Hi Folks. First off, welcome to those of you who have joined in the last month. Past editions of this newsletter can be found on our website: https://sideroadnaturalfarm.com/farm-stories/

It has been a while since we last wrote to you and I apologize for that. I try to send out a newsletter around the middle of the month before the CSA season starts to keep you updated but March 15th came and went quickly this year! I also realize that most of you probably aren’t waiting anxiously beside your computers for the next Sideroad Farm newsletter to arrive 😉 The truth is that March is actually one of our more active months on the farm as we get our seedlings started as well as planted in the hoophouse, check off our spring projects and finish up our plans for the season and this year wrap up our Winter Bounty Box program all before our staff starts in April. We also tend to be a little extra stretched in March as Patrick and I usually have an “off the side of our desks” consulting project or two on the go that needs to be wrapped up by March 31st (the government fiscal year). As a side note for those who are interested, this year we are working on a small project analyzing the costs and benefits of a more environmentally sound field drainage system for farms in Ontario.

In the last few days we have had great weather for planting in our field hoophouses (the ones that grow food, not just seedlings) and have managed to transplant kale, swiss chard, spring spinach, three kinds of lettuce, beets and green onions as well as direct seed our salad mix, radishes, salad turnips and carrots. If all goes well we should have all of that plus a few more quick growing crops like arugula ready for our first farmers markets (May 9th in Toronto and May 20th in Collingwood). We managed to install two new basic hoophouses this spring to provide us with 3,400 square feet more covered growing space which we have decided to fill with early carrots (one of our most popular crops!) and flowers (my most favourite crops!). Starting carrots this early means that we should have them available right around the start of the CSA season in late June, whereas they may not be ready until the end of July or early August otherwise…let’s hear it for 18 weeks of carrots!

On the decision to change the format of our veggie CSA program…
I wanted to talk a little bit about why we changed our CSA program format this year to allow for “free choice” of veggies whereas in previous years we had a set box and did not allow substitutions. If you are a new customer or don’t have a veggie share this may not be as interesting to you but we have had several returning members probe us as to why we would make this change now after several year of running our CSA in a particular way. Hopefully I can explain in not so many words…

Every CSA season Patrick and I have sent out a feedback survey to our members asking people to rate the various aspects of the program as well as give us an idea of which veggies people prefer and which they are not big fans of. Each year we have received mostly very positive reviews on the program from those who choose to respond. It’s also pretty clear from the survey that people have extremely varied tastes when it comes to veggies. Some of you could eat a bag of salad a day (we do!), and some of you have a hard time getting through one bag of greens a week. Most of you would leave fennel alone if given a choice, but some people absolutely love it. Although most of you love our cherry tomatoes, there are even a few of you who can’t stand tomatoes in general. We also know that the #1 reason why people choose to not return to a CSA program is because they feel like they wasted good food (yes we know that our vegetables have been known to rot in the back of fridges on occasion). As your farmers we know that we can and want to do a better job of catering to a wide variety of personal tastes and preferences and we really want to make as many people as we can happy (a tall order!) – hence the main reason why we are switching to a customizable CSA program.

We hope that by creating a program that makes more people really happy we can eventually get close to 100% member retention (we are at about 70% – 80% returning members year to year currently). For us having a solid core group of CSA shareholders who return each season allows us to get to know our members well, builds relationships as well as eases administrative and marketing burdens associated with bringing in new members each season.

Another reason for changing our format is that we are anticipating that by using the online farm store to customize your boxes each week, we will be able to sell more of our veggies through the CSA program. If you need extra onions one week for example, and you don’t pick up from one of our farmers market booths you will now be able to order them through the webstore instead of having to go to the grocery store in addition to picking up your CSA.

As you can see we are also expecting some benefits as a business, a win-win situation so to speak. Now some information on the logistics of how this veggie program will work:
– Each week we will put together a selection which will will call the “farmers choice” CSA box. The value of this box will be set at $30. You have a choice of just taking the farmers choice box as is, or you can go online to change the contents (add and delete items as you wish). You will be given a few days to go online using the Farmigo system to make changes before we need to harvest and pack your bins.
-We will set maximum quantities for some items that we don’t have in abundant supply. An example of this is cherry tomatoes where I imagine that we may need to set the limit to 2 pints/member during the tomato season.
-The minimum order of veggies is $30/week and if you delete items from the Farmers Choice box but don’t add up to the value of $30/week you will still be charged the minimum amount.
-You can spend more than $30/week on veggies if you choose to order more through the Farmigo system…the balance will be taken from your account.
-Produce for CSA members will be priced between 10-15% less than what we charge at the farmers market.
-You can still put your shares on hold for 2 weeks during the season and a credit will be applied to your account for the value of those two weeks that must be used before the end of the CSA to purchase either veggies or eggs (but not meat, or products that we offer from other producers). See our CSA member agreement online for more information about this policy.

I think that covers the basics for now, but rest assured I will put together a tutorial that explains all of the details of how to use the Farmigo system before the start of the season!

This new system will require more logistics when harvesting and packing CSA including more communication with our members and more staff during CSA pack up. The good news is that the Farmigo system is quite capable of managing the administrative aspect of this change but we are anticipating a few weeks of mild chaos at the start CSA before we settle in to a good rhythm at pack up time. For us it’s worth it though to make sure that we are running the best possible CSA program that we can.

I hope that answers some questions and gives you an understanding of where our heads are at with this improved program.

Until next month!
Amy and Pat.

p.s. I promised some photos of the hoophouse in full swing. The best place to see those is on our Instagram page here (you don’t need an account): https://www.instagram.com/sideroadfarm/

This is the second installment of your “pre-season” CSA newsletter. If you missed the first one, it is posted on our website here: https://sideroadnaturalfarm.com/2017/01/16/january-csa-update/. Welcome, and thank you to those of you who have joined in the last month. We’re happy to have some new folks as well as many of you returning for your second, third, fourth and FIFTH season with us. We were joking recently that we should start handing out membership awards as the years go by. We even have one family who has been with us for seven years now (they were members in BC when we farmed there and then joined again when we both moved to Ontario) so extra special mention to the hosts at the Beresford pick up site in Toronto for being such long time supporters.

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

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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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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.

 

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Hi There,

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:

  • Inputs (seed, organic fertilizer, compost, potting soil and more)
  • Cold storage including an insulated container and cooling system
  • Several new implements for our tractor which will help us to save labour and be much more efficient with our time doing fieldwork
  • A new veggie washing and packing station
  • A new irrigation system

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 (sideroadfarm@gmail.com). 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 https://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.

Farm Update

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).

photo-18

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.

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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.

Ramp Tagiatelle

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces ramps, white and pink parts finely chopped and greens cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for sprinkling
  • 8 ounces dried egg tagliatelle or fettuccine

PREPARATION

  • Heat the oil in a deep heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook the white and pink parts of the ramps with 3/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper, stirring occasionally, until they are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and the ramp greens and boil until the sauce is slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan.
  • In a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, cook the pasta until it is al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta-cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce in the skillet, along with 1/4 cup of the cooking water, tossing to coat. Thin the sauce with more cooking water, if you prefer a looser sauce. Serve immediately, with additional cheese for sprinkling.