Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice!

This is arguably one of my favorite days of the year...It's all downhill from here. At least thats my feeling on this first day of winter. Excited for the days to get longer and in just a couple of months to have the first seeds of 2011 germinating.

Also exciting on this first day of winter is my dinner. Which is cooking right now - kale (in chip form of course) and brussels sprouts from Skeeter Farm. I'll probably add some cookies and other holiday treats to the veggies to make it a well rounded dinner, but I sure am happy to still be eating the vegetables of our labour this late in the year!

Third exciting thing of the day: Amanda and I had a monumental meeting this morning where we signed on as partners together going forward. It's a good feeling to make things "official"...but also seems so formal for something as natural and organic as growing good food together.

Fourth and final exciting thing - check out the view across the road from the new farm...pretty sweet!

Happy Holidays folks! Hope you all have a delicious meal with good people in the next week in honor whatever you might be celebrating!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Farmer Tans 2011 Calendar

If you are in need of a calendar for 2011 (which is fast approaching), look no further! The Rainbow Chard Collective (based on Vancouver Island and around BC) has come up with this great little diddy that features local, young farmers in their birthday suits. The calendar is packed with racy photography, recipes, farmy quotes and days such as "Spank a Farmer With Fresh Garlic Day" which happens to fall on June 9th. What's even better about this calendar is that the proceeds go towards the actions of the Collective including supporting new farmers' quest for land and other important issues.

I picked up mine online last week, and got it hand delivered a day later. Order here http://Rainbowchard.yolasite.com/ for a year of eye candy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

We're Moving!

It's been awhile since I wrote a blog post, which is a common theme on farm blogs near the end of the season I have been noticing. Things are pretty frozen out at the farm, I have mostly been concentrating on school work and we all have been recouping after the season.

We do, however, need to get our butts in gear to get ready for 2011 as there is much work to do and some big changes happening! One big thing is that Skeeter Farm will be moving from the property in Abbotsford to land leased from Fraser Valley Duck and Goose in Yarrow. The move will take us about 10 minutes East of where we are currently located, into Chilliwack. Moving to FVDG is a positive thing in many regards including: having access to many handy things available on a large farm operation (like tractors and electricity!), lovely compost produced on farm, secure storage and more people around to make sure we're okay, joint marketing opportunities, NO MOSQUITOS, and likely many other benefits that will come out in the wash.

Some folks have been asking about how exactly one would move a farm....no, we won't be digging up vegetables and moving them. We will just be planting in another location next year. We will also have to set up some infrastructure like irrigation and the hoophouse (looking for a used hoophouse again one if anyone knows of one) again at the new site. All of this means lots of work, and we will likely be calling on friends for some volunteer parties in the spring.
 A little sentimental about the end of a great two years at the old farm

Freshly turned soil and new opportunities in Yarrow

The other big thing that is happening is that ownership of the business is changing. Hannah and Jamie are leaving Skeeter Farm to pursue other things for the time being and Amanda who was our "intern" for 2010 will be joining me as a business partner going forward. Both Hannah and Jamie expect to be farming in the future which will make for exciting opportunities for collaboration. I am also really excited that Amanda didn't get scared off in her first year and wants to take a bigger role in Skeeter Farm.

Despite major changes and a couple of less people on the farm, we will still be continuing the CSA program as well as some farmers markets (with some changes as will be revealed as we work through the details). We will also continue to grow without any synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides/herbicides in this new location.

More about the move and changes to our operation as we evolve. CSA information for next year will be sent out early in the New Year. For now, happy December everyone...Stay warm!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's That Time of Year

See the leaves whirling around on the streets, the frost on your windshield, feel the shiver in the morning? Winter is on its way. I thought that after this summer it would be a rough adjustment, spending days in the hot sun, but so far this winter has been great. Granted, heirloom tomatoes are done, sweet green peas are no more, but wow do we have some great veggies to look forward to! This summer was a great lesson for me in terms of the personal responsibility of eating local and supporting our other local farmers. Reducing my carbon footprint was something I have always tried to do, and my efforts of eating local prior to my Skeeter Farm introduction was something of a hobby, not a true belief or passion. The creation of local squash from last years seeds, or the act of seed saving for next years' tomato crop has been a great lesson from my Skeeter Farm mentors. This summer has really brought me around to the fact that I could never turn my back on what we are doing as farmers, and our importance to the preservation of our local food and our beliefs of what real food is.

My picture here is some fabulous kale still left in the field, and my pride and joy of canned Skeeter Farm veggies and fruit. Ground cherry jam, pickled carrots, beans, beets, and cukes. Just this week, I was able to entertain with a platter of Skeeter Farm pickles! Yum!

Local veggies in a jar, and the sturdy, leafy greens of the fall/winter months. Everyone, grab a sweater and slippers, and cozy up to winter and its lovely bounty we are so lucky to have.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Terra Madre Update

One of the things that Slow Food emphasized to the Terra Madre 2010 delegates was that it is very important bring back the "message" of Terra Madre to our local counterparts in order to build capacity for the movement in our local communities.

I am quite new to Slow Food as an organization. The movement has been around since the 1970's and seems to have a huge following all across Europe, considerable political clout and and some serious government support which enables it to pull off the huge event that is Terra Madre. However, my exposure to the organization is limited to the little bit of volunteering that I have done for events that the Vancouver chapter puts on. I found myself thinking quite a bit during the event and workshops about this "message" we were supposed to be bringing back and proliferating amongst our local communities. After 3 days of intensive workshop sessions, conversations with other farmers/foodies and serious amounts of delicious food samplings it turns out that the "message" of Terra Madre isn't so simple that I can type it into a sentence, or a paragraph, or perhaps even an essay. Even Slow Food themselves have written pages and pages of documentation in order to explain the ideas and opinions of the organization.

From what I gather the "message" of Terra Madre is one of support for a number of important factors surrounding food and agricultural governance, sustainable resource management and ecological agriculture, socially acceptable food and agricultural systems, recognition and support for traditional ecological knowledge and traditional/historical foods. Pretty all encompassing eh? For me, it is still a little unclear how we go about achieving steps towards these reforms in our food system.

If I had to narrow down MY one take home message from the whole event it would be that gatherings of farmers which allow us to converse, share and exchange ideas are possibly the single most important means of social collaboration that we will need to keep us motivated. It is pretty amazing that we had to travel half way around the world to be able to find a time and space that allowed us farmers to openly share our experiences...makes me think that we should try to replicate this type of knowledge exchange more close to home on a more frequent basis (apparently more easier said than done).

Terra Madre day is being held on December 10th at the Italian Cultural Center. The delegates from 2010 will be in attendance and we hope to share what we learned from the whole experience with others in the local food community. Perhaps I will have some more concrete thoughts flushed out by that time...at this point I am still recovering from a whirlwind trip and subsequent scramble to catch up at school. Please do consider joining us if you would like to enjoy some delicious food and speak to some folks involved with food and farming.

With that I will leave you with some photos from the Salone del Gusto (overwhelmingly large room of deliciousness that was attached to the actual conference) and a couple of the markets in Venice.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Growing Local Grain - Talk at Museum of Vancouver

A new friend Chris (who was at the Terra Madre meetings with Amy) is doing a talk about growing local grains this week at the Museum of Vancouver. We highly suggest you check it out! If you can't make it for Thursday, check out the Museum's local food photography exhibit in the near future.


Thursday November 4 @ 7 pm - Presenter: Chris Hergesheimer
Topic - Growing local grain and the first grain CSA in the lower mainland
Location: Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street Vancouver, BC

Biography: Chris Hergesheimer holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Simon Fraser University. He is the founding member of the Local-Grain-Initiative. Hergesheimer's goal is to position himself at the centre of a community dedicated to local sustainable food production in just the way the community miller was central to communities before the mega-marts and the 10,000-kilometre supply chain. Chris organizes FF/CF’S Grain Chain Coordinator whilst he runs his own business, The Flour Peddler.

Tweet: HOME GROWN EXHIBIT speaker Chris Hergesheimer: Local Grain & the 1st grain CSA in the lower mainland Nov 4 @ 7pm @ www.museumofvancouver.ca

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Beginning/The End

Tomorrow marks the last Farmers' Market for Skeeter Farm this season! We will be at the Vancouver West End market from 9-2 tomorrow (in case you're around and want to say hi). Which means that tonight was the last big market harvest (which we completed by headlamp just after the sun went down).

Fall is a strange time at the farm. Stuff is dying out in the field and we are all feeling a lot of burnout. The last crop to come off the farm will be the pumpkins (we’ve got massive jack-o-lanterns and nice sugar pumpkins this year), which really do seem to indicate the end of the season.

At the same time that 2010 is wrapping up, we are already beginning the next season, planning for our 2011 CSA program, preparing the fields for planting in the early spring...and even planting some seed now. Amanda and I took advantage of the fantastic weather this October has been serving up and got our first crop of 2011 in the ground this week - Garlic. We chose to plant two varieties: Northern Quebec and Chesnok Red. Both have received rave reviews in terms of flavour. 

Amanda getting down with garlic (its important to plant straight, right?)

 Northern Quebec variety (massive cloves of deliciousness!)

Although this week marks the end of our 2010 markets, we still do have one CSA delivery coming your way, which will be on October 31st. In between now and then we have come exciting stuff happening in our lives...

Hannah and her long time partner Dutch, (official photographer/tech support for Skeeter Farm), are tying the knot in a rather unconventional manner. How Hannah managed to pull off planning a "wedding" while farming and working a full time job is beyond me...but it's all set for next weekend (wedding in is quotations because I know I'm not supposed to call it that). So congratulations to a fantastic couple on their upcoming union!

I am actually pretty bummed that I don't get to attend their event...but will probably not feel too sad on the day because I will be in Turin, Italy at the Terra Madre conference put on by Slow Food International. I feel pretty honored to be one of 12 or so people who are representing BC at the meetings - there is a good contingent of young farmers  and other foodie folks who are going over and I would imagine that a great deal of collaboration could result from our time there together. I will be sure to take lots of pictures of the fabulous food and farmers that will be showcased from around the world and give you folks a good update when I am back!

Although its the end of the season and we might not have any exciting posts about vegetables we will still try to maintain the blog sporadically throughout the winter (usually with fluff that comes up here and there, recipes and whatnot). As always, if you have any suggestions for this blog (for example, a cool event that you want to advertise) please let us know! We also welcome any feedback about our food, CSA program, market booth etc - if you have any ideas, now is a great time to share them as we move into planning mode. 

with Love, 
Amy and the rest of Skeeter Farm

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Flavor Makers

Hi everyone, I guess this blog is not a surprise. Herbs. But one would think that I would rave about these little beauties in the height of summer when fresh lovely basil or oregano would be ready, but these flavor makers come up all year round. Especially since the indoor planters or adorned balconies are covered these days in herbs. That is great. Everyone can take a stab at growing, not matter how big or small, or even if only limited to a few sprigs of thyme or tarragon.
Now, I know that we here at Skeeter Farm have been filling precious CSA bags weekly with an herb selection, but that just boasts the fact that we can grow herbs. And we are proud. Basil, oregano, thyme, lavender (next year!), rosemary, cilantro, lovage, mint, sage, yum.
Above is just an example of the herbs we are even having for sale at our lovely farmer's markets. I love it when people come searching for cilantro to go with their homemade salsa, mint to add to their tabbouleh, basil for their caprese. Herbs add an incredible flavor to dishes of meats, grains, or seafood. An uplifter to salads, soups, or risottos. That little something, something to even a sandwich. I love it just because I don't have to add extra salt to my pasta sauces!
Sage is the one in demand now. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and creative stuffings for turkeys are being planned. Can I make a suggestion though? Add a little lovage to your stuffing if you can as well. That old fashioned herb will add that great celery flavor, and the scent is awesome. Again, visit your local farmers markets (especially the one in Coquitlam this Sunday as Skeeter Farm will be there!) to see what the herb selection is this week and try something new!
Jamie Oliver once said that 'once you start eating herbs, you become instant healthly'. I can't remember if it was in one of his shows or in one of his books, but he did say that. Can you just hear him? Anyway, he was right. Herbs have those great phytonutrients and can help prevent damage to blood vessels. High in minerals of iron, potassium and magnesium, those dark leaves even contain small traces of omega 3 fats! And a little herb fact, oregano is even claimed to have the highest antioxidant activity of all the 27 fresh herbs.
What great flavor makers they are, hey? What a great addition these herbs have to our flavor palates. Oh dear, I have got to get on with making my pesto. Let's if I can switch up the combo and maybe add some unusuals this time....

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Beans !

I woke up this morning and felt a little pang of guilt, and a slight bit of panic about all of the little things I have left undone in my life lately. Weeds are engulfing certain crops on the farm, squash that needs curing, serious logistics to be worked out about the wrap up of the season (and yes mom...phone parents!). Part time farming/full time student-ing does have its drawbacks....

Blog posting would be one of those little things that has fallen a bit by the wayside and for that we apologize. Despite not writing much lately, there has still been some exciting developments at Skeeter Farm. We have some serious pumpkin growth/ripening happening, lovely little ears of popcorn forming, and my newest most favorite crop - dry beans - are hanging up in the hoop house to dry. 

A little preview of 2 of the varieties we grew (Candy and Orca)...and clean hands (i.e. very little farm work accomplished lately)

For those unfamiliar, dry beans would be those that you soak and cook before eating, such as black beans, navy beans, kidney beans etc. We planted 5 varieties of dry beans this year, which we procured from Salt Spring Seeds, as a small experiment. The idea with dry beans is that you grow them just as you would a regular bush bean plant, but instead of harvesting the pods when they are green, you let them dry on the plant and then remove the bean seeds from the pod. 

Due to the wet weather in September I made the call to pull all of the plants out and let them finish drying upside down in the hoop house (to try to avoid rotting). Hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to give a little update on our dry bean experiment (and perhaps the results of a taste test) and let you know if we will have some for purchase this year. I have yet to decide whether or not to save all the seed from this year to expand the crop for next season, or to try to sell some of them to test out market prices. Whether they are available this year or next year, the idea of providing a more local protein source and further increasing the diversity of our products is exciting. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September Rainy Day Fun

Judging by the Abbotsford weather report, you might need something fun to do inside this weekend. If you are in the Valley and like delicious food, then check out EAT! Fraser Valley at the Tradex in Abbotsford this weekend. We will be there all weekend at the Farm Start BC booth. Stop by and say hi...you can enter to win some prizes including a basket o' veggies from Skeeter Farm.

Here's something else you might want to plan to do this weekend or sometime soon: Save seed! All you home gardeners out there growing your favorite heirloom tomatoes or other crops should consider trying your hand at seed saving this season. There is something really satisfying about planting seeds from fruits that you carefully selected the year before for their taste and characteristics...and its really not that hard.

I started saving seed last year from my home garden and from the farm and had varied results with the crops this year. The tomatoes from the seed I saved from my garden were by far the best, and in my opinion, the most fun to try to save.

Select varieties that are Open Pollinated  (marked OP on your seed packet) and use the internet to search for tips and tricks on how to best collect the seeds.

As for tomatoes, you want to select ripe tomatoes from plants that did well, lack signs of disease, produced the best tasting tomatoes and/or the best looking tomatoes. Its a good idea to take tomatoes from several plants (if you have more than one).

Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp from the cavities into containers (I use mason jars). If there isn't much juice in the jar, add a little bit of water so the seeds can float. Carefully label the jars so you don't lose track of the varieties that you are saving and then store the jars for 5 days or so until a layer of mold forms on the top (the seeds need to ferment before they will be able to germinate). Once a nice layer of mold fully covers the top of your container, you can scoop the layer off, pour the remaining seeds/juice into a strainer and rinse the seeds. The last step is to dry the seeds on a plate, giving them a little shake every day to keep them from clumping together. Once the seeds are fully dry, put your little seeds into a labelled envelope for safe keeping until its time to plant next year.

Just think, if you save a few varieties each season, you'll build up an impressive tomato collection in no time!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Beet Season!

Hey folks! The root veggies are upon us, hey? The sign of fall. Fall greens, squashes, potoatoes, and beets. I have to admit, as the farming months have passed, I have become really appreciative of beets. I am really loving the varities our farm has chosen to grow. Fabulous striped varities, golden beets, long cylindrical beets, the classic detroit. Awesome. You know you are tasting the earth with each bite. You can taste the goodness. But what about the greens, you ask...?

Well, again, fabulous stir fried, steamed, tossed with cooked pasta, in soups. Opportunities, endless. Like any other green, beet greens are loaded with nutrients. Rich with fiber, calcium and anitoxidants A, C, E, they are yummy pan fried with olive oil, lemon juice and topped with feta. How can you go wrong? Or, use them instead of romaine lettuce in a Ceasar salad. Heaven on a plate.

