It is more than food. It is a connection. We grow food. It is a big deal.
Starting July 2 we will be delivering our five different TapRoot CSA shares to 16 locations between Port Williams and Tantallon Nova Scotia. We started farming 14 years ago focusing our energies on non organic vegetable production for the wholesale marketplace. Four years later we started a small organic farm and that is when our CSA started. Back then 50 people joined us to support us in starting our organic farm, believing in the importance of organic agriculture. Back then our youngest Frank was a one year old. Since then we have transitioned nearly all of our land to certified organic production and have worked to grow our CSA membership, which provides as a much more secure income than the volatile wholesale marketplace.
The wholesale marketplace can be fantastic and we have been so fortunate over the years to have success in selling product to the larger retailers, however, it can make or break the farm in a very short period of time. This is one of the reasons why our CSA is so important. Last year for example we had a retailer decide last minute they didn't want the sweet corn we had grown for them. There are no contracts in these arrangements and so we lost a very large sum of money because of it. We work hard to roll with the punches and to adapt.
This year we have experienced a significant drop in both wholesale and CSA members. This has got us asking what is up. At the end of the day, we think that one of our largest challenges is that most of us are looking for ways to cut costs and that generally as a society we don't place value on our food. We don't pay attention to it. We don't consider how far the green pepper has come to arrive on our plate and the implications. If we could find a way for more of our population to engage in this, in a serious action oriented system change kind of way, it would have a significant positive implication for our province/us.
Our farm, TapRoot Farms has had a challenging couple of years on the books. We are working hard to adjust and adapt and make the changes necessary, but truthfully, the future is very uncertain. What we do know for right now is that we have planned and planted for 450 CSA members and the same amount of wholesale sales that we have done in the past. So far we have not reached our goals for CSA membership yet for this year. It is the first time we have experienced this. But we are not alone. From what our farmer friends are experiencing, the sales are down. We need an additional 150 CSA members to maintain our current farm operation.
I am often asked why. Why have people left and to be honest everyone has a different reason. We think it is partially related to having easier options. Participating in the CSA isn't the easiest option and can sometimes be inconvenient. We have a specific pickup time, we don't offer credits if you miss your share pickup, in fact we donate uncollected shares to local food banks. We ask that you get someone to collect your share if you are away on holiday because the effort is still the same here on the farm. We send you vegetables you might not ever choose or that you don't like. We don't (yet) provide meal planning service. And we can't make changes fast. If our members want more beans than lettuce for example, we can only fix that the next time we plant. So we understand it isn't easy or perfect. However, what we do offer you is us.
Josh and I (Patricia) and the farm team have a complete open door and open book policy. We want you to have access to as much as you want. We are honest and transparent with you. Everyone works hard on the farm each day to grow food that we know will be cooked or prepared to feed you, your friends, your loved ones. Josh and I spend many hours deliberating about what is the 'right' thing to do when we are confronted with the many challenges that come from running a business with 37 employees, caring for animals, caring for the land, caring for the water, caring for the community. So truly, we offer you us. We are 45 and 42 years old. We have three great kids: Izaak (16) Lily (12) and Frank (nearly 11). We work with a great group of people each day that come to work from communities surrounding the farm, communities in Newfoundland and communities in Jamaica. We strive to be life long learners ourselves (we self identify as constantly learning) and we provide opportunities for the farm team to engage in new learning. Although it may also be experienced as a possible burden to the farm, we test out new ideas all of the time because we want to provide our CSA members and our community with as many local products as possible. Seed to plate. Seed to shirt. Seed to beer.
Our farm is open to CSA members anytime. You can come for a walk about. You don't need to make an appointment, you can just come and be here. You are invited to walk into the tunnels growing the grape tomatoes, visit the animals, see the chickens in their moving hen house. The farm is here for you! We are the fortunate farmers who get to farm this amazing land and grow food for you.
It is not too late to join up. You can go to our website, review the options, create an account, sign up and next week your food will be available at the shares pickup location, and will be there for you each week for 24 weeks.
I don't know what our future holds, honestly it depends a lot on you. Your choices impact our future. Where ever you shop, everything you choose, impacts someone somewhere.
What you eat is important. Who grows your food? It is a big deal.
It is garlic scapes time. Look for them in your CSA box next week and at local farm markets.
Before we enjoy the garlic bulbs we get to enjoy the flavours of the garlic scapes. The scapes are the flowering part of the garlic. We harvest this part so that all of the energy goes into the bulb. The scapes are very versatile and can be used where you would use bulb garlic (in my opinion for the flavour). I enjoy them as garlic scape pesto, chopped up in salad, sauteed with other vegetables or slow roasted/wilted. Cocotea and Ashley were harvesting the scapes this morning and as I was heading out to check on the pigs, I snapped these pictures.
