It’s only February and there is about 2 feet of beautiful powdery snow blanketing our farm right now, but already the season is up and running. Yesterday we fired up our seedling greenhouse for the first time this season (literally fired up…as it’s heated with a woodstove). The first crops that we started have all been flowers so far…because some of them just take so darn long that they need this much time to bloom. In the next couple of days we will be starting our early hoophouse vegetable crops like kale, Swiss chard, beets and lettuces. We are aiming to get our first harvest around the start of the farmers markets on May 9th this season. Next week we start our onions and leeks, which we start from seed, as these too need a long time in the field to mature. We’ll be planting more onions this year as we really didn’t have enough last season, especially since one of our varieties completely failed.
The winter is our time for reflection and planning on the farm. It’s when we set our goals for the upcoming season and talk about the changes that we want to make. This year we’ve made some hard decisions in favour of improving our farm/family life balance. The first is to take a year off from attending the Thornbury Farmers Market. Although we will not be attending the Thornbury Market, I (Amy) will remain on the steering committee and really want to see this relatively new market thrive. Having Sunday free will give us a day a week where we can take the time to do family things together and get set for the week.
The second big change is that we have decided to not have any apprentices living on the farm this season. For the past three years we have had fantastic people living and working with us, in exchange for providing labour they have learned about what we do and the ins and outs of our business as well as a modest stipend. While we have enjoyed having apprentices, we are going to try a farm season with only paid staff. We have a few locals hired for the season including, Greg who you may remember from last season (he lives across the street). Greg will be starting at the beginning of April and Sid and Syd will be starting around the end of April when they are back from school.
The last thing I wanted to talk about in this newsletter is our decision to certify organic this season. As many of you know we have been growing organically since the get go (if you want to learn more about our growing practices, you can read the newsletter I wrote about it last season here: https://sideroadnaturalfarm.com/2016/04/27/april-csa-update-2/). Last November we decided to begin the process of certifying organic with EcoCert (one the approved third party organic certifiers available). The whole process takes just over a year assuming that we are not found to be in breech of organic standards. The certified organic standards are created at a national level and are now standardized across Canada. The process involves a fairly lengthy application as well as improved record keeping during the season and inspection. Our practices won’t change other than we can no longer use biodegradable plastic mulch on our heat loving crops (a new standard that comes into place in 2017…although you can still use regular plastic mulch so long as you remove it and dispose of it in a landfill…in our opinion somewhat counterintuitive to the idea of growing organically so we won’t be doing that). On that note, if anyone needs a pretty much brand new plastic mulch layer, we may have one for sale 🙂
Our decision to certify was motivated by a need/desire to be able to quickly and easily distinguish our crops as organic at farmers markets and on store shelves (where we are selling more and more salad greens lately). At this point in Ontario you can call you crops “organic” even if you aren’t certified although this regulation will likely change so that the word “organic” is only used if the crop/product is certified (such is the case in some other provinces already).
Although we are going ahead with certification, we still have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I am a little bit nervous about the way that the Certified Organic standards are being implemented across the province as it sounds like some certifiers are interpreting the standards differently than others. We’ve heard through the grapevine of some farms being penalized for growing specific varieties that are not considered allowed for certified organic production…only to be told after the crop has been grown (if you’re interested, read this heartfelt account of one Ontario farm’s struggles with the whole thing: http://zocaloorganics.ca/certifiedorganic/). *** Update since writing this, it appears that the crop mentioned in the aforementioned blogpost has since been allowed in Certified Organic production again in Canada**. Local and regional certifying bodies used to provide support to those who are certifying or are already certified, however, it seems that with the implementation of the national standard farms are mostly on their own to interpret the standards. A challenge when you consider the extremely diverse nature of farms and farming practices and the difficulty associated with understanding and apply government regulations.
This all being said, we still feel like the benefits of identifying our farm as Certified Organic out weigh the administrative time, costs, slight changes to our practices and potential risks, so we will be going ahead. Stay tuned, as I’ll likely write about the certification process more during the season.
That’s it for this month. We’ll write again in March and will be sure to include some photos of the greenhouse which should be a sea of green by then.
Take care everyone and enjoy this sunny weekend!
