Monday, October 14, 2013


Thanksgiving Monday. Looking out my window over the fields as the neighbour bales hay and the goofy chickens wander by, I am grateful for:
  • Gorgeous, warm sunny days to work in this fall
  • An incredible crew of workers this year: staff, interns and volunteers. Truly a spectacular group - I've been really, really blessed.
  • A season of living at the farm
  • The joy of ridiculous chickens
  • Wild apples, pears, grapes and cranberries just a short bike ride away
  • Bountiful harvests
  • Supportive and actively appreciative CSA members
  • Solid market sales every single week - even in the rain!
  • Gracious, supportive family & friends
  • Sufficient pollinators in a year of decreasing populations
  • Good health
  • Laughter in the fields
  • Exuberant, vegetable-eating children
  • Being surrounded by beauty
  • The taste of GOOD FOOD
  • The good bread, beer and healthcare I'm able to trade vegetables for!
  • The pleasure inherent in this work


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

We've got a serious case of leafcutter bees! The good news is, they're native pollinators that seem to have moved into the greenhouse en masse. The bad news is, right now they're cutting the leaves of the pak choy in the greenhouse. Totally worth it.

Last year we certified as a Bee Friendly Farm and hosted a Pollinator Party where we planted native flowering plants for forage, and made a number of nest boxes for native bees.  We also made some changes to the way we mow and till, trying to better provide habitat and work around bees' needs a little better.
(Here's a recent newspaper article about our efforts!)

This spring, I was cursing the mouse eating our pak choy. Huge chomps it appeared to be taking from the asian greens we'd just planted in the greenhouse floor.

However, around the same time we noticed some impressive bee activity around the beds - many dozens of active bees. At 1st we thought they were honeybees from the hive not too far off, but on closer inspection they appeared more greyish in colour. I had our beekeeper take a look and she confirmed that they are leafcutter bees! No mouse here! The bees look like this:

Although they are solitary bees and generally nest in holes in wood (like the nesting box I made - photo below), I'm pretty sure it's crawling into hole in the greenhouse bed. Not quite sure what to make of that. Leafcutters are very efficient pollinators because they're not actually very good at nectar-gathering so have to spend a long time doing it! They're particularly good at pollinating legume and berry blossoms because of the way they buzz around and shake pollen loose, but given that there are over 20 species in Ontario, their preferences are wide and varied.

A little pak choy leaf loss for future crop pollination efforts -seems like a great investment!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Day of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa

Next Tuesday, April 9th, there will be an action outside Peter Braid's office to help stop GM alfalfa from being released in Ontario. This is an incredibly important and urgent issue - companies may be trying to introduce Roundup Ready alfalfa to Ontario markets as soon as this spring. Since it is an insect-pollinated crop, the risk of contamination from GM to non-GM alfalfa is very high, and the effect on pollinator  health is yet unknown. Alfalfa is one of the main crops in hay and is used to feed many animals. It is also an important soil builder in organic crop rotations. The release of GM alfalfa would have a massive impact on organic farmers: because of cross-contamination, we may no longer be able to use alfalfa as feed or as a nitrogen-fixer in our cover crop rotations. The release would also increase herbicide use (alfalfa is not currently a herbicide-sprayed crop), and make it even more difficult for eaters to keep GM food out of their bodies. Once released, genetic material can't be taken back so we only get one chance at this.

Fertile Ground will be at the action on April 9th - please come out and join us! Children are oh so welcome. I would love to have a huge presence from the CSA and farm supporters to send a strong signal that this is an issue that matters to EVERYONE concerned about both personal and environmental health, not just farmers:

Tuesday April 9, 2013
12 noon to 1 pm
22 King St South, Uptown Waterloo.
Outside MP Peter Braid's constituency office.

Click here for more information about GM Alfalfa and these cross-Canada rallies
 Spread the word! Please post widely, and pass this around to friends, family, colleagues and anyone else you think may be interested!
Flyers and posters can be found here.  

I hope to see many of you out on the 9th!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Benefits of Local Food -watch your assumptions...

Here's an article that's been floating around online - I've seen it pop up on facebook a bunch. It's full of arguments I hear all the time about why local food is better. While I love the positive press for local food, there's some assumptions made in these arguments that I have to admit I find misleading. Here's a shortened version - the original article is here

Benefits of Local Food: 

By Erika Ichinose Pijai, MS, RD, CDN
  • Local food travels fewer miles to land on your plate: The farther food travels, the more energy and gasoline must be used to get the food to your plate. Buying local will save energy costs and valuable non-renewable resources.
  • Local food tastes better: Local food tastes better because it is fresher and has been grown or created with the consumer in mind.
  • Local produce is more nutritious: The less time that passes between farm and table, the fewer nutrients fresh produce will lose.
  • Local produce stays fresh longer: Since the produce was picked the day before, it will last longer in your refrigerator (if you can hold off from devouring it!).
  • Local produce is safe: Local farmers are not anonymous and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously. The risk for major E. coli outbreaks will be slim to none with locally-grown produce.
  • Local food preserves genetic diversity: While conventional farming practices mono-cropping with limited plant varieties, smaller local farms often grow many different varieties and rotate their crops to provide a long harvest season with an array of different colors and flavors.
  • Local produce benefits the environment and wildlife: Well-managed farms conserve fertile
    soil and clean water in our communities.
  • Local food connects you to the land through the farmers who grow your food: Talking to the very farmer who grew and picked your food gives you insight into the relationship between the seasons, the land, and your food.

This all sounds wonderful. And much of it may often be true, but there are 2 things I feel a need to point out:

 1. This one is most important in my mind: 'local' and 'organic' are entirely different principles! Factory farms are local to somewhere. Local meat & produce is NOT necessarily safe. It doesn't necessarily benefit the environment and wildlife. It doesn't necessarily preserve genetic diversity. There's a better chance that locally-grown food is produced more sustainably since farms that sell locally tend to be smaller and smaller farms tend to have more careful & diverse growing practices....but that's quite the chain of mere tendencies. If you want sustainably-produced food, choosing "local" is not enough. Organic certification requires adherence to a range of sustainability standards. Organic is about production practices. Local is about distribution practices. They're both valuable and important. They're just not the same thing.

2. Local produce is not necessarily fresher, nor is it necessarily tastier or more nutritious. It has the capacity to be these things, since it doesn't have to travel. But a local farmer could choose to store meat, vegetables or fruit for weeks before distributing them. A local farmer may still be selling through a distributor who doesn't move the food quickly. A local farmer may also be growing for distant markets. Ask when it was harvested! If the seller doesn't know, they didn't grow it themselves.

The benefits of "local" (for you, the environment AND the farmer) sometimes break down when you aren't buying direct from a grower. Ask questions at the farmers market. Find out about growing practices. Find out just how far your "local" food travelled. If you're concerned about health - for the environment and for your body, choose local, small-scale AND organic.

The last point in the article above is key: talk to the farmer if you can - build a relationship you can trust. Buying local is incredibly valuable. Just don't be duped into assuming it's something it's not.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Valuing the Shares

Well, after worrying all season long about short-changing members due to difficult growing conditions, I finally sat down and calculated the exact value of produce members received. I'm surprised to discover that shares actually came in OVER value in the end!!

Small shareholders averaged $1 extra value/week
Regular shareholders averaged $3 extra/week

Turns out it pays to be a CSA member, even in a tough, droughty season. Maybe one of these years I'll learn to worry less...

Here are a few pics of our last CSA week of the season: