Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunshine and rain

It strikes me that – in the quest for healthy food – we are extremely fortunate to have the conditions for growing that we sometimes take for granted. Sunshine, fresh air, fertile soil, rain, and clean pure well water when is doesn’t rain regularly are all here in abundance, most of the time. This summer, we’re benefitting from more than our fair share of sunshine and rain, and always adding to soil fertility, so we’re away to the races with fine plentiful produce. From the Central Valley of California to the Indus Valley of Pakistan, availability of water is becoming a more precarious problem year to year, with less and less water for irrigation to divert for growing food.

Food is naturally at its freshest and most nutritious when crops grown in natural organic soils are fresh out of the ground. Leafy greens and fresh herbs are loaded with nutrients, as are many newly-dug root crops. From these as well as clean water, fresh air and good doses of sunshine, we are able to draw and maintain good health.

Presently for markets, we are up with the sun, harvesting and preparing for market peppery arugula, punchy mustard greens, lush lettuce, juicy fresh garlic, exceptionally fragrant basils, cilantro, dill, parsleys, and a rainbow of baby carrots, baby beets. It is a joy to receive the appreciation of customers, banter with them, and to sell out of produce most days. And it is with a deep sense of fulfilment that I come home to the sun setting over the fields, sip on a refreshment and partake in the abundance, before falling into a deep rich slumber.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Just Do It!

There are ever more articles published in the mainstream media, recognizing the plight of the industrial food system and suggesting various tentative solutions to the problem – more study, more subsidies, more farmers – and yet all they ever seem to conclude is the need for more money spent on marketing.

More marketing is the last thing we need; we don’t need more fat consultants on excessive stipends telling us we need more this, more that; the real need is for well-meaning people to get up, follow their dreams, and get growing and selling. They will be warned that there is no money is organic farming; that it is a lot of hard work for scant returns. Yet I, and many other ethically-minded farmers like me, live the dream every day. We get up with the first light, look out on the dawn mists across the valley, head out to open up the greenhouses and fields for the day, and get to work with our chores before the sun gets its heat fan going. We harvest greens, beets and carrots, beans, peas, berries and currants, and get them washed and cooled before the heat is cranked up. We just do it, not asking for any support, sympathy, or subsidy, as we know that governments are too busy helping out the big boys, propping up the ailing conventional agriculture model farm system. That’s OK; we can look after ourselves. We can make a very gratifying living by peddling our produce direct to eager, aware customers at weekly farmers markets where we can gauge production to match sales and come home sold out, with zero waste on most days where exceptional circumstances do not intervene – severe thunderstorms and extreme humidity are not good, but the recent G20 summit in Toronto, despite dire warnings, turned into our farm’s most successful market ever, thanks to the vigilance of our loyal customers. They turned out in droves, thanked us for being there, purchased (and, I hope, ate when they got home), heartily.

There is nothing wrong with this alternative regional food system that runs outside the industrial one. It is dynamic, lively, healthy, just missing maybe a few more intrepid, innovative growers and sellers of fresh local organic food to help us all stay healthy.

Best of all, we come home with beautiful breads, berries, smoked fish, cheeses, raw chocolates traded with our fellow producers, and tuck into a freshly-prepared dinner du jour. What could be better?

The perfect rainbow

It was complete, a perfect rainbow, blessing our fields, and especially the garlic that was preparing to be lifted from the soil, all earthy and strong and pungent.

Tonight, as is sit solo chomping on arugula and baby lettuce salad drizzled with infused hot jalapeno oil, our precious little black cat Negra is licking up my plate of curried chicken with fried yellow potatoes traded with a fellow organic farmer. Even our cat is sold on the wondrous sensory experience that is summer organic living.

It has been a hot and breezy day. After the rains, I have been out on my tractor churning up the soil prior to planting more arugula, spicy mesclun, purple carrots. The basils in the greenhouse smell divine; sweet, Thai, purple, lemon, and particularly the lime hit you with a scent sent from another place. Yesterday at the Riverdale farmers market, an encounter with a customer perusing the fresh garlic led to a sensual discussion about the lime basil and what to do with it. She said she just wanted to keep inhaling it.

Today too, I have my freshly-ground dried echinacea angustifolia successfully introduced to its new bed partners – ginger and astragalus root, lemon balm for the Immuni-tea blend, and elderberry and yerba mate for the Vitali-tea blend. Looking forward to tasting before turning in tonight.

The fresh garlic, pulled, cut, stripped of its dirt, and bathed in cold water, is potent and robust. It is indeed a powerful season, heady with herbal scents, healing potential, and vigorous good health, aided and abetted by Carmenere wine from Chile and India Pale Ale from the old country.