March CSA Update

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Hi Folks,

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:

  • We’ve had two beautiful litters of healthy piglets with only one sow left to farrow in the next few weeks.
  • Apprentices have been hired for the season. We’re happy to have Kayla returning for apprenticeship 2.0 starting in mid-April, Kaitlyn starting in May and Sam joining us for 2 months starting in July.
  • Seeds…so many seeds…have been started and our little greenhouse is bursting at the seams. We’re planning to size up our little propagation greenhouse for next season. See the attached video for a closer look at what the greenhouse looked like a few days ago.
  • It seems as if the season will be on the early side this year (relative to the last two). We’re hoping to be planting outdoors by mid-April. We’ve already done our first seeding of spinach and Swiss chard in the large hoophouse. Perhaps we will be able to start the CSA program a week or two early (we’ll keep you updated)…
  • We’re so grateful to have received a grant from the Greenbelt Foundation to help us purchase a trailer and mobile freezer unit to be able to transport and sell our chicken and pork at the farmers market. As some of you already know we are increasing our pasture-raised chicken flock from 300 to 1500 birds this year. The trailer unit will allow us to bring frozen meats to market as well as increase the amount of veggies and flowers that we are able to bring to Toronto on Tuesdays in particular.

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.