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CSA Week #6

The Early Years

This week I wanted to share a little about what the first few years of farming are like.

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Both Amara and Ripple Farm are in our second year of operation, and still have so much to learn. Arzeena’s pretty amazing, she’s studied agriculture to the masters level, and has grown veggies at Sharing Farm in Richmond. She’s even worked in agriculture abroad in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Her knowledge of soil science and biology is helpful to a lot of people! I’ve managed market gardens in Duncan and Victoria and apprenticed in Sooke before migrating to the Comox Valley. Despite all of our combined experience, farming is place-based, so starting up at a new location always brings new challenges and successes.

Some of the challenges of the first few years of farming include:

      • pest issues: wireworms live in sod and remain in newly broken soil for the first few years, slugs are a huge nuisance and we also have flea beetles, cabbage worms and carrot rustfly to contend with in our area
      • soil fertility problems: learning about what is lacking in the soil, and how to amend the soil for these deficiencies while still following organic regulations
      • infrastructure building: creating irrigation systems, out buildings and tools
      • lack of experience with the local climate, soil type and/or pests
      • mysteries: why did those carrots not germinate… again?!?
      • paying the bills: landowners still have to figure out ways to make up the difference, so winter jobs and even part time jobs during the growing season are often a necessity

Despite all of these challenges, people are still choosing farming as a lifelong career! It’s wonderful that people are, and we hope to see more new growers in the Comox Valley to feed the growing population of locavores.

Farming is a good life. Getting up in the morning to happy chickens, watching the veggies grow (even though sometimes they don’t grow as quickly or as big as we’d like them to!) and spending our work days with birds wheeling overhead make it all worthwhile.

And of course, a community of supportive CSA members makes this work even MORE worthwhile. Thanks for sticking with us through the challenges, for being such good sports and eating the lacey bok choi, and for sharing in the adventure.

What’s in the box this week?

All Shares:

      • Salad mix or lettuce heads
      • Summer squash!
      • Garlic scape jam
      • Kale or Chard
      • Potatoes!
      • Fresh garlic

Full Shares:

      • Peas, beans or broccoli
      • Basil
      • Parsley

Garlic Scape Jam?

It’s sweet. It’s savoury. It’s garlicky. It’s garlic scape jam! We made it just for you.

What folks say they’re going to do with this delicious stuff:

      • Julie is going to glaze albacore tuna steaks with it before grilling it up
      • I (moss) am going to slather it over soft goat cheese and serve it as an appy with rice crackers

Vegans might want to marinade tofu kebabs with it and grill them on the BBQ. Or, you can just spread it on crackers or toasted french baguette slices.

IMG_2578Summer Squash’n Greens Frittata

Frittata is my favourite breakfast. Usually, I make it with potatoes. But it’s a treat with summer squash instead!

Ingredients (serves 2):

      • Summer squash, sliced and laid flat on layer deep on a frying pan
      • 4 eggs
      • A dash of milk or water
      • Finely chopped kale or chard
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • 1 Tbsp olive oil or butter
      • Grated cheese of your choice (optional)

To make:

Gently fry the summer squash in oil or butter with 1 clove of minced garlic for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, chopped greens, milk and optional cheese in a bowl and pour over the summer squash and garlic in the pan. At this point, you may wish to put additional grated cheese on the top of the frittata. Cook on medium low heat until the bottom is starting to solidify. Before it browns, move the pan into the oven and broil on low heat until the top cooks.

Happy eating and hoping you’re all enjoying the summer to the fullest,

moss

 

CSA Week #5

Featuring… ROOTS!

This week’s box contains a medley of roots. Tasty turnip thinnings, carrots, garlic, plus spuds for full shares.

For those of you who tend to delay gratification: your boxes this week contain green garlic and you may be tempted to hoard it for later, but we urge you not to wait! You will get more garlic this summer and this garlic won’t store well. Later in the season you will receive cured garlic which is dried and keeps well through the winter.

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Above are some photos of what we’ve been up to this week. Last night, we gathered at Amara Farm to process the last of the scapes – we made 50 jars of garlic scape jam which you might find in your CSA shares one of these weeks 😉

Oh, the Water!

I’m originally from Ontario (this is moss speaking), and I find it hard to get used to the extreme weather swings here on the west coast! We’ve emerged from a saturated June into a hot dry July and as farmers, we’ve got to move quickly to help our crops adapt to the extreme shift in the weather.

