When I was 15, my Mom started a market garden business. She planted vegetables and when there was enough to harvest, we washed and bagged them and took them to the local Farmer's Market. Since that very first moment, Farmer's Markets have been an important part of my life. Even while attending University in Calgary, I would come home in the summer and help Mom with her market. Later, I found a job managing an organic stall at the Calgary Farmer's Market, which is where I got to develop my skills creating displays (http://bestofblush.blogspot.ca/ 2011), at the same time running a busy high-volume market stall and managing staff. After moving to Nova Scotia, I have been a part of a few different markets-- most recently the Hammonds Plains Farmer's Market on Kearney Lake Road on Thursdays-- and find that it's where I'm most inspired and excited about the local food movement, and can let my passion for food, people, and gorgeous local produce really come out.
So, on that note, an opportunity has opened up at Noggins and I have decided to make a shift -- MY local food movement -- to working there and doing markets. Those of you who have seen me each week at the Hammonds Plains Market will continue to see me there as well as various other market locations for Noggins, including Seaport and Friday Pop-Ups. I'm excited and looking forward to challenging myself with new experiences and being a part of the farm team at Noggins!
Thanks to everyone at TapRoot for a great two years! I'll miss all the great folks I work with at the farm, and I'm sad to be leaving the CSA desk, especially all the members I have gotten to know-- some even to the point that I consider you friends!-- but, we'll cross paths as I'll still be most places that TapRoot produce is... And, that's a good place to be! :)
Jon called me over to the latest mizuna planting last night: "It looks like a seed catalog over here!"
A pound of what I call our "princess mix" went to a dinner for Justin Trudeau on Sunday-- Only baby leaves, hand picked, with edible flowers. So, that guy has eaten our salad-- More importantly, hundreds of bags a week are consumed by wonderful Nova Scotians who support us. They may not be highfalutin politicians, but they eat our salad each week and are the bread and butter of our business. So, rather than go on and on about some dude I don't know who ate our salad, I'd rather say THANK YOU to all of those who buy it faithfully each week from our various retailers and restaurants.
We are happy with our production, everything is running smoothly and we are selling every ounce that we harvest. I've been really busy at work lately and clocking some extra hours, so Jon has been doing most of the production work lately. Here's our salad schedule:
Sunday: 4-6 hours weeding, transplanting, seeding, tilling, etc. Harvest, wash, and bag for Monday orders
Tuesday: 2 hours in evening harvesting or planting
Wednesday: 2 hours in morning before work, 4 hours after work harvesting and washing
Thursday: Bagging for 4 hours (Jon: 2 because he starts work at 8)
Friday: Harvest in evening and wash (2 - 4 hrs)
Saturday: Bag order for Noggins in am and deliver (2 hrs)
On top of our full-time+ jobs, this is a lot of extra time in our week: 15-20 hours each, depending on what needs to be done and the weather-- We shift our harvest when possible to avoid inclement weather and/or heat, and have been really lucky and only had to harvest in light rain once, on the first week!. We are tired, but motivated by how much we love what we're doing! And, Samson Salad Mix has been a great addition to the salad team. He follows us most everywhere we go and brings us lots of joy with his hilarious kitten antics and adorableness. :)
I find myself looking forward to November a lot lately. This is something that not all farmers share, maybe not all feel it, but I know a lot do: August burnout time. By August, farmers are tired and there is still a big part of the harvest season to come. It's like talking to me Thursday night at 6:15, right before market is finished: I've already been at it for over 12 hours and worked my butt off, but I still have to load and come home and unload, so at 6:15 I always feel like I can't go on for 3 more hours, but then I do and by the time I get home I feel great and have a strong sense of satisfaction, having gotten the job done for another week. So, we're pushing through with our exhausted minds and bodies, and will come out on the other side somehow, with energy to carry on until the frost saves us from our salad duties!
Happy Thursday! Off to market I go... 11 hours left in the day. :)
Vibrant Nagoya Garnish Red Kale going for a spin dry in the bright orange salad spinner:
Another Thursday harvest done for the week. I try to blog each week before I head to market, after bagging salad. This week was a little different than usual, because Jon and I stayed at The Walden Camp at the farm with Samson (who disappeared last night but is already back, and yes, the Fred Penner song is stuck in my head now). It was awesome and felt like we were out in the woods camping-- we finish so late on Wednesdays anyhow I figured: why go home? We relaxed by the fire for a few hours and then caught a few hours' nap before getting up and walking the 2 minutes to the farmhouse to bag salad this morning.
We got an order yesterday from Michael Howell who is serving Justin Trudeau on Monday. So, on Sunday we are harvesting for a potential future leader of the country, how exciting! :)
<-- Tim and I enjoyed a nice Saturday lunch at The Noodle Guy. Tippy, our waitress, questioned me about the name of one of the leaves-- red leaf vegetable amaranth-- it is gorgeous, with hot pink veining on the inner part of the leaf, and along with the Nagoya Red kale, my favourite part of the mix. The Amaranth holds a special place in my heart also because it is a traditional vegetable in Jamaica, so the guys all know it and even grow some green Calaloo for themselves. Josh thinks it looks like pigweed, and I think they are a similar or related family.
We've been using the same roll of stickers since the beginning, and this week I had to start on a new roll- meaning we have labelled and sold 1,000 bags so far!
Fortunately our very detailed records reflect this also. I decided against buying any accounting software for this year and I am just keeping all of our records in a Google Drive. This is significant-- Since we commute and prepare the salad mix at TapRoot, all of our records can be easily accessed from anywhere, including our labels which are stored in my Dropbox folder. I can't even count how many times I would have forgotten to print labels at home and we would have been stuck without this. I keep track of all of our printing in a spreadsheet that also keeps track of our sticker, bag, label, and box use. We didn't collect enough banana boxes prior to the season and so have had to buy some from the farm lately-- not ideal, but if it saves me an exhausted trip to Superstore to get boxes, right now that is worth some dollars to me!
Here's a screenshot of one of our sheets that keeps track of our supply use. It is easier to keep track of what we use at the farm rather than sort out buying all of our own supplies and carting them around with us. It's mostly all automatic-- Meaning that if I put in how many boxes we packed on the sales sheet, it adds those into the supplies used sheet, including the label and sticker that we use on the box (can you tell I'm a details freak?!).
Another thing that makes our lives easier is that we keep a harvest kit in the car which contains: 2 harvest knives, a roll of stickers, a roll of labels, a handwash kit and sanitizer for our knives, a roll of paper towel, a garbage bag, ziplock bags, and large clear garbage bags for harvest if we forget tubs, and my binder which contains change, pens, markers, labels, invoice book, sales records prior to me entering them in the computer (which I try to stay on top of entering at least bi-weekly). The salad spinner also lives in our "work truck" aka Honda Civic (which fits 6 tubs, 8 if you don't have a passenger!). It all feels a little bit makeshift, but our systems are working well and we are cranking out the salad mix-- 476 lbs of greens sold this season, and we have "added a SKU" as Jon says: Arugula. I thought this stuff was fussy and hard to grow and difficult to harvest, but the arugula is gorgeous right now and I keep hacking down the patches and they just keep coming back, gorgeous chartreuse spicy yummy leaves. So, that's on the list and we sold some through Southfield last week. Things are going great, and we are really enjoying it!
To the right is a photo of our Thursday ship this week. 42 bags salad, 12 lbs bulk, 6 bags arugula and 7 lbs bulk for Southfield, 100 bags salad and 10 bags arugula for Noggins. Thank goodness for the fine folks at Noggins Corner Farm, who are currently buying all that we can produce extra. Southfield is our first commitment, and we planned to grow twice as much as we expected to need to fill those orders. We don't have any extra time-- short of the 6 hours or so every night where we just lay there unconscious in the bed-- to market salad mix or take orders from chefs and restaurants, so this is really ideal for us.
Prior to this season, salad mix was never a crop that really grabbed us or inspired us, but as we are finding our production plan really smooth and easy to execute, we are thinking that it may become something we keep as one of our farm items. We are definitely enjoying it, but will have to crunch the numbers at the end of the season to see if the energy was worth it. I'd say yes, because last year at this time I was feeling very discouraged and disgruntled with my work. Nothing is really different this year-- I have an office farm job, which is not where my passion is, and so it's hard to be staring at a screen when all around me people are planting and weeding and harvesting and doing all those things I love-- but, now I am getting to do those things too, and I've found that gives me the balance required to love life. That, and doing the market in Hammonds Plains on Thursday for Noggins, which I also love.
Speaking of love, our little friendly kitty (who, I am annoyed at for getting the most blog views ever, over any post about salad!), has now been to the vet and is doing great. Instead of being a lethargic lump he is a ball of energy, currently bouncing off the walls at our house. Flea, worm, and Feline Herpesvirus treatment is ongoing, and he is now eating and using the litterbox as normal. Not getting our hopes up, as the vet said he likely has feline leukemia and so may not be a very long-term kitty, but he is bringing so much joy to our lives right now that we are just focusing on that for now. He's hilarious and super sweet, the perfect combination of playful and affectionate and curious. It's so nice to see him feeling better, ripping around the house and playing with pretty much anything he can find. Samson Salad Mix.
We found this in the salad mix patch today... Trouble! This little kitty has definite symptoms of distemper. We don't really expect him to live, so we are trying not to get too attached (but he's in our house and we are feeding him with an eyedropper and his name is Samson!!).
He's really sweet, but is dehydrated and lethargic. Trying to get as much water as possible into the little guy. If he makes it, we are not allowed to have cats and so I have him in mind for the mouse issue in my office. Office kitten! That reminds me of one of my favourite proposals ever: Proposal for Office Kittens. Maybe I'll be drafting up my own soon. :)
Today in the salad patch we did some of everything-- harvest, weeding, transplanting, seeding, and flea beetle treatment. For most of the transplanting I had a little shadow that wasn't much help, but was sure cute!!