Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sorry folks, No bulk Romas this year!

I hope you've been keeping up with our farm's progress on Instagram, facebook and twitter! I've seriously not kept up with my poor blog. Life is just too busy for everything. I'm getting all the lovely emails about our romas, so unfortunately here's the news:
We won't have our bulk organic romas for sauce this year.
Sorry folks, there is late blight out in the patch and though the romas don't look too bad its too risky to start taking orders and packing boxes.  We know there are a lot of you out there that understand how to cut some rot off your tomatoes and the odd spot but unfortunately there are some really picky folks who need close to perfection and I just can't bother with the complaints.  So, unfortunately there are a few out there that ruin it for the majority.  What we will do is pack into our baskets and sell at market. For those that need sauce you will probably be able to score 5 baskets which is 25lbs, which is half a bushel. Which happens to be a case amount. We know our regulars and folks that have been good to us over the years, esp understanding growing organic tomatoes can be a real challenge, so we will try and do what we can. The roma patch is a great hybrid variety that is holding it's own and the tomatoes so far are pretty nice, but we know it won't last.  We will harvest as many as we can.  We took a few case orders for WestEnd Food Coop that we had planned for months, but that is it.  We have cut off all other orders. (Check out the picture of the field.  The greener tomatoes are the roma, but when it's this bad we know that the first time the guys go through to pick it will spread everywhere.)
It's always a bit depressing to drive around our community and see gorgeous green fields of tomatoes and watch ours die.  BUT we are not spraying fungicides or ripeners, so we simply have to let it go. We are fortunate to have tomatoes last year, year before.  The weather with all the wet conditions this year have a lot to do with local organic crop failures.  We choose not to control everything. We will be lucky to break even on the tomatoes this year, but for us it's not worth profiting off tomatoes that have been stabilized with chemicals of all sorts.  
We have beautiful watermelons and other crops this year! We know we will have successes and failures so that is why we never bank on one crop and grow a diverse lot and hope for the best.  Watermelons and all our cabbages, cauliflower look great! We had a very weak spring, slow summer but we are hoping to bring it on strong for a great fall harvest! I know, I know, our instagram is loaded with gorgeous pictures - but we are proud and I don't like to whine about problems and failures and instead try and concentrate on the positives.  There is a great investment and risk that goes into all we do and there are many days we look around at how others operate/make their living and how much easier it would be. We simply love what we do. With Ben kicking ass in the fields, nose to the ground (why you don't see him at market much) he's able to grow some amazing stuff that has given us our loyal customers over the years. .  
This market picture was taken last week.  I'm proud of this awesome display!  And we will continue to bring on the goods year after year.  Be it tomatoes one year or cabbage the next - we'll always have something good to share! Thanks for understanding!


Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Land!

Looking across our field at our neighbours barn peaking through.

 We are pretty stoked for 2017!  We have a new opportunity to transition another 30 acres into organic. And this opportunity is right next door.  The Jopko family has graciously rented us a most unique property comprised of 5 small fields with very good buffer zones. By the summer of 2019 we will be able to pull organic veggies from this newly replenished soil. It takes a total of 36 months after the last application of prohibited substances to have the crops certified organic. The past farmer (whom I will get to fill out a prior land use affidavit with all information including past substance use.) grew conventional cabbage then corn and soybeans for quite a few years, so we have some work to do. During the next few growing seasons we will be cultivating green manures on this land, minimal grain crops that will be sold conventional/transitional, and soil testing will be done. We'll do the best we can to leach the unwanted out and add in the good stuff. Build ‘er back up and put this land into our rotation. The goal will NOT be to max out the land and grow tons more veg. The volume of veggies produced will increase slightly, but our rotation and the health of our own farm land will be improved. We will proudly still be farming just under 100 acres. The vegetable portion of the farm will rise to no more than 25-35 acres per year which is the majority of all our income.  We've been able to pay our mortgage, mass debt down and remain alive and kicking without supplementing our income with any off farm jobs growing on that small acreage. As Ben says about our land and opportunity here: “we haven’t even scratched the surface”…

I wanted to learn the history of this quaint family farm we've lived next too for so long that I had the Jopko family over for dinner to hear their farms story. I’m sure glad I did. The landowner Anton Jopko has lived his entire life on the home farm. His father Michael was born in 1906 and in the spring of 1930 at the ripe age of 24 purchased the farm. By the fall of 1930 he married Anton’s mother Irene. Anton was born in 1944. That same year of Anton’s birth the original farm house burned down. A new home was built that same year and stands today. Mike and Irene grew strawberries and raspberries and lots of tomatoes. The tomatoes were delivered in hampers to the old cannery in Simcoe in their two ton truck. Anton also said they did local door to door strawberry and raspberry delivery sales which I think is just awesome. In 1950 they introduced dairy cattle to the farm. Anton and his father  built other barns and sheds on the property together.  By the time 1963 rolled around, they stopped milking cows as Anton left for University. The family continued to farm and Anton was always still very active on the farm as well.  In 1967 they put up their first corn crib and a second one in 1970. Anton and his wife Carolyn raised twin sons Adam and Brandon and daughter Erin during the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's on the home farm. Anton continued to farm well into the 1990's after his parents passed on. Along with farming, Anton had a part time job for 35 years as a professor teaching physics and math to first and second year engineering students at McMaster in Hamilton. It was important to them to raise their kids on the farm and he explained that for them, his job at McMaster enabled them to be able to do it.  They are known for their large vegetable gardens they have grown over the years.  When I asked Anton what he thought about us renting the farm to grow organically he said:
"We are glad you will be growing organic vegetables here because it is environmentally friendly with less use of pesticides"
And we couldn't be happier for the opportunity to have use of this land next door.  It's a complete win win for both families.  And with fields of organic vegetables surrounding them - they don't have to worry much about growing that large vegetable garden anymore! So welcome 2017, new year, new land - let's fire up that soil and get growin'!
Ben and neighbour Anton looking at a land atlas of our farms from 1877!