What's Growing for 2018?

First, THANK YOU everyone who emailed me with their thoughts and support. I know I haven't gotten around to replying back yet, but I have read all of them and have taken it all in. I admit there was a whole pile of ideas that I would've never come up with on my own. 

I've been chatting with fellow farmers and land stewards about our old pasture getting a second life growing vegetables and fruit. Truthfully, that hard pan (which honestly is no worse than what's lurking under our old field) had me more worried than any wet/late/cool spring nightmare ever did. Is it season-destroying? It really isn't. Did it crush me and make me believe it was, you bet.

As always, there is a way.

Because of how we're designing our farm (mulching, cover crops, compost teas, fungi, permanent beds for annuals, swales and keyline design, edible hedgerows, companion planting, etc) the soil won't be left to be washed away or fend for itself. We'll be stimulating soil life right away and planting hard pan busting cover crops (many of which are harvestable edibles, a tip from Yvonne at YR Bison) anywhere that isn't being seeded or mulched.

Plants are resilient and just want to grow. Best not to under estimate them. 

Michael from Genesis Permaculture stopped by for a tour a couple weeks ago. We discussed swale design (sink and store water in the landscape), building and road placement, silvipasture, food forests, and many other exciting elements that we're planning to build (some quickly, some slowly) into our farm.  

As those systems are going in it's all with u-pick in mind. Many of today's small scale farm designs are about squeezing as much production space into the smallest space possible. Those designs are great for those working on an acre or less (urban lots, microfarms). They're extremely space efficient. Some to the point of making the work environment unpleasant, in my opinion. But space is not a limiting factor for us. That doesn't mean we're gonna "waste" it, but it does mean we can create a production area that gives visitors space to enjoy what's happening around them.   Space to stroll, for kids to run, to graze on abundance, to rest in the sun or shade, and to appreciate both the stillness and bursting life that is often found on farms. 

Look! A goat! Snickers has become quite the snuggler. 

Look! A goat! Snickers has become quite the snuggler. 

Farming is rarely easy. It's often quite stressful. And sometimes all the "what ifs"  pile up and cause anxiety that is hard to work past.

Growing food for our family, friends, and community is a joy and watching our CSA kids (oh how they grow!) devour carrots or raspberries before even leaving the parking lot brings a smile to my face and now I think, “wait till they get to pick strawberries!”  I can't wait to see all those berry stained faces.

 

So, yes.

 

 

Yes, we will be doing CSA.

Like last season, 10 weeks instead of 12. New for 2018, an option to come out for u-pick instead of that week's box.

There are no registration forms yet. I haven't been able to update it because the laptop charge cord is waiting for a part (I've been posting blogs using an app on my phone. Yay technology!). It'll be pretty much a copycat set-up from last season.

For more info or to reserve your spot, VestaGardens@gmail.com 

 

The boost of capital from CSA registrations goes towards seeds, equipment, training (conferences, workshops, etc) and seedlings (annuals and perennials). It stays on the farm. Sales during the summer is what is used to pay the farmers. That's how we've had it since we started and until everything is set-up and established at our new farm that's how it'll stay :)

 

We will be having planting parties in the spring (strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, rhubarb and more are already ordered), along with mushroom log inoculating, swale digging, bed building, and so much more. Watch for those events on facebook!

 

 Stay warm friends and enjoy the snow. We're in for some beautiful winter days.

There is no better time than now.

- Deb

Canada's Best New Restaurants

It's been an amazing year for #yegfood. For the first time ever Edmonton had three restaurants in enRoute Magazine's Top 10 New Canadian Restaurant list. Edmonton has had only two other restaurants place, Corso 32 in 2011 and Rge Rd in 2014.

Last week I finally had a chance to visit our chefs and congratulate them on their wins. That's right, two of Edmonton's Top 10 serve Vesta Gardens veggies!

   Cafe Linnea placed 6th and the restaurant has been extra busy ever since. Chefs Kelsey and Fillie graciously took time away from the kitchen for a quick celebratory photo op (it's ok, I brought potatoes with me).   

