Lettuce Beet Illiteracy!

LNC logoDo you love reading? Do you love eating local, organic vegetables, conveniently delivered to your doorstep? Let’s put those two loves together into a tasty love sandwich and raise some money for Literacy Now Cowichan.

The Auction Prize:

1 Full Share in our 2014 vegetable delivery CSA program (worth $488). We will deliver a weekly share of our fresh, organic vegetables to the auction winner’s home or workplace for 21 weeks, from June through October.

How You Win It:

Place your bid in the comments section of our official auction Note on Facebook. New bids must be at least $2 more than the previous bid to qualify. The highest bid as of 8 p.m. on Monday, April 7, 2014 is the WINNER.

Where the Money Goes:

100% of the winning bid amount will go directly to Literacy Now Cowichan, a non-profit organization that provides and supports literacy programs and services in our community.

Why We’re Fundraising With Vegetables:

We read an article in the News Leader Pictorial last week about Literacy Now Cowichan’s funding being cut by $17,000. All of us here at Makaria Farm love reading, and we wanted to support this organization’s important work. Some of LNC’s funding has since been restored, but they still operate on a shoestring budget and need all the support we can give.

OFFICIAL AUCTION RULES

  1. Bidding will be open from 7 p.m. on Friday, April 4, 2014 until 8 p.m. on Monday, April 7, 2014.
  2. By bidding in this auction, each bidder agrees to these auction rules.
  3. To bid, simply type the amount you wish to bid in the comments section of the official auction Note on Facebook.
  4. New bids must be a minimum of $2 more than the previous bid. Any bids not adhering to this format will be invalid and voided.
  5. There is no “upper limit” for your bid(s).
  6. The official close time will be based on the personal computer at Makaria Farm.
  7. Once the auction is declared closed, the highest qualifying bid entered in the comment section shall constitute the winning bid and will be declared as such. In the event of a dispute, Makaria Farm will act as the final authority.
  8. The winning bidder will be contacted via Facebook message to arrange payment by cheque. Upon receipt of a cheque for the winning bid amount made payable to “Literacy Now Cowichan,” the winning bidder will be registered as a member of Makaria Farm’s 2014 vegetable CSA program.
  9. The winning bidder must provide a delivery address in the Cowichan Valley (or our Victoria delivery area) in order to receive their weekly CSA shares.
  10. If the winning bidder does not provide a donation for the full winning bid amount to Literacy Now Cowichan by 6 p.m. on Friday, April 18, 2014, the auction prize will be offered to the next highest bidder.
  11. To bid anonymously, please send a private Facebook message to Makaria Farm: Makaria Farm will then post the bid on your behalf in the comments section. (Please note: there may be a delay.)

Enough formality — let’s raise some funds for Literacy Now Cowichan!

Please visit the official auction Note on our Facebook page to place a bid.

Brock and Isaac read together at Makaria Farm.

Brock and Isaac read together at Makaria Farm.

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Growing Our Farm

When we bought our 10 acres of pasture in 2007, we never thought we’d use all the land. But six years later, thanks to our customers and farm supporters, we’d expanded our production to the point where we were using up the entire 8 acres of growable land. Check out this Google satellite shot of our farm in August 2012, with our patchwork of crops filling the growing area:

Makaria Farm in August 2012.

(Are those crop circles?! … No, they’re the sprinklers that were irrigating at the time of this satellite shot.)

Because we were so tight on land, we weren’t growing as much broccoli, squash, garlic and other crops as we wanted. And we stopped planting risky or experimental crops, such as celery, because we had to maximize our growing space. Our well supplies 15 gallons of water per minute, which isn’t enough water to properly irrigate 8 acres of vegetables, and some of our crops suffered as a result.

We wanted to be able to grow more food, and grow it well. But we were already using all our available land, and we knew that in order to expand we would need to find more land to grow on.

Vegetable farming requires a long-term lease to justify investing in water infrastructure, fencing, storage buildings, etc. For two years we searched for a suitable property with owners willing to lease it. Finally, in February 2014, we signed a multi-year lease for a large section of prime agricultural land in Cowichan Bay, only five minutes away from our current farm.

Members of our 2014 farm crew pace out the new farm to get a sense of the dimensions.

Members of our 2014 farm crew pace out the new farm to get a sense of the dimensions.

Thanks to the new property we’re leasing, we not only have lots of room, but lots of water. We will be able to pamper our crops, and grow more of the things that we didn’t have enough space or water for before, such as Brussels sprouts and sweet corn. The extra room and water also mean we can plant large areas in green manures, providing natural fertility to the soil and reducing pest and weed pressure.

