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 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 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 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!