After the drought of 2016 we invested heavily in irrigation infrastructure. We dug another pond, and drilled a very deep well. Now we have 5 ponds and 3 wells. The farm fields are spread out so we’ve also had to invest in a lot of pipe, a number of pumps, hydrants, and a whole lot of fittings, drip tape, hoses, and sprinklers. We’re glad we have irrigation set up! The sun has been intense lately and we’ve had no rain for a while. Every day we are irrigating, but we’ve also invested heavily in soil organic matter, which holds on to water like a sponge.
We now have 8 full time employees working on the farm. Five live on-farm, and three live in the surrounding community. Half of the crew is from Nova Scotia, one is from France and the rest come from other parts of Canada. Last year we gave each crew member a field to be responsible for. This year we are doing something different. They are organized by jobs, each person has a responsibility, like weeding, or seedling production, or greenhouse management, or transplanting, or harvest and wash-pack management. For example, if the weeding person (Raphaëlle) sees the carrots need to be weeded, she organizes people to help. She times us to make sure we’re going fast enough. She encourages us, and pairs us up so we are never alone. A lot of love has gone into those carrots! The whole farm is looking more well-tended and loved because of Raphaëlle’s passionate attention to detail. Sydney has taken on harvest, inventory, wash/pack, and much of the transplanting. She manages the crew, has to think 4 steps ahead of everyone else, co-ordinates with the Warehouse Market managers (Zoë and Bre), and makes sure any extras get donated to people who need fresh food. She is doing a fabulous job getting just about every bit of food we grow into someone’s hands. Justin is making sure beds are prepared, direct-seeded crops get planted on time, hoop houses are built and moved according to schedule, and the crop plan is updated with new information. He is also very handy with the equipment and does a lot of the tractor work.
It is a great relief to have more experienced people working on the farm. They have taken on their responsibilities with great energy and it seems they feel empowered because they are finding additional responsibilities to take on! The most experienced person on the crew is Brian, who is part of a local farming family. He is teaching us all a lot about management, efficiency, hard work, and he’s connecting us with all the right people in the community for any job. Brian takes a big picture, long-term perspective for the farm. The other day he rented a mini-excavator and buried many of the irrigation pipes, and fixed hydrants. He is preventing problems with this initiative, and winter production will be easier with frost free water available inside each greenhouse.
The new farm crew members have excellent people to look up to an learn from. Sarah, Luke, Adriana, and Solomon are responding to the challenges set before them. The greatest thing about this year’s crew is the way they encourage and support each other. Sarah has been doing a stellar job growing beautiful, healthy seedlings. She didn’t know she had a green thumb, but ha ha, now we know! She’s also a budding botanist. Luke is in charge of tomatoes which are looking great. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep up with pruning and trellising 1600 tomatoes in the Mega greenhouse plus another 1200 in the hoop houses. With the whole team helping him, the tomatoes are in tip top shape so far. He is also looking out for beneficial insects. He has learned the names of a lot of birds so we share notes on new birds we’ve noticed. We’re both big fans of cedar waxwings as they devour mosquitos every evening around the ponds. Adriana is in charge of growing our shortest rotation crop, the shoots, and they’ve never been better. Sydney also mentored her in wash/pack operations. Sydney has officially passed the crown to Adriana, so she is now the new queen of the wash/pack area. If you visit the farm on a harvest day, a simple curtsy is a sufficient greeting.
Solomon and Nadja just started work on the farm. We are all looking forward to getting to know them better and are happy to see how quickly they have fit in. Below are some farm photos from the last two weeks: