Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We Are Gourd Enthusiasts

So I have to make a confession. We planted WAY too much squash in our first year. So much that some of it has ended up in a compost pile. I know...I know. It's embarrassing, especially when we know that there are people who would want and need it. Anyways, what's done is done for this season and we will smarten up next year, I promise.

To be honest with you I didn't know all that much about winter squash this spring when we were planning what to plant. Gourds, to me, were somewhat mysterious vegetables that pop up for awhile at the grocery store in the fall and mostly old people ate them. The only winter squashes I think that I have ever eaten were spaghetti squashes, which my mom forced on us as an alternative to pasta when she went through a Suzanne Sommers diet phase, and butternut squash, which I liked mostly because I imagined they tasted like butter.

So this year turned out to be a big squash experiment. It turns out that one squash plant produces A LOT of squash. And you can imagine what that translates to when you plant over 1000 square feet of winter squash. Although we did our best to sell, give away, pawn off, and eat all the squash we had, we just couldn't get it off the field in time.

Needless to say, next year our strategy for squash will be much different. For one thing we certainly won't plant as much. I am thinking one or two 100' rows per variety.

I have also been trying my hand at saving seed and collecting some different and unusual varieties of squash that will look beautiful on the market table. Thanks to my partner Bryce, who found this awesome little farm stand in Richmond, we have managed to collect Red Kuris, Shamrocks, Carnivals, Delicatas, Cinderella pumpkins and these gourds that when dried have a hard shell and are good for crafts.

This is certainly a tasty way to acquire seeds as we are eating our way through each squash and saving the seeds as we go. My favorite so far is the Delicata squash which tastes similar to a sweet potato when roasted and has a thin skin that you can eat.

The other awesome thing you can do with all winter squashes (not just pumpkins) is roast the seeds with a bit of salt and eat them. We have gotten really into this around the house lately, so much so, that Bryce made us take home a bunch of orphan pumpkins from the farm last weekend just so he can keep eating seeds throughout the winter.

If any of you happen to get your hands on some leftover pumpkins or end up buying any winter squashes I highly suggest you save the seeds and eat them! I soak mine in a salty brine overnight and then roast them on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes or so at 250 F. Delicious.

So it turns out that there is more to winter squash then we thought. Live and learn. Next year we will aim for less volume and more diversity. Hopefully by then more people will catch our gourd fever and give this awesome winter vegetable a chance.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Giving thanks #2

We had our wrap up dinner for the 2009 growing season last weekend at Jamie's home. Our families, who have all helped us out a lot, and ourselves celebrated with a delicious menu that very closely resembled Thanksgiving dinner #2 (and dinner #1 for Hannah and Dutch, our US counterparts).

-a local turkey from a friend/farmer, skeeter farm butternut squash soup, skeeter farm delicious indian spinach, sweet potatoes (not from skeeter farm because we ate all of them already), stuffing, cranberry sauce etc etc and a chocolate zucchini ganache cake. The cake was one that I made many times throughout our growing period this summer and its definitely the most delicious way to eat zucchini that I have found. I felt pretty silly going to the grocery store to buy zucchini just so I could make it for this dinner considering the ridiculous quantities of zucchinis we had just a couple of months ago. Cake recipe here - try it next year when we start pawning off our squashes on you.

We certainly have a lot to be thankful for this year including success growing vegetables and flowers that most of us hadn't tried before. Our only crop that failed to produce was Okra (although we got some beautiful flowers), some crops had mixed results, but overall we were pleasantly surprised with our growing abilities.

Another thing to be proud of and thankful for is the financial success of our business. In our first year of business start up, we have almost broken even. We have done our best to keep our costs low, but still needed to invest in some critical infrastructure for the site including irrigation, hand tools, site clearing and preparation, etc. I think we were surprised at the amount of revenue we were able to pull from the field this year, and we certainly think that we will be in the black next year with the combination of enhanced growing and marketing techniques as well as reduced capital expenditures.

We are also very thankful for the amount of community support that we have received this year, from customers, farmers, and other community members alike. Most recently, the BC Healthy Living Alliance recognized Skeeter Farm by awarding us an Innovative Community Capacity Building Award. The award, which speaks to our efforts in trying to support and encourage new farmers just like ourselves, came with a financial award which will be put to good use in building up the infrastructure on the site. We are hoping to purchase a used hoop house which will allow us to extend our growing season, plant a wider range of crops, start some transplants and allow us to properly cure some vegetables like winter squash and garlic.

It is pretty clear that "wrapping up" one season just means that it is time to start planning and working on the next. This last week we put our heads together to work on planning for the 2010 growing season.

We have decided that it make sense to assign each farmer a lead on certain farm tasks so that we aren't all expected to be working on everything all at the same time. Some of the categories for leads that we came up with are: business management, marketing, communications, site maintenance, vegetable planning and field work, as well as value-added processing and events/outreach (the latter two categories would be a new area for us). It has become clear that the three of us won't be able to tackle everything that we want to see happen at Skeeter Farm and so we have made the decision to start looking for a fourth business partner for the next growing season. Stay tuned as we will probably have more to say about that in the near future.

There are many things that need to be accomplished between now and the start of the next growing season including: writing a business plan (we were just winging it for the first year), planning for our CSA program which we will be introducing in 2010, planning crops and making our seed order, revamping our market booth, creating new communications materials, hopefully conning someone into making us a website, and working on securing some equipment and more infrastructure for the site. I don't think we are going to twiddling our green thumbs too much this winter!

Hopefully we can continue to update readers about what is going on during our offseason but if you are curious, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us at skeeterfarm (at)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Creative Work With Vegetables

Some of the results of our first pumpkin patch! Submitted by some of our more creative customers...