Monday, December 8, 2008

Putting the 'Straw' on the 'Strawberries'!!

Today was 'straw' on 'strawberry' day! We wait until the field is nice and frozen, get out the wagon, load the straw and then spread it over our 'berries for next season! This is simply done so that you have 'clean' strawberries. If you don't do this key step, you will have 'sandberries'! The straw we use is oat straw, from our own certified organic oat crop this past season. It was the perfect day to do it: no wind and the berry plants still showing nicely. It took Ben, his mother and I until 2pm today to get it all done by hand! Excellent workout I must say and totally necessary now that the lazy winter months have hit and comfort foods are all about! Ben's parents grew strawberries in the '70's, so it brought back alot of memories for Ben's mom today. She even told me about Ben's grandmother Elizabeth spreading straw by hand for her own strawberries in the 1960's in almost the exact spot where we have the new patch! It's a proud feeling to be the third Sosnicki wife working the land here! I've included some nice pictures of Ben and his mom today. We are already talking about making strawberry jam....

Wychwood 'Green Barns' Winter farmers' market!

Our new saturday home is gorgeous and warm! From 9am until 12pm each Saturday all year round, customers can find us in the Bathurst and St. Clair area at the Wychwood 'Artscape' Barns! They have completely renovated the old TTC barns and it's the perfect spot for a market! Joining with the farmers are chefs & artisans and just all sorts of delicious foods to savor! From breads to meats, cheeses of the finest kind, pies, cookies, organic popcorn, Jessie's organic perogies hot & buttery to fair trade organic coffee, there is something for everyone to enjoy! Ben is busy selling storage crops and I serve warm perogies that are a hit with all during these cold winter months! See you there!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sauerkraut time!

Available this coming week beginning Nov. 24th will be our Sauerkraut! Yeah! A very natural, plain process to create quite a healthy treat! Our sauerkraut is simply made with our home grown organic cabbage, organic cooking onions and course salt! When I make a crock at home, Ben and I use our hands to smash the shredded cabbage with the onions and salt to create the juice, the 'brine'. When doing market amounts to share with customers we need to use a good friend of mine Mr. Hobart. The hobart mixer with dough hook is the most efficient way to bash the cabbage with salt and onions to make that juice pivitol to the fermentation process! We core the cabbage, shred the cabbage, bin up the cabbage, push the cabbage down in the bins with wooden tops covered by cloth until flooded with brine. Each day as it ferments, any scum is cleaned away. The 82 year old market manager keeps one burner on the gas stove burning low for close to 2 weeks while the sauerkraut ages. She likes to keep that kitchen 'warm'. We take turns checking the kraut throughout the days; to clean the scum, check the brine and I like to ensure the hall hasn't burnt down!! The bins/crocks are huge and years ago the woman had carts with 'wheels' on them custom made so they can move them around and keep them close to the stove. Smart, small, inexpensive things these women think of to make the whole process just that much easier! I am learning alot to share with generations to come! Sauerkraut Perogies coming this week too!

Sunny warm day in November means Greenhouse prep..

We have learned to always think a head when farming. We are already thinking 'spring 2009' in November. This is the time when the majority of field crops are lost to frost and we gain extra time for other projects. These pictures taken a few weeks ago, the begining of November during that nice warm spell. We are ammending the soil in our greenhouses by way of composted manure compliments of our neighbour and our own animals! Nevermind, the neighbour is also awesome enough to rent us the use of his loader which makes the task go pretty fast! We are also using our own field soil as well to create a nutrient-rich base for growing next spring! We are using two greenhouses to grow early greens and heads of lettuce. We hope to be able to offer these crops very early in the season. The middle greenhouse will keep it's tables and house our field seedlings, some wholesale plantings and a few plant surprises I hope to offer the market next spring! Stay tuned! If the cold is getting you down, purchase a seed catalogue and plan your garden! Always works for me. OR travel back in our blog and remember the warmer times! Sosnicki's will keep you all warm at market with LOTS of hot, delicious warm food too!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

First frost means the first of the Perogies........

