Update Archive

February 15th, 2016

Well it’s been a long time since the last update. Last season is over and done, and 2016 is full of hope. People always ask what we do all winter in the off season. Late last season we planted enough spinach in cell packs to fill the greenhouse. Once the tomato, pepper and cucumber plants came out, we transplanted the spinach, and a bit of kale into the same space. So, much to many folks’ surprise, we are harvesting spinach.

Some of that spinach goes to CSA boxes - our winter share program - and most of it goes to market: Montgomery’s inn in Etobicoke and the Stop’s at Wychwood Barns, in central Toronto. All of these places also get storage vegetables from our cooler. Keeping up with CSA and two markets is close to a full time job for one person.

This leaves planning, seeding, and winter projects. Planning is nearly complete for the season - most of the seed orders have not only gone in but been filled; space has been allocated for crops, and planting dates assigned. Seeding has begun with a few very early crops that get transplanted into protected space (greenhouse or high tunnel), and onions. Oh, the onions. We grow all of our onions from transplants, and this is the time of year when we get to put those little black seeds in cells of potting mix. Tens of thousands of them. And we do it by hand. Not because doing them by hand is better in any way, just because the machine that could replace us is too expensive for now.

As for winter projects, we built a new germination cabinet, increasing our capacity for germinating tomatoes, peppers and eggplant (and everything else that we transplant). A bigger project is finishing up the new greenhouse - at this point it is mostly a matter of installing the furnace. This will allow us to substantially increase our transplant production.

And there is the usual maintenance and repair on various tractors and implements.

October 19, 2016

OK, so we haven't done much of a job keeping up with updates. Nathan has been somewhat distracted of late.

This is the time of year when people ask about whether harvest is just about done. And yes, the biggest push of harvest is slowing down, as many vegetables got hit by frost. Pretty much any vegetable that we eat the fruit, which would be tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, beans, cucumbers, and squash, is now done, if it was growing outside. We still have some peppers and tomatoes growing indoors, but those plants are producing less, as day lengths shorten.

Then again, we are still harvesting all our root vegetables - beets; carrots; daikon, black and watermelon radishes; and Jerusalem Artichokes. Yesterday we harvested our first Jerusalem Artichokes, and it was the most pleasant weather I've ever experienced for digging them up. We don't start until after frost has killed the plants, and we don't usually get such mild weather right after the plants die. And our greens continue. Kale is hardy well into the winter. Lettuce and spinach not so much, but they can take a reasonably hard frost. And arugula is almost as hardy as spinach.

Speaking of spinach, we've started planting some in greenhouses for winter harvest. It's a little late this year, but hopefully it grows enough to be harvested in November and December. So, no, harvest isn't over. But neither is planting season. Around here we plant most months of the year, and we harvest all months of the year.

What is winding down is some farmers' markets. Brampton is done, and Uptown and Aberfoyle will be done shortly (at the end of October). We'll be at Stops (Saturday) and Montgomery's Inn (Wednesday) throughout the winter, and this year we're adding another winter market at Toronto Botanical Gardens Organic Farmers' Market.


June 30, 2016

Well, things have been too busy around here to even document our first season of strawberries. We picked somewhere around 1600 litres, which was enough to keep several people busy part time, and closer to full time on Fridays, as we prepared for the two weekend markets - and Saturday farm gate sales. The season is over for now. We got off to an early start due to having used row cover instead of straw on part of the patch.

Greenhouses are now full of plants (in the ground, not in trays), and we're starting to see the result. We still have bok choi growing among and around the peppers and tomatoe. Our first peppers are sizing up, but not showing any hint of ripening (they taunt us so). And our first tomatoes are just starting to show a little colour. It looks like we may have ripe tomatoes in small quantities within the next two weeks.

We do have something red - radishes. They've been going awhile now, and we expect to keep them going, albeit at a slower rate, through the entire summer. The newer bolt tolerant varieties can take the heat.

