Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Organic Harvest Festival!

Every year we look forward to splurging a bit and heading into the big city of Charlottetown to attend the Organic Harvest Meal.  It has traditionally been a sit down meal at a fancy venue with a fancy price.  This year however, it is being organized as a festival, a family affair.  It's on a Sunday afternoon, on the lawn of the experimental farm, with kids activities, entertainment and of course, lots of amazing organic food.  Everything is from PEI and everything is certified organic.  I hear that in particular the lamb and eggs being used are particularly delicious.  haha!!

Anyway, it is always an amazing time and I anticipate that this year will be no exception!  Tickets can be bought at any Sobey's across PEI or at a number of other restaurants and stores. You can go here for more info.

Also, since the lamb and eggs are getting the attention on Sunday, the chicken is getting some attention tomorrow night at the Roving Feast as part of the wrap up of the Fall Flavours events here on PEI.  Mark (and only Mark since tickets are limited and $$!!) will be standing with an executive, top chef from the USA, brought in especially to highlight some special PEI products to showcase our certified organic chicken.  The Feast features chefs and producers from across the Island, but each year they bring in a chef 'from away' to up the ante a bit and add a touch of ...extra elitism?  I'm just cranky because I can't go, but it does sound like a fancy affair worth it for foodies.

The chef 'from away' is coming to tour the farm this morning, so I'd better go clean myself up and maybe I'll be able to squeeze another ticket out.  Or maybe I should look extra pathetic and he'll feel so bad for me that he'll practically pay me to go.


Hope this finds you well!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Charlottetown Drop-Off


This is just a quick post for anyone living in Charlottetown or beyond who wants to get their hands on some of the PEI's ONLY certified organic chicken and lamb.  We are doing our last drop-off in the capital city on Wednesday, September 22 from 4-6pm at Ellen's Creek Plaza.  We will have a freezer full of meaty delights for you to come take your pick!  
So, unless you want to be stuck, allll winter, eating that weird, watery, bland styrofoam that the store tells you is chicken, I recommend at least trying some of our pasture-raised, happy, healthy chicken or lamb.  And if you've never had lamb, here's a great recipe to get you started that I've actually made and REALLY loved.   (Yes, Roy and Jen, I sincerely, actually really liked this lamb recipe.)

Lamb Samosas in Phyllo  (a great intro for the first time lamb-eater, but an even better treat for the veteran lamb-fan)  (After you have this once, you will want to know that yes, this doubles nicely)

3-4 medium potatoes, finely diced, boiled to tender crisp. (about a cup)
1 onion finely chopped.
2 tsp curry powder (I usually end up adding more as I go along, tasting)
2 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Turmeric
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix these ingredients in saucepan over medium heat, then add

1/2 lb. ground lamb or lamb sausage.  Cook through.  Add

1/2 cup peas
3 tbsp. Broth (you can just use water)

Then a splash of lemon juice and honey, taste and adjust seasoning accordingly (ie. Add more curry if you like).

Allow the mixture to cool completely.  Meanwhile cut phyllo sheets (which you've bought at the store, because making phyllo is crazy hard) into four, 3" strips.
Brush melted butter onto the strips before spooning mixture onto the bottom of each strip.  (Use your judgement on how much will fit without busting the phyllo, but also fill it out nicely)  Fold like a flag to the top of the strip and bake at 375 C for 20 mins.  These can also be frozen before cooking and cooked from frozen for the same time. 
As a quick tip, the rolls of phyllo that you buy in the freezer section of the grocery store have enough for a double recipe.

Hope that this finds you planning your trip to Charlottetown for the last drop-off of the year!  hehehe.  Don't worry Summerside, we haven't forgotten you, we'll get there too.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Farm Related Stuff (for once!)

As for what's been going on, on the farm; well...RAIN.
It has been a very wet and cold, rainy couple of weeks, with no real, long term end in sight.  With about .5% of the crop harvested, I am surprised that Mark is not more anxious/annoyed than he is, but he has the construction of that grain tank to finish up.  We bought it second-hand, dismantled and it seems that with each new step of putting it up we find another problem.  In any case, it's a welcome distraction to the lack of combining.

On the livestock front, I have sold a few more ewes and am done saying goodbye for now.  Have had some good lamb sales and am feeling better about being a livestock farmer, but after looking at the books have been doing some careful weighing of priorities in determining whether we downsize or get out completely.  With sheep production on PEI seeming to take a giant leap, I am concerned that markets will be getting smaller and harder to penetrate, organic or not.  I don't know if I could ever let them go completely, but keeping a few is more costly than keeping a larger flock (damn agricultural economics!) so reality must set in at some point.

The chickens are doing well (as usual) and the last batch goes out on the 29th.  I am really hopeful that the rain will have dried up by then since catching chickens at 5:30 am in the dark is already at the bottom of my 'favorite activity' list; the rain wouldn't help. 

Hope this finds you dry and cozy wherever you may be.  Warm (stiff) drink in hand perhaps?


