Ring in Spring with Edible Flowers!

Trend Aquafresh

Let’s ignore the fact that – almost a month into spring – this weather has been decidedly cold and sometimes snowy. It’s spring in our hearts and maybe on our plates – and what better way to celebrate spring with beautiful edible flowers and herbs? Trend Aquafresh is the latest in our Sow and Tell series. Mini pansies, butterfly leaves, lemon thyme and Moroccan mint are on sale, for all deliveries from April 17th to April 20th, 2018! Find them in the ‘sale’ category on our website.

flowers, greenhouse, row of nasturtiums, trend aquafresh

What’s their story?

Trend Aquafresh is a large aquaponic facility located in Niagara-on-the-lake, and is owned by Ton and Jackie Boekstyn. Ton emigrated from the Netherlands to Canada in 1987, and established a successful cut flower and potted plant business, with his flowers oftentimes being exported to Europe. Eventually, Ton and Jackie decided they wanted to shift their focus in 2014. Instead of growing cut flowers exported overseas, they wanted to become certified organic and build an aquaponic facility to cultivate fresh, vibrant, and tasty edible flowers, herbs, and greens for local markets! We began working with Trend in 2016 and immediately loved the beauty and hefty flavour of their products.

Back in the summer, our team took some trips out to tour the facility and spend some time chatting with Ton. Ton told us that building an organic, aquaponic facility was a huge challenge, and at times they felt overwhelmed with their task. The hard work has paid off but, even now, they are the only facility of its kind in Ontario, and possibly even in Canada!

We explored the huge facility with Ton, trying little bits of herbs and flowers as he explained how his operation works. Ton found it particularly amusing to watch us try some of the more unique products with strong flavours, laughing to himself about our reactions! Ton has a great sense of humour and really knows his stuff. He also wants to share his knowledge – if he wasn’t running Trend – he would spend his time doing research and assisting others in learning how to become more self-sufficient. Ton is also very experimental and loves growing rarer herbs and greens; agretti and sea asparagus have been previously included in his rotation.

trend aquafresh

What does aquaponic growing mean, exactly?

By now, you’re probably wondering what exactly aquaponic growing is and how Trend does it! Since I’m by no means an expect, and since we were a bit busy climbing past massive fish tanks during our visit to take extensive notes, I’m going to include a helpful excerpt from this handy website I found:

‘The standard aquaponics unit works by creating a nitrogen cycle. In this system, water is shared between a fish tank and grow beds. In the fish tank, fish produce waste that is high in ammonia content. Pumps carry this waste to the growing beds, where bacteria process it into an extremely rich fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen. The vegetables extract the nitrogen from the water, making the water safe for reintroduction to the fish tank. This cycle repeats over and over, with the fish providing the basic nutrition for bacteria, the bacteria providing nutrition for plants and plants acting as a bio-filter for the fish. All that’s left for you to do is feed the fish and decide which plants you should grow.’

I get the sense that this makes it sound more straightforward than it is at the scale Trend does it – Ton pointed out all the various monitoring computer systems that help him and his team track the chemical balance – but he assured us it’s still a lot of work to ensure the closed cycle can continue as optimally as possible.

greenhouse, organic, aquaponic, trays of greens, trend aquafresh

So – now’s your chance – have a peek at Trend’s extensive offering and try out some organic, aquaponically grown products! The sale runs from April 17th to 20th, for all deliveries!

By: Genrys Goodchild

Count the Differences with Woolley’s Lamb!

Welcome to the first Sow and Tell of 2018, featuring Woolley’s Lamb from Norfolk County!

To quickly recap, this series features a different farm partner or producer we work with to share some of the history and the story to help you know where your food comes from.

In 2018, we’re going to be changing it up a little bit. Instead of always offering a discount for a week of deliveries, we may also offer one-on-one meetings with your sales rep and farmer or be distributing samples! For this feature, we have a variety of samples available from Woolley’s Lamb. Please contact your sales rep to have a sample added on to your order. Woolley’s have lots of leg of lamb – just in time for Easter! Their lamb (for reasons we’ll get into below) is much leaner and milder tasting than typical Ontario or imported lamb, so get those samples on your order so you too can discover the delicious high quality of Woolley’s Lamb.

lamb, localfood, agriculture, ontario, woolleys

Woolley’s Lamb: A History

Woolley’s Lamb is not just a lamb farm. Originally, it was (and still is) a very large apple and sour cherry orchard, an orchard that is one of the ten farm partners that works with Norfolk’s Fruit Grower’s Association! There’s a good chance if you’ve purchased an apple from NFGA, you’ve purchased apples grown from Brett Shuyler and Carrie Woolley’s family farm.