Beets have been around forever. Many people remember having beets and equate them with such an unpleasant memory, but the classic beet root is coming around again, and with huge style. Golden beets grated in a wonderful raw beetroot salad, mixed with green onion and vinigarette, beets roasted tossed with olive oil and fresh rosemary, dill pickeled beets, golden and detroit beets layered in a terrine with herbed goat's cheese. But here's an idea: add a 1/2 cup of grated beetroot and minus 1/4 cup of milk from your next chocolate cake, and wow, can you think of a better way to add beets to your week?

So next time when you see beets at a farmer's market or see them again in your CSA bag, please don't think, 'ohhhh MORE beets'. Buy, or use your bunch in a great new way that will mix up your regular routine or make you forget about the dreadful memories of you as a kid at the dining room table.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September Farm Update

Holy dina! Is it September already? Let's see....Spiders making their home in the hoophouse, Jamie and I returning to school (Jamie to teach, me to learn), strong desires to eat soup and wear cozy sweaters. Yep, all signs point to fall out here in Abbotsford.

In the past two weeks the farm has taken a turn and we can start to see certain crops nearing the end of their production. The late season has a certain bittersweet feel to it. Some of our favorites, like tomatoes, might only make it another couple of weeks. While at the same time we have an awesome collection of fall and winter squashes just starting to come ready. I think all of us are ready for a break from the farm work, but at the same time, I know I will be envious and anxious for the fun summer times at the farm while I am slaving away over the books in dreary January.

Okay, enough of the pity party. We still have a lot of great veggies coming your way before we take a break. Greens are looking fantastic and we have lots of kale, chard, arugula, spinach and collards to take us into the fall. I am also really excited about the harvest of the Amaranth. This is our first time trying out grain and planted Quinoa and Amaranth back in the spring. Unfortunately the Quinoa didn't do too well in the wet June weather, but the Amaranth is going strong and hopefully will be ready to harvest before the real wet weather hits.

Today marked our last Abbotsford Farmers market for the season. We will miss all of our regular customers there but still have a few West End and Coquitlam markets before the real end. Just 6 weeks left in our CSA program, so enjoy the bounty while you can folks!

Okay, thats it for now. 
Heres hoping that your fall is as delicious as a roasted butternut squash. 
With Love, from Skeeter Farm.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Friday Nights

Friday night has a whole new meaning when you are a farmer selling at the markets. Harvest days are long and tough, and often involve multiple layers of bug protection, sore backs and headlamps. This Friday there was a short break in the craziness of the harvest when the four of us decided to break and taste test a watermelon (I've been trying to nail down how to tell when these things are actually ripe). Hands down the best watermelon we've ever tasted, not that we're biased or anything.

Moments like this put the season in perspective and reaffirm that what we are doing is so very much worth it. 

Friday nights may not be for parties anymore, and Saturday mornings are certainly not for sleeping in - these are the small sacrifices we have made peace with in order for us farmers to do as we do. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finding Balance and the Right Price

Jacquay (our pickler) at our nearly sold out West End Farmers Market booth last weekend!

Amazingly, this week marks our halfway point for the season. However, that is a little deceptive because the fall is a very busy time for us, which gets me thinking about balance... As farmers, we are linked to the cycle of the seasons, which means that we have to stretch thin harvests in the spring and figure out what to do with copious amount of food in the late summer and fall.

This seasonality has some interesting impacts on farm profits. Since I am handling our finances this year, I end up thinking about this a lot. For our CSA customers, seasonality means that their weekly veggie bags start out small, but get bigger and bigger over the course of the season. By the time October rolls around and winter squash are abundant, the bags are more than overflowing. However, since CSA folks pay us at the very beginning of the season, these changes don't affect our farm finances. We just have to make sure to be fair and accurate when setting the price of our CSA shares.

Our farmers market and pickling vegetable sales are a different story- pricing is super tricky no matter how abundant our veggies are. We've looked at setting prices based on the actual input costs (seeds, water, weeding time, harvesting time, delivery time, marketing time, etc.), but everything ends up extremely expensive. So most of the time, our prices are determined by our guess at the amount that most people would be willing to pay. We also try not to undercut other small farms.

