Monday, June 28, 2010

Sometimes you have to learn things twice.

We have smugly told folks on more than one occasion that we miraculously, in our first year farming last year, successfully grew everything we planted. We didn't have any crop "failures". Well...this claim is sort of true, however, one crop that didn't quite work out as we planned was our green onions.

Last year we direct seeded a few rows of green onions (or scallions) way at the back of the field. We had nothing but good intentions when we seeded the onions, but by the time we got around to weeding them, they had been lost in an abyss of horsetails and tall grass. Tiny little onion seedlings are virtually impossible to discern amongst the far more competitive weeds on our site, so we decided to call the onions a loss rather than spend the time with a magnifying glass trying to locate them amongst the growth. 

Now a testament to the fact that plants really just want to grow: we did have a "crop" of green onions, despite not doing anything to maintain them. I was weed whacking at the back of our field sometime in September last year when I started to smell a delicious onion smell rising up from the field. I stopped whacking and realized that we had a beautiful, yet patchy, crop of onions ready for harvest. I believe we took green onions to the market once last year. They sold like hot potatoes. So all in all, not a complete crop failure. 

This year, sometime in early May, we decided it was time to seed green onions again. So what did we do differently this year? Absolutely nothing. We, silly farmers, direct seeded a bunch of green onions in the part of the field where our most persistent grass is located. Obviously a momentary lapse of judgment. Needless to say, those green onions have again been lost in a sea of green weedy growth...and will likely never be found again (I plan to till those rows in once the sun returns). Don't worry. We plan to still grow green onions this year. They can be sown up until August. However, our tactics have changed. I seeded a bunch of green onion transplants this evening, which we will start in the hoop house. They will be planted out once they are at least big enough to detect amongst the weeds, giving them a much better chance of survival, and making our job weeding them much easier. 

So what is the point of this long-winded blog post? It's not just to assure you that we will have green onions this year. In fact, who knows if we will have green onions...all I said is that we were trying another tactic. The point that I am trying to get at is that we, (we being new farmers), would never get the chance to learn these things if we didn't have the opportunity to make our own decisions (sometimes silly), make mistakes (twice) and learn how to do things the right way (the right way being the way that works for the farmers and the environment we are working within). We can try to learn all we want by reading books about farming, and we can try to soak up as much knowledge as we can from folks we talk to or other farms we visit, but until we actually get to make the decisions and experience the consequences of those decisions, we won't know how to farm in the way that works for us. 

Learning experiences like our green onion debacle are all the more reason to support infrastructure like the incubator farm that Skeeter Farm is currently farming on. We, (again we being new farmers), need the opportunity to try things for ourselves in order to build the confidence we need to be the next generation of food providers for our communities. 

Clearly we don't have any photos of green onions, having never successfully grown them. Rather, this is a success of Skeeter Farm - a beautiful eggplant flower which will be growing a nice eggplant soon. Possibly my favorite crop so far!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Solstice!

There is something really awesome and something slightly depressing about the longest day of the year. Its getting warmer, but the days are slowly getting shorter from now on. Too bad, I like daylight. In any case...Happy Solstice!

Hannah and I celebrated with a bit of a weeding marathon tonight. While weeding I got my first mosquito bites of the year (which is also slightly depressing). For those newer readers, our farm got its name due to the hoards of mosquitos that we endured last year. It's almost time to pull out the bug suits.

Mosquitos aside, I am so happy for summer...because its been a long spring.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sweet times at Skeeter Farm

Finally a weekend to get caught up! A good work party happened this last weekend at the farm, equipment was working, beds were prepped and seeding was accomplished.

Thanks in particular to my friends and family who made the trip out to Abby to help.

One of the sweeter things to happen this weekend, was that one of Jamie's beehives split and formed a swarm up in the plum tree. I know nothing about beekeeping, but Jamie says this happens when a new queen is born and the hive splits. Basically there was a large swarm of bees high up in a tree all piled on top of each other that needed to be captured and put into a new hive. I got to help cut the bees out of the tree. A somewhat sketchy operation.

Here is some shaky photography of the swarm:

The bees looked like a gelatinous, mobile bunch of grapes. 

Just some other shots of Jamie doing his beekeeping that I took earlier in the week. 

The bees are doing double duty, helping to pollenate our crops and producing some pretty delicious honey which Jamie just made for the first time. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Signs Of Life!

Yes, that is probably a little naive of me to say, being a new farmer and all, but I can't help my excitement. Yes, the farm has definitely changed from when I first saw it. Grassy, weedy, and surrounded by blackberry bushes-no more! Beautifully tilled beds, planted rows, and yes, signs of life! I was very excited when I caught a glimpse of the kale, broccoli, and cauliflower coming up, of which Amy and I planted weeks ago. Those 120 pepper plants I planted (ok, that number is an exaggeration, it just felt like 120!) have doubled in size.

Each time I come to the farm, what a change I see. I look forward to each and everytime I go back. Yes, even the hours of continuous weeding of leeks and onions brings me back. Hard to believe, but what a joy!

Cheers to this weekend!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Meet your Dole Organic Banana Grower from half way around the world

It's take it with a grain of salt. But they have come up with a really cool idea which I took notice of yesterday while eating an organic Dole banana (maybe this is not so new - upon further research this dates back to 2007, I guess I don't read banana lables all that carefully).

Each bunch of organic bananas has a unique farm code which you can use on their website to look up information about the farm/farmers that have grown your food. Mine came from farm #759 in Equador.

Fantastic idea, maybe not executed so great (I would like to see more pictures of the actual farms and less of the Dole reps), but how sweet would it be if you could look up information about where your BC grown food came from. Imagine a website such as this, combined with the resurection of BuyBC program, showcasing the beauty of farms and farmers in BC...connecting folks with their food bought from the supermarket and BC farmers virtually. Afterall, BC is a big province and with few farmers, its hard to make that face to face connection with everyone.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Support New Farmers in Style

The Barrowtown Agricultural Development Society are working to support young and new farmers in the Fraser Valley by helping folks find access to land to farm, organizing workshops and facilitating networking and community building amongst the new farmer group. They have big ideas about how to further support new farmers and revitalize the local food system, but first they need the funds to do it!

As a little fundraiser, the society is selling these awesome t-shirts (that just so happen to feature some artwork by yours truly). They are $20 each (with maybe a little bit extra for shipping if we end up mailing to you) and all proceeds go towards supporting new farmers in the Fraser Valley.

Shirts come in S, M, L and XL men's (greyish green and lighter grey) and women's (dark blue and black).

Please let us know if you would like one (skeeterfarm @ and we can figure out how to get it to you.