Monday, August 10, 2009

15,000 bulbs of global garlic are here!

The Cutting Veg's Global Garlic Project is in full flow.  With the help of numerous volunteers and our fantastic intern team, Daniel's garlic vision is a reality.  We have Persian, Israeli, German, Saltspring Island, Korean, Italian and other varieties drying in the 100 year old McVean Farm.  If you want a hearty supply of delectable, organic, local and well loved garlic, contact Daniel to purchase a bulk order.

To tantalize your tastebuds while the garlic cures, enjoy these pics:

Farmer Dan

Zucchini galore

For all of you zucchini lovers, enjoy these photos!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pest Management:

With the wave of heat that came two weeks ago, a wave of pests coincided. Most notable have been the Colorado Potato Beetle and Aphids. People often ask how we deal with pests on the farm, so here is a brief overview. On the farm, we take a three-pronged approach to pest management: Prevention, Observation, Intervention. Prevention is the first and most crucial step. How do we prevent crop loss to pests? The most important method is through creating healthy soil. Pests tend to attack weak plants, and so if you have healthy soil, you will have healthy plants, which the pests won't attack. Or if the plants are attacked, they will be strong and healthy enough to withstand and overcome the siege. We create healthy soil primarily through the addition of organic matter: manure, compost, straw, etc. Crop Rotations, and use of green manure crops (crops such as buckwheat, rye, oats, that you grow with the intention of tilling them back into the soil for nutritional enrichment) are other methods that we use to enrich the soil, and thus prevent pests. We also practice pest prevention methods such as companion planting (eg. planting calendula flowers near zucchini to attract the aphids away from the zukes), use of row cover (garden fabric that covers and protects the plants while they are young and most vulnerable), and attracting beneficial insects (eg. growing buckwheat to attact ladybugs, who eat aphids). After the Prevention methods, we utilise observation --- constantly walking through the garden to observe what is taking place (Are plants under attack? Are plants looking discoloured and potentially undernourished?). After observation, there may be need engage in an intervention. There are many pest intervention methods, and I won't get into them now. Truthfully, once you get to the stage where you need to Intervene, it can be very difficult to overcome the pests. That's why we engage so much in Prevention. So far, our efforts have paid off. The Aphids do indeed seem to be gravatating toward the Calendula plants, and away from the food plants we want to protect, and the Colorado Potato Beetle seem to be clinging to a few weak looking potato plants, and leaving the rest alone.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Farmers in training

Here is a glimpse of some of the interns who are learning how to feed the Earth, themselves and others through the Cutting Veg Internship.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Garlic Scape Goodness

It's that time of year again-Garlic Scape harvest time!  What is a garlic scape you ask?  The scape is the stem from which the seed head of the bulb is formed.  As the bulb grows and matures (and we have 15,000 of them!), garlic stalks begin to lengthen and curve.  

The garlic scape has a great deal of flavor and makes for a delicious ingredient if used while still tender.  As the plant matures, the scape gradually straightens and becomes tougher.  As part of the Cutting Veg's Global Garlic Project, we harvest the scape while it is young and tender so that you can enjoy it at its peak flavor.  It makes for a delicious pesto or as an addition to stir fries and soups.

We hope you enjoy this beautiful part of the garlic plant!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Homegrown Lunch --- prepared by Farm Intern Carolina MacDonald, and made from The Cutting Veg produce,

