Another year of farming and other fun things has gone by and it’s time to start preparations for the season ahead. All in all it was a pretty good year though by the end of it we were getting pretty tired. Sarah was busy in the fall trying to get all her winter storage vegetables harvested and stored for her winter CSA so was not able to put in as many hours for us as originally planned. It meant a bit of a stretch for Carla and I but, with help from Mom, Dad and Will, we pulled through. We had a very mild fall and this, along with an indoor space at the Farmer’s Market, enabled us to extend our selling season till the last weekend of November. We’ve pretty much stripped the field bare now though there’s still a bit of kale and some Brussels sprouts left, plus some cabbage, carrots, leeks, potatoes, shallots, garlic, hot peppers, popcorn and sunchokes in storage. Of course we have lots of bottled tomato sauce and ketchup, frozen broccoli, beans, cauliflower, peppers, fava beans and chevre and about 16 rounds of gouda and 5 lbs of feta to keep these farmers fed through the winter.
Will and I both went to the ACORN conference in Charlottetown at the end of November and along with enjoying lots of great workshops and socializing, we both gave presentations. Will and another farmer gave a talk on “farm hacks” – interesting inventions that are helpful in our everyday work – and I did a talk on cooperative farming models: farm ownership, equipment sharing and marketing. We both got lots of good feedback and hopefully our information was useful to others. After a day back on the farm spent harvesting for the up coming market, I got on a plane to London Ontario to participate in the annual National Farmer’s Union convention. I was scheduled to join a panel of other farmers talking about soil management on our farms but was able to also take in some of the process around voting on resolutions as well. I think I now truly understand the intricate workings of Robert’s Rules! It was a lot of fun and I got to meet some really nice people plus found a spice market nearby so was able to load up on a year’s supply of whole spices.
In December Will took off for two weeks in California, biking the coastal roads and visiting family. He stayed for Christmas which was really appreciated by his mother, and got caught up with his brothers’ lives as well as with other relatives. My brother and his family joined my parents and me for Christmas so it was a busy family time here as well. It was fun having kids around on Christmas day as the opening of gifts and eating of goodies takes on a much more exciting feel in the presence of their youthful enthusiasm. Sam, my young nephew, is learning to play violin and I taught him a simple fiddle tune – yes I am indoctrinating him in the arts of the fiddle in hopes of turning him to this highly developed musical form! Things went well on the farm in Will’s absence. I had to clear the driveway a few times after some small snowfalls and warmer temperatures that left the driveway covered in slush and had no trouble with tractor or machinery.
The goats are doing well and all looking quite pregnant. We got the buck and his companion back from the farm that rented him for breeding and initially kept them outside in the buck building. They both complained about this so as soon as Will got back we moved them into the main barn and they now occupy their own stall within smelling distance of the girls. I lock up the girls and let the boys out to run around a bit every few days. Things will start to feel a bit too tight once the kids start arriving though if we’re lucky and have a mild March, I’ll be able to put the boys back outside in their summer accommodations. We do have one doe due to kid next week thanks to some fencing issues and a determined buck. It’s not the best thing to happen but I don’t think the weather will be too cold, though if it is we have our heat lamps and goat coats just in case!
Coin Bio/Organic Corner Co-op had its second AGM in early January and we spent two full days at it: strategic planning, marketing discussions and going over our bylaws. It went really well and I think we’re ready to face the season in a more organized fashion than last year. I’m also involved with a group of people trying to resurrect the Bouctouche Farmer’s Market. It originally started years ago and in recent years had run into some issues: management, lack of energy and then a collapse of the organizational structure. Then, as if it wasn’t struggling enough, the structure burnt down. The new group is made up of some of the original starters as well as new joiners. I think we realize it will never be a huge farmer’s market but with a bit of work and creative planning, we can make it into a decent little market with a good selection of local food. Bouctouche’s only grocery store used to sell NB products but was recently bought out by a larger chain and now only sells produce from Quebec. People want to support local and recognize the value in a fresher product so are looking for these options. I’m looking at getting together with some other small farms to create a more diverse stall and to help share the job of selling. I think this may be a good model for other farmers if we can find people selling other farm products who are interested in doing the same. We will set up at the market this season under tents as the permanent structure won’t be completed for another year or so.
Winter has been very gentle to us so far and we appreciate this though miss the skiing! We had a storm a few nights ago and now have a bit of snow on the ground with more on the way. You never know what winter will bring and we just have to be prepared for everything.