Taste Hunters from France: what did they see in Canada?

Taste Hunters crew

In late August last year, 5 cool guys from Paris, France showed up on our farm to create a travel food episode for their TV show Taste Hunters. The show was hosted by young chef Benjamin Darnaud (with other episodes hosted by chef Jerome Bigot). They have been travelling around the world looking for “Food Rebels” and good food!

While in Canada, they visited our farm as well as Ferme Tournesol in Quebec.

They brought a whole bunch of interesting high tech equipment like cameras, a sound mixing system and this drone below which takes shots from above. It’s like a little helicopter, it has 6 spinners, and it sounds like a swarm of bees when it’s flying through the sky.

I took a picture of it while it was resting on our dining room table.

Taste Hunters drone

Benjamin and Bryan made our lunch on the first day. It was amazing! Here are some pictures.

Roasted vegetables

There is spelt linguini underneath this mountain of vegetables: roasted Hakurei turnips with thyme, summer squash, Romano and Dragon’s Tongue beans, and garlic.

The sauce was made by grating a raw tomato and mixing it up with a grated onion and basil.

Tomato and cucumber salad

This is quartered fresh tomatoes with cucumber and hot pepper, and then topped with freshly chopped Italian basil and shiso.

The lunch was simple and spontaneous and delicious.

In the afternoon, while the film crew was taking pictures around the farm, Benjamin helped us harvest, wash and bunch rainbow carrots. Here’s a picture of Benjamin and Bryan bunching.

Carrot bunching

The episode recently aired in France but unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible to watch it now in its entirety (perhaps you can if you subscribe to international channels). The show was aired by the french network Ushuaia TV.

Below, I’ve copied 2 short clips from the episode for you to watch (you must be logged into facebook to see it…sorry about that, I couldn’t figure out any other way). It’s all in french (our voices are dubbed over) but the videography is still beautiful for those of you who don’t understand french.

Here is a link to a conversation from their visit with us that they wrote out and posted on their website (also in french). And below are some of the pictures the crew took while at our farm (see more on their Instagram page):

Taste Hunters photo

Taste Hunters photo

Taste Hunters photo

Taste Hunters photo

We want to soil to be happy.

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Everyone needs a Farmer. We want to be yours!

Market Food Club Sign-up

Who’s your dentist? Who’s your accountant?

WHO’S YOUR FARMER?

We are blessed with such wonderful and inspiring farmers in our region (though we still need more with the average age of farmers close to 60). We strongly recommend everyone get to know them through both in-person and online connections (farm websites and blogs, farm facebook or twitter pages).

An impressive trend in the food movement has been for eaters to connect directly with local farmers. These connections have served to both empower farmers in the management of their livelihoods and to empower people in the nourishment of their bodies.

One of the ways to connect is through a relationship called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This helps people develop a closer connection to a specific farm and get a feel for the seasonality and flavour of that farm.

Yep, each farm has a unique flavour!

Curly parsley

After working on many different CSA farms, we decided that we wanted to try something a bit different at Broadfork Farm, while still emphasizing the relationship and partnership between a farmer and an eater.

We started a Market Food Club.

It’s similar to a typical CSA in that the members pay up front at the beginning of the season to show their commitment to the farm. In exchange, they receive fresh, high-quality produce, a way to maintain a balanced budget, and the knowledge of where their food is coming from and how it was grown. It offers us, the farmers, confidence that our hard work and passion is supported while we’re first planting the seeds in the ground.

Our Market Food Club is different than a typical CSA because members are reaping the bounty of the growing season on their own schedule (like having a tab or credit with us). Rather than receiving a box each week, members pick exactly what they want. If you love kale, you can take as many bunches as you want. If you hate kale, you have no obligation to ever take any.

Dieppe Market

As a member of the Market Food Club, you don’t need to worry about carrying cash for shopping at the market and it’s an easy gift to give. You invest any amount in $100 increments and use it all season, like cash (plus we add a 5% bonus as a thank you).