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tikkun Adamah CSA-Week #3

Farm interns
Daniel and Kate loading up greens for the CSA

Eva planting onions

swiss chard
potatoes emerging
Farmer Dan
Intern team

Early summer at the Cutting Veg

View from the garlic fields

Onions and kale are great companions
Garlic and the McVean Barn
Baby tomatoes

Daniel planting onions

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sewing Seeds of Growth

Farming is constantly providing metaphors for life. Thanks to the hard work of the Interns and the volunteers, things are going super well on the farm. The mid-April to mid-June planting fest has been a big success, and we have tons of crops in the ground. The salad greens, peas, radishes, kale, chard, beets, sunflowers, garlic, onions, beans, summer squash, winter squash, strawberries, tomatoes, basil, corn, parsley, hot peppers, mellons, carrots, potatoes, etc. are all coming along very nicely. In addition, we've been weeding up a storm, and are quite on top of this as well. Yet, in spite of the hard work of the last 2 months, we have barely begun to reap the harvest. To this point, we have only been harvesting salad greens and green onions. And it is likely to be a few more weeks before the garlic scapes, peas, chard, kale, etc., begin to be ready for harvest. This is where one of life's metaphors emerges. Often in life, there is a period in which we put out a tremendous amount of effort in a specific direction. This could be with our career, dating, mental health, etc. One seems to be working so hard towards advancement and growth in one of these areas; yet, no results seem to be emerging. It is easy to get discouraged in this phase, as we thnk b/c we haven't seen results, our efforts must be fruitless. Yet, it is important to remember in these periods the germination phase. Once a seed has been planted, you don't see it pop above ground right away. Yet, under the ground the seed is sprouting and germinating. You can't see the progress b/c it's underground, but the seed is growing. Such is the case in life --- we can't always see the progress with the seeds we have sewn with our professional lives, romantic lives, personal wellness, etc. But this doesn't mean the seed isn't growing---an abundant harvest likely lies ahead! So, I encourage you to be one of those farmers who delights in the seeding as well as the harvesting. And what's exciting is that --- unlike growing food in Canada --- you can sew seeds of personal growth all year round.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring Farming and The Spiritual Toolbox

Hey Farm Folks,

While running a farm requires the use of a variety of farm tools, it equally requires drawing upon one's spiritual toolbox. At this time of year, most farmers are dying to get into the fields and plant up a storm. The earlier one gets seeds and plants in the ground, the earlier one can harvest the treasured spring crops. Certain crops do very well in cool weather, but not in the heat. Included in this group of cool weather spring crops are spinach, radishes, peas, bok choy turnips, and lettuce. Anyway, the limited window of time for growing these crops combined with the prevalence of cabin fever following the winter, tends to get a farmer ancy to get in the field and plant. However, this is when one needs to open up their spiritual toolbox, and pull out patience. When the soil is wet, one can damage it by stepping on it, and manipulating it. It can become compacted, clumpy, and you can really piss off the worms. The soil on my plot at the farm has been super wet thus far, due to the winter and spring precipitation. After a week of staying off the farm, I finally lost my patience this morning, and headed off to the farm at 6am, ignoring the rain. Well, I paid the price....the soil was so heavy! A job that would normally take me an hour, took me about 3! Anyway, every spring this tension, b/w wanting to plant and the need for patience, emerges...and there's no exact right way to handle it. I am glad I was able to plant a 100+ foot bed of snow peas this morning. And now that I've scratched my farming itch a little, I can get back to practicing patience.

Otherwise, the mixed salad greens seeds I planted about 2 weeks ago have germinated nicely, and so we have a gorgeous 100 ft bed of salad on the way. The onions and potatoes planted recently haven't yet emerged from the ground, but I am optimistic they will soon. AND THE GARLIC! 15,000 beauties have poked their way through the straw mulch, and look super strong and vibrant.

For those of you who are thinking about having their own garden this year, The Cutting Veg is offering a workshop called "Planning Your Organic Veggie Garden" next Sunday May 3rd, from 1:30-3:30. It will take place at 961 Eglinton Ave. West, Apt #1Toronto, ON, M3H 6A7. During the workshop, we will explore some of the core concepts of organic agriculture, such as plant propagation, plant care, soil preparation and health, pest management, and composting, while doing some gardening right in the workshop. If you are interested, let me know and I will let you know how to register.

Enjoy the Spring, and until next time "Keep Livin' on the Veg!"


