Friday, April 22, 2016

Strattons Farm Spring Update.....

We thought is was about time to do a farm update!
Winter seemed at the time rather short and sweet and then it rolled around again in late March and early April and then the last week or so has seen us all basking in summer temperatures.  But as I type this the weather network has predicted a few days of cold and even some snow flurries on Tuesday.

What have we been up to?
We learned how to harvest willow at The Branch Ranch and Workworth Willow Works It was really nice to do something different and a nice way to ease back into farm work after the winter break, all the bending and cutting did give our glutes and hamstrings a good work out.

Iris, Angus and Hamish.
This year we have also had our largest kidding season (We know that four goats is not as much as some but for us it is!).  Fleur and Tilly who where born here at the farm two years ago kidded this year.  Tilly has had two lovely doelings Iris and Gracie and Fleur has had two rather handsome bucklings Hamish and Angus.
Eva's Triplets

Then we had a seven week break and then it was Eva's turn, she blessed us with triplets again!  Two bucklings Atticus and Finch and a lovely little doeling called Scout.   
Last but not least was our lovely old girl Elly.  She kept us on our toes this year, she has been looking larger than normal, she is also our very prompt girl when it comes to kidding but she took her time this year I think she was holding on to kid on the Queen's birthday! So yesterday morning she finally decided to push, first one out no trouble and then she started work on the second all we could see was one foot for a rather long time which got us all a little worried!  As I went to get the phone to call our vet one of our customers who is a nurse turned up on the drive for her eggs and thankfully she was more than willing to go from a human nurse to an animal nurse in a blink of an eye. Thankfully without any assistance and with a lot of encouragement from three humans George came out back legs first then before we knew it Elly was back laying down again and one last big push and out popped number three. Mum and kids are all doing well.
George, Bertie and Lilibet

We felt that Elly's triplets should have a Royal theme for being born on the Queen's birthday so the boys have been named Bertie and George and the doeling has been named Lilibet.

In between goats kidding, chicks arriving, pigs leaving for the abattoir, remembering to do the farm accounts, keeping a close eye on our two bee hives that so far have made it through winter, the epic chore of cleaning out animal housing after winter, rolling down the hoop house plastic we have been busy seeding up a storm for this year's CSA.  
The greenhouse is packed full of seedlings ready to be transplanted along with seedlings being moved outside on a regular basis to harden off.  This week we have been prepping beds ready for the new seedlings  to be transplanted along with some direct seeding.
We have been keeping a close eye on the garlic patch as well and we are rather excited to see all the garlic growing.  This garlic bed is a huge achievement for us. When we first started growing garlic in the Fall on 2009 we started with 200 cloves, last Fall thanks to several of our CSA members we planted 6000 cloves.
We are excited to announce that we submitted a grant application to  the John Della Bosca Memorial Fund.  The Memorial was set up by the NFU Local 334  and Slow Food | The County in remembrance of John, he was an amazing man who contributed to sustainable farming, willing to share the highs and lows of what he had learnt, he was also the President of the Local National Farmers Union and passionate about the Slow food movement. Sadly he passed away far before his time but he will live on in so many peoples memories and we are so grateful to be one of the two recipients this year.  The grant is going to contribute towards the purchase of our third Hanley hoop house.  This tunnel will purely be used for winter and early spring greens production.  After this years winter bulk vegetable boxes every ones request was for greens so we sat down to figure out what we needed to do to meet this challenge.  We needed a third hoop house that would allow us to spend the summer building and feeding the soil and then would only be in production for the winter and early spring months while our other two hoop houses are rested over winter with cover crops and the plastic rolled up to allow the snow to protect and add extra moisture back into the soil. A huge thank you to the NFU and Slow Food for helping us with our next project.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A little about our vegetable journey and is a CSA right for you.....

As CSA Day 2016 approaches we have looked back over our own vegetable journey along with answering a few questions that we feel everyone should ask themselves before joining a CSA!
We have always been big vegetable eaters but I would say our vegetable consumption has increased over the last 15 years and even more so since we started Strattons Farm.
I often wonder would we have joined a CSA 15-20 years ago and I think my answer would have been NO!!! I know shock, horror, gasp!
15+ years ago we started to do our weekly shop at the Blackheath farmers market.  We got to know our farmers, they knew us and our dogs and we would buy most of our weekly shop there.  We started to try new vegetables like purple sprouting broccoli and Samphire.  I remember asking one Sunday  for Samphire and watching the farmers eyes chuckle at me and then nicely say that it was only available certain times of the year.  I even started to mark our calendar to make sure I remembered.  This was our first lesson in eating seasonally and suddenly realising that we needed to embrace the vegetables when they are at their peak for harvest and learning that they are not available 365!

