Thursday, July 30, 2009

And I thought it was bad last year: 2009 The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

I had a freak this morning. Ben has been prepping me for days and I have been in total denial and can cast him a frightening evil eye any time he would mention: "tomatoes not looking too good out there". I have been afraid to look. Afraid to deal with the fact I may have toiled away for months and months all for nothing.....I sucked it up and went for a peek this morning. I can honestly say that we will not have ANY and I repeat NOT ANY field tomatoes this season. All 100 varieties of heirlooms are riddled black with blight and potato beetles. Same goes for all the romas and round slicing varieties we hoped to sell in bulk quantities this year. It was bad last year because of the rain, BUT this year the rain and cool weather started A LOT earlier, along with no sun - a breeding ground for disease and infestations. The greenhouse heirlooms are awesome BUT I do not have quantity this year, so it's going to be scant at each market. I am done my spazz. I farm, this type of thing happens - you learn to suck it up. My dad scolded me one year when I was whining. He was right, not a thing you can do about it, why stress and shit your pants? Along with the bad comes the good. We have not had to irrigate! Our onions, spelt, celery, celariac, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beets, carrots etc seem to be thriving!! Our peppers are small, but holding their own. We will weather this storm, like we do every year and carry on to deliver tomatoes another year!! I've included pictures of our beautiful onions, spelt and celeriac & celery and also my poor tomatoes and an UGLY pic of one of my heirlooms completely covered in potato beetles!! These buggers are EVERYWHERE!! It is safe to say I will only be eating Ontario greenhouse tomatoes this year, as many of my own as possible. Any field tomatoes around are bound to be sprayed all to hell....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cheesy Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

Both Saturday night and Sunday we ate Bruschetta! I kicked it up a bit this year by baking it with cheese. Very, very good!!! Sunday my sister made it with our roma tomatoes. People always assume that romas are just cooking tomatoes. No way! With meaty, thick walls they cut into excellent 'pieces', perfect for this recipe! So use regular red romas OR use our greenhouse heirlooms! I use mostly 'stuffer' type heirlooms, the ones that are accordian, ruffled shape for good pieces, then some beefy other colourful ones I used Yellow Ruffled, Pink Zapotec, Black Krim (not a ruffle, but meaty with excellent flavour!), Green Zebra (great look and flavour, but pretty juicy!) & Flamme (awesome bright orange and meaty!) and other various types like Costoluto Genovese!

Jessie's Cheesy Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta:

6-10 medium Tomatoes*
8 cloves Garlic minced* (oh yes, perhaps more, esp. if they are small cloves!!)
1 medium sweet white onion, chopped*
big handful of Basil Leafs chopped finely*
2 tbs Olive Oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbs sugar
12 or so slices light rye bread
another 2 tbs Olive Oil & 1 tbs Butter
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Chop tomatoes into small cubes. Add half the minced garlic, entire chopped onion, 2 tbs Olive Oil, salt and pepper to taste & sugar & all the basil. Mix well. Let marinate in fridge for a long time (0vernight is best, but if you only have a few hours, it will still be ok). You can give this a shot of balsamic vinegar if you want too! I left it out last time and it was fine. Pre-heat oven to 375. Place rye bread on baking sheets. Melt butter on stove top and add rest of minced garlic. Barely cook, just until you can really smell the ol' garlic! Use a generous spoon and add the garlic butter to coat each piece of rye bread. Meanwhile strain your tomato mixture. (Reserve the juice for dipping later. Your bruschetta will be soggy if you don't strain the juice.) Add a generous spoon full of tomatoes and basil mixture on each bread slice. Add a dollop of cheese on top of that. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until rye bread is toasted, cheese is bubbly. Absolute heaven! Use the left over marinate juices as a dip if desired...
(*produce we have available at markets!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

G.S.T., WSIB premiums, Source Deductions, Audits & Inspections: The Joys Of Business, advice to other farms and businesses...

I'm in the office all day today....time to break and do a blog!!
You would tend to think that busting butt in the field then grading the harvest, then traveling to Toronto to sell would be work enough, but not for our organic farm. We are a business and paperwork is part of it. There is a great sense of pride when the government calls you back after a lengthy audit and tell you: "We see no reason to make any changes to your returns. Have a great day." I experienced this a few weeks ago. Through our bank, our accountants & my computer records, the auditor spent all day going through deposits and records. I spent the day cooking a cleaning, made the best of it. Keep it straight, keep it clean - audits are a breeze. Rounding the second quarter of 2009 now, G.S.T. is due by month's end as well as Workplace Safety and Insurance Board premiums. Every transaction via the bank and on credit cards is run through "QuickbooksPro" (an awesome accounting program I highly recommend) and all usually goes smoothly. I purchased an inexpensive flash drive, my entire QB file heads to the accountant this way at year's end for review. Due the 15th of each month are payroll deductions. Also a breeze as all payroll is run through QB and calculating deductions is now a click of a button. We do pay a monthly fee to have QB updated online esp. to keep payroll up-to-date. Then the Health Board is a constant every year. You cannot run a separate home for offshore employees without an inspection and you certainly cannot sell any type of food without an inspected kitchen. We deal with a lot of government agencies. Then comes Organic Production Records. This is not a chore, rather a necessity for future success of the farm. I can sit back on a rainy July day like today and look back 3-4 years and see what we had planted, where it was planted, how much was harvested and sold. By attending to these comparisons and studying our 'profit/loss' Ben and I can see what is working and what is not and how many changes need to be made. Also, when our annual inspection comes along it makes life a lot easier to have everything ready! I must say that office work is truly the pits compared to working with our produce and selling at market. At the end of a long day doing the books I feel lazy, my body lagging from lack of actual movement. This reminds me of an investment banker that came to stay with us a for a week. He just wanted to get out of the 'office' and see what it was like to work outside! He had his hands buried in the cool soil pulling up the years first potatoes and remarked: "Boy, it would be pretty hard to be depressed out here in the fresh air". Business is hard, not something for everyone. It seems that there are soo many small businesses that try and fail by creating a generic website and pasting a picture of a professional office space they don't own and listing a home address. It's very sad in a way and you should represent yourself honestly with your own photos with any successful website and always add customer/client testimonials. I've also come across some business websites that are even referring to 'staff' in the third person, then talk about 'I' right after?? Grammer bad and shady for a professional website to say the least....however IF you have a product or service that is competitive and viable in the marketplace it just might work - like these Greenhouse Heirlooms! Our field heirlooms can't even compare to these beauties! I can't get enough of these to market and they sell in minutes. They have no shelf life, have to be picked, sold and eatten day before or day of market, therefore big chain stores won't be able to offer my types of varieties...hmmm, potential, potential.... Marketing these magnificent gems and other organic produce is certainly worth the office work! We spent a small fortune creating our website ( a few years ago. A local company with local guys just starting out, it was worth every penny, as I wanted to help their business too. It truly makes it your own to create from scratch like this! If you don't have the cash to spare, you can always try out This is a free website maker. BUT keep it simple stupid rule should apply - if you want to truly look professional, these free makers may make you come off looking 'Mikey Mouse' if you have bad grammer and are trying too hard. Start with a blog, have fun & be yourself!! Starting a farm or other business? Get familar with the government agencies and a good accounting software program, a good accountant, prepare a space to call 'office' and keep GOOD RECORDS!!! Good Luck!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

GREENHOUSE HEIRLOOMS (project greenhouse #3)

Well, if all goes well and the heirloom tomatoes continue to look and taste like they do so far, I may just only use our greenhouses to grow these magnificent gems! I swear to god growing tomatoes this way is embedded in my genes! I picture Ben's dad and my grandpa together with me while I'm working. I really think my grandpa Mike would be proud of this project. I love seeing them grow and climb and produce gorgeous tomatoes!! I have a new obsession now- pruning by removing the suckers off my plants. Like a grooming session or a 'tomato haircut' I now CANNOT just water or harvest, I have to stop and fiddle with suckering and winding the leader stem up the twine... It has now become a Sunday morning ritual and I LOVE IT! Gently hoeing then raking up suckers, then watering when I finish grooming. Great results are now following! Some pictures of Ben watering after all maintenance completed, my black/green tomato hands showing the removal of a sucker, and the ripening of many, many different kinds. I grew 100 different varieties this year that are all 'flagged' out in the field. My greenhouse planting will only yield under 200 plants and I grabbed them randomly to plant and failed to label any variety. Good practice learning what is what for sure!

Harvest kicks into full swing this week.....

This week expect more fresh dug Red Norland Potatoes, Superior White Potatoes, bunches of Sweet White Onions, fresh Beets with tops, perhaps the first of the Carrots, *Green Beans*, *Cucumbers*, field TOMATOES - some romas and round slicing are showing their pretty faces out there now!! Cherry tomatoes, some Zucchini and zuc blossoms, more Broccoli, Greenhouse and Field Heirloom Tomatoes, this year's summer Cabbages, big Basil plants with intact root (use the entire plant for pesto or quick recipes OR simply place in a vase or glass with water and let sit on your kitchen counter all week to use at your lesiure OR plant outside, pinch the main leader stem and continue to grow this gorgeous plant yourself in the garden or pot!) More gold and red Swiss Chard, summer PEAS - the sweet shelling type; fresh Herbs including parsley, margoram, sage, thyme & stevia. While grading our onions out last week I came across this little snail. Enjoying the cool weather just slugging along our onion tops, he was given a new home next to the side of the barn in the long grass. I've always thought these little critters were rather neat... Sure, the weather is cooler than usual, but as we do each year, we expect anything. Since we have lots of diversity planted, we simply harvest what is ready and wait for others....warm weather suppose to happen later this week....DO NOT ask for bulk romas or cucumbers for canning YET. There is no volume out there without the heat.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Yesterday & Today; market & farm.....

We are in full swing at the brickworks farmers market each Saturday from 8am till 1pm, along with Green Barns & Withrow Park. We have an abundance of fresh dug potatoes, broccoli, swiss chard, beets, peas, last of the strawberries, fresh basil plants, spinach & herbs. Lettuce harvest is officially over. We'll pick up with the salad greens come fall. Cucumbers should arrive next week and more greenhouse heirlooms....Just checked the fields today and it looks like our sweet onions are ready for market next week too! We also have a new helper on the farm and his name is 'Ben' too! This Ben is quickly becoming a familar face at all our weekly markets! He has lived in Cairo, Jordan and is currently living in Guatamala with his mother, and has traveled all over the globe. This student is cleaver as a whip and seems to be enjoying his time on our organic farm! The mornings are tough for both him and my stepdaughter, esp. the 4 am wake time on Saturdays!! Having loads of fun while getting work done and all learning from eachother.

Ahhh, July!

Some pictures taken just this past week! We are harvesting lots of Swiss Chard, Beets & reaping the very first harvests of my greenhouse heirlooms! They are beautiful and their taste is absolutely fabulous! Great soil, great taste!

June photos....

Greenhouse heirlooms!! Coming along nicely during the month of June! We suckered them and have them growing up on tomato twine. The clusters of tomatoes are beautiful...A quick snap of our garlic scapes sauteed with our sugar snap peas...

June farm photos...

Busy, busy times! But what an amazing time of year! I'm just going to post pictures today and quick thoughts about crop produce around here the past few weeks! Strawberries are coming to a close. A successful first year growing. 7 baby chicks born by the end of June, Big Jiggs one of my favourite barn cats doing what he does best - not much at all. And I always take time to smell my own roses....