A Day in the Life

Greens like kale are heat sensitive, and need to be harvested early in the day

Greens like kale are heat sensitive, and need to be harvested early in the day

Do you ever wonder what your Rootdown farmers do every day? Well, you probably have some idea, in the sense that we grow vegetables and bring them to you either at market, in the CSA, at local stores and restaurants, but what exactly occupies us for hours every day?

Well, for certain, it changes with the seasons. But at this time of year – mid-July, full high season – our days have established themselves in a solid rhythm of harvesting, processing, packing, and, when we have time left over, weeding.

Heat Sensitive Crops

Some of our crops are very heat sensitive, and need to be harvested early in the morning, preferably before the sun dries the dew, so those are always our priorities. These same crops also don’t store as well in the cooler, so they must be done as close to the time of delivery as possible.

These sensitive crops are the leafy greens, including our salad greens, kale, collards, lettuce heads, and chard. We harvest these from the field first thing in the morning, get them into the shade of our processing area, cool them down with water, and store them in the cooler as quickly as possible.

Some of these crops, such as lettuce heads, and others like radishes and spinach, do less well in the heat, and radishes and spinach are finished for the season, and lettuce will be struggling in the heat!

Speedy Growers

If left unsupervised, zucchinis can grow to enormous sizes!

If left unsupervised, zucchinis can grow to enormous sizes!

There are a few crops that grow very quickly in this weather, and need to be harvested every couple of days. With crops like zucchini and cucumbers, especially field cucumbers (a.k.a. pickling or snacking cukes), if we aren’t on top of collecting them, they can easily get oversized. And even with our frequent harvesting, a few will inevitably get overlooked in the jungle of the large, leafy plants, and we come across some giants with regularity.

Weeding in our Free Time

While the hot weather and sunshine is great for most of our crops, it is also good for the weeds, and if we don’t keep on top of them, weeds can easily overwhelm our pathways and rows. Weeds also take nutrients and water away from our crops, and so we try to keep on top of removing them, especially from slower growing crops like beets and carrots.

Beating the Heat

With the extreme heat of mid-July (37-39 degrees Celsius this week!), we the farmers, like the lettuce and spinach, can also struggle with the heat. We combat it by starting earlier, keeping coolers of cold water with us in the fields, and occasionally ending the days with a bit of ice cream.

Weeding is good, old-fashioned manual labour.

Weeding is good, old-fashioned manual labour.

 

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Whistler Farmers Market for 2014

Simone at our market stall

Simone at our market stall

Since opening day on June 16, Rootdown has had a booth at the Whistler Farmers Market. Every Sunday, two of us can be found at our booth near Portabello restaurant, selling a wide variety of produce freshly harvested from our farm.

Farmers’ Markets are a great place not only to sell our produce, but also to interact with a wide variety of people, some of whom are familiar with the farm, and others who are being introduced to us for the first time. Here are some of the questions that we frequently get asked at the market:

Are these vegetables organic?

Yes! Rootdown is a certified organic farm, and everything that we sell is completely organically grown. In order to maintain our status as a certified organic farm, we undergo an inspection every year to prove that our growing practices fit within the guidelines. We are also certified as a Salmon Safe farm.

Where is your farm? How far is it from here?

Rootdown is located on Pemberton Meadows Road, about 45km away from Whistler, about a 45 min drive. We bring our food to market with our truck and trailer, arriving at market around 7:30am.

My, what large veggies you have!

My, what large veggies you have!

How do these veggies get so big?!

Well, probably different from the average garden, the farm is our full time job! So we take great care of our plants, starting most of them inside a greenhouse as seedlings, with monitored temperature and watering. When they are the right size and strength, we transplant them into soil that has been tilled and amended with nutrients like compost and manure. From there, the plants are protected from insects if necessary with floating row cover, and watered, weeded and thinned as needed. We harvest our veggies as close as possible to the time when they will be delivered or sold, so they are fresh for our customers, and are cleaned and stored in our market cooler. We take great care of our vegetables so they taste and look fantastic!

What can I do with ________?

There may be some unfamiliar veggies on our market stand, and we are always happy to share our favourite recipes with you. Being fresh, local and organic, most of our vegetables are delicious with minimal interference, cooked with light seasonings or eaten raw in salads.