It’s Brett’s family – The Shuylers – who have owned the orchards for decades. Carrie Woolley (yes, her last name IS Woolley, it really was meant to be for her to be a modern day shepherdess!) is a sixth-generation farmer who studied animal sciences at Guelph University. It is Carrie who wanted to diversify the family farm by lamb farming. Carrie explained that her goal was to create their version of a vertical farm. In this case, it doesn’t mean stacking crops vertically to make use of smaller space, but rather to find ways to carry the farm through the off-season. Initiatives such as these are just one of the many strategies farmers use to make their operation more financially and environmentally sustainable.

localfood, sowandtell, 100kmfoods, sheep, lamb, ontario, norfolk county

What makes Woolley’s Lamb a special lamb farm?

Woolley’s Lamb is only five years old but is already unique when it comes to the world of lamb. The ewes and lambs graze in the orchards year-round (including winter – their thick coats mean they can withstand lots of snow and cold temperatures!). There’s two major benefits to this approach. First, the lambs and ewes are grass fed (and fed hay and other roughage in winter) which means the lambs have leaner, milder meat. Second, this cuts down on costs for the orchard operation – grasses don’t need to be mowed and cover crops aren’t as necessary, as the lambs fertilize and restore soil quality through their grazing habits. Also, since their lamb is frozen, the shelf like is extended, meaning Carrie and Brett can set costs and keep it consistently priced, which we know is a huge boon for chefs when it comes to menu planning!

Right now, the ewes are pregnant. This year, Carrie opted to have some ewes artificially inseminated, but most of the ewes will have been naturally impregnated in the fields. Soon, the ewes will begin lambing! Carrie takes the health and quality of life for the flock very seriously. Each day, she goes from orchard to orchard, checking on the flocks. In the warmer months, she checks on them multiple times a day, specifically looking for any signs of illness or injury. Carrie impressed upon us the importance of taking quick action, should any of the lambs fall ill, to maintain the health of the entire flock. Carrie also makes sure that her ewes get extended breaks from being pregnant and nursing lambs – which is not always standard in lamb farming. Carrie also makes sure to shear the sheep to sell the wool, and has just started working with a smaller independent Canadian business that makes high quality wool clothing as a buyer!

lambs, norfolk country, local food, sowandtell, 100kmfoods, ontario agriculture

The Rewards and Challenges of Local Food

When I asked Carrie and Brett about some of the challenges and rewards of farming this way, they told us that they derive lots of joy and satisfaction from innovating in a way to improve their farms environmental sustainability. They also highlighted that one of their biggest challenges is connecting to the consumer – running an orchard and a lamb farm, as well as raising their newborn daughter Emma – can take up a lot of their time. Through 100km Foods, they can connect more with chefs and consumers who purchase their lamb, especially because we source identify by every farm. In fact, it is only through partnering with us that they are able to get their lamb products to the Toronto market!

If you want to learn more about Woolley’s Lamb, we recommend following Carrie on both Twitter and Instagram @CarrieWoolley1. We love reading her funny and informative posts!

So – if you’d like to get ahold of some great lamb samples in the lead up to Easter – we’re your people! Let your sales rep know if you’d like them tacked on to your next order, and they’ll be more than happy to facilitate!

Special thanks to Brett & Carrie for the information and some of the pictures in this post.

By: Genrys Goodchild

Winter Instagram Contest

Winter Instagram Contest

Well, we’re really in the heart of winter now! But you know what? Sometimes even we’re surprised by how much local food is still readily available! Check out this buddha bowl made by Chef Anna Gedalof at Havergal College – featuring watermelon radish from Pfennings Organic, wheatberries from K2 Milling, edamame and lentils from Pristine Gourmet, Celery Root from Green Acres, carrots & parsnips from Hillside Gardens, Russian blue potatoes from Brooks farm, and squash from Top Tomato & Round Plains!

Isn’t that gorgeous?

So this is our challenge to you for February: can you make a dish that features such an amazing array of local food, sourced through 100km Foods?

The prizes for this Instagram Challenge include 4 complimentary tickets to the 12th annual Terroir Symposium 2018 & the Rural Retreat!!!! The theme for this year’s talks are Terroirnomics: The Powerful Economies of Local. You can learn more about this year’s symposium and guest speakers here.