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kosher for Passover Recipes --- Emily Van Halem

As someone with a lot of food sensitivities, my extended family always gets a bit stressed out when I visit. “If she doesn’t eat meat, dairy, eggs, wheat or sugar…what DOES she eat?” The problem is compounded at Passover when legumes and many alternate grains are a “no no.” If I ever want to see dessert at the end of the Seder meal, I’m left to my own devices. And necessity is the mother of invention! Here are a few stand-by recipes. Aside from the apples they don’t use a lot of locally available ingredients unfortunately. But I’m hoping to develop and post some on my own blog soon! (

Raw Apple Pie

NUT PIE CRUST2 cups raw nuts, dry (almonds, Brazil nuts &/ hazelnuts are good) plus 1/4-1/3 a cup extra nuts set aside1 teaspoon Kosher salt2 cups pitted dates

SYRUP1/2 cup pitted dates1 orange, peeled and seeded*splash of water, as needed

*if you don’t have an orange, about 1/4 - 1/3 cup orange juice should work fine

FILLING5 cups apples, quartered, seeded, thinly sliced, about 5 or 6 apples1 cup raisins 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
In a food processor, first grind up the nuts you set aside (the 1/4 – 1/3 cup) until it’s a coarse powder. Spread this around at the bottom of your pie plate so that the crust won’t stick to it later.

Now put the rest of the nuts in the food processor along with the salt and dates. Process until it’s moldable with your hands, and press it into the bottom of the pie plate, all the way to the edge. You can even make the edges a bit wavy for added flare.

Next, put all the “syrup” ingredients into the food processor/blender and blend until smooth. Add this mixture to the “filling” ingredients together in a bowl and mix it all up.

Finally, pour about half of the apple mixture into the pie crust and then with the remaining apples, using your hands, place them in ‘fan’ formation around the pie. To make the apples soften a bit, let it sit for 24 hours in the fridge. Serve at room temperature.

Gluten-free Brownies!
(Inspired by

Photo source:
1 (16oz) jar almond butter, smooth roasted2 eggs (I used 1 mashed banana)1 1/2 cups agave nectar (I think maple syrup would also work. I tried honey and it burned too easily)1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder1/2 teaspoon sea salt1 teaspoon baking soda1 cup dark chocolate chunks/chips

In a large bowl, blend almond butter until smooth with a hand blender
Blend in eggs/banana, then blend in the agave/maple syrup and vanilla
Blend in cocoa, salt and baking soda, then fold in chocolate chips
Grease a 9 x 13 Pyrex baking dish
Pour batter into dish
Bake at 325°F for 35-40 minutes (check at 20min to make sure it’s not burning…I find nut-based dishes prone to burning)

Makes about 24 brownies
Local Food Fever
- Emily Van Halem -

Spring has sprung and with that comes a buzz of excitement in the foodie circles over the arrival of local asparagus, fiddleheads and early spring greens. It’s an exciting time for locavores and any minute now the “Buy Ontario Freshness” ads will be popping up like the tulips. And it’s good timing ‘cause I have to admit I am tired of roasted root vegetable ___name a dish___ and snacking on carrots, no matter how colourful they are. Change is indeed in the air: layers come off, pounds are exposed, and I have officially banned myself from baking. Mostly, though, I’m excited to be spending a summer in Toronto, with full access to farmers’ markets, a garden of my own, and a supply of empty Bernardin jars at close reach.

Now although the farmers’ markets won’t be springing up until May, I thought I’d write about an issue that is very local to my heart, and that is the difference between “local” and “local sustainable.” And there is a difference.

The case for local:

I get how excited we all are about local food. Picking Ontario Freshness is undoubtedly awesome, especially when you have to stand over a sink to eat it! Buying local means supporting farmers and processors who are too often excluded from the well oiled machine that is the globalized food distribution system. Most small farmers don’t have access to 18 wheelers to bring their products to wherever they’re in demand, never mind the supply to do so in the quantity that grocery chains demand of them. It’s no wonder that after decades of dismantling local distribution networks, the connections between local farmers and consumers is, well, rusty, to say the least.