Here is a favourite kale chip recipe, adapted from Vegweb:
Wash one bunch of kale and tear into chip-sized pieces. In a blender, combine and blend the following ingredients:
• 3/4 cup nuts (cashews or almonds work great), soaked
• 1 or 2 green onions
• 2 cloves garlic or 1-2 garlic scapes
• 3 TB nutritional yeast
• 1 TB soy sauce
• 3 TB apple cider vinegar
• 1 TB lemon juice
• Water – enough to make the mixture liquid, but not too runny
Once all of these ingredients are blended together smoothly, pour over the kale in a large container with a lid, close the lid, and shake until all of the leaves are well coated.
To cook the chips, my preferred method is to use a dehydrator, which dries the chips but will not burn them. 2-4 hours at 124-140 degrees works well, just keep checking until they are nice and crispy. They can also be baked in the oven at a low temperature – the higher the temperature, the faster they will cook, but they can go from cooked to burnt in less than a minute, so you have to keep an eye on them!
It can be hard to maintain the crispiness of kale chips for more than a couple of days. Store in an airtight container to maintain freshness, but we usually find that we eat them all right away!

See you at market! Every Sunday 11am-4pm in Whistler village

Garlic scapes on display

Garlic scapes on display

First Harvest Box

Our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box went out last Thursday to our members in Pemberton and Whistler. Even though it’s still early in the season, the box was packed full of great veggies, including broccoli, Napa cabbage, green onions, garlic scapes, radishes, lettuce, cilantro and Hakurei salad turnips.

Some of these veggies are pretty familiar, but others might be new for members and others buying these items from the market, so here are a few ideas to using them.

1st Harvest box of the 2014 season

1st Harvest box of the 2014 season

Garlic Scapes

These are the tender tops of the garlic plant, and can be used the same way you would use garlic, or sautéed with butter. A great use for them is to blend with fresh basil, olive oil, and a nut like pine nuts or peanuts.

Hakurei Turnips

These mild-tasting turnips are great in salads and sandwiches, or brushed with salt, pepper and olive oil and grilled. If you like your greens, you can sautée the turnip greens with butter and garlic.

For more information on Rootdown’s CSA program, see here.

Spring Fever

Beautiful napa cabbage, cauliflower and kale

Beautiful napa cabbage, cauliflower and kale

Well, spring has well and truly sprung at Rootdown. We have been busy keeping up with the wild growth that has been happening now that the days are longer and the sun is warmer! In just a few weeks, small transplants of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, squash, and so much more have gone from small and spindly to large and lush, and beans and peas have poked their leafy heads out of the ground. It is so exciting to walk out into the fields and see the plants doing so well!

Of course, with the success of the cultivated plants comes also the success of the weeds, and for us, the main form of weed management comes in the form of our own two hands. We’ve been out combating weed pressure especially in the salad field, where not only will weeds compete for sunlight, soil nutrients and water, but make harvesting difficult – you try picking grass and lambs quarters out of a mixture of greens! They blend in masterfully.

Salad greens packed for grocery store sales

Salad greens packed for grocery store sales

Weed pressure or no, the salad is bountiful at this time of year, and while there was a one week gap while we transitioned from our greenhouse salad, we are now harvesting from our fields, and the salad is so tasty and tender. Our salad mixes include lettuce, mustard greens like mizuna, ruby streaks and arugula, and both green and red tatsoi. Right now, our salad mixes are sold to restaurants and grocery stores, but you will soon also see it at our booth at the Whistler Farmer’s Market.

This week, we also got a great new addition to our farm family – two beehives! TJ, our resident beekeeper, introduced the bee colonies to their hives, and so far the bees seem to be doing well and adapting to their new home. Bees are very important to all kinds of agriculture, whether organic or not, as they pollinate a great number of crops, including squash, zucchini, and fruits like apples, raspberries and blueberries.
With longer, hotter days to come, we know that our vegetables are off to a good start! Less than two weeks now before market season starts, and things are looking good.

Beekeeper TJ introducing the bees to Rootdown

Beekeeper TJ introducing the bees to Rootdown