David and I went for a walk across the Cogmagun River this morning. We live in a community with lots of salt water rivers that swell with the tide every day. I was told when I first moved here that the tide would affect my mood and now, after 27 years living on this farm, I believe it! I’ve been curious what it is like across the river all this time so we went over to explore. Looking back at the farm from the other side of the Cogmagun gave us a new perspective. We could see the bright emerald cover crop blankets between the grey-brown hedgerows that surround each field.
We are so happy about the cover crops this year that we’ve decided to take on more small enhancement projects, including tree-planting, and sunflower corridors. When I first moved to the farm, we planted a LOT of trees, transforming the golf-course landscape to a hedgerow landscape. With the trees, now 50 ft tall (!), came more birds and less wind. Our next frontier was going to be the windy pasture field. Dad planted a set of trees on the berm in 2019, and this fall David planted more beside the berm. I noticed birds (especially goldfinches) were already hanging out in the branches of trees Dad had planted. The wind coming off the Minas Basin is intense in the pasture field so we are keen to block it, or at least filter it, with trees. We use row cover to protect baby crops, and black plastic tarps to cover the soil and kill weeds between crops. A lot of effort goes into weighing tarps and covers down with bags of sand or rocks to prevent them from blowing off the field. It is so discouraging when the wind blows them off where they are supposed to be!
Another project is to encourage beneficial pest-eating insects and birds on the farm. The plan is to grow insectary/bird habitat strips every 200 feet in between vegetable beds. These strips will have vegetation that is attractive to beneficial insects and birds, like sunflowers, cilantro, dill, fennel, and parsley. David read a study that showed if beneficial insect habitat is more than about 100 feet from crops, they can’t do their good work.
Some of the beneficial insects we are familiar with on the farm are bumble bees, ladybird beetles, braconid wasps, tachinid flies, and ground beetles. I am sure we will learn about more. One of the most important groups of beneficial insects are the tachinid flies. They are pollinators and pest parasitoids. The adult’s exclusive food source is nectar. They lay their eggs in caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects. The young hatch inside their host and eat them up from the inside out. Very gory stuff! But very effective ecological insect control. All we need to make this happen is a steady supply of flowers to keep all the momma and papa tachinids well fed, and ready to lay in our neighbourhood. These insectary strips provide shelter and food for ‘good guy’ insects, but they also provide beauty and harvestable crops.
In other news, the Warehouse Market in Halifax is getting some new cooling and freezing units. This is HUGE for the three collaborators (Abundant Acres, Holdanca Farm, Afishionado) and our landlords. It took 2 years to negotiate, apply for funding, and agree on the layout. The installation of the larger units will take place this week. With the old compressors gone, the space is quieter and more peaceful. We hope you like it!
The Warehouse Market is open year-round and we sell our roots and greens there all winter. Looking forward to next year, the sign-up page for our Farm Share 2021 is updated and already starting to fill up. Click on the underlined links for Farm Share Information, and to sign up. Some people give the shares as Christmas and wedding presents (see testimonial below).
Last Christmas, I bought a Farm Share for a member of my family. They were so pleased with the gift of fresh produce they received throughout the growing season, that I decided to give them the same gift again this year. Please support your local farmers while enjoying healthy, tasty, and nutritious food. ~E. Sharpe
Finally, a look back at 2020. We thank YOU for helping us get through this year. To all the customers who supported us through the winter and into the Pandemic Spring. To all the Farm Share members who had faith and signed up in record numbers. To all the Warehouse Market staff who really showed some fortitude and made it possible to keep the Warehouse Market open so people could shop in person. They worked tirelessly to accommodate all the protocol, fill online box orders, and run the market as well as possible. We thank them and we’re so grateful for them. The farm crew also isolated as a group like a big family, which created a bond like no other year’s crew. The farm crew also had challenges, but wow, they produced SO. MUCH. FOOD! Load after load of fresh produce left the farm and each time the delivery van left, a pile of tired people would melt into the lawn in a heap. Abundant Acres’ payroll doubled this year, relative to last year. We had to hire more people in case of sickness, to fill the constant demand, to take care of safety protocols, and allow for vacation time. It was a roller coaster ride of a year and we didn’t make every shot or catch every pass, but we tried. As a group we tried very hard. What a phenomenal team of hardworking humans! I’m very happy to report, that some are returning to Abundant Acres, some are starting their own businesses, and the rest are on to new adventures. We have almost finished selecting our 2021 crew!
Below are some photos of the farm and market from 2020