To enter the contest is simple: post a picture on your Instagram of a dish crafted by your team that features local food ingredients (must include at least 3-4 products sourced through 100km Foods).

Follow us, tag us in the photo @100kmfoods and use the hashtag #100kmfoodscontest for your team’s chance to win a ticket to the 2018 Terroir Symposium! ** Important note ** only ONE ticket is available for your contest entry, and only one entry accepted for each restaurant.

PLEASE REVIEW THE FULL CONTEST RULES BELOW:

  • To be eligible to participate in this contest, your team must hold an account with 100km Foods and be located in Ontario, Canada.
  • To submit your team entry, be sure to follow 100km Foods on Instagram, tag us in the photo, and use the hashtag #100kmfoodscontest.
  • Only 1 entry per team.
  • The contest runs from February 21st, 2018 through to March 8th, 2018.
  • After the contest ends, the 4 winners will be randomly selected from 10 entries with the most likes.
  • The winning team will be contacted by email from info@100kmfoods.com

We will post the winning dish on all our social media channels!

Disclaimer: This contest is in no way affiliated with Instagram.

Living. Certified Organic. Innovative. Local.

Slegers Greenhouses

In 1987, shortly after graduating agricultural college, Jo Slegers built a greenhouse and began growing just one product – Boston Lettuce. Fast forward 30 years, and Slegers Greenhouses now grows over 47(!) different products that fall within four categories – lettuces, herbs, micro greens and greens.

For the final Sow and Tell of 2017, some of the most popular microgreens are on sale: Basil, Beets, Daikon Radish, Sunflower and Mixed Micros!! Find these by clicking the red ‘Sale’ tag on the website! The promotion applies to all deliveries made between December 5th – 8th 2017.

We are also pleased to announce a wide range of Microgreen Living Flats are also available from Slegers. You can find all of these products in the Slegers Microgreen category on the website.

The World of Microgreens

greens, microgreens, living, organic

Nowadays Jo, and his wife Pauline, live on the farm and manage the greenhouse operation. In 2004, after many years of trialling organic methods, Jo and Pauline got their organic certification. Jo is very passionate about growing organically and maintaining a high standard of operations that is better for our environment.

If you’ve tasted their micro greens, you know yourself the potency of flavour and texture they embody. Part of this is because Jo and Pauline offer their greens as ‘living’ greens – which means they’re grown and shipped out as living root balls. The difference in freshness, taste and longevity of products grown and delivered living is noticeable. The ease of just snipping, rinsing and serving right away makes it seamless to serve your customers the freshest and most flavourful greens, micros and herbs.

Microgreens themselves are the young, tender green shoots of vegetables, greens and herbs. They are delicate, vibrant, packed with flavour and are nutritionally dense. It’s a stellar combination all round!

Check out this short video to hear from Jo & Pauline themselves about Slegers and get a glimpse of their greenhouses – shot and produced by our digital media specialist, Sara May!

Relationship With 100km Foods

Slegers was one of the first five producers to ever work with 100km Foods, and has been one of the most collaborative farm partnerships we’ve made! In the early days, Paul said their small orders would be piggy backed on FoodShare orders. Those orders consisted mainly of arugula, basil, watercress, boston lettuce and pea shoots for Il Fornello restaurants.

At that time, Owen Steinberg was executive chef of the Il Fornello restaurants. Owen, Paul, Grace, Jo and Pauline worked together to grow and package their exceptional products in a way that made the price point friendly for the wholesale market. In fact, it was Owen’s suggestion that Slegers be packed as a root ball instead of plastic clam/tray packaging to reduce costs – and as you may realize – that’s still how Slegers product is packaged today, This kind of collaborative effort between farm, distributor and chef is truly what can transform what the local food system is capable of! Since those early days things have only continued to evolve. Slegers products are one of our mainstay offerings, with a consistency of high quality that makes them an absolute chef favourite.

microgreens, peatenders, organic, slegers

Chef Amy Mastrofini from Caffe Demetre had this to say about Slegers products: “We have started using the red veined sorrel from Slegers and its presence on the plate really elevates the dish to the next level. The taste is mild enough that it can be used on sweet dishes – a huge factor for us, because so many micro greens can have a very strong flavour that doesn’t always work with sweet dishes. The shelf life blew me away. The plants were still vibrant, fresh (and growing!) after 17 days in the fridge. At room temperature, they lasted about a week.”

Below is a picture of the red veined sorrel featured in a dish – looks beautiful, doesn’t it? We’re certain it tastes even better!

For this Sow & Tell, the final one of 2017, we want you to explore the vast range of products Slegers has to offer! Their Basil, Daikon Radish, Beet, Mixed and Sunflower Microgreens are on sale for the week of December 5th – 8th 2017.

A big thank you to Jo, Pauline, Sara & Connor for their help with this post!

By: Genrys Goodchild

In Support of Kūkŭm Kitchen & Chef Joseph Shawana

Over the past week, there’s been heated discussion in the news and on social media about a petition that was started by Toronto resident Jennifer Matos, regarding the serving of seal meat at Kūkŭm Kitchen in Toronto. Kūkŭm Kitchen is a great customer of ours, so this issue is of interest to us.

The Context

Matos started this petition because she felt it was unethical to serve commercial seal meat and wanted Kūkŭm Kitchen to stop serving it. Yet, as others have pointed out, Matos has seemingly not targeted one of the other sixteen thousand nine hundred and thirty-four other restaurants serving meat. Some of the supporters of Matos’s petition began to give Kūkŭm Ktichen poor ratings online because of the petition.

Aylan Couchie, a writer and artist from Nipissing First Nation started a counter petition to point out that targeting one of four Indigenous owned restaurants in Toronto and not any others is anti-Indigenous, especially given the detrimental effect anti-sealing campaigns have had on Inuit peoples culture and livelihoods.

So, how exactly is the original petition anti-Indigenous?

Couchie and settler food historian, Ian Mosby, published a very thoughtful piece in the Globe and Mail that discusses how food has been a major tool in the Canadian colonial project against Indigenous nations more broadly. For the Inuit nations, seal-hunting has been a particularly contentious issue in their continuing struggle against colonialism. Therefore, Couchie & Mosby argue that by targeting Kūkŭm and insisting that seal-hunting remain a subsistence activity for Inuit people enforces the idea that all Indigenous nations must remain in the past. Not to mention, thinking the seal-hunting business is subsistence only is also historically inaccurate: the commercial seal industry has existed in Canada for well over a hundred years.

For those interested in learning further about the issue, Couchie & Mosby recommend watching the 2016 documentary film made by Inuk filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril called Angry Inuk. It is available to watch on iTunes Canada.

Kūkŭm Kitchen’s Stance

Chef Joseph Shawana, who owns and operates Kūkŭm Kitchen, is from Wikwemkoong Unceded Reserve on Manitoulin Island. Chef Shawana chose to serve seal meat in a seal tartare dish to honour Inuit culture and support their livelihoods. In an interview with the CBC on As It Happens, Chef Shawana stood by his decision to serve seal meat and explained that he feels Matos petition stems from misinformation.

Chef Shawana and the team at Kūkŭm did their due diligence and researched their menu extensively before their launch. They source their seal meat from SeaDNA in Canada, a company that adheres to Canada’s strict guidelines for commercial seal hunting and prioritizes creating products that use the whole seal. In fact, because of improved guidelines for the industry, seal populations in Canada have skyrocketed in the past forty years. Seals are not considered in any way to be an endangered species (and contrary to what Matos’ original petition leads one to believe, it is illegal for the commercial hunt to kill seal pups in Canada).

At 100km Foods, we take the sourcing of food very seriously. We commend Chef Shawana and his team at Kūkŭm Kitchen for their ethical standards and completely support him in his decision to continue serving seal meat at his establishment.

By: Genrys Goodchild

The Future Is Fresh – Lake Erie Farms Sow and Tell

The Future Is Fresh

It has been an unusual summer for us in Southern Ontario, that’s for certain. The rapid changes and unexpected weather patterns kept all of us on our toes!

But the last few days have noticeably grown shorter, the leaves are finally turning, and the wind is cool. This past week has been one of the final weekx for field greens, and it’s a busy time for menu changes, as we are now all looking towards greenhouse greens to see us through the winter months.

One of our longstanding greenhouse growers is Lake Erie Farms based in Norfolk County, and that’s why we’ve chosen to feature them for this month’s Sow and Tell!

What’s on sale?

localfood, ontario, ontag, agriculture, lakeerie, 100kmfoods

Both their Salanova and Boston Lettuce blends are on sale for all deliveries next week, from October 24th to the 27th. These blends, if you haven’t tried them, are unbelievably tender, juicy, fresh and a little sweet. As Lake Erie says themselves, “ Salanova® will outperform baby spinach, baby arugula and artisan lettuce in taste, mass-volume, loft and shelf life.”

