The world is a lot these days. If you are awake, listening to the news, witnessing what's going on around the world, well ... it's hard to find hope. But hope we must and there is nothing more hopeful than the cycles of farming. Come along with us as we try this again for the 15th season as Roots and Shoots Farm
2023 was a doozy, with wildfire smokes forcing our crew to wear masks many days, record rainfall and record heat.. These climate events combined with a few silly but consequential "user errors" in June and July resulted in the most stressful August to date. We weathered through and thanks to the excessive rain, we were harvesting gorgeous celery and fennel and a record amount of carrots and cabbage by the fall.
Looking back, it was a good year. We learnt a lot, as we always do, from the challenges we faced. We tweaked some of our farm machinery to make weeding and field prep more efficient and regenerative. (We'll explore this more in coming newsletters).
Climate change reality is really scary. The unpredicitability and extremes not only stress out the plants, but the farmers as well. But we're working hard to build resiliency into our practices. And we know that our veggies offer a low-carbon alternative to the veggies grown elsewhere.
Ultimately, we grew a lot of food and feel proud of the quality and format of our new free choice CSA. We're so proud of our amazing team and our loyal customers and very happy we get to work outside with plants and soil.
Time to Recover, Regroup
We find this time of year so important for recovering, resting, analyzing, planning and doing hobbies we normally don't have time for. It's a short window to cram in all those things, but resetting and remembering why we do this farming thing is essential for starting again.
Our team is taking a few weeks off. Matt and Kat are both going south for a few weeks, Tim is spending some quality time with his family, coming in occasionally to check up on us and make sure we're keeping the farm alive.
Robin and I (Jess)are starting later in the day but still keeping things going here at the farm. The greenhouses need regular checks. It's important to take the row covers off when the sun comes out, to keep an eye of aphid and disease pressure.. things like that.
We also like to take this time to rethink systems on the farm. We identify weak links and see if we can shuffle schedules and roles around to make the farm more efficient and the work more enjoyable for our staff.
Re-jigging our Sales Avenues
We are also working on our crop plans and sales avenue plans.
In 2023 our wholesale sales to grocery stores and restaurants nosedived. We lost about 50% of our wholesale revenue. This was partly because the wonderful Wellington Herb and Spice closed, which was a real loss for the local food economy. They played a big roll in our evolution over the years! And partly this was because Amazon bought Wholefoods and implemented an actually impossible online system that they force all of their farm vendors to use, large and small. Large producers selling one or two products at many stores across North America may have the resources to deal with this but we really don't. We feel a bit uncomfortable sharing this, but we've been trying to deal with this for over a year now and it reflects an important reality for us small farmers trying to find viable sales channels.
We have a lot of love and appreciation for the wholesale venues like Red Apron, Metro Glebe, Wakefield General Store and Les Fougeres and Le Hibou restaurants who make an effort to source locally. Their efforts make our communities nicer places to live, shop and work.
We couldn't do it without you!
All of challenges have distilled, even more clearly, the truth that you, our customers and community, are wonderful and indispensable and the reason we farm. And we're working on ways to provide our baskets to more people in more areas of the city, without taxing our driver or our wonderful hosts too much! More on that later. . .
People like you make it possible for us to put our time and efforts into creating healthy soils and protecting the biodiversity around our little plot of land. You make it possible for us to hire really wonderful, intelligent, hardworking farmers.
We hope the rewards for you are not only delicious, nutritious vegetables but the knowledge that you are contributing to a system that puts people and the environment first. Plus, we are always striving to make the experience more enjoyable and affordable for you.
The best things and the future 2024 things
The best thing we implemented last year was the free choice system, that we mentioned before. It was a game changer for us, and we think for you too! We wasted less, and we hope you did too-- you only got what you wanted! We're excited to continue this system in 2024.
Over the next 4 weeks we're going to be sending out newsletters explaining our practices and goals and how you are and can be a part of our farm and the extra efforts we make to be conscientious land stewards. We're deeply committed to growing nutrient dense food in a way that mitigates climate change and improves resilience for the future.
We know a lot of you are already fans and we love you for that! And some of you may be on the fence. We want to take this time to really share our mission, our practices and our goals.
We hope you find some time to read along.
And we hope you too get to have some time for reflection and rest this month.
Bonne année à tous,
Jess and Robin
WINTER SHARE: LINK HERE
The winter share starts the week of January 31/February 1 (for week A and full shares..Feb6/7 for week B).
There are still a few shares left. We will be growing sprouts and buying in garlic and potatoes to supplement our greenhouse and storage crops. It's a really great way to eat locally.. plus it's almost 100% plastic free (we use plastic if we absolutely have to..but mostly avoid it for roots and heartier greens)