New Farm, Same Farmers

2018 was a game changer. We bought our own farm – 100 acres located just south of Lyndhurst, or about 35 minutes north east of Kingston in Leeds and the Thousand Islands Twp.

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The barn in Sweets Corners – Salt of the Earth’s new HQ!

Two major reasons precipitated this move. First, to have our own piece of this beautiful land to call our own; where we can make permanent long-term investments, like planting perennials and building structures. Second, because our land at Hwy 2 had an amazing location for marketing, but very challenging soil for growing vegetables. The soil around Kingston is heavy clay, and at our location it was very depleted in terms of nutrients and structure from years of neglect as a farm (the last real farmers there probably stopped farming shortly after WWII). As anyone who even has the smallest garden will know, soil is crucial!

We continue to be blessed with the opportunity to steward the land at the Hwy 2 farm, and we’ll continue to run our farmstand there as well as keep our cattle and firewood business focussed there, which are the two activities that that land is really suited best for. Pasture land is a healthy and productive landscape, and with responsible grazing and the sustainable harvest of woodlots, we’ll continue to cultivate this farm and make the most of its potential.

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Ploughing up land for the garden.

The new farm at Sweets Corners is set right in the Frontenac Arch, a geologic anomaly where Canadian shield granite juts out of gorgeous former lake bottom clay loam. The farm we found has about 40 acres of cleared hay fields and about 60 acres of woods on steep granite outcrops. The land had been stewarded for the last twenty years by lovely folks who invested in building up the soil and managed the woodlot to be highly productive.

This land is our forever home, and we intend to farm here as long as our faculties allow us. This fall Charles ploughed up around 6 acres for our 2019 veggie garden. The hay fields are rich fodder, plump with alfalfa and orchard grass, for our cattle and chickens, and the woodlot is an amazing renewable resource for our selectively harvested firewood and specialty hardwood slabs. The sugar bush is still young, but in a couple years it will be producing that sweet magic, aka maple syrup.

We are full of gratitude to all of our customers for helping us make this huge change this year. We simply couldn’t have made this step forward without the supportive, positive and generous support of our community. We are looking to the future with optimism and we look forward to serving our old friends and new faces in either Kingston or Sweets Corners. Please come visit us!

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The ancient mountains of the Frontenac Arch.

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The cave with Morgan for scale.

Morgan’s Tips for CSA Success

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Sometimes we hear concerns from folks that the CSA will be too much food for their family or that they couldn’t possibly eat all produce that every week. We also sometimes hear that “oh, we don’t spend that much at the grocery store every week”…  and to that I say, “I bet you spend a lot more than you think if you actually tracked it!”

Don’t get me wrong, the CSA is not be the right fit for everyone – and maybe the Flexible Farmstand option makes the most sense for you. That said, we do have customers who do the whole Traditional CSA for just themselves or for a household of two – it’s a matter of priorities and diet. If the CSA sounds like something you’d like to try and you are new to a CSA program, you might find that you have to approach your kitchen in a new way in order to make the most of your basket. But, make no mistake, you can do it! Here are some of the major points I make to new customers:

  1. Plan Ahead – Congratulations, you’ve brought your first CSA basket home – a big basket of the freshest bounty our neck of the woods can offer! Take stock – what can be eaten right away, what are you going to throw on the BBQ Friday night, and what should be prepared to eat later? Some things (e.g. lettuce, green onions) are best to eat right away, which others are going to be just fine (eg. Beets). Do some simple meal planning to make the most of your CSA.
  2. Make a Point to Eat Seasonally – Despite what the grocery store would have you believe, very few produce items grow year round. Each vegetable has its own personality, tuned to sun, heat, and wet. The garden is a symphony – not a steam engine – and when the ground thaws we get cool-loving lettuces, leafy greens, radishes, spring onions, which give way to tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in the hot days of summer, which yield to squash, pumpkins, brassicas and root veggies as days shorten and cool. The first frost will toast any last tomatoes, but it will make parsnips and Brussels sprouts sweeter than ever.

IMG_20160827_150914The CSA means you are eating the freshest food at its best. Don’t expect tomatoes in June or corn in October. Make appropriate substitutions to make the most of your CSA – use garlic scapes in the early summer before the garlic is ready, use kale or swiss chard in a salad when it’s too hot for lettuce in August.

  1. Store It Right – People often ask me the best way to store their veggies. Following on point #1 – maybe you’ve decided to hang on to those radishes for a couple days, or you know you aren’t going to eat those beets this week. Generally, most things are going to do really well in your fridge (consider that it was picked the day you picked it up – that’s fresh!). Simply wrap in plastic, and store in your crisper. Potatoes, sweet potatoes garlic, and onions should be kept in a cool, dark, dry place, and winter squash will keep fine on your counter. If the item you want to store has tops (like carrots, radishes, or beets), remove them before putting in the fridge. That’ll keep the item from losing moisture. Kale and swiss chard can be resuscitated by lopping off a bit of stem and putting them in water to get back their turgidity. Don’t put tomatoes in the fridge – they get mealy! Keep those heat-loving veggies, like peppers and summer squash, on your counter.

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  2. Make Soup! – Consider buying a deep freeze if you don’t already have one – for the cost of the freezer and the electricity, you’ll be making up for it with delicious, fresh, and nutritious meals all year long with food you already paid for. I think pretty much any vegetable can be turned into soup – even lettuce (try it!). Make two portions when you cook, and throw half in the freezer. That carrot ginger soup or those stewed tomatoes with eggplant and zucchini is going to taste like pure sunshine come January.
  3. Good Ol’ Home Cooking – This one’s very simple: make a point to eat at home. Instead of a restaurant, invite friends over. Throw some veggies on the grill in the summer (or roast them in the oven for a fall get together). Maybe you have some pastured beef or pork for the BBQ (or the slow cooker) – then all of a sudden you have a beautiful meal, with almost no dishes, no muss, no fuss, that is just as good (nay, better!) than any take out or restaurant dining.
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  4. Put It Up – Here in Canada, we have a beautiful summer… and then 6-8 months of winter. Our growing season is bountiful, but short. Any way you look at it, CSA is a great value for your dollar, but if you can make the absolute most of it and extend the season beyond October, you are practically making money! Herbs and hot peppers can be dried, brassica family (broccoli family) do well blanched and frozen, basil and other herbs can be process,ed into pesto, radishes become fermets, beans and beets are winter pickles, then there are tomato jams, corn relish, zucchini bread, carrot cake, homemade hot sauce, kimchi, sauerkraut, onion chutney… the list is infinite! Extending the season doesn’t have to mean getting into days of canning if that sounds intimating; your fridge and freezer, salt and sugar, and some creativity are your best tools.

A Random Assortment of CSA Shares

We’re often asked, “What does an average CSA share look like?”  Well, each one is different, depending on the time of year, the growing season, and the varietals we chose.

A picture’s worth a thousand words, so here’s a mishmash of shots from our lovely customers over the past few years (thanks for all the photos!)

2017

2017 was just as tricky a year as 2016 – except instead of endless sun and heat, it was endless grey and rain.  Back to back record breaking years, and equally challenging…

We don’t have a ton of pics from 2017, especially early in the year, apparently because Morgan gave birth to our daughter Caledonia on June 8th and we were busy taking pictures of our little girl instead of the farm!

2016

A peek back on the challenging drought year of 2016.  Never want to see it again – will never forget the lessons!

2015

A gallery of 2015…