Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Land!

Looking across our field at our neighbours barn peaking through.

 We are pretty stoked for 2017!  We have a new opportunity to transition another 30 acres into organic. And this opportunity is right next door.  The Jopko family has graciously rented us a most unique property comprised of 5 small fields with very good buffer zones. By the summer of 2019 we will be able to pull organic veggies from this newly replenished soil. It takes a total of 36 months after the last application of prohibited substances to have the crops certified organic. The past farmer (whom I will get to fill out a prior land use affidavit with all information including past substance use.) grew conventional cabbage then corn and soybeans for quite a few years, so we have some work to do. During the next few growing seasons we will be cultivating green manures on this land, minimal grain crops that will be sold conventional/transitional, and soil testing will be done. We'll do the best we can to leach the unwanted out and add in the good stuff. Build ‘er back up and put this land into our rotation. The goal will NOT be to max out the land and grow tons more veg. The volume of veggies produced will increase slightly, but our rotation and the health of our own farm land will be improved. We will proudly still be farming just under 100 acres. The vegetable portion of the farm will rise to no more than 25-35 acres per year which is the majority of all our income.  We've been able to pay our mortgage, mass debt down and remain alive and kicking without supplementing our income with any off farm jobs growing on that small acreage. As Ben says about our land and opportunity here: “we haven’t even scratched the surface”…

I wanted to learn the history of this quaint family farm we've lived next too for so long that I had the Jopko family over for dinner to hear their farms story. I’m sure glad I did. The landowner Anton Jopko has lived his entire life on the home farm. His father Michael was born in 1906 and in the spring of 1930 at the ripe age of 24 purchased the farm. By the fall of 1930 he married Anton’s mother Irene. Anton was born in 1944. That same year of Anton’s birth the original farm house burned down. A new home was built that same year and stands today. Mike and Irene grew strawberries and raspberries and lots of tomatoes. The tomatoes were delivered in hampers to the old cannery in Simcoe in their two ton truck. Anton also said they did local door to door strawberry and raspberry delivery sales which I think is just awesome. In 1950 they introduced dairy cattle to the farm. Anton and his father  built other barns and sheds on the property together.  By the time 1963 rolled around, they stopped milking cows as Anton left for University. The family continued to farm and Anton was always still very active on the farm as well.  In 1967 they put up their first corn crib and a second one in 1970. Anton and his wife Carolyn raised twin sons Adam and Brandon and daughter Erin during the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's on the home farm. Anton continued to farm well into the 1990's after his parents passed on. Along with farming, Anton had a part time job for 35 years as a professor teaching physics and math to first and second year engineering students at McMaster in Hamilton. It was important to them to raise their kids on the farm and he explained that for them, his job at McMaster enabled them to be able to do it.  They are known for their large vegetable gardens they have grown over the years.  When I asked Anton what he thought about us renting the farm to grow organically he said:
"We are glad you will be growing organic vegetables here because it is environmentally friendly with less use of pesticides"
And we couldn't be happier for the opportunity to have use of this land next door.  It's a complete win win for both families.  And with fields of organic vegetables surrounding them - they don't have to worry much about growing that large vegetable garden anymore! So welcome 2017, new year, new land - let's fire up that soil and get growin'!
Ben and neighbour Anton looking at a land atlas of our farms from 1877!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Happy Holidays from the farm!

I CANNOT BELIEVE ITS DECEMBER 19TH!!!! Waaaa? Our third baby Jonah has turned 6 months old today and I'm desperately slamming on the brakes because these kids are growing TOO fast man! It was a very busy year and I hope you are all keeping up with our Instagram account, as my blogging time has been slim.

We wish all our customers and friends a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year a head! Once again we have a crazy amount of things on our 2017 "to do" list.  Both Ben and I will most DEFINITELY be back at markets. We miss everyone so much.

We have learned over the years that for our farm the best approach to paying our bills all winter is growing a couple main storage crops for wholesale and not doing the winter retail markets anymore. So, we will see everyone in May 2017! (Our cabbages can always be enjoyed through The Big Carrot and Mama Earth in the meantime.)

Full speed a head 2017, I'm ready for your arrival and a kick ass new season!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Thankful October on the farm!

