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Posted 9/15/2016 11:22am by Tim Livingstone.

Good evening Strawberry Hill Farm Members,

This coming Sunday September 18 we are hosting Open Farm Day at our farm.  This is a great opportunity to bring your family and friends and see the farm where your veggies are grown.

We plan to offer the following attractions:

Tractor tour of some of the main vegetable fields plus viewing of the cows, baby chicks, baby calves, laying hens and broiler chickens on pasture, pigs in the field, mama pigs picking their own corn and more.

See our warehouse where produce is stored all winter.

Shop at our store including select Farm day specials.

Possibly even the option to try your hand at some pick your own.

If you have never been here, our farm is located at 5424 on route 105 between Grafton and Hartland near Woodstock.

The weather forecast does not look great but we plan to tarp the hay trailer in case it rains.

This is always a fun event and we look forward to seeing whoever can make it out.

Tim

Posted 8/25/2016 6:12pm by Tim Livingstone.

Good Evening %%user-name%%,

We are now at the midway point in our summer/fall veggie box season having sent 10 boxes with 10 boxes still to go.  It looks like we will have a good supply of veggies going forward so are opening up sign ups again for a short time in case you know of anyone that would like to get in on the last half of the season.  Please feel free to pass this email along to anyone who may be interested.

You can go to the sign up page of our website or click here to get there...

For all those who have asked, we plan to open up our winter sign ups in about 3 weeks time.

Thank you for your support and we look forward to a great rest of the season!

Tim

Posted 8/3/2016 6:37pm by Tim Livingstone.

We have recently had a couple of comments from people that they cannot use all the veggies in a week.

Did you know that veggies and meat can make an excellent meal even without rice or noodles or grains?  I actually find that I feel much better after eating a meal of vegetables and meat or eggs without milk, sugar, and flour.  

I've read that the working class people in the time of Queen Victoria lived mostly on a diet of vegetables, whole grains and some meat.  If you remove infant mortality which was higher at the time, an adult's life expectancy was the same as ours without all our modern medicines. 

In our family, if we have a surplus of vegetables or just crave a veggie meal, we simply put a pot of water on the stove and cut up everything into it.  We start with veggies like carrots, salad turnips, and potatoes which require more cooking.  We then throw in things like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower with peas and green or yellow beans last which will need the least cooking time.  Drain the water and add a little salt with butter if you like.  Add a sausage or steak from the grill and this makes a really good meal while using up a lot of veggies. 

Stir fries are another great way to use veggies in a very artistic and delicious manner.  Stir fries are generally faster too with a meal being ready in under 20 minutes.

If you just can't use them now, many veggies can be lightly steamed and frozen for later use.  Beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas all freeze really well and will be so good next winter.

Lastly remember that some veggies like cabbage, potatoes, and onions can store for a good long time so you don't have to feel any pressure to use them up within the week.  

If you have any questions or just need some ideas, feel free to email us what you have and we will help you with some ideas to use it.

Posted 6/21/2016 4:41pm by Tim Livingstone.

We have a lot of beautiful strawberries.  For this first time since growing our own organic berries we are able to send 2 quarts in a full box and one quart of berries in a half box!  This heat has really turned the color of the berries and they are delicious.

We have passed the longest day of summer.  It is always a little sad when the days start getting shorter again, but the summer has only just begun - that is the good news!

It has been another busy spring season and a few things took a hit with the cold last week, but overall I think we are in better shape at this time than we were last year.  We so appreciate a good crew, a nice building to work in, a new to us delivery bus.  

We had hoped to keep our old bus another couple of years, but it was condemned by two mechanics due to too much rust under the body.  While the new bus was an expense we hoped not to have, the bright side is that it should be much more reliable, is easier on fuel, and can be used to do our Moncton deliveries as well.  We plan to have it wrapped with signs like our other bus.  The design and printing process takes time so for now it will be white but we hope within a month or so to have it looking really nice.

Posted 6/13/2016 3:56pm by Tim Livingstone.

It has certainly been a busy spring season!  Strawberries are just starting to ripen, onions are looking great, and most of our early crops are planted and growing well.  

Sadly our old bus had to be retired, so we have had to purchase a new-to-us bus a couple years earlier than we had hoped.  It was hard to find a bus that was set up like we need, but we did find one in the US and just today finally finished all the paperwork to register it here in NB.

Weeds are thriving with this rainy weather so we are looking forward to some sun later this week and hope to get on top of the weeds before we start harvesting for boxes next week.

Last week we were busy planting the over 20,000 sweet potato plants which I picked up in the US when I picked up our bus.  We have also planted cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale and much more.

We have lots of crops growing and getting ready for boxes.  This is good because we have more sign ups than ever before.  We are starting the season with 350 weekly boxes and that means a lot of veggies every week!

Every year we learn more and try new things.  We have mulched more with straw to help hold down weeds, disease, and keep crops cleaner.  We have also started a new hot water seed treatment prior to seeding which so far seems to be helping a lot.  Farming on this scale is a lot more involved than just putting a seed into the ground and watching it grow, but we have a good crew and I'm excited to see how this years crops turn out.  

 

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.

 

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