer days, when I send the crew out to pull weeds, it’s just barely T-shirt weather. No, it looks like only half of the first planting might make it.

For those four or five sorry shrubs that remain, I fear early blight. The farm nearly always gets hit by late blight, but this early stuff is a real bad bugger. I should have known, what with a variety named Early Bright, that I could count on early blight.

Now, don’t worry, because there are second and third plantings waiting in the wings. Just as soon as my nurseryman can come up with the transplants, I — make that we — will be back in business. There’ll be beefsteaks, cherries and even some grape tomatoes. Here’s to hoping the grapes don’t turn out to be from some roma hybrid, which I suspect was the case last year.

And some exciting news! Heirloom tomatoes, test-marketed last summer to great effect, will be up to commercial volumes. Yes, I might even have enough for The Packer ad staff. There’ll be Mr. Stripey’s, yellow brandywines — on the vine — maybe even some purple-flesh zebra zingers. There’s no end to the miracles we make at the farm.

Additionally, Hadley Street Farms will be your one-stop shop for peppers, both hot and sweet. Cayennes, jalapenos, Thai dragons, Hungarian wax peppers and bells of many shades and hues. In July, baby bells will be at just the right mix of sweetness and “bite” for the discerning foodservice operator.

But back to the issue at hand. Despite the promise to have an abundant early crop of tomatoes at your disposal, my hands are in my pockets. And my pockets are empty. The bank doesn’t even want to talk to me. I will not be able to outsource product. My Mexican deal went south. Seems the field chief had a taste for tequila and cheap tacos. No one’s seem him since Cinco de Mayo. My cousin in Arkansas — God love her — is too busy tending to young ones to put in a crop. The competition over on Mackey Street won’t return calls. Not that they’d have any tomatoes either. Even regional player Bad Benny’s Farm Fresh in Lexington, Mo., reports a similar, poor start to the tomato season.

It’s just been an unfortunate few weeks. But I’m optimistic, eternal in my surety of it.

Despite the bad news, let me just mention that last summer was a bumper crop, and I expect nothing less as the months move into August and September. The sun will be shining. It will be hot here in Kansas, just like my ’maters like it. I may be sweating, but you won’t. You’ll be chomping down on a juicy, flavorful Hadley Street tomato. I promise.

Lance Jungmeyer
Proprietor, Hadley Street Farms