Well, finally some cool weather!  Fall has officially arrived after that heat wave of a dry summer!  The men are leaving soon, but we use the last few weeks of October and the very beginning of November to get everything in the barn before the snow flies.
 Our onions were nice this year.  We got a whole wack of garlic planted. We have a nice cabbage crop to put a way for trimming this winter.  We'll be mass harvesting carrots and beets this coming week for the winter.  This year was very busy, but pretty decent despite the drought.
We are still selling peppers!  The red Sheps were AMAZING this year.  To the point we had a bumpercrop and couldn't even sell all of them!  The cauli is small, but at least we have some!  Apples were not as abundant but we found some to sell!  The romas and ALL tomatoes were pretty good out in the fields this season.  Particularly because we had them on drip and plastic mulch. 
The above pic was the tomato/pepper patch.  It's always bittersweet to see it go.  It seems so fast.  So much effort goes into growing all this stuff from seed, then the maintenance to grow it, harvest it...but this was a stellar patch for sure.  Excellent production on a small patch of dirt.
The kids kept us busy this year.  Who needs a jungle gym when you have farm equipment? I totally remember climbing on my dads cultivator when I was little!
Alot of my time was spent with this little dude here, Jonah.  I keep thinking I'm holding Nathan.  Ah, a market customer bought us that cute prince toy among other things, so THANK YOU!! That's always pretty special when the market truck comes home bearing gifts!
We got to celebrate Thanksgiving with our men, family and other helpers this year on our awesome new deck.  I wish I got a picture of 2 year old Nathan who was sitting at the end with my men in his highchair with corn all over the place!!
One of thee last jobs before our men get ready to leave for the season.  Cutting cabbage and loading the cooler.  I CANNOT believe we are at this stage already.  Blows my mind.  
Well, gearing up for a good, hearty winter.  We'll have:
onions, garlic, cabbage, kale, carrots, beets, potatoes for quite some time yet at the markets and to select stores.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

September is Pepper month!

Pepper, like tomatoes are doing well for us this season.  They thrive in this heat and we were fortunate to set up and run drip irrigation with all the pepper patches.  The plants are heavy with peppers and our goal was sweet red, reds and more reds!

We have red shepherds, red bells and red pimentos.  All are so sweet when high red and yummy straight up, roasted, grilled, pan fried.... ah I love this time of year.
Sweet Corn was almost a bust this year!  F-ing deer and raccoons made a hell-o of a mess back there. Very depressing....BUT the second patch was left alone.  huh.  Ben thinks they just moved on. So more yummy, sweet NO GMO, sprayed with absolutely nothing organic sweet corn at all markets for a while!
And a quick selfie with baby Jonah and I checking out the wagon of beefsteaks which have also been amazing this season! We are still taking orders for Romas by the way! So keep making that sauce as the weather cools down!
And for any of you that follow the farm family know of our plight with my stepdaughter over the years, I am SO happy to report a happy reunion! ....AND her marriage to a terrific guy! It was an awesome day.  You couldn't wipe the smiles from their faces.  Everyone in attendance was gracious, respectful and most of all happy, happy, happy for these two incredible kids Ashley and Joe. Now married adults.  Geesh, she was just our little girl yesterday.  Yes, both these two visit the farm regularly now and play with the new batch of farm kids here.  One big happy family indeed.
And I'll leave this blog post on a cheeky note:  Sadie asking Nate in her own way if it's a good idea or not to do the cooler naked?! Who turned off the heat??  LOLOL.  These kids just run the farm naked during this summer of record heat.
See everyone at market soon,
Jess, Ben & Crew.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Now taking orders for our ROMA TOMATOES!

Hamper of our organic romas 2016.
We are now taking orders for our certified organic roma tomatoes!  The crop looks nice this year.  We grew them on plastic mulch with drip irrigation and with this dry weather diseases such as blight are staying away.  Insect pressure is not that bad either. Ben anticipates a good harvest and a good month or more of availability.  But, of course, thats never guaranteed. It's farming after all ;)

Price is $1.20 per lb.  Which is $30 for a half bushel which is 25 lbs.  A full bushel is 50 lbs, sold as 2 25 lb cases for $60.  This slight increase in price will help pay for irrigation costs this season. 

We will bring these half bushel cases to DUFFERIN GROVE market each Thursday.  And to EVERGREEN BRICKWORKS market each Saturday beginning NEXT WEEK, August 18th.  We anticipate to keep shipping the cases into the first week of September and most likely longer.  But if you are a serious sauce maker - do it sooner than later! 