This system has worked well for us as farmers because it hasn’t increased our time doing administrative work while still allowing us to form wonderful relationships with our members and feel truly supported by them like in other CSA relationships.

We chose this model because we realized how much of a heartbreak it would be for us to have anyone take home something we grew that they didn’t want. After tending to our produce from seed to young plant to ready-to-eat, we really want it all to be enjoyed!

August at the Market

If you think that Bryan and I (Shannon) may be a good farmer match for you, please learn more about us by reading through this website/blog. We farm with strong visions and goals for the kind of world we’re working to create. And we want this Market Food Club relationship/partnership to feel right for everyone involved.

We’ve intentionally decided to keep the Club fairly small so signing up as soon as possible is a good idea. To do so, go to the Market Food Club page.

And you can always just shop at our Dieppe Market stand without being a member. Our goal is always to delight all of our customers with a variety of exciting, flavourful, and nutritious produce and fresh, unique flower bouquets.

This is how we bring our farm to you. Every week, our market stand is filled with the bounty from our farm that week. No week is ever exactly the same! We hope you get as excited about that adventure as we do.

Please share this blog post with anyone you know that you think might be interested. The gift of sharing is a positive force in the world!

September at the Market

 

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New Things We’re Excited to Grow in 2015

Each year, our crop plan is filled with varieties that we have grown and loved. Varieties that we are attached to and cherish. That we love to eat and are delighted to offer our customers.

But, we can never help ourselves when we’re preparing our seed orders. We always try out new (or new-to-us) varieties.

Here are some of the varieties that we are really excited about this year (there are more….it was difficult to whittle them down to an appropriate length for a blog post). None of these pictures were taken by us since we haven’t grown them yet. If you click on the picture, you will get to the website the picture is from. If you click on the variety name, it will open up to the seed company we purchased that seed from.

Candy Stick Dessert Delicata. Delicata winter squash is a crop we grow every year. But this is a new variety for us (we’re growing 4 Delicata varieties this year). We’re extra-excited about this variety because it’s supposed to be extra sweet, with a unique, date-like flavour. It was also bred by Carol Deppe, a breeder and author whose books we love! We’re currently reading her new one, The Tao of Vegetable Gardening. Candy Stick Dessert Delicata is supposed to keep very well and retain its sweetness in storage. It also has a small seed cavity (which means more squash flesh).

Red Samurei carrot. We grow red carrots every year as part of our rainbow carrot mixes. However we usually only grow the red ones for fall harvest because that’s when they taste best. The Red Samurei carrot, however, is supposed to be good any time of year and sweeter than the other red carrot varieties. This makes me happy because red carrots add such a great colour to the rainbow bunches!

Stocky Red Roaster Pepper. This pepper comes to the world from organic farmer/plant breeder Frank Morton. This pepper has won rave reviews from farmers and chefs. Down on the west coast of the States, chefs request this variety by name. We’re hoping it does as well at our farm and will become a “name brand” in our neck-of-the-woods too!

Solar Flare, Pink Berkely Tie-Dye, Pork Chop tomatoes.  I love to see plant breeders who are creating varieties based on flavour and uniqueness get recognition. And one of the plant breeders who has received plenty of well-deserved recognition is Brad Gates, from Wild Boar Farm. Stripey tomatoes, blue tomatoes, and other cool-looking tomatoes come from his on-farm breeding efforts. And these three in the picture above (with great names!) are ones we’re excited to try this season.

Sensation melon. It feels like every year, we become more and more obsessed with growing melons. Honestly, they’re not a particularly profitable crop. They take up lots of space and they need a lot of heat. But our farm seems to enjoy growing melons and we love eating them and offering them to our customers. It can be tough since most people think melon season is much earlier than it actually is here. Well, we have a few new varieties of melons we’re growing this season that we’re quite excited about. I didn’t want this blog post to be all about melons though so we chose this one as the ONE we’re most excited about (it was very hard to choose!). It has a gorgeous white flesh and unique flavour which Fedco seeds describes as “Very sweet, but not cloying, complex with haunting hints of hazelnut, amaretto and cinnamon.” So excited to eat it by the spoonful!