This year, for a change, the garlic crop is looking good. We planted it all in (used) raised beds last fall, and then put straw on top for improved insulation through the winter. The raised beds and straw pretty nearly eliminated the weed problem we've seen in some previous years. And we had a good rate of emergence this spring. We've harvested all the scapes, and are starting into the bulbs. Now we get to see how the yield actually is.

New this year, we planted some savoy cabbage. It's looking healthy enough, but not yet showing any signs of heading. Once it does, we'll see how popular it is before deciding how much to grow next year.


April 12, 2016

As I mentioned in the last update, we built a new greenhouse. By now, it's already had greens harvested from it - arugula and spinach - and it's providing a home for the lettuce that was young seedlings at the time of the last update. Also in that space are tens of thousands of onion seedlings, biding their time until the soil is ready for us to plant them outside. We water them. They grow. We trim them. We water them some more. The sooner they get planted out, the sooner we don't need to trim or water them.

We also have lots of bok choi, some of it of harvest size, growing in the old greenhouse.

By the beginning of May we're going to want much of that space for tomato and pepper seedlings, as we're now on the cusp of the explosion of space needs for them. We seed them in open flats - as many as 220 seeds per flat - and then when they get big enough (which the first peppers are), they get potted up into pots. Eighteen of these pots take up the same space as the open flat that holds 220 seeds. Assuming just 90% of the seeds result in useable plants, we're looking at an eleven-fold increase in space. We have somewhere in the range of 20-30 flats of peppers to pot up over the next few weeks, and we do at least two to three times as many tomato plants. So we expect our greenhouse space to be thoroughly taken up before long.

Plant sales start around the 5th of May. Uptown Waterloo Market starts the Thursday before the 24th of May long weekend. Aberfoyle market starts the last Saturday in May (the 28th). Summer CSA starts the week of June 14th.


February 15th, 2016

Well it’s been a long time since the last update. Last season is over and done, and 2016 is full of hope. People always ask what we do all winter in the off season. Late last season we planted enough spinach in cell packs to fill the greenhouse. Once the tomato, pepper and cucumber plants came out, we transplanted the spinach, and a bit of kale into the same space. So, much to many folks’ surprise, we are harvesting spinach.

Some of that spinach goes to CSA boxes - our winter share program - and most of it goes to market: Montgomery’s inn in Etobicoke and the Stop’s at Wychwood Barns, in central Toronto. All of these places also get storage vegetables from our cooler. Keeping up with CSA and two markets is close to a full time job for one person.

This leaves planning, seeding, and winter projects. Planning is nearly complete for the season - most of the seed orders have not only gone in but been filled; space has been allocated for crops, and planting dates assigned. Seeding has begun with a few very early crops that get transplanted into protected space (greenhouse or high tunnel), and onions. Oh, the onions. We grow all of our onions from transplants, and this is the time of year when we get to put those little black seeds in cells of potting mix. Tens of thousands of them. And we do it by hand. Not because doing them by hand is better in any way, just because the machine that could replace us is too expensive for now.

As for winter projects, we built a new germination cabinet, increasing our capacity for germinating tomatoes, peppers and eggplant (and everything else that we transplant). A bigger project is finishing up the new greenhouse - at this point it is mostly a matter of installing the furnace. This will allow us to substantially increase our transplant production.

And there is the usual maintenance and repair on various tractors and implements.


July 20th, 2015

Summer is well underway and I haven't had a chance to write in a while. Spring was difficult to deal with this year between the alternating hot weather and frosts and the drought we had through most of May only to have the drought break and it almost not stop raining since. To add to the confusion this spring we made some major changes to the irrigation system and were still trying to figure the whole thing out as we watched everything dry up. The crops are starting to look better, and we are starting to have a bit more selection at market – zucchini, beans, carrots, beets, potatoes, and peppers are starting to make their early appearances on our market tables. We should already have tomatoes from the field for the last few weeks but that is one of the casualties of the late start this spring and cooler than average summer. They are coming along, but so far no sign of colour. So far the fall crops are looking good so we still have high hopes for a bountiful harvest.


