Tag Archives: NaBloPoMo

Alderley Grange Goody Box 2014

Today’s post is a guest post by my lovely daughter and hard-working CSA/Goody Box coordinator, Dani…

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

What the Heck is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture programs, often known as CSAs, are becoming increasingly popular for farmers and their customers, but many who haven’t been exposed to them before aren’t quite sure what they entail.

While there are as many options as there are CSAs, the general principle of all of these ‘box’ programs is the same. During the early spring months, members of the community sign up for the program, essentially making a commitment to purchase a certain amount of product from a farm in the upcoming year. The commitment they make is a financial one as well: shares are pre-purchased at the time of sign up, even though products don’t start arriving for up to five or six months.

Why the delay? For farmers, some of our highest costs come early in the spring. This is when we are building needed infrastructure, purchasing seeds, putting in amendments, buying or breeding livestock, and generally preparing for the year ahead. Unfortunately, it’s also when income opportunities are lowest, as there is generally very little available to sell at that time. By buying in to a CSA, customers provide invaluable capital for farmers to start the season. Customers have pre-paid during the months when we have the most product available, and when our costs also happen to be lower.

If a CSA is a large percentage of a farm’s sales, as it will be for the Alderley Grange this year, then knowing how many shares have been sold before it is time to plant, order, and plan is also extremely important and helps us to provide our customers with the best-possible products over the course of the season.

Goody Box Contents - SampleOn the other hand, customers go into the summer knowing they will receive local, in-season produce all season, and that they will have the opportunity to get to know their farmers and food producers well. It’s a great chance to learn what is in season at any given time and to learn some new flavours and recipes. CSAs tend to provide the classics—carrots and potatoes—and the unusual—lovage and edible flowers—which lends itself to a varied experience from week to week.

The average CSA tends to provide a box of vegetables each week. Sometimes these come with a recipe, and sometimes you have the chance to add something like a dozen eggs. Some larger farms, such as Essex Farm in New York State, are able to provide fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, grains, maple syrup, and more to over 200 members, while others offer far more limited choices designed to supplement your weekly trip to the store.

At the Alderley Grange, we fall somewhere in between, and are also passionate about making our Goody Boxes a fantastic—and unique—experience for our customers.

Our popular Lifestyle Box, the flagship offering in our CSA program, offers members six veggie items, a fruit item, a dozen eggs or a package of sausages on alternating weeks, a specialty item (in 2013 this included a cook book, herb scissors, goat’s milk soap, and more), a recipe, 10% off all additional items purchased at the Grange, and more.  ($37 week; $740 season)

Other options include our Veggie-only box ($24/week; $480/season), and based on popular demand, an ‘everything-else box’ for members who grow their own vegetable gardens but want to enjoy local protein and goodies ($27/week; $540/ season).

We are also excited to be starting a monthly protein box this year, which will run from June–December and includes 12–13 pounds of meat each month, as well as a whole turkey for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Members of this box can expect to enjoy pork, beef, lamb, turkey, duck, and some more unusual meats like bison or venison, knowing that everything they are consuming has been pasture-raised on organic feed, without any added hormones or antibiotics by small-scale growers here on the Island. ($160/month; $960/season).

Goody Box Alderley Grange

As much as possible, all box products come from us here at the Alderley Grange on the Saanich peninsula, but when we need to supplement from another farm, we make sure it is local, organic, ethical, and farmed with love. The bottom line is that our CSA customers get some of the best produce around, and have the opportunity to form a relationship with the source of some of their family’s food at the same time.

Registration is now open, so consider supporting local food and guaranteeing your weekly or monthly share of some truly amazing food and goodies!

Visit us on Facebook to find out more and sign up here: www.tinyurl.com/alderleygrangeorderform

[Note from Nikki: I will add a new CSA page here, too – check back in the next day or two to see if the link is up there at the top of the website… Also, if you are confused about the Alderley Grange vs Dark Creek Farm – Dark Creek Farm is the name of the farm and the Alderley Grange is the name of the farm stand. Corporate branding experts would no doubt be horrified that we have two names going on, but our customers are smart cookies and figure it out pretty quickly….]

Mark Your Calendars!