The purpose of our pre-season newsletter is to keep our members updated on the happenings on the farm and the progress of the season that you will soon be enjoying. The winter is technically our “off-season” although this has been our busiest winter season yet as we started running our winter bounty box program and are still selling storage vegetables and meat regularly. In some ways staying somewhat busy while there is snow on the ground has been a good motivator to start checking off some important tasks off of our list(s) to get ready for spring planting. Just last week we finished ordering our seeds for the season and we’ll begin starting some plants indoors this coming week. Our crop plans have not changed drastically from last year although we are trying some new varieties out and hope to have a more consistent supply of everyone’s favourite foods throughout the CSA season. Going to a customizable or “free choice” CSA program, we are anticipating that less people will be ordering the more obscure crops like fennel and kohlrabi and so are planning to grow more of the things that people seem to love like lettuces, potatoes, carrots, garlic and onions. Not to fret if you love kohlrabi and fennel…we’ll still have those crops available at times during the season.
We order the bulk of our seeds from several US companies and one or two Canadian ones. We would love to be able to buy more from Canadian sources but unfortunately the costs are for the most part much higher than our US sources. The majority of our seed is certified organic which is often not available in Canada either. This year a few of our tried and tested varieties are not available due to seed crop failures or companies retiring certain varieties. The scary reality of seeds is that often varieties are only grown by one seed farm so if they have a crop failure that entire variety is not available for the season – we have found this to be the case with our favourite dark curly kale variety for several years now which I believe comes from somewhere in Europe (sold through a US seed company).
The costs of seed seem to increase a fairly significant amount each year we have farmed. Where we used to spend about $1000 to plant out 2 acres when we started 9 years ago, this year we will spend between $8000 – $10000 on seed (including flowers) to plant our 5 acres. Part of the increase is us choosing more sophisticated varieties such as self pollinating greenhouse cucumbers which cost $1/seed but also the companies are increasing their prices each year to keep up with the increasing costs of growing the seed crops. This is where your CSA contributions in the early season really help us out! About 50% of our input costs for the season are paid for in December – March whereas the bulk of our income comes in between July – October.
This time of year we are also planning out and completing some infrastructure projects that will help us farm more efficiently and effectively this coming season. I like to think of these projects as your ‘CSA dollars at work’ as your early payments certainly help us to improve our operation year to year. To give you a smattering of these projects:
-We’ve purchased a cultivating tractor to help with reducing the amount of hand weeding we do in the field. It’s a 10.5 HP 1951 Farmall Cub (adding to the rustic appeal of our farm operation in addition to efficiencies).
-We have ordered a 96′ hoophouse for flowers. This will be used for dahlias and lisianthus mostly this season but I hope to plant some anenomes and ranunculus for spring flowers in the coming seasons.
-There are a number of smaller tools that have/will be purchasing to make jobs easier/faster including: a flame weeder, a vacuum seeder, a motorized salad spinner and a bed marker (also known as a dibbler). I’ll probably describe some of these in some more detail as we start to put them to use during the season.
-The project that we are most excited about is a 1 km windbreak that we are planting the length of our property along the west-side property boundary. An opportunity came up to apply for some cost-share funding through a program supported by Environment Canada to help create habitat for the endangered American Badger which makes its burrows in our neck of the woods and elsewhere in Southern Ontario. The windbreak will be made up of a mix of native trees and bushes and will be planted by the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority this April. The project itself cost about $14,000 and we were so fortunate to have 80% of it paid for through the Badger Way program.
It’s been awhile since I’ve written a newsletter and I feel like I could blab on for awhile, but I will spare you. We’re probably a lot more excited about this stuff than you are anyways right?
I’ll end with a quick update on the CSA sign up stats…The program is already about half full which means that this has been the best first two weeks of CSA sign ups in the history of us running this program! Many of you are returning, some have taken a year off and are now back and a few of you are new to the program this year. I think many people are excited that we have decided to change the format to allow for more choice in the veggie bins. If you have friends, neighbours or family who are interested in joining our CSA, please let them know that now is a good time to get in touch with us or check out our website for the program details.
Thank you for reading and we’ll be in touch again in February.