Farmer Brock and baby Isaac explore our new farmland.

Farmer Brock shows baby Isaac our new backyard.

Needless to say, we are very excited about the coming season. The lease will allow us to increase the diversity of our Vegetable CSA Program shares and grow more of the things we all love, such as sweet corn. We might even be able to offer an 8 week winter CSA in November and December, in addition to our popular Food Security Club.

Over the next few years we’ll be transforming the flat meadows of our new acreage into a bustling vegetable farm. That involves installing a well, hydro and irrigation, building a fence, packing area, cooler and other infrastructure, establishing a new strawberry patch, and planting as many seeds as we want. While the idea of starting a farm from scratch (again) is exhilarating, it’s also intimidating — mainly because all those steps are expensive. To help us afford these start-up costs, we (Brock and Heather) are now investigating different financing options. If you or someone you know is interested in lending money to a green business, please click here for details.

After a great deal of thought, we’ve also decided to move our farm onto this new, larger property. It doesn’t make sense to hold onto our current 10 acre property (and its mortgage) while having all the land and water we need on the new, leased property, and so we will likely be selling our 10 acres in the next year or two. If you know of anyone looking to buy farmland in the Cowichan, our land is all set up for someone to do some vegetable farming or just enjoy a rural lifestyle and a big garden. Interested buyers can contact us directly.

We're excited to grow celery again, now that we have room to play!

We’re excited to grow celery again, now that we have room to play!

So what does this mean to our farm friends and customers? It means we’ll have much, much more food to offer, and a greater diversity of it, in the years ahead. We look forward to sharing the abundance with our ever-supportive CSA members, our fabulous farmers market customers and our grocery store friends.

As for our farm stand, it will remain at our current property as Makaria Farm Market for the foreseeable future. We’ll keep you posted should that change.

Thank you very much to our customers and farm friends for being part of our growth over the past 6 years. We hope to continue feeding our Island community for many more years to come.

p.s. Yes, we’re still accepting registrations in our 2014 vegetable delivery CSA program. Please click here for details and to reserve your share of our bountiful harvest.

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Our Vegetable Delivery CSA Program On Shaw TV

Shaw TV’s Go Island South team has produced a wonderful spotlight on our vegetable delivery CSA program, featuring our partnership with the super-fab Cowichan Recyclists. Thanks so much to Meg and her Shaw peeps for helping us spread the word about our convenient veggies!

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Looking for Lenders to Help Us Grow

In order for us to grow more food, Makaria Farm will be moving from our 10 acre property to a much larger acreage over the next few years. This transition involves installing a well, hydro and irrigation lines, as well as building a fence, packing area, cooler and other infrastructure.

In order to make these investments in our new farm property, we need financing. We have a healthy history of borrowing from individual lenders: to help build our current farm’s capacity, we’ve borrowed $60,000 from private individuals over the years. We’ve never missed a payment and have now paid back the majority of those loans.

To help us develop this new property, we’re now asking anyone who would like to invest in local, organic agriculture to consider making a loan to support this next stage of our farm’s growth.

We can offer 5% interest on loans that are repayable over 5 years. We are looking for individual loans of $5,000 or more. If you would like to discuss this option further, please contact us (Brock & Heather) at 250-597-3276 or makariafarm@gmail.com.

Help us grow even more food with a loan to Makaria Farm.

Help us grow even more food with a loan to Makaria Farm.

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Love on the Farm

A farm is a good place for a relationship to blossom. When we decided to buy our farm in 2007, Heather and I had not even been together for a year. It seems rather rushed and crazy looking back, and you would think we would’ve had lots of people telling us so, but the question we got was “what are you doing buying a farm?,” rather than “what are you doing buying a farm together”?

But the farm has proven to be as good of a place for growing a relationship as it has for growing organic vegetables. Part of what makes organic vegetables healthy is that they have to face adversity, from pests above and below ground to moulds and plant diseases that are constantly seeking to turn a plant back into soil. A healthy plant produces compounds that help it defend itself against these attacks. It is these compounds that, when eaten by humans, helps us fight off things that work to decay our own bodies.

We were married April 9, 2012.

We were married April 9, 2012.

And so it is with the organic farm family. Owning and operating a farm is very challenging, from the long, hard hours and limited ability to take holidays or even days off to spend with one another to the financial strain of building a business in an industry not known for its economic viability. But it is these things that can make a healthy relationship stronger. From getting creative to find ways to spend time with one another to ensuring good communication when the stress of paying the bills adds up, we have grown together in a way we wouldn’t have in our comfortable life in downtown Victoria.