With apologies to distant readers, here’s a heads up re. some local farm-y events heading our way…

Egg Addling Workshop – (or interest to anyone dealing with the resident Canada Geese)
January 25, 2014, 9:30 – 4pm 
St Mary’s Anglican Church, 1973 Cultra Avenue, Saanichton
Free egg addling and permit training opportunity! Join us for information, addling training and support with completing permits related to resident, non-migratory geese. Workshop is free, but please RSVP 
Meet Your Maker Monday, January 27th, 2014
9:30am to 3:00pm
9:00-9:30am- Registration, Set-up & Coffee
Sannich Fairgrounds
1528 Stelly’s X-Road
Sannichton, BC
This event is a networking event for BC food producers and BC food buyers (not the general public.) Great opportunity for small producers to connect with local buyers (restaurants, wholesalers, grocery stores, etc.)
Registration is now open!

Islands Agricultural Show February 7-8, 2014

Celebrating the International Year of Family Farming
Cowichan Exhibition Park, Duncan, BC
Trade Show Hours: 8:30 am- 4:00 pm.
Trade show admission fee: $5.00 each for adults and children get in free
Conference registration includes admission to the trade show and Welcome Reception
SAVE ALR button
Family Day Rally to Save the Agricultural Land Reserve – February 10
Noon – BC Legislature Grounds
More info: Farmland Protection Coalition
Seeds, Glorious Seeds
February 15, 2014 Seedy Saturday – Victoria (**Note: Many communities organize a Seedy Saturday event at the beginning of the gardening season – have a google to see what’s happening in your area)
Saturday, February 15, 2014 
10am – 4pm 
Victoria Conference Centre, 720 Douglas Street
 $7 cash at the door
Under 16 free
  • Speaker Talks
  • Exhibitors (Enquiries at info@jamesbaymarket.com or voice message 250-381-5323)
  • Open-pollinated Seeds
  • Seedlings, Plants, Shrubs, Fruit Trees
  • Seed Exchange
  • Displays
  • Garden & Food Products
  • Books
  • Kids’ Activities
  • Master Gardeners
  • Chef Demonstrations
  • Seedy Cafe
  • ATM on Site
  • NEW: Gardening Book Exchange
  • NEW: School Scarecrow Contest
DFMA Banner
Vancouver Island direct Farm Market Association Spring Meeting –
February 20, 2014 
Oak Room, Main Hall, Saanich Fairground @ 7 pm. We are planning to invite several member farms who use social media tools to come and share their stories about how social media helps promote their farm or winery business.
Farmer 2 Farmer March 6, 2014
Thursday, March 6, 2014
9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Registration, coffee, meet ‘n’ greet 8:15 am
Saanich Fairgrounds
1528 Stelly’s Cross Road, Saanichton

Bad News Arrives by Text Message – Warning – Unpleasant Photo

Yesterday I was extolling the virtues of always having a smartphone handy at all times… But today, I’m kind of wishing it wasn’t quite so easy to share info [heads up – if you are squeamish, maybe you should skip this post].

My neighbour just sent me this image, snapped on her phone:

Formerly Known as a DuckMost likely, this is was one of my adventurous ducks…  Hard to say what got her – eagle? Hawk? Owl? Raccoon? When this happens it makes me question just how good an idea it is to allow my birds as much freedom to roam as they get. This is the harsh downside of free range poultry. Some stick close to home, but some venture out into the open areas (like over at C’s place, in the field) where they are pretty vulnerable to overhead attacks.

I also have a few that have taken to roosting on the barn roof at night and have now, in the wake of this loss, moved ‘re-clip duck wings’ up to the top of the To-Do list. This will help keep the ducks closer to the ground, which makes them easier to herd into their shelters at night. Clipping wings does, though, make it harder for them to get away from ground-based trouble-makers like dogs and raccoons.

It is tempting, when confronted with a pile of feathers and birds that just don’t listen to my suggestion that they stay close to tree cover, to say – That’s it! Confinement in pens for all of you! 

What do you think? Is the occasional loss of a roaming bird worth the trade-off? Confinement certainly keeps them safer, but keeping birds in a small space can lead to other issues – stress, disease spreading, and a more restricted diet. For now, I will clip wings to try to keep everyone closer to home where they can take advantage of all the trees at our place, but if the local hawks decide our place is a handy drive-in snack bar, I may need to re-think my strategy…

Social Media and the Modern Farmer

Looking for farm fresh eggs? Turns out we have some... If you are in the Greater Victoria area send me a message on Facebook (Alderley Grange) and we can coordinate a pick-up...