Amy, Pat and Wyatt
I figured I better send out the April newsletter before it isn’t April anymore! Sorry about being late on this one…I know you’ve all been excitedly awaiting the CSA newsletter and all 😉 Writing to you has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now but I have been finishing up some big projects (from our winter consulting work) and was in computer zombie mode working late nights up until a couple of days ago. All is well now though and the farm has our full attention for the rest of the season. Mine anyways…it always has Pat’s full attention, like his needy second little baby.
April has been an interesting month over here. Many of you probably saw we had some flooding at the beginning of the month, which at it’s worst was knee deep in our seedling house as well as flowing through the middle of the big hoophouse. We had a couple of heavy rainfall events close together resulting in a big back up of water on our farm and most of the neighbouring properties. The flood didn’t do much damage, other than take out our early seeded crops in the hoophouse, but it was an interesting experience and we’ve come to the decision to dig a ditch to channelize the water that flows through our veggie field for next season.
The good news is we’re all dried up now and we’ve managed to replant in the big hoophouse as well as seed quite a bit outside already. Patrick has been getting used to all of the new equipment that we’ve purchased to help us with soil preparation on the farm and is so far quite happy with the decision to scale up the size of our tractor and invest in appropriate sized tillage equipment (we were doing the bulk of our soil preparation with a walk behind tractor in Heathcote). The decision to invest in equipment this year was for the purpose of efficiency. Much of our farm’s success rides on the ability to get many things planted as quickly as possible at the beginning of the season to be able to take advantage of our early markets, which start in just a couple of weeks (May 10 in Toronto and May 21 and 22nd in Collingwood and Thornbury respectively).
Our apprentice Kayla has returned and started work last week and Kaitlyn from Guelph will be starting this coming week. For the next month, if you need any of us, we’ll be crouched over, in the field, tucking in all of our little baby plants that we have been nursing since January. Send them best wishes for a great season and in turn they’ll be sure to reward you with some super delicious veggie shares and beautiful abundant flowers.
How we do what we do:
For the newsletter feature this month, I am going to write about something I have written about every year, but it’s important, in my opinion, to talk about it before the CSA season starts. Bear with me if you’ve heard it all before.
This is the low-down on what we do, if we’re organic, why we’re not certified organic and what that means for your food (and flowers). Okay first off, we are not certified anything this year. We have decided to not continue our certification with Certified Naturally Grown due to challenges we had with customer recognition of the CNG label in Canada (it is a US certification body) and mixed feelings about describing our product as “natural”. Not that our food isn’t natural…we just think that the word natural has gotten a bad rep lately as consumers become more savvy about food labeling and marketing. We have also not certified organic yet although we do plan to submit our application to be certified this season. We have exactly 12 months til we can be fully certified organic on our new farm (which is due to three-year transition period that is required between land being managed conventionally and becoming certified).
Despite the current lack of certification, we have always managed our crops according to certified organic standards, and will continue to do so. So what does that mean? The philosophy behind certified organic is quite deep, and much more involved than just avoiding chemicals and GMOs. To scratch the surface:
We are applying only certified organic soil amendments this year including a certified compost and certified organic fertilizer. We are in the process of setting up a system to be able to make our own compost from our livestock manure that is collected in the barn through the winter, but are a year away from being able to apply it to the land (for food safety reasons). We decide how much nutrients the soil needs based on a soil test that is performed annually.
All of our seed is non-GM. It is also not treated with any pesticide or fungicide. We purchase our seed from many different companies, some local and some as far away as Washington State. When certified organic seed is available, we purchase it over conventional seed. There are many seed varieties that are not available as certified organic although the availability of organic seed is improving every season.
We do not use chemical pesticides, and we only rarely use an organic pesticide to manage pests. An organic pesticide is something like neem oil. Most often our pests are managed by excluding them (through netting and row cover) as well as tolerating a certain amount of damage. This is why your greens will sometimes have holes in them.
We practice crop rotations and cover cropping which are both essential to maintaining a healthy living soil, managing the nutrient balance and keeping ahead of pests and diseases.
We try to irrigate in the most efficient way possible, not only to save water but in order to supply plants with the water they need to grow. We have just installed a new irrigation system at the new farm which includes some drip irrigation (which is about as efficient as they come) as well as some overhead for our quick turn around crops like salad greens.
