April CSA Update

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Hi Folks,

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.

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