Did you know that organic farming is currently the fastest growing sector in agriculture? That’s just one of the many things I learned yesterday when we visited Cedar Down Farm in Neustadt, ON, where our CSA (community supported agriculture) share comes from. It’s our fifth season eating organic produce from this farm, but the first time we’ve made the hour-long trek for one of their farm tours. I was very impressed by what we saw. Owners Leslie and Jeff grow crops for 165 summer shares and 100 winter shares on six acres of land, which surprised me. If more than 165 households can be fed using that amount of land, imagine how much less land it would take for a single family to grow and preserve enough vegetables to feed themselves throughout the year.
My boys loved the flock of noisy chickens with one especially protective mother hen who wouldn’t let me near her fluffy black chicks. I really wanted to catch one to show L., who was completely entranced by them, but I gave up on the chase when I saw how agitated Mama Hen was becoming. There are also two pigs on the farm this year and they were really amusing to watch. Big and chubby already, they will weigh 250 pounds when butchering time arrives in the fall. On this hot July day, however, they rolled around joyfully in a mud hole created by a water spigot that they activate themselves. They lounged in the shade of an old truck cap for awhile, but as soon as they spotted some admirers outside their fence, they would jump up and come racing over, grunting and snorting wildly with happiness. You can imagine how excited the kids got about this.
We rode on a wagon pulled by a tractor to do a tour of the full six acres and see how the organic crops are planted according to family and level of pest care required. Cedar Down is also planning to start a grain CSA this fall. It was interesting to me how a single field would have several varieties of crops — soft wheat, hard wheat, spelt, popcorn, blue and red corn, black and kidney beans. I could differentiate between many crops just by looking at them and seeing different coloured plants. It’s so different from the vast mono-crops that dominate this area and stretch to the horizon with no variation. It also seems much safer because there’s protection in variety. As Leslie pointed out, a few seeds didn’t germinate at all, which accounted for a few empty areas. But imagine if an entire field didn’t germinate; the implications are much more serious.
After the farm tour, we had a potluck barbecue in the backyard and enjoyed some fabulous food with fellow CSA supporters. It was a lovely way to spend a summer afternoon and made me feel a bit nostalgic for my roots. There are very few farmers left in my family, even though, once upon a time, both sides of my family were farmers in Niagara, Waterloo County, and in the Blue Mountains. As alluring as the jobs of the outside world may have been in the post-war years, there’s now something alluring about returning to farm life, working to sustain oneself, to coax food from the earth, the most basic fuel of life. Funny how perceptions shift. That being said, I’m not yet ready to sell our house and buy a farm, nor would my husband ever agree to such a scheme. But I am inspired to get outside and tend my little vegetable bed because it represents the first step in reclaiming control of our food production — oh, and it needs to be weeded.
(Cedar Down Farm was featured in an excellent award-winning documentary called To Make a Farm. You can see the trailer here.)
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