Sideroad Farm is looking for farm apprentices for the 2015 season. We are a small, family run veggie and pastured livestock operation located in the Beaver Valley, Ontario. We use organic growing principles and our produce is Certified Naturally Grown. Our products are sold at farmers markets locally and in Toronto as well as through a CSA program.
Apprentices will gain experience in all aspects of market gardening including field preparation, soil management, weed management, pest management, planting, harvesting and post-harvest handling. They will also gain experience in livestock husbandry including raising pastured heritage pigs, chickens, layers and beekeeping. Some opportunity to attend farmers markets will be made available to the appropriate and willing apprentices.
We are looking for apprentices to commit to 5.5 days of work/week with Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday as rest days. Workdays will often extend beyond eight hours and may start early in the morning. Our ideal apprentices will be able to commit to a four-month term, starting in May and ending at the end of August. Opportunity to extend into September may be possible. In return, room and board (some meals and/or the ingredients to prepare your own meals) will be provided as well as a monthly stipend of $400. You will be provided with on-the-job training/learning opportunities as well as access to our farm library.
Our ideal apprentices are folks who possess a strong work ethic and are capable of physical work for long hours outside, often performing repetitive tasks. A keen interest in organic/natural farming is a must although prior experience on a farm is not necessary. We are a relatively new farm operation and therefore have many projects on the go. Apprentices who have a knack for building or other handy skills are welcomed! Couples are also welcomed, assuming both parties are interested in an apprentice position.
To apply for an apprenticeship, please send your resume outlining relevant skills and experience as well as a cover letter describing your interest in farming and an apprenticeship at Sideroad Farm to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are being accepted now (January 21, 2015) until the positions have been filled.
If you have questions or want to chat about the opportunity, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Cheers and thanks for your interest!
Amy and Patrick Kitchen
You know what makes a great Christmas present and an even better New Years resolution? The gift of eating locally, seasonally and healthy with a subscription to a local CSA program. CSA stands for Community Shared Agriculture: a program where a share in a farm is purchased and as a shareholder you receive your portion of the farm’s bounty for the season.
Sideroad Farm offers an 18 week CSA program that runs from the end of June/beginning of July through to the end of October. Weekly shares are picked up in Clarksburg, Collingwood or Toronto. We offer two share sizes – regular and large as well as free-range egg share options. We are just starting to take registrations for our 2015 program and although we have opened up 10 more spots for 2015 we expect the program to fill up quickly again. For more information on what our program offers and to register, please check out our website: http://sideroadnaturalfarm.com/csa-details-and-pricing/ if you’re ready to register, you can do so here: https://www.farmigo.com/join/sideroadnaturalfarm/summer2015
We typically offer 8 – 10 items in each weekly share. In 2014, over 45 crops were featured in the shares over the 18 weeks. The contents of the box is determined by the farm’s crop plans as well as the nature of the season, taking into account environmental factors like pest outbreaks and inclement weather. We grow 100% of the produce offered in the shares which means it is all Certified Naturally Grown (i.e. no chemical pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and non-GMO…amongst other standards that are required to maintain our certification).
Many people who are new to a CSAs question whether they will get value out of their share…or is it better to continue to shop at the farmers market or grocery stores? To investigate this, we did some number crunching at the end of the season this year and found that our CSA shareholders paid $450 in the spring and received $560 worth of farm produce over the 18 week season (based on our farmers market prices for the equivalent items). This equates to a 20% discount for CSA members over our market customers. We have not done a formal survey of organic grocery store prices, but I imagine that it may be challenging to purchase the equivalent organic produce at the grocery store for $25/week.
At the end of each CSA season we offer our shareholders the opportunity to give formal feedback to us by way of an online survey. We think the results of this year’s survey are telling…people love participating in our CSA program, and we expect to have most customers return again for 2015. We had over half of our shareholders respond to the feedback survey and they rated the quality of our produce top notch (shareholders indicated on a scale of 1 to 5, from not satisfied to very satisfied that they were very satisfied [an average of 5 out of 5] with the quality of the produce in the share). Similarly, shareholders indicated that they were also very satisfied with both the quantity of produce they received (4.6 out of 5) and the diversity of produce they received (4.6 out of 5) throughout the season.
Need more convincing that CSA programs are amazeballs? Here is a taste of what our shareholders are saying…
– I looked forward to my market visit every week and was thrilled with the varied array of beautiful veggies. The add ons, including fresh flowers, were great. Patrick and Amy were incredibly friendly and accommodating. I can’t wait for next season!
– We love our farm share! Beautiful veggies, great variety. We are happier and healthier thanks to our wonderful farmers.
