2014 Field Tours and Kitchen Meetings
PEI COPC Kitchen meeting report
On June 30 2014 we held our first meeting at Atlantic Grown Organics. It was a very informative meeting we discussed the growing methods in the greenhouse as well as packaging and storage for the products.
Marc and Krista explained the system they use for fertilizing their crops, and showed us the beneficial insects and how they keep them healthy. He showed us how to prune the tomatoes and cucumbers for their production methods.
Marc and Krista also talked about the challenges of getting the product to market while it is fresh, there is a short window to market their products and weather can cause delays or speed up the maturing of these products.
July we went to Elderflower Organic farm, we had a tour of the market garden, and the greenhouses, we then went on to see how the product is used in value adding, we saw the sprout production, and the equipment used for veggie burger production. We also saw how she dehydrates the fruit for her miscellaneous fruit macaroons. She explained how she has evolved over the years to where she is today.
Margie does cost of production sheets for her products to determine what a fair price to charge. When a product is too time consuming or expensive to produce than she explores changes or stops production. She has tried a number of methods of hiring help on the farm but has no hired help this summer, as supervision and training often take longer than doing the job herself. Margie showed us the many ways that she has mechanised the operation of burger, and sprout production, as well as what she plans to do in the future. Margie and Dave are very concerned about the health of their soil as well as everything growing in and on it.
August we had a tour of the Veseys field trials Angus showed the different crops and how the varieties compare, all the seed that is sold in the store is also grown in trials, as well as ones that they may put into their inventory for the future. Talking to seed suppliers is important if there are types of seed that you want for your operation, they need to know what you are looking for and if you are having problems with seed or inputs that they supply. It is a great way to see what does do well in our climate and what does not have enough time to mature without protection. That protection may be black plastic, hoop houses or greenhouses. There is always someone at Veseys to answer your questions, and offer production information.
In Sept we went to the soybean fields in Freetown, and Glencoe Road. These are the field that have the variety trials so we viewed the 16 different varieties of beans. The trials at Middelkamp Organic farm in Glencoe Road were planted 2 weeks ahead of the ones at Barnyard Organic in Freetown and they are still ahead, although the counts are pretty similar. This is often true since there is a wide variance in weather patterns on PEI. We will have final results after the harvest to see the differences that varieties make, as well as dates planted. These trials offer information to the producers as well as allow the seed suppliers to have their products trialed here on PEI.
Sept 22 saw us at an equipment demo in Wilmot, at Jen and Derek’s farm. Jen and Derek produce a wide variety of products both in the field and in the greenhouse. This means that they have many requirements for specialized equipment.
We saw how they have modified, purchased or built equipment to suit the size of their operation. This included planting, tillage, washing and storage. Jen and Derek are always ready to discuss how something can be modified to make it work better for their farm size, and are very welling to pass on their challenges faced and the benefits they have gained from their research. There are still lots of items that they see that can be modified to make their farm more efficient.
Oct 6th was a beautiful day for a drive to Pembroke Farm in Pembroke PEI. Brian and Lorna have many interesting things happening on their farm. The sheep are been bread to improve the wool production in the colors that Lorna wishes to have for sale both at the Charlottetown Farmers Market and at their on farm store “Sheep Shop”. They breed and train sheep dogs and do demos all summer for people who stop by. The also grow vegetables for sale and for seed saving. They have been working on this for a number of years and have developed some new varieties of beans and corn, as well as kale. They select the best, and earliest for seed saving and sell the rest for food, this keeps improving the varieties.
They are very concerned about keeping pollinators on their farm so have many varieties of flowering plants so to have as long a season as possible to feed them. Lorna has been working at seed saving and improving and would like every farmer to work on saving some seed.
Our final tour was to Crystal Green farm in Bedeque to see learn more about their box program, they have been working on this for a couple of years now and have a very successful system for them. In the summer they have a weekly program but it is bi weekly in the winter. They supplement their boxes with flour milled on their farm, and baking mixes they have created. They try to not buy much for their boxes so to make it a more viable project for them. They have animals on their farm that are not certified and they make no secret of that to their customers, the meat and eggs are added into the program when they are ready, all the meat is sold frozen. All customers pay for 2 boxes up front with the understanding that the final box they get will be free, this is a type of insurance that the consumers will continue. By getting money every week it gives a steady income. They have many thoughts on how they can produce other products but have found that most people want the staples in the food industry so they keep it pretty simple, Kathy posts recipes for any new products, and now people are sharing pictures with her of what they make. They have a set schedule on drop off locations and times and find that most customers are very good with this.
That was our tour of the Organic producers for this year. I hope people got value from the visits as well as thank the producers who opened their operations to us.