Archive for the ‘CSA News’ Category

Going forward…

Posts have been quiet on the gardening front for the past two seasons as we have been adding other components to the farm operations and transitioning the field gardening to wooden raised beds.

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Goat Love

In keeping with our mission to promote farmland as a community resource, all components of the farm have been introduced keeping in mind the long-term plan for the farm, which is agritourism.

The three-year plan is to open a farm B&B that offers authentic interactions with farm animals and food production. We will be targeting a couple of our square timber outbuildings as rustic accommodations and converting the stable to a venue for on-farm workshops. The addition of a hammock tent camping option and other lodging variations, such as yurts and cabins,  will allow visitors to experience a connection with the land at their own level of comfort.

We have been transitioning from field rows to wooden raised beds. Although a mammoth undertaking in terms of cash outlay and investment in time, it solves a number of issues and offers extra advantages to our small scale of gardening:

  • Raised beds eliminate the need for tractor farming. Once prepared, they will only require light turning or loosening with a broad fork. This is less disruptive to soil structure and organisms.
  • The containment of the soil means that amendments can be better controlled and measured. Amendments and fertilization can also be fine-tuned to suit the particular crop in that bed.
  • Weed pressure is less since the paths between the beds can be permanently planted in clover (beneficial) and will not need to be weeded or mulched. Ever. Again.
  • Soil is kept high, dry  and warm, thereby allowing us to begin planting spring crops weeks earlier since we won’t have to wait for our low fields to dry up to run the tractor tiller. We can also choose to cover select boxes to bring tender crops further into the fall. Season extension is key to successful northern gardening.
  • The wooden boxes provide a ready-made structure for hooping and covering plants, trellising, and labeling beds. With a cordless screwdriver they can be converted to cold frames, hot houses or shade beds.
  • Materials such as row cover, plastic mulch, tunnel covers and drip irrigation can be reused and handled more easily by a single worker when dealing with 8′ x 4′ dimensions. Many of the farm’s damaged field materials have been recoverable, e.g. a 200-foot length of row cover with rips has a lot of salvageable, box-sized rectangles.
  • A lot of gardening is about psyching yourself for long tedious tasks, such as harvesting and weeding. Beds are rewarding in that you can finish one in minutes and check if off. I also find it easier to engage volunteer help when you can assign a box or two. Weeding field rows is daunting, just sayin’.
  • Aesthetically, arrangements of vegetable growing boxes and clover paths have curb appeal on a tourism oriented farm and can be more easily groomed. They can also be attractively interspersed with beds of flowers to provide colour, pollination and cutting flowers for market.
  • To the uninitiated, plants, weeds, paths and rows are not easily distinguishable. If you’re going to set the public loose on your gardens, boxes make it simple.

Raised beds make sense given our scale of operations and our intention to make the farm a public place.

The introduction of goats has been a game changer. We not only love them as friendly engaging creatures, but their byproducts (kids, milk, manure, visitor attraction) have enhanced  both our range of farm offerings and the ever important addition of fertility to our soil. We have relied on other manure sources in the past with mixed results and we are stoked to be able to control this input produced on our own farm.

Goofy goat crop

Don’t you wish your livestock was hot like me!

We free-range our turkeys and meat chickens on pasture as well. As with our garden formula, the poultry operations have evolved to provide a better quality of life for the bird as well as an improved system for optimizing on their contributions (manure deposited directly on the gardens and bug control).

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Kanako Communing with Turkeys

We started out à la Joel Salatin (Polyface Farm), which entailed raising poultry from day old chicks in what is basically an upside down playpen which is moved to a fresh spot every day.

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Chicken Tractors

Since we are small scale and do not really have “pastures” in the wide open spaces sense of the word, we encountered a number of problems. One was hauling heavy tractors over uneven terrain, which was hard on the labourer, the tractor itself and inevitably required some jiggling to make sure that there were no gaps at the bottom of the tractor.