Scrambling to get the irrigation fine-tuned is on the agenda this week, along with mulching to keep valuable moisture in the soil. Arzeena is the queen of the “chop & drop” weeding method. She recognizes the weeds as allies, who send their deep tap roots down and accumulate minerals and nutrients that our less hardy vegetable crops are unable to access. When we cut them and drop them as mulch around our crops, they share these valuable nutrients and minerals with our veggie crops.

One thing I love about our hot dry summers is that they bring an acute awareness of the sacredness of water. At Ripple Farm, we have three shallow wells and one cistern to provide our home and crops with the water we need. In the coming months, we’ll be bathing in the river more often and placing buckets in the shower to catch extra water. Lying in the Tsolum River, letting the water wash over our dusty and heat worn bodies, we are nourished by this precious resource we are so lucky to have enough of in our beautiful valley.

What’s in the box this week?

All shares:

  • 2 fresh green garlic bulbs
  • Baby turnips
  • Salad mix
  • Carrots!

Full shares add:

  • Braising bunch
  • Broccoli shoot bunch
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
Credit: Karli Yanchus
Credit: Karli Yanchus

Recipes

Lucky us! For recipes and meal ideas this week, we can point you to a blog maintained by Karli Yanchus, one of our CSA members in Tahsis. She includes lots of creative meal options, as well as tips for getting the kids to chow down on veggies! A group of dedicated foodies in Tahsis got together this year to bring more fresh food into their community, and we are sending 10 boxes every week to families there via a delivery driver they arranged for themselves. They also have an awesome community garden project going on!

Karli has been keeping a blog about what she’s been doing with her CSA veggies every week. Check out her ideas here!

We hope you enjoy the heat this week, and are nourished by the sun, rain and soil that collaborated to grow your CSA veggies.

 

CSA Week #4

Why we do this together…

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Our amazing garden saavy friend Jen Devine is visiting us an working hard!

In the not-so-distant past, almost everyone was connected to a diverse, family-based farm. The small-scale, diversified farm hosting scores of veggies, animals and staple crops like beans, grains and corn. People had a deeper connection to their food because almost everyone had helped out on a farm, or visited one on summer vacation.

Farming never should have gone the way it did in the last 50 years. Growing food doesn’t work well in an industrial, global economy – it’s too costly for the people involved and for the earth. A single farmer out on the tractor not only isolates that family from the community that is so crucial to farm survival, but also isolates the general public from the activities that keep a farm going.

These days, family farms are rare, but growing in number. Young folks across the world are picking up their digging forks, shovels and hoes and finding land to farm. (If you are excited about young farmers, you’ve gotta check out the Young Agrarians) Arzeena’s family and my crew choose to work together in the spirit of furthering this movement of younger people taking control of the food system.

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Pea ‘staches!

Farming together is more fun. It gets us out of bed in the morning knowing we will see friendly faces and helping hands. It gives meaning to our lives, as we build relationships around bundling beets and bagging salad. We laugh together, we share in the hard work, and there is always someone to turn to for ideas or help when it’s needed.

This is also why we chose the CSA model, because it is important to us to know which refrigerators and which bellies our food will end up in. We look forward to seeing your faces every week (or picturing your faces for those of you who are in Tahsis and at Creekside!) and knowing that we have a direct relationship to you, and you have a direct relationship to our beloved farms.

988503_10200499333863485_135099323_nSo thanks for sticking with us through the damp, green and slightly little lean month of June. We are watching the squash and potatoes flower, the beans grow taller, and the roots size up with as much anticipation as you must all be feeling for the main summer season… bring it on!

Are you going away this summer?

You can give your box to a neighbour or friend and ask them to pick it up for you. OR, you can let us know you’ll be away and we can donate your share for that week to the Immigrant Welcome Centre or LUSH Valley Food Security Hub.

 

What’s in the box?

Half Shares

  • Bok choi bundle
  • Beet bundle
  • Salad mix is back!
  • Turnips
  • Dill

Full Shares Add:

  • Broad beans
  • Braising mix
  • Beet thinnings

When you have beets, make borscht!

