Practicum Students!

We are long overdue to give you an update of the happenings at the CMU Farm this summer. It seems that the season is just flying by! Another update will be coming soon, but first we would like to introduce you to two people. We are fortunate, this year, to have two students from CMU doing their practicum at the CMU Farm! It has been great so far to have their help and their questions and to see them taking on many different tasks at the farm. So, without further ado, please (belatedly) welcome Britany and Karla to the CMU Farm!

Britany Marsolais is a karaoke superstar, but on the side she is finishing up her IDS degree at CMU with a practicum at the CMU Farm. She enjoys long walks in the vegetable patch, moonlit wheelbarrow rides, and never forgets to stop and smell the basil. Some of her favourite books include the Herbology scenes in Harry Potter, the passages in Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard where the barn is referenced, various mentions of assorted and interplanetary vegetations in The Illustrated Man, and The Bell Jar. Britany is interested in farms with firm and fresh produce, musky soil, sustainable seeding practices, and well-chiseled beds. Her ultimate goal is to become the first Prime Minister who is also a farmer.

Karla was born in Winnipeg but spent the majority of her formative years in Morden, Manitoba. This move was partially due to a dream of Karla’s mother to open a small-scale, organic bakery. From a young age, Karla was shown the importance of growing, making and buying food local, both through the bakery as well as through her parents’ large garden, her mother’s farmer’s market community and her father’s hobby honeybees. Through her education at CMU her interest in sustainable agriculture and food justice have grown. Karla has enjoyed her time at the CMU Farm thus far. It has been a chance to take knowledge that she has cultivated in the classroom and pair it with practical, hands-on skills. She has also had the opportunity to participate in the farm’s seed-saving work by growing out heritage seeds. Karla will graduate from CMU in April 2016 with a BA, Majoring in Social Science – Intercultural Studies.

Come by sometime and say hi to Karla and Britany and maybe stay for a while to pull some weeds with them!

May Long Weekend

It’s May long weekend and there is snow on the ground.  May long weekend has always been unpredictable weather wise, and yet it marks the beginning of the gardening season – as traditional wisdom has it. It’s the first weekend you can start to think about putting your bedding plants in the ground, with truly frost sensitive things waiting until the first or second week of June.

May long weekend is fairly early this year. Our average last frost date is actually next weekend – the 25th or 26th of May. So our bedding plants are safe and sound at Room to Grow greenhouse, or in the windows of our homes.

Seeds, on the other hand, are in. We planted out our first round of beets, radishes, turnips, tatsoi, arugula, lettuces, peas, carrots, and parsnips over the last two weeks. Seed potatoes and onion sets are also in the soil. And so far, most of those things have germinated. They’re all plants that can handle a bit of cold weather. But a dusting of snow – we’ll have to see. All but the peas, potatoes and onions are tucked in under a blanket of row cover to hold in the heat. But was there enough wind to throw it off? Is the blanket of snow heavy enough to turn the cover into a giant crushing machine? These are the things we have to worry about in weather like this. We have been at more than just planting this spring.

On Friday we played host to a high school group on choir retreat at CMU. The sun was shining, but the soil was soggy from the Wednesday/Thursday rain. So instead of helping us with planting, we spent the time learning about food systems with an activity from USC Canada. If you’re looking for resources for teaching your family about food and seed security check out their website, they have some really great activities, printouts and suggestions for all ages.

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We are also planting an orchard this year! We have about 20 apple trees of various varieties to plant out around the farm. It really does make us feel more established planting trees. With a vegetable farm you know if everyone suddenly walks away, within one year you can sew it all back to grass. But with trees you really begin making a more permanent connection to the land. We started to feel that a bit last year when we put in a new fence, so our levels of commitment to this place continue to increase. It feels good, it feels…settled. And we’re so excited to add them to shares, maybe press some into cider – oh the options. Big thanks to Canadian Mennonite University and Friends of Gardens Manitoba for helping out with the trees, through donation and super affordable pricing.

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We do still have shares for sale – if you or someone you know are still looking for your CSA hook-up for this year. Find out more here.

One thing we can count on is that summer is coming, and we still have plants to put in. So stay tuned for opportunities to plant with us. Coming soon.

Spring Has Sprung

Last month the snow melted. Since that first melt, we’ve had a number of smaller snow falls. None of them stuck around longer than around 48 hours, but each one of them has served as a cooling off of our spring fever. Even five years into working around the seasons, your body – like a plant – seems to respond to the hours of daylight and strength of the sun. And so in March, when we had a few days of t-shirt weather, preparing for planting seemed merely weeks away. We had to remind ourselves that our last frost date comes around the May long weekend, and not many things can be put out in the unprotected field before that date.

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Temperatures were getting up to 30 degrees in our cold frame last week.

And so spring fever is alive and well in folks long out of middle school. What has helped cool the fever has been seed starting. This year we have the time and capacity to start a few varieties of our plants without the help of a greenhouse. So far we have started Indigo Rose tomatoes, Purple Beauty sweet peppers, Red Express cabbage, Golden Acres cabbage, La Guardia eggplant, and Lacinato kale, Hilde lettuce and Rouge d’Hiver lettuce, and we’re not finished yet!

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Purple Beauty peppers just over a week old basking under a grow light.

This year we decided to expand the number of shares we sell by about half. This is really exciting for us as we expand our business, do less “volunteer” work, and support more emerging farmers. It’s an exciting challenge for us, and we look forward to engaging more people in fresh, local, organically grown produce. Our CSA family is expanding!

We’re also bringing back our Wolseley delivery, which – due to location – is more of a Wolseley/West Broadway delivery. Last year we encouraged all our sharers to pick up on farm, but we’re spending some money this spring on building a CMU Farm bike trailer, so once again you can have your veggies pedal powered downtown for a one time $75 payment for the season.

At the end of last season, Canadian Mennonite University donated 5 Prairie Sensation apple trees to the CMU Farm. Those will be planted this spring along our northern fence line. This is a great fresh eating apple well suited for our harsh prairie temperatures. Look forward to apples in your share boxes in years to come!

Our final piece of newness this spring is that the CMU Farmers Collective has formalized into the Metanoia Farmers Worker Cooperative Ltd.! We’ll post more about this coming up, but the changes from the outside are minimal. The land at the CMU Farm has always been stewarded by the CMU Farmers Collective, and so the name “CMU Farm” will remain, and it will continue to be the name you see most often. However the CMU Farmers Collective has formalized into a Workers Co-op, and it is us who run the CSA.

Megan, Jonah, Maria, Jeanette - the Metanoia Farmers - promoting the farm at an event this spring.

Megan, Jonah, Maria, Jeanette – the Metanoia Farmers – promoting the farm at an event this spring.

Spring is here! Summer is close behind! The Metanoia Farmers will be at the CMU Farm on a regular basis starting Monday, April 27. Come out to say hello, and maybe even get your hands dirty.

CSA Shares on Sale!

2015 FB PostcardThe days seem to be warming up here in Winnipeg and the CMU Farmers Collective is already thinking about spring, warming soil, and seeds! Part of our order has been placed and we’re just finalizing the rest. We’re grateful for this chance we have to think about spring during the colder months of the year because of the hope it gives us during winter. With that in mind, you should know that we are finally selling shares for the 2015 season at the CMU Farm! Send us an email if you would like to reserve a share or have any questions about our CSA. We’re looking forward to the spring!

Waiting Through Winter

So what does a vegetable CSA Farmer do during the winter? Some of us focus on other jobs, some fall into the rhythm of school with teaching or kids, attention is turned to pet projects, travel plans and the holidays. And while we wait on the seasons to change, leading us in to a new year, there is also work being done behind the scenes. Season evaluation, planning for the new year, and lots of small (and sometimes not so small) projects get done during the off-season to help the CSA run better next year.

