Game Day at Sunflower Farm CSA

I know what you’re thinking; this must be another post about hockey! Nope. This is another vegetable post!

Last week was our first week of the CSA, so we had to prepare and deliver 40 boxes of vegetables. If you play sports you might know the feeling before an event like this. And it doesn’t have to be sports, it could be a performance, a new job, a garage sale… just one of those events that you put a lot of effort into. There is excitement, anticipation and dread, all wrapped up together.

Even after running the CSA last year, the first week seemed daunting. The logistics of going from 12 members to 40 has been a huge challenge. Luckily Michelle does all of the logistics and is amazingly organized. We actually have two delivery days, Tuesdays for our Napanee members and Thursdays for our Tamworth members.

For our Napanee members we had hoped to find an empty garage to leave the boxes in, but that didn’t happen and so Plan B was to find a place to park while we wait for members to pick up their boxes. And so we looked for a spot to do this. Shade was our number one priority, and you know what? Cities are lousy places to find shade. Residential streets are often tree lined, but most public spaces and commercial parking lots seem to avoid having trees. I guess they’re concerned about liability with wind damage and stuff falling onto customer’s cars. But I can’t think of a more enticing selling feature for a business on a hot day than being able to park under the shade of a tree. I’ve seen photos of progressive retailers and companies in the U.S. who have set up solar arrays that provide shade for cars and produce energy, all at the same time.

We eventually found a quiet park along the river that seems to work well and last week I was able to squeeze the truck into some shade.

One of the other changes we made this year was to set up a washing/packaging station outside near the garden. Last year, Michelle did all of the vegetable preparation in the kitchen. Not only was it inconvenient to drag everything into the house, it made an enormous mess! I used to joke that we needed the snow shovel to clean up the mess afterwards.

We bought a used double kitchen sink from the Habitat for Humanity used building supply store in Kingston. We also had a spare washtub that we’ll use for washing larger stuff later in the summer (like squash or pumpkins if they need it.) We’re just using the garden hose as the water source and so far I’ve just put clean trashcans under the drains so that each time we drain the sink, I can reuse the water in the garden. We put up a shade cover that we bought years ago when we used to do a lot of outdoor book festivals, so that helps on sunny days. I was thinking about building a drying table out of plastic mesh, but so far Michelle doesn’t think she’ll need it.

washing-station

Michelle likes this set up much better than last year’s. She doesn’t have to worry about spilling water, she can be as messy as she wants, and when she removes a weed from the lettuce or needs to snap off the roots from something, she just tosses it on the ground. And all of the dirt from the table can just get wiped off on to the grass. It’s awesome!

Our friend Hans gave us a cap for the truck. It is a bit too big, so our neighbor Ken helped me to mount it firmly in place. Then I built shelves so I effectively doubled how many boxes I can carry. We were ready to rock and roll!

loaded-truck

We were up very early to start picking. We can pick some items, like garlic scapes, the night before. I dug radishes and onions and washed them. Then I went inside to make breakfast, leaving Michelle to do the more time consuming work like picking and washing and packaging the lettuce and the spinach. Michelle weighs everything to make sure everyone gets the same amount.

Right after breakfast I jumped in the car and drove to Wiseacres Organic Strawberry Farm and I picked strawberries for the members who purchased a berry membership. The berries are fantastic right now and I’m totally pumped about this feature of CSA. It seems that many “U-Pick” berry places suffer from the “first week blitz syndrome” (okay, I just made that up). Once berry season starts, people head out and load up on berries, and then that’s it, even though the berry season may last 3 or 4 weeks for strawberries and up to 6 weeks for blueberries. Berries are very tasty and healthy, and as long as there are berries in the field, I will be picking them for our members. This means our members get a greatly extended season of delicious, healthy organic local berries, and the growers get a bit of help towards the end of the season when their business may be tapering off. And the car smells soooo great driving home!

When I got back home we packed up all of the boxes. Again, this is where Michelle’s organizational skills are so crucial. Once the boxes were packed I loaded them into the truck and then headed off to deliver them.

It’s early in the season and so there aren’t a huge variety of items but it’s amazing how much just a few items add up. I remember last August with corn and potatoes added to the boxes, they were quite heavy. I just think it’s amazing that we can take some seeds, plant them in the soil, provide them with water and sun and they convert that sunlight into amazing, green, red, orange, yellow and purple wonderfully healthy vegetables that we deliver to our members.

I have done many things to earn an income over my life, but nothing provides the gratification of growing food and connecting with the people who consume it.

I’m very grateful to our members for supporting our efforts. I’m very grateful to Mother Nature who is providing us with our quota of rain this season. I’m grateful that my forearms are holding up under the strain of endless weeding that the abundant rain has resulted in. I’m not complaining… honest!  But if you’re farming and not complaining about something, you’re doing something wrong!

7 Responses to “Game Day at Sunflower Farm CSA”

  • Perry Boulter:

    The Great Gardener provides for our many needs!

    I know when I am in the garden I feel the same energy and satisfaction from the work and then the harvest as you. Funny parallel isn’t it?

    You are an amazing couple! I look forward to your articles every week.Thank you so much for sharing your life with us.

  • Neil:

    Clearly, it is tons’o’work, no doubt. But I can’t imagine many things much more satisfying than what you are doing. Make a living, make a difference! Over my way, here in northern Grey County, I’ve been enjoying the bounties which have begun to flow from Saugeen Valley CSA… a biodynamic farm which is in the process of switching “back” to horse power!!

  • Jennifer:

    Your ability to locate low-cost and free items; adapt them to make them work if they are not perfect, instead of throwing them away; create tools that are customized to your needs; and use what you already have on hand to do your work is truly inspiring to a city-dweller like me. I think those of us in cities have to be grateful for people who live in harmony with Mother Nature, as you do. You are doing so much more for her than we are, and there is a lot we can learn from you.

  • queen of string:

    Looks awesome. If you raised the height of the table a little bit, then Michelle’s back might love you for it by the end of the season 🙂

  • I can’t believe I’m jealous! I have only 1525 square feet of actual growing area (by that I mean excluding paths, etc.) and couldn’t supply a variety of anything to a customer base but it would be so cool to do what you are doing! I expect to have more kale and cucumbers and lettuce than I could use or preserve, so I’m thinking of inviting neighbours to purchase excess. It would be cool to join a CSA too!

    Glee, do you like concord grape juice? There’s an article on my website called “Purple Pectin for Arthritis” that describes how I found help for the arthritis that was starting in my shoulder. I have no pain now! It’s just a mixture of the pectin you use for making jam and purple grape juice. Go to:
    http://www.home-and-school-solutions.com/HW/purple-pectin-for-arthritis.htm to read it.

  • I can relate to the mess in the kitchen. Just washing a few vegis in mine drives me so nuts I don’t even want to harvest out of the garden. Michelle must be a saint. I am campaigning for an outside sink. My hubby will put it on “the list”.

  • Glee:

    I feel the same way every Friday when we get our eggs (fresh and pickled) and smoked chickens ready to go to the one small Farmer’s market that we attend. I couldn’t do the hard work for a CSA. I simply don’t have your stamina, Cam and Michelle. I can’t imagine how hard that must be. I have only a small kitchen garden and some herbs for us, and I have to rest for days after a weed-pulling session. Of course, I am 70 and have a lot of arthritis. Still I wouldn’t want to give up my garden.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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