Monday, August 24, 2009

Breaking down the veggie box

When I moved from Seattle to Vancouver almost 3 years ago, I was amazed by the strength of the local food movement and shocked by the lack of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms.

Those of you that are unfamiliar with the CSA concept should definitely check out this wikipedia page: In brief, eaters pay one lump sum for a share of veggies/fruit/meat/eggs/etc. that they then receive regularly during the growing season. CSAs are great for eaters because they provide an easy way for folks to get all of their fruit, veggie (and sometimes meat) needs met by a local farm that they become an integral part of. CSAs are great for farmers because they have a guaranteed income that they receive at the beginning of the season. The idea is that eaters help farmers shoulder risk and benefit accordingly- when the harvest is bountiful the weekly share is gigantic, when the harvest is slim or a crop fails, the weekly share is smaller.

Back in Seattle, it took me awhile to convince my partner Dutch that we should get a CSA share at Growing Things Farm ( But once we did, there was no going back- we both loved it and it totally changed the way we ate. The Seattle area has dozens of CSA farms and there is a fair amount of diversity among them. Some do home delivery, some leave shares at designated drop-off spots (often at farmer's markets), and some require that customers pick up at the farm. Prices and box sizes also vary. However, one thing is constant: farmers are paid directly by thier customers.

After arriving in Vancouver, we were frustrated to learn that there were very few CSA farms and that most foodies got their vegetables through a few delivery companies that act as middle men between farmers and eaters. Dutch and I tried a few of these services and even found one that we liked, but they all paled in comparison to our CSA.

I am very proud to say that many friends in Vancouver have begun putting a hold on thier delivery service to receive a weekly veggie box from Skeeter Farm. Yay!

Of course, we didn't feel comfortable running a full-blown CSA this year at Skeeter Farm. The long and the short of it is that we had no idea how many veggies we would actually be able to grow. But the demand for our weekly veggie boxes is growing and it may make sense for us to head towards a full-meal-deal CSA next year...Regardless of what path we take at Skeeter, I am very happy to be familiarizing people in the Lower Mainland with the concept of making a committment to paying farmers directly for their produce throughout the season.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Someone close to me, who is also receiving one of our weekly harvest boxes, said to me the other day "Amy, I don't know if I can keep up with this veggie marathon..." I took slight offense of course, and told them that it the harvest boxes are optional and you shouldn't feel socially obligated to buy what we're growing. Despite saying this, I know that they probably still do feel socially obligated and they will likely keep on trucking, trying to consume $20 worth of our veggies a week.

This got me thinking about this whole eating local thing which has become quite trendy as of late. This time of year is, quite literally, a veggie marathon. We do have the ability to produce year round here with climate and technology being the way that it is. But right now, we are at the peak of our growing season and the veggies are aplenty.

Folks who have/are making the decision to eat locally are signing up for more than just the enjoyment of good, fresh food; they are signing up for a lifestyle change. When choosing to eat locally, for the most part, you cant go to your local Safeway and pick up your habitual grocery list that results in the same 7 dinners each week. You probably can't pick up a recipe book, and pick out whatever sounds delicious, regardless of time of year.

Eating locally requires creativity: you need to work with what you can get, what is fresh from your local farms. It requires the forgotten art of real cooking. To eat locally you need to know how to serve up an ever changing roster of seasonal ingredients. You must be fearless in trying out a plethora of new dishes in order to make use of what its produced around you and to rely less on the "normal" foods shipped in from around the world. And, until more restaurants catch on, you probably need to eat at home a whole lot more.

We live in the middle of a breadbasket where we produce an amazing diversity of delicious and healthy foods. What would happen if each person put themselves up to the challenge and made the lifestyle change necessary to eat what is grown and produced around us, supported our local farmers and reduced our impact on other people and places?

I want to give a big thanks to my friends Colleen and Will who, since choosing to receive a weekly box of veggies from us, have managed to slip Skeeter Farm veggies into each and every meal they are eating at home. They are truly inspirational. Swiss Chard for breakfast anyone?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

First Market Day

Here we are at our very first time at the Abbotsford Farmers Market. We had a great time! Sincere thanks to those of you who came out to support us.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Finally...we get to eat!

It's always somehow amazing when you actually grow a vegetable that you haven't managed or tried to grow before. If you have gardened you may know the feeling when that cabbage head finally starts to form and you realize that might just get to eat that large cabbage plant that has been occupying space for some months, or when that scraggly transplant that you neglected to water for too long manages to set its roots and take off by some miracle of the plant gods.

I have had that same feeling with almost everything that we have managed to grow out at Skeeter Farm. We pulled out a beet a couple of days ago to check it for cankers and holes. I wasn't expecting much considering that we knew our soil was Boron deficient and we applied the nutrient late in the plant's life. Man was I wrong. It was...beautiful. I might even have to eat it (N.B. beets are my least favourite veggie).

Beets and more from Skeeter Farm this Saturday morning at the Abbotsford Farmers Market in downtown Abby. Come check us out!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's a farm, not a garden!

Amy and I should confess that one significant advantage we have is working at an agricultural agency. This has given us the opportunity to share our ideas and problems with a large group of people that are very knowledgeable about agriculture. However, many of our co-workers work with big farms. I think that might be the reason that some of them (you know who you are!) have gotten into the habit of referring to our farm as a garden...

The other night I was out late at the farm wrestling with our irrigation pump, which was acting up. I showed up at work the next morning sun burnt and covered in mosquito bites. A co-worker came up to me and asked, "how is your little garden doing?". It took all of my will power to smile politely and explain that we are calling it a farm out of respect for ourselves and each other.

Now, we know they mean well and I realize that our farm is pretty small in the whole scheme of things. But, we are definitely a farm- this year we have two cultivated acres of vegetables that we are selling!

There are some amazing days out there, with beautiful birds circling overhead, little seedlings looking healthy, clouds rolling over the mountains and everything seems easy. Then there are days where it feels like everything goes wrong and nothing gets done. I love talking about both types of days and in fact, we rely heavily on feedback and input from others. Just don't ask us how the garden is doing!