This complicated situation can be difficult to explain to folks at the farmers market- "Our garlic may seem expensive, but it is only a fraction of the seed cost and it was a cold spring and we have clay soil, etc., etc., etc." Eyes tend to glaze over...Certainly, there are lots of people out there who are happy to pay the full price for local food, but for others it all boils down to their ability to get extremely cheap vegetables at the grocery store. Things are simply too cheap.

My hope is that we are in a transition to a new era when we will begin to pay the full cost of the goods we consume (and have income-assistance programs in place for those that cannot afford the increase). With the proliferation of farmers markets, there are more and more conversations happening between farmers and consumers, which should help. I don't want to sound too dramatic, but I think the price of food has a lot to do with the future of farming. Finding balance may be tricky, but it will be worth it!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The resurgence of food preservation

Is is just me, or is everyone and their dog getting into preserving the harvest? We are witnessing this really amazing thing happening, at least in the Lower Mainland, where young and old alike are dusting off their mason jars (or snatching up every last one at the thrift stores) and learning/relearning/teaching the craft of food preservation.

I am feeling pretty inspired by some of our customers who have put orders in for produce and are tackling some massive canning projects in the next few weeks. Its a pretty sweet feeling knowing that Skeeter Farm veggies will be enjoyed by folks throughout the year or maybe even given as Christmas gifts in nice little jars wrapped up with ribbon. If you haven't experimented with food preservation, I highly suggest it (I am a bit of an canning addict). There are many ways of preserving that doesn't require a whole lot of know-how, like simply drying or dehydrating. We are always happy to talk canning, and Amanda and Hannah can give you the low down on the fermentation workshop they attended this last week.

If you don't have time to do your own this year. You could pick up one of the jars that Jacquay has pickled which are for sale (just gotta wait a few weeks for curing times).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A New Farmer's Learnings

I know in my past blog post I have committed to spouting my excitement over my favorite vegetables, or my nerdy health benefits over others, but I think I will leave my cucumber talk until the end of this post. It's just that, I can't believe all what I have learned over the past 4 or so months! It just hit me today as I was working on our third planting of carrots. Amy has talked of the progress of the farm, and the 'growth' of the veggies, and I can't tell you how great it is to see the transformation of beets or zucchini from seed to plate. And, the journey it takes to get there!

Anything from learning proper seed germination, realizing that Mother Nature naturally does not always water when you need her too, that ground cherries can ripen in a few hours after harvesting, that time really does fly, and lastly, learning that patience is truly a virtue and that the pay off of satisfaction is great.

Lately we all have been working diligently on harvesting, and our variety of crops keep me learning the techniques of how to get them to market. I am still learning about the tomatillo and just when it is ripe and ready to be picked (but do not fear everyone, there are the lovely Amy, Hannah and Jamie there to coach me along!)

Ok, I think now is a great time to unleash the quick cucumber facts:
At a whopping low 4 calories per ounce, the cumumber is high in potassium, is fabulous for the skin when juiced (include the peel!), is good for the intestinal tract, and is a great veggie to assist in hydration. My favorite cucumber to juice is the long english, it is sweet and we are growing lots of them at Skeeter Farm! Add some fresh mint along to the juiced cumcumber for a lovely, cooling refreshing drink!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Real Progress

When you are at the farm every day, waiting for vegetables to grow is a little like watching paint dry. At least thats what it felt like earlier this year. Few months later, looking on back on where we were is pretty incredible. The pictures speak for themselves...

May 8

August 16

Nothing wrong with a 9' tomato!

We've got nice melons

Coming soon to a market near you...

Earlichamp cantaloupe 

Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon (who knew they could grow watermelons in Saskatchewan?)

Moon and Stars watermelon (the first one featuring stars, the second one features the moon)

Earlidew Honeydew

Monday, August 9, 2010

Picklin' Time

We’ve been patiently waiting to see our pretty little yellow cucumber flowers turn into pickling cukes and it is finally starting to happen! Pickling season has arrived and that means that it’s time for us to start taking your picking cuke orders. We had lots of fun taste-testing your pickles this year and we can’t wait to do it again. So, send us an email at skeeterfarm@gmail.com to place your order (and don’t worry, you won’t be under any obligation to share your finished product with us).