May 12th, 2015

So, spring hit us with a vengeance this year. Just when it was looking like it would be late, we went straight from winter to summer. The onions are in the ground, as is the kale. The first plantings of lettuces, cabbages and broccoli went in last week. Radishes, peas, spinach, and our various asian greens have been started in the field. We have early spinach, bok choi, lettuce and radishes from the greenhouse and high tunnels.

We have asparagus, for the first time. We find that exciting. The first year the harvest is very brief, so this is the only week. Next year we get to harvest twice as long.

Meanwhile, we continue to pot up tomato and pepper plants, and the first of them should be ready to sell in a few days. Kale, cabbage, and various perennial herbs are ready now, and we will have cucumbers in a matter of days. Our sampling cherry tomato plants are doing the tantalizing “green fruit - will it ever ripen” game.

There is still room to sign up for the CSA, but memberships are coming in, so sign up today to guarantee your spot for this summer.


April 23rd, 2015

Well it is finally starting to look like spring and things are getting busy in the greenhouse. Onion plants are nearly ready to go into the field and we are just waiting for the field to be ready for them. The soil is so close to ready I am sure when we get two nice days in a row we can be out in the field. I know the crew is excited to be out in the field as well. For now though, our work focuses on the greenhouse. We are in full production mode potting tomato and pepper plants for the high tunnels, and are starting in on the ones for the field and to sell at market. So, as your thoughts turn to gardening this spring, keep us in mind. Lettuce and Bok Choi are growing nicely in the greenhouse, but are still too small to sell. We are continuing to work on setting up the pack house and ready equipment for the spring. This week I managed to complete a few needed equipment repairs and I have a few more in progress.

There is still room to sign up for the CSA, but memberships are coming in, so sign up today to guarantee your spot for this summer.

November 16th, 2014

Well here it is the middle of November already and it is looking like we are in for another real winter. The storage crops are in off the field with only a few hardy greens remaining on the field to be harvested later if we get a thaw before the real freeze up. The new cooler which seamed so big earlier in the season is now fairly full and I wonder how I ever managed without it. So we should have lots of veggies for market this winter. We are also now growing sprouts so even in the coldest part of winter we will have fresh green crunchy stuff for you to buy. We have also added frozen veggies from another local organic grower to our winter product lineup. So be sure to check out our product lineup at market or come see us at the farm.
Also new this year we are doing a limited trial winter CSA program. Members pick up biweekly at the farm and receive a selection of storage vegetables as well as fresh greens or sprouts in each box.


September 12th, 2014

As you may have guessed from the month-long gap in updates, late summer and early fall is a busy time at the farm. With many of our employees returning to school for the fall, it is also a time of staff transition, and we often feel short-staffed as fall begins; this year is no exception. While we have hired several people in the last month, we have said goodbye to more, wishing them well as they head off to a new school, or back to an old one. We love having such an intelligent crew, but we miss them when they head off to graduate school.

New products in the last month include corn and potatoes (both entirely new to our product list), as well as a handful of varieties of winter squash — buttercup, ukichi kuri (a Japanese hubbard-type), acorn, and pie pumpkins. We’ll have even more types of winter squash as the season progresses. We also have much larger quantities of ripe sweet peppers, and larger quantities of most of our hot peppers (jalepeño, habenero, Hungarian hot wax, and cayenne).

The new cooler is now fully operational, and the old one has been transitioned to a slightly warmer cool — 10°C instead of 2–3°C — for vegetables that like cool, but not cold.

Tripp’s kittens are now old enough for adoption; one of them has already found a new home, but there are three more available for free to a good home. They’re so sweet I would like to keep them all for myself, but unfortunately that isn’t practical.