Looking for farm fresh eggs? Turns out we have some… If you are in the Greater Victoria area send me a message on Facebook (Alderley Grange) and we can coordinate a pick-up…

Back in the day (like, five years ago) if you wanted to buy some local eggs or fresh strawberries you hopped in your car and drove around some promising country roads looking for farm stands. Some were pretty simple serve yourself affairs where you dropped cash in an honesty box after helping yourself to a bit of whatever happened to be in season. Some were pretty decent-sized stores where you could get a whole range of produce pretty well all year round. Finding local produce also meant reading the local farm guide (put out by organizations like the Vancouver Island Direct Farm Market Association – DFMA), word of mouth, or just plain luck.

Farmers’ markets have enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past couple of decades, and that was another way for those living in town to connect with local growers.

Fast forward to 2014 and more and more farmers connect with their customers via social media. Put a group of farmers around a table and it doesn’t take long for the conversation to switch from corn varieties, weather reports, planting times and harvest dates to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, and Instagram. The times, they are a-changing!

Local marketing groups are not only invaluable in terms of bringing farmers and customers together, they also help bring farmers together - no small feat given that getting farmers together is a bit like herding cats.

The most recent addition to this arsenal of virtual tools is the almighty app. We are developing one for our CSA (subscription food box) customers and working with the DFMA to figure out how best to use an app to allow people to access all the information on the website and in the printed farm guide from a smartphone.

All of this handy portable technology has made it possible for a tiny farm like ours to find customers even though we are on a dead-end street and only open our farm stand for very limited hours each week during the growing season. We love going to farmers’ markets, but we often put the word out via various social media outlets to let our regular customers know where we will be and what we will have available.

Though at first it seemed to me that being chained to my phone even when I was out on the farm doing earthy things was just plain wrong, I have totally changed my tune. I love the way I can keep in touch, have access to so much information at the touch of a screen, and can play music, audiobooks, or podcasts while I wash eggs, weed beds, or muck paddocks.

I’m always on the lookout for cool farm- gardening- or food-related apps. I don’t know where I’d be without my allrecipes.com app! What are your favourites? Do you use an app to track how many pounds of rutabagas you harvest? How much milk each of your goats produce? Is there a good app out there for egg producers?

So many seeds!

So many seeds! There must be a really good app for keeping track of them all…

I’ll let you know as soon as our new app is ready to go – which had better be soon because now that we have moved into the new year, spring is heading this way like a runaway freight train! I’m thinking of starting some asparagus from seed in the greenhouse this year and need to get cracking! The perfect app would already have sent me a push notification or two to remind me! Then, of course, I’ll need another app to help me relax and deal with all the pressure from the endless stream of push notifications…

Rain, Aggie AgVentures Cow, and Hugelkultur

It’s astonishing how much water can land on this small farm during a wet winter storm. The hog pen? A river runs through it… The seasonal springs? All full to overflowing. The goats are miserable and won’t come out of the goat barn. The hogs have been complaining no end. The barn cat spots me and starts whining and looking skyward as if there is some way for me to turn off the taps.

DCF Aggie in mud

For the past couple of days I’ve been slopping around in the wet, building dams and dredging channels to try to divert the water away from the animal shelters so everyone has somewhere to get under cover and stand with dry feet. The dogs sulk in the cab of the truck while I get steadily soggier.

Only the ducks are truly happy. They dive into all the newly formed puddles and ponds and lakes and rivers, flapping and splashing, preening and chuckling. The drakes strut back and forth as the ladies bathe, occasionally knocking one another around a bit just to show who is the most handsome and virile. All this water can only mean that spring is just around the corner, and you know what that means when you are a male whatever living on a farm.

DCF Aggie and Iago

The other things that are working amazingly well are the hugelkultur beds we put in a couple of years ago. Built on top of mounds of brush, branches, and logs, the beds soak up a phenomenal amount of water with nothing much seeping out below where they have been built (more or less following the contour lines of our sloping property). Where there are no beds (just grass, the driveway, or even the area under the trees where the hogs have been merrily rooting around through the fall) there is running water everywhere. Any place that has a dip or hollow is full of water. Except those hugel beds.

I was amazed how well they performed during the hot, dry weeks of the last two summers. As advertised, all the water they had soaked up during the winter was slowly released back to the plants and I barely had to irrigate at all, even when properties around me were watering like mad. I had my doubts as to how well big branches were going to break down, but already when I dig into the beds, there’s lots of lovely soft organic matter and not so many sticks and twigs. The biggest branches are still findable, but even they are well on their way to Rotsville.

I am impressed enough with how they have worked that I’m going to retro-build my existing raised beds in the same way. No more burn piles! I’ve always thought it was wasteful and unnecessarily polluting to burn branches and sticks. How cool to have found such a simple and useful thing to do with all that garden debris!

For more information about hugelkultur, check out the richsoil website.