Because my Mom was always an avid Canadian Living reader, I was introduced to reading recipes in my mid-teens. Thus, I will refer you to the Canadian Living Borscht recipe. I find their recipes are reliably good. Don’t be afraid to omit the beef if you want! Maybe throw in a bit of extra seasoning like celery, onions and salt.

I am also going to try this Beet Soup recipe from Deborah Madison’s website. I really like her recipes. They’re a bit complex, but definitely gourmet!

What to do with broad beans:

Suggestions from the farm crew:

  • Inara says: put them in miso soup!
  • Amina says: put them in stir fry
  • Arzeena likes to add them to hummous
  • Moss likes to sautee them in butter and garlic (that’s how Moss likes to eat most vegetables!)
  • Arzeena also thinks they are the European answer to edamame
  • Amina thinks they’d be tasty in sushi!
  • All parties agree that the shells should be removed :)

 

CSA Week #3

Happy Summer Solstice everyone!

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The bok choi is back!

Here at the farms, things are ramping up for fall and winter plantings. We’ll be busily soil-blocking and seeding at the farms to get baby veggies ready for August transplanting. Last Tuesday at LUSH, Arzeena, Russell and I took some time to leaf through the seed catalogues and pick out some tasty fall treats for you, like broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and cool weather greens.

We’ve also been involved in some cool community projects this month, including the Food Connections Event at LUSH Valley last Friday where local farmers, nutritionists and food security activists meet to discuss how we can bring the Comox Valley into a future of abundant, accessible, healthful food for all!

 

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A prototype for a bok choi costume that we are going to make for Russell the Ripple Farm apprentice.

Meanwhile, weeding season is upon us! We’re spending a lot of time with our hoes, digging forks, mowers and weedwackers, trying to get ahead of those amazingly vigorous wild plants! If you feel the call to do some weeding, we’d love to have you out for a visit. Lots of folks have been dropping by with their kids and friends to see the farm and lend a hand.

Summer Solstice BBQ & Potluck at Amara this Friday!

You’re all invited to visit us at Amara this Friday, June 21 from 6-8 for a BBQ potluck. Enjoy a farm tour and meet your fellow CSA members. There are some awesome people in our CSA community, and a special part of being a CSA member is creating new friendships and connections with other local foodies. So we hope to see you this Friday around 6:00! Kids are most welcome. We request that you please leave your dogs at home, as there are already dogs and chickens on the farm :)

Amara Farm is located at 2164 Kirby Rd, off of HWY 19A just north of the Courtenay Country Market. Look for the first driveway on your left. Here’s a map!

What’s in the box this week?

Half Shares

  • 1 Bok choi
  • 1 Walla Walla Onion
  • Baby carrots
  • Garlic scapes

Full Shares

  • 1 Bok choi
  • 1 Walla Walla Onion
  • Baby carrots
  • Garlic scapes
  • Salad mix
  • Braising greens
  • Fresh herb mix

What to do with bok choi?

 Bok Choi, Carrot and Apple Slaw

Bok choi can be a salad! Try this delicious and enjoy several meals. We got this recipe from a blog called umommy.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound bok choi
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 peeled apple, cut into matchsticks
2 shredded carrots
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
Coarse salt and ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

1. Cut the baby bok choy in half lengthwise; rinse under cold water to remove grit. Cut crosswise into thin strips; place in a large colander, and sprinkle with coarse salt. Toss to coat. Top with a plate that fits inside colander; weight with a heavy object (such as a skillet or canned goods). Set aside in sink to drain.

2. In a large bowl, mix apple, carrots, lemon juice, sesame oil, and peeled fresh ginger. Add bok choy; season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Toss.

CSA Week #2

Our first CSA week was great! Thanks for your understanding as we worked out some of the administrative glitches. Both of us are so busy shoveling compost and brainstorming how we can take over the Comox Valley with local food, we’re bound to make mistakes in the paperwork department!

My favourite part about our new CSA pick-up station is getting to see you (well, most of you) once a week. Connecting with our food community is so important. Farming is a great way to live, but some days it’s grueling. In those moments, it helps to think of the people we’re feeding when we’re out in the fields and wishing we were in the hammock. So thanks for getting yourself to the pick-up stations, stopping to chat and being a part of this project that is a cornerstone of our farms and our lives

977426_10151510497135896_812068545_oWhat’s in the box this week?