– It was my first year. I enjoyed the convenience, variety, the freshness of produce (amazing how long fresh greens last as compared to grocery store). I enjoyed the challenge of learning how to prepare more unusual vegetables. I enjoyed the discussions we had with our farmers re: growing techniques, varieties of vegetables they were trying, food, etc. I feel proud of the young people who are prepared to work so hard to bring quality food to our tables. I think the CSA model is an excellent vehicle to help smaller farms operate more effectively. I found the online system easy and efficient and really looked forward to the newsletters.
– I’m so glad I decided to join and try a season of CSA. I loved it. Every week I looked forward to seeing what was coming and trying new foods and recipes was a highlight of the summer/fall. From the tried and true (butternut squash soup) to stepping out of my comfort zone (making salsa verde from my tomatillos) my “veggie box” got my whole family eating more veggies, feeling healthier and more prepared to experiment with trying new food tastes and looks. Already counting down the days to next season!
– Love love love the variety and quality of the all organic CSA program! Pat & Amy are truly amazing and that passion and dedication shines through each and every week; My husband and I look forward to receiving the weekly newsletter updates and seeing what will be included in our weekly bin. We would HIGHLY recommend the CSA program (with the egg share)!
–I loved the CSA weekly bins! It was like Christmas every Saturday. My husband and I loved the variety and it even got my kids to try new veggies.
If you don’t follow our Facebook page then you may have missed us announcing the newest member of our farm crew (although it will be a few years til he’s really ready to work). We welcomed baby Wyatt Vedder Kitchen into the world at 1:50 pm on Sunday November 2nd. He was born at the Collingwood General Hospital with the help of the midwives. He’s a healthy boy and weighed in at 8 lbs 7 oz.
If you’re wondering about the middle name, we aren’t Pearl Jam fanatics (although they are pretty good)…our previous farm in BC was sandwiched between the Vedder River and Vedder Mountain in Chilliwack. It seemed fitting that we gave him a tribute to our west coast roots.
The photo is of Wyatt at three weeks. He’s growing like a weed, a desirable, adorable weed.
Now that the season is done and baby growing is out of the way, we’re settling into a routine at home. I have plans to maintain this blog a little more frequently. To give you a taste of what will be featured here over the next few months:
– 2014 season review and wrap up
– hiring of interns/employee for the 2015 season
– debuting our 2015 CSA program and CSA signup
– farming in snow drifts (feature post by farmer Patrick)
– local and ethical meat options
plus more (time permitting of course)…
That’s right. Pat and I are expecting a little baby any day now and if you aren’t part of our CSA or if you don’t see us at markets you may have had no idea! To answer the obvious question – we don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl…we’re having a little surprise!
I’ll keep this short but wanted to say how appreciative we are of all of our friends, family, customers and neighbours who have been incredibly supportive and excited for us as we get ready for our new addition. We’ll let you all know when baby arrives and promise to bring them along to some markets next season so you all can meet it.
I have this idea that I’ll be able to write more blog posts and keep you folks more informed over the winter season in between cuddle time and feedings. But I imagine that I am being a little delusional about that. I do owe you a big update on the season though which I will try to post shortly.
Everyone’s favourite holiday is just a day away! In honour of that special day I thought I’d write a post about love….our love for bees that is.
Last night Pat and I went to a workshop hosted by the nice folks at Grey Agricultural Services about honey bees. Side note: We are pretty amazed and thankful to have such a fantastic and accessible agricultural resource in our county. The workshop was only a couple of hours but I learned so much in that time that I thought I’d share some of my learnings with you.
This list is a random assortment of cool facts about honey bees that I picked up last night, they are in no particular order.
All worker bees are female (surprise surprise). They have a variety of jobs including cleaning, foraging and guarding the hive. There can be upwards of 50,000 worker bees/hive in the height of the foraging season.
Male bees are called drones. They fertilize the queen….and that’s about it. There can be about 7000 – 9000 drones/hive.
A queen bee can live for 3-4 years (although in commercial production she is replaced every year or two). She lays between 1500 – 2000 eggs per day! She communicates with all of the bees in the hive using pheromones.
Drones will fertilize queens from other hives…those bastards…but once they mate once, they die.
Honey bees don’t fly. At least their body and wingspan aren’t set up for flight. Instead they vibrate – their wings can beat up to 200 – 300 times per second.
A bee will fly between 1-2 miles for forage. Which means it’s range area can be up to 7000 acres.
A bee can carry almost its full body weight in pollen and nectar, and can still fly between 15-20 miles an hour.
A single hive can produce up to 150 lbs of honey annually.