A Rant/Plea of Sorts

On most farms I think it's a safe bet that practicality wins over idealism 99% of the time.  On our family farm, as a child it was no exception.  I remember picking and squishing potato bugs (and hating it) but I also remember that when the bugs got too bad, shaking the burlap bag of ambiguous white powder onto the plants with the careful instructions, "Don't put your hands in your mouth." "Clean yourself up when you're done."  So when a magical, mystical variety of potato came along that repelled bugs, who was first in line!?  I don't really remember much about planting, digging or eating them because it just wasn't a big deal.  "GMO" didn't mean much then and if it meant not having to worry about potato bugs in the garden, what could possibly be bad about it?
Or what about all these "RoundUp Ready" soybeans and canola?  If it means less pesticides overall, shouldn't we be embracing them instead of rejecting them?
And since it's been pretty well established that the world is going to be facing a serious food shortage in the future, doesn't it make sense to produce a fish that grows twice as fast in half the time? 

This is where practicality takes a backseat to harsh reality.

Genetic modification is new and although every 'new product' is backed by 'scientific evidence', there simply hasn't been enough time or enough studies done to truly know the long term effect of GM products on ourselves or our environment.  Everyone has heard the arguments against GMO's, so I won't reiterate them, but I would like to take this opportunity to highlight two greater problems related to Genetic engineering, whether you care about what's in your food or not.

1)seed saving.  This simple and since-the-beginning-of-time practice carried out by every farmer of the past (and some of the present) is being threatened on a daily basis.  It doesn't attract the kind of public attention that many other international trade policy points do, but Canada's farmers ability to save their own seed is actually on the table as a negotiating factor in agricultural trade. This means that we would no longer be allowed to save a section of our best soybean seed from one year to plant the next.  This means we would have to buy new seed from a certified dealer every year.  And in some cases, we do buy new seed.  New seed certainly has it's benefits.  But if we are required to show receipts for our seed prior to selling any product, to prove that we didn't save our own seed, it takes away a fundamental right and a major economic savings for farmers.  I could rant about the importance of saving seed, but the point of this is that GMO products directly affect that seed saving ability and in the case of these fish, reproduction of any kind (they are 99% sterile.) 
The reproduction of all living things is a natural and necessary element of survival.  'Survival of the fittest' doesn't even apply, if one cannot reproduce as a species.  Sure you  might eat better and grow faster (or in the case of soybeans, grow well and yield consistently), but if you can out-eat all the fish that CAN reproduce, what does that leave them to eat, over the long term?   

2)Labeling.  To keep this short and simple; if GMO's are not a problem and the science exists to prove it, why don't we have labeling that allows consumers to make their own choices.  The EU has established rules regarding GMO labeling and thresholds and I am frustrated that none of our governments have forced the hand of the food production companies here in North America.  As eaters, it is a basic human right to know where our food comes from, if we care enough to look.  As it sits today, there is no way to find out that your beloved Heinz ketchup or 99% of the cooking oil (canola) in your cupboard, or those super easy Campbell's soups or some delicious microwave popcorn all come from or contain significant amounts of genetically engineered organisms.  It might not stop you from eating any of that stuff (or it might), but wouldn't you like to have the choice?
You can Google GMO's until you turn into a three headed frog and you will find lots of studies (some legit, some questionable) as to the long term effects of genetic engineering on our world.  The truth is, nobody really knows the long term effects.  But we know the short term problems and as informed consumers, it's our job to push for regulations, whether we think that GM's are a benefit to society or not.
I can't stand alarmists and hyperbole, but this seems to be an issue that is quickly slipping from our grasp.  Once this door is open, it can never be closed, so lets make sure we want to answer it.


ps. one way to be sure to avoid GMO's is to eat organic.  The first principle of organic production (COP 1.4.1) is "when producing or handling organic products, it is forbidden to use any of the following substances or techniques: a) all materials and products produced from genetic engineering as these are not compatible with the organic principles and therefore are not accepted under this standard.'
Can't you just see a little Monsanto executive squirming and shriveling up with each reading and enforcement of that?  Mwahahahahah.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Harvest or Bust!

It doesn't really matter how much you tell yourself that repairs are a natural part of the beginning of harvest season, they each seem like an entirely unexpected and extremely inconvenient disaster every time.  We started off with two medium breakdowns, each resulting in two days of beautiful sunshiny missed days of harvest.  Then of course, this week, once all is in perfect working condition, it's calling for overcast, potentially showery days everyday.  Ah, such is life.  I can almost promise however, that Thursday, the ninth of September will be a perfect harvest day, because every year on our anniversary, Mark spends the day in the combine and although he always takes the evening off, we both feel the pull of a nice evening for harvesting.

This past Sunday we spent the afternoon down on Victoria Row in Charlottetown for the Nigwek festival: A Celebration for an Organic PEI (or something to that effect).  We had hoped to be able to sell chicken and lamb, but in the end, due to not having access to power or room for the freezer/truck on the street, we went with a sign up list and LOTS of edamame.  Despite an incredibly rough start (we had planned to use our Coleman stove, but high winds and some small mishaps made for a giant bonfire instead, wind took all our papers for a ride, etc.) with some help we got ourselves set up quite nicely and managed to sell out by 4:30.  A lot of people tried it for the first time and were all impressed and surprised by the flavour.  We sold as much raw, for take home as we did cooked for immediate consumption, so that was good too.  In any case, it was a nice way to meet some new customers and make some contacts. 

Picking the beans is a little labour intensive, and now with the kids gone back to school, will be up to me, so we'll see how much more gets done.  We had hoