Love Local button designed by Jennifer
I have had an rocky relationship with the farmer’s market. I did not really like it the first time I went to vend. It was hard for me. I said I would NEVER go to another farmer’s market. We’ll, I guess I am now eating my words. Today is market day.
The Erin market has been a long time coming. The town of Erin is a lovely little place just outside of Toronto. The people are friendly and the landscape is beautiful. A surprising number of small farms are in the area. This time going to market is a little different. Artisans have been included in the market! A small group of dedicated volunteers have brought this wonderful venture to pass.
So, I am packing up my wares and travelling to market. I have my table, displays, pricing, flyers, and most important of all, the drum carder. Yes, I am going to represent homegrown products, but not food. I am bringing my wool and my herbs. From 3pm until 7pm every Friday throughout the summer I will occupy a small part of the Erin Fair Grounds.
I am really looking forward to it this time. Come and visit me, and my drum carder and see how felt is made!
First tomato from the garden.
Yesterday we picked out first tomato, It was delicious. It was mid-January or so when the tomato drive began here. Seeds were selected for their colour, cold tolerance and their short harvest dates. A trip to both the Guelph Organic Conference and seed vendors were made in snowy slippery weather to pick up our orders. Seeds were lovingly planted and kept under lamps throughout germination, seedlings and ultimately when going into the ground. When the sun didn’t come the disappointment was palpable. The time invested into these little coloured gems is great. Gelatinous heaven on the tongue is the only way to describe your first garden tomato. Now if the rest of them would ripen!
Oh, the squash is going great guns. It was delicious on the barbecue with some chives. Tim was at the Acton Market over the weekend. Because the weather has been so good he actually had some other things to bring that weren’t green. Peas, carrots, chard, and cucmbers are all growing really well. Beans are starting and should be ready for the next market as well as the hot peppers.
Acton market has just has it’s third week. We were there and pleased with how it went. People came back looking for some more produce and we even found out that the jam and cakes I make can be sold there. This is great news because some regions don’t allow that. It will be exciting when we have the “cool” vegetables like peas, beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
First pea of the year.
Japanese climbing cucumber.
I wish I had got the peas and beans in sooner. We at least have peas starting. We ate our first cucumber over the weekend. It is a Japanese Climbing cuke. It has a lovely tang to it that is very refreshing. The lettuce is just about done and our first bed of cabbage has succumbed to insects.We didn’t cover it with row-cover at the beginning of the year leaving it open to all the brassica bugs. We have another bed in the front garden that is covered growing well for market, and us.
After growing this cabbage we may never grow a head cabbage again. Leaf cabbage is wonderful and it can be eaten really quickly. No season long investment in a head only to see it eaten by something. Of course the stars of the season are the tomatoes. Although it isn’t a great tomato season so far we do have some coming along. The Tigerella in the kitchen garden is doing well. Others are coming along in other parts of the garden. Below is one of our yellow cucumbers. We didn’t do to well with these last yer, they were Lemon cucumbers. This year is a different variety called Bothby’s Blonde. They are supposed to be very good.
Radishes are truly wonderful as they don’t take a lot of time to grow (mine were about 20 days) and they are so satisfying to harvest. Harvesting the radishes was going to be easier I thought. In many ways it was but there was an extra step involved – relay planting. This is a key concept in SPIN farming. You plant one set of seeds, harvest them and while harvesting you plant the next set of seeds. It is a good way of getting a continuous harvest. I am just beginning to experiment with this as well as other methods of getting a lot of things to grow in a small space.
I had two beds of radishes to harvest with two rows each. These beds had been done in one week intervals. Surprisingly they were both about the same size. I got my seed packet ready and started harvesting. I would harvest one section and then go back and seed it. I knew that if I picked everything I wold be less likely to go back and seed it as I didn’t want the radishes sitting in the air getting soggy. Incrementally worked well and nothing was soggy by the time I went in. If I had had more I would have also done it in two stages.
I tried to place the seed in the appropriate spacing right off the bat, but with dirty, wet hands I found it challenging. My first bed I randomly placed the seeds and then had to go back and thin them out. this was more work than just doing the spacing from the beginning. In another 20 days I should have another harvest from the same beds waiting to go to market.
I took them inside and just rinsed them through some wash water and left them to drain and dry. I wasn’t sure how to sort them as a bunch. They were a variety of sizes and I didn’t have enough to make exact numbers. I settled on having six in a bunch with different sizes. Unfortunately I had left the radishes a bit too long so I ended up having half of my harvest splitting from too much and fast growth or being tasted by various critters. I couldn’t sell these so I cut them up, getting rid of the already nibbled bits, for samples at the market. I admit I ate a fair number of the pieces as they were quite tasty.
I didn’t even like radishes but now I adore them. they made me feel very proud.
Lettuce after it's "haircut".
This past weekend was the first official harvest. It was quite exciting as I have never has so much food to get ready that I have grown myself. I came across a few issues that I hadn’t thought about when I put the seeds in. The first was HOW do I gathers 5 inch lettuce leaves that are closely spaced together? When I planted the lettuce and mesclun mix I deliberately planted them close together. This provided cover for the soil and keeps it moist once it warmed up hopefully resulting in the lettuce bolting later on. Lettuce generally prefers cooler conditions.
I ended up using my garden shears that I cut grass with. A knife just wasn’t going work and my beds are too small to warrant buying a greens harvester. So I cut once, put down the shears where they had closed and picked up the leaves to put in my basket. I didn’t go right to the ground but left about two inches or so. New leaves were still visible to grow into the next harvest. It did seem to work quite well and I harvested quickly. Because I didn’t want the leaves to wilt so I harvested in two stages.
Washing the greens was another process entirely. This hadn’t really been fully thought through when planting either. I brought my basket in a decided on a two step process to begin with. I washed everything with a bleach solution before I started anything to make sure my kitchen was clean. I then filled up my wash-bucket with cold water and added a tiny amount of food-grade hydrogen peroxide. I then filled my sink with cold water as a rinse. After putting the lettuce through both washes I dried it off somewhat in my salad spinner. Then I left it to drain on some clean towels on the counter.
I then started to weigh and bag the greens. I have a nifty digital scale to weight things on. I didn’t use it to the exact gram, but got a general idea, over a few grams each time. I looked up my prices on the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario to give me a guide to what my prices should be. I don’t want to go too low, but as a first year, non-certified organic grower I don’t feel I can charge the highest price either. I wanted my prices to be fair.
Ziplock veggie bags were my bag of choice. They are much more expensive, but I don’t have enough to buy a big roll of plastic bags. I also thought it would be a nice way to keep the greens in the fridge once someone had bought them. I managed to get a total of 18 bags at around 150 grams each.
The total exercise for the greens took somewhere around 2.5 hours I figured. The entire harvest, washing and pricing took a total of six hours on my own.