Half Shares:

  • Salad mix
  • Walla Walla sweet onions
  • Kale and chard
  • Garlic scapes

Full Shares:

  • All of the above plus…
  • Radishes
  • Turnips

Scapes: the sneak preview to garlic season

Russell likes to wear garlic scapes!
Russell likes to wear garlic scapes!

Also known as dragon’s tails, these delectable garlic flower heads are like a tantalizing sneak preview to garlic season, which will be here in mid to late July. You can do so many things with scapes. Try roasting them like you would asparagus, with a little olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper. You can grill them on the BBQ, mix them in with other roasted veg or even mince them up as you would garlic. They’re milder than garlic cloves, but they have a lovely green flavour.

I’m making some for lunch right now. I googled scape recipes for fun, and found this great synopsis of ways to cook and preserve’em  from a self-proclaimed scape fanatic.

And for all you canners, here’s a cool recipe for Balasmic Scape Jam Arzeena found. We’re going to have a canning party and make some! We’ll have extra scapes at the market this weekend, and it’s likely you’ll see them in boxes next week, so if you have an urge to preserve, get out those canning jars!

Eat your turnip greens!

Turnip greens are edible! Though they are a little fuzzy, they’re tasty and tender and a great addition to any dish. If you struggle to get greens into your family, learn how to chiffonade! They won’t even know you’ve put greens in there!

CHICKEN AVAILABLE SOON!

A note from some new young farmers in the valley

Hello Merville Organics members,

We are The Birds and the Beans, a group of four young farmers, leasing a portion of Amara Farm.  We aim to grow the ingredients for a complete, healthy, and local diet– including greens, grains, and meat.

As CSA members, you value the importance of good food—good for you and your community.  We thought you would be interested in buying some chicken that is produced in an organic, ecologically-sound, and humane way.  Our chickens are fed organic feed and have access to pasture and shelter.

We expect birds to be 5 lbs. each, and are $5.75/lb.  They will be available for pick-up after July 3.

Please call or email to order or inquire: thebirdsandthebeansfarm@gmail.com or 250-871-4784

For more about us, visit thebirdsandthebeans.blogspot.com

Sincerely,

Jay, Kelsey, Natasha, and Foster at The Birds and the Beans.

CSA Box NUMBER ONE!

Lots of you are picking up your CSA shares by bicycle! Rock on!
Lots of you are picking up your CSA shares by bicycle! Rock on!

Tuesday, June 4 and Friday, June 7

Starting today, you can look forward to 20 weeks of fresh veggies from our farms. It’s a beautiful day for harvesting. Russell and I did the victory hummingbird yodel today as we picked juicy lettuce for salad mix. (If you want to hear it, you can ask us to demo for you.)

Amara Farm’s onions are astoundingly huge this week! They were planted last August, and overwintered with lots of TLC in one of the greenhouses. Arzeena is an onion superstar! You can eat the bulbs and the greens.

What’s in the box this week?

 

The full share in all it's glory!
The full share in all it’s glory!

All shares:

  • Braising bunch
  • Baby bok choi
  • Salad mix
  • Head lettuce
  • Walla Walla onions
  • Herb bundle

Full Share only:

  • Braising bunch
  • Baby bok choi
  • Salad mix
  • WallaWalla onions
  • Herb bundle
  • Peas
  • Kohlrabi
  • Baby turnips
Amara Farm's gargantuan onions are pictured here in the background - bring a BIG BAG!
Amara Farm’s gargantuan onions are pictured here in the background – bring a BIG BAG!

Slugs are thugs!

You may notice some nibbles on bok choi leaves from our not-friends, the slugs. Ripple Farm has got’em bad – Russell and I are out there every day with our scissors, but we’ve only made a small dent! We appreciate your understanding when your vegetables have been previously enjoyed by pesky mollusks!

Recipes

You’ll find a lot of salad greens in your shares this month, because June is a fantastic salad month! The greens are tender and sweet at this time of year, before we get hit with the heat wave of summer.

The other day, CSA member, Medwyn McConachy came over for dinner and made the most amazing salad dressing to go with our farm fresh greens. Here’s the recipe:

Savoury Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBS mustard
  • 1 TBS sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Bragg’s seasoning or tamari soy sauce
  • 3 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup olive, sunflower or grapeseed oil

Mix first 7 ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well. Add oil and shake again. Alternatively, whiz all the ingredients in a blender on high until they are emulsified.

