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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
A beautiful cucumber flower.
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!