Hello all you adventurous eaters!
Let me begin by extending a huge thank you on behalf of the Wellspring team for your wonderful support and enthusiasm throughout last year’s CSA season. I hope never to see a drier summer!
Although most of you are probably just ramping up your winter activities, here at Wellspring Gardens we’re already well into the planning for our 2013 growing season. Part of any good action plan is a review of past performance, so here’s a quick recap of last summer on the farm.
What we did differently
The biggest change to our operations last summer was the addition of two pairs of working hands. Shaliz and Amanda signed on as farm interns and spent weeks and months immersed in the daily operations of organic food production. Their help was instrumental in bringing fresh, nutritious food to your tables and the Deep River Farmers’ Market. We were pleased to be able to contribute to the future of Canada’s small farm industry through these enterprising youth farmers.
We also welcomed a Mackenzie Community School co-op student to our team this fall. Brittney Goudreau joined us for September and October to prepare for her eventual career choice of veterinary assistant and wildlife rehabilitation agent. She gravitated instantly to the livestock on the farm and quickly became adept at moving chicken tractors and slinging hefty bags of feed over the fence to the pigs. We are looking forward to her return this semester to help with the multitude of behind-the-scenes tasks that begin well before the snow melts.
Our CSA membership grew this year from 18.5 full shares to 26. In addition to increasing our basket program, we signed on for eleven weeks at the newly launched Deep River Farmers’ Market, where we were able to reach a new segment of consumers and connect with other local producers.
We introduced a good number of heirloom vegetables to our offering this year. Among them were thirty varieties of tomatoes chosen from Terra Edibles in Foxboro, ON, a popular flowerpot squash called Pattison’s verte et jaune and some tasty Boothby’s Blond cucumbers. There were a number of star performers that we’ll try again this year.
Six heritage English Large Black pigs came to work and play on the farm this summer as well. We brought them in as part of the sustainable agriculture plan to turn over a new garden plot and help clear the land. As a result, we have expanded our cultivated plots by another ½ acre and harvested two freezers full of “happy” pastured pork to offer our customers.
We also sold plants this year for the first time. They were a big hit at market and a number of customers drove out from Deep River to buy organically grown, heirloom plants for their home gardens.
On the equipment side, we added a second, smaller tractor to the farm “fleet.” With it, we can perform a number of delicate operations in the rows, including making raised beds that provide much needed drainage to our clay-based soil and allow the soil to warm up quickly. In true rural fashion, we traded labour (mostly Joe and Napoleon’s) for a used Farm All from Rainbow Heritage Garden in Cobden.
As always, Ma Nature presents the biggest challenges of all. Two years ago it was flooding. This past year it was a record drought that seared plants in their beds and created inviting conditions for many species of marauding insects. Although production was diminished and some crops failed miserably, we were able to fill our baskets and market table with the many vegetables that did succeed. Our dug pond and drip irrigation were life savers.
Another challenge was to grow our production to meet the needs of the expanded membership and the new farmers’ market, which entailed two harvests every second week. This necessitated tightening up on our succession planting and honing our forecasting skills in order to anticipate what would be needed.
We outgrew our refrigerators and realized we would have to move our cold cellar up on the priority list for 2013 to accommodate vegetable storage. This and a larger greenhouse will enable us to take the next step towards a larger production model for 2013.
Time. There’s never enough time it seems. Which is how we managed to postpone plans for a farm day and potluck until it was too late! We also failed to coordinate weather, equipment and manpower to pickup manure and leaves at a few of our members’ homes. We’ll be more proactive this year.
Benefits to Members
By subscribing to weekly baskets in 2012, members saved approximately 17% on the market stand prices. We are continually tweaking our CSA program based on member feedback and tried out some new ideas, such as a trade bin and stir-fry baskets. We also set up the CSA pick-up similarly to our market display and listed products in order from left to right to help avoid missed items.
Many members enjoyed coming out to work on “their” farm this past summer and connect with the source of their food. We were delighted to welcome weeders, harvesters, equipment loans, menu plans, gifts of canned goodies, egg collectors, chicken feeders, treats for the pigs and innumerable other contributions. We even had visiting guests from Québec City join in the garlic cleaning! Member Jen Bergevin arranged a visit from the local parent/child group “Let’s Do Fun Things in the Valley” where children had a chance to connect with the land and enjoy simple things like hand pumping water from the creek, feeding the chickens and climbing the massive sand hill behind the farmhouse.
Part of our mission is to promote farmland as a community resource, and we feel that CSA is a great model for this.
What’s Up for 2013
This year we will cap our Community Supported Agriculture program at 30 full shares in order to facilitate the addition of a weekly roadside vegetable stand along Highway 17 likely in Chalk River. We were delighted to bring our produce to shoppers at the Deep River Farmers’ Market last summer and would like to extend our reach to include weekend travelers and local consumers commuting in the Deep River – Chalk River corridor.
Many of you said that the overall quantities in the baskets were sufficient, but that you would like more of certain items. In response, we are offering a Combined Share to members this year. It entitles members to a full basket share (16-week pickup at farm) plus a $200 market share voucher (actual cost $170) redeemable over the course of the summer at our booth at the Deep River Farmers’ Market, our roadside stand or the farm (with advance notice).
We try to send out recipes every week with your basket notification. Sometimes, due to time constraints, it’s a bit hit and miss. Many of you have also contributed winning recipes for the contents of your baskets. This year Brittney, our high school co-op student will be compiling a Wellspring Gardens CSA Recipebook/Handbook, which will go out with the first baskets.
As mentioned above, we will be building a cold storage and larger greenhouse this summer to meet the needs of our increased production. The cold storage will enable us to extend our offerings into the fall and winter season and potentially offer a fall share.
We are also playing with the idea of a 17-week program which includes 16 full or 8 half shares and one floating week which can be tacked on to the end of the season to make up for missed baskets due to vacations.
Once again we are planning to host farming interns interested in gaining hands-on experience in organic food production. We may also be welcoming Japanese students through the Corocoro farm stay program for international students wishing to improve their English in an immersion environment.
2013 WELLSPRING GARDENS MEMBERSHIPS
Many of you expressed an interest in continuing your membership with the farm for the 2013 season. In past years we’ve noted the best promoters of our business are the members themselves. With this in mind, we are converting our advertising dollars to a $25 referral rebate for anyone that signs up a friend, neighbour or co-worker.
Please find attached the membership form. We realize that CSA is not for everyone. If you’ve decided this is the case for you, please notify me and I’ll remove your email from the distribution list. If you’ve opted out of CSA but wish to remain on a notification list for chickens, turkeys, eggs and pork, please indicate this.
See you soon!
…eat fresh, live well…