Purple Kohrabi!

Here’s a recipe from Inara at Amara Farm for your purple kohrabi!

 

 

 

Organic conversations

Find us at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market every Saturday from 9-12 at the Headquarters Fair Grounds. This week, we had delicious greens from Amara Farm including gorgeous bok choi, spinach leaves the size of your face, mizuna & komatsuna (mild mustard greens), kale, cilantro and radishes.

We’re gearing up at the farms for a great summer of overflowing CSA bins and happy eaters! At Amara Farm, greens are growing wildly in the mild greenhouse climates. Arzeena has been working hard to keep planting new crops, and we are excited to say our June crops are looking good so far!

It’s been a dry spring, but we are getting our irrigation systems set up early and enjoying farming in tank tops in April.

Both Amara and Ripple Farm are raising many new layer hen chicks so we can offer eggs later this summer. We will be letting you know when we have eggs available.

Conversations about organics

This week at the Farmers’ Market, I had some interesting conversations with customers about organic farming practices, and genetically modified foods. I really appreciate customer questions about whether our practices involve genetically-modified seed and inputs. As transitional to certified organic farms, we can assure you that we do not use GMO seeds, inputs, or feed for our animals at Amara or Ripple Farm.

As we gear up for our organic inspections this week, we’re feeling great about being a part of this growing community of farmers who are committed to practicing small-scale, ecologically-conscious agriculture. We are excited to be a part of a growing movement of farmers who want to maintain seeds as a public resource, and healthful food production in our communities. We are happy to talk to you any time about your questions about our growing practices, and what organic really means!

 

 

 

Spring at the farms!

Spring is rolling in and we are busy at our farms planting, preparing, cleaning up and getting ready for a fantastic CSA season! Don’t forget, you are welcome to come out and visit the farms, get your hands dirty and join in the fun. Please drop us a line at mervilleorganics@gmail.com if you’d like to come for a visit!

Shares still available? Yes indeed!

We still have shares available for 2013 and we need your help! You can help contribute to the success of our season by forwarding this newsletter to friends and family who may be interested in participating in our CSA box program.

If you would like us to make a presentation to your community group about our program, we would love to come and present a 15 minute slideshow about supporting local farmers and our CSA program. Contact us at mervilleorganics@gmail.com if you would like to book a presentation!

Amara Farm

A site that makes Arzeena's heart flutter! New land in production for 2013.
A site that makes Arzeena’s heart flutter! New land in production for 2013.

Amara Farm just hosted the second Vancouver Island Young Agrarians potluck. Young Agrarians’ mission is to connect young farmers and grow more sustainable / ecological food growers across Canada. Check them out at www.youngagrarians.org

Lots of people turned up to learn extending the growing season using low tunnel hoop houses – both Amara and Ripple Farm are using this low-tech solution to see if we can get earlier and better quality crops at the beginning of the CSA season.

The farmers at Amara are working hard tilling up soil, getting the greenhouses planted, raising new laying hens and seeding lots of crops. Arzeena has been at the market for the past few weeks, so drop by and visit her to get a sneak preview on some of the goodies you’ll see in your CSA boxes this summer!

 

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Ripple Farm

Ripple also hosted a Young Agrarians potluck in March. Both Arzeena and I are very invested in helping to create opportunties for new and aspiring farmers to learn practical skills. At the Ripple Farm potluck, participants had a chance to learn about soil blocking and potting mixes at Ripple Farm in March (photos below.)

Being a farmer is kind of like being a scientist in a very muddy laboratory. Spring is a time for fresh ideas and wacky experiments. Laughter and tears are bound to happen along the way. Small-scale farmers often have to innovate to create their own equipment from scratch.

One of my favourite tools is the dibbler (photo below). I learned about this tool when I worked for a garlic farmer in Saanich one autumn. It is a simple device: plywood with cut up broom handles drilled onto the bottom at 6″ spacing. The dowels poke holes into the soil where you can drop in garlic cloves, larger seeds, or even transplants, like leeks and onions!

The other exciting spring event for both farms is the raising of chicks for our laying flocks. We hope to have more fresh, certified organic eggs to offer CSA members and at the farmers’ market in the late summer. Stay tuned!

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