193 days (April 22nd to November 1st, 2013)
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.
On to the next agrarian adventures!
So long for now,
I wanted to share this recipe with the folks at Taproot Farms. I have eaten Bok Choy every which way but this recipe we ate tonight was sooooo good I had to share it. Here it is;
BOK CHOY SALAD
1 bunch of Bok Choy
1 medium Leek
1 bunch of Green Onion
3 cloves of Garlic.
Chop & assemble then set aside.
Saute in a pan
2 tbsp oil
2 pks. of Ramen Noodles crushed (any brand really)
1/2 c slivered Almonds
This will be crunchy.
1/2 c Oil
1/3 c Sugar
1/4 c Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tbsp Soya sauce
Boil for 1 min. then let cool.
Stir & pour over assembled Salad just before serving.
Here is a recipe for a sauce I made! I'm not a big fan of fennel, but this recipe might change my mind!
Red Wine Tomato Fennel Sauce
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1 bulb of fennel, cored and diced
-1 onion, diced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 cup red wine
-1 can diced tomatoes
-1/2 tsp fresh or dried thyme
-Salt & pepper
Preheat a large saucepan on medium heat. When pan is hot, add olive oil. Add onion and fennel and sauté until lightly browned and soft. Add garlic and sauté until browned and fragrant. Add red wine and deglaze pan. Add tomatoes and simmer until sauce is thickened, approx 30 minutes. When thickened to desired consistency add thyme, puree with emulsion blender, or cool and puree in blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
How shares are made
Your box of vegetables has quite a history.
I hope to explain how we make your vegetable shares at TapRoot Farms. In some ways a box of various vegetables can seem like a simple thing, but it is not. Before I describe our share making process I first need to acknowledge the planning, seed purchasing, land preparation, seeding, transplanting, weeding, watering, harvesting and overall general effort it takes to grow vegetables (particularly on such a large scale). Your boxes of vegetables are not just quietly assembled. A tremendous amount of planning and work began years ago and continues to evolve.
We make vegetable shares three days a week. Our goal is to give you the freshest possible box. When I say “we” I am referring to a whole team of people who harvest and prepare all the items for your box. Farm staff prepare and assemble enough produce to make shares, with fresh items from both farm locations. Sometimes mornings are a bit of a panic but we always seem to get everything prepared. Tubs, trays, pallets and bins of vegetables are carried by hand or brought by forklift to our assembly area. It is indeed, an assembly line, but super effective.
Another critical element of the “we” I mentioned earlier is our amazing team from Applewicks. They join us on Mondays and Wednesdays for our busiest share making days. There are a lot of things I enjoy about the farm, but the hours we spend together making shares is my favourite. The task is large each day, but the teamwork and constant conversation always make it feel less like work. I tend to talk a lot, but my chatter always takes a backseat when Trish joins us from Applewicks.
For a year we have been flirting with the idea of listening to a radio while we all work, but always forget about it once we start talking. We talk about food, a lot. Many of the people involved in making shares receive a box as part of the CSA. We share your experience of receiving and opening the weekly box of mixed vegetables. We often comment on how great the boxes look when full. I have said, “This is the best box so far” as least six times this year.
I usually prepare the empty boxes in advance. This gives the team a bit of time to choose our tasks for the day. We chat and work steadily as boxes follow the line and have things added. Shares are stacked on pallets for immediate delivery or immediate refrigeration.
Monday morning and afternoon we assemble about 260 shares, 240 on Wednesday, and I assemble about 65 more at the end of the week for our Saturday members. While this is happening, fruit shares are being picked up from Noggins Corner Farm, eggs are being washed, meat shares are being assembled, and staple shares and flowers are prepared and added to a list of purchased add-ons we collect and manage to fit into a vehicle.
Mistakes are made despite our vigilance. I figure there are three possible explanations for why something in your box might be deemed a “Bad Apple.” See our policy!
A judgement error. Things good enough for one person may not be acceptable for another. We all look at the value in a vegetable differently.
An issue with the produce itself (my turnip from a couple of weeks ago also went off pretty quickly). Luckily this rarely happens.
A regrettable mistake.
Sometimes knowing some of the math involved in share making helps put things in perspective. Things are counted by the hundreds and even thousands. For example, this past week included about 560 heads of lettuce, bunches of cilantro, kohlrabi, green peppers, squash, pints and quarts of tomatoes, bags of basil, 1500 roma tomatoes, 1500 green onions, and over 2000 ears of corn and jalapeno peppers. Next week will be completely different, but still impressive.
I receive my veggie share on Wednesdays. And even though I have seen everything in almost every box and have lifted thousands of pounds of them, I still come home and dig into mine immediately. I hope many of you look forward to receiving your share as much as I do.