And…if you are interested in fermentation, there is a special workshop coming up on Monday, August 23 from 6pm to 9pm in Abbotsford. Andrea Potter of Radha Eatery in Vancouver will be teaching us about the benefits of fermentation and helping us make our very own brined pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut! The cost is $40 per person and includes ingredients. Contact Kevin Koopmans at 604-864-5770 x309 or Kevin.koopmans@southfraser.com for more information and to register.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

everything's going to be irie

Those of you who have been following our posts this season, may have sensed a slight air of stress amongst us new farmers. If you picked up on it...you were right. We have been biting our fingernails since about mid May, nervously waiting, and praying, and waiting for that abundance that we experienced in our first year farming to return. I'm not going to lie...we were scraping the bottom of the barrel to make our marketing requirements the last two weeks.  This week the field is giving us some sweet relief. It was a long time coming...but the abundance is starting to return. Cucumbers coming out our eyeballs, delicious little ground cherries dropping like hot potatoes, and soon, lots of these fantastic looking watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydews and much more.

Time to relax a little, kick back, keep on the weeding, clean the garlic for market, fish fertilize the fall greens, can some peaches, figure out what keeps chewing on the eggplants, and oh yeah, relax, and Eat!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Markets are Starting

Skeeter Farm will be at the Abbotsford Farmers Market starting this Saturday! Wahooooo! Hope to see some familiar faces there.

The rest of our market schedule is here, just in case you were wondering.

With Love,
From the farmers

A beautiful okra flower for your enjoyment.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where's Mantracker When You Need Him?

We are a bit sad to report that the farm bandits have returned to Skeeter Farm. Last week on Friday Hannah arrived at the farm all ready to harvest for our second week of CSA deliveries on Saturday and discovered that our friends, the ones with the affinity for 2" layflat irrigation hose, had returned for another round of pillaging.

Fortunately for us, this time they didn't get as far as they would have liked. In anticipation of an event such as this, we spent some time and money getting our storage container as secure as we could to try to prevent the loss of more farm equipment. Last Friday the bandits didn't have the right tools to get into our container, and so fortunately they only made off with some hose and a lawnmower and messed up our locks enough so that we also couldn't get back into our container.

So what does this mean for Skeeter Farm. Well we felt, and feel even more so now, like sitting ducks, waiting for the bandits to return and wipe us out again. Slightly discouraging at a time where all of us are feeling the fatigue associated with the height of the farming season. Only this time, if they do come back for round four, we are more prepared than ever. Last week after the break in, I made sure do all of of the last seed bed preparation in order to get our sowing of fall greens in. We have also removed all of our irrigation equipment and marketing items needed to get us through the season off of the farm.

I usually like to have some sort of uplifting message associated with each blog post, and if I have to come up with a message for this post it is directed towards the bandits: dear bandits, you may be able to take our farming tools, but you will not break our spirits.

To add insult to injury, these jerks didn't even have the decency to walk around our beds!
If only daikon seedlings could talk...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Beer Friend?

Yes, folks, we do have a beer friend growing at our farm this year! Have you guessed yet what veggie that is??? Well, the name soya beer friend is the variety name for the precious athlete loving Edamame beans! Oh, and I think I should mention here that yes, it is boasted that these beans do help with the resolution of alcohol...

The edamame bean, otherwise known as a Japanese soybean, means "beans on branches". To grow edamame, you do not need moist soil, and are typically picked before they fully ripen. The pod is a little shorter than a sweet pea pod, and is quite tough, but the beans themselves have a lovely, buttery, rich texture. Often these beans are steamed, sprinkled with salt and then 'sucked' out of their pods.

I have been asked what my favorite vegetables are, and I have answered with the usual suspects: chard, corn, beets (and their greens!), but there are some crops I am really excited about- and yes the lovely edamame is one of them.

So, I assume that here would be the perfect time to spout some nerdy nutrition facts: per 100 grams, they have 125 calories, 3.6 gr. fat, 12 gr. protein and are good sources of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A. With this being said, they are a great source of fiber, fatty acids and is the only plant that is a complete protein; they contain all essential fatty acids!

Filled with healthy omega 3's, athletes love edamame beans. Good sources of protein, they are a great quick snack, and let's face it, a whole lot easier to digest that a big piece of steak! Vegetarians, embrace this bean!

This crop you all will hopefully see at our late September/ October farmers markets, or maybe in your CSA bag around that same time. I can't wait to tell you more about some other veggies that I will highlight in the future!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cycle Tours and Terra Madre Fund

A couple of great events and a great cause to tell you folks about.

