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New Terra Farm News -- Factoids of Interest to the organic foodie
February 13, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008
Written & Published by Scott Kelland
Written at New Terra Farm
13510 County Rd 15
Merrickville ON

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Hi farm fans,

here's what we have in store for you this issue:

1. Opening Notes

2. Market Gardener Minute - What's a fair price for your CSA?

3. This Issue’s Star Veggie – Summer Squash

4. Farm fun - New Low-Ku

Products and Promotions
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Opening Notes

Merry Christmas! Come on, Al G. and David S., where's that global warming?? Spring is in about a week, (theoretically), I want some serious melting going on!

However, we at New Terra remain undaunted by snow, and plans proceed apace for a great year. What we're up to this month:

- We have finalized the design for our solar greenhouse. Combining ideas from several sources (including a GREAT presentation at Eco-Farm day in Cornwall on February 22), we have decided to build a 'green-barn' type structure, incorporating solar glazing, thermal storage mass, and a heavily-insulated new plant starting room into an existing outbuilding. This building already has power and water, and is partially insulated, so we can get this baby up and running by the end of March.

- The first plants are doing well in the 'old' light room, which will become a walk-in cooler/dry goods storage when the new greenhouse/light room is completed. This will make keeping veggies fresh easier, and will eventually support the 'winter share' we plan to implement in 2009 (stay tuned for more on that).

By the way I found a 'cool' new piece of kit (pun intended) that will make our walk-in cooler a reality. Its called a CoolBot, check it out here. If you ever want to build a cheap yet effective cooler, drop me a line and I'll tell you how we did/do it!

Market Gardener Minute – What's a fair price for your CSA?

This section will be of interest to farmers and those considering the leap to farm living – or any of you curious folks who just gotta read EVERYTHING!

Farmer always face a challenge in determining what to charge for their wares. This is due in part to the policy of 'cheap food' that prevails in mainstream North America. In other words, people seem to believe 'you get what you pay for', except when it comes to food!

Many 'niche' businesses have difficulty setting fair prices for their products. This is true of artisans and craft people as well as organic farmers. I have an artisan or two in the family, and my daughter has her own service business, and inevitably their first impulse is to undervalue what they do.

Why is this so? I think the answer is at least partly psychological; we don't value what comes easily to us, or things we enjoy doing. In other words, if we LIKE our job, we shouldn't get paid well for it too!

And I believe small farmers and small business people tend to underestimate the value of the 'inputs' - including their skills and experience - that go into their wares.

It's like the old joke about the guy who is called to fix a furnace; the repairman takes one look, and gives the furnace a tap with a hammer. Bingo, the furnace starts running again.

The repairman put in a bill for $50. The owner of the furnace thought that was excessive for one tap with a hammer. So the repairman explained 'it's 50 cents for the tap with the hammer; it's $49.50 for knowing where to tap'.

So when you are buying something from a small farmer or craftsperson, you are not just buying the item; you are also buying the experience, skills and aptitudes that person has acquired and put in to the goods you are buying.

Small business people also often underestimate the other, tangible inputs that go in to a product. To know your actual costs you have to account for labour (including your own), materials, and indirect costs for tasks like marketing and accounting. And you need to build in a factor to allow for replacing the physical plant e.g. equipment wears out and needs to be replaced.

All this means,you have to make a profit, over and above paying for your own labour! That profit is where the funds come from to replace or upgrade equipment, or to expand operations.

Making a living on your small farm
First, let me disabuse you of the notion that it is easy – farming will always be work. But there is ‘working smart’ and then there is the other kind. What is ‘working smart’? Simple – it is taking the time to think and research and PLAN your farm business! If you learn what works from others who are doing it, develop a good plan that is suited to your talents and your resources and your market, and consistently follow that plan you WILL BE SUCCESSFUL!

Anyone can do this, assuming they have the ‘drive’ to follow through. For example, Suzie and I were both over 40 when we started New Terra Farm. We are neither of us ‘born farmers’, nor did we have a lot of money. But, in our first year of operating a CSA market garden, we won the ‘Premier’s Award for Agri-food Innovation Excellence’ – I’m not telling you this to brag, but to illustrate a point.

How did we win an award in Year 1, successfully competing against more than 250 other farmers, most of whom had MUCH more experience than we did? We won (and our farm is successful) because we had spent the last 10 years, even before we bought our farm, researching farm models and learning what works!

So, here’s the plan for small farm success:

  • Read all you can about ways of farming and small farm life

  • Research the ways to make a living on a small farm - talk to farmers at your local market, read farmer forums on the internet, get the magazines – I can especially recommend ‘Small Farm Canada’ and ‘Back Home’ magazine, and see book recommendations on our website.

  • Identify some things that you would: 1) - be interested in doing on your farm; 2) - that you can do well; and, 3) get paid for! Note: ‘beer drinking’ meets the first two criteria but fails the third; I’ve already tested it.