Approximately 30% of Ontario’s honey crop comes from Grey/Bruce!
A beekeeper can supplement the hives’ food supply in the winter with sugar…fondant icing being a preferred food to supplement with.
Bee health can compromised by the three P’s – Pests and viruses, Pesticides and Poor nutrition. Poor beekeeping also plays a role.
Us farmers, gardeners and hobby beekeepers play a role in protecting bee health. For those of us who keep a few bee hives (we are planning to get some in the spring) we need to be aware of and manage pests and viruses in our hives as these are easily transmissible to other hives in the area. We can also leave areas of forage such as ditches and hedgerows as natural areas for bees to forage. Gardeners can plant a bee friendly garden including a mix of plants that bloom throughout the spring, summer and fall, choosing single bloom flowers, planting colourful plants with strong scents and watering and fertilizing adequately to produce as many blooms as possible.
We picked up a really fantastic brochure that lists annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs to plant for a bee friendly garden. If you’re interested I can scan it and send to you…just let me know!
Some people say that bees are responsible for up to 30% of the world’s food supply (but perhaps less than that because of all the corn and rice that is consumed across the earth)…never-the-less if it’s colourful and juicy, it’s likely a bee pollinated it.
Pretty nifty little animals eh? We know many other people already feel the love for bees just as we do. So perhaps this v-day, in addition to the chocolates and wine that you’re planning, you’ll plan to show your love for bees in any way you can.
I didn’t think I was a feather fancier…I, Iike many other it seems, was a bit freaked out by the flightiness of birds that I had encountered in the past. It turns out that chickens are actually really sweet when they are used to daily human contact. I’ve had some of my best cuddles with our Rhode Island Reds (which I have determined to be the cuddliest of the four breeds that we acquired last year for our laying flock).
We wanted chickens on our farm for two reasons: One was to have farm fresh eggs for ourselves and for our customers and two was to generate some fertility on our vegetable fields by rotationally grazing chickens on our future growing areas.
It turns out that fresh eggs are just out of this world…so amazing I don’t think I could eat the ones from the grocery store again. Eggs have a stellar shelf life, so the ones that you get at the store can be about 6 weeks old….not that there is anything wrong with that, but at that point, they taste different and have a different texture that ones that come fresh from the chickens bum 🙂
It remains to be seen how well the chickens have fertilized our fields, but we’re excited to grow on those areas where the chickens grazed last year to see if we notice a difference in veggie production.
Anyways, our jump into the small scale egg market in Ontario, admittedly may have been slightly under researched. We started in March by purchasing 100 day-old laying hens, which is the maximum amount of birds that you can have in Ontario without owning quota through the supply managed system.
This limit is quite a bit less than some other provinces (for example in BC, you can have 399 laying hens annually), but none-the-less 100 birds = a crap ton of eggs. At their peak these birds were laying 7 – 8 dozen eggs a day..really they are just amazing little food producers. Such abundance sounds great right? Unfortunately we learned that our plans to sell these eggs at the farmers market (which we had seen happen in BC with relative ease) was not so easy. It turns out that in order to sell your eggs at the farmers market in Ontario they must be graded at a licensed grading facility. The grading process checks for cracks/deformities in eggs as well as sizes eggs according to weight, washes and packs eggs all for a cool $1.90/dozen. Sounds good? Well sort of except for that the closest grading facility to us is over an hour away and requires a trip to drop the eggs off, and a trip to pick them back up which is maybe or maybe not justifiable for a small amount of eggs, but certainly difficult to do in the height of the season with everything else that is going on. That and the cost of the grading for a small scale producer either really cuts into relatively small margins or gets passed on to customers, which is why you often will pay upwards of $7/doz for a dozen free-range eggs at the farmers market from a small scale producer (rest assured that it’s not the farmer trying to gouge you!)
With these barriers in place have we been turned off from small-scale egg production? No, not really…in fact we are much more enthusiastic about chickens now that we know how lovely they are. We are trying to be a bit smarter about how we produce and sell eggs by selling egg-shares through the CSA, and we are considering trying out weekly or bi-weekly trips to the grader (side note: perhaps we need to work on an egg carpool with another producer or work to get a grading facility closer to us eventually). We have culled part of our first flock down to about 35 birds for the winter in order to not have too many eggs, and to have some really tasty soup hens, and have ordered some new birds that are set to arrive in spring. Part of why I wanted to write this blog post is because I am super excited about the breeds that we are getting!
We’ve ordered some standard Red Sex Links, ready to lay hens (i.e. approx 16 week old) that will be coming around April. In addition to that, we’ve ordered some day-old Silver and Golden Laced Wynadottes:
A gorgeous Golden Laced Wynandotte roo:
And last…but not least…we have some Ameraucana chickens coming in April too
Which means our egg stash is going to look something like this!