Farmers’ markets, CSAs, local food delivery boxes, and farm-gate sales are all ways to reduce our carbon footprint, strengthen the local food system, support local economic development, and foster community and a connection to our food.

Local’s holes:

There’s more to local agriculture than the fuzzy picture often painted. Here are some of the issues local food fails to address (and this is just off the top of my head):
- pesticide/chemical application (and the resulting ecosystem impact)
- tillage practices and the rapid rate of topsoil erosion
- animal welfare
- livestock waste management/runoff
- genetic modification
- monocropping
- migrant labourer rights
- biodiversity and habitat preservation for native species
- the carbon footprint of the farm itself (tractors, combines, processing, barn heating, livestock “emissions”, energy use of greenhouses)

…the list, no doubt, goes on…

Enter “Local Sustainable”

It’s really the best of both worlds: all the benefits of “local” with a broader spectrum of sustainability taken into consideration. But where do you find this elusive “local sustainable” food?…what’s a locasustainavore to do? (Probably not popularize that term, that’s for sure)

Get to know your farmer:
Ultimately, the more direct your relationship with your food, the more you know about the social, ethical, and environmental context from which it came. Certification systems exist to instill confidence in the food we’re buying when we aren’t in a position to know that the product is what it claims it is with any certainty. Buying directly from farmers through markets, CSAs, or at the farm itself are great ways to connect to our food and the people who grew it. Some farms aren’t “Certified Organic” but are just as good, but it’s just that they can’t afford the fees or don’t want the paperwork. The Cutting Veg is a great example. If the farm were Certified, Daniel wouldn’t be able to use the cow manure he sources from down the road which isn’t Certified, but is grass fed and hormone-free. Which for Daniel is just as good if not better. I’m moooved to agree. Especially since the Certified Organic alternative would have to be trucked in from further afield. Now that sure smells like Ontario freshness. (Ok, my attempts at humour are getting out of hand…) Anyway, my point is that having a direct relationship with your farmer will better enable you to know if they’re the real deal. If you know what you’re looking for, you can be your own judge.

Seek out local food that is also Certified Organic:
Certified Organic in general comes pretty close to “sustainable” I’d say, as it monitors environmental practices. (Although I’d have to question the sustainability of organic lettuce from California…) There are local farms, however, that are also Certified Organic. Their products aren’t super easy to find though - more often they’re seen at the farmers’ market than at the grocery store. You may be surprised, however, at what smaller grocery stores carry, especially if they are environmentally conscientious. Small means nimble which is why some smaller grocers are able to source directly from local producers. Another route may be to look up organic farms in your area and find out where they sell their products near you (see links below).

Certified Organic has its thorny issues too mind you: these farms aren’t regulated at all for their treatment of on-farm labour. Farm workers are often migrant labourers from Jamaica or Mexico who are paid below minimum wage and don’t get the access to health care they’re entitled to. And there’s no one stopping Organic farms from mono-cropping, or hogging all the land for agriculture and leaving none for native species and habitat. Not surprisingly, these aspects are particularly hard to monitor from a consumer perspective.

Seek Out Certified Local Sustainable:
There is such a thing! In Ontario at least. Local Food Plus (LFP) is a Toronto-based non-profit that certifies Ontario farmers (i.e. local) for practices of sustainability (i.e. agricultural environmental impact, animal welfare, farm labour, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity and habitat preservation). It’s a pretty nifty little organization which, for transparency’s sake, also employs me. But I promise no one’s paying me to say nice things about it here. LFP-Certified food is generally sold in Toronto through various grocery stores, restaurants, caterers and public institutions. LFP’s website lists all the places to buy it.

That was all a bit of a mouthful eh? There’s a lot to swallow with the whole “local food” buzz. I wish it was the easy-peasy solution we’re all hungry for. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Even moving towards a diet high in fresh fruits and veggies is a great first step. If you ask me, eating whole foods is totally revolutionary amidst grocery aisles chock full of low-nutrient, highly processed products. Ultimately, it’s all about starting from wherever you’re at. So don’t get stressed out about always needing to make the perfect decision. This is, after all, an imperfect food system.

