Spring 2018 Update: Tropical Weather

by | May 22, 2018

The long-awaited Spring update is here!

Our last update gave you a glimpse into the first year as an incorporated worker’s co-operative, taking on the lease of a truly unique parcel of land, and the ups and downs of getting this place into shape.  Check it out here if you missed it.

Let’s take off where we left off: Winter of 2018.  Much has happened in a few short months.

Vegetables… in a box!?

We begin with the launch of the 2018 VegBox CSA program; a first for BeetBox but not for the farmers behind it all.  A steady stream of folks signed up for their share of this summer’s bounty since January through our homemade (read: glitchy) e-commerce website.  We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we worked out the kinks.

Along the way, KRP Properties provided us an opportunity to distribute our produce to those working and living in Kanata North.  A second CSA pickup location was established at the Community Hub.

Before long, our website was translated to French; an important part of our identify since all co-op members are proud francophones.

Choose from over 40 varieties of organic vegetable seedlings: tomatoes, herbs, peppers, eggplants, lettuce, kale, cucumbers and more. 

From the juiciest tomatoes to the freshest basil, we sell the most popular herb and vegetable seedlings as well as some annual and perennial flowers.

To Certify or not to Certify

It is a question many small-scale farmers ask themselves: to be certified organic or not to be.  Despite shortcomings in the organic standards, we believe third party inspections are crucial in building public trust around food labeling and marketing.  Working with Pro-Cert, BeetBox’s vegetables will soon be certified organic!

Spreadsheets & Seeds

With CSA box sales underway, we got to work on creating a crop production plan.  The plan consists of a series of spreadsheets loaded with ‘trade secrets’ such as varieties, sowing and planting dates, plant spacing, unique crop needs, and more.

From there, we ordered the highest quality seeds possible from a variety of sources, the majority of which are certified organic, open-pollinated seed from High Mowing Seeds in Vermont supplemented with common varieties from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine.

Finding locally-adapted, open-pollinated seed is a challenge.  Over the past century, thousands of varieties have been lost, destroyed, or relegated to backyard gardens due to consolidation in the agricultural industry.  The need for good seed is urgent and it strikes at the core of our business and of us as individuals.

Thanks to Telsing Andrews at Aster Lane Edibles, your butternut squashes will be grown as part of a plant breeding program to develop a regionally adapted squash.  Lise-Anne also connected us to The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security for whom will we produce lettuce and potato seed.

Greenhouses: a Gardener’s Best Friend

We purchased the already standing greenhouse from David Burnford last year.  This spring we set about to bring heat and power to the structure in order create an optimal environment for our seedlings.  It proved to be quite a project carried out primarily by our very own Jeremy Colbeck.

Heating the space with fossil fuels is less than ideal.  After closely examining our options, we chose propane because of its lower environmental cleanup risk (over heating oil, commonly used in small-scale market garden greenhouses) and its low cost to operate and maintain.  We can’t escape the fact it’s a non-renewable resource and we’re counting the days until we implement a more sustainable solution for both the farmers and Mother Earth.

In the meantime, our seedlings are enjoying the tropical weather.

Dirt Farming

It is just me or did we get strange weather in April?

Once the soil dried up, we dusted off the tractor and worked the fields.  It starts with a pass of the disc harrows to break up winter compaction, then the chisel to loosen strips of soil deep below, followed by a shallow rototilling which results in a fine seed bed for all our direct sown crops.

At the time of this writing, we have sown and transplanted a variety of vegetables in anticipation of the first VegBox CSA boxes in late June.  We continue to set up an irrigation system and electric fencing to keep deer from munching on your salad greens.

Why did the Chicken Cross the Road?

To live at BeetBox, of course!

We await the arrival of 25 laying hens with great excitement.  We regret to announce that eggs will not be available for sale this year due to the small flock size.  If our trial goes smoothly, we may offer a steady supply of farm-fresh eggs in 2019.

Odds and Ends

We also managed to line up and accomplish a variety of other projects:

  • A sign went up on Carling Ave. thanks to the help of Léanne Colbeck and Danny MacDugall
  • A soil pit was dug to learn more about the land with the help of Carolyn King
  • An official Jane’s Walk took place on the farm with co-leaders BeetBoxer Jeremy and NCC representative Geoff Frigon.
  • An opportunity to invest in the farm is around the corner.
  • We look forward to welcoming Growing Up Organic school groups for visits in June.

Warm regards,

David Mazur-Goulet