Archive for August, 2008

Blueberries, Peaches and Plums. Oh my!

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Blueberries

Blueberry season is almost over in Ontario, but we certainly enjoyed it while it was here. Tanny, Ella and I went blueberry picking last weekend at Andrew’s Scenic Acres . We went again this weekend. Ella cannot get enough blueberries!! It was hard to get her to focus on putting the berries into the basket and not in her mouth. She got remarkable adept at distinguishing ripe blueberries from unripe.

One thing we learned this year is that the powdery-white coating on blueberries is called the “bloom” and is not pesticide (thank goodness).

During my high school years, my family and I would always pick blueberries in Thamesville at Park’s Blueberries . If you’re ever passing through the area they have excellent pick your own and home-baked goods. They usually have three different types of blueberries.

While we were at Andrew’s Scenic Acres we also picked some Damas plums. Personally I prefer yellow plums but these were good too. Their pears and apples looked just about ready to pick.

Damas Plums

Tomorrow we’re going to be in Grimsby and hope to stop at Two Century Farm to pick up some peaches and possibly some grapes. We haven’t been there before but my parents said it’s good.

Tanny and I have a running joke about #1 peaches. When we were in the Niagara area a few years ago we stopped at a roadside peach stand. He had two types of peaches with labels: “peaches” and “#1 peaches”. Curious, we asked him what the difference was and he remarked, pointing to one basket, “Those are #1 peaches.” Now whenever we get an obvious answer that contains no value it’s “#1 peaches!”. Anyway, for the curious here is the precise definition of #1 peaches in Canada.

Blueberry farms listed in our database (as of August 31, 2008):

Peach farms listed in our database (as of August 31, 2008):

I know there are many stands and farms with blueberries across the country. Please add them to our list so that others may feast on fresh blueberries.

Keep eating local!


The influence of the “Local Eating movement” on big business

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

You’ve probably noticed the same advertisements I have from Loblaws (and sister companies). Loblaw corporation (part of Westons ) has begun to get the word out that they support local Canadian farmers. Part of me would like to think that the groundswell around local and sustainable eating has encouraged them to buy more local produce. The cynical part of me would reference The Corporation .

Frankly, I think Loblaws, and most chain grocery stores carry a reasonable amount of seasonal, local produce - but they also carry a lot of non-local produce during seasons when it is not necessary (US and Chilean apples in the autumn?). The press release I mentioned above states that:

Loblaw purchased $750-million of Canadian produce in 2007 -
approximately 25 per cent of their total produce selection.

I guess the Loblaw group should be commended for typically moving in the right direction. The PC organic line is quite extensive. They were also quite quick with the re-usable shopping bags. They even have a more environmentally friendly concept store in Scarborough (link ). Call it good business, listening to the public opinion or sincere social responsibility, these are all good steps.

The big question for me is - do I add them here as a "local supplier"? Even though we don’t have a strict rule on the percentage of local food that must be supplied, at 25% I’m going to wait.

Keep eating local!


Aphids!

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Despite our slow start to the garden this year, everything has been growing really well. We’ve been eating fresh peas almost everyday for about a month now, the tomatoes are looking really promising, the carrots are just about ready, we’ve been harvesting the basil and even our one cornstalk has defied all odds and is producing one corn! Yesterday, while I was checking the tomatoes, I found aphids on the flowering branches!!! The aphids nearly destroyed our snowball trees earlier this year and they are not getting my heirloom tomatoes. Luckily there were only a few clusters of them and I began picking them off with my hands. Then I felt weird squishing the bugs and so I blasted them off with the garden hose. When I checked today, there were a few left on the branches still so I blasted them again with the water. Hopefully that’s enough to keep them off. Does anyone know of any other organic ways to keep them off my tomatoes?

Aside from that, our local eating has been going really well in the summer. We go to Fresh from the Farm to stock up on meats every few weeks and we have our CSA from Plan B . We only got a half share and we find it challenging to finish all the veggies each week. We’re not salad people and we just can’t keep up with all the lettuce we’re getting! We tried purple beans for the first time last week. Did you know that they’re green inside and that they turn green when cooked?They taste similar to green beans with a stronger bean taste.

Since we were away for a few weeks in July, we traded those weeks for fruit shares. I decided to get the fruit shares in August thinking of all the peaches and plums that are in season. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I didn’t get any local fruits in the fruit share. There were bananas, oranges, grapes and plums, mostly from California. Apparently, it’s risky to grow peaches and plums organically in Southern Ontario, due the high risk of fungal disease in the fruit. Most farmers can’t afford a crop failure. Here’s an except from an email from Melanie ofPlan B Organics explaining the situation:

Why is there so little fruit being grown organically in Ontario?

While the climate in Southern Ontario is warm enough to grow tender fruit crops, the high humidity in summer leads to a high incidence and spreading of fungal diseases on tender fruit crops. To combat these fungal diseases on conventional farms tender fruit crops are sprayed with chemical fungicides as many as 15 times or more each season to keep these diseases at bay and ensure a crop for the farmer. These sprays are why we at Plan B feel the need to provide an organic alternative, but for that alternative to also be local is a bigger challenge. Most of the certified organic tender fruits you have been getting in your fruit share are grown in arid, semi-desert zones in California where disease pressures are much lower and it is more conducive to organic growing. The cooler and drier weather in more northern parts of the province where we get our organic apples from is also helps lower disease and pest pressures for the farmers there. We also feel that very few local growers are in the position to risk losing their crops as there is little or no financial security in making significant changes to the food system, unless people are guaranteeing their costs and a a living wage. Things most of us take for granted, but that’s not how it is for farmers in our society.

Why can’t we get more farmers in Ontario to grow their fruit organically?

We at Plan B Organic Farm began offering the fruit share with hopes that having a good market for local organic fruit would help convince some local growers to convert to organic production. So far we have only been able to find a few farmers who have taken this step, we hope to find more in the future. Our goal is to have everything we handle be local and organic, but this is a goal for us when it comes to fruit, not the reality of where organic agriculture is at right now in Ontario. We want to build this system for the future, if you know of anyone with a fruit farm that’s not being used or is retiring please let us know and we will contact them with info about organic production.

So, if you know of anyone interested in organic fruit production, drop them a line at info@planborganicfarms.ca.

p.s. We’ve been getting some local organic melons in our fruit shares in the past two weeks.  Yay for melons!

Sweet Corn Sweet Peas Carrot tops Black Cherry Tomatoes Blanche Beaute Tomatoes McMullen Tomatoes Red Zebra Tomatoes