So, if it came down to local conventional carrots and packaged, processed organic baby carrots from California, I’d Pick Ontario Freshness.

Click here to check out Emily’s blog, Feel Good Food: Ethical eating for the sensitive stomach.

Ontario Local Farm Resources

Organic Council of Ontario
Canadian Organic Growers directory
Ontario CSA Directory
Pick Your Own farms in Ontario

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Farm Talk --- Introducing the 2009 Interns!

Hey Farm Folk,
Although we're still in the heart of February, there's lots of signs that the farming season is around the corner. Seeds are arriving at my door from seed companies, last years potatoes and onions are starting to sprout, grass and plants are emerging from underneath snow. Thus, with farming season feeling closer, I thought I'd take the time to update you on news about The Cutting Veg.
Plants: I thought you might be interested to know what The Cutting Veg will be growing this season. Well, here's the line-up: String Beans (Green, Purple, Yellow, Speckled), Mesclun Mix (3 varieties), Onions (Red, Yellow, White), Garlic (12 varieties), Sunflowers, Carrots, Beets, Cukes, Zukes (Green, Yellow, others), Chard, Kale, Butternut Squash, Gem Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Pumpkin, Basil ,Tomatoes, Radishes, Hot Peppers, and more. And with 15,000 garlic plants already in the ground, we're already on our way! The hope is to be in the field preparing the soil, and planting in mid-April. However, the weather will dictate...last year we weren't able to get started until Mid-May.
People: Last season, we had countless volunteers help out on the farm by preparing soil, planting, weeding, watering, fertilising, harvesting, cleaning, etc. Volunteers who participated not only developed their farming skills but contributed to the community by improving access to local, organic food. Further, volunteers made a difference to our planet by addessing our worldwide carbon emissions problems through cultivation of carbon feeding plants. Through their farm work, volunteers also helped to provide a healthy living space for countless critters and birds. As with last season, The Cutting Veg Organic Farm will be a collaborative effort in 2009, and you as volunteers are welcome to come and participate as much or as little as you like.
Additionally, in 2009, we will be having our first official Internship Program. The Internship is for people who want to take a significant step in their farm skill development, and are able to commit 10 hours per week from April to October to participate in farm activities. Over the last week, we just completed our Internship Application process. Thus, I would like to introduce you to The Cutting Veg 2009 All-Star Internship team. Their names are Eva, Brin, Sabrina, Prapti, Carolina, Chris, Tammy, Katie, Melodie, and Kate. There are also three other individuals who are hoping to be Interns this season, and are trying to organise their schedules to make it happen. I am so thrilled to be able to welcome these talented and special people to the team. They will bring not only a great deal of heart and good character to the farm this season, but expertise and skills in a variety of related areas, including herbalism, nutrition, working with seniors and children, nursing, mechanics, energy work, massage, and so much more! Undoubtedly, the Internship is going to be a wonderful exchange. The Internship will act as a bridge for the Interns as they move toward their goals, and they will provide much needed labour support for the farm. You will have an opportunity to meet the Intern All-Stars when you come to volunteer on the farm.
Markets: This seasons produce will be distributed through two Farmers Markets and a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. A CSA is a mutually beneficial partnership in which individuals or families receive fresh, local, organically grown produce weekly, while supporting our local farmers and sustainable growing practices. Starting in June, The Cutting Veg will be selling its produce on Mondays at the Sorauren Farmers Market, and on Saturdays at the Wychwood Green Barns Farmers Market. The CSA will take place on Thursday's, and is geared toward the Vaughan/Thornhill community.
Well, that's the news from the farm for now. Can't wait to be getting dirt under the nails with you all in a couple months. Until then, enjoy the winter, and Keep Livin' on the Veg!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Welcome to my blog

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