September 1, 2015

Farm Journals

Recently I did a school co-op placement at an organic farm in Prince Edward County.  It was 5 day experience which gave me some idea of how an organic family farm works, and also some hands-on insight into what areas I particularly enjoy or have a natural tendency towards when envisioning applying my holistic nutrition degree.  It also illustrated to me just how hard farmers work!  These folks were going from dawn to bedtime every day of the week.  Farming is not for the faint of heart.

Farm Diary Day 1
Prep day for the farmer's market.  There were 3 pickers harvesting, and a couple of others assisting here and there.  A wash/weigh/prep for the market person, and 2 other farm staff working with the machinery and animals. I did a mixed bag of jobs: harvested cabbage and green beans, weeded, harvested and dehydrated oat straw, washed a motherload of beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, weighed and packaged them for market, stocked the farmstand, and seeded a field with buckwheat. In the evening I was tasked to research the nutritive benefits of Lady's Slippers (a type of wild cucumber) and Portulaca/Purslane to share with the farmer's market customers.  Did you know that Portulaca has the highest content of Omega 3 out of any land plant?  It's delicious in a salad too.

Farm Diary Day 2
Up at 5:30am to prep for the farmer's market. Spirits were high as we set up at a lakeside location serenaded by Motown playing from someone's truck. Beautiful to see all the things harvested yesterday looking so vibrant. Lots of friendly folks trying out the lady slipper cucumbers, rat tail radishes, and winged asparagus peas. So much respect for the land, seeds, soil, labour, and care that goes into food production - easy to forget this as a city slicker. You are required to display your organic certification at your stand and the certification process in onerous and costly.  It seems backwards, shouldn't non-organic farmers have to display all the chemical fertilizers, GMO seeds, and sprays used so that we as consumers know what it is we are consuming?

Farm Diary Day 3
8 am deployment to gather edible plants for jazzing up the B&B breakfast offerings. Fun to choose herbs and flowers that are delicious and colourful to "food style" with. Then off to weed for several hours. Seriously hard work, and for someone who normally feels super efficient at work, felt like a real slowpoke. Took me 2 hours to do one row of cabbage and kale! Rescued from the weeds by the biodynamic calendar which guided us to work with medicinal plants. Spent the afternoon thorn deep in seeding milk thistle, gathering calendula, and cleaning/bundling herbs gathered by one of the farmers. Amazing moments with the twin pigs when they let me stroke their heads, best eyelashes ever.

Farm Diary Day 4
Started off in the farm stand, replacing old with fresh (old gets eaten by us or fed to the animals), and hanging yesterday's herb bundles. Spent the rest of the day in the medicine garden gathering dandelion root and leaves, basil, yarrow, tulsi, parsley, goldenrod, coriander seeds, dill seeds, rosemary, catnip, marsh mallow, and mullein. Clarence (the dog) and Alice (the cat) assisted. Finished up with late night ATV ride out to feed the sheepdog Clyde and to check on the lambs - farm version of motorbike fun!

Farm Diary Day 5
My farm dreams came true my last morning when I went down to meet Wilbur (the donkey) in the cow pasture. Spent the rest of the day cleaning "soft neck" garlic, this is the kind you tend to see braided. It is only one of 5 varieties that they have there. Once again I realized how labour intensive farming is - gathering and drying bulbs during the previous season to use as seeds for the next crop, prepping the earth, planting, caring for until ready for harvest, harvesting, hanging to dry, cleaning, and then selling - each one goes for $1. Farmers deserve the biggest raise ever, and government health benefits! 

Thank you to the incredible Thyme Again Gardens for the delicious food, accommodation, and mentorship during my visit!