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!