Bear Necessities Kale. When I first saw this picture, at the Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers conference, I was hooked. I knew I needed to grow this. So pretty and frilly. I think chefs, in particular, will go nuts over the garnish potential of this one. Kale, in general, is increasingly popular. This year, like the last, has offered kale growers a kale seed shortage, where some varieties (mostly the popular hybrids) are unavailable. It seems the time is right for new varieties to become popular!

Korean Hot Pepper. We love making kimchi! We’ve always made it with whatever hot peppers we had at the moment. And our kimchi has never tasted like traditional kimchi. We’ve learned that it’s all in the pepper. And this is the hot pepper that should be used in traditional kimchi. We are so excited to taste the difference!

Lime Basil and Lemon Basil. We decided to grow these because we want to eat them with chunks of watermelon! And maybe some other things too… These basils have a delicate citrus fragrance and flavour. Great for Southeast Asian cuisine, fish, poultry, and rice dishes. I’m also stoked to dry some for teas. And possibly for making seasoned vinegars (I always WANT to do this….it just never seems to happen. Maybe it will for you!).

Zinderella Lilac Zinnia. This zinnia is crazy pretty! I love zinnias in general and I’m excited for these “Scabiosa,”or “Cupcake” types. Watch out for these in our summer bouquets!

Sweet Alyssum. I’ve been interested in planting sweet alyssum between beds (in the pathways) after hearing about it’s use planted with lettuce to attract beneficial insects and control aphids. I’ve been concerned about using it between kale or other brassicas because sweet alyssum also hosts flea beetles, but have heard that some growers do plant it between kale and broccoli. We’ll see how it goes!

I’d love to hear what you’re excited to grow or eat this year!

 

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Who are the New Farmers?

Well, I’m sure you’ve heard that we need to encourage more new farmers in Canada. We don’t currently have enough people entering the age-old profession of farming to replace the ones retiring.

There are many ways that this issue can be addressed. By supporting your local farmers you are definitely helping! Ideally, support would also come from the government in the form of supportive policies.

Last year, around this time, I sat in a room with young farmers from across Canada and we decided a National New Farmer Coalition would be a good idea.

We were inspired by the work of the National Young Farmers Coalition in the U.S.A. They created policy recommendations to support young and new farmers (which you can see here). And many of their policy recommendations made it into the most recent U.S. Farm Bill! And this was all done in a grassroots, young farmer-organized manner. We have power when we come together! Let’s make something similar happen in Canada!

 Brussels Sprouts Power!

The Goal: 1000 new farmers in Canada saying what they need to be successful.

Why: There are rules and regulations that can support and encourage new farmers and those that can do the opposite. We need more of the former.

We need to tell our government, our lending agencies, our food and farm organizations “Hey! Stop guessing who we are and what we need! We are here to inform you.”

Why care about policy change? Policies affect whether a retiring farmer will be able to sell their farm affordably to a new farmer. Policies affect whether loans or grants are available to new farmers. Policies affect the success of your local farmers’ market. Policies affect whether new farmers succeed or fail!

What: A survey has been created for new farmers to find out who you are, what you’re doing, what has worked for you, and what you need.

The info received from this survey will help in the creation of policy recommendations. What kinds of policies do we want to shape? National policies, provincial policies, municipal policies and business/organization policies that can affect new farmers.

Who: Fill out this survey if you are a new farmer, an aspiring farmer, an established farmer, or a recently exited (you were farming but now you’re not) farmer. You are being asked to do this by other new/young farmers who want to unite our voices and be heard!

