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FARMER’S LOG, SEED DATE OCTOBER 26, 2022

It’s time to wrap things up on the farm. We had our last market of the season on Saturday and final CSA pickup the week before. Even though our plants aren’t melting away like they usually do at this time of the year, they have stopped producing and are ready for their next stage of life and death in the compost. 

While Fresh Roots winterizes the farms, we are also looking for someone to replace me during my parental leave in 2023. This person will be starting early in the year and working all season, overlapping with my return at the end of the summer. I’m hoping to find a person who will want to continue working with Fresh Roots for many years to come after I’m back. So, in an effort to recruit someone awesome, I’ve decided to use this blog entry to give a little breakdown of my position during peak season, and make it easier for folks to imagine themselves here

Farm Manager: Season Overview

The FR core team spends the winter strategizing on how to make things smooth, fun, and true to our overall mission. This makes spring feel totally fresh and exciting. The first thing the farm manager does is review the crop plan, count the seeds, and place a seed order. Then, there’s organizing the spaces, figuring out what compost and amendments are needed, and spending more money (provided by early season CSA purchases)  on all the good stuff. Seeds for our long-season crops need to be started either in the ‘grow-op’ in our storage space at the office, or in the prop house in the courtyard of David Thompson. Direct seeding starts at the end of February, so a portion of the farm’s beds need to be prepped and amended in preparation.

Next is hiring the farm team. The team looks a little different every year depending on where we are farming, but for the Vancouver site, I hire the following positions: 1) Market Lead, 2) David Thompson Field Lead, 3) Van Tech Field Lead, and 4) SOYL Jr Market Assistant. There may also be volunteers,  interns and LFS students who need to be onboarded, too. 

By May, all these folks should have their schedules and start a 5-week training program to get familiar with their responsibilities. This means that by the middle of June and the start of the CSA pickup, the staff and volunteers know what’s up and can graduate to beginning their leadership phase. This marks the start of Peak Season when we all need to work together as an oiled machine to meet our goals. By the first week of July, our summer youth internship program starts up, and SOYL youth will be directed by the farm workers in farm and market tasks for 6 weeks. 

A Week in the Boots of a Farm Manager

Here’s what my week looked like in 2022’s peak season, keeping in mind that 2023 may look differently depending on which markets we sign-up for, how we structure our CSA, and who is helping us harvest:

Monday: Admin and Communications 

This work can either be done on the Fresh Roots computers in our office or from home on the farm manager’s personal computer. I usually work from home with my cat on my lap and a steamy mug of tea. 

  • Email, orders, payments, newsletters, blog
  • Data entry of harvest, sales & CSA records from the previous week
  • 15-minute visits to the sites to see what veggies are coming up and making lists of what needs to be done
  • This week’s harvest planning for CSA and Market. Record plans in the Harvest Plan and CSA Plan documents
  • Field work plans for the week plus delegation of seeding & transplanting plans and ensuring data entry has been done
  • Work plan emailed to all the farm team including links to Field Work, CSA & Harvest Plans
  • Communicating in slack with all the other departments in Fresh Roots about what kids can do on the farm, and where we might need help. This means making clear plans with facilitators and managers in: Experiential Learning (EL), Sustainable Opportunities for Youth leadership (SOYL), & our Administrators (ED, Ops, and Comms). 
  • Fresh Sheet for EL so they can plan their farm lunches for day camp (feeds 40 kids)
  • Expense reporting
  • Review & approve the farm team’s hours if it’s the end of a pay period

Tuesday – Harvest Day

  • 730am: meet at David Thompson to harvest tender veggies
  • 1130am: ICC cooler – drop off harvest and eat lunch
  • 1-3pm: Van tech harvest of fruiting veggies / hot crops
  • 3-330pm: drop off harvest at the ICC cooler

Wednesday – Market Day & CSA Pickup #1

  • 730am: harvest flowers & any remaining harvest needed for CSA or Market
  • 1130am: pick up our bread order and maybe mushroom order
  • Lunch!
  • 1-330pm: help set up the market (operates 3-7)  with the Market Lead and whoever is helping out that day; either another farm team member, SOYL Youth, or volunteers

Thursday – Harvest Day

  • 730am: David Thompson
  • 1130am: ICC Cooler
  • Lunch!
  • 1-3pm: Van Tech
  • 3-330pm: ICC cooler

Friday – Field Work, Remaining Harvest & CSA Delivery for Pickup #2

  • 730am: complete any necessary harvest for CSA Pickup / Saturday market. Otherwise field work! 230 CSA Delivery to Collingwood Neighbourhood House for their “Community Care Veggie Box” program
  • 330pm: finished!

