Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Farm Talk: Looking back on the 2012 Season

Hello Farm Folk,

Thank You for your Support
On behalf of The Cutting Veg team, we would like to thank you for your incredible support this season. Whether it was your kind emails or words at the CSA, your help on the farm or with the CSA pick-up, the recipes your shared, or your financial support, your actions have made a HUGE difference this season. For local, organic farming, for the health of our soil, for your health and family, for our community, for future generations, for our six different donation partners and the communities they serve, for the ecology.... Thank you for putting the "Support" in Community Supported Agriculture, and for taking action to make our world a better place.

Reflections on the 2012 Growing Season
I wish that I could say that it was a wonderful growing season, but it wasn't. While a few crops were fantastic, I would estimate that the farm produced only 1/4 - 1/3 of what we had hoped for. No big mystery --- the lack of rain + inability to irrigate. The pond from which we irrigate was dry due to little winter, spring, and summer precipitation and this had serious effects on many of our veggies’ growth/development.

I wish that I could say that I felt thrilled about what we provided our CSA members with each week, but I didn't. I am happy that we were able to provide very good quality, quantity, and selection each week. However, I hoped to provide more --- diversity and volume. Yet, to be an organic farmer, and a member of a CSA, is to accept that we cannot control the outcome of the harvest. While I wish the 2012 harvest had been more abundant, I do feel great about our efforts. The team worked their butts off all season --- in all kinds of extreme weather conditions --- and we fed our community to the best of our ability.

In spite of the challenges, it has been heart-warming to see our members respond with so much support for the challenges farmers face. Beyond their weekly supply of veg, we've seen more and more members caring about the wholeness of what we do: the weekly donations, the caring for the soil, the training of new interns and future farmers... Further, I am happy to say that in spite of the disappointments in veggie harvests, I have absolutely loved farming this season. It’s easy to be happy when things are going well, but it’s an accomplishment when one can respond to failures with joy. So, while the amount of veg we have produced and provided this season has not met all of my hopes, my ability to enjoy the season regardless, and the support witnessed from our members toward the farm and the food system as a whole have been huge and humbling victories.

Accomplishments
A list of some of the accomplishments from the 2012 season, that we, as a community, can feel great about:
• Organic produce donations to 6 community partners weekly, all of whom serve vulnerable populations. A total of 132 different donations. An additional 15-20 donations were made following our farmers markets.
• Collaborated with Shoresh Jewish Environmental Programs, Park Road Healing Arts, Temple Sinai, Holy Blossom Temple, Elm Grove Farm, and Shaar Shalom Synagogue to facilitate 6 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs weekly, from June to October (22 weeks), feeding 385 member families each week.
• Provided over 60 different veg varieties to our CSA members over the course of the season.
• Trained and guided 10 interns in the basics of organic farming, while supporting them with their personal and professional development, as well as their relationship with food.
• Supported 100+ new volunteers to develop farming skills and knowledge.
• Teamed up with garden educator, Jane Hayes, to guide the residents at two different condo buildings in the installation of new gardens, and to train residents to manage the gardens independently.
• Hosted a special education class from Sutton High School on the farm.
• Launched a new line of Organic Pesto (more to come in 2013)
• Participated in the Sorauren Farmers Market, and the Wychwood Farmers Market throughout the season.
• Put infrastructure in place at our new farm, including a 24ft x 144ft greenhouse, new tractor, deer fencing, cold storage, electricity, water, tilling up 11 new acres, etc.
• The addition of perennial crops to the farm, including 1.5 acres of asparagus, 1/4 acre of strawberries, and some oregano, chives, sage, lavender, and rosemary.
• Planted 60,000 cloves of organic garlic, which will be harvested in summer, 2013.
• Added 300 yards of compost to our soil, and further enriched our soil through cover-cropping with oats and forage peas.
• Co-created an on-farm sacred space for the team to meet daily to share intentions, personal insights, and gratitude's.
• Fostered deep connections to self, each other, the earth, and the present moment, while working in the fields, markets, and at the CSA.

Superstar Crops
While it wasn't the bumper crop season we hoped for, a few crops stood out as Superstars:
• Tomatoes: The best tomato crop we've ever had. The greenhouse tomatoes were spectacular, and the outdoor tomatoes produced well also.
• Arugula: Several timelines of this spicy crop flourished, keeping us nourished with green goodness throughout the season.
• Kale: Best kale we've ever grown. Quantity and quantity were excellent.
• Beans: Two strong timelines of green, yellow, purple, and dragons tongue beans.
• Zucchini: In spite of the drought, the first timeline of zukes produced well, and the 2nd timeline was fantastic.
• Snow and Snap Peas: A couple weeks of heavenly flavours in the spring.
• Rhubarb: Our very first perennial crop, planted last spring. Although we harvested it lightly this year we had an abundance, and look forward to even more in the years to come.
• Swiss Chard: Many weeks of these tasty, multi-coloured, delicious bouquets.
• Leeks: As it was the first time ever growing this crop, we only did one week's worth. But they were excellent, and we will do much more next season.

Looking for Local, Organic Food over the Winter?
Farmers Markets are an amazing place to source your food. The quality is fantastic, you are supporting small businesses doing good work, and they're just plain fun! Many of our farmers markets in the GTA run year-round. For a list of farmers markets in the GTA, visit: http://bit.ly/RssThz. Another great option is FoodShare's Good Food Box. They have depots all over the GTA and can be found at: http://bit.ly/W7JHlH. Winter's approaching, but we can Keep Livin' on the

That's all the news from the farm for now. Until next time, Keep Livin' on the Veg!

The Cutting Veg Farm Team