August 8th, 2014

It has been a busy two-and-a-half weeks since our last update. We had two new farmhands start this week, which helps compensate for the crew-members who have left to pursue graduate education, but we are still looking for more farm workers for the fall, as well as an Assistant Farm Manager to start this fall and work through next season, so if you or someone you know might be interested, please check out our Employment page.

The new cooler is now in operation — while there are a few last tweaks to make (such as rewiring the light so that it actually works), it can now bring vegetables down from outside summer temperatures to the target of 2–3°C in approximately half an hour. This means that we can start switching over to using the new cooler for vegetables that want to be kept cold, and soon we should be able to transition the old cooler to 10°C for vegetables that want to be kept cool, but not cold.

We have finished harvesting our garlic, and started harvesting cooking onions, along with the sweet onions we started harvesting a couple weeks ago. We have also started harvesting the first few sweet peppers, and we now have an abundance of all four kinds of beans — green, yellow, purple, and flat. The first large heirloom tomatoes are also ripe, along with the first canning tomatoes — we now have ½-bushels of our plum-type paste tomato available for preorder (pickup at the farm, any of our markets, or your CSA distribution location). Send us an email to order yours today!


July 21st, 2014

We’re hiring! We are looking to fill several key positions for the fall, as well as general farm and market help. We are also looking for an Assistant Farm Manager to start in August and work through next season (with possibility of extention). If you or anyone you know is interested in joining our team, check out our Employment page.

Summer is in full swing, and we have started harvesting many of our summer vegetables. We now have zucchinis and patti-pan squash, green and purple sweet peppers, three varieties of eggplants (long thin Japanese ones that are best stir-fried, little lavender-and-white stripey Indian ones that make the best curry, and big purple Italian ones that make good spreads), the first sweet onions, field-grown cucumbers (including American slicers and pickling cucumbers), and field-grown tomatoes — last week at market we had regular round red tomatoes as well as assorted cherry tomatoes, and hopefully this week we’ll start bringing some of the weird and wonderful varieties we love so much.

We have made a lot of progress on the new cooler in the past few weeks. Since last update, we finished the block-work, poured the foundation, and put up the walls. There is still work to be done, including laying electrical wiring through the yard from the house, but it is exciting to see it coming along.

We recently disked the cover-crop we had planted on some of our more distant fields, starting to transition that land towards Organic vegetable production. Cover-cropping is one way of adding organic matter to the soil, something that is desparately needed in those very sandy fields. We rotate our crops through different fields to reduce soil-borne diseases and decrease the nutrient drain on the soil; cover-crops are part of the rotation, to restore soil fertility and help reduce the number of weeds in those fields.


July 4th, 2014

After a late spring, June’s heat has accelerated our summer crops, surprising us with the earliest tomato harvest we have ever seen — over two weeks earlier than last year. We have also started harvesting the first beets, peas (snow, snap, and shelling), and green peppers. Within the next week, we expect to also have the first pickling cucumbers and zucchinis. For a full list of what we have, head over to our updated products page.

We are making progress on building an above-ground cooler; once it is done, it will more than double our cooling capacity, and we will transition the current cooler to a slightly warmer temperature (around 10°C) for veggies that prefer to be cool, but not cold, like cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes.


June 20th, 2014

As you may have guessed, things have been busy on the farm this season. Slightly more frequent updates have been going up on our Facebook page, but it has been hard to find the time to write a full update for the website.

CSA pickups have started. As usual, the first week is a bit interesting as we struggle to get enough diverse crops to fill all the boxes, and to satisfy our full choice customers. We officially have one space open. We do pro-rate late-comers, and would particularly welcome additions to the Erb and Ellis (Waterloo) and Laurel and Lawrence (Cambridge) locations. Pro-rated shares will be available beginning with the July 1 pickup — 18 weeks for 10% off of the full 20 week price (that would be 540 for the large box, and 360 for the small).

As of this week we’re selling at five markets: Tuesday (Davisville Village in Toronto), Wednesday (Montgomery’s Inn in Etobicoke), Thursday (Uptown Waterloo) and Saturday (Aberfoyle and Brampton).