Saturday – VFM Market 

OFF!

Sunday – Everybody takes a day of rest!

OFF!

Wrapping Up the Season

Once the farm team’s summer contracts are over – usually at the end of August – one of the workers will stay on through the fall to help wrap up the CSA & markets and to winterize the farm. In 2023, I’ll be back to help the acting FM wrap things up. Together, we’ll write the crop plan for 2024 and work on the end-of-season reporting. We’ll also staff any remaining markets together, likely adjusting our schedules to Tuesday to Saturday. 

There are many other pieces of work that aren’t explicitly outlined in my weekly schedule – like all the planning and training that happens, community outreach events, volunteer events, tours, and workshops I lead. These bits and bobs are usually crammed into Mondays or Fridays, or woven into harvest days. Volunteer and youth training is also delegated to the farm team members during their field work time. Overseeing the schedules of each farm team member can be a jigsaw puzzle, noting that each member has their own domain to manage and it’s up to the Farm Manager to make sure responsibilities are fulfilled and deadlines are being met so we can meet our CSA and Market commitments. It’s also up to the Farm manager to make sure that mentorship is happening across the organization – so that the farm team members are supported and empowered to teach youth the skills they’ve acquired in their first 5 weeks. 

Peak Season is incredibly dense but it’s a lot of fun. All of the folks working on the farm are youth – from the farm team to the 4-year old campers in the EL program. There is so much life and energy to play with in this job, and I hope whoever is looking for that kind of fun will apply!

– Farmer Camille

Do you have what it takes to be our Acting Good Farm Manager in 2023? Apply here: https://freshroots.bamboohr.com/careers/53

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FARMER’S LOG, SEED DATE AUGUST 12, 2022

Here I am, about two weeks late, at 6:30am on a Friday making another attempt at August’s farm blog. It’s not that I don’t enjoy telling a story – those who know me or have sat at a table in one of the restaurants I’ve worked at have their ears coated in my poetic wax. I just haven’t had a minute to catch my breath. It’s peak season! 

If you follow FR on the socials, you may have learned that I have a growing obsession with flowers. Nicole (the David Thompson Field Lead) and I have been churning out about 15 bouquets every Wednesday to bring joy to our market stand. It has been a blast to share these blooms with our marketgoers at the ICC – and see their eyes light up when they land on the bursts of colour by the till. I’m hoping that next year we can get SOYL participants learning about flower arranging – and maybe bring in an expert at the beginning of the season to lead a workshop. If you know an expert florist or are one yourself and would love to lead a workshop with youth next summer, please reach out to me – camille@freshroots.ca! We would also love to install some garden-helper mushrooms in the woodchip & straw paths (I’m thinking King stropharia and oyster) so if you’ve got some spawn, let me know. 

SOYL just wrapped up their last day yesterday! 6 weeks of youthful exuberance filled the beds at Van Tech and now those sweet almost-adults have left us in the dust. To commemorate, our final Community Eats lunch on Wednesday was epic: everyone gorged on handmade tacos with extensive fillings and then two vegetable cakes: one chocolate zucchini; the other beet and oat. We then rounded out the very last SOYL-attended market at the ICC. Fresh Roots feels completely different without the youth buzzing around, so I’m thankful that EL still has camps for another 2.5 weeks. Overhearing the young kids’ hilarious conversations in the shade of the cherry blossom trees at David Thompson is the cherry on top of harvest days. Here’s an example I pulled from our #overheardatcamp channel on slack:

“Chef doodle I want to eat your face off because everything you make is so yummy”

Or, perhaps, about a really big pregnant (?) ant: “she could be moving house or mad”

I especially enjoyed the pregnant comment, as I am housing a sweet little human in my own body, and agree that yes, being pregnant sure has made me mad, especially while harvesting on black plastic in a heat wave. My ankles will never be the same again.