Perogies are now back at all markets once again! I've assembled my crew of family, friends and this year my helpful employee amigos to warm up the hall kitchen and spin up as many as possible! It is a lot of work, but the end result is worth it! We currently have potato cheddar available and soon the sauerkraut filled ones. All ingredients are organic with as many of the ingredients as possible coming from our farm. They are vegetarian, but not vegan as they do contain dairy in the form of butter. I am also working on a gluten-free variety, as I have the most amazing volunteer that helps at market and she goes through alot of pain with traditional flours and even eggs too! I have a great task to create a specialty kind for her and those others out there with similar problems! Perogies are the ultimate comfort food, so good for winter, everyone must be able to eat them and be happy!! Later we will also be offering plain sauerkraut, cabbage rolls, pork to go along with the perogies. Stay tuned......

Storage Crops.......

Today, last week and continuing tomorrow and onward, all spare moments not harvesting and grading for Toronto markets are being spent putting crops into storage. Cabbage and Leeks

are the big crops left. All head into the cooler to store until needed. Onions, potatoes & garlic are stored elsewhere in the barn. We still have yet to harvest and bin all the beets and carrots we will supply the markets as well. It's a long process. Garlic can be planted anytime now. We compost the ground before the garlic goes in. So far the weather is cooperating, hope it stays that way for just a little while longer!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cooking with our Asian Greens....

We offer alot of beautiful asian greens this time of year. One of my new favourites is komatsuna. You can pan-fry this Japanese mustard spinach, which are the pictures today and recipe I've included. You can also roast, steam, stew, boil, stir fry etc. all these neat greens! When eatten raw, some find the komatsuna to be a bit 'strong', BUT when you think about all the nutritional value this green provides, (lots of calcium and vitamin rich!!) it's worth tossing some raw in your salad too! When cooked, komatsuna along with the other greens provide a mellow, subtle taste that is sensitive to most palates! Enjoy!

Asian Greens Pan-Fry Lunch:

1 bunch Bok Choy

1 bunch Tatsoi

1 bunch Komatsuna

5 cloves Garlic

2 tbs Olive Oil

1 tbs Butter

sea salt & ground pepper to taste

1 bunch Swiss Chard

BIG WOK to cook with or big Fry pan!!

Add olive oil, butter and minced garlic to pan over medium heat. Add chopped stems from Swiss Chard, bok choy and komatsuna first to soften. Then add all the leaves chopped. Cover and render down for just a few minutes! Salt and pepper to taste. A very quick, delicious and nutritious lunch indeed!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A quick "GOOD LUCK" and also a "CONGRATS!" blog today.....

An excited 14 y/o stepdaughter calls us on route home from Dufferin Grove market last night alerting us that she has a part time job interview TODAY!! To top it all off, it couldn't be more perfect for her -a STABLE HAND! Even as a wee girl, her first love were those gigantic beasts! So instead of just being around her own horse a measly everyother weekend while with us, she gets to be around horses 6 days a week!!! Absolutely perfect for her and we already KNOW she'll get the job! But GOOD LUCK anyhow girlie!!! Do us proud and work very hard! Don't forget to thank the generous folks that will be driving you back and forth each day......
Also a big CONGRATS to my parents. They are celebrating 40 years together October 4th! Their first date was at the Norfolk County Fair on that date 40 years ago! Still farming together and going strong! They are enjoying a hot tub and some drinks this weekend to celebrate! All the best......
Much love to all 3 of you guys today,
Jessie & Daddy Ben.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Fall Harvest......

One of my favourite times of year. Harvest in full swing, saying 'goodbye' to a lot of crops (my dad was over and helped us disk the farm), but busily taking care of the rest, esp. to have some good volume come the frozen days of winter. It's the air this time of year, the temperature. It's just nice. I had squash, gourds and pumpkins growing wild in the chicken yard that my stepdaughter discovered for me. Had to dress up the back step with them plus some 'mums for fall colour. Today was an excellent harvest day. What you can expect to buy from Sosnicki's tomorrow at Dufferin is a nice long list of seasonal favourites: Big green and red Cabbages; Sweet red bell, green bell Peppers; Jalapeno & Hot Banana Peppers too!! Large bunches of fresh Parsley, for those making fresh chicken soup like me! Big bunches of Carrots with tops! We have a sweet orange variety, the typical carrot, plus a 'rainbow' kind! Beets with fresh tops! (Yes, eat the tops! Render down some onions in butter or olive oil, chop beet greens and add and render down for a bit, like you would spinach. Toss with some sea salt, a dash of soy sauce and I also add minced garlic. Got this idea from a customer. Thanks! Always give me ideas like this!!) Some red, white and gold Swiss Chard; spanish, red and cooking Onions; Fresh fall greens: Salad mixes, Mesclun mix, Spinach, Arugula. Asian greens including Komatsuna, Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Mizuna; Big, beautiful Celery, (currently using the tops and stalks in my chicken soup broth, oh yes!) The old Yukon Gold Potatoes still going strong; Gigantic Leeks lots in the field this will be an excellent storage crop for us this year!; still some Watermelons, get em' this week, as it will be the last no doubt; the last of our Green Beans; and for the best of flavour? Garlic, nice medium sized bulbs of awesome garlic!! Oh yeah and for the next two weeks Heirloom tomatoes!! Yes, we are using our greenhouses to the max! The one picture is of our first greenhouse empty and ready to be tilled and ammended with compost and field soil for early spring growing. The tomato picture was taken in our last greenhouse, greenhouse no. 3. Home to currently over 50 tomato plants grown as a project by me this year and it is paying off!! Flavour is excellent! Also enjoy other pictures of my father disking for us and our fall greens! Everyone have a glorious fall!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Farmers & Chefs.........

If done right, there can be quite a unique relationship built between select chefs and organic farmers. This is what has happened with us now. We have been successfully able to create over the years, relationships with some really awesome smokin' chefs! These are the ones that are regular shoppers at our markets, 5 currently during each week. They are constantly asking how the weather is affecting us, what new crops to expect shortly, anything new, anything ending for the season? These are the chefs that truly care about eating local, eating with the seasons etc,etc. I can tell that if these particular professionals lived in my small town, they would be regulars on my farm and take pride in showing their staff how to pick off the vine and what quality truly tastes like. Plus, I take pride and grin like hell when they insist on telling us how they used our produce and how their clientel was 'wowed'! Love the 'good news food stuffs'. They also understand and do not expect cheap, wholesale prices. We have established ourselves with the general public at all our markets to the point where we no longer have to 'bend over' and kiss ass for wholesale vegetables prices and just be 'grateful' that someone bought our produce. We have a few hundred folks weekly looking for our stuff, so we no longer have to tug on our overalls, shrug and say "Well shucks, was kinda hoping for $2 for that bushel, but well, ok, you obviously know more about price important buyer person..." Done with that now. Our chefs know we are in Toronto selling fresh from the fields TUESDAYS, THURSDAYS & SATURDAYS and understand that the rest of the time we are on farm harvesting.
If you are a chef, do want the best, certified organic and local, visit the markets. Befriend a farmer, and show respect. I can smell someone a mile away who's out to use for a buck. Beat it. Thank goodness, my chefs are just wonderful people period. Thank you for that.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Something new..........

This picture was taken July 2008. Beautiful cabbage field at the top left, all our market veg. on the left, our hay field behind the barn etc,etc. (The photogapher came by and gave us a 4 X 6 for some vegetables!) Fields looked promising then. It's suppose to pour today again. The tomato patch is black with death. Oh hell, this is not a 'whine-cry' blog about all the rain. Let me spin this around a tad. Because we diversify our crops, we can get by. You see alot of your hard work head down the drain as disease or just plain 'rot' sets in (potatoes)....whoa, starting to whine I think. Financially it's a kicker SOOO is is essential to plan every year and learn to expect anything. We do not count on one single crop to pay the mortgage. Since we don't resell, it is up to us to produce for ourselves the bounty that will keep us going. We are always coming up with new ideas and plans. No time to whine if you want to keep farming, sometimes you have to change. We are going to begin to provide our customers with meat!! Small scale of course and all retail at our Toronto markets!! We are starting with pork this year and will go from there! This winter will be our trial run with sausages, and with a very Polish\Ukrainian unique vibe! Since we do the veg, our animals will be eatting the best of the best and the quality of the meat will be superior. Creating a viable winter income has become essential for our continued success, so the prepared foods (perogies, cabbage rolls, sauerkraut) and meats we will be offering will do the trick. I also plan to get in touch with an organization regarding 'humane pork'. Not only will I offer certified organic meat, my animals will have one hell of an amazing life!! No crowded, dark, filled to the max barns with cheap, antibiotic filled crap feed - they will be happy, respected animals. Like my pigs now. They are too happy! We are also planning a head NOW with our 3 greenhouses. It is raining all to hell outside, but we can till the soil, ammend with lots of compost now inside the 'houses for next spring! We hope to offer very early salad mixes and heads of lettuce before field stock is ready to our hungry customers early 2009! If you don't plan now, it won't work out. Hay did well for us this year. We got three cuts off, SOO lots of feed for animals! The greenhouses sit empty for a good part of the year, it's time to make them work harder for us. Use those assets! So, despite the weather, Sosnicki's are pushing forward and will have even more diverse foods to offer as the years pass! I can smell the sausage now - filled with our homegrown leeks, onions and garlic!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Make tomato sauce!!

I used my last Sunday to can tomatoes! I have limited time, and I LOVE to preserve, so my only day off is spent doing just that! (Today is pepper jelly - recipe later..) Depending on how much you are doing and how fusy you are, there are many ways and many recipes. THIS is easy and fast. For just juice, I have the old squasher that removes seeds and skin, but this way you are left with more 'pulp'. I wash and scrub jars. I buy new seals each year. (I don't have time for risking spoilage) I wash up batches of our romas, simply cut the stem end out, chop in half, toss into my 'cuisinart chopper' and puree. If you want to leave a lump here or there, sure. I usually puree until very smooth. Each batch is dumped into a large cooking pot. Once the pot is 3/4 full, I put on med/high to boil and cook down. (I don't start on high, as IF you have a thin bottom pot, you may burn it). The kitchen soon smells wonderful and reminds me of growing up around my mother who preserved everything! You simply cook it down until all the foam on top has simmered away. Meanwhile, your washed jars should be nice and toasty in a 200 degree oven. Using rubber gloves, get out a hot jar, a fill with simmering tomato heaven. Use paper towel and rub the rim of the jar to remove any tomato juice. Place seal and lid on and close tightly. Fill 'em all up and once you are done, unless you are amazing, you will be left with a half jar or 3/4 jar! Make soup for supper! Render some onions down in butter, add the tomatoes, some chicken stock and some milk and enjoy!

The model Organic market....

Dufferin Grove Organic Farmer's market is truly a pleasure to be a part of. The organizers and market manager strive for quality and truly organic products. Farms are visited and not much gets past this smart bunch! They organize community suppers and keep the park buzzing. It's nice to know customers by name now. Like I've told many before, the markets 're-charge' my batteries and make it easier to hit the fields the day after and do it all over again! Dufferin runs every Thursday, all year round. Visit our links section for directions on our mother site. I've included a pic of some awesome helpers we have this year!! It is impossible for Ben and I to run it alone now, so "Ben" and "Podge" are excellent additions to our crew! (yes, two 'Ben's!) This is prime harvest time and within the next few weeks, customers will begin to see the quanities on our tables change and slow A BIT! Still lots of harvest left, but get in those tomatoes while you can! Simply a crap tomato year, the crop is now on a downward spiral. Make your sauce, eat those fresh, even freeze some whole. Enjoy plentiful amounts of carrots, beets, potatoes, peppers, onions at market this week and next. Try some fall soups. I'll post some recipes shortly.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What to expect at an organic farmer's market....after a farmer's gripe..

These days for Ben and I are either spent harvesting, picking everything, grading, always "crop watch" (aka, cultivation, weeding, assessment for 'disk action' -lololol!!) planting, (yes, just a short while back Ben did some direct seeding for some fall spinach and other greens); keeping up with produce orders; making sure the government is happy with all our 'forms' regarding payroll and WSIB -Weather makes no difference, paper work must be processed on time or you get some nice fines, not to mention being certified organic and keeping constant records, -BUT this benefits US in the long run. (for example Ben and I are able to look back at our chronilogical log from Aug. 2007 and see how many tomatoes we sold and in which field and how often he cultivated and weed pressure - this is key to our future success! Certification keeps you on your toes but is noteworthly for sure!!) .... and then we get to load up and sell at the markets and deal with all of you kind folk! Thank you for being generous and understanding! I would honestly say that doing 5 markets weekly we only get a tiny handful of weird, lonely people that are insistant on hounding us, the producers of their food that feel the need to give 'a negetive comment' regarding our organic produce. I've learned to not get immediately offended and swear (which I used to do with some vigor) and instead I now calmly ignor or truly engage IF I think the person is worthwhile. Some you can tell are single folk and probably for a damn good reason, and some have truly legitimate concerns or questions and don't mean to be rude. The large majority are just plain awesome decent folk that have decided that produce shopping in a grocery store is not necessary and look to us each week for seasonal goodies direct, fresh and certified organic. I find a good place with most people now, as I think our display and the markets we sell at put people in a good mood to begin with. Before anyone opens a wallet they get to see, smell and touch the local seasons offerings. They get to see the roughed up hands of the farmers that produced it all, they can ask questions and can get true answers. We've got just a few years under our belts of some 'tried, tested and true' customers and they just keep coming back and their smiles are bigger than the years before! I encourage all who do not grow their own to venture out and buy direct. NOT just at a farmer's market, FROM A FARMER! There is alot of re-selling happening which is CRAZY during peak Ontario season! Ask and always be informed! When it comes to certified organic, we are (Pro Cert Inc.) and see no reason why a farmer who claims to be 'organic' would not want to participate with a valid 3rd party audit. It's not hard, basic requirements, costs us $500 a year, one of our most basic operating expenses - don 't ask about our fuel expenses LOLOLOLOL!! Also, 'no time to do paperwork' is a lousy excuse for not being certified in my opinion. Farming is a business, period. We will always give our customers peace of mind, not just a story of where we come from.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Celebrating 100 years.......

My home farm, the place where I grew up, and just down the road from where Ben and I farm now has been in our family for over 100 years! To mark the occassion, my parents threw a huge celebration last evening! A large pig was roasted and it seemed as if the entire community came by! My parents also celebrated a class reunion along with my little brother's 30th birthday! Mike will be the next Snively to take the reigns of the farm and lead it into the next 100 years when dad retires. I don't see that coming too soon! LOLOLOL! Ben and I along with my sisters (Jenn & Amber)and brother-in-law Reid got Mike the ultimate 30th birthday gift. Totally Jenn's idea and he LOVED it! Helicopter flying lessons!! Whoo-Hoo! Here's Amber and one happy Mikey pictured. Though Ben and I were very tired from our 17 hour saturday market day, it was a beautiful evening and a great time and three wonderful occassions to celebrate!

Fresh from our fields for the next few weeks....

Heirlooms are perking up a bit, more ripening! Still, lots of rotten in the fields, pretty sad actually, and the rain just seems to keep on coming... Carrots are now in full swing. One good thing about wet soil, the carrots are pulling up with very little effort this year! We offer a wonderfully sweet orange variety along with a fun 'rainbow' type and also one called 'purple haze'. Brutally honest? The orange have the best flavour, esp. when it comes to sweetness. The others are just plain fun and a neat way to dress up meals! We don't charge extra for the 'rainbows', so grab a bunch of each and taste test yourself! Now comes the time to sample all sorts of heirlooms! Some nice ones so far are 'black sea man', 'chocolate stripes', '1884', 'big orange stripe', 'costoluto genovese', 'thai pink egg' just to name a few! You simple grab a paper bag at our tables and 'mix and match', help yourself, so you can try them all! Our leeks have proven to be a big hit this year! A nice large bunch of 3 for $3! During yet another Thunderstorm this afternoon I sauteed some chopped leeks with our sweet onions and some shiitake mushrooms with some olive oil and butter, then added some chicken stock, chicken pieces and put all to play together in my slow cooker for a few hours. I'll throw in some pasta and voila, a nice hearty supper to get the week rolling....

It's time to make an easy Heirloom Tomato Brushetta! This is an excellent topping for rye toast, crackers or just spoon it in your mouth!! lololol! I would suggest colours for this! Use a 'pink zapotec', a 'flamme', 'black sea man' and 'green pineapple' varieties to create a very colourful brushetta! Dice up about 3 or 4 heirlooms of your choice. Add 3 to 4 generous tablespoons of olive oil. At least 2 large cloves of minced garlic (we add way more!) 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper corns, 1/2 cup chopped sweet spanish onion, and 1/2 cup good shredded cheese! We like Angelo's feta as well as his ricotta or hard cheeses! It's all good! Simply mix and let flavours fuze for a few hours...You can top your bread and broil to melt cheese and heat tomatoes, BUT I like this cold!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Hard work pays off.......

This picture of Ben cultivating our cabbage was taken yesterday (Friday) afternoon. It didn't rain yesterday, but did Thursday and we got another dump just tonight. Coming home from market downtown T.O. today we travelled with the thunderstorm. Coming through Burlington, black skys and downpour. Just on the east side of Brantford we passed a firefighters battling a hay bail blaze in the rain! We figure the pile must have got struck by lightening!

Anyhow, this is suppost to be a positive blog. Yes, our cabbage is nice this year! This is our field 103 according to my Pro-Cert records and has been carefully managed all these months. Lots of hand weeding, hoeing. Plus the fact that the bugs are not bothering the cabbage much this year! I can't find any worms, not even in the broccoli!! Potato Beetles are horrible, but those looper worms/moths are not around! Funny how it all works. What a learning experience!!

We begin our corn harvest this week! Finally, ORGANIC SWEET CORN!! For the record, a lot of conventional corn seed is chemically treated so that it can be planted into cold spring soil. We use natural, untreated seed that needs to be planted in warm spring soil, hence the reason we are only starting harvest now. It all depends completely on the weather for us. Despite the challenges with disease and weather, it is clear to see on our market tables that we are still going strong! Once again, this is because we have a diverse planting and never count on one particular crop! Enjoy the picture. Ben is really proud of this one!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Negetive: July 2008, the year it rained.....

I took these pictures this morning. This is what happens when you get too much rain. The cucumbers and melons (mostly muskmelon, not too bad with water though!) are suffering BAD with powdery mildew. (No cucumbers from us this year in quantity.) This killing spore spreads like wildfire under these rainy conditions. Also you can expect 'blight' on your tomato plants! Esp. if you have not staked them. Even if you bring the plants up off the ground, they would dry out faster, but there is still no guarantee the blight wouldn't move in. The picture is one very wet patch in our roma field. Also, after the slight hail we got along with the pounding rain and winds, alot of plants suffered damage and are weakened, and THAT is when the bugs move in. It's a BAD year for Potato Beattle. These little bastards rape your plants of all foliage. You can see a clear example on one of our late tomato plants! Bright side, no irrigation this year. Corn is happy. Late storage cabbage is doing well.

Well, brother Mike showed up on his quad, time to have a visit this Sunday morn and talk more farming.....

The Positives........

These pics were taken this morning, after the depressing 'crop damage' ones! Have to think positive! While my stepdaughter sleeps in, (she's been up early every day this past week working hard on the farm - I'm spoiling her today...) I let all the pigs loose, clean the pens, cook up potatoes for the swine & enjoy the sunny day, while I check out my crops. The forecast looks decent. Ben dug potatoes very early this morn for market tomorrow, my amigos are out there picking up the spuds and putting them in hampers to be washed and graded, then they'll cut some zucchini. They finished picking up our dug garlic yesterday while we sold in Toronto. (I will blog about Domingo and Miguel soon. These guys are wonderful...) The ducks love hanging around in my back yard under the big shade tree. The beans, (Green Beans fresh for markets this first week of August!) carrots, heirloom tomatoes & leeks are all holding their own quite well during the rain storms. We are even cutting a new broccoli patch. (not that nice, broccoli suffers in the heat...) The only problem is tomato ripeness. When they do ripen, they crack, split and go bad FAST. So I've been educating my customers to accept slightly unripe tomatoes this year and let them finish ripening on their countertop, because I cannot spoil everyone with gorgeous ripe, hard tomatoes this year. Remember folks, it was hot and dry last year......I think Ben's going to try and plant some late broccoli today, more basil too.....