They work amazingly well in salads, sandwiches, and as lettuce wraps (you may have had their Boston lettuce as part of the Bo Ssäm at Momofuku!). They are packaged as vibrant root balls, which ensures absolute peak freshness and a good storage life.

History of Lake Erie Farms

Lake Erie Farms, like many of those that we work with, is a third generation family owned operation. The Ashbaugh family began farming in the late 1920s, and in those days they primarily grew tobacco and owned a series of farms across the region. In time, much like the Gervais family at Barrie Hill Farms, they decided to phase out of the tobacco business and diversify their operations.

localfood, ontag, farm, fields, 100kmfoods, greenhouse

In 2002, they established their first greenhouse operation and began growing cucumbers. In 2008, they sold off their final tobacco crop. Over the years, they have expanded cucumber production and began growing lettuces. Their CEO, Trish Fournier, began with Lake Erie in January 1999, and has been the CEO of the company since 2006.

Challenges and Motivations of Local Food in Ontario

localfood, ontag, greenhouse, agriculture, greens, salad, sustainability

I spoke to Trish over the phone about Lake Erie and her role within the operation, and we discussed some of the challenges and motivations to growing local in Ontario. Trish, like many of our other growers, feels their biggest challenge is competing with imports, especially when it’s field products from Mexico. Pressures come from all sides for Ontario greenhouse operations – be it higher labour costs, rising hydro and energy rates, or packaging costs.

Trish and the team at Lake Erie work very hard to innovate and compete with imports. They prioritize energy efficiency, and have upgraded of their greenhouses with LED lights and have purchased generators to take one greenhouse off-grid. They recycle their water and carbon dioxide gets cycled back in to be fed to their plants. They are currently undergoing another energy audit to determine more ways to keep their operation as efficient as possible!

Despite the challenges they face, Trish is very passionate about local food and local food production. As she said herself, local food is fresher and harvested at peak for optimal flavour and reduces enormous amounts of pollution from transportation. She loves that they are based in Norfolk County, which is known as one of the produce hubs in Ontario. She highlighted how excellent it is that local restaurants purchase from them creating more jobs for residents, who in turn, reinvest their dollars back into the community.

man, greenhouse, worker

Why is 100km Foods a great fit?

Trish believes that 100km Foods is an excellent fit as their distributor in Toronto and the GTA. As she pointed out, on either end of the chain both producers and restaurants have an interest in selling and purchasing greater amounts of local food. The most challenging piece is the link in the middle – the distribution. Farmers and Chefs alike do not always have the time or resources to coordinate sales, especially on the scale needed to build a local food economy. To Trish, that has a province wide impact because we then rely on bringing in more imports to meet food demands. Distribution may not be as glamourous as growing food or showcasing it in restaurants, but it’s absolutely a crucial piece of the puzzle!

So as you’re planning and sourcing for your menu changes, take advantage of the sale on Lake Erie Salanova and Boston lettuce this week and test them out! You will not be disappointed. The promotion runs from October 24th to October 27th!

Thank you so much to Trish for providing information and the photos used in this blog post!

By: Genrys Goodchild

Instagram Contest: Celebrate Local Food Month

Celebrate Local Food Month!

local food, edible flowers, instagram contest

September is Local Food Month for 100km Foods! To celebrate the veritable bounty of local food offerings available for this month, we are launching our first ever Instagram contest!!

It’s pretty simple: post a picture on your Instagram of a dish crafted by your team that features local food ingredients from at least 4 different categories (please see the full breakdown below in the guidelines).

Follow us, tag us in the photo @100kmfoods and use the hashtag #100kmfoodscontest for your team’s chance to win a $200 voucher for a farm-to-table restaurant near you!

We encourage you to share your post far and wide, as the winner will be randomly selected from the top five entries with the most likes!

The contest runs from September 6th, 2017 until September 30th, 2017 – so you have almost the entire month to come up with your dish. We’re super excited to see how your team shows off the September bounty available from 100km Foods!!