Although our youth programs are trickling to an end, there are lots of things on the horizon. On Wednesday, August 17th, the ICC and Fresh Roots are going to be hosting guest vendors at our market. There will be Mexican food, Egyptian hand pies, local tea, and natural soaps and cleaning products. For more information on these vendors tune into our socials @freshrootsfarms

The farm team is wrapping up their CSJ contracts, which breaks my heart as well. But it means that mid-August is the end of our seeding and the start of putting the beds to sleep for the winter. We will be sowing cover crop, unfolding silage, planting garlic, and mulching with straw. It reminds me of bears building a den for the winter. The prospect of the fall with sweet cool wind on the horizon and mushrooms popping up is a real delight, being a fall baby myself. I’ll also be taking a week off to revitalize in the cedars for my birthday, which I am coveting with my whole heart. 

Working with youth on this farm is inspiring, wonderful and hilarious. That said, being a non-profit that relies so heavily on Canada Summer Jobs grants to employ Fresh Roots’ farm staff is an epic challenge. Especially with this season being so late. The limitations of CSJ end dates mean that we are only half way through our 20-week CSA and haven’t harvested a single red heirloom tomato while our workers’ contracts are wrapping up. In Vancouver, Fresh Roots grows tomatoes in the field, without a cover, so this wretchedly slow start to the season has prevented most of our fruiting veg from ripening. And although our markets have been busy and sell out, we have only half the stock variety we usually do, so our sales remain about 30% lower than last season. So with the implications of the weather and being a non-profit urban farm, I’m anticipating a huge harvest on my hands through the fall while my baby belly waggles between my squat legs. I am crossing my fingers that the rest of the core team isn’t too bogged down with their own work to come and help out in the field while I acknowledge the huge loss of skilled farm labour fading away with the cornucopia of fall harvest on the way. In any case, I am  certainly working hard to earn my maternity leave.

Hopefully I will be able to tune in again sooner than 6 weeks from now, although we all know that a farmer’s hands are more than full during the summer here in the PNW. Until then, relish the joy of sweet summer stone fruit juice trickling down your chin and swimming in our gorgeous waters.

– Farmer Camille

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FARMER’S LOG, SEED DATE JULY 1, 2022

WOW, welcome to the busiest moment at Fresh Roots. The week of July 4th is when all of our summer youth programming starts up – SOYL Internships in Vancouver, Delta & Coquitlam – and the EL Summer Camp at David Thompson. It’s also the week of our epic, annual fundraiser, where we haul together to fund our humongous programs, farm, and community work. Even though the sun is only mildly sticking his head out, we are sweating!

Speaking of the weather, wasn’t that nice to get some vitamin D over a handful of days this past month? The dramatic shift between constant, cool moisture and then a high of 34C meant all our daikons bolted, resulting in a pitiful 30lb harvest from 65 feet of plants. That said, our lettuces, brassica greens, and salad radishes have been absolutely radiant, and peas are coming in a rather late but epic wave of sweet, verdant pods. Rubicon Napa Cabbages were excellent, too.

While it’s been wonderful to swim in greens and tender radishes, we are so ready to reap the fruit of our labour. Many of our fruiting veggies are still a month behind, and aren’t showing signs of speeding up much. In an effort to try to stimulate faster growth, we planted most of our hot crops into black landscape fabric and installed low tunnels to mimic greenhouse conditions. Summer Squash looks like it might be ready for CSA in a couple of weeks but tomatoes definitely won’t hit the market until August. And peppers & eggplant  — eek — maybe not until September. 

Our markets have been going very smoothly. It’s been wonderful to stock it brimming with tasty plumage and come back with very little that didn’t find a home. However, did you know that every single morsel that comes back to our cooler is recovered either within the organization through our community eats program, or shared with South Van Neighbourhood House or Collingwood Neighbourhood house? Literally nothing is wasted. Being in an urban setting, connected with many food security organizations means that it’s easy to revert our market returns to mouths, and I’m so thankful for it. 

The farm team is finally complete with our newest member, Freshta. That reminds me – I ought to introduce the amazing folks that make up this season’s high-functioning, incredibly talented and hilarious team. 

Elina Blomley

They/She

Market Lead

Elina is studying food/agriculture at SFU and brings a whimsical and hilarious slang to the team. They are highly organized, have a keen eye for detail, and are just a delight to work with. 

Nicole Burton

She/They

David Thompson Field Lead

Nicole hails from the farms of Ontario, where the roads are wide and the summers are hot. She’s got an expertise in growing crops for seed as well as managing a market garden. Her cool-as-a-cucumber approach puts us at ease when things feel tight. 

