9 posts tagged with “CSA”

  • Lessons in blogging: Saying yes to a big brand, then saying no

    Source: Shutterstock

    It was a thoughtful pitch. Solid, even.

    The PR consultant knew my name, that I hated celery, that my food blog was intensely Niagara-focused.

    Those personal touches made it tough to ignore, unlike the myriad of other poorly researched and impersonal offers I get to be a brand ambassador for coffee, or to write a review about everything from medjool dates to exercise equipment.

    That’s why, rather than hitting delete, I considered writing a review of the new Sobeys store in St. Catharines. Not only was it a local story, it was right in my neighbourhood and, the consultant pointed out, the store now carried many products with a Niagara connection.

    I’m always very reluctant to do sponsored posts or take up a company on a product review offer. In fact, I can count on one hand those that I’ve done since starting this blog five years ago. I’m careful who I lend this virtual space to, not wanting to shill for anyone and everyone because I got something free. After all, it’s my reputation, my brand, as it were, that’s on the line.
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    Category Food Security


  • Peach Tree
  • An odoriferous elixir: Sopa de Ajo

    A head of German white garlic. 

    All chances at a social life have been kyboshed for me for the next while.

    It doesn’t help that I’m a vector of illness thanks to a bug roosting quite comfortably in my sinuses and chest. But the real reason I’m doubtful that even my co-workers will want to sit with me at lunch this week is because of where I’ve turned for comfort and, I hope, a cure for what ails me.

    I get lazy when I’m sick and my work in the kitchen usually amounts to little more than cracking an egg into some vegetable broth and sipping. Sounds effortless but when all you want to do is curl up in the fetal position and pull the covers over your head, egg drop soup may as well be Christmas dinner. It still feels like work.

    I was just about to resort to my usual get-well-soon concoction when I got inspired by a bowl sitting on my counter, full of garlic from my garden, CSA baskets and impulse buys from the Niagara Local Food Co-op. With quirky names like music, Susan Delafield, Leningrad and German white, the papery heads are also natural muses in the kitchen. Mostly, it was garlic’s healing, anti-microbial properties that really piqued my interest in that moment.

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    Category Recipes, Uncategorized


  • Peach Tree
  • Good night Grackle Garden

    A late summer harvest at Grackle Garden.

    I’ve finally stopped sniffling.

    And I think I’ve shivered out the last bit of early November chill that went through my jacket, shirt and flesh to my very core where it has stayed for the last few hours.

    That’s what happens when you drag your heels putting your garden to bed, hoping that maybe this onward march toward winter and the ever-cooling fall temperatures are just a fluke. But I realize I’m just in denial about the six months of cold weather, grey days, layers of clothing and heavy footwear, and lack of gardening that are ahead.

    Today, my friend Rowan and I finally uprooted the spent tomatoes and tired peppers that we left lingering in Grackle Garden with the hope they might beckon summer back.

    I haven’t written much about Grackle Garden, so an introduction comes late, when the patch of earth in a yard that we borrowed this summer is well past its seasonal prime and interesting stories.

    Last year, while harvesting pears, a homeowner ushered me conspiratorially to her backyard where blue tarps laid undisturbed for years, protecting a swath of soil carved into her lawn. Her ageing parents, who were now in a nursing home, had used the garden every year during the decades they raised their family in their north St. Catharines, red-brick, one-and-a-half storey home.

    But when the garden became too much, rather than replace fertile ground with sod, they covered it with tarps and waited for the day it might be used again.

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    Category Food Security, Uncategorized


  • Peach Tree
  • NiAGara Farm Heroes and Agvocates: Elva Tammemagi of Rhizome Farms

    Elva Tammemagi of Rhizome Farms

    The set of wheels parked in the driveway of Elva Tammemagi’s St. Catharines farmhouse isn’t your typical farm vehicle.

    It’s not a pickup truck or dually. Heck, it isn’t even a car. Instead, Elva gets her homegrown veggies and CSA baskets where they need to go by bike.

    But using pedal power to move her produce to and fro isn’t the only surprise about this newbie farmer in her second year of growing vegetables using organic methods.

    Elva, 25, wasn’t raised on farm. She didn’t even grow up in rural Ontario. Elva is a city slicker — a Toronto girl — born and raised but one who found her calling back to the land rather than a concrete jungle after university.