This winter we set some goals for the CSA:

1. Firm up greenhouse arraignments with Canadian Mennonite University and Friends of Gardens Manitoba. Friends of Gardens has been instrumental in bringing bright and vigorous energy to this proposal, and it has been wonderful to work with them. Following into 2015 we hope to finalize the agreement between Canadian Mennonite University, the CMU Farm, and Friends of Gardens to move forward with the greenhouse build this season.

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The greenhouse ‘committee’ of CMU, the CMU Farmers Collective, and Friends of Gardens Manitoba working out the details.

2. Enhance our business savvy and organizational structure.  Certainly less flashy than a greenhouse, but no less important.  As we continue to welcome more and more households into share agreements during the growing season, work with new farmers, and partner on building projects this is imperative.

3. Welcome new farmers into the fold. One of our guiding principles and reasons for being a CSA so close to a university has been the desire to be a place where people can come and learn about our work in whatever capacity. This year we are excited to welcome two new farmers into the fold and look forward to this sharing of the work and knowledge. Watch for Jonah and Maria’s bios coming soon!

Along with off-season work, we’ve also participated in some exciting events this fall already.

In November, Jeanette headed to the Food Secure Canada Assembly in Halifax as part of her farmer organizing work with Sharing the Table Manitoba. Here she was able to connect with new and young farmers from across the country as part of the New Farmer Roundtable.

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Breakout sessions with the New Farmer Roundtable

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Meeting keynote speaker Vandana Shiva

 

The Farm also played host to a Seed Saving Harvest Party. Caroline Chartrand invited special guest Winona LaDuke to join us for an evening of seed saving, story telling and volunteer appreciation.

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Winona LaDuke speaking to the assemble seed savers and supporters

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Volunteer appreciation

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Winona LaDuke

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At the CMU Farm around the fire, Steve Heinrichs of Mennonite Church Canada addresses the group.

 

Finally, Megan and Jeanette attended the Small Farms Manitoba conference and CSA Manitoba meetings for a day of learning and networking.

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Small Farms Manitoba conference opening address

 

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Megan interviewing with CTV at the Small Farms Manitoba conference

 

But the winter is almost over and we do always look forward to the spring.

The Growing Garden, Building Projects, and Squash Pollination Anticipation

It has been a long time since we posted, so I hope you’ve been able to keep up with us somewhat on Facebook! As you may guess, the farm is just exploding with growth and has been keeping us farmer types very busy.

Our volunteer lettuces are flowering!

We are presently in the middle of our harvest season and highlights of recent share boxes have included new potatoes, beets, the beginnings of cucumbers and zucchini, and even a few carrots from doing our thinning! Today we were noticing that it will soon be time for beans and maybe even some tomatoes! As everything has its season, we’ve reached the end of the pea harvests but we may experiment with planting a second round of peas to harvest late in the summer or in early fall.

The beet harvest. Look at that lovely colour!

The first of the carrots!

Besides harvests, it has been a season of weeding, watering, and pruning tomatoes. We are experimenting with a new (to us) method of staking our tomatoes that involves hanging twine from wire strung above the beds and then training the tomatoes up the twine as they grow. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of that to show you at the moment but I’ll add some asap. It is interesting how the addition of some vertical structures can really change the look of our fields!

Not only are we maintaining and harvesting at the farm, but we are also building! We finally decided that the time has come to replace our tarp-roofed shade set-up with something a little more permanent that doesn’t hit us on the top of the head when it is windy :)  So, this week, Farmer Kenton and Farmer Emeritus Matt took on a shade producing construction project. Today the metal sheeting went up on the larger half and it is fantastic! Even that half roof gives us a lot more shade than we had before and a much more functional space in which we can bunch vegetables and set up the share pick-up table.

The new shade structure and our Thursday harvest set-up. You can’t tell from this angle, but in person, it almost looks a little like the prow of a ship!

We often have visitors at the farm but this month one of the visitor highlights was an evening at the beginning of July where we were visited by a voluntary simplicity class from the U of W and Mark Burch, an author and expert on voluntary simplicity, for some learning about connection to the land, rhythms of nature, and the “simple” life. It was fun to get them working in the soil and to hear their reflections on what they’ve been learning about in class and how that might connect to what we do here at the farm!