Sam Tuck

He/They

Van Tech Field Lead

Sam braved the desert heat at Solstedt Farm in Lillooet last summer. He’s passionate about Indigenous Uprising and teaching the team a lot with his sharp anti-racist lens. 

Freshta Mohibi

She/Her

Market Assistant

We are blessed by this SOYL alum and ray of sunshine. Freshta is the newest member of our team and comes from a large, loving family that grew up tending to an apricot orchard. 

Stay tuned for updates next month on how our fundraiser went, and what’s new and in season on the farm. 

– Farmer Camille

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FARMER’S LOG, SEED DATE JUNE 1, 2022

Hey’all! I am relieved to be behind my screen, caffeinated and ready to dive into my Monday office hours at Fresh Roots HQ, here at Norquay Park. I feel equipped (actually, #blessed) with a team of incredibly talented farm workers this spring, who I trust are tending our fields with skill, love and care so I can fill our readers in about what’s popping up this spring. 

2022 has been a bumpy start with low temperatures, tonnes of precipitation, and no farm staff through April and the start of May. This is because Galen, the Fresh Roots Program Manager, who usually supports with the essential prep and seeding before our summer staff are onboarded, ended their tenure with Fresh Roots on April 1st. This outstanding individual is not only a skilled and dependable earth-tender, but was also my biggest ally and supportive voice for the farm department at the multi-faceted, densely programmed, non-profit machine that is Fresh Roots.

Because this important set of hands was missing, I put the call for help out to the team and had some very productive days when people were able to make it out. We got about 60% of the bed prep and planting done that needed to get done, which is at least double what I would have been able to accomplish alone. It’s of incredible benefit that several of the core team went through the SOYL program and even did internships, so they have the muddy experience to apply to transplanting in the rain. I think it’s unique that Fresh Roots gets all its core team out to the farms to do lifting once in awhile- regardless of people’s titles. I’m not sure if all our Job Descriptions say this, but they definitely should – that there will always be opportunities to get dirt in all fingernails if you’re part of this team. 

A highlight this spring was SOYL spring break in mid-March. It was heartwarming to see some of last summer’s SOYL participants come back to help out. This year we had a big project: to tackle our ever-flooded zone D at Van Tech. Together with myself, the Site Manager (Gray), and Galen at the program helm, the SOYL Spring Break Participants transformed the swamp into a productive block of bordered, raised beds and moisture-wicking woodchipped paths. It was an incredible transformation and only took the crew 2 days. Despite the torrential downpour we were working in, the team kept spirits high and even took dance breaks and vogue walks to maintain the vibe. Infused with queer-lovin’ dance moves, this zone will be an entirely SOYL-managed space through the summer where we will hone in on their agricultural skills from building, bed-prep, seeding, transplanting, and harvest. This means that any kale or chard you find in your CSA box or purchased from our farm stand this summer will be 100% produced by the SOYL crew. I think that’s pretty outstanding. 

From some pretty huge team builds of 50+ folks, to an internal team blitz at the Norquay sharing garden, across all departments, Fresh Roots has been revitalizing the spaces we tend all spring, beyond just bed prep and seeding. As we onboard more and more youth to work this summer, our faces diversify and so does our focus. Through the summer, I’ll continue to share stories and reflections about the farm but if you’d like to stay abreast of all the other wonderful things the organization gets up to, follow the blogs from Kat, the Fresh Roots Experiential Learning Manager, as well as the featured blogs from YE and EL facilitators, and many other members of our evolving team. 

– Farmer Camille

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6 Vegetables Kids Will Love

By Andrea Lucy, Experiential Learning Program Lead

With planting season upon us, we’re prepping our farm beds with vegetables kids love! The farm is a place to experiment and experience. Kids are introduced to the wonderfulness of vegetables in a low-pressure environment through taking “adventure bites” of new veggies, making art with crops, playing games, and planting seeds. Vegetables can bring us joy in many different ways.

Over the years, we have found kids have a special liking for some specific vegetables. Whether you’re planting your own garden or looking for new vegetables to introduce to the dinner table, here are some favourites to try:


Peas

Peas of any colour and shape are well-loved! We plant a number of varieties, including Parsley Pea, Sugar Ann, Dwarf Grey Sugar, and Purple Mist. Now is the perfect time to begin planting them for a late spring harvest, and we can replant them in late summer for a fall harvest. Enjoy the crunchy pods and the tender new leaves.

