Unsolicited advice warning: ordering seeds is the easy part of the job, so don’t get carried away. Planting is pretty easy too, but then it gets harder and harder: weeding, hoeing, thinning, trimming, staking, trellising, pruning, picking, storing, processing, cooking. Then it gets easy again of course: eating.
That’s why I only grow four things: potatoes, carrots, garlic and celeriac. I tried to add beans and peas to the repertoire last year — won’t make that mistake again. This year will be much more focused, what with a child added very high on the priority list. To that end, I have signed us up for a CSA — a box of vegetables from another farm.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In this case, it means that I write a cheque for the entire season of weekly boxes of fresh vegetables and knowing too well the cost of production the price seems very fair. The farm cashes the cheque and gets started — buying seeds, hiring workers, fuelling the tractor and hopefully laying a little aside to take a few weeks off in the winter. Vegetable supply thusly secured, I can focus my attention on the business of producing potatoes (which ironically will end up in my harvest box at some point).
CSA’s are a feature of the new agriculture movement of the last 30 years. So too are the terms “heritage,” “natural” and even “organic.” It can be very confusing and I can do very little to clear it up for you. In B.C., organic growers inspected by an independent body may call their product “certified organic.” You can’t say “certified organic” if you are not. However, should your product be crossing provincial or national borders, then it will be verified under the national standard and it can’t say “certified organic,” only “organic.” The backdrop to all this is that in B.C., unlike in most countries and some provinces, there is no law against calling product simply “organic” no matter how it’s grown.
Which very sadly renders the word “organic” more or less meaningless in B.C. It means that if the product says merely “organic,” it might be completely supported by the full pantheon of nefarious agricultural chemicals. Or it might be legitimately certified under a national certification body. “Certified organic,” thankfully, is very far from meaningless and growers are held accountable to industry leading, easily accessed standards.
I have no idea what “natural” means — there are no standards for this. If you see it, then you should ask the producer. They will tell you what it means for their product and you can decide from there. If you can’t talk to the producer, then you are in the dark. Proceed accordingly.
“Heritage” refers to breeds and varieties that were around before yield and shelf-life became the primary and perhaps singular focus of breeding efforts. Heritage tomato varieties have become very popular at farmers markets. They taste great and are good enough transporters to get to the customer. If you grow your own, then you know there are others that taste even better, although they can barely stand the trip to the kitchen, never mind the 100 miles to market.
Our current batch of chickens includes some heritage varieties and I can certainly see some traits that growers were keen to breed out as soon as possible. One goes into hysterics if you even look at her sideways and will try to peck your hand off if you try to take an egg from under.
Not at all the thing if you think the animals should not be in charge.
Anna Helmer realizes that a little hysterical clucking might be just the thing.