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.