You may order by emailing me at and indicating the amount of cases you need and market and date you wish to pick up at.  Make sure to include a phone number to call or text, especially if you need alot. Or go to market and simply write your name down on our list! 

****Bear with me as I do have many small kids, so I may not get to respond to all emails.  We will do our best to make sure you get your tomatoes!

***Also, LOOK at your cases of tomatoes at market.  If you buy them, they are yours.  I cannot give you a refund if after a week you no longer like the quality.  They are very nice this year, but are organic and not perfect!

Friday, July 22, 2016

A dry, dry year BUT we are doing ok!

Well, our crops are doing quite well I must say.  Our strawberries were excellent. Our peas, zucchini and lettuces also did decent.  Now we are onto cucumbers and tomatoes as the big(er) crops and smaller item stuff like onions, potatoes and soon to come sweet corn and our colourful carrots and beets!  Growing a way is our cauliflower and cabbages, which look nice so far.
We will also be busy harvesting our garlic shortly - but then entire crop is going for seed this year.
Yes, it is dry.  But for us, this is not a total tragedy. And I'll share why.
Our tomatoes on drip irrigation

Heirloom, artisan, cherry, grape, beefsteak and roma from the fields this year.
We have 25 acres of market vegetables to care for. We can quickly and efficiently irrigate this amount of food.  By using the drip method and mulch our peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes are thriving.
Because of the heat and dryness there is little to no disease we are encountering thus far. Even insects are not that bad. The plants are massive and healthy and the veggies themselves have amazing concentrated flavours.  Field tomatoes are exceptional. I expect our peppers to be gorgeous and have amazing flavour as well because of this heat. There will be additional expenses due to running the irrigation pump what seems like almost daily, but that will quickly be offset by the additional produce our fields will be producing this season. So, for us, when a 'dry hot' year comes around once a decade or so, we always do pretty well, because disease doesn't shut us down.  The only concern comes from watching storm clouds.  Hail can wipe us out. So the extreme heat and potential thunderstorms do cause great fear in my gut.  But, so far we've been lucky.  

IF we knew then what we know now, we would have hauled ass this spring and staked the tomatoes!  Getting them up off the ground. Half our patch is beefsteak and romas which are determinate and don't really need it, but for the heirloom and cherry - it would have been fantastic! Ususally on the years we take the time to do it, it rains and pours and they all get blight.  lol. So, instead we baby the greenhouse tomatoes by stringing and suckering them and let the field tomatoes go wild! 
Our onions and beets
  Carrots and beets are so so, as the patches got very weedy fast (while we were picking strawberries!!) but Ben has seeded lots for the fall.  So, our colourful carrots will be starting soon.  It sure was nice to have beet bunches from the greenhouse in the meantime thou! We've just started digging potatoes, and will have some nice yellow flesh and fingerlings to go along with our whites soon!

We are able to offer bulk cucumbers for family pickling and also to businesses as wholesale as well. We always try to offer cucs, but most years they don't turn out to us due to mildews.  No mildew out there yet ;)  !!! Also roma tomatoes will be offered in bulk too.  Your best bet is to head to our market booth at either Dufferin Grove or Brickworks, as I am not taking small email orders.  Just too busy enjoying my babies this year!  If your order is 2 bushels or more, I will accept your email and do the best I can to get Ben's attention. He is keeping VERY busy in the fields this season.  We are hauling ass trying to make up for the cabbage/cauliflower loss of 2015. So far it looks like this season will bring us back to where we need to be ;) 
Enjoying lunch hour at the beach.
Keeping cool: We've been heading down to our local beach at least once a week with the kids during the lunch hour.  The new baby Jonah seems lulled by the sound of the water and Sadie and Nate get a good soak and play before afternoon nap time.  Both  Ben and I are witnessing the fast pace at which these tiny children of ours are growing and I'm doing everything I can to put the breaks on. That means for me a lot of home/family time right now.  I am rarely at markets these days and while I do really, really miss that environment and my customers - I am totally taking this time for my kids. It really is true - they do grow fast, and I don't want to miss a second.  They are so awesome on the farm and seeing them grow and get more interesting in all the farm stuff each year is just wild.  I'm looking forward to getting them ALL down to market in a couple weeks thou!  Now, THAT will be an adventure!

Log onto our INSTAGRAM account by seeking SosnickiOrganic to keep updated on whats happening on our farm!  I'm always snapping and sharing quick crop photos and the odd family shot!
Enjoy the harvest - it's a good one!