As I've mentioned, the office is busy at this time of year! Falicia and I are busy getting folks signed up for the new season of shares. This means lots of phone calls and emails and questions, as well as the occasional tour or in-person visit.
Though the registration process is fully automated online, the work is not done once someone signs up! Falicia then take the invoice and has to enter it into Quickbooks, our accounting program. This is a lot of work, as you can see from this photo of the stack (this was two weeks ago at least, and it has increased since then!
Another thing we have been busy with is ordering seeds. This is a long process, beginning with Jon and Josh discussing which varieties and how much of everything we are going to grow next year. In a lot of cases, we already have a good variety that we like, and so it's less work from year to year than it would seem. However, there are always some new crops to consider, some things that didn't work the previous year, and some suggestions from other TapRoot team members and CSA members. My job in this whole process is to pass along any CSA member comments (grow less fennel!), and keep track of what the guys decide on our spreadsheet.
Another part of the seed ordering is needed for our organic certification, and is called a "Seed Search". When we are ordering seeds, we have to make sure that we source organic seeds whenever possible. If organic seeds are not available for a particular variety that we want to grow, then we have to show that we looked to at least 3 other sources for the organic seed. There are only a few items this year that we have not been able to buy organic: Bolero Carrots is one (they are our storage carrot, and favoured by a lot of growers), Megaton Leeks (in our experience, the superior leek- big, meaty white clubs!), and Hakurei Turnip (we tried to order an organic replacement - Tokyo Market- to see if it would be acceptable to switch too and the seed was sold out.). Though we are not starting with organically grown seed, we will grow these crops within the same standards as the rest of our organic crops and that is still deemed acceptable within the certification. We look forward to the day when all the varieties we like are available organically!
The photo is Josh and Jon this morning discussing the purchase of some growing tools we use, like row cover and black plastic mulch.
Once the seed order and the seed search is done, then I call all the companies and order the seeds we have selected. Unfortunately it is not always so black and white - occasionally companies run out of seed or it is back ordered, and there's no telling what may be short from year to year. This year we had a bit of a panic when we heard that kale seed was hard to come by. We ended up being able to source it through Vesey's, which is based out of PEI. Vesey's had people calling looking for kale seed from all over North America, but they made sure we got our requirement first as we are a local client. We returned the favour and tried to order as much of our seed as possible through them this year (also to avoid the poor exchange rate, making american companies seeds more expensive for us this season). So, you can see there is some degree of community in everything that we do!
I post a lot of photos to our facebook page, but they don't always make it up to the blog. I think part of having a blog is apologizing for not posting enough, so I will save you that right now and just post these nice photos that you can look at, and think warm thoughts about!
Above all, the people are what stand out of my apprenticeship at TapRoot Farms. The vegetables were delicious, the piglets were adorable, the Annapolis Valley is still stunningly and rolling hill-ingly beautiful, but... it's individuals I've met who have made the biggest impact on me throughout these 193 days of my Grow a Farmer apprenticeship.
The most amazing thing I've found, in any of my apprenticeships or agricultural research jobs over the years, is the way that organic farmers encourage, support, and educate each other. The experiences I've had working for people like Josh and Trish are only made possible by the effort farmers make to welcome and to teach youngsters like me about what they do, and why they do it. The way that the TapRoot team has brought Chris and me into this community and eagerly shown us what they know and love, and what they question and struggle with, has been an amazing half a year in the interconnected world of Nova Scotia agriculture, with the people who keep it going.
That also extends to you, the members! It's been lovely meeting some of you between here and Halifax, learning about why you're interested in your food and the people who bring it to you. Even those of you I haven't met, whose names I only recognize from getting your add-ons, or sorting your meat shares, or just because you have interesting or unpronounceable names (no offense, of course), I feel like I've gotten to know you too. I've gotten a glimpse into what you like and don't like and the things you think are important, and imagined what kinds of things you're cooking with your friends and families.
Working and eating in a local, organic agricultural system is a surprisingly intimate way to engage with our food and each other. Many thanks to all of you out there, inspiring me by paying attention, by affecting socio-economic and environmental changes through what you eat. Thanks to all of the large and lovely team at TapRoot, being patient and kind, knowledgeable and fun. And thanks, of course, to Chris, my new friend and fellow explorer in these agricultural escapades.
Just a quick note here from the meat shares. Last share and this one coming up, some members will be getting whats marked as ham steaks, up till now you've been getting pork shoulder steaks and fresh ham steaks. We were not getting the hams smoked so we would have enough of the same, or very similar, steaks to give to all the members. But, it's always good to keep things fresh and different and so I've started to get the hams smoked then cut into steaks. These are fully cooked and good to just thaw and cut for sandwiches or whatever else you would to do with ham. They are also excellent thawed then put into a baking dish and roasted in the oven. I usually make a mixture of grainy mustard, maple syrup, a little cider vinegar, salt and pepper, and pour that over top. Like I said it's already cooked so you really just need to heat it through and let the sauce cook down a bit.
I hope you are enjoy the pork, the pigs are doing very well here at the farm, and we are so delighted to provide you with farm fresh meats!
Project mush mush hasn't been as active as I would like it to be. Mostly because I procrastinate when I can. I have been making cardboard spawn and have quite a few pounds of it, maybe 50lbs or more so really all I have to do is pasteurize some straw and inoculate it with the cardboard spawn. Simple right, however I still don't like the idea of using so much fossil fuel to heat up and pasteurize the straw plus I'm likely to burn myself and it costs more money for propane and I'm poor. Therefore I was excited when I heard about cold pastuerization. Takes longer but doesn't require heat. You simply submerge straw in water for 4-12 days drain and inoculate. Pretty sweet eh. The combination of cardboard spawn and cold pasteurization puts mushroom cultivation into the hands of anyone. So next week on my vacation I'm going to inoculate some cold pasteurized straw with carboard spawn. I'm almost more than confident this low tech sustainable method will work because guess who had some mushrooms fruit off cardboard in buckets over monsoon Tuesday? That's right, this guy. 0.34 lbs. I got mushrooms to fruit off of old cardboard. Pretty neat eh!!
Please forgive any spelling or grammar mistakes. I'm using my phone to make this blog post and can't spell check :p