Roots and Shoots Farm Tour 2014 – Part 2: The Fields

A few weeks ago, I visited Roots and Shoots for their annual farm tour. I’ve already posted the first set of photos of the various greenhouses.

After touring the greenhouses, we moved on to the fields.

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This field is white with floating row cover. The lightweight garden fabric protect plants from cold and wind, block insects, and prevents the spread of disease. It also keeps the soil and plants from overheating. It is especially useful at the beginning of a plant’s life in the field, before it has grown large enough to fend for itself. I think the kale, chard, and romaine lettuce were hiding out in this field.

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Danny B, our tour guide, is also the CSA and Market Manager at Roots and Shoots Farm. A native of England, he’s been with the farm since its first year in 2010. Here he is standing a field of carrots, beets, and Hakurei turnips.

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The field is in need of weeding, which is all done by hand! That’s part and parcel for an organic farm that can’t use any herbicide for weed suppression. I’ve heard weeding is something the interns do….:)

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I had so much fun taking pictures of Danny’s shoes!

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One of the most important parts of organic farming is crop rotation. Crop rotation is a systematic approach to deciding which crop to plant where in each field from one year to the next. Crop rotation helps balance soil fertility and aids in disease and pest prevention. This is a buckwheat field. When the time is right, the buckwheat will be mowed down and tilled back into the soil. This will add vital nutrients to the soil, preparing it for next year’s planting.

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Oh the Allium family, how I love thee! Onions and garlic grow here. The garlic variety is called, “Music”. How lovely! “Music” is the most popular type of garlic grown in Ontario. The black, biodegradable mulch keeps the weeds at bay, and helps trap heat, helping the plants grow.  The straw in between the beds of biodegradable mulch also keeps the weeds down and provides tonnes of organic matter for the soil.

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Do you know what vegetable this is? It’s the unfamiliar top to a ubiquitous root vegetable. No? Potato!! This year, they’ve planted some fun varieties in addition to the stalwart Russet. We’ll be getting Russian Blue (blue skin and blue flesh) and Adirondack All-Red (red skin and red flesh) in our CSA this year.

That’s it for the fields at Roots and Shoots Farm. Next post will cover the harvesting and storage of veggies before they go to the CSA pickups and markets.

Roots and Shoots Farm Tour 2014 – Part 1: The Greenhouses

Last year I signed up for my first CSA (community shared agriculture) share at Roots and Shoots Farm. Every other week from June to October I received delicious, organic, local produce as part of my half-share. It was a great experience, and I was especially happy to be supporting local farmers. When registration opened for this year’s CSA, I signed up right away.

Each year, Roots and Shoots offers CSA shareholders a tour of their organic farm in Manotick Station, Ontario. It’s a great opportunity to learn about organic farming and meet the people who will be growing and harvesting your food all season. So this year, on a cloudy Saturday in June, some friends who are new to the CSA and I headed out the farm.

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The first place on the farm we visited was the seedling greenhouse. Jess Weatherhead, Owner and Farm Manager, grows all the seedlings. She also creates the farm schedule and tells the labourers when to plant the seedlings in the field.

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The seedling greenhouse is the only one that is heated. Since they don’t need all the space, they rent out a portion to a local micro greens grower.

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The farm has a few other greenhouses where they grow selected crops. Danny B., our tour guide, explained that the a lot of vegetables from the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) didn’t fare well in the field last year. This year, they’re growing a lot of them in the greenhouses. The field tomatoes and peppers are growing under temporary “caterpillar tunnels”, which protect them from the rain and give them a big heat boost.

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The tomato greenhouse. The crop greenhouses aren’t heated, but they do have air pumped between the two thick sheets of plastic that cover them. This keeps the plastic taught against the greenhouse frame and prevents tears.

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They grow basil and parsley between the tomato plants. This is called “companion planting”. Companion planting is an organic way of discouraging harmful pests without losing the beneficial allies. Basil repels flies and mosquitoes while improving growth and flavor. And we get fresh herbs in our CSA share!

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The cucumbers!

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A beautiful cucumber flower.

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Orient express eggplant. Its beautiful purple flower will turn into a delicious eggplant.

I’ve got lots more pictures of the farm to share with you, so come back soon for part 2 of the tour: the fields!