Monday, November 22, 2010

Urban Agriculture and our CSA

My other sphere of activity is Urban Agriculture and our very small, experimental CSA. Three of us started doing Urban Agriculture (growing food in other people's back yards) mid 2008 with the intention of learning how to grow our own food and how to pay for the experience by selling some of the shares of the food we are growing.

We continued the experience again this year and supplied between 4 and 12 shares of the harvest per week. We were able to grow a range of food: kale, swiss chard, radishes, beets, turnips, potatoes, lettuce, squash, zuccini, tomato, basil, peppers,carrots, beans, sugar snap peas and flowers.

The most labour intensive part was launching the gardens in the spring: weeding, fertilizing (lime, alfalfa pellets, rock phosphate and potash), rototilling, setting up climbing structures for the peas, plastic tunnels for the tomatoes, starting trays and trays of seedlings and planting. But ... once that was done, we did not do much else and the seedlings had to fend for them selves and outrun the weeds. When we began harvesting for the boxes, we organized the work load in a way that worked for each of us. I went in the day before and did the harvesting of most of that week's order and washed and bundled. Then the rest of the team harvested anything I did not get to and portioned out the shares and delivered.

Arzeena will be moving on next year. She has bought her farm and that will be her focus in the new year. Luc and I will carry on with one garden and will supply a smaller number of clients and our own needs.

I am very grateful for this experience of learning to be self sufficient in organically grown food. All in all I have found it to be a most rewarding experience.

The Steveston Farmers' Market

It is now impossible to cover one topic in this blog. I am finding that the interconnection between all my agricultural endeavours are becoming very entwined. Take the Steveston Farmers' Market as an example ....

What a great little market! I found myself there at quite a few of the markets this summer and for a variety of reasons. I was present at the first market for the season. I accompanied the student farmers and helped them set up their very first farmers' stall! For me the visual presentation is all important. Human beings love beauty! If you want to catch the customer's eye make your stall beautiful!

Label everything clearly and with prices ...

Offer a lovely range of fresh veggies and flowers of course ... we eat with our eyes first!

The Farmers' Market allowed me to first have an outlet for my "pain in the butt" tomato plants. Next when the pole beans began spitting beans out in great abundance, I was able to get up bright and early, run to the garden, pick beans ad nauseum, bundle them and take them to the market. They sold very well in deed. Folks know a deal when they see it. Imaging $2 a bundle for the freshest, tastiest beans ever! When we had a plethora of lettuce we were able to do the same ... to market, to market. That day I also harvested a lots of surplus basil expecting to have it snapped up. I was sorely disappointed. I had to go home and make lots of pesto which we shared between us. That buffered the disappointment.

... and our garlic. We grew and harvested lots of garlic this year. We had so much we had to divy it up between us to dry it.

Then I tried my hand at braiding the garlic and I took the braids to the market to sell. I am still trying to work out a price that people will pay. Customers are spoilt by cheap Chinese garlic and are not willing to fork out $20 for a braid of 10 large garlic. Maybe downtown but not in Richmond.

and I made a little label ...

So it is wonderful to have access to the collaborative booth of organic farming students. They have been very supportive of our little local agricultural efforts. I hope I have been able to serve them too in some small way.

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