Where: Let’s bring together the voices of people from across Canada. From coast to coast. From North to South. From city lots to the ends of country dirt roads.

When: The chance to add your voice to the voices of new farmers from across Canada is here now! Please fill the survey out as soon as you can. The survey has been released now, in the winter, so that your time spent filling it out doesn’t compete with time spent weeding. The survey will likely take about 20 minutes of your time.

How: You click on this link. As soon as you click on this link, you will see the introduction to the survey and a consent form. Then you start filling out the survey.

Please share this with any new, aspiring, established, or recently exited farmer you know. Each one will have a unique perspective that will greatly enrich future policy recommendations and the future farming reality in Canada.

We’re trying to get at least 1000 farmers to fill it out. Help us make that happen! Share on Facebook, Share on Twitter, Share through email. Share, Share, Share!

The link to the survey is: www.ruminationsongerminations.com

 

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My Two Cents on Organic Seed

Seed packets

In 2014, we were extremely grateful to be rewarded with a $500 grant from Rodale’s “Your Two Cents” Organic Seed Fund to help us purchase organic seed (our seed costs fall somewhere around $1500 to $2000/year).

As certified organic farmers, we must purchase organic seed to grow our organic crops. However, there is an exception. If we cannot find a variety that we want offered as organic seed on the seed marketplace, we can purchase non-organic seed as long as it hasn’t been treated with anything that is not allowed under the Canadian Organic Standards.

This exception was created to recognize the fact that the organic seed industry (production and breeding) needed time to develop. And organic farmers would be at a disadvantage in the meantime (with fewer options in general and even fewer options being improved upon and selected for important disease resistances and greater yields).

But the organic seed rule is important, because it is a promise to organic seed breeders and producers that they will have a market for the organic varieties they breed, improve, and grow out. And that’s a lot of work and a lot of dedication on the part of the plant breeders and seed producers. And what they’re doing is really important…for biodiversity, for healthy soil and clean water (they’re all farming too…and their management practices are affecting the world we all live in), and for the options available to organic farmers and eaters.

Even in just the years we’ve been farming, we’ve seen an increase in organic varieties and the performance of the organic seed we grow.

The downside is…the cost. Many (though definitely not all) organic seeds do cost more than the non-organic ones (sometimes so much more that it’s hard to justify the price on a commercial level).

So, the whole point of Rodale’s Organic Seed Fund is to help counteract that increased expense in organic seed for organic farmers. On our end, as recipients of the grant, we were asked to write a report at year end. While I was writing the report, I thought it might make an interesting blog post. So, that’s where this is all coming from and here are some of our thoughts on how organic seeds performed on our farm in 2014 compared to non-organic seeds:

Overall, the organic seeds planted on our farm this year performed very well.

In the spring, some of the first products we offer for sale are our vegetable, herb, and flower transplants. We proudly offered our customers only transplants grown with organic and open-pollinated seeds. Many of our transplant purchasers gave us positive feedback later in the season, letting us know that the plants we sold them produced better for them than seedlings they had purchased elsewhere.

Seedlings at Market

Through looking for a greater selection of organic varieties, we tried out a few new-to-us seed companies (Osborne Seeds and Fedco Seeds) and were very happy with the quality and the customer service and will continue to purchase from them. We continue to be happy buying organic vegetable seeds from High Mowing Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds. We also purchase some vegetable seeds from Adaptive Seeds, Wild Garden Seed, William Dam Seeds, Vesey’s, Hope Seeds, Mapple Farm, and Annapolis Seeds.

With one of the newest varieties of organic carrots we tried (Miami), we seemed to get a higher degree of forking than with our other carrots, both organic and non-organic varieties (even in the same field or sometimes the same bed). We wondered about the field conditions and fertility that the seed crop was grown and selected with and how that relates to its tendency to bolt on our farm (since forking is sometimes attributed to excess Nitrogen in carrots)?

Organic cucumbers like Poona Kheera and Silver Slicer were especially robust and vigourous as seedlings and plants over our non-organic cucumbers (though they are also specialty cucumbers, so harder to compare with standard cucumber varieties).  While these specialty cucumbers looked unusual, their flavour and texture really wowed us and our customers.

Kale: the organic varieties were hard to compare with non-organic as our organic kales were all OP (open-pollinated) and the non-organic kales were hybrids. The organic hybrid Ripbor was unavailable last year at the time we were ordering. High Mowing’s OP Curly Roja compared very favourably with the non-organic hybrid Redbor that we grew in the same bed.

Kale

We grew 2 varieties of Brussels’ sprouts in 2014. One from organic seed (Nautic) and one from non-organic seed (Jade Cross). The Nautic performed MUCH better than the Jade Cross in terms of vigour in the field, yield of marketable stalks, and appearance overall.

Both of the Romanesco cauliflower seed we planted were organic (Tipoff and Veronica) and we were very happy with the results. However, the price is quite a bit higher for organic Romanesco seed and it’s hard to know whether it was worth it in terms of results.

We tried a new organic fennel (Preludio) that we were extremely happy with in the field (our market for fennel is, sadly, not as robust). We have tried other varieties of fennel in the past (both from organic and non-organic seed) and none have performed as well as Preludio for us.

One issue we had in trying to compare results between organic and non-organic seed was that we are unable to trial the same variety, grown under organic and non-organic conditions. This is due to us being certified organic and unable to purchase non-organic seed if we can source the same variety organically. Therefore, it wasn’t always easy to know if the successes or failures we were seeing were related to the specific variety or the fact that the seed had been produced using organic management techniques. It would be interesting to see trials between the same varieties (and ideally same strain of the variety) from organic and non-organic seed.

On a personal level, our commitment to sourcing organic seeds has been strengthened and we are very encouraged and excited by the developments in the organic seed industry.

Just popping up!

 

 

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5 Ways to Evaluate Your Work

Winter sunlight

This winter, Bryan and I have been working on updating our business plan.

It’s easy for us to put this on the back-burner since we spent a lot of time on our original plan and tend to think it was thorough.

But, going through our old one made us realize that we’ve changed, our vision for the farm has changed, and we haven’t always followed through on some of our original ideas. And some of those original ideas were good.

One of them was to evaluate our business using the “Five Filters Analytical Process,” something I learned while at Windhorse Farm.

The 5 Filters are:

  1. Ecological Filter: Are we causing harm to the non-human beings in this place or elsewhere? Is there tangible enrichment of the lives of other beings?
  2. Social Filter: Are we contributing to community harmony or to its opposites (divisiveness, animosity, territoriality)?
  3. Economics Filter: Are we helping to build economic stability for our community (human and non-human) or does our business pose undue hardships or financial risks that are likely to destabilize the local economy? Does our farm reflect ecological economics rather than market economics?
  4. Spiritual Filter: Do we notice an increase in kindness, compassion, and awareness among the humans involved in this farm business? Alternatively, do we see an increase in covetousness, aggression, and ignorance?
  5. Magical Filter: Are we becoming more connected to the peacefulness and energy of the land, experiencing each plant and rock as alive and distinct, or are we becoming isolated, dulled out, and cut off from that “direct knowing” or “non-conceptual” experience of the earth?

Remembering to consider these Filters when evaluating our business as a whole, new tool or infrastructure purchases, new enterprises, and our lifestyle is something that is valuable to us but not always (or often) easy for us to do. I know that at one point, I had written the Filters out and pinned them up on a corkboard. But I stopped noticing it, or the paper got covered with other “to remember” items.

This is one of the benefits of spending time going through each section of our business plan. We didn’t create our business plan for a bank (though we used parts of it when we were applying for our mortgage). We created it for ourselves, to make sure that we were on the track that we wanted to be on. That we were actually creating a farm business with the values and goals and hopes and dreams that feel right to us as we grow and mature.

This reminds me of a quote I was inspired by as a young(er) woman, travelling from farm to farm. It’s from Summer Day by Mary Oliver:

“Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon? Tell me what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.”

Dried Poppy Pod

 

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Happiest of Holidays!

Bryan and Shannon

We wish you a healthy and happy holiday season…..filled with delicious meals, warm socks, and snowflakes on eyelashes.

Cheers to you and yours,

Bryan & Shannon, your Broadfork Farmers

High Tunnel in the Winter

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Farming Conferences: Part 3

Heart-shaped sorrel leaf

Technically, the Food Secure Canada (FSC) conference isn’t a farming conference. This was a “big picture” conference with more academics and project managers in attendance than farmers. There were no production, marketing, or business sessions as there are in most farming conferences. But there were sessions on policy, the state of agriculture nationally and globally, and food systems issues and success stories.

In the farm business planning course we took before starting Broadfork Farm, Bryan and I learned that Policy Risks are just as important to be aware of and prepare for as Production Risks. And so, we made a commitment to educate ourselves on the policies that could affect us, and work towards changing or shaping those policies wherever and in whatever ways we could. Of course, we don’t have a ton of time to devote to that goal, but activities like attending the FSC conference help move us in the right direction.

Food Secure Canada videotaped some of the sessions. I’m embedding 2 of the videos into this blog post because they reflect some of my highlights. But check out FSC’s website for more.

Ok, so onto some of my highlights:

  • Vandana Shiva. Her talk was part of both the ACORN conference and the kickoff to the FSC conference. As always, she was amazing. So inspirational. And real. And generous. And present. If you don’t know who she is, she is so worth knowing about and having as a hero! Her talk was videotaped and so you can watch it yourself here (the intros are worth watching but if you’re impatient to get to Vandana Shiva, I’d skip to minute 19).

  • New Farmer Roundtable. This was the main reason for my attendance at the FSC conference. As a new farmer, new farmer issues and policy work strike close to home. I’m a committee member of a National New Farmer Coalition (inspired by the National Young Farmers Coalition in the U.S.) and we are currently working on a national new farmer survey that will inform a new farmer policy platform (stay tuned for more details in 2015!). Many of the members of that committee were in attendance and we had the opportunity to get together which was great. A highlight for me was hearing a 10 minute snapshot on the new farmer situation in each region across Canada, in particular, in the Northern Territories, which I rarely hear about!
  • Dawn Morrison, indigenous food sovereignty activist and researcher from BC made a point about thinking in terms of ‘foodlands’ rather than ‘farmlands’ (as food isn’t only farmed, but also hunted and gathered…which requires habitat) and also brought up the point that unused (or underutilized) land is a contentious term….land that we see as unused because it’s not being actively farmed can still be a great and valuable source of food (for both humans and other species). Having as much land as possible under human management isn’t necessarily going to provide more food. I felt incredibly grateful for this viewpoint and it has really stuck with me.
  • Dialogue with Members of Parliament. This included 2 politicians (one NDP and one Liberal….no Conservatives responded to the invitation) and 4 individuals representing different perspectives in the food system. In particular, a highlight for me was seeing my friend Alex Fletcher, young farmer from Wind Whipped Farm in BC and Youth President of the National Farmers Union speak on behalf of new farmers. This talk was videotaped too. Watch it here.

Well, this is the last in the 3 part series on the farming conferences we attended in November 2014 (read Part 1 and Part 2).

I really hope that some of the links we’ve included serve to inspire and/or introduce you to something or someone new to you.

I’m so grateful to have a profession that offers me so many learning opportunities (frequently through making my own mistakes but also so much through the generous knowledge-sharing of others).

 

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Farming Conferences: Part 2

The Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (or ACORN) holds a conference yearly, moving through locations in NS, NB, and PEI. I think it has become the best farming conference in Canada!

ACORN Conference Program

This year’s conference was the biggest it’s ever been with attendees coming not only from within Atlantic Canada, but all across Canada and the Northeast U.S.

Here are some highlights from this year’s conference (held in Halifax….next year’s will be in PEI). Bryan and I typically attend different sessions and so our highlights are different.

Specialty Crops Stream

Shannon’s Highlights

  • Visiting Off Beat Farm in Cow Bay. This technically happened outside of the ACORN conference but we stayed overnight with farmers Sarah and Jamie right before the conference (since they live pretty darn close to Halifax). We’d never been to their place and were so happy to see them and their farm. Their mushroom production is also really inspiring…perhaps we’ll try growing some mushrooms at some point down the road.
  • Chris Blanchard. I’ve enjoyed articles by Chris in Growing for Market and reading the Fearless Farm Finances book that he contributed to and so was really looking forward to hearing him speak in person. He did not disappoint! All of his sessions were inspiring and useful. I took a ton of notes, especially in his session on Commercial Culinary Herb Production which is something we’re interested in expanding. (Check out this recent blog post he wrote about getting the most out of attending conferences!)
  • Michelle Wolf (formerly known as Michelle Summer Fike) gave a number of marketing oriented sessions. I’d seen her speak at the Farmers’Markets of NS one-day conference held this past summer in Truro. She was an amazing speaker both times and I love absorbing her messages. Every business owner should hear her speak; regardless of the business they’re in!
  • John Bliss and Stacey Brenner from Broadturn Farm in Maine. I’ve been following their blog for years and was super excited that they were speaking at the conference this year. Their ability to manage vegetable and flower farming is a huge inspiration for me. Their session on Flowers and Floristry was the only session in the whole conference that both Bryan and I attended (we typically divide and conquer) which I was so happy about because cut-flowers are a newer enterprise for us and it’s really important that we have a similar vision for the direction the flowers will take us.
  • Seed Growers meeting. This was a meeting for people who have shown an interest in, and commitment to seed production (from beginners to experts). It was essentially a round-table meeting, discussing solutions and challenges in Atlantic Canada’s local seed industry. Bonus: Vandana Shiva shared lunch with us and then answered questions from the group! Check out Bauta’s website for info about the great seed work they’re doing all across the country. And read this interview-style blog post with Steph Hughes, Bauta’s Atlantic Regional Coordinator.

In this picture, I’m sitting on a panel next to Chris Blanchard and Michelle Wolf and we’re listening to Allison Grant from Southfield Organics speak about her approach to pricing.

Pricing Panel

Bryan’s Highlights

  • David Greenberg, from Abundant Acres: It is always enjoyable to see David at the conference and glean some of the information that he and Jen so generously give. His session on Following the Fortier Method was based on his successful experience this past season at their home farm and at Bethany Gardens (the showcase for trying out the Fortier Method). Key points were tighter carrot row spacing (4 or 5 rows in a 30” bed was optimal for yield), and the use of flame weeding following the use of silage tarps for weed control. What’s the Fortier Method? It’s based on the farming practices of Jean-Martin Fortier, farmer at Les Jardins de la Grelinette in QC, and author of The Market Gardener (read Shannon’s review of the book here).
  • Tim Livingstone, from Strawberry Hill Farm: Season Extension and Equipping for Efficiency. I’m always interested to hear Tim talk and see what new information I can gather from his vast knowledge of organic vegetable production. Standouts from his Efficiency session included the use of a barrel washer for salad mixes and baby greens as well as using clear Bio360 for early cole crops to give them a better boost in spring when soil biota are still waking up. It was impressive to see the greens that they produce throughout the winter in their corner of New Brunswick with the use of minimally heated greenhouse structures.
  • Lenny Levine: Growing Great Garlic. It was amazing to hear the process and procedures of garlic growing from someone who has focused on this one crop for 3 decades. Lenny is meticulous and methodical in his approach to garlic and the results show that what he is doing works. Use of green manures, and vigilance for disease control during all stages of growth, harvest, curing, and planting stock selection gives Mr. Levine a great looking crop (8000 bulbs averaging 55-60 grams).
  • Rosalie Madden/Derek Lynch: Session on Green Manures. Rosalie is a Masters student at DAL AC who shared some preliminary findings from her research on growing cover crops to supply Nitrogen to subsequent crops. I look forward to hearing the results from her research. Derek Lynch presented some really great big picture aspects to sustainability in farming. I was interested to hear him say that research has shown soil with lower phosphorus levels in organic systems can perform just as well as high phosphorus levels in conventional systems. Both of these research topics are particularly important as providing these macro-nutrients in a smarter way is and will be necessary to produce good food now and in years to come.

ACORN Conference Stream

Even though the ACORN conference is geared towards organic farmers, there are often some sessions or sometimes even full-day or half-day streams for organic eaters. So, whether you are a farmer, aspiring farmer or an organic eater, I encourage you to explore the ACORN website where you’ll find notes from conference sessions (throughout the years) and information about upcoming events (also keep in touch with ACORN by following them on facebook and twitter).

 

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Farming Conferences Part 1

During the 2nd weekend of November, I (Shannon) was in Ste. Anne de Bellevue (near Montreal), QC for the Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers (ECOSGN) conference.

Home for less than a day, we both (Shannon and Bryan) headed to Halifax for the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN) conference and then I stayed on for the Food Secure Canada (FSC) conference (Bryan headed home before this one to keep the cats happy and the house warm….and it just started to snow on his drive home!).

First Snowfall

Attending conferences and workshops are one of the ways we work on our professional development as farmers (which is a big priority for us). They also help us feel connected to the greater community of farmers and food activists which deepens our sense of connection and inspires us to keep the bigger picture of why we decided to become farmers up front in our minds.

I realized this blog post would be too long if I wrote about each of these 3 conferences. So, our next few blog posts will focus on a different conference. Beginning with this one…and the ECOSGN conference.

Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security brochure

This was my first time attending the ECOSGN conference (and only the second ECOSGN conference ever) and I wouldn’t hesitate to go again.

In addition to learning more about producing seed crops, I find that learning about vegetable seed production helps me become a better vegetable farmer in general.

A few highlights:

  • Kim Delaney spoke about Seeds of Transition, a collaborative seed production effort in Ontario with her farm/seed company Hawthorn Farm and 4 market farms. The co-op members share equipment and skills. This group is doing something similar to the goals and aspirations of a new-ish collaboration we’re involved with (called the Cumberland County Ecological Seed Growers Network) and it was great to hear about what they’re doing – definitely a new source of inspiration!
  • Jodi Lew-Smith. The plant breeder at High Mowing Seeds has blown me away every time I’ve heard her speak. She’s incredibly good at converting her knowledge of plant breeding into practical, simpler terms. One thing I learned was how excited High Mowing is to be trying unheated high tunnels for seed production and breeding in the Northeast. But the challenge they recognize is…how to make it profitable? Also, I found out she’s written a novel called The Clever Mill Horse that I’m looking forward to reading.
  • Shoots & Roots Bitters. At the bar, during the banquet and keynote, I went on an ethnobotanical sensory journey! And it was amazing! Check out the website of this very cool company if your interest is piqued…it has tons of great information.
  • Adaptive Seeds. Two young market farmers turned seed farmers/seed company owners. They went on a cool trip around Europe (as Seed Ambassadors) and collected interesting varieties that aren’t currently found in North America. I’ve developed a huge farm crush on these guys since the conference & am really enjoying going through their seed catalogue and website.

Market customers: expect to see some cool new varieties at our market stand next year, grown with seed sourced from these guys!

Adaptive Seeds catalogue

Stay tuned for my upcoming post about the ACORN conference!

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