Here are a few recipes that I have found in a quick search. They all look very delicious and are beautiful looking.
It is best to use the scapes when they are fresh. After a bit of storage time they need a trim on the ends as they get dried out. When I was out in my own garden on Sunday I harvested a few scapes, came in, added some olive oil, spinach and green onions and hand blended them. We had a few left over tomatoes from our friends Marc and Krista at Schurman Family Farm in PEI that we chopped up with some rice noddles and the pesto. Oh yes and I added some butter and cheese at the end.
Joining a CSA is about more than food. It is about building a trusting relationship together. Each week we send out a newsletter to CSA members. This newsletter is intended to keep members informed of what the 'day to day' or 'week to week' activity is on the farm. Join us on the farm, become a member today.
Hello CSA Members.
We are nearing the 1/2 way mark in our year together. Some of you will be leaving the CSA, some joining and some of you carrying right on along. We have lots of space so please feel free to continue to share your experience.
Josh is coming home most evenings now with reports of how the crops are looking. The kale and swiss chard and lettuce is sizing up and we think next week we will have some fresh kale and or swiss chard in the shares.
This week I have been learning some new tricks with posting things. It is truly amazing how quickly one can become outdated. Colleen who is interning at the farm is savvy with social media and has provided me with some useful tips. One things we discussed is the use of hashtags. I would like to invite everyone to make a post about a reason they participate in the CSA and use the hashtag #5reasonstojoinacsa. This hashtag is 'ours' so if we all use it then we can populate it and make it more useful.
Ben who is the summer coop student from Acadia has also created a campaign to build awareness of the farm via a facebook contest to get people to share and like our page. He is also planning a fun run at the farm something this summer or fall. More to come.
This summer we are having one Jamaican jerk pork roast and one Jamaican independence day celebration, both on August 5th. The dinner will start at 1 PM and the celebration begins at 4 PM. To learn more or get tickets check out www.foodeast.ca . We have confirm the Mark Riley Project Bandfor the afternoon celebration. Tickets for the dinner are $57 (includes the late afternoon celebration) and for the evening event $25. The idea is to come with a big picnic blanket, enjoy great food, great company, & fantastic music for an afternoon of relaxing and enjoying the farm.
A few other thoughts and considerations:
Our meat shares and full monty shares were fewer in numbers than we were planning for the first 24 weeks of 2018 therefore we have meat inventory. Before we work to sell it elsewhere, we thought we would ask you if you'd be interested in purchasing a box of meat (chicken and pork) or have regular weekly add on's of meat items. You are already able to add a meat share on each week if you wish, this would be in addition to that. I will add some options, so look for them in the add on section. IF you have suggestion please share them with me. Moving some of the meat inventory without impacting our meat share members would certainly be helpful. We have reduced the amount of chicks we are raising to balance out with the number of shares we have sold. AND thank you for helping to build awareness and spread the word about the shares being available.
In the shares this week you were provided a bunch of tatsoi that wasn't listed. It is used in the mixed spicy greens, but when it grows up nice and tall it is also good bunched and can be eaten raw or in soup, pasta or sauteed. My favourite meal is sauteed veggies I use just oil, salt, pepper and veggies. This week we made purple top turnip carabinara sauce. I sauteed chives and sliced purple top turnips. Added some TapRoot deli ham and let it cook up together. Then Frank mixed the two egg yolks and the two eggs together with some parmesan cheese. I mixed the veggies with the noodles then added the egg and cheese and stirred together. WOW YUM! Everyone was happy! Noodles + Veggies!
Have a fantastic rest of your week everyone! Three of the TapRoot team were at a conference these first 4 days of the week so I was coverting for three people as best I could. I will be posting the shares this afternoon. Next week look forward to a big load of staples. The cooler still has a lot of potatoes and onions. We will share these with you along with some sprigs of fresh greens.
Good health and love to you all,
(in the images: tomato tunnels looking great. we have yet to lay out the straw for mulching between the rows, some of the team were weeding the next plantings of spinach, and these apples have seen better days (frost damaged).
Both are part of the brassica family, including brussel sprouts, broccoli & cabbage to mention just a few. More often than not, when people use the word "turnip" it's really a rutabaga. We all know what we're talking about, but what's the actual difference between the two?
Turnip are white fleshed with purple & white skin and are usually far smaller as they start to get woody if left to get too big. They have a sharper taste, are harvested in the summer, and are considered seasonal, rather than a winter storage crop.
Rutabaga (or wax/yellow turnip) like the one pictured above, is far more common, has yellow flesh, and a yellow/purple skin. It's harvested in the fall, an excellent winter storage crop, and is sweeter than turnip. They're also equally delicious if large or small. They are thought to be a hybrid of cabbage & turnip, but if they weren't related to turnip at all, I think you'd still be pretty safe asking for a turnip at your local market.
