Posts Tagged ‘CSA’

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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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

A Word from Julia

I grew up in what I used to consider a small town in Southwestern Ontario, yet I now know better after living in a few true small towns.  I spent the last four years in Montreal completing a B.Sc in Environmental Science at McGill University. While I chose this degree by chance, it uncovered and cultivated the environmentalist inside of me whose existence was unbeknownst to me at the time.

After completing my degree and embarking on quite a miserable job search, I stumbled upon the possibility of a farming internship.  I jumped at the opportunity as I have always wanted to learn more about organic agriculture and how to produce my own food, ethically.  Whether this internship will bring me down the farming road or simply prepare me to grow a self-sustaining garden has yet to be determined; my future is still a bit foggy.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before arriving at the farm as every single thing would be (and has been) a new experience for me.  I had to accept the fact that I was clueless about everything, which is a feeling I am not used to.  I quickly learned to swallow my pride and ask every question that comes to mind, no matter how obvious the answer may seem!

Despite the sometimes demoralizing cluelessness that ensues, I really enjoy working on the farm.  I feel so at peace and in tune with nature every day, no matter the task, rain or shine, and despite the constant buzzing and biting of black flies, mosquitoes, and deer flies.  I have yet to be given a task on the farm that I dislike or find mundane!  From the transplanting hundreds of tomato plants, to the endless weeding, to the daily animal care, I find enjoyment and repose in every task.  I think Sheila is more enthusiastic about me taking time off from the farm than I am!  I love to be outside and active every day and getting up close and personal with the earth.  I cannot wait to watch the fields become a diverse display of delicious organic fruits and vegetables, and to be a part of such a fundamental aspect of human life.

A friend and fellow gardener said to me before I left, “growing food is simply the best time spent;” I am starting to agree.

Quiet repose

Quiet repose

Basket #2 – July 10

Hello All,

Breaking news from the field: We’ve got beets! (For those of you who were with us last year, this will be significant).

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This week’s offering will include:

Sauté mix (beet greens, spinach and chard)
Arugula OR Easter Egg radishes
Beets (the tops are fantastic so add them to your sauté mix)
Baby carrots
2 fresh garlic bulbs
Young onions
Curly kale (the cooking or marinating kind)
Red Russian kale (for light sautés or raw in salad)
Dill or rosemary

Check below to see member Jen Bergevin’s weekly menu using this week’s basket for inspiration.

Just for the half-sharers who are getting their scapes this week: Garlic Scape


week-2-plus-garlic-scape-pesto/# . We’ve used it in this amazing bread: .

And this one is just for fun: Cinnamon Sugar Radish Chips!

Wellspring Garden CSA Week 2 Menu

Radish Hasbrowns with Eggs, Sausages (or Bacon [or toast to make it vegetarian]), Fruit and Yogurt

Garden Veggie Pizza With Kale Pesto and Brie

Spaghetti with braised kale

If you go with the Rosemary:

Pork Lion Roast with Garlic and Rosemary, Beet and Carrot Slaw, and Edamame and Arugula Dip with Baguette Toasts


Or if you want Dill instead:

Creamy Smoked Salmon Fettuccine


See you tomorrow!

Basket #1

Hello All,

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! This coming Wednesday, July 4, your first baskets of the season will be ready! Although this marks the beginning of the season for our CSA members, we here at Wellspring Gardens have been working behind the scenes for four months to prepare for this day. Beginning with the first seedlings planted in the greenhouse in March, through the garden prep and planting, to these past few weeks of weeding, mulching, staking and pruning, all available hands have been busy.

We have been greatly aided this year by the welcome addition of two farming interns, Amanda and Shaliz, who can consider themselves experts after these past two months of intensive gardening. Joe (the infrastructure guy) has been instrumental in getting and keeping all things technical and mechanical operating and our son Napoleon has jumped on board this year in a big way, running the tractors for bed prep, designing various improvements to our systems and lending a hand with the construction of our mobile chicken pens and the cabin renovations.

Some of you have already been out and gotten your hands dirty either weeding, planting, watering the greenhouses or helping with the intern cabin renovations. We really enjoy the fresh faces and new perspectives you bring and are always happy to have you join us in growing your food.

In order to balance the harvesting load between CSA and the bi-weekly Deep River Farmers’ Market, we will be dividing the half-shares so that our pick-up numbers are the same every week. This basically means 27 baskets for us to prepare each week (23 full shares and 4 half). I will send a separate email to the half-share members assigning them their pick-up schedules.

For those of you who are joining us for the first time this year, here is some useful information:

– Bring a medium-sized cooler or container for your veggies. Although we call it a “basket,” technically we only provide the contents.
– It’s a good idea to print out your weekly email with the list of veggies so you can be sure you don’t forget items (there will also be a list posted on the blackboard here).
– Items will be either bagged, bunched or packed in pints or quarts. Please empty the contents of the pints or quarts and leave the containers with us.
– Arrive between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on pick-up days, which will always be Wednesdays.
– If you can’t pick up or think you’ll be late, please email me and we’ll make alternate arrangements.
– If you plan to be away and are unable to pick up your basket, consider asking a friend to enjoy it or donating it to North Renfrew Family Services.
– Someone, either myself or one of our interns, will always be on hand to answer questions and help you.
– We do our best to predict what will be in your baskets when we send out our weekly emails. Sometimes harvest day produces a surprise and your veggie list may change slightly.
– As the season advances, so do the variety and quantity of veggies in your share.

The theme for this week’s basket is “greens.”

Basket #1

Lettuce mix
Chard/beet top medley
Kale or “kale lite” (Red Russian kale, which is very tender and shreds up easily into tender salad greens)
Garlic scapes
Easter Egg radishes

If you’re short on ideas for enjoying the bounty, I’ve included a few serving suggestions:

Raw Kale Salad (we love this one and often change it up by using other citrus, adding seeds, raisins or nuts…)

Garlic Scape Pesto
(uses arugula instead of basil)

Quick Radish Pickle with Garlic

Pizza with Kale, Roasted Garlic and Four Cheeses

Member Jen Bergevin shared her five-day menu with us, incorporating the contents of the basket:

Greens and Hollandaise Stack served with sliced tomatoes

Creamy Garlic Scape Dip followed by Spinach and Artichoke Bake

Kale and Bean Bruschetta served aside Crispy Fried Goat Cheese

Using the Leftovers from the bruschetta, Cannellini and Kale Soup

Finally ending the week with Chicken Florentine Pesto Pasta

Thanks Jen for the menu inspirations!

Hybrids: Triumph over Diversity?

Come gather round while I weave you a tale that began on another continent. It’s a tale of oppression, grinding poverty and escape to a new land. It’s a saga of long sea voyages and harsh, unknown territories. But although the storyline is coloured by hardship and loss, it is also lightened by hope and the promise of a better future, a place to build anew.

Close your eyes and imagine them, those first immigrants, laying open the earth with crude tools and determination. Carefully unwrapping precious seeds gleaned from faraway gardens and carried across oceans and continents to lie in untried soils. Tending them as they would their own children, for these seeds are their past, their present and their future

Heirloom seeds each have their own story to tell. Like many of the best stories, they have been handed down through many generations, often within one family or in a relatively small geographic area. Although all heirlooms are open pollinated, not all open pollinated seeds are heirlooms. To be considered an heirloom, a variety must have been stable for either 25, 50, or 100 years, depending on whose definition you choose.

Believe it or not, some of these wonderfully diverse cultivars are endangered. Hybrids, which certainly have their place in the garden, have inexorably edged out varieties that have remained true to their ancestors over decades and centuries only to find themselves practically collectors’ items. This year as you make out your seed order, include a few of these venerable survivors. After all, seeds are the one thing whose sustainability relies on using more, not less.

(This year Wellspring Gardens is planting over 30  heirloom tomato varieties from Terra Edibles in Foxboro. If you want to sample these and other heirloom vegetables for the season, check out the farm CSA Program.

Really lame harvest puns…funniest when you’re sunburnt, dehydrated and have no social media at hand!

After harvesting and processing greens late into the evening in the rain…it’s been a chard day’s night.

Amongst our bilingual harvesters after being instructed, once again, to get the bunches right…if you want to harvest beets, you “betterave” a good bunching technique.

If you’ve lost your water bottle in the rows…it’ll turnip somewhere.

The farmer, after too much slacking off to think up new puns…lettuce get back to work.

When inspecting for potato beetles…time to turn over a new leaf.

Thinking of new ways to preserve herbs… if I could save thyme in a bottle…

To a fellow harvester fiddling with his iPod: “Whatcha listening to?”

“Can’t tell, the headphones aren’t working.”

“Must be baroque!”

Contemplating a bed needing to be rid of thistles…weed better get at it. Thistle keep us busy all morning.