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Posted 4/27/2016 12:48pm by Tim Livingstone.

Spring planting season is here again.  It is a bit cold this week but the ground is dry and firm so we can spread soil amendments and start our cultivation.  We seeded carrots and rutabaga last week and seeded peas this week.  White row covers will help to keep the soil heat in during these cold nights.

 

The hens and the pullets (young hens that are not laying yet) have been moved out of the barn and are getting used to the outdoors again.  The old hens know all about it from last year, but the young pullets have been in the bard since day old chicks in January so this is quite a new world for them.  They are gaining confidence each day and will soon be foraging well.

 Here is our first batch of spring piglets for 2016.  13 piglets from one mama!  This is her third litter of piglets and she is not even two years old yet.  So far we have had 20 piglets born in the last two weeks and are waiting for our last mama to give birth.  We might even have enough piglets to be able to sell some as spring piglets for those who want to raise them in their own back yard.  

We dug our spring parsnips on Monday.  Parsnips are very cold hardy and can take freezing in the field without being damaged.  The cold weather actually sweetens the taste.  It is different digging a root crop in the spring when it is time to be planting, but it is a time when there are few veggies left in storage.

Posted 4/4/2016 6:28pm by Tim Livingstone.

Did you know you can take the top of one kind of tomato and put it on the root of another?

If you look closely you will see the stem color changes in the plastic clip.  This is the joint between the two types.

We end up with a disease resistant root system and a top that produces great tasting fruit!  It is my first attempt at grafting.

Posted 3/29/2016 7:21am by Tim Livingstone.

Why should you support a local farm?  What difference does it make anyway?  Here's some food for thought or is that "Veggies for thought"

My wife and I worked 20 years before we bought our farm.  Since buying the farm, we've never made so much money, never spent so much money, and never had so little left in between!  Where does this money go and what does it do?

For a $2.00 bunch of local carrots bought from a local farm, 50% of the money you spend or $1.00 goes directly to supporting the farm wages of those seeding, picking, weeding, harvesting, shipping, and other jobs related to producing the carrots.  25% or $0.50 goes toward seed, supplies, and the other things required to grow the carrots.  The remaining 25% or last $0.50 goes toward the other farm expenses including tractor fuel, insurance, parts, electric, phone, accountant, and a whole host of other farm expenses that are mostly paid to local businesses. 

The fact that your money stays local creates what is called a "spin off" effect.  The person picking the carrots buys a coffee on their way to work or buys parts from the local auto part store for their car.  The accountant takes his wife out to a nice meal at a local restaurant.  Carl Wilken, an economist with the Raw Materials National Council of Sioux City in 1944 estimated the economic spin off from farms to be 7 times.  In today's world where more is sourced globally the spin off is often measured at closer to 2 times but it is still a very significant figure (see sources below) and remains especially high for smaller family farms that are more labour dependant and source much of what they need locally.  

Buy buying this $2.00 bunch of carrots from a local farm, you have improved your local economy by at least $4.00 and probably much more.

Compare this, however, to a $2.00 bunch of carrots grown in California and bought from the Supermarket.  Only a small percentage of that $2.00 stays here to support the store and staff.  The majority of the money leaves the region going to where the carrots where grown, to the shipping company who brought it here, and to the corporate headquarters of the Supermarket.  The local spin off from buying a $2.00 bunch of carrots in the Supermarket is therefore negligible and more than likely a net negative. 

So often we fail to realize that a cheaper price does not save; it costs.  We eagerly buy that hamburger (which came from a feedlot in Alberta) that we saw in the sale flyer for just $4.99 per pound without realizing that it just cost a local beef farmer their job.  The local farm shuts down and suddenly the tractor supply store is in trouble.  The tractor supply store is in trouble so now the mechanic is out of a job.  The mechanic is out of a job so he goes out West to the oil patch - Oh wait, the price of oil is down.....

On and on goes our love affair with cheap prices and imported product all the while we complain about no jobs, poor economy, and everyone having to go west to find work.  It is a cycle that will repeat itself again and again until we realize the basic rules of money and economics.  We either have to be in a region where we are exporting lots of products in order to bring money in (Alberta during the oil boom) or we have to have a system where what we buy supports our local community.  The latter is a much more stable and prosperous way forward.  

Yes we always need exports because there will always be imports we need, but lets supply as much locally as we can and support our local economy.  How many other investments can claim a 100% increase in such a short time?  

