End of Season Wrap Up!
Our last CSA basket of the season went out last week and it all feels pretty surreal. This season has been so emotional for us. It was really difficult in some ways and in other ways it felt fantastic. Our 8 year dream is finally coming true and we’ve been trying to focus on that through the exhaustion and stress of not only farming but the added intensity of starting up a new farm. We got the keys to this place in January and after a difficult departure from our former rental farm we weren’t even sure if we could continue farming in 2022 or if we needed to take a season off. It was a decision we didn’t take lightly. To take a season off meant we would lose all business momentum that we had spent 3 years building, however we could take things a bit slower getting set up and be less stressed about our new start. After a lot of conversation we decided we needed to keep going. And so the adventure began…
To say this season went smoothly is..well..not true. It was a very difficult season but after a few days of reflection we both feel pretty good about it overall and feel our quality was pretty good for a first season. Definitely not where we want to be but knowing nothing about our soil and the microclimates around the farm we are pretty proud of the produce we put out.
The overall temperatures are different than what we are used to because we are in a colder temperature zone than before and that will take a few years of recognizing average patterns. We also had a pretty intense series of heat waves this summer and a record number of tornado warnings and very intense wind. We were very lucky not to have incurred too many losses compared to a lot of other farmers we know.
Our new soil seems to be pretty good. After getting a soil test, nothing was out of the ordinary. Much of Quebec has acidic soils and we are no different. To adjust, we add lime to our soils but overall the quality is decent. It will take a long time to build our soil into a healthy, symbiotic part of our farm but that is what this job (for us) is about. One of our main goals is to focus on building back depleted soils and to regenerate what has had only nutrients taken from it for years.
Some highlights from this season include this season’s round of corn and melons. This was our first season being able to grow them for our CSA baskets and it was such a nice treat. We got our new road to the back field finished and managed to get all our beds prepped and tunnels up in time! We worked crazy hard to get our barn ready and have set up an awesome winterized area for our fuzzy little kids. Obviously a big highlight was getting so many hilarious farm animals. They really do make us laugh every day.
As with every season there were a few lowlights. For some reason we still can’t grow beets. We’ve always had trouble with them, despite beets being one of the easiest crops to grow. At our last place after getting a soil test it tuned out we had a boron deficiency which is why we couldn’t grow them. Our new place doesn’t seem to have that deficiency so we’ll have to just keep trying and learning about our soil. Hopefully 2023 will be the year of beets because they are one of my favourite things to eat.
The weeds in our fields were a disaster. We had so much going on that it was impossible to keep up with weeding and we ended up loosing several crops to overcrowding from weeds. We had a gorgeous crop of sweet potatoes only to find out about half of them had been eaten by voles. It was frustrating but that’s a big part of farming. One of the reasons small scale farming is so important. When one crop fails we (hopefully) have a few back-ups to supplement what we lost.
Infrastructure - wise we got about half of what we wanted to accomplish done. Our plan was to get our orchard started as well as our irrigation pond built but both of those proved to be too much for this season and will have to be pushed back. We had hoped to have our wash station done by now but it turned out we couldn’t hire a contractor and therefore have to build it on our own. It is a difficult project to squeeze in with our crazy schedules but luckily we have an amazing human being in our lives, Chris’ dad, who has essentially done almost all of it for us. From the designing, permits, organizing, building – he has helped us through it all and we are so thankful for his help and guidance. We were able to get a good portion done and can hopefully wrap it up in the spring time when the big trucks can get here for our flooring, etc.
We still have a few more weeks of clean up around the farm which is proving to be difficult with all the snow we’ve been getting. After that, we plan on taking a few weeks off and not doing too much. Playing with the animals and maybe a few small renovations on the house.
Many people wonder what farmers do throughout the winter but there’s a lot of work that goes into farming behind the scenes. We spend the winter reviewing what worked and what didn’t and trying to adjust our game plan. We research and apply for any grants that we could take advantage of. There’s lots of admin – website updates, advertising but most of all planning for the next season. We calculate then place seed orders, figure out our crop rotations, and order any infrastructure or amendments we will need. ‘Farming’ is still a full time job in winter but it’s a nice break from the physical work. We aren’t sure what new things we’ll have in 2023 but we are both so excited to start planning and thinking about a new season. We look forward to having much more time to give a few farm tours and snuggly animal visits so stay tuned!
To everyone who supported us this season, thank you. We couldn't do it without you!
Jennie, Chris, Winnie the farm dog, Daisy and Buttercup the goats, and all the Hens.