Posts Tagged ‘makaria’

“Diving In” by Cindy

Well, I’ve just placed our very first seed order.  It was so exciting that it prompted John to remind me (rather vociferously) that we really should be blogging our new adventure – so here we go.

I’m not sure why we think we will be good farmers – considering that neither one of us likes having dirty hands – but we both love food and fresh vegetables so much that we just have to give it a go.  Plus, the opportunities just keep coming up, so we’ll take that as a positive sign.

Anyway, our growing adventure started with the idea that we should grow veggies in our backyard.  We are renting an apartment over the garage of this lovely house, and there is a huge backyard where the landlord said we could certainly put in some raised beds if we wanted.  Fortunately, we asked the critical question – are there deer?  He laughed and said he was surprised we hadn’t seen them yet as they will practically come to the back porch and ask for apples.  We decided that we couldn’t afford to invest in deer fencing in a place where we weren’t sure how long we would stay.

So we got on the waiting list for a community garden plot.  While waiting, we heard about a community farming cooperative called “Growing Opportunities” (whenever we speak of the Grow Op – THIS is what we mean).  It sounded too good to be true, but we decided to check it out – and it is too good to be true – except that it is.  This couple decided that they liked growing vegetables so much that they thought everyone should have an opportunity to try growing on a larger-than-garden-size scale.  So they got a group together and leased an acre at a local therapeutic farm, and they began farming it.  Anyone interested in joining just has to join.  You put in as much work as you can, and you take what you need from the produce.  Surplus produce is sold to cover the costs of the farm (e.g., leasing the land, paying for tractor time and other supplies).  It’s pretty amazing and so satisfying to work the land with such good people.

Then, because I was enjoying a mid-career retirement (so to speak), a local farmer called me up and asked if I wanted to work for a week. It was the perfect opportunity to see if I could hack a full day in the field – and I could.  In fact – it was pretty darn enjoyable being outside in the sun feeling sorry for poor John stuck in the office all day.  Even the most monotonous tasks were fun because they had a definite purpose and a visible result, and the people were great to work with.  So after a week of paid work, I worked out an informal apprenticeship with the farm and continued to work at a much reduced rate.  I learned so much so quickly, but I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of the knowledge needed to run a farm.  Plus, the farmers (Brock and Heather) are great people and fun to work with.  Their place, Makaria Farm (www.makariafarm.com), is winning awards for innovation, and they really care about the quality of their produce.

After a few weeks of getting dirty and developing some interesting tan lines, the real windfall happened.  A local farmer heard that John was interested in getting into farming and suggested we consider renting his berry farm when he moves out of the province in the fall.  Well, we looked at the numbers and decided that even if we only break even, we can consider the adventure a year or two of intense agricultural college.  No webpage for that one – we’ll be working on that soon!

So that is how we ended up where we are now – planning our winter garden.  I now have an actual job working at a non-profit organization twenty hours a week, I “intern” two mornings a week at the farm we are going to rent, I occasionally head out to Makaria, we continue to work at Growing Opportunities, and we have our little garden plot (which is really not getting much of our attention, we must admit – I think it’s going to be an experiment in neglectful gardening, really).

But wait, you say!  Let’s get to the interesting part – what seeds did we order?  Well, we already have some brussel sprouts started because I went to a winter gardening workshop last week, but here’s what we should get in the mail later this week:

shallots  (can never have enough onions)

kale  (yummy healthy greens)

carrots

parsnips

turnips (yes – I love turnips)

spinach

beets (love love love beets)

cabbage (three different kinds to satisfy John’s sauerkraut and kimchi experiments)

squash

In our little garden plot we currently have some onions, spinach, cucumbers, brown beans, black beans, edamame soy beans, and one little tomato plant.  I also have some pepper plants and basil growing in various pots in the apartment. The berry farm is all about strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and of all things – garlic.  John is also working on some meat chickens (which I am not so excited about, being a vegetarian and all, but good for him).   The Grow Op is just chock full of plants.  We have everything from wheat to kale, strawberries, tomatoes, cilantro, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, carrots, and potatoes planted – just to mention a few.

And so that is how we went from being interested in farming to diving right in.  At the very least, it will be a learning experience as we grow together. (heh heh)

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