Slow Food Vancouver is again hosting two cycle tours in the Fraser Valley this summer. The tours take place on August 21st and 22nd in Agassiz and Chilliwack. These two events take you on a leisurely ride through the countryside with stops at farms and artisan food producers. Each time I have done them I come home with a bounty that is almost too good to be shared. Check out these events! The are definitely worth not missing.

For more information and to register click on the link to the Slow Food Website:

Slow Food Vancouver is ALSO organizing the Terra Madre Fund which is raising funds to help send a group of young farmers (including myself!), other local farmers and folks from the local food community to Terra Madre in Italy in October. 
About the Terra Madre meeting:

More than 5,000 representatives from the worldwide Terra Madre network will meet in Turin, Italy for the fourth time this October 21 to 25. The five-day meeting will bring together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who are united in a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations.

A link to the fundraising page is here: http://www.slowfoodvancouver.com/index.php/adopt-a-farmer/ 
Slow Food is accepting donations of air miles in addition to monetary donations, which is a pretty cool way to fundraise for airfares, in my opinion. 

I am so excited to be a part of the delegation this year and look forward to sharing what I learn from the folks around the world when we return!

Okay...thats it for this little promo post. More about the Skeeter Farm soon!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Big risk big reward!

Hooray! We made our first CSA deliveries!
Those of you who have been reading our posts may have noticed that it has been a bit of a tough season for us so far. I guess it was my own naivete that led me to assume that this year would be easier than last year. Although we didn't realize it at the time, we got super lucky with the weather and our equipment last year. I'm thinking it might be more like 5 years until I fully get used to the twists and turns of farming. There really are a zillion things to learn.

As Amy mentioned, we took a bit of a risk this winter when we were full of confidence and decided to run a full CSA program. We were pretty sure it would be easy to find enough customers and we were certain we would have enough veggies. It turns out we were right about the first part, but not completely right about the second part. As I imagine most of you know, the wet spring meant that it took us longer than expected to get everything planted and less sun to give our veggies a good jump start. There will certainly be tons of veggies out there soon- we actually have more area planted than last year and in a more strategic fashion. In the meantime, our CSA customers may be enjoying some fairly unusual items...
But, we had to take a big risk in order to get a big reward! Every time we finish a harvest (no matter how unusual the veggies are) it is an amazing feeling. I absolutely love driving down the road with my bus full of vegetables. This year, with our very own group of devoted CSA customers, it is even better. Many thanks to each of you!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Crops that Get Me Going

There is no doubt about it. We are vegetable people (if we weren't before, we pretty much have to be now). But we can't all love each crop equally, especially when there is so much variety. We each have our favorites. The favorites are usually crops that end up being favored out in the field. They get the most care and attention, the most water, the most coaching and the most praise. But don't feel sorry for the other veggies. With 4 farmers on the site, we pretty much have all of the crops covered off (except fennel...no one seemed to babysit that crop this year, nor the green onions unfortunately).

Without further ado, here are my picks for my 2010 most favorite crops at Skeeter Farm.

Tomatillos (inside the lantern) because they are fun to gently squish to check out big they are

Melons (this one is either a cantaloupe or honeydew) because they are resilient! (survival credits include slugs, bunnies and 50 plus degree temps in the greenhouse earlier this year)

Ground Cherries - same idea as the tomatillos, but these ones technically pass as a fruit

Okra - definitely not for the texture (one of my least favorites for that), but for the beautiful flowers that are only open for a day - none open tonight

Peppers - the one on the left for its sheer beauty and the one on the right for its future as a chili relleno

tomatoes - possibly the grand prize of any summer garden. This one I like for its resemblance to a pumpkin (the tomatoes need another week of coaching before they ripen up)

Eggplant - for its appropriateness on a barbeque, and as mentioned previously, for the beautiful flowers

Amaranth - for its multipurposefulness - you can eat the leaves as salad, use the flowers in bouquets and harvest grain near the end of its life

Celery - because I tasted some the other day and it was the most delicious celery I have ever tasted.
Chickpeas - I was really excited about this crop until I saw this evening that every plant has been grazed from the top down like the photo on the right (bad animals!)

Red onions  - because of the colour (which is hard to see in the photo - a brilliant fuchsia