At this point our livestock are not being fed certified organic feed for cost reasons, although otherwise they are raised according to the organic standards plus are kept on pasture for 8 months of the year. In addition to pasture they are fed a conventional, non-GM feed.
We are always happy to talk growing, so if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Recipe du jour: Wild Leek Pesto
This is about my most favourite way to celebrate the end of the winter and snow. Wild leeks are the first edible thing to pop out of the ground in the spring and man, they do not disappoint! Besides having the most amazing garlicky flavour, they’re also really great if you are a seasonal allergy sufferer. The only thing is, they are at much risk of being overharvested and wiped out…especially since their popularity is booming on the culinary scene. If you’re going harvesting, try to go on private property where you know others haven’t been or make sure you take a long hike into the bush to get well off the beaten path and then take only 5% of each little patch. For pesto, all you need are the greens so you can just cut those off and leave the bulb. Follow the link to a pretty standard wild leek pesto recipe (From My New Roots): http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2010/05/totally-wild-leek-pesto-2/. I’ll have some at early farmers markets from the leeks on our property.
First off, welcome to those of you who have signed up in the last month. We are so happy to have a wonderful group of returning customers this year as well as some new families joining us. If you are new, a great place to start to learn about the CSA is our website. The past versions of the weekly CSA newsletter are posted there as well as last month’s CSA update (on the blog).
There has been so much action on the farm since the last time I wrote; it’s hard to contain it all in a reasonably sized newsletter. I’ll leave some sound bites here to highlight some of the major events:
Now for the feature I wanted to write a bit about how we ended up in Ontario…
Last month we had a visit from our old landlord in BC who was here on poultry related business. We’ve managed to keep in touch with the Falk family, who supported our journey to full-time farming in Ontario in many ways. As I reflect back on the early days of our farming career I have very fond memories and if you ask me if I miss BC, I would say yes, every single day I miss it. But would I want us to be back there?…not a chance. We started farming in 2009 in Abbotsford, BC. For our first four years we leased various properties and operated a CSA/market farm growing only vegetables. For our last two years, we leased a lovely piece of land from the Falk family who own a large duck, goose and chicken farm and processing facility in Yarrow, BC. We LOVED living and farming in Yarrow. The soil was amazing and our landlords were incredibly supportive, letting us borrow their equipment when we needed it, supplying us with free organic compost that they made onsite and allowing us to pay for our lease in vegetables. It doesn’t get any better than that right?
The deal was so sweet that when it came time for Pat and I to decide where we wanted to go with farming, it seemed crazy that we wanted to leave Yarrow. But you see the thing is that we could have never owned a farm of our own in the Fraser Valley. The price of farmland there is incredibly expensive due to the proximity to Vancouver, limited landbase and speculation for development driving the prices up sky high. We would have needed to work full time off-farm jobs until retirement age to be able to afford a farming lifestyle.
For us, leasing farmland forever also wasn’t an option. As sweet as our lease situation was with the Falks, we were limited in where we could go with farming, and there was an air of uncertainty when it came to making long-term investments in the land. For example, we could never have kept poultry or other livestock (which clearly now is a passion of ours) and we wouldn’t have felt comfortable building anything permanent onsite, making infrastructure like equipment storage and washing facilities a very real challenge.
Perhaps the biggest challenge we felt with long term leasing was not building equity…leading to challenges down the road if we ever needed to access financing or needed to exit farming for whatever reason.
So fast forward some years…we are now here, in Walters Falls, Ontario, where the land prices are an eighth of what we would be looking at in BC. Even with that being so, we are incredibly lucky and grateful for family who has helped us to purchase a farm of our own now so that we can invest in long-term infrastructure several years before we would have been able to afford to do it on our own.
Now it may have been land prices that brought us here, but it is the amazing community and connections that we have made that will keep us going. The longer we have been here the more we are realizing what an amazing place this is to farm. We have richness in the small, diverse farms all around us and more and more people are seeking local, quality food (like yourselves)…reassuring us that we made the right decision when heading East.
Thank you for reading! We’ll see in about a month.
