Monthly Archives: July 2010

>August Long


Suddenly, half of the summer is behind us. Whoops, let me try that again. We still have half a summer to enjoy!! Either way, time seems to have gone particularly quickly recently. Hardly a dull moment since we broke soil two months ago. It’s as though we had been hit by a farm.

In addition to the vegetative fixtures of radishes and green onions, we have also put our small plums and some of Dragonfly Farm’s (Paul and Christina) oregano on the stand. We have one yellow tomato that is probably ripe now but should be picked with both partners present (and perhaps a photographer). The first tomato is special for some reason. Maybe it’s the long wait until the fruit appears (some people seed their tomato starts in early February). Maybe it’s because I like to eat them so much. And, now, to sell them. We couldn’t possibly sell the first one though.

Our first week of farm stand sales has been quite successful although neither of us really knew what to expect. We do know that the money spent for the stand has now been recouped (you know, without counting any input costs or labour or anything, just gross sales). We’ve met lots of customers and begun the process of understanding what they want. Pauline’s plant start sales have been robust and I think we will sell out before long, leaving quite a bit of cash on the table. But that’s ok. Assuming we’re still here in the spring, I think we’ll be able to ramp up spring starts accordingly.

We harvested probably 7 or 8 gallons of small plums on this property and Dragonfly’s and we’ve been making tons of jam for the stand. Value-added products are apparently what you have to do to make money in farming but, in our case, it was to provide farm stand filler as much as it was to be a profit centre.

Another popular product is the no-knead bread I bake. Last year Dayle at Haliburton said that farm stands with baking tended to sell more produce than those without. So last year I baked a lot of bread for their stand. I don’t know if it sold more produce but it sure sold a lot of bread.

This week we placed our first sell offer through Growing Up Organic which is basically a middle-man between produce growers and buyers on the island. We offered to sell 5 lbs each of radishes, Hakurei turnips and oregano. Apparently there’s not much demand for radishes at the moment but I’m hoping to offload some turnips … er, that is if they’re ready. On Monday, we find out what, if anything, the buyers want us to harvest for them on Tuesday. On Thursday, we submit a new offer for the following week.

In other news: our homespun sandwich board advertising our farm stand products was a victim of a hit and run this afternoon. I actually heard the crunch while lounging in my Lafuma (yes, I know I’m not a real farmer yet), when I heard something like the sound of a car crash but oddly different. Some yelling, then acceleration. When I got to the end of the driveway, there was a truck 500m one way and a car the same distance the other way. No witnesses. I assume it was a hit ordered by Indigo Farm. And you seemed so nice, Kim.



>Walk the plank

>The kids play a game at Cusheon Lake that involves some combination of verbal and physical encouragement to get each other to jump off the dock and into the water. Yesterday Laura reminded me of my own childhood trepidation of diving into cool and turbid water. Of course the weather has been nothing but sunny and mid 25C for the last who-knows-how-long so the temperature takes about 2 seconds – for a person with body fat – to adjust to. As for the malevolent creatures who lurk just below the surface, I guess you eventually just assume that the return outweighs the risk.

The lake game reminds me of our little farm venture in that, until you put the product out there for sale, it’s mostly theoretical. When Pauline told local gardening guru Linda Gilkeson about our operation and particularly the plant starts, I don’t think she could have foreseen what happened next. Linda sends out a weekly gardening email to about a 1000 people and on the last one she mentioned that we had transplants for sale on our farm stand. So while Pauline and I were standing at the edge of the dock discussing the pros and cons of jumping in, behind us Linda leaned forward and shoved, shouting “Water’s great!” as we fell forward into the depths.

One of the problems holding us back had been the lack of a farm stand. We had been agonizing about what to build, how much to spend and what to do if we had to move it, either to a different place on the property or off the property altogether.

Solution: carpenter-friend Ron Schroeder who, in record time, managed to build a very skookum cedar farm stand using local lumber. He was also able to use some of the enormous bolts, nuts and timber washers that we collected at a recent garage sale. Ron built it in about 6 main pieces; we put most of it together in an hour and can take it all apart, even the less-skookum metal roof Dad and I scrounged from the property in less than that.

In any case, by Friday at 6pm, we had a great looking stand ready for use the next morning. Then came another twist. We had noticed a number of vehicles including big trucks driving into the pool property across the street. By the time our stand was up, so were a number of outdoor tents and other temporary structures on the pool’s outdoor grass field. Someone leaving the pool property later shouted over to us about our great timing; 500 people would be attendance at a weekend swim meet.

Seeing this as an opportunity to make our opening a grander one, we spent the remainder of the evening and much of Saturday morning baking; instead of 8 loaves of bread, I baked 16. Mom baked a few more of her sweet treats. Plus we decided to brew some coffee (although we had to scramble after discovering that the coffee maker was suddenly dead). The reason for all the baking was to fill out an otherwise sparse farm stand since showing a plentiful selection is one of the inviolable rules of having a farm stand. Other than the baking and plant starts, all we had were a few small heads of lettuce, bunches of green onions and radishes.

Our first customers Saturday morning were next door friends Paul and Christina. The pool people mostly stayed at the pool since we later learned that they had their own food fundraiser. At the end of the day, we think we sold about $200 worth of stuff although we can’t seem to figure out a 25% inventory discrepancy (i.e. the cash we ended up with was more than the inventory we sold). We also sold two of our silver sebright chickens (a brother and sister) to someone from Mayne Island. Our flock is down to a more comfortable 9 birds; 8 hens and a remaining sebright rooster to mate with our sebright hen (who is NOT related).

All in all it was a decent first day. Not great but not bad. In the next couple of weeks we will be able to slowly transition from less baking to more produce as the vegetables mature. Our radishes are basically ready to harvest (in fact, we will be trying to sell them through Growing Up Organics next week since there will be so many). Fingerling potatoes shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks. Tomatoes, squash, lettuce, spinach another week after that. In a month, we should be firing on all cylinders.

An interesting achievement would be to make $2500 in veggie sales by the end of October since the property owner could then apply for farm status and be eligible for a property tax decrease and there may be benefits for us as well. Time will tell.

Time to really jump in the lake…