Fresh Roots Farm Notes for Week 14
This week felt much more sane. The temps climbed above zero, and today I ate lunch outdoors without a jacket on. Spring is in ‘da air, people.
These days it feels like I spend 90% of my time planning, and marketing. ‘Tis the season for getting things down on paper, figuring out the numbers, and filling in spreadsheets (you gotta know I love a spreadsheet), while we wait for the snow to melt and the outdoor prep to begin. People often ask us what we do in the wintertime, which despite the best of intentions, often comes off feeling like there is an assumption that we don’t have much to do when the garden and the bees are at rest and the cattle fill their bellies and try to stay warm. The truth is, that aside from our off-farm jobs (I have two, and Troy works on my Dad’s ranch most days), we spend a lot of our time at home doing the planning and marketing work that is an integral part of farming and direct marketing. This is something that many great farmers out there aren’t interested in; they love the raising of animals or crops, but don’t want to spend their other precious time and energy making flyers, ads and Facebook posts. I respect that. But for the farm-to-table food system we are trying to engage in, it is a necessary endeavor, and frankly, we like it.
Anyways, we have been recently thrust into a deeper reflection on our place in agriculture and food systems, particularly our vulnerability as ‘small’ farmers directly supplying local eaters. The Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative, of which we are producer members, has been working actively with food regulators and inspectors to ensure we are following the protocol we should be, in offering sustainably-produced products to customers in Winnipeg and Brandon via the ‘buying club’ model. We recently ran into a pretty major road block when informed by one of MAFRD’s top inspectors that, because our model does not fall into the category of ‘farm gate’ sales, we can no longer sell eggs, uninspected chickens, or value-added products (that lack nutritional labels). It is well articulated in a letter to our eaters, here. Troy took on the role of media spokesperson for the group, and has spoken to various reporters over the past few days. Keep an eye on the story, which should be released to the public this coming week. Feeling suddenly like our main marketing outlet to urban eaters is compromised, we are eager to work in cooperation with government and regulators to try and find a positive solution, that will recognize and support scale-appropriate regulations and an innovative model for supplying interested eaters with healthy, delicious local food.
In other news, yesterday was my birthday, and I was gifted with a brand new set of steer calves born in the morning. A more positive story, with both boys now up and running, sucking, and life is grand. The seed-starting operation in my upstairs office (see photo) is currently at capacity, and with impending transplanting of peppers and tomatoes, I’m very excited about the milder forecast and getting seedlings outside into the greenhouse.
That is all, for this beautiful and melt-y fourteenth week in April.