Sometimes we're a little silly

Sometimes we're a little silly

Whether you go for brunch, dinner or high tea you won't be disappointed.   I can sometimes be found there around dinner time, sitting a the bar with pork croquettes and a glass of apple cider. 

 

Yay Ben!  I may have had to beg him to let me take a pic but it was worth it.

Yay Ben!  I may have had to beg him to let me take a pic but it was worth it.

It was only the sixth ever dinner service of Alder Room when the enRoute reviewer sat at Ben's bar. To anyone who's run a kitchen (or really any business) you know that it takes time to iron out the details for the service and food to run smoothly and be top notch. Blows my mind every time I think about it. Months later I can only imagine what that reviewer would think (and how much higher on the list it might have placed).

Alder Room works on pre-purchased tickets for your meal and you can book for the short menu matinée ($100/person + drinks) or full menu evening ($160/person + drinks).

Go before the Manitoba Maple syrup is gone!  

 

- Deb

Our New Farm

It's been quite the year.    This spring Zac and I finally purchased our own land. 70 acres! About 5 miles from where we are now.  Mostly pasture with a large section of mixed bush, a "creek" that also feeds into a dugout and slough.  (The piece in the top left hand corner is ten acres that belong to our neighbours) 

The future home of Vesta Gardens

The future home of Vesta Gardens

We took possession in June but didn't get to do much work or spend a whole lot of time out there until September.  A comprehensive farm plan is slowly being worked on, but a plot for veggies is already on the go! 

 

The big disc broke up the sod Oct 13th

The big disc broke up the sod Oct 13th

A smaller disc went over to help bust up the lumps Oct27th. Not sure it helped much...

A smaller disc went over to help bust up the lumps Oct27th. Not sure it helped much...

Oct 30th, the afternoon before the snow arrived, it was surface tilled to bust up the sod so it could break down easier over winter.

Oct 30th, the afternoon before the snow arrived, it was surface tilled to bust up the sod so it could break down easier over winter.

We have soil!  

 

But it's not all perfect. I wanted to start planning out bed layout, moving perennials like asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries over, spreading compost and manure. And we discovered that under the 20+ years of pasture is hard pan (repairable with a planting of tillage radish but takes a season to grow out).

 

So, the problem is... do we sell CSA shares and bank on having a good spring to get caught up (a gamble that gives me nightmares)?

Maybe do a short season again?

Or take a season off to get things set-up (little-to-no income with piles of new farm expenses and deal with the fear every direct-to-consumer farmer has about losing their customer base)?   Would we have enough late summer vegetables for events (chef dinners and tea party)?  

I've been toying with the idea of designing our new garden with u-pick in mind. Wider pathways and what not. Locals in our area don't really go for CSA as most have gardens at home but a place to go out and pick what they need without the market price tag has definite appeal.  

 

 So, farm family - csa members past and present, I'd like to know your thoughts. Leave a comment or feel free to send me an email.

 

Enjoy the snow! 

- Deb  

2017 CSA Registration

Registration is open! And already almost sold out. 
A perk of being a past member is getting the opportunity to register before it's available on our website. And they sure took advantage of it this year! 
But there are a few spots left. Check out our CSA Page for details. 

Something new for this year! An idea that I stole from Dustin (from Parsnips & Paddocks) who stole it from another farmer who was on Farmer to Farmer (I believe it's a podcast. Crazy kids...). It's a "Take It or Leave It" bin (I'm taking new name suggestions). Need extra potatoes for a recipe and still have cabbage from last week? Trade this weeks cabbage for a bag of potatoes. Someone else might come along and want extra cabbage for sauerkraut. They'd take that cabbage and leave something else. I thought it was a neat way to get a more personalized box. 

Last weekend we hung out at Sherwood Park's Seedy Sunday. Had a great time talking about seed saving and vegetable breeding.


We're at it again this Sunday for Edmonton Seedy Sunday!  I'll be accepting CSA registrations that day as well. 

Happy Spring!
Deb