Salad kale!


[From 10-Sep-2013] Salad kale! Tiny, tender leaves, it’s our finest kale!! Production is simple: fast-growing Red Russian flat leaf kale is direct seeded, plants tightly crowded in-row, restricting growth and producing an abundance of baby leaves that keep coming back, week after week. I’ll try tightly seeding some other varieties, though I don’t expect they’ll do nearly as well, they don’t grow fast enough to make repeated harvests practical. We still transplant Red Russian and other kale varieties at our standard 18″ spacing, but end up taking more and more of this small stuff every week (first tried this direct seeding approach last fall). Calling it “salad kale” was kinda tongue-in-cheek (I think Ashley came up with it, or maybe it was me), some tiny farm marketing action that also happens to totally fit!

Winter market: third week!

Winter farmers' market: third week!

Third week of our first winter farmers’ market and it’s going great. So far, the weather hasn’t been bad, so it doesn’t seem entirely radical to have freshly harvested greens and carrots this late in the season, but it’s still quite a novelty at our market. One other small farm is doing the same season extension stuff for the first time this year, which is cool, it makes the idea of fresh, local food well past the usual outdoor season seem…doable. Which it obviously is. After the last few years of ending the market, outdoors, on the last Saturday of October, being up and running this late in the year feels excellent, and going till Christmas will be fun. Only downside of being indoors here is the rather ghastly lighting, but like most things, you get used to it, and warm is good. On the stand today (and almost sold out by mid-morning): carrots (Nelson), spinach (Bloomsdale), mizuna, mustard, arugula, everything harvested yesterday.

First seed catalog of the year!

First seed catalog to arrive

Well ahead of the pack, Veseys takes first new seed catalog of the year. They’re a pretty marketing-oriented company, they get their stuff out early—this actually arrived a while ago, but I only got my hands on it now! Which is fine by me. I haven’t been this, well, EXCITED with that new-catalog feeling in a couple of years. That’s good. There is a lot of proper, well-ahead-of-time planning to do, expectations for 2012 run high! Whatever the weather!!

Eat good food

"Eat good food" sign

We’ve been faithfully bringing the matching pair of chalkboards to the farmers’ market since we bought them at an office supply box store in mid-summer, but it’s what to put on ’em that’s the puzzle. Today’s new message: “Eat good food”! The other one (out of sight on the left) has been a standing quote from Will Allen: “We need 50 million more people growing food, on porches, in pots, in side yards.” A little odd, perhaps, for the market? Maybe, but there they are. Promotional words on chalkboards is the plan. It’s a work in progress!

First day at the new farmers’ market

Our space at the farmers' market

Here’s our so-far-unoccupied space at the new farmers’ market… This photo was accidental, clicked while checking some camera setting or the other. But when I saw it on the computer, it reminded me of the totally transient nature of farmers’ markets (and tiny farming in general!). Here we are, standing in a rectangle of asphalt marked out by some yellow lines, a PARKING SPACE, that transforms for a few hours into our little veggie emporium. All of the intention and energy of the tiny farm, concentrated…RIGHT HERE?! In a giant parking lot. Kinda weird… Life is what you make it, I guess! And I do love going to market! :)

Showed up at the 7am start of summer market opening day, to make an appearance, check things out (like, our new spot!), meet some of the other vendors, buy some food. Tara will also be here every Saturday, plus others when they can, but for the next couple of weeks at least, we won’t be setting up, and some veggie vendors won’t be here till June.

This market is at least 4-5 times bigger than the one we attended at the old farm. It’ll be a big change, with more small-scale organic growers offering similar veggie selections, and also way more people, but none of the familiar faces I’ve gotten to know, in many cases over 5-6 years. That last part is sad, but overall, it’s exciting.

Our stall is in a central spot—the empty space beside the round, yellow “honey” sign (below)—which seems good. Upfront in the photo is an array of unseasonably available produce—nice sweet peppers for early May!—from one of the several larger vendors who presumably buy at least part of their menu where the supermarkets do: a local food issue that’s concerning, but doesn’t upset or anger me the way it does some—everything tends to shake out…

We’re located beside another tiny farm, and I chatted with neighbor Anna about whether that might be a plus or not, if people have to choose from similar things on both stands. We’ll see, but it sounds to me like more choice, MORE FUN, and from what I’ve heard so far, all the small growers usually sell out by the end of the morning anyway. I bought some wild leek from our neighbors, a bag of great mixed baby greens from another aisle, an excellent bag of mixed sprouts…there’s lots to buy at the market when you’re not tied to your own veggie stand!

So, in its own exploratory way, our new season at the new farmers’ market begins…!!

Summer farmers' market: Day 1

Organic certification…

Organic certification application

While Obama gets sworn in before the eyes of the world (mine included, on a one-day return to the news), I’m contemplating the stack of paper that leads to organic certification. No connection, today just happened to feel like the day to do it…

We’ve been discussing for a while whether to certify the new farm. The old farm has been certified for six years, right from the start. Back then, I did it because it seemed like the thing to do. Right now, I’m a lot less certain of its value to the truly tiny farm.

In the end, if you’re providing organically-grown local food directly to real, live people—field-to-fork, face-to-face—why would you need a whole bureaucracy and set of regulations and a CERTIFICATE, to assure folks of what they can see for themselves by visiting the farm in person?

If only the world were that simple and straightforward.

We’re getting certified because possessing the right paper does have its advantages, it’s a way to show you are what you say you are, to people who don’t know you first-hand… It may come in handy! That’s our reason for now.

Organic certification paperwork

So it’s filling out time. The main application is 25 pages, and there are a couple of extra forms and lists to include.

Some questions are multiple choice, others are open-ended, and while there are no real “right” answers, well, answers either do or do not comply with the organic production rules. And that makes a difference.

The actual production standard is pretty cool, it covers every aspect of organic growing and marketing in great detail—being able to fill out the application means you’ve gotta know something! :)

The binder is full of previous applications and responses, inspector’s reports, the 60 pages or so of the Canadian organic standard, the US organic standard, in case we want to certify to that, too, they’re both pretty much the same, and various bulletins and notices. Lots of paper.

Anyhow, here’s to getting it done and in the mail!

(PS: I do like the grassroots, no-cost, farmer-to-farmer Certified Naturally Grown program, which we started also certifying with last season and will continue to participate in! I donated $100 for 2008, and also bought some signage and stickers. Organic certification costs about $400-500 a year for a tiny farm in Canada.)

Your veg is in the mail


In comparison with just about everything else, tiny farming is so…basic. A friend sent me a link to Graze with the only comment: “Remember our chat about healthy food + convenience?” So I clicked it. I don’t know what to say. After reading through the site, I was kinda, literally, almost speechless—the service is summed up in the home page snapshot above: Graze mails healthy snacks to you at work. The UK business is based on the British National Health Service’s 5-a-day campaign that says you should eat five servings of fruit and veggies daily. Graze aims to help.

This is seamlessly intense green marketing. Every base is covered. Probably my favorite piece on the whole site is their description of how precisely-sized servings are shipped to you: 

Our box is thin, strong & uses the least material possible. What’s more, it’s from a sustainable forest, biodegradable & 100% recyclable. We source our food locally wherever possible, and prepare everything in our own kitchen, keeping food miles to a minimum. We hate waste so we buy all our fresh produce on the day we send it, and any leftovers go to our local farm. And best of all, the postman delivers it, so we don’t need any vans or energy guzzling shops. We are always seeking ways to be even greener.

Fascinating! Puts direct-to-market tiny farming well in perspective! :)

Graze veggie selection