Mark and the voluntary simplicity class in the seed saving circle.

Finally, we’ve got some exciting seed saving coming up! If you are in Winnipeg and interested in learning about pollinating the Cucurbitaceae family (cucumbers, squash, zucchini) for seed saving you should come to one of the pollination workshops being hosted at the farm! Check out the poster below for more details.

Squash pollination workshop poster

We hope you’re having a great summer so far! Feel free to stop by the farm for a visit and see what’s growing!

CSOP, Rain and Patience

Two weeks ago the CMU Farmers partook in a Canadian School of Peacebuilding course led by Norman Wirzba.  As an author and co-author, Wirzba has written on theological perspectives of care for creation and how food sits at the centre of that equation.  We were glad to have him with us for the week, and on the Wednesday were able to travel with the class to Cedar Lane Farm in Neubergthal.  For those of you who have followed our Facebook for awhile, you’ll know that the CMU Farmers like to get out to Cedar Lane Farms at least once a year for a “field trip” so it was great to be able to go again and hear more from Terry and Monique about their farm.

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Terry talks about rotational grazing

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Talking about his new Canadienne cows

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Explaining the learning curve of using horses for farm work

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Class photo at the farm

We’d had some heat before hand, but with the big rains right before and at the beginning of CSOP it ended up being a good time to sit and learn and recharge while the Farm dried out.

At the end of the week, CSOP held its closing program at the Farm, planting squash together as a symbol of the continued work of cultivating peace with the land.  The squash will live on at the Farm and eventually feed those who have committed themselves to the land this season, both farmers and sharers.

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CSOP closing program at the Farm

The weeks following CSOP were overcast and cool.  The forecast called for rain most days, but it always seemed to miss the Farm, keeping us in what seemed like a cold, damp holding pattern.  Seed was having trouble germinating, and things that were up seemed frozen in time.  With the carrots, beets, and parsnips especially we eventually figured so much time had passed, the seed that wasn’t up must have rotted in the ground. We began to contemplate reseeding areas that were bare.  Then slowly, about a week or two ago, we started to see germination.  Carrot rows planted 3 weeks earlier began to germinate, parsnips planted a month previous were coming out of the ground!  Here we had done all this worrying, but things were still emerging!  Exhilaration, exasperation, and stupification I’m sure were felt by all farmers.  It was an interesting combination of feelings and really reinforced how not in control we are of this whole situation – farming is an inherently risky task.  It still remains to be seen what will all emerge, it will take patience.  I imagine with the heat we will hopefully get this weekend we’ll see more things popping up.  And we did have to reseed beets and Swiss chard.

Babying the beet bed

Babying the beet bed

Next in weather news was all the wacky weather over the July long weekend.  Although we didn’t get as much rain as expected at the Farm, paths and other low areas retained pools of water over 24 hours after the rains stopped.  What was more damaging for our plants ended up being the wind.  Tomato plants were bent over and some new bean plants were stripped of their broad leaves.  The row cover flew off the cabbages and many of the onion greens broke or bent over in the wind.  Overall the damage could have been worse, and most everything will recover.  Things that weren’t batted around seemed to enjoy the drink of water and many plants visibly grew over the weekend.

Sitting water in the potatoes

Sitting water in the potatoes

The cold temperatures and stormy weather left us wondering if it would be feasible to start our share boxes this week after all, but after a walk about on the weekend we decided there was enough.  This is the nature of CSA, this is the nature of eating seasonally and locally (factor in local weather patterns!), this is the nature of being connected to land.  And the season has to start at some point.

This week, sharers are getting kale, beet greens, green onions, cilantro, oregano, basil, dill, garlic scapes, peas, and full shares also get a head of lettuce.  For all of this we are grateful!

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First share box pick-up of the season

Seedlings in the greenhouse

Seedlings in the greenhouse

The Farm on the morning of this seasons first share day

The Farm on the morning of this seasons first share day