Ameraucana chickens lay green/blue eggs, so we’ll actually be producing green eggs…and ham this year at Sideroad Natural Farm!
As you can probably tell from my attitude in this post that for us, having a laying flock can’t just be all about the money (although it would be nice if we weren’t out of pocket on them this year), it’s about the happiness they bring us and to other people, it’s about having a source of fresh, healthy food from animals who get to be outside and about rounding out our farm by creating a system where we generate soil fertility on-site.
It was around the end of November 2012 when the Mr. and I drove out to our old farm field in Yarrow, BC to work on putting things away for the season…only to discover that our faithful little tractor had been stolen from the field in the middle of the night. Sadly, at that point we were getting relatively used to farm theft…but it still hurt. I cried a few tears and we filed a fairly hopeless police report and started on our insurance claim.
Now up until that point, we had planned to stay farming in Yarrow, BC for a while…moving to Ontario to farm on Patrick’s family land was but a dream, fuelled by desires to have a secure place to farm that we could invest in for the long term. We like to think of the loss of our first little tractor in a more positive light now – a minor farm tragedy that tipped the scales in favour of Ontario. That, and the cute little house we bought in Clarksburg that I had been pining over for a year was still on the market…and far more affordable than any house we could have ever found living in the Lower Mainland in BC.
Over the next few months we made our arrangements to shut down Skeeter Farm, finish up our consulting contracts and say goodbye to family and dear friends. On February 27th we started our great migration half way across the country to begin our farming dreams in the Beaver Valley…
If you’ve been following along with us since the beginning, you may remember that we took our belated honeymoon in Thailand just before heading off on our migration.
While sipping on some soda pops at the beach…we mustered up some farm goals for our first season.
We like goals…should probably get going on writing our 2014 ones. Although we didn’t do everything that we managed to dream up on that beach in Thailand, looking back, I am fairly impressed with the amount that we have accomplished.
To recap, we arrived at the farm in March, managed to get our farm field started from scratch….like clearing brush and witching for water from scratch, and have a full farmers market/CSA season. The farmers market/CSA combo was not a new venture because we were doing that back in BC…but the whole growing season/weather/frost/snow!/pests/soils/water situation was brand new, and not without its challenges. We also ramped our farmers markets up, way up, from what we were used to. We did a grand total of 54 farmers markets last year between May and October, which was about 42 more markets than we had ever done in a season, and most certainly way too much for one couple to manage in perpetuity. We’ll be scaling back on that for this season.
I feel like the CSA was a success. It was much smaller in terms of shareholders than we have had in the past, but it seems like most of our customers were quite happy with the experience and the produce that they received. In retrospect, I am happy we started smaller and had happy customers, rather than tried to go all out with the CSA in our first year only to have to ration produce. The plan is to scale up the CSA slowly year by year until that aspect of our business matches the revenues we bring in at farmers markets. That is the balance we have had in the past, and despite the structure being somewhat challenging in terms of crop planning on our small farm (generally for markets we have found it’s best to have more quantity over variety and for CSA more variety with just enough quantity so that the shareholders aren’t overwhelmed), we feel more comfortable with a more diversified business.
We whole heartedly delved into livestock with the addition of hogs, turkeys and laying hens to the farm in the spring. It would be dishonest if I failed to mentioned that there were moments of panic throughout the season, and that the experience of slaughtering animals that we had shared so many laughs and cuddles with was quite hard and continues to be hard. However, overall, the livestock have been a fantastic and rewarding way for us to round out our farm operation (yay good compost!), provide a break from the occasional monotony of the veggie season and to meet a whole other amazing group of customers who are into buying meat from small farms.
For this next season, we’re planning to continue with the pasture raised pork, turkeys and eggs and we’ll also be trying out some pastured meat chickens. There are a couple of small bee hives arriving at the farm in spring which we are very excited about.
Back at the beginning of the year we wrote about our goal of finding the farm-life balance that we have been struggling to find since starting to farm six years ago. I am not sure we really moved towards that goal in 2013. This past year felt particularly unbalanced as we were really pushing ourselves to get things up and running. We also ended up taking on a bit of off-farm work in order to finance more of the infrastructure we need at the farm and to keep things running on the home front. I am working part time with an organization that delivers environmental and business programs to farmers and we’re both working on similar consulting work that we thought we had left behind when we left BC…but has found us again. I didn’t think this would be the case, but I am actually really enjoying the balance that more work, and different work brings to our lives. We both enjoy being connected with the broader community through work and for now, it eases our financial stress as we get through the start up years of the farm.