This is the first of the monthly pre-CSA season newsletters that I like to send around the 15th of the month. As shareholders in our farm, we try to keep you up to date on our happenings during the season – including the whole part before your deliveries start! We timed this first newsletter to coincide with the official start of our season, which we like to think is when the first seed is sown. We start our onions and leeks around the 15th of February. Each week after that we will start more and more crops in the greenhouse until around mid April when we start planting directly into the soil. If you want to get really technical about it, the 2016 CSA season really started back in October 2015 when we sowed the garlic seed for this season, but lets not get technical. Moving on.
First things first. Thank you to all of you for signing up for a CSA share this season! Many of you are returning but we do have quite a few new folks who jumped on the earlybird sign up wagon. A quick check of the CSA stats this afternoon shows that we are about half full for the veggie, eggs and flower shares for the season. I think this may just be our most popular CSA season yet! We are beyond grateful for your sign ups this year (as always) but particularly this year as we have taken on some serious infrastructure work. In fact your CSA dollars at work this spring are helping to pay for:
It goes without saying that we couldn’t do this all without you.
Over the coming months the CSA newsletter will feature news and stories about us and our business to help you to get to know us as your farmers. I’ll try to not be too redundant in my writing, which is always a challenge as we enter year eight of running a CSA. If you find that you are not fully caught up to date on our story, please check out our blog and website as well as the CSA newsletter archives (also on our website). I can’t say that I am a regular blogger though so don’t expect much in that department.
A few other resources to point out:
We have a Facebook Group dedicated to our CSA members (search for Sideroad Farm CSA and I will approve your request to join).
We use social media to help people keep up to date. You can find us on Instagram (@sideroadfarm) and Facebook (Sideroad Natural Farm).
We have quite a few CSA resources on our website including a CSA FAQ page and a recipe archive that will launch in the coming weeks.
We are very excited about the coming season. It will be our first growing on our new farm in Walters Falls. We bought our farm last spring but did not move our veggie operation from Patrick’s family property in Heathcote until after the season wrapped up. We’ve been hard at work over the winter moving and rebuilding hoophouses as well as planning and setting up the infrastructure we need to have a successful growing season. To say that this property is a dream compared to where we were farming in Heathcote is an understatement. We are of course grateful to Patrick’s family for allowing us to farm on their land for several years but the property proved to be quite challenging for us. We are now situated just 10 minutes west on the same Sideroad (the 25th) near the little hamlet of Walters Falls. What a difference 10 minutes makes…abundant clear water, loose loamy soils, good drainage, and a south facing gently sloping field that is relatively stone free (okay we’ll need to do some rock picking). In addition to the natural resources we have a couple of beautiful old barns that have been housing our livestock comfortably over the winter. We want to invite you all out to enjoy the farm with us this season whether it is for a tour, a work party or for our harvest party (which we promise to not hold during a freak October snowstorm again).
I will leave it at that for this newsletter with the promise to get more meaty in later editions. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for any reason that you may need. My number is 705.446.5503. Patrick is 705.441.1877 (call or text either). I always get your emails although in the height of the season I may not respond for a few days (firstname.lastname@example.org). We look forward to seeing you and chatting with you all over the coming months.
Cheers from Patrick, Amy and Wyatt.
Your Sideroad Farmers.
We hope you’re all had a marvelous long weekend! Welcome to all of the new folks who have joined us in the last month. This newsletter comes out once a month to our CSA members during the “preseason” and weekly during the 18 week CSA season. If you would like to read the past issues of the CSA newsletter, I have posted them on our blog at http://sideroadnaturalfarm.com/farm-stories/.
Some logistics…We’ll be starting the CSA around the end of June this season, possibly the third week. We’ll keep you posted on that as we see how spring plays out. As of right now we have many crops ground and are even harvesting a little bit for markets, but we like to wait til we can put at least 8 items in the first bin of the season. Flower shares will start around the middle of July. Many farmers markets have opened for the season and hopefully you can get to your local one to fill your fresh produce void until the CSA starts.
For those of you who are new, you will get an email explaining exactly how and where the CSA pick up happens and other tips and tricks to help the season go smoothly. Look for that sometime in June in your inbox.