  • Find out more about those interesting topics, study them in depth, and MAKE A PLAN to do it on your small farm. We can’t overemphasize the importance of planning. We mapped out our marketing, growing, and management plan BEFORE we threw the seed in the ground. We also created a cash flow statement to make sure that our plan could make money (at least on paper)

  • ‘Pilot test’ your plan on a small scale, to learn if it actually is do-able and profitable. Our first year we decided to grow only 10 shares in our CSA garden, to make sure we could do it.
  • Year two, we tripled that!

That’s the approach in a nutshell. I’ll have more to say about small farm success in future issues. By the way, the above steps apply to just about ANY small business you are considering.

Star Veggie of the Month – Broccoli

Broccoli is a very nutritious vegetable, and it’s fun to eat. How many people have grown up having “trees” for dinner? Children are sometimes leery of broccoli just because it does resemble small trees. I’ve found that a simple cheese sauce helped my kids develop a taste for it – see recipe below.

Little do most people know that broccoli is also chock full of vitamins A and C. Broccoli actually has more vitamin C than citrus fruits, ounce for ounce. It also provides us with iron, magnesium and calcium.

Growing organic broccoli isn’t that hard. Like spinach, it isn’t fond of really hot weather, so is best grown as a spring crop, but besides that, its requirements are pretty simple. The big challenge is in keeping the bugs off. We use floating row cover to accomplish that.

Site and Soil
Broccoli likes rich sandy loam soil that drains well, but contains lots of organic matter. If that doesn’t describe your soil (like here at the farm where we have a fairly heavy clay-based loam), consider growing your broccoli intensively in raised beds. You can amend the soil in the beds with compost or well-aged manure to make ideal conditions for broccoli. See links at the end of the article for more grow info.

You’ll want to make sure and rotate your broccoli crops from year to year. All cruciferous vegetables benefit from a change of scenery every season. You’ll want to avoid planting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, turnips and kale in the same spot you do this year for at least 2 or 3 years.

Starting broccoli seeds
We grow all our broccoli as transplants, putting seeds in individual 2” peat pots filled with seed starting mix (ProMix or similar). Cover the seeds with about one-quarter inch of seed starting mix, and water thoroughly. Water regularly to keep the seedlings moist.

Seedlings should be started early in the spring; at the farm we start the first broccoli seeds about 8 weeks before our average last frost date, around March 8. We plan to put the seedlings in our garden at about 5 weeks of age. If you start your plants this early, make sure the tender seedlings have some protection from the elements. This is where the floating row cover comes in, providing protection against cold as well as marauding insects.

You can start broccoli for summer harvest right up until your last frost date. For a fall crop, count backwards from your first frost date in the fall, subtracting 5-7 days for the seed to germinate, 35 days to grow a transplant to the optimum size, and the ‘days to maturity’ (from the seed pack or seed catalog).

For example, our first frost date is around September 28; one variety of broccoli we grow takes 55 days to maturity from transplant. Therefore to have fall broccoli the latest we should start seed is: September 28 minus 7 days (for germination) minus 35 days (to grow the transplant) minus 55 days to maturity, for a total of about 97 days BEFORE September 28. This translates to a start date around June 23 to harvest broccoli for end September.

Plant your broccoli transplants in your raised beds spaced about 1 foot apart in all directions. Water in well with a half-strength mix of fish emulsion, available in many garden supply centres. To produce the best heads of broccoli, water regularly. Don’t let the soil dry out on young broccoli plants. Water more than once a day if needed for sandy soils. A bi-weekly feeding of compost or manure tea will keep your broccoli happy and flourishing.

Harvesting and Storing Your Bounty
Harvest the centre head while the buds are tightly closed. Side buds will develop quickly to take its place. Don’t wait until you see yellow flowers. After harvesting, spray or immerse your broccoli in chilled water to maintain crispness, but don’t let the broccoli remain soaking in the water too long.

Store broccoli at 1-2º C at high humidity for the best results. Make sure there is adequate air circulation. Don’t store broccoli with fruit, as the ethylene gas produced by the fruit will accelerate the blooming of the broccoli buds.

Cooking Broccoli
I prefer broccoli steamed, as this preserves flavour, color and nutrients. Separate broccoli florets, and peel and slice the stalk. Steam until just tender, 8-10 minutes. That’s about how long it will take to make this simple cheese sauce that goes great with broccoli. Here’s how:


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • pinch salt (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar or smoky flavour cheddar cheese, or substitute your favourite.

You can also take a short cut by using the one of the pre-packaged grated cheeses.

Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and seasonings. Gradually add milk, stirring until well mixed. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Stir in cheese and mix until smooth. Serve immediately.

Farm fun

This section is, well, just funny. Or at least it makes me laugh, and it's MY newsletter, so there!

Fortune cookie: your Feng Shui books are placed incorrectly!

That's a wrap, see you again soon.


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