 


Tokyo Bekana

This mustard crop was a huge hit amongst campers last year! The leaves and buttery and the stems are crunchy. A perfect addition to salads, spring rolls, sushi, and even blended-in smoothies. But if we’re being honest, the kids’ favourite way to eat it was straight from the ground in handfuls.

 

 

Hakurei Turnips

These Japanese-bred turnips are a huge hit! The circular white root is smooth and sweet. While they can grow quite large, kids seem to like them best when they are young and bit size. We love cutting them up raw and eating them with a yummy greek yogurt dip.


Carrots

There is nothing kids enjoy harvesting more than pulling a carrot out of the ground. We like surprising them with a purple or yellow carrot. Depending on the variety, carrots can be planted year-round on the coast. If kids are impatiently waiting for the carrots to grow to size, have them try the carrot-flavour leaves.


Lemon Cucumbers

Although it’s still a little early to plant lemon cucumbers, they are a treat worth waiting for. They are small, round, yellow cucumbers with a juicy and crunchy lemon flavour. It’s the perfect summer treat. We grow them draping over the side of a raised bed so all the kids can reach them. Wipe the little prickles off the cucumber’s peel with a towel, and it’s ready to munch and crunch.


Sorrel

Like sour candies? Then this is the plant for you! The leaves contain an acid that makes them sour and tart like a lemon. Nibble raw or add them to salads, sour soups, or a layer in spanakopita. This may be the most citrus-tasting leaf you ever try.

Taste them on the farm!

Come visit our farm to taste and grow these delicious veggies and more!

Sign up for a spring Vancouver Farm Field Trip for your class

Grow, harvest, and cook all week-long at Camp Fresh Roots this summer

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Meet the Flame Weeder: Why We’re Using Fire on the Farm

By Andrea Lucy, Experiential Learning Program Lead

Last year, we wrote about how weeds can be used as food and medicine. Now I’m about to tell you that at Fresh Roots we remove most of our weeds. Surprised?

We’ve got a problem. It’s as thick as weeds out there on the farm. Whether you view weeds in a good or bad light, we have WAY too many! From February to October, our farmers spend the time planting. From February to February, our farmers weed, over and over and over again. It’s a losing battle, nature has a leg up on us. And it’s a shame. Not only does it mean it’s more difficult and time-consuming for us to grow beautiful, large produce to share with the community, but it also means students spend less time planting, caring for sprouts, and harvesting because the time is consumed by weeding.

But, we have a solution. Introducing the flame weeder!

Fresh Roots farmer with a flame weeder in July. The flame weeder is burning all the weeds in the carrot beds, helping our little carrots germinate and sprout without competition for nutrients and water.

Did your jaw drop? Mine did too at first when I heard we use this. After last year’s wildfires that wreaked through interior BC, the last thing we want is fire on the landscape. Right? Not necessarily. As our farmers have shown, the difference here is that the flame weeder is a very controlled fire. We choose where the small fire goes, and have all the resources at the ready to put the fire out when we want to.

Here are a few reasons why a flame weeder is a beneficial tool on our farms:

  • Helps us grow food organically without the use of pesticides.
  • Reclaim farmland we can’t use otherwise due to the forest of weeds
  • Increases efficiency (eg: less labour weeding = more food to market)
  • More time for education, less time weeding
  • Learning with plants year-round. During the winter many classes visit our farms, but because of our issues with weeds, we have to cover all our rows with black tarps to try to smother the weeds during winter. Therefore, visiting classes can’t engage with any winter crops or plants.
  • Can practice no-till method with the flame weeder, meaning we don’t destroy the delicate network of bacteria, fungi, invertebrates, and nutrients built up in the soil. The no-till method also reduces soil erosion.

We’ve got a plan, now all we need are a couple more flame weeders to add to our toolkit.

 

Using controlled fire on the landscape is nothing new, but it’s something we’ve forgotten in the last 150 years of colonization. Dr. Amy Christianson’s and many other Indigenous scholars and firefighters’ work on “Good Fire” is bringing this sustainable tradition back to light, during a time it’s desperately needed. This Ologies podcast with host Alie Ward and guest Dr. Amy Christianson is an eye-opening introduction to Indigenous Fire Ecology . The Good Fire podcast goes even deeper, with an emphasis on the BC context.