The farm has really come alive over the last month and we are swimming in babies babies babies (of the pig, duck and plant variety), We’re high into planting season and it’s been a good one thus far. We planted our first crops around the 3rd week of April and since then have had lots of unseasonably hot and dry weather allowing us to continue on with our planting schedule. We’re still at that awkward point in the season where the seedling greenhouse seems to be filling up as quickly as it is being emptied out…so no rest for the wicked, for awhile anyways.
Our productivity these days is due to our two apprentices who are living and working alongside us for the season. Kayla and Aaron joined us at the beginning of the month and will be here for the bulk of the season. Here they are tackling the shittiest job of the season – cleaning out the chicken coop after a long winter of deep litter (a method of keeping chickens in which you let the poop pile up so that it composts and helps to heat the coop). Both come from Toronto and are interested in learning the ways of the small farm for different reasons. I’ll probably have them write a bit in the upcoming newsletters to tell you all about who they are and why they wanted to apprentice on a small farm. Aaron is writing in his blog about the experience on the farm, which you can read here: http://www.aaronokada.com. You will likely see them around at the markets and certainly at our August CSA picnic (possibly turned pig roast…more on that later).
It is so refreshing to have some new people working with us this season. Pat and I both love what we do but if I am going to be completely honest, we’re coming into the season feeling fairly overwhelmed by the amount on our plates right now what with moving farms, expanding our markets and subsequently production and our first human baby and all. Having Kayla and Aaron here is allowing us to share the workload around and enforcing more structure in our lives, which is something that we have been trying instill since starting on this farming journey. We’re eating much more regular and some seriously tasty meals and I think that is going a long way to keep us all going through the long days.
To finish off this month’s newsletter, I thought I’d throw out a recipe to you folks, just in case all this spring in the air has inspired you to start cooking with fresh, local product again. Many of you know that wild leeks/ramps are somewhat of an obsession of mine. I had no idea that they even existed in this world until we moved here from BC. We just so happen to have a brilliant patch of them at our new farm and we’ve been enjoying them in our dinners for the past month or so. You can probably find them at your local farmers market or specialty stores, if you don’t have your own secret patch…but not for much longer. The photo is from my leek harvesting this evening. I was searching down below the trilliums to harvest them…all the while swatting thousands of mosquitos away from my face. Oh well. The leeks are worth the trouble.
The recipe is super easy and is from epicurious.com. I might throw in some bacon or asparagus in addition to what is listed below.
Happy Spring! Within a week it seems like we have gone from the depths of winter to beautiful, glorious and warm spring weather. How amazing does it feel to walk outside without a heavy winter coat and boots? We are relishing in the season and also now feeling the itch to get going in the farm field.
First off, welcome to all of the new folks who have joined us in the last month. If you would like to read the past issues of the CSA newsletter, I have posted them on our blog at www.sideroadnaturalfarm.com. I just checked out our CSA stats on the Farmigo system and it looks like we are getting close to full. Full egg shares are now sold out, and we have five veggie shares available. There are 10 flower shares left. I (Amy) will not be coming to the markets as much this year, particularly in Toronto, so purchasing your flower share ahead of time ensures that you always get a fresh bouquet designed by me, and not by Patrick 🙂
We have a new CSA pick up spot in Toronto – it is located on St. Mark’s Road in West Toronto. This will help ease the load at the Baby Point pick up spot, which as become very popular. If you want to switch between the two spots, depending on which is more convenient for you, you may do so by logging in to your account on the Farmigo system (https://www.farmigo.com/account/sideroadnaturalfarm/summer2015).
On the topic of eggs, I know it’s frustrating that we only have such a limited amount during the CSA season and often can not offer them as an add on to your weekly veggie shares. We’d love to have more chickens, but currently produce the maximum amount of eggs possible as a small flock producer. In Ontario, without owning quota we are allowed to have 100 laying hens, 300 meat chickens and 50 turkeys annually. We have such a high demand for our chicken eggs that we’ve decided to dabble in duck eggs this year and have a small flock of day old Indian Runner ducks coming at the end of the month. Unfortunately this means that they won’t be laying until the fall, so the duck eggs will be available in earnest next year.
Phew…well that gets the boring logistics part of this newsletter out of the way. On to more fun topics! I mentioned above that we’re itching to get planting. It’s been a late Spring again meaning that it stayed cold and the snow stuck around longer than other years. Although the snow has melted now, we’re still waiting for our field to dry up enough to be able to work the soil. We have clay soil at the farm in Heathcote, which takes a little longer to dry up than a silty or sandy soil. It is very very important to not start working it while it’s too wet or you end up with soil that hardens into clay bricks (i.e. not ideal for planting or weeding). We’ve learned (the hard way) that being patient pays off in the long run.
In the meantime, we’ve put a planting of greens, radishes and other spring crops into the hoophouse and Patrick has been constructing two more, smaller yet movable hoophouses, which we will be planting in by the weekend. If the weather stays as it is, we hope to be planting in the ground before the end of the month.
On a more personal note, we’ve been working towards making our move up to the new farm slowly but surely. The livestock has been moved up to the new place, with the exception of Ben (our boar) and Ruby (Ben’s current love interest). Our Clarksburg house is now for sale and we’ve been fixing up the new house in preparation to make our life move sometime in the next two weeks. This whole moving and selling our house while starting the farm season, bouncing between three properties and figuring out how to manage our life with a new baby has put an interesting spin on the season…but we’re managing, as people always seem to do. We’re certainly looking forward to the day we get to sit back on our new porch and sip a cool beer after a day on the farm.
A friend of ours took this photo of the farm property about a week ago. It shows the house and two barns as well as several of the fields. The farm property is long and skinny (two fields across and 6 fields deep). We’ll be doing our August CSA picnic again and hope to have many of you out to tour the new place.
Okay that’s long enough for this morning. Until next month…
Amy and Patrick
It’s the 15th of the month, so time for another pre-season newsletter. Welcome to those of you who have signed up for the CSA in the last month.
It’s been a big month for our farm and so I’ll try to hit on the highlights to keep you all up to date on how we’re doing.
Probably our most exciting news, which you may or may not be privy to, is that we have found our forever farm and are now in the process of moving our farm, our animals, and our life. To back up a little bit for those of you who are new to us…Patrick and I, for the last two years, have been farming on Patrick’s family land in Heathcote while living in our house in Clarksburg (about a 5 minute commute). We’ve been so lucky to have the opportunity to farm in such a beautiful setting for the past two years with family who support what we are doing, and have tolerated our piles of farm rubble, dirty farm boots in their kitchen and the occasional rogue pig, but we have come to realize that there are challenges to staying where we are currently farming for the long term. Long process short, we have found a place that we can settle down for good that has the infrastructure to allow us to farm in a much more practical and efficient way.
Where are we going you ask? Not too far. We’ll still be on the same Sideroad (hooray we don’t have to change the farm name), but about 10 minutes west of where we are right now. The new farm is close to the little town of Walter’s Falls, a beautiful area for those of you who know it. The property is about 60 acres and has two barns, one large, one small. Most of the land is farmable and has been in production recently. There is a farmhouse on the property that we’ll be moving into shortly. We have already begun the process of moving our livestock over and will be hopefully moving into the house shortly pending a serious painting party and some new floors.
We will be keeping vegetable production at the old farm in Heathcote for the time being (at least this season but likely longer) as we take the time to observe the new land, plan out where we want to place the various aspects of our farm and transition the land to organic (or in our case, Certified Naturally Grown). I may grow some flowers at the new farm this year, depending on how the spring goes. From what we know about the land, for most of the 2000’s it was a “natural” livestock operation, until 2 years ago when new owners put into a conventional barley crop.
After six years of farming on three different properties, it’s hard to put into words the feeling that we have about moving to our very own farm, but some of the feels we have been experiencing include – elation, relief, enthusiasm, motivation, shock and disbelief, readiness. We are so ready for this to happen…our business and life has been bursting at the seams so our forever farm seems to have come at just the right time.
Okay so in other news, seedlings are being sown…so many seedlings that Patrick is in the process of building a new hoophouse just to house them all. He was up at the new place this morning at 5 am framing up the structure and bending the hoops. We’re onto seeding the nightshade family this week (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers). Leeks and onions are done, as well as early season greens.
