Sunday, 11 May 2008

A great day at the CSA!

It was another fair weather weekend, and this time I finally made it out to the CSA farm!

It was a Saturday perfect for onion planting, and by the end of the day I had helped in the planting of 4 thousand baby onions! There were four of us working on this task all day - Graham and Alison the farmers, along with myself and one other shareholder, Ben.

Our first task was to gently remove the baby onions from their greenhouse flats, separate them and shake off most of the soil mix (into a bin for reuse). Then we placed them in special trays lined with moistened burlap, to fend off the dry air made worse by the brisk wind. After this was done, the trays were mounted on the transplanting attachment, which is hooked up to the back of the small tractor.

As you can seen in the picture below, the transplanter is sort of like a paddle wheel. Each paddle consists of a soft rubber cup that firmly but gently grasps each individual onion and plants it, as the wheel goes around. Two people sit on the transplanter (you can seen the yellow seat backs there) and alternate placing the individual onions into the rubber cups as they come around. The onions are spaced out one every four inches, so the paddle wheel turns fairly quickly! After a while I got the hang of it, but not before planting a few onions upside down!

Afterwards, it was very rewarding to see all the neat rows of onion shoots lined up in the field, ready to be watered by the drip irrigation system. Ben, the other shareholder there that day commented aptly, "These onions are going to taste really good when we get them!" Yup, they sure are.

The farmers made the day very enjoyable, answering all of our questions and showing us how their organic operation works. Graham described how he lets some fields lie fallow in certain years, and how he uses green manures and nitrogen-fixing crops to keep the soil rich in nutrients. We were encouraged to look around, take breaks as we felt like it and reminded that "it's got to be fun." I sure had fun, and I wouldn't doubt it for a second if the baby onions knew it!

At the end of the day a reporter from Vue Weekly magazine came to the farm. She was doing an article for an upcoming 'food edition' of their magazine. She had already interviewed an agriculture professor, as well as people at the Peas On Earth Organic farm, and the proprietor of one of my favorite restaurants, Bacon. Among other things, the reporter asked if we thought that eating locally and organically was a trend with people we knew. I answered in the affirmative, but added that I see it as more than just a trend, that it will become just the way people eat, again. We talked a bit about how escalating fuel prices will be part of this, but also people's increasing interest in knowing what their food does, and does not, contain.

It was a great day at the CSA!


CindyW said...

Wow, it's really amazing that you got to tour your CSA and saw how it was all done. I don't subscribe to CSA, because I love going to farmer's market. But I would very much like to take my kids (and myself) to see how real organic farming is done. Thanks for the reminder. I will definitely look into a local farm.

Heather said...

That sounds like so much fun! I don't belong to a CSA, but I have a membership at a local dairy which also has veggies and meat. They are having a "Farm Day" on June 7 where we get to see how they do everything, have a picnic lunch, enjoy a hay ride, make butter, etc. It sounds like so much fun. My hubby and I are going and we invited a friend of mine and her family. Although I've been a member for a couple months, I've only talked to the farmers by email (a delivery driver brings our food to town) so I'm really looking forward to meeting the owners. I think it's so exciting to actually be there in the place where your food is grown. (Of course, someday that will be my backyard, but I'm not there quite yet.)

Theresa said...

Cindy - yes, it was very kind of them to do that! They encouraged us to look around in the greenhouses and everywhere and to ask any questions. Their enthusiasm for their work was really contagious!

Heather, that does sound fun! I found it exciting too, to be where my food was being grown and talking and working with the people who are growing it and taking care of it while it grows. I got a sense that the farmers at our CSA had a real affinity and fondness for the plants they were growing and nurturing - such a different relationship to the food than what you typically see at a grocery store.

Anonymous said...

Sounds awesome! I've always been interested to see how CSA's really work.

Simply Authentic said...

That sounds incredible! I'm glad you were able to go and learn so much--and in turn that you were able to pass it on! I'm always so fascinated to hear how all of this actually works! What an enjoyable and rewarding experience!

Theresa said...

Yup, it was a very cool experience! I'm pretty sure I'll be going back to help for more than the 'required' hours just because it's so rewarding and I learn so much!