To learn more about the good, the bad, and the ugly of weeds, try out some of the hands-on activities here:

Needy Weedy Activities

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End-Of-Season Harvest Reflections

By Kat Vriesema-Magnuson, Experiential Learning Manager

Halloween. Dia de Muertos. Samhain. All Saints and All Souls Days. This time of year the harvest makes way for the long cold nights of winter in the Northern hemisphere, and it’s no surprise that many cultures take time to reflect on death, decay, mortality, and those who’ve gone before. All that lives must die, to make way for what will come after. On the farm this month we’ve seen the massive heads of sunflowers go from cheery reminders of summer, to drooping, black reminders that summer must end. We’ve torn up the plants that were lovingly tended all season, and returned their corpses to the compost bin. In spring, we’ll plant again, and we’ll use compost to enrich our soils. This year’s beans and tomatillos and zucchini won’t be forgotten, though, and neither will the young people we’ve worked with this year. The lessons we learned from this growing and learning season will help next year be even better.

I’ve slowly been learning more about the ancestral traditions of my family, and especially my Finnish grandmother. In Finland, Kekri marks the end of the summer’s work and the transition to winter. It was traditionally observed whenever a household’s summer work was done. Eventually, it became standardized to November 1 in western Finland, where my family came from. Like many other celebrations at this time of year, it was a celebration of the end of the harvest, and a remembrance of the dead. The sauna was cleaned and heated, a feast was prepared, and the spirits of ancestors were invited to enjoy the sauna and eat the feast. Once the ancestors had their fill, it was time for the family to do the same. During Kekri, no one was to go hungry, and food and drink would be offered to anyone who came to the door, even children dressed in scary outfits, who would threaten to break the household’s oven if they weren’t given treats. That sure sounds familiar!

With the end of October, our “summer work” is basically done here on the Experiential Learning Team. Field trips are wrapped up, camp is long done, and we’ve said goodbye to nearly all of our seasonal staff. Now is the time for reflecting on what’s happened, looking for what should be pruned away and what should be allowed to flourish in the new year. It’s time to breathe and rest and dream of spring. And it’s time to celebrate our many accomplishments from the past year, and see what all we’ve “harvested”. So here’s a quick run down of what we’ve done this year:

  • We engaged learners from pre-K through 12 in over 11,000(!) hours of learning on the farms and in the community!
  • We more than doubled the number of campers in our summer camps, from 125 to 286, and we were able to offer five free camp spaces at our Suwa’lkh camps.
  • We hosted over 60 classes from local elementary and secondary schools on our farms for field trips, and brought the farm to over 30 classes and day camp groups for workshops!
  • We employed 8 young adults in seasonal positions, where they learned as they taught, and grew in their skills and knowledge alongside our program participants!

I hope all of your harvests have been equally fruitful this year!

In gratitude for abundance and the legacy of those who’ve gone before,

Kat

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Farmer’s Log, Seed Date November 1, 2021

Of course, the day that I need to sit inside and hammer out a blog, the sun decides to shine and the sky is bright blue. At least I don’t have to squeeze into my mud-soaked raingear today, which is the norm this time of year. 

Reading back on last month’s blog, the goals I set for the farm seemed realistic and intuitive. Alas, this is not how things usually go. Piper, Galen and I went out to Delta to lend hands in planting their garlic and clearing out the high tunnel. We had the intention to harvest the seaweed that was washed up on the beach out there but a storm blew it all away. We also had intentions to piggyback on Delta’s compost pile but ran out of time tying ristra peppers from rafters so couldn’t shovel it into the truck. This all translates into later planting and mulching dates, and more days in transit between locations. 

Galen and I did get our garlic planted at Van Tech: 4 X 45 ft beds (not ten, like I imagined) to mature into big heads of Russian Red Garlic. Amendments we used were compost and river sand, sul-po-mag, and blood meal. We mulched with 6 inches of straw and will add seaweed when it washes ashore in Delta again and we have time to harvest it. We messed around with the spacing a little bit but ended up with 3 rows per bed, intermittently planted (laid out in a posts-and-windows pattern) 6-8 inches apart. It’s important to make sure each clove has 3-4 inches in every direction so it has space to expand its roots and get juicy. That means we planted about 1,000 cloves in these four beds. We also installed 3 X 25-ft beds at about 4-inch spacing for green garlic, which is like a delicious, garlic-flavoured leek harvested in the spring. For this purpose, we used the smallest cloves and some bulbils (garlic flower-produced seed). I’m excited to see how they turn out — I’m expecting thin, single-cloved, tender stalks that we will bunch for our CSA in 2022.

Although our markets and CSA are done for the season, we still have brassicas and chicory producing tasty cold-sweetened shoots. Japanese Sweet Potatoes were dug, and about 200 pounds of sunchokes are looking for homes. We are using these veggies to supply special events like the Indigenous Family Gathering at VanTech and to fill the food boxes for the South Van Neighbourhood House food hub. I’m also hustling a bit to get whatever bits and pieces I can into East Van Farm-to-table restaurants like Ugly Dumpling and Dachi Vancouver. If you’re a restaurant nearby and want to purchase veggies from us, get in touch with me!

Fresh Roots’ Field Lead, Piper, has now finished their contract for the season. I am so grateful for the positive vibes and enthusiasm they contributed this season. What a gem of a human that I’m sad to see go. I’m sure they will continue to charm whatever workplace or schoolroom they enter. This also means it’s up to me, sometimes Galen, and hopefully volunteers to finish up winterizing the farm. There are a lot of plants to pull and plastic to cover our fields, so any help from any supporters or *ahem* readers would be cherished. I promise to give you kale!

Now that I’ve enjoyed my hot lunch and written about garlic (was that really all I did in October? Plant Garlic? Time flies), it’s back off to the fields to tear down some trellising and coil up drip lines from our irrigation system. I’m hoping I’ll get a good dose of Vit D with these sun rays. Stay cozy, friends. 

– Farmer Camille

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Farmer’s Log, Seed Date October 1, 2021

Welcome to the final month of operation for the 2021 Fresh Roots Farm Season. This month we are undertaking lots of soil TLC so we have a nice, healthy biome in the spring, ready for our seeds and transplants. The only thing we actually plant this late in the season is Garlic. This year we will be filling an entire block (that’s 10 x 45ft beds) with lots of juicy amendments then planting the whole area with Russian Red Garlic. We’ll top them off with foraged seaweed and 6 bales of hay so they have a nice store of nutrients dissolving into the soil all winter until they decide to sprout up in the spring. There are a few beds we will leave to overwinter – like kale, chard, chicory, and a few other brassicas – but the rest we will amend and cover with silage for a nice winter nap. 

October is pretty solidly booked with school field trips on the farm. I’m hoping the youth will witness our system of putting the beds to sleep as a meaningful learning. It’s not just about smothering everything with big sheets of black plastic – it’s about protecting our soil from leaching and weeds all winter long so that we have an easier time in the spring. 

This month also closes out our final markets – October 13th is the last CSA Pickup as well as Market at the Italian Cultural Centre and October 23th will be the final market with VFM at Riley Park. Once our markets are shut, we clear the fields of any veggies that are left and either sell direct to restaurants or donate to local food hub programs. Right now I’m working on a partnership with David Thompson Secondary for a student-led program called the “Free Store” to get our donated veggies into students’ homes over the holidays. Otherwise we try to get our veggies into the weekly boxes at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, or the low-cost market at Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House.

Most of our fruiting vegetables have completely died back. That means no more eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, or peppers. We have some straggling last beans which is kind of shocking to me, but they’ll only last another week or two before they rot in this fall rain. Our flowers are melting off their stems while broccoli and Gailan pump out their last straggling sideshoots so we can bundle them up as broccolini for our final CSA Veggie Box. The transformation of the farm from a beautiful, buzzing production zone into a state of decay is marvellous to me. It means it’s time to slow down and introspect – and it’s so healthy to take stock of what needs work. Looking forward to doing the same for my own damn self, especially in light of this new holiday commemorating one of the Calls to Action for Truth and Reconciliation. 

With production out of the way, Piper and I will be able to focus on winterizing and tidying up the farm. I am so excited to have a clean slate this spring and looking forward to some possible new toys like a rolling flame weeder and a fancy tiller – that’s what I’m asking the Fresh Roots’ Santa for this Christmas, anyway. Another big wish on my list is for more weekday volunteers in 2022 to help us tackle weeds on a weekly basis. With changes in our programming, our SOYL participants weren’t able to support us at our site at David Thompson. This meant the farmers who are dedicated to cultivation had to divide their time between maintenance and seeding; I bet you can guess which task got priority.

That’s pretty much October for Fresh Roots’ Farm team in a nutshell – looking forward to slowing down and taking stock in the months to come. Thanks for a wonderful summer season!

-Farmer Camille