As I write this now, dear Patrick is still up at the new farm observing our first spring litter of pigs being birthed. Roberta (Bob) the pig was up first and at the last update I received has had nine piglets. We have two more sows due next month.
We now have two apprentices working with us for the season, Kayla from Toronto and Aaron from Toronto. One a vegan and one who has written a book on bacon (literally). Meal planning will be one of their first tasks as apprentices 😉
There is much more to tell, but I best leave it for future versions of the newsletter because there are tomatoes to be planted still tonight. You all wanted less cherry tomatoes in the CSA right? Kidding! Kidding…
Lots more photos up on the Facebook page and Instagram as well.
Until next time!
I haven’t been posting the CSA newsletters on our blog…until now. This was the February “pre-season” newsletter that went out to our registered CSA customers. Stay tuned for the next one, out in mid-March.
Greetings! This is the first of our monthly pre-season newsletters that will come out around the 15th of the month from now til the season starts. For those who are new to the program, welcome! For those who are returning, it’s fantastic to have you back! Some of you have purchased veggie shares, some have egg shares, some have purchased shares in our new Flower CSA and some all three. I’ll try to make sure to report on all aspects of our farm in the future newsletters to keep things well rounded and not skewed towards the veggie side of things.
It’s been 3.5 months since the last CSA delivery of 2014. 3.5 months since we last harvested vegetables from our beautiful little farm field and 3.5 months since our little boy was born. I have no idea how time has gone by so fast. But nonetheless, we are here at February 15th. This is an important day in the cycle of the farm as it marks the day where we start seeding our veggie crops for the season. Some crops have very long growth period, so it is essential to get them started early, indoors so that we are able to harvest them before the frost hits in the early fall. We start off veggie seeding with onions and leeks, which have some of the longest growth periods then seed our early greenhouse crops and then move onto the heat loving crops like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. We hope that has you excited on these cold cold winter days…we’re certainly excited to get started and will do that just as soon as our soil starting mix thaws out indoors for a few hours.
It’s been a great winter for us so far. We’ve had some time to relax and enjoy little baby Wyatt. Patrick has been working at Blue Mountain 3 or 4 days a week since December and continues to have daily pig and chicken chores, which he manages to fit into the mornings before he has to go to work. The animals are all doing well this winter and we hope to have the first of 3 litters of spring piglets in March. Our chicken flock seems to be happy enough too, although I am sure they’re missing the green grass just like the rest of us. In the last couple of months we’ve been working on updating our crop plans, seeding charts and calendar for the new season. Although these are tasks I enjoy, they are certainly not as fun as actually being in the field and therefore tend to drag on for a couple of months before we have our plans tweaked exactly how they will be for the season. We’ll let you know about which crops we are introducing (and reintroducing) this season in future versions of the pre-season newsletter.
Last year was the first year that I had to take a step back from farm labour as I worked on the important task of growing a baby. If you recall we had Patrick’s sister Laura working with us for the summer. We’ve realized just how necessary it is to have more help on the farm and now can’t imagine just going back to Patrick and myself as the only full-time workers, especially on harvest/CSA packing days. For the first time we have decided to take on two apprentices for the season who will work/live with us and learn about what we do in exchange for providing labour on the farm and help at markets. We will also be hiring a paid worker to help on harvest days. At this point we have one apprentice hired, Kayla from Toronto.
We’ve had a great response to our early season CSA sign ups and are happy that the veggie CSA is half full, egg shares are almost sold out and we’ve had a good response to the flower CSA. As you know, we really appreciate these early season signups as they are a tremendous help financially as we incur about 75% of our total season expenses in January – March, well before we start selling anything at farmers markets. As the price of our inputs seem to increase annually (seed especially this year!) the CSA has become essential to making our type of farm financially viable. If you don’t know this already, we really heart you guys for what you allow us to do…and will do our best to give you the best that our farm can offer, be it delicious healthy produce or beautiful organic flowers.
As always we appreciate your referrals to friends and family. We’re always happy to announce that we’ve sold out for the season…even better if we do it in March this year!
Until next time, you can always get in touch with us via email (email@example.com) or phone (705.446.5503).
For those of you who use Facebook, please like our farm page for regular updates on the season progress and other farm things: http://www.facebook.com/sideroadnaturalfarm