We are now great advocates of eating locally, supporting local farmers and of course in joining a CSA.
Not just because we run one, but because we believe it allows the consumer to build a real  connection with their food system. To build a relationship with the farmer, to embrace what is seasonal and to know more about the journey of that tomato, from the seed placed into a soil block to the hand that nurtured, picked it  and delivered it to it's final destination.

CSA's are great for trying new vegetables along with your old favourites. They allow your food dollars to stay within your community and support a local farm, dollars kept in your community rather than feeding the big Ag companies. Vegetables are at their freshest when you receive them and they taste how the vegetable should taste.  I can speak all about about the benefits of the CSA but we all need to remember and be honest that there may also be a downside (depending on your point of view) of joining one as well.  Many members often say the first year of joining a CSA is the hardest, learning to deal with different vegetables, the abundance of the season, the repetition of certain vegetables and adjusting to seasonal eating, but they always say the second and successive years are always easier as they have a better idea of what to expect.

Recently on a forum we are part of, one of the contributors made the following statement "The struggle AND satisfaction of eating locally is eating seasonally"

Here are a few questions we think everyone needs to ask themselves before considering joining a CSA and joining the seasonal and eat real food movement!

Do I like vegetables, am I happy letting someone else dictate what I eat week to week? 
It seems a silly question at first as CSA's do provide staples of lettuce, potatoes, carrots, beets and garlic but also vegetables like kohlrabi, tomatillos, eggplant, turnips, kale, swiss chard, Asian and mustard greens are going to turn up in your weekly baskets.  I knew about all these vegetables, some I would turn my nose up at and others I could not get enough of.  One vegetable I used to really not like was parsnips, the smell used to turn my stomach, but I grew up with the motto of try everything at least once! So one Christmas I gave them another go after Michael had roasted them! Since that day I have never looked back, I now love them roasted and one of my all time favourite soups has parsnips in it!
The other thing we have to adjust to in a CSA is the farmer will make your vegetables choices for you on what is available that week and season, you do not have the freedom to choose what you might like to cook that week. 

Mustard green pesto
Do I enjoy cooking?
It seems a silly question to ask but you either need to be up for the challenge or already enjoy cooking. If you are up for the challenge most CSA's will provide you with a weekly newsletter with recipe suggestions.
Do you also have the time to prep vegetables that turn up with soil still stuck in the roots or when the spinach is not pre-washed.  These are things to think about especially when you get into peak season.

What will I do with the extra?
Will you give it away to friends, take the time to freeze or can for winter or donate to your food bank or will it go to waste?  These are things you need to think about especially if there is an abundance of a crop or if you happen to be out for dinner a few nights in a week and the vegetables start to pile up in the fridge. 

Do I travel a lot?
When you make a commit to a CSA it can be anything from 16-24 weeks, some CSA's now run year round.  If you travel a lot through the Summer do you have someone else to pick up your basket of vegetables. What happens if you do not make it to the pick up point? Can you find someone to collect your vegetables the weeks you are away?

Am I OK with 'shared risk'
In 2012 our community along with a huge portion of Ontario suffered the worst drought in years.  This meant the shares were smaller, some crops did not grow and due to the heat and we had so many pests that ate lots of our crops.
Being part of a CSA means that along with the farmer you share the risk of crop failure. You might not get tomatoes due to blight or the potato crop might be low due to bugs or a frost might wipe out a whole crop. Are you ready for this?  On the flip side the farmer might have a bounty of watermelons and they could turn up in your box every week for six weeks!

If you answered "No" to any of these questions then maybe a CSA is not for you at this time, but if you answered "Yes" then don't leave it to long to register.  This is the time of year when your local CSA farmer needs your registrations and deposits that allows your CSA farmer to purchase seed, soil and tools for the coming season.
Last year we participated in short documentary along with Carolyn Coffin of the Eat Real Food Academy and filmed by Sean Scally on making better food choices.  We hope that it will provide a little more insight into CSA's and how they can help you to achieve this goal. However, if a CSA is not the right fit, which we appreciate does not fit everyone's lifestyle, then don't forget you can start your seasonal vegetable journey by supporting your local farmers market.