The second was that it was hard to manage feed and water while bent over leaning into the tractor. If birds were reluctant to move forward or needed to be removed for injury or disposal, some unlucky person had to climb in and crawl to the back of the tractor. Usually the smallest or most agile intern 🙂

As the birds grew bigger, it required more tractors to house them while providing adequate space. Bigger birds make bigger messes and we were faced with either more moves per day or dirty birds. Birds also like to roost, which keeps them clean and dry, so we rethought the housing.

We now raise them in the greenhouse in a tented pen until they are hardened somewhat. They then go outside into a hoophouse with perches and an electric pen surrounding it to keep predators away. This gives them a roosting area, overhead protection (owls, eagles) and a larger area to graze. We let them out of the enclosure for part of the day and it’s amazing to see how they forage and range over large areas. When they’ve exhausted the grass supply, we set the pen up in a new location. There are still some refinements to be made, but all in all it’s nicer for everyone. Cleaner, happier, better fed.

Pigs are happy to have a warm dry house and a large area to root in. They are intelligent animals and when bored will get up to no end of mischief, which they have the sheer size and stubbornness to enforce. We house them in the “pig condo” which is a plywood structure on skids that can be moved with the tractor to a fresh location every few weeks. They are enclosed in an electric pen and will respect it as long as long as it’s plugged in. Experience has taught us that they have some kind of pig sensor that allows them to detect when the breaker has tripped and they are quick to take advantage and go AWOL.

Pigs, in addition to providing endless entertainment and delicious food, perform a vital service on the farm as part of the field recovery team. We clear a section, leaving them a few trees, and then wait for them to overturn the soil and uproot all of the shrubs and vegetation in their search for delicacies. When they’re done, it’s simply a matter of pulling a few stumps and tilling it for next year’s garden. Everyone wins.

We have yet to make the leap to breeding our own pigs, but it’s the next logical step if we wish to expand. It’s also important to complete the cycle on the farm so that visitors get the whole picture.

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Wallow Heaven

To supply our endless need for nutrients, we are exploring the possibility of a community (farm community that is) composter and vermiculture operation. This would involve a collection or delivery system of some sort and some infrastructure as well. We have an outdoor wood-burning stove that could heat a concrete composting platform and a worm bed in the large greenhouse. Red wiggler worms and composting kits are another potential farm product.

In the past, our operations have included helping hands in the form of farming interns and farmstay students from abroad. Their contributions are highly valued. Not only do they perform the million and one tasks involved in a farm operation but they bring fresh outlooks, new knowledge and valuable feedback. We have not hosted this past year since operations have been largely reduced in order to transition the garden, but we are already in the interviewing process for a 2017 incubatorship position (intern or interns who have their own project and exchange labour for a place to set up business).

The biggest change will be a move from CSA (veggie basket subscriptions) to an online farm store. This hybrid will offer more flexibility to members and farmer and yet include many of the elements that make CSA a great marketing model. Members will still subscribe and have weekly pickups at the farm; however they’ll be able to tailor their orders to suit their family’s eating requirements and habits. Our community has a lot of people who live alone and would appreciate the chance to buy in smaller quantities.

From the farming end, we’ll be able to post what we have in the quantities we’ve produced, which covers both the crop failures and the unintended bounties, both of which are inevitable when you partner with Ma Nature in business!  For the adventurous eaters, we can still put together baskets.

Pre-ordering also allows us to market free-range eggs, wood-fired pizzas, sourdough, home-made soups, goat milk soaps and other products as time allows and the growing season waxes and wanes.

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Sourdough Loaves from the Wood-Fired Oven

All in all it’s an exciting line-up for us and we can’t wait to bring you Wellspring Gardens, the next generation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanted: Hungry Mouths – 2014 Wellspring Gardens CSA Memberships

2014 CSA Memberships

Wanted...hungry mouths

Wanted…hungry mouths

Intern Introductions – Summer 2012

Although it’s not quite spring yet, new beginnings are already happening on the farm. We’re delighted to announce that we have signed up two sustainable agriculture interns for summer 2012, both with origins in Southern Ontario. You’ll get a chance to show them a warm Valley welcome on basket pick-up days and at the Deep River Farmers’ Market this summer.

Amanda hails from Toronto and has a long-held dream of becoming an organic farmer. In her own words, she is a “mellow person looking to begin a journey toward a natural lifestyle.” She has already begun her quest with a stint at Everdale Organic Farm in Hilsburgh, ON, where she was introduced to weeding, harvesting and transplanting. She is no stranger to hard physical labour and earned her keep while Wwoofing across Canada last year by hauling rocks and fenceposts, prepping garden beds, collecting eggs and more. She is looking forward to getting her hands in the dirt and living in an intentional community. Amanda will see us through to the end of October and experience a full growing season.

Shaliz, although a resident of Ajax, comes to us this summer from the Algonquin College campus in nearby Pembroke, where she is enrolled in the Outdoor Adventure Leadership program. Although she will graduate as a fully qualified outdoor adventure guide, her dream is to heal people by bringing them into contact with the earth. She brings with her a boundless enthusiasm for learning and exploration and a deep empathy for all of nature, human and otherwise. She is qualified in Standard First Aid, Swift Water Rescue and Wilderness First Aid and has her “Leave no Trace” certification as well. Although she returns to her studies at the end of August, we hope she’ll be able to visit often in the fall to experience the grand finale after her summer’s work and reap some of the autumn veggie rewards.

As interns on a C.R.A.F.T. farm, Amanda and Shaliz will visit other farms in the area to broaden their experience and interact with other interns. They will also take part in organizing and hosting our own C.R.A.F.T. farm tour at Wellspring Gardens.

We at Wellspring Gardens extend them a warm and enthusiastic welcome and commit to helping them along the path to their goals. Together we’ll make summer 2012 one to remember!

2012 CSA Memberships

Hello Everyone,

Many of you confirmed that you would like to re-up for the CSA program this year. My sincere thanks go out to all of you for your wonderful support last year. I know some of you signed up with blind enthusiasm and a somewhat vague notion of what the program entailed! As with any new venture, there were many positive outcomes, several areas for improvement and a few unqualified disasters! I posted an online survey for your feedback at the end of the growing season and would like to pass on the following summary:

• 81 % of respondents heard about the CSA program via word of mouth.
• 73% of respondents felt the concept of Community Supported Agriculture was made adequately clear; 18% were a bit foggy and 9 percent pretty much in the dark!
• Over half of respondents cited buying local as their main reason for joining a CSA and the remainder were fairly evenly divided between eating organic and supporting local agriculture.
• 82% of respondents felt they had chosen the correct share for their needs; 18 percent did not.
• Basket quality was rated as follows: freshness got top marks; people would generally like more variety; packaging was overall rated very good with some good and a few fair; serving size and overall amount were primarily rated fair to good with a few at the low and high end of the scale.
• The pickup arrangements suited all of the respondents provided they could make alternate arrangements when needed.
• 55% of respondents would like to be more involved with the farming operation
• 82% have recommended the CSA program to someone else

Based on your comments, I will be providing a “trade” or “choice item” bin on a regular basis to provide alternatives to those veggies that simply don’t work for you. I have also provided a link to the farm blog in this year’s membership newsletter so that people can get a more complete picture of what our CSA program is about.

Two of the major “lessons learned” from our 2011 CSA year were that we desperately need drainage in our low-lying fields and that the operation requires more hands for optimum production. With this in mind, we will be hiring the services of a back hoe operator to dig ditches and taking on two interns who will live onsite for six months and train to be the next generation of small farm operators.

New in 2012…

This year’s projects include the construction of a much needed cold storage in the hillside and a second greenhouse along the back of the garage. The cold storage will allow us to store produce from fall through to spring and house 30 shares each week. Fertility is an ongoing preoccupation in organic operations, so in addition to the fifteen tons of manure we hauled onto the fields last fall, we are planning to expand our composting capacity with more tumbling composters. Our first foray into raising pastured poultry for meat was so well-received that we are increasing our production significantly this summer and trying a few turkeys as well. We are also planning to market in Chalk River and Deep River this year. That being said, CSA is our core farming model and the members are our priority.