    “Most people who grew up on a farm want to leave and move to Toronto,” Elva said. “I grew up in Toronto and wanted to move to a small town.”

    In hindsight, all signs may have been pointing to a farming fate, or at least one sign in particular. As she led a walk around her pristine parcel of land that once belonged to her Estonian grandparents, Elva admitted she got dirt under her nails at an early age. A photograph of her wearing only a diaper, her small body covered in dirt as she devoured a cherry with a basket of more of the bulbous fruit waiting next to her was foreshadowing at its finest.

    “I remember when I was a kid, we’d be washing potatoes in the sink and eating cherry tomatoes from the land,” Elva recalled.

    After the death of her grandparents, her family hung on to their brick bungalow, renting it and the land, including the cherry orchard that once kept a young Elva amused. About three years ago, the family stopped renting and Elva, who graduated with a degree in international studies, saw that as her opportunity to make a place she once loved to visit a place to now call home.

    And work.

    “I found there was this really strong sense of community and lots of really passionate people,” Elva said about St. Catharines and Niagara.

    Elva Tammemagi uncovers some of the young garlic shoots
    she is growing on her farm.

    But she didn’t start sowing the seeds for her own farming career before getting the lay of the land first, albeit on someone else’s farm.

    Elva signed up to be a WWOOF-er in 2009.WWOOF, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on  Organic Farms, provides people interested in organic agriculture with the chance to work as a volunteer on farms. She went to a farm on Salt Spring Island in BC for a month before heading to Cape Breton’s Wild Roots Farms in 2010, a place that affected her so greatly, her own farm’s name, Rhizome Farms, is an homage to it.

    “That probably had the strongest impact on me as far as inspiring me to farm,” she said. “A lot of people there were in the midst of soul searching and healing and we all formed this tight bond.”

    It’s also where Elva said she healed from a trying episode in her own life, a healing connected to the process of growing, harvesting and working so closely with the earth.

    “I kind of knew if I had the opportunity (to farm for a living) I should try it,” Elva said. “A lot of my friends were like ‘Go start a farm already so I can WWOOF on your farm.’ “

    Elva admitted she is “lucky and privileged” to have a place for her career to take root without having to put up a huge financial investment first. Still, that doesn’t make her any less determined to make Rhizome Farms a success.

    She found a mentor in Laura Sabourin of Feast of Fields biodynamic vineyard and orchard in St. Catharines and she set about growing her first crop of vegetables last year when she moved to the farm. It was supposed to be mostly a trial run but when Elva connected with Dig at Brock, a non-profit organization dedicated to establishing campus gardens, she found herself selling her vegetables at the university’s farmers market.

    And they sold well. What leftovers she had, Elva donated to local social organizations, including The RAFT, a youth drop-in centre in St. Catharines.

    This year, she is adding a CSA to her repertoire, so people hungry for heirloom vegetables can have weekly shares of the fruits — and veggies — or her labour. Pick up is at the farm or she’ll bike baskets to a bus stop and meet shareholders there.

    Her favourite crop to grow: “Tomatoes. I really love them because there are so many shapes and sizes. And kale,” she said.

    Elva hopes to grow the size of her harvests as she grows more confident in her abilities as a farmer. Those old cherry trees have been replaced with young fruit trees that will one day bear peaches and plums. When her parents move from Toronto to join her at property, tending them will be her dad’s hobby.

    Elva also takes suggestions. “I’m always interested in people encouraging me to grow new things. I’ve had customers ask that I grow wheatgrass this year so I’m going to try that,” she said.

    No matter what, her feelings about farming as a way of life for her are unwavering. Nothing confirms it more than a visit to the big city that reared her.

    “I went there a couple weeks ago and remember feeling I had a great visit but I was happy to come home to St. Catharines,” Elva said.

    “I would say I love (farming). I wake up in the morning and feel very passionate. It’s like ‘Sweet, I get to go to work. I get to work outside.’ It’s like that quote, ‘if you pick something to do in life that you love, you’ll never feel like you’re working.’ “

    Editor’s note: Elva has some volunteer help using a car to deliver some of her CSA baskets. 

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    Category On the Farm, Uncategorized