Please review the full contest rules below:

  • To be eligible to participate in this contest, your team must hold an account with 100km Foods and be located in Ontario, Canada.
  • The entry dish has to feature ingredients from at least FOUR (4) of the following categories:

Vegetables

Fruits

Greens

Dairy/Eggs

Cheese

Dry Goods (includes honey, vinegars, oils, flours, etc)

Meat & Fish

  • To submit your team entry, be sure to follow 100km Foods on Instagram, tag us in the photo, and use the hashtag #100kmfoodscontest.
  • Only 1 entry per team.
  • The contest runs from September 6th 2017 through to September 30th
  • After the contest ends, the winner will be randomly selected from the 5 entries with the most likes.
  • The winning team will be contacted by email from info@100kmfoods.com
  • We will post the winning dish on all our social media channels!

Disclaimer: This contest is in no way affiliated with Instagram.

Beautiful Blues – Barrie Hill Farms Sow and Tell

Who loves blueberries?! We do!

A few weeks ago, our staff was overjoyed to learn that the Highbush Fresh Blueberries were ready from Barrie Hill Farms. First order of business: ensure we ordered in an extra 3L container in time for a staff meeting.

However, when it came time for the staff meeting, there was a slight kerfuffle when we briefly thought we had forgotten to order in that extra 3L. Things got straightened out very quickly, and Brynn, our receiving manager, rustled up the elusive blues, placing them triumphantly on the conference table.

We then, as a team, joyfully descended on the blueberries:

As you can see, 100km Foods really, really loves the Highbush Blueberries. And we also are very proud to work with Barrie Hill Farms!

Hence, it was a no-brainer for us to feature the highbush blueberries on sale for all deliveries next week – from August 22nd to August 25th 2017 – as part of this next instalment of the Sow & Tell series featuring Barrie Hill Farms!

Barrie Hill Farms

Barrie Hill Farms is operated by Morris Gervais – who – if you haven’t had a chance to meet him yet, is a very nice fellow and a huge advocate for strengthening local food and agriculture!

Barrie Hill Farms is located in Springwater, Ontario and was originally purchased by Morris’ parents – Adrien and Evelyn Gervais. They operated it as a tobacco farm from 1968 until 1979. Eventually, Adrien and Evelyn wanted to move away from the tobacco business which is why, in 1977, they began growing strawberries, followed by blueberries, raspberries and asparagus. These crops continue to make up their wholesale offerings today.

Nowadays, they have 40 acres of blueberry fields, making it one of the largest highbush blueberry farms in Ontario!

Stewards of the Land

Barrie Hill is one of the farms we work with who has gotten their Land Food People (or Local Food Plus) certification. Although the program has since been retired, the acronym “LFP” indicates that these products are still guaranteed certified.

Farms which met the certifications for LFP demonstrated that they engage in environmentally sustainable growing practices, work hard to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, engage in wildlife habitat preservation and lastly, aim to contribute towards a robust local food economy.

Barrie Hill also:

  • Does not use any genetically modified crops
  • Adheres to an integrated pest management control program, much like Sovereign or Davids. This means they plant cover crops and use crop rotation, only spraying their crops with low-risk pesticides when absolutely necessary
  • Maintains an Environmental Farm Plan
  • Prioritize water conservation through drip irrigation systems
  • Maintains stringent operating procedures to guarantee food safety standards with GAP Canada.

Community Activities

Barrie Hill is also big on family fun & community activities! As Morris says, they offer “country hospitality and fresh food.” Their farm is a well established pick your own facility (beginning in 1977), so it’s a great way to connect young kids to farm life. In fact, some families who visit their farm remember berry picking when they themselves were kids. Barrie Hill also hosts community festivals, including a strawberry harvest festival and an annual blueberry pancake festival with the proceeds going to charitable / non profit foundations and initiatives!

So, do you want to feature some of the best blueberries in Canada and wow your customers?

If that’s a ‘yes’ (and we’re certain it is!) now is your opportunity, since the Highbush Blueberries are on sale for all deliveries next week – August 22nd to the 25th! These blueberries are best stored in a shallow, well ventilated container. They have a shelf life of up to one week and should be washed just before serving.

Also – enjoy this video featuring Morris and Barrie Hill Farms, shot and produced by 100km Foods last year as part of a “Meet Our Producers” video series! In it, Morris talks a bit more about the challenges facing farmers in local food:

Many thanks to Morris & the team at Barrie Hill for the information & featured image photo!

By: Genrys Goodchild

Introducing the new owners of Sovereign Farms and the latest in our Sow and Tell series!

Who are the new owners of Sovereign Farms?

This past year, Brenda and Wes Sovereign from Sovereign farms retired from farming and the farm is now under new ownership! We wanted to thank Brenda and Wes for their years of partnership with 100km Foods producing greenhouse tomatoes, as well as many varieties of zucchini, peppers, and beans!

We also wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to the new owners of Sovereign Farms and share their story, and that’s why we think they are a perfect fit for this month’s Sow and Tell series.

For deliveries July 18th through to July 21st, their grape tomatoes and mosaic mix are on sale! You can find these in the ‘sale’ category on the website.

So, who are the new owners of Sovereign Farms?

Debbie Scheeringa has always been passionate about horticulture, and it was a long-held dream of hers to someday run a family farm. A few years ago, Debbie and her husband Shane began searching for farms in the Southern Ontario region. It was around this time that Brenda and Wes Sovereign, who have been farmers for many years, decided it was time to sell their farm and retire.

Debbie and Shane were viewing at a recreational horse farm near Sovereign when their realtor mentioned offhand a farm nearby that might be of interest to them. They connected with Wes and Brenda, and a natural fit was found. Debbie and Shane liked the idea of an established farm, and it was important to Brenda to sell their beloved farm and greenhouse operation to a family who wanted to continue to use the land for agricultural production!

farm, greenhouse, ontario, aerial view farm

Debbie, Shane and their two children moved up to Sovereign this past winter. Brenda has been on hand each week to help Debbie and Shane with the transition for this first growing season (when we asked about Wes, they laughed and told us “we think he’s just been catching up on sleep!”). They also employ a team of dedicated, hard working and efficient migrant labourers from Jamaica who have been a tremendous source of support as Debbie and Shane learn more about greenhouses and field crops!

Jason and I went up to visit Sovereign this week to learn more about their current operation, as well as get a sense of their future. By the way – Sovereign Farms will eventually be renamed! We will keep you posted on when that transition happens.

tomato, greenhouse, ontario

Upon arriving at Sovereign, we were greeted by Shadow and Luna, their two friendly dogs. We also got to briefly meet some new kittens. After meeting their kids, Debbie and Shane took us around the greenhouses and the farm. Their energetic young son Nolan also accompanied us on this adventure – he’s a mischievous vegetable lover known to pilfer tomatoes, rhubarb, and zucchini on occasion!

Here’s what we learned:

  • Their main crop is greenhouse tomatoes. These are the grape tomatoes, mosaic, beefsteak, roma, and heirloom tomatoes you all know and love! They’ve faced some challenges in their first season – as mentioned last week – controlling temperatures in the greenhouse has been very tricky. Production has been slower than usual because of the lack of sunlight.
  • Though an older greenhouse, it’s a very efficient facility. Debbie showed us the computer system that monitors the ph levels of the soil, temperature, humidity to maintain optimal growing conditions.
  • The tomatoes are picked by labourers who are seated on little carts that run on tracks between them.
  • Optimal temperature for growing tomatoes is 18-19 degrees celsius! Though we all know about the importance of sunlight, moonlight is also a very important factor in the growth of tomatoes.
  • They use integrated, natural pest control methods for the micro climate of the greenhouse – situated around the greenhouse are mullen plants. Mullen plants are the homes of the parasitoid wasps that keep caterpillar infestations at bay. They do this by laying their eggs into the caterpillar, and once the wasps hatch, they devour the caterpillars from the inside out. Kinda gross, kinda cool, kinda sinister – and very efficient!
  • They also have lots of bumblebee homes in the greenhouse to aid with flower pollination.
  • They also have some field crops – zucchini, beans, and hot peppers!
  • For a relatively small acreage, the farm is very productive!

What can we expect for the future of Sovereign Farms?

Though they are still quite busy getting established in farming, Debbie has many exciting plans for the future of their farm! She is keen to experiment with new varieties and crops that may do well with their soil type and weather patterns. A new variety of zucchini they’ve planted this season is Ishtar zucchini, known for being a light green, sweeter Lebanese variety. Debbie and Shane are also very interested in transitioning towards using even more ecologically minded practices with the aim of ensuring top notch, healthy soil.

Debbie and Shane know that there will be challenges ahead, but they feel excited to meet them. They also noted the generosity of the new farming community they’ve entered. Debbie and Shane both stressed how helpful, enthusiastic, and patient fellow farmers have been in answering questions, helping out, and teaching! Shane told us farmers markets have quickly become a valuable hub for impromptu troubleshooting as challenges arise.

