By Sarah Johnson
Today, the sun beats down on my shoulders, covered in dust from a hard days work. Although the days are hot, September is slipping away into the cool night air. I am aware of the turning of seasons as the Sweet Dumpling squash and Paula Red apples beckon to be harvested.
Earlier, during the cold winter months of this year I traveled to Heredia, Costa Rica to study sustainable agriculture while learning more about Latin American culture. Once I returned home to Halifax, I was looking to gain experience at a farm a little closer to home. I connected with Patricia Bishop of TapRoot Farms and within a few days I moved into the farmhouse with large bay windows overlooking Wellington Dyke and the red sands belonging to the Bay of Fundy.
During my stay in the Annapolis Valley I wanted to learn about as many aspects to agriculture as I could.This included working within the Fibre Lab. I found it fascinating how flax fibres can be processed into linen and constructed into the very garments we clothe ourselves in. From harvesting, to hand breaking, hackling and eventually spinning the fibres, it was impressive to see the laborious work that it takes to transform raw materials into textiles. Fibre production was something new, that previously, I had never associated with agriculture.
As more hours were invested at the farm, I became acquainted with some of the employees. I soon came to learn that many would spend months away from home in order to support their families financially: some from Newfoundland and others as far as Jamaica. There were also those, who like myself, were spending their first season with TapRoot. However, many more have come year after year, seeing how the farm has grown and changed over recent years.
Recently, I have begun to see the challenges farms in the Annapolis Valley are confronting as they compete to sell their produce in our local supermarkets. The needs of grocery stores are unpredictable from one year to the next, sometimes causing large crops to go to waste. Without the demand for local in our stores, farmers are struggling to pay bills. Over the past couple of months, I have been fortunate enough to witness some of the challenges and triumphs the farmers behind our food are facing.
While deepening my understanding of the challenges of farming in Nova Scotia, I was introduced to Community Shared Agriculture(CSA). It seemed logical to be receiving produce directly from local farms, yet so often we as consumers choose imported items over those grown within our own backyards. CSA members all over the province are helping to create sustainable communities through eating foods that are in season from our local farmers. I have been learning more and more that this is the type of community I want to be a part of.
Each day at the farm brings a new adventure, whether that means being up before the sun breaks the horizon or bringing a crate of cherry tomatoes to the cooler with powdery green tomato tar reaching up, past my gloves. Last week, it was exciting to see the Bok Choy begin to germinate for our winter crop and to pack hearty eggplants(the largest I had ever seen) into our CSA boxes.
Over the past eight weeks I have learned through digging my hands into the soil, soaking my leather boots in the rain and place produce from the farm into the hands of our community. From farm workers, community members and literature, I have only just begun to scratch the surface of what it means to provide fresh, local food for our dining room tables. From my experience, I know it is from the callused and blistered hands working together that we will be able to build a sustainable community where local businesses are supported and thrive together.
As the seasons change once again, I am hopeful because we are able to sow seeds that will influence the future.
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