Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A New Season!!

Well the days are getting longer and we have our first set of seedlings growing under lights until the weather warms enough to open up the greenhouse. Onions,shallots, tomatoes and peppers so far. The onions are already three inche tall. All the seeds arrived a few weeks ago and I attended the ACORN conference this past weekend and am excited to get things going again. New seeds and new ideas!

With all the snow, the garden literally looks like a blank 15 acre canvas waiting for us to apply a pallette of seeds, plants and mulches. I spent a lot of time crop planning this winter and every bed has been assigned a crop or cover crop. I can't wait to see this years garden emerge.

We will be trying a few new things this year including sweet potatoes, a first for us. We will also be planting a few more artichokes this year. We experimented with them a bit last year and had some success with a small planting. We will have our first strawberry crop and we should even have a few raspberries. The prospect of all those strawberries is both exciting and daunting. With luck we could have a few thousand boxes and that is a LOT of picking as well as eating.

We are expanding a little this year, slowly building on our successful growing year this year. We will be offering more CSA baskets and be selling for a longer season at the market. We received our organic certification last fall and that will help with our marketing.

There will be lots of projects this year, including a new kitchen and housing for interns and myself. One of our projects for this year is a whole farm plan that utilises the principles of permaculture. This will help insure the long term sustainability of the farm and help us to utilise resources more efficiently.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page for events on the farm We plan to hold a few events at the farm this summer. We will also be a host for the provincial open farm day. The first event will be our second annual soil blocking party. Join us Sunday afternoon March 20th in the greenhouse to help make soil blocks for transplants and have a cup of tea.

It looks like we have a great crew shaping up for the summer and I am looking forward to working with them. Miles will be joining us again this year until he goes to med school and we will have three new interns arriving in May to help and learn. Liang and Scott are coming from Ontario and Eric will be joining us all the way from Winnipeg.
Hope everyone has a good spring!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year Reflections

It seems like only yesterday that I was putting together seed orders for last year. Well, the catalogs are here again already and I am planning for next summers crops. The new year and winter weather brings a little time for reflection on the past year. It seems like a bit of a blur now, and I can't believe how it went so quickly. It was a very busy year, so I expect that contributes to the compressed perception of time.

This blog, like so many farmer's blogs completely stalled in late June as there just seemed to be no time to keep up, particularly with no internet access at the time. I mostly used our Facebook page for updates as it was much easier to use and seemed to reach more people with it's surprising popularity. It is at river if you want to check it out. You don't need a facebook account to see it. Be sure to click on the wall tab if it brings you up to the info tab.

There were many highlights of the year and everyday was special in some way as the farm and the fields full of crops provided an endless imagery of beautiful scenes. Even in the nastiest weather, when one is immersed in Nature, you can be struck by the beauty, diversity and abundance that surrounds you. Our plateau at the edge of the valley, provided an endless supply of sunrises, sunsets, rainbows and incredible skies. The eagles, ospreys and the songbirds were our constant company. The world seems so much more real and alive when you are constantly outdoors.

The gardens did wondrously well for our first year, producing a bounty of incredible variety, despite some first year mistakes. Although I have had generous gardens most of my life, moving to the commercial scale took things to another whole level and many lessons were learned. It was perhaps the harvesting, washing and packing vegetables where the learning curve was the greatest as the volumes were large and the infrastructure a bit sparse. By mid July we were, according to my best estimates growing and selling enough vegetables to feed over 300 people, maybe even a few more at times. Each row takes on a new level of importance when it is slated to fill CSA boxes or sustain our weekly market sales.

The gardens and nature were not the only pleasant part of farming. We were blessed by having many wonderful people participate in the farm activities in different ways. Apprentices Eric and Francie endured the chilly spring mornings cheerfully and toiled through the heat and bugs of summer, exhibiting great patience, perseverance and diligence. Miles generously and gracefully did the same through the frosty mornings and cold fall rains of September and October.

Gerry's constant friendship, support and help through the whole year was invaluable and I am forever grateful. His sister Janet visited us from afar twice this summer and her support and help has been crucial to our success. His brother John even came this summer for a visit too and helped out. Thanks to Jennifer too, her enthusiastic support and wonderful cooking.

Michelle was ever supportive, helping out wherever she could and generously gave up many of here Saturday mornings to help out at the market.

Heather appeared and visited on cool and damp fall Friday evenings during the fall helping us prepare for the market and lifting our spirits.

Andi, Dan, Sylvia, Adam, Christie, Joe, Janet, Natalie, Andrew, and many others too numerous to mention came and helped with the many various tasks on the farm.

Our strawberry planting was done miraculously fast with the generous assistance and guidance of our neighbours Raymond and Cindy. Raymond generously shared his farming experience and provided sound advice throughout the growing season.

We were also blessed by wonderful customers both in our CSA and at the Boyce Farmer's Market. I was blown away by the the level of support and loyalty. Our Tuesday box deliveries were always fun, seeing everyone, telling them about the veggies we had for them that week, creating and strengthening friendships. Although Friday evenings were challenging, getting everything picked, cleaned and packed, Saturday mornings brought the excitement of the market and seeing the rest of our customers and usually meeting a few new ones. The interactions with our customers made farming feel like less of a solitary pursuit and more of a joyful community building exercise. I felt as though we were growing a wonderful community as much as crops. It was incredibly rewarding to provide healthy food to so many appreciative people.

By almost all measures,the year was an incredible success. I am sometimes amazed, particularly when I note all the times things could have gone terribly wrong. Not that little things didn't go wrong from time to time;-), but we avoided any and all sorts of real disasters. I would like to think that it was due entirely to successful planning,preparation and experience, but I know all too well that it involved a bit of luck. Farming is a hopeful enterprise in which your actions can only tilt the odds a towards your favour. Nature doesn't let you cheat... at least not for long, a lesson that modern industrial agriculture has yet to learn.

As I look forward to the new year, new goals are materializing; making the farm more profitable, producing higher quality produce, extending our growing and sales season, finding time to pursue more of our education and community building goals, planting an orchard, developing a whole farm plan along permaculture principles. Building a larger community of interns and customers. Planning more on the farm fun events. There are still some building projects unfinished and some more to begin. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges will be avoiding the end of season exhaustion that seems to plague vegetable growers and crept up on me in November. I expect the farm will operate more efficiently next year and we continue to add infrastructure that will help ease the burden. Getting rested up now in any case:-)

Much to be thankful for indeed!
Happy New Year!