We realize that CSA is not for everyone and that some of you will choose not to continue. Your participation was much appreciated and we hope you will continue to eat fresh and live well 🙂

2012 CSA Membership Subscriptions

Basket #15

Hello All, 

Just a quick reminder that your last pick-up is tomorrow! Since I arrived home after dark tonight, I haven’t had a chance to finalize the basket contents, however here’s a tentative list: 

Basket #15 

1 bag Asian greens-arugula mix
1 bunch purple topped summer turnips
1 bag Danvers carrots
1 bunch baby Purple Haze carrots (late planting)
1 pint Jerusalem artichokes
1 piece fresh horseradish
Approximately 4 or 5 lbs of heirloom Hubbard squash (courtesy of Rainbow Heritage Garden in Cobden)
1 bunch beets OR kale
1 bag baby pak choi
Garlic

See you at the farm!

 

Basket #14

Hello Everyone, 

Many of you have asked when your last basket pickup will be. Our target number of weekly deliveries at the beginning of the year was sixteen, however, depending on what the garden can produce after tonight’s frost, we may have to stop at fifteen next week. The late start this year due to excessively wet conditions has narrowed the harvest window somewhat. 

On that topic, the pickup day for Basket #15 will be Friday, October 14,  from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. instead of the usual Thursday since I’ll be travelling next week and returning late Thursday. As usual, if the pickup date doesn’t work for you, just let me know and we’ll make arrangements 🙂 

Another consequence of the record rains this summer was the failure of some key crops. Some we were able to replant (yellow beans, cucumbers, pole beans), but others required too much lead time in the greenhouse to begin again (onions, squash, sweet potatoes).  Although our squash was a bust this year, our sister farm down the road has offered to trade some of their wonderful Hubbards, which you’ll  see in your last basket. Thanks Rainbow Heritage Garden!  

This week’s basket contains a healthy representation from the Brassica* family, which not only tolerates cool growing conditions but prefers them. 

Basket #14 

1 bag arugula*
1 bag kale* or chard
1 small bag parsley or dill
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch baby pak choi*
1 cabbage*
Small cucumber
1 bunch salad turnips (Hakurei or Scarlet Queen)*
Couple of onions or heads of garlic

 See you at the farm.

Basket #13

 Hello Everyone, 

With the growing season winding down in the gardens, the pressing tasks have shifted from maintaining the crops to cleaning up and preparing for next year’s gardens. I confess to a certain melancholy as I see beds of plants browning and returning to the earth…it seems such a short time ago that I was nurturing tender shoots in the greenhouse.

 But fall also brings with it a renewed sense of purpose. The lessons of 2011 are already being applied to the upcoming season: ditches and drainage – got to have them in place for next spring since we garden in a clay-bottomed bowl; opening up new areas for cultivation – we need more room; gathering manure and building a huge composter – fertility on organic farms is an ongoing endeavour. The list goes on. 

Meanwhile, the cold-hardy crops are still providing splashes of green in the gardens and will be making appearances in your baskets over the next few weeks. 

Basket #13

1 qt potatoes
1 pt Jerusalem artichokes
1 bag Asian greens
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch leeks
1 bunch baby pak choi
1 bunch kale or mixed greens
Dill or coriander
2 items from choice bin (zucchini, yellow beans, broccoli, beets) 

Serving ideas: 

Wilted Asian Greens (Fresh Asian greens are quite peppery and combine well with fruit in a salad. Try topping a bed of greens with sliced peaches, pears or nectarines and dress with a fruit sauce (chokecherry syrup maybe) mixed with oil and your favourite vinegar. Top  with toasted nuts (for extra decadence, sauté nuts in butter, sugar and ginger).

Jerusalem artichokes or Sunchokes

Sautéed Jerusalem Artichokes with Garlic and Bay Leaves (Jamie Oliver) 

Roasted Sunchoke and Mushroom Bisque (eggsonsunday.wordpress.com is a marvelous, well-written food blog worth adding to your favourites)

See you at the farm!