Monday, March 3, 2014

Farm Talk: Growing Veggies, Growing People

Farm Update From Farmer Daniel "Growing Veggies, Growing People" has long been a slogan for The Cutting Veg. But, in truth, we do neither. As an organic farmer, I know that I can't make veggies grow...I can only provide an optimal environment in which plants can grow themselves. And as a social worker, I cannot grow people...I can only provide an optimal environment in which people can grow themselves. With the 2014 growing season upon us, providing opportunities for people and plants to grow continues to prevail as the focus for The Cutting Veg. 2014 looks to be an exciting year on the farm --- balancing professional projects with caring for our 10-month-old Ayla. In addition to growing mixed veg with baby-in-tow, we're expecting a harvest of 25,000+ bulbs of local, organic garlic for The Global Garlic Project. We have about 20 garlic varieties in cultivation now, and we're excited to see how some of the new varieties --- Japanese, French, Polish, Argentinean --- turn out. Additionally, I'll be continuing my inspiring work with Garden Jane and The Daniels Corporation to help bring community gardens to various condo communities, and to further develop our exciting urban farm in Mississauga, The Backyard Farm & Market at Erin Mills. While it's been a difficult winter for us in Southern Ontario, it bodes well for the farming season. The cold winter will have killed off many pest populations. And the massive volumes of precipitation we've received will go a long way to refilling the pond from which we irrigate. While the farm remains covered in snow, it won't be long before we're out in the fields --- watching the first garlic plants emerge from the ground, fertilizing the rhubarb, planting our spring crops, and delighting in the first asparagus of the season. WOOHOO! Whether I'm hanging out with baby Ayla, farm volunteers, 25,000 garlic plants, or condo gardeners, I feel so lucky to be aligned with my purpose of "Growing Veggies & Growing People." Planning Your Garden Although it's still snowy outside, it's never too early to start planning for the gardening season. And nothing helps beat the winter blues like diving into a seed catalogue, and choosing crops. When people learn that I'm an organic farmer in Southern Ontario, they tend to think winter is one long break. However, any farmer will tell you this just isn't true. A farmer's job description can be divided into thirds: the physical work, the planning, and the marketing. The winter is a key period to get on track with the planning and marketing components. Each winter I ask myself four key questions: i)What are my goals for the year? ii)What crops will I grow and how much of each? iii)Who will the team be (staff? interns? volunteers?); iv)How will I distribute my veg this season? Whether you garden as a hobby, or grow professionally, you too can delight in the winter planning process by asking yourself the same questions: What are my goals for the year? The nature of gardening dictates that you will have some great growing seasons, and some mediocre ones, so having broad goals helps set you up for a successful season. Beyond, "Growing tons of veg", other great gardening goals can include: making new friends, doing more physical activity, spending time outdoors, learning about plants, spending time with my kids, etc. What crops will I grow and how much of each? Many factors can influence your choices for what you want to grow. What veg do you eat lots of, and like to cook? Does your garden get lots of sun, or is it more shady? How much time will you have to spend in the garden on a weekly basis? Do you want to integrate flowers and herbs? Do you want to try growing something new this year? If you're growing in the same location as last year, which crops worked, and which didn't? TIP: If new to your growing space, ask your garden neighbours which crops & varieties seemed to do really well in the past. Who will the team be? Would you prefer to have your own plot, or be part of a communal garden? Do you find gardening solo rewarding, or do you want to make an effort to garden with others? Or make time for both? Do you have any kids in your life, or loved ones, who you could invite to join you in reaping the therapeutic rewards of gardening? How will I distribute my veg this season? Perhaps you'd like to donate your produce to a community organisation or food bank? Or trade some veg with fellow gardeners for crops you don't have? Or preserve (freeze, can, dry, or store) some, so that you can eat local, organic produce in the winter? If you're like me and find thinking about your garden helps you get through the long winter, then enjoy pondering some of these garden planning questions. And when it's time to get your seeds and seedlings, Urban Harvest (www.uharvest.ca), and Matchbox Garden & Seed Co. (www.matchboxgarden.ca) are two great local options. Keep Livin' on the Veg!