We’re always excited about trying new things on our farm. Sometimes our attempts are successful and sometimes they really aren’t. But we still like to try.
New things sometimes come up because it’s something we personally want. Like lots of lemon balm tea to help support our bodies during stressful times while being super delicious. We want that for ourselves and we think our customers would also like fresh, local, organic lemon balm that they can use for tea. So, we decided to go for it this year and plant a good-sized patch of lemon balm.
Or melons. We LOVE eating melons. Especially specialty melons that aren’t easy to find anywhere else. They take a long time to grow but the wait is always worth it for us. We’ve tried a lot of different melons and are always fine-tuning the plan around our favourite varieties (though the list is still long). One new variety of melon we’re growing this year is called Dove. It’s an Ananas-type melon. We can’t wait to try it!
Sometimes we grow new things based on customers asking for or casually mentioning them. During the winter, as we’re selecting the crops and varieties we’re going to grow, those asks and casual comments always come up. We don’t always decide to go-ahead with these crops (there can be lots of reasons why not to grow something), but that is why we’re still growing Charentais melons. A couple passing by our stand asked us if we grew Charentais melons, like they’d eaten in France. We didn’t. But the following year, we did. And we were not successful. But we tried again the next year (last season) with different varieties of Charentais melons and only grew them under a field tunnel. And they were spectacular! This year, we’re growing even more and a new variety (in addition to our favourite variety from last year).
This year, we’re growing a pepper called Jimmy Nardello’s. This was a request for restaurant sales. Jimmy Nardello’s are a 2-bite sized horn-shaped pepper with a touch of heat and loads of flavour. It’s pretty trendy with cutting-edge chefs and we’re pretty excited ourselves for these peppers to ripen!
Sometimes we read about something in a book and think it would be cool to try. Last year, we got a book called The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk. In it there are a few mentions of Sea Buckthorn as a really nutritious, super-food. We’d heard about sea buckthorn before but the book really inspired us to try it. So, this year, we’ve started some sea buckthorn from seed. Who knows how it will do or whether we’ll like eating it, but the other benefits of this crop for wildlife are important to us too.
Sometimes we learn about new crops through other farmers. At last year’s ACORN conference, Amanda Muis Brown from Humble Burdock Farm spoke about a plant she uses on her cut flower farm called “Hairy Balls” Gomphocarpus. I’d seen it in the catalogues but her enthusiasm for it (and the name!) made me add it to my crop plan. And I’m excited to see how I like using it in bouquets.
Also, we sorta add new crops by accident. Last winter, I attended an Organic Seed Growers Conference in Oregon (read my blog post about it here). While there, I was given seed for Yellow Doe Hill Peppers and Nash’s Rhumba Carrot. So, we’re growing them both for seed (though we’ll definitely get to eat some of them…..in particular the “rejects” for seed production).
And of course, sometimes, the seed catalogues’ pictures and descriptions move us. That’s what happened with 2 new flowers in our cut flower lineup this year: Purple Kisses Daucus carota and Lacy Blue Didiscus. They are both thriving in the field right now and I’m looking forward to seeing them bloom.
Besides crops, we’re always trying new things in our “whole farm system.” This year, we’ve added Khaki Campbell Ducks to our farm. We think having animals on a farm can really help manage the ecosystem regeneratively. Our ducks are great eaters of greens not perfect enough to sell, really enjoy the grass we love to see on our farm (we both hate seeing bare soil!), as well as fertility recyclers, slug control, entertainment, and, by the end of this year, nutritious egg providers. This hasn’t been a perfect new experience and we’ve had some losses from raccoon predators, but we’re learning and getting better at co-living with and caring for ducks.
And new things can also be about how we sell and new opportunities. This year, we’re growing acorn squash for a local food box fundraiser program with local schools. It’s called the Nourish Your Roots box program and you can read more about it here.
Here’s a quick list of a few other new things for us this year:
- Goji berries. We’re excited to be planting some goji berry plants. They should do really well here and we think they’re pretty tasty dry and want to eat some fresh. Apparently, the leaves are also highly nutritious and can be used in various recipes.
- Elderberries: We have a lone elderberry shrub behind our barn. And we have harvested from it in the past and made elderberry syrup with honey. But it’s in a super awkward spot for harvesting and we’d like to have more.
- Sweet “hot” peppers: We’re not huge hot pepper eaters and now that we’ve found our new favourite hot pepper Korean hot pepper (last year was our first year growing it), we’re pretty much set for now. But there are some varieties of sweet peppers that are basically hot peppers with the heat removed. And this year we’re growing two of them. One is called Habanada. It’s basically a Habanero pepper but not hot. So just the flavour without the crazy spiciness. The other is called Aji Dulce. The interesting thing about both of them so far is that the plants grow noticeably slower than sweet peppers. Which is a typical trait of hot peppers. I hope when we take our first bite of each of them, that we don’t need to run for milk to cool our tongue!
- Mountain Mint: The 1st farm Shannon ever apprenticed at was the Algonquin Tea Company. Every morning while there, she drank their Awakening Tea which really tastes strongly of Mountain Mint. Even just transplanting the mountain mint into our fields brought Shannon back to being there and all the great memories and lessons learned. We’re so happy to now have this herb living on our farm with us.
Every year on the farm is a new adventure and trying new things keeps it all fresh and interesting. And, we’re so grateful to have customers who enjoy taking this adventure with us and being really open and excited to try new things themselves!