It's a beautifully warm, windy day here in the Valley, and we had our 4th successful curbside pickup at TapRoot Farms! In exciting waste management news, we have officially diverted over 200lbs of waste from the landfill and into recycling streams! In just under 2 months we have successfully diverted 228.9 lbs (103.9kg) from the dumpster and from the landfill. That's over 100lbs a month of diversion, and we're very proud of our staff. Everyone has been really great in helping the program be successful, and doing their part to help. There are very few places around the farm now that don't have sorting stations or access to them, and staff is really making an effort to sort their own waste. What a great team to work with! Our Jamaican co-workers are definitely setting the bar high in terms of waste management, as they again had less than 1 full bag of garbage between 2 full houses. We set out 15 bags this week, 5 of which were garbage, and the other 10 of which were paper/recycling.
Here are the totals so far of weights diverted or separated waste on-farm (employee stations/other):
Garbage: 130.3lbs (59.1kg)
Recycling: 146.9lbs (66.6kg)
Paper: 68.3lbs (31.0kg)
Refundables: 13.7lbs (6.2kg)
TOTAL WASTE SORTED: 359.2lbs (162.9kg)
TOTAL WASTE DIVERTED FROM LANDFILL: 228.9lbs (103.9kg)
All our 15 bags curbside and our new green bin!
Other Waste News!
Food Waste Fair for Waste Reduction Week 2017
We were very lucky to take part in a new Waste Reduction Week activity this past Tuesday. We were part of the Food Waste Fair 2017 and co-hosted with Valley Waste Resource Management, FOUND and Forgotten Food, and SOUP New Minas! We had a blast making connections with others interested in reducing food waste. We co-hosted because CSA's are a great way to reduce food waste for multiple reasons. CSA boxes cut down on the amount transportation and storage needed between the Farm to your table. CSA's also have direct communication with their members and often grow what is needed. Yes we have food waste on the farm, however we compost or use it for feed for our animals and goes back into the system. These are just a few ways we try and cut down on food waste around the farm. There is a great article here with more information.
Valley Waste Resource Management (VWRM) was there with helpful hints on how to reduce food waste in your fridge, information on myths surrounding best before dates, food preservation, and a draw for a beautiful TupperWare container set! Divert and VWRM were trying to show people how much the average person throws out in food, which surprise, it's a lot. For instance, did you know that 47% of food waste in Canada occurs at home, and $31 billion dollars worth of food is wasted every year in Canada! Thankfully Divert NS, and VWRM all have great resources on how to reduce your food waste at home if you ever need some great tips!
FOUND and Forgotten Food were also co-hosting the event. For those of you who don't know who or what FOUND is, it's a group of community members that team up with local gardeners and farmers to help glean excess food, and distribute it throughout Halifax Regional Municipality and the Valley. There are lots of times that fresh, local produce is left in the field or turned in for nutrients. Although this food is perfectly fine, it's often forgotten about as a potential food resource! Food that is immediately perishable is often used in workshops and events by FOUND and turned into shelf-stable preserves. At this event we made freezer jam from frozen strawberries that were donated from Costco during the summer. It was super eas,y and took about 15 minutes. I currently have 4 small jars sitting in my freezer! Found has lots of information available on their website, and they post events, workshops, and volunteer opportunities on their Facebook and Instagram regularly: http://foundns.com/
Finally, there were the volunteers from SOUP New Minas. SOUP stands for Sharing Our Ugly Produce. It's a community organization that works to reduce local food waste, increase local food security and knowledge, and help build skill sets for people! Sarah (middle) often works close with us at TapRoot Farms to catch any food that isn't quite market-friendly or would otherwise end up in our compost bin. Just recently we had a great FOUND - SOUP - TapRoot Farms collaboration. TapRoot farms had a field of butternut squash that had already been harvested, so FOUND and SOUP sent out some volunteers (including myself from the farm) and we gleaned almost 1500lbs of squash from the field that was later turned into delicious soup and donated to various Food Banks in the area! It was a great example of the community working together, and various organization supporting each other to get local, healthy food out to the community. You can find out more about SOUP and their organization through their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/soupnewminas/about/?ref=page_internal
TerraCycle Cigarette Receptacle
We recently recieved our TerraCycle cigarette receptacle to start collecting our cigarette butts around the farm. It's a beautiful stainless steel receptacle that we are putting on a stake so that we can move it around as needed in the different seasons! It generated a lot of interest at the Food Waste Fair with some of the other volunteers as I explained what it was, and how it worked. It also stirred up conversation with the fact that Nova Scotia currently does not have a butt recycling program (even though a lot of other provinces do), and that Halifax is currently trying to create a program. We hope to be a part of that discussion in the future.
That's all for now! It's a long update, but a good one! Lots of great community action work and sharing.