After seven years together, our relationship is well rooted. This past September we welcomed our first child, Isaac, into our family. How fitting that he arrived during the hectic harvest season.

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Planning to Prevent Soil Erosion

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I love winter on the farm. Not for the weather, but for the natural opportunity it allows us to take stock of the past year and plan ways to improve the following year. Every year at this time we work … Continue reading

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Uprisings: a Hands-on Guide to the Community Grain Revolution

Island GrainsIn 2009, Brock and I hosted a series of workshops at Makaria Farm on how to grow wheat and other grains on a garden scale. Over 50 families from all over the islands participated in the Island Grains workshops. We didn’t realize it at the time, but similar projects were in the works across North America. Canada’s first grain CSA had launched the year before in the Kootenays. A bakery in Massachusetts was handing out grain seeds to its customers for planting, in a community-wide act of guerrilla gardening. Wheat was being planted in the aisles of California vineyards, and public ovens were under construction all over the continent.

Early last year, Sarah Simpson and I were asked to investigate this local grain revolution by New Society Publishers. We spent many months interviewing bakers, farmers, environmental activists and other project leaders, and soon realized that these projects weren’t about growing grain: their common goal was actually to build community. Faced with economic recession, climate change and food security challenges, individuals were turning to the most basic skills of civilized society — growing grain and baking bread — as a way to empower themselves and their communities.

Uprisings-coverOur book, called Uprisings: A Hands-On Guide to the Community Grain Revolution, shares these tales from the front lines in communities from Alaska to Arizona, as well as information on how to grow grain, make bread and perform other revolutionary acts. We hope it will inspire a new wave of uprisings.

To order Uprisings online, click here.

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Community Sufficiency

Our "100 Mile Diet" breakfast

Our “100 Mile Diet” breakfast

When we moved to Cowichan Station to start Makaria Farm back in the spring of 2007, our goal was to be as self-sufficient as possible. We thought “success” would mean a meal where we’d produced all the ingredients ourselves, from the eggs to the bacon and fried tomatoes.

But over the past six years we’ve learned that community sufficiency, not self-sufficiency, is a much more rewarding goal.

These days, a perfect meal is one where we can name all the people who provided the ingredients, from our tea (Victor and Margit of Teafarm) to our fish (Anne and Gregg of Cowichan Bay Seafood).

Lush Eco Lawns drops off another load of lawn clippings from their organically-minded customers.

Lush Eco Lawns drops off another load of lawn clippings from their organically-minded customers.

But community sufficiency extends beyond our plates. For years, the Community Farm Store and True Grain have allowed us to take their organic food waste so we can feed our compost and, in turn, the soil in which we grow our vegetables. Lush Eco Lawns adds grass clippings to our compost piles multiple times each week.

This year, we’ve created a new partnership: Aaron and Katie of Cowichan Recyclists will provide bicycle delivery to some of our Vegetable Share CSA members this summer.

As a result, the folks who eat our broccoli and carrots this year could be eating the results of at least five different eco-friendly, local businesses working together.

Now that’s “success.”

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Delivering our CSA Shares

One of the things I love most about farming is spending my winters brainstorming how to make our farm better, from coming up with more sustainable ways to heat a greenhouse to considering more attractive ways to package and sell our vegetables to better meets people’s needs.

Last winter, for example, we created our Food Security Club, which helps people eat local, organic produce all winter long by providing bulk amounts of vegetables that are easy to store or preserve.

So what have we cooked up this winter? We were looking over a map of where our customers who pick up a pre-ordered weekly bag of vegetables (CSA) from our farm were coming from. We realized that the vast majority lived where it was convenient for them to stop by and pick up their bag of veggies on the way home from work or a visit to town. Of course!

Many people don’t have the time to drive from one side of the Valley to the other to get a bag of vegetables each week. They’re busy. That’s why grocery stores are located close to the various communities in the Valley. So, short of starting a Makaria Farm grocery store in every neighbourhood, what could we do?

We could deliver.

We are offering delivery of our weekly bags of produce to your home or office for 21 weeks this summer. So from June to November, regardless of where you live in the Cowichan Valley (from Chemainus to Mill Bay at least), you can conveniently enjoy some of the freshest produce the Warmland has to offer, delivered to your door, for less than $23/week.

We’re also expanding to offer our Vegetable Share CSA Program (with delivery) in the Victoria area, for just under $24/week.