People often ask whether planting is done. Well, most of the full season crops are planted. But we grow many crops using succession planting: lettuce, spinach, radishes, peas, beans, carrots, beets, well, you get the idea. Some of these are planted every week until mid-August, others less frequently.

At this point we have the usual early spring crops: radishes, lettuce, mild and spicy braising mix, spinach and kale. Peas should be coming soon (how soon? depends on the weather). For the first time we’ve pushed our greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes to the point that we have a (very) few this week already. Maybe enough to sell next week? Perhaps enough that we measure yield by weight, rather than count?


April 7th, 2014

Spring looks like it may finally be here. The snow is nearly all gone and the ground is thawing enough that some of the melt water and rain is even able to soak in. This will hopefully bring ground water levels back closer to normal after two dry years depleted reserves.

Work is also shifting to more spring activities. We are trying to wrap up winter projects such as repainting our farmall tractor and get on to planting related jobs. The greenhouses are filling up with both plants in the ground for later harvest and plants in trays to be transplanted outside or sold at market. We are also harvesting the first fresh greens from fall and winter planted spinach and lettuce in the hoop houses and greenhouse.

Soon we will be heading out to the fields to pick stones prior to planting. This year we will be able to use the stones collected to help form a firm foundation for the new walk in cooler we will be constructing. This project was planned for last summer but was delayed by the demands of the season. This year I am starting with the site not only selected, but prepared. I also was able to buy a cooler from a small food processor that was closing. It will still be a lot of work to turn the pile of parts I brought home back into a functioning cooler but it is a big step in the right direction. This new cooler will more than double our cooling and storage capacity from what we had last year.

We are also excited to announce that we have a new farmers market location for this summer. We will be at the Brampton Farmers Market on Saturday mornings starting June 21st. We also have a new CSA pickup location in Cambridge to announce. You can head on over to our CSA page for more information and to sign up.

Plant season is on the way and we have updated our plants pages for this season. There are lots of old favourites back on our list this year as well as some new varieties that are definitely worth trying. I have rewritten many of the variety descriptions this year to more accurately reflect our experience with these varieties. We conduct our own trials so we have the best local information to accompany the quality plants we sell. Check it out and get dreaming about your garden this summer.


February 22nd, 2014

Are you thinking about spring yet? If you look outside it might not look very spring-like yet, but in our greenhouse the warm Febuary sun is starting to heat things up. The snow and extreme cold this winter have stopped production in the hoophouses where we were hoping to be harvesting greens by this season, but in the small greenhouse we have plants started for planting into the large greenhouse, the hoophouses, and even some slow growing crops for the field.

This year for the first time we are trying some grafted tomato plants for the greenhouse. This allows us to select a rootstock variety that gives the plant disease resistance and vigor, paired with a top (or scion) variety that produces a good tomato. To make the graft, both the rootstock and scion seedlings are cut off on an angle, and then the scion is attached to the rootstock with a small clip holding the cut edges together. If everything goes right the plants will then heal together. Plants are amazing.

We are still deep in planning season. We have most of our seeds for the season now but we are still making adjustments to quantities of different crops as we allow for marketing increases. This year we are looking at adding an additional market location as well as starting to sell to restaurants.

We are also excited to have our team hired for the season. Bringing a diversity of experience from here, other farms, nurseries, international development, film, and teaching, this team should not only be effective but fun to work with. I can plan my season with more confidence knowing that I have a great team to get it done.


December 2nd, 2013

If you look outside today you may wonder what could still be happening on a vegetable farm at this season. With a dusting of snow on the ground most of the vegetables have been off the field for weeks already and safely into storage. The garlic is all planted and safely waiting under ground for the soil to warm in the spring. But on the warmer days we can still be found in the field harvesting some of the hardier greens — kale and spinach — as well as some final field work getting the land ready for planting in the spring. Even in the greenhouse the tender crops are finished for the season and with the short December day length much of that space will remain empty un