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.
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.
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!
[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 ...]
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
There are many fresh foods that I didn’t know existed until we started our farm, including radish seed pods, stinging nettles, kale buds and garlic scapes. In the early spring we dine on steamed shoots from over-wintered kale (they taste … Continue reading →
The CVRD Area Agriculture Plan has set an ambitious goal for local vegetable production: it aims for local growers to supply 60% of the vegetables eaten in the Cowichan Valley. Local farmers currently supply 7%.
One of the ways our farm tries to help reach this goal is by offering a subscription vegetable program (also known as “Community Supported Agriculture” or a CSA), in which customers sign up in advance to receive a weekly share of vegetables throughout the growing season. This arrangement helps us match our production to demand, finance our pre-season expenses, and diversify the risk of weather-related crop failures, etc. Customers get convenient access to a diversity of fresh local, organic produce and can support the Valley’s goals for food security by committing to eating locally in-season. Our CSA can provide for up to 100% of a family’s vegetable consumption during the growing season.
Preserve cabbage and beets by making sauerkraut.
In the winter, however, it is difficult for a family to source local, organic produce that would provide anywhere near 100% of their vegetable needs, let alone 60%. Our farm’s solution: the Food Security Club – a CSA-like program for vegetables that can be stored or preserved for year-round consumption, including garlic, squash, carrots and more. When you join our Food Security Club, it helps us plan our production and allows us to offer wholesale prices for these bulk purchases.
As a complement to our Vegetable Share Program, or as a stand-alone product, the Food Security Club provides another way for our farm and Cowichan foodies to work together towards food security. 60% here we come!
There are a few essentials to surviving an apocalypse (if it’s the kind of apocalypse that can be survived, of course, and not the kind whereby the Earth implodes or everyone’s buried helplessly in volcanic ash, a laPompeii). Having a farm that produces food is definitely on the top 10 list of apocalypse survival best practices.
Knowing what to do with that food (e.g. whole grains, dried beans) to make it palatable and to feed your family through the winter is another secret to survival. (Re)learning how to cook with whole foods has been a major challenge for us since we started our farm in 2007/2008. I still remember finishing a day of hard work and being so hungry, but feeling like there wasn’t anything to eat in the house because we didn’t have nacho chips and sour cream. We’ve come a long way, baby, and now have a comprehensive repertoire of whole-food recipes in our toolkit.
A small selection of Makaria Farm's library.
A third necessity for post-apocalypse living is a respectable library. How else will you spend your time, once the internet no longer exists? How else will you learn how to save seeds or build a hand-crank well-pump, if you haven’t bothered to learn those skills pre-apocalypse? And how will culture survive (you know, culture — that thing that separates us from animals) if there aren’t any copies of Hamlet left after the tsunami waves recede?
After we downsized from a two-bedroom urban apartment to our bachelor-suite-esque home on the farm 4.5 years ago, most of our extensive book collection was relegated to liquor store boxes in various sheds. Between Brock and me we have pretty much every good book ever written in the English language. For example: a few months ago I read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and wanted to read more. I hunted through our boxes and found everything she’d ever published — even a few duplicate copies.
This holiday season we’d had enough of scrounging through boxes. We reorganized our various sheds and dedicated one solely to our books. Now, everything is displayed so we can stand surrounded by titles, sorted by theme or author, and delight in our collection.
"Patron Saint of Carrot Growers" by Chantey Dayal
Finally, in a post-apocalyptic society (and in a pre-apocalyptic society, for that matter), community is essential. To that end, we felt it was high time that we started a farm blog. After 4.5 years as vegetable farmers we’ve learned how to make pumpkin pie from scratch and how to grow our own wheat. We’ve suffered through raven attacks on our transplants, wire worms in the potato patch and unseasonal frosts. We’ve also won awards and grown carrots that inspired art. It’s comforting to have others share our pain, and celebrate our triumphs. This is our first blog post, and we hope it won’t be our last, despite the hectic growing season.
So, to re-cap our apocalypse survival strategy:
know how to cook
With preparations made, we can now settle down and await 2012 with confidence.
Like all fruits and vegetables, there are many, many different kinds of strawberries. Two categories of strawberries are “June-bearing” and “ever-bearing.” June-bearers are more common in the Cowichan Valley: they produce heavily in June/July, then focus on reproducing through runners … Continue reading →
Our farm has two nettle patches: one up front by the old sheep shed, and another larger patch in the back by our orchard. Every April the nettles start to grow, and I wander out on weekends to harvest bag-fulls … Continue reading →
Roasted veggies is a favourite sidedish of ours. It’s adaptable to what’s seasonally available, and the leftovers can be used in soups or reheated as-is (great for breakfast, along with eggs and toast!). Optional ingredients Kohlrabi: stems cut into bite-sized … Continue reading →
One secret weapon for seasonal eaters like us is winter squash. Harvested in the fall, winter squash will keep for months if stored properly. Squash = creamy soups, easy side dishes, rich pies and other treats through the winter and … Continue reading →
First — a general word about: Leafy Greens Leafy greens are an excellent asset to a garden: kale, chard and lettuce last well into the winter (and can overwinter, if protected from extreme cold or snow). The plants will continue … Continue reading →