As an organic farm, we strive to be environmentally friendly, so we’ll be working on making our delivery service more sustainable over time. If you know of anyone selling a bio-diesel van, for example, please send them our way. And, of course, if you know of anyone looking for local, organic, fresh-picked vegetables delivered to their door this summer, send them our way too!

Cowichan-Recyclists-Makaria-Farm[February 15 update: Makaria Farm has partnered with Cowichan Recyclists to pilot bicycle delivery of CSA bags in summer 2013 to homes and businesses in downtown Duncan! Please click here for details ...]

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Grow Your Own Garlic

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Love garlic? Try growing your own! Garlic doesn’t need to be watered, deer don’t eat it and, if you treat your plants to some mulch, weeding isn’t a big issue either. Here’s what you do: Step 1: Get Your Seed … Continue reading

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McLeod Family Salsa Recipe

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A good salsa recipe can be hard to find, so here’s ours. We’ve eaten entire jars in a single sitting. Combine in a very large pot: 3 cups chopped onions 3/4 cup chopped sweet peppers 6 chopped hot peppers 1 … Continue reading

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Tomatoes

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We grow 10+ different kinds of tomatoes at Makaria Farm, from cherry tomatoes to heirlooms to traditional red slicers. When we choose which tomato varieties to grow each year, we prioritize flavour over ship-ability and aesthetics. If you spy an … Continue reading

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Fresh Beans

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When it’s bean season, watch out: they are abundant! Luckily, there are many ways to make the most of the harvest. These snappy treats are delicious raw as well as cooked, and can even be pickled for off-season enjoyment. Fresh … Continue reading

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Potatoes

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There are thousands of potato varieties grown around the world, and it can be exciting to see (and taste!) the differences when you use different potatoes in your everyday recipes. In addition to baking, roasting or lightly boiling potatoes, two … Continue reading

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Leeks

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Think of leeks as a super-tasty onion. They can be used instead of (or in addition to) onions in any meal, or can be cleaned, cut up and BBQed or sautéed and served as their own delicious side dish. Leek … Continue reading

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Cauliflower

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The classic recipe for this staple vegetable is to steam it and serve it with cheese sauce, or to serve it raw with veggies and dip, but cauliflower can do much more. Try steaming or boiling the florets until they’re … Continue reading

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Cabbage

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Three cheers for cabbage! It fueled the workers who built the Great Wall of China, kept seafaring explorers from getting scurvy, and is jam-packed with vitamin C. If you have an older cabbage hiding in your fridge, just peel off … Continue reading

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Fresh-pulled Garlic

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We pull our garlic plants in June/July. Fresh, “uncured” garlic is moister than the usual “cured” garlic, but can be crushed, baked, diced, etc. just like normal garlic. Storage Store your garlic plant in a cool, drafty place, ideally out … Continue reading

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Beets

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Cut off the stems and green tops, leaving up to 1” of stem on the beet bulb. Refrigerate the greens in a closed bag until you steam or stirfry them for dinner. Store your beet bulbs with the root tips … Continue reading

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Lettuce Wraps

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Big, beautiful lettuce leaves are a perfect replacement for taco shells or tortillas, especially if you’re striving to eat more vegetables (and less corn or wheat). Once prepared, all your ingredients can be kept in the fridge and brought out … Continue reading

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Kale

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Here are two ways to incorporate healthy kale leaves into your menu aside from the usual steam or sauté methods: First … 1. Rinse/wash your kale leaves. (If the stems are thick, pull them off and sauté them separately.) Dry … Continue reading

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Zucchini

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Abundant and versatile, zucchini are a mainstay of summer eating. Our default recipe is to sauté sliced zucchini with crushed or minced garlic cloves and a little oil/butter: it’s a delicious, easy side dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Other … Continue reading

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Leafy Greens

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Kale, Chard, Spinach, Beet Tops, Etc … Here’s an easy recipe that applies to pretty much any leafy green: 1. Cut off the stems if they’re denser than the leaves and eat these separately (sautéed or roasted, or chopped and … Continue reading

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Fennel

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If you enjoy anise or black licorice, fennel is your vegetable. The foliage is especially aromatic and flavourful, although the bulb is more often the star in the kitchen. Fennel is a wonderful ingredient in soup (try it with leeks, … Continue reading

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Kohlrabi

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Kohlrabi is one of the strangest looking and least known vegetables, but it’s well worth getting to know. While the leaves and stems can be cooked and eaten, the highlight is the bulb. Before biting in to the bulb, peel … Continue reading

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