We are really looking forward to continuing to work with Debbie and Shane, and we wish all the best for Brenda and Wes in their retirement! Don’t forget – their grape and mosaic tomatoes are on sale for all deliveries next week! 

Many thanks to Debbie and Shane for hosting us on their farm.

By: Genrys Goodchild

Hail, storms, rainbows and sunshine. All in the same afternoon. What does this mean for the 2017 growing season?

Last summer in Southern Ontario, we had a drought. The yields from that year were affected – some of our farms lost thousands of pounds of potatoes because of it.

This year, we have the opposite problem: weeks of unrelenting torrential downpours and hail storms.

Risks are inherent in any industry, particularly in agriculture. But these extreme weather patterns are predicted to become much more common. In this way, farmers are on the front lines of our changing climate. They know better than most that climate change is not a faraway future – it’s affecting us here and now.

What does it mean we can expect for this growing season? What does it mean long term for chefs and consumers committed to buying locally?

berries, ontario, barriehillfarms, blueberries

How Heavy Rains Affect Growth and Yield

First, lets address what this means for the 2017 growing season. Many of you use the Seasonality Calendar to get a sense of when products should come into season, and how long they’ll be around. We love that you use this tool, by the way!

This year, however, I’ve noticed lots of inquiries because products aren’t coming on as early as they have in seasons past.

When I spoke to farms about it, I noticed a pattern in their answers: the weather has affected growth and yield dramatically. Fields are flooded, hail has partially destroyed field crops, greenhouses are struggling to adjust to the lack of sunlight. Many of the products we’re eagerly awaiting have simply not had the conditions they need to be ready when expected.

I approached a few of our farms to get their perspective on what challenges they’ve been facing.

The New Farm told us that “this has been the most challenging spring weather we’ve experienced in 11 seasons of farming. The cold, wet weather has slowed down the growth of our vegetables and interfered with all the things we need to do to grow and deliver our produce — planting, weeding and harvesting. On rainy days we sometimes can’t work at all, and in the rare dry spells, we have had to work up to 15 hours a day.”

Sovereign Farms let us know that their “fields have had standing water at times but because we have very sandy soil, they aren’t completely waterlogged like some neighbours to the east of us who have more clay soil and are pumping their fields out.

Because its sandy on our farm, we have more erosion and get washed out in places. The soft wet soil prevents us from being able to drive the tractor over the area to rake weeds or plant on time and increased rain has been washing the nutrients down the soil profile much faster.

Lack of sunshine and cooler temperatures has delayed planting, growth and production in our fields, but lately the dark cool weather last week drastically reduced the picking quantities in our greenhouse.

The fluctuations in temperature and higher humidity make it hard to estimate settings and to keep optimum climate in the greenhouse to prevent mold and disease. The gusty winds with these storms has made it very difficult to properly vent our greenhouse as the wind at times has caught our roof vents and caused damage before the sensors can detect and react to the wind speed. This has forced us to limit or lock the vents closed in gusty winds even though it’s a hot day and the sun is shining. We end up babysitting the settings until a storm passes.”

The short answer is: we can expect that certain products may be delayed in when they come on, and that overall, yields might be lower.  Also, farming is really hard.

So what is in store for the rest of the growing season?

We all know predicting weather is a tricky business, and having an accurate forecast each DAY seems to be a tall order. But over all, it’s estimated to be a summer of ‘changeable weather patterns.’ It is unlikely to be as hot and dry for the rest of the summer as last season, and though rainfall is expected to be nearer to normal, it is highly variable region to region. That’s why some of our farms have been more affected than others!

peas, lennoxfarms, localfood, ontario, farmer, dirt, hands

Buying locally long term

Now that you know how 2017 has been and may continue to be affected by the weather, what are the broader implications for purchasing local food?

  • It means that we need to stay connected to how weather patterns are changing over time, to understand what this means for the types of food we can grow and how long those seasons will be.
  • It means that we all need to push ourselves – farmers, distributors, chefs, and consumers alike – to be innovative, to be creative, to be flexible, and to adapt.
  • It means that buying from farms that grow a diversity of crops makes them more resilient to the risks associated with highly variable weather patterns.
  • It means that we must make an impact with our dollars – buy from farms where you know they are caretakers of the land, doing their utmost to regenerate the soil, rather than deplete it.
  • In the end, it means it’s more important than ever to commit to buying locally so that together, we can build a robust, resilient, local food system.

 

By: Genrys Goodchild