All this work on the farm and elsewhere hasn’t really left much room for play, and at times it can be taxing on our relationship which is very much entwined with our farm and other work…but perhaps that’s just the farmer’s way? I don’t know…we’re still trying to figure that one out.
In all, an amazing year, a crazy year, a hard year, I am glad it happened, but I am happy it’s behind us. Here’s to more news on the blog as things unfold this season.
We’re nearing the end of the CSA season…Tuesday is our last delivery of the year. Hooray we made it! We managed to take a photo of each and every CSA bin over the past 17 weeks (we’ll add the 18th week after Tuesday) and it’s pretty amazing to flip through and see the season in photos. We’re so proud of our little farm! Thanks to our members who took a real leap of faith joining on with us for our first CSA season at Sideroad Natural Farm.
Again it’s been forever since posting up here. Last weekend was our final farmers market of the season. Our CSA program still runs for four more weeks, but we have a lot more free time so expect to see us back in blogging action, catching you up on the events of the season. We went for a lovely fall walk just before Thanksgiving and we thought we would share some photos with you. I am pretty excited about Ontario fall, it’s my first!
Holy dina has it ever been a long time since we blogged. Just about every farm blog I read has had the same old story lately though…it’s the height of the season….blah blah blah, we’re busy. It’s not that I don’t have time to sit down and write a blog post, it’s more that I lack the creative energy that seems to flow through me more readily in the off-season. Anyways, I started this post awhile ago, and wanted to finish it before August is too far gone. It’s all about the lovely people who have graced us with their presence over the last month…and for whom we are so grateful to have been able to see and share our farm with.
When we moved here from BC, we told just about every one that we know to come visit us in Ontario…little did we know that they would plan to come all in the same week in August 🙂 It made for a bit of a hectic week, but was also refreshing to take a bit of a breather from our regular day-to-day farm life.
First off, Pat’s friend from McGill, Will, was here on and off for about a month over the summer. Will had recently come back from an internship in the Bahamas where he was practicing permaculture techniques on a small-scale farm.
I think he came here because he was interested in learning more about how his skills applied to a working farm. We were interested in him coming to visit for the hard labour he brought to the table…and to hang out of course. Extra muscles aside, Will had excellent ideas about how to improve our farm and took a particular interest in building up compost piles (which was something that just kept getting pushed to the bottom of the list). We’re happy to report that the compost is alive and well and growing…Pat has been inspired to keep it up by insuring that every single scrap makes it into the pile.
Next came our friend Phil whom we met at school in BC. We hadn’t seen Phil in a while since he has moved back to Utah so it was great to catch up. He was keen to work, and told us stories of his farmer friends in California who take naps every day after they have lunch (something to aspire to). Although Phil was only here for one night, he managed to dazzle some of the ladies of Clarksburg with his fine guitar skills at a neighbour’s BBQ. Phil…you’re welcome back anytime 😉
Next our friends Julie and Andy came into Toronto, and although they didn’t get up to the farm this time (they came for a visit in June already) we managed to sneak into Toronto to catch a Jays game with them. I’m not going to lie…it felt pretty awesome to just sit on our butts for an afternoon. The company was okay too, and so was the baseball. My only regret was not having ballpark frank…rats, I love hotdogs.
A day after the baseball game, Jenna Bedore graced us with her presence. Jenna had quite the hectic travel schedule, visiting friends and family, and so we’re quite honoured that she managed to fit us in. She even got up super early to take the bus up here from Toronto. What a friend! Jenna stayed just long enough to help us with the Monday harvest, get completely freaked out by the chickens and eat a really good all-farm grown dinner (topped off with a very synthetic McCain’s deep and delicious cake…I’m not sure why that happened…it seemed like a good idea at the time).
Last but definitely not least, one of my best friends from Victoria came to visit. Kate was here for a couple of nights, and of course she ended up working….and hanging out at the Clarksburg Market with me. Always nice to have a market buddy. It was so so nice to catch up with an old friend, and I think that Kate really liked being at the farm…as I took from her statement “It’s so nice to be somewhere where you don’t have to shower”. Yes, we agree Kate.
So thank you friends for your help. Thank you for peeling us away from the farm for a moment. But most of all thank you for not writing us off as your friends despite being a long ways from all of you and having chosen a lifestyle that is no so conducive to maintaining an active social life. It means a lot to us. The hardest thing about moving from BC to here was leaving behind friends and family…it’s a relief to know that we have settled in a place that so many people are able to come visit. Up next are my parents….who will likely put all of you to shame in the hard labour department.