So next time you are considering buying cheap imported food, just remember that by buying from a local farm or business, you may be providing your daughter or grandson with a local job that they would otherwise have been unable to find.

More References:

http://sustainontario.com/2012/07/04/11208/news/multiplier-effect#_edn7

http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1903632,00.html

http://www.sustainabletable.org/491/food-economics

 

Posted 3/20/2016 4:36pm by Tim Livingstone.

It is that time of year again!  We are seeding, putting benches in the greenhouse, and lots of preparation for the summer season.

We turned the tomato cooler into a germination chamber to help get more uniform and faster germination and to save on heating costs within the greenhouse at this time of year.

A simple seeder with needles to pick up the seeds helps Kirsten to seed onions and other small seeds effectively.  It can be difficult and time consuming to seed by hand, but the vacuum needles make short work of it.

Tomatoes are usually the first crop we seed and the first up.  We are moving toward grafted tomatoes in the greenhouse and are going to try doing some grafting of our own. 

When grafting, you take the top of one variety and put it onto the root of another.  A super strong root system helps an otherwise weaker variety to resist disease and grow more vigorously.  As our sales grow, we are looking for innovative ways to make more efficient use of the space we have.  Eventually we will need to build more greenhouses, but in the meantime we need to grow as much as we can in what space we have.  Greenhouses cost a lot of money...

Summer sign ups are really strong this year.  We have significantly more orders at this time than at this time in any previous year.  Signing up and paying ahead takes a certain amount of courage and faith.  We are so happy that more and more people are signing up in confidence realizing what a good value this program provides.

Posted 2/24/2016 7:01am by Tim Livingstone.

We are excited to be ready to take sign ups for the 2016 Summer/Fall Season.  

As a grower who has followed the price of food and fresh vegetables in particular for the last 7 years, I see this as one of the best times to sign up for a box program!  The price of fresh produce has increased dramatically this winter, but now you can lock into a great price and get produce all summer long without worrying about what the price of fresh veggies will be in the store. 

We have all been hearing in the news and seeing the prices of vegetables jump to record highs.  I was asked last night if this is likely to continue into the summer or if when Canadian produce comes onto the market again will the prices drop back down.

The reality is that a large percentage of what we eat still comes from outside Canada and even if we grow it here, we rely on seeds and supplies that come in from other countries.  While individual prices are sure to come down somewhat as in the case of Cauliflower, the trend for higher food prices will remain as long as the Canadian dollar is weak against the US dollar.  

I was ordering trays and mulch yesterday and noticed the prices had increased.  I asked why if oil is so low would plastic prices have risen.  I wasn't able to get a suitable answer other than that the global market dictates this.  Kirsten is ordering seeds too and even from Canadian suppliers the prices have all increased substantially this year.  Add the rise in minimum wage and the increase in sales tax and everything points to higher overall food costs.

We are working on systems to increase efficiency on our farm and are using this to help offset the rise in costs allowing us to continue to provide great products at a fair value with minimal price increases.

By signing up now you will get fresh, local, organic produce at a great price and don't have to worry about whether you will be able to feed your family with healthy veggies this summer.

Click here or go to the Sign Up page to secure your spot.  Also pay by June 7 to receive up to a 5% discount off your entire season.

For returning customers, you will see the process is a little different with our new website and you will need to re-enter your contact information.  We appreciate your help as we transition everything into this new site which will provide better service as we move forward.

 

Posted 2/15/2016 12:48pm by Tim Livingstone.

We are in the process of setting up our new website.  We are making some exciting new changes for 2016!  This includes a new website design to better serve our members and to help us better administer and track the orders on our end.

The old website is still up at the following address http://strawberryhillfarm.harvesthand.com/ 

We are gradually moving all the updated information into our new website and this new website will contain all the new updates and information.  Sign up and pricing structure is a little different, but I think you will get used to it no problem.  

Many of you have heard about the price of cauliflower going to $8.00 per head.  There is a combination of factors that caused this, but when buying from the grocery store you never know when the prices are going to skyrocket.  When you sign up for a weekly box, you get a fixed price for the season so don't have to worry about pricing going through the roof.

The low Canadian dollar in relation to the US dollar is unfortunately impacting much of what we purchase including seeds, tractor parts, equipment, and lots more.  In light of this we have to raise our prices a little for 2016 over 2015 prices, we have limited the amount to only a very small percentage increase.  

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We are in the process of building this new website.  Click here to see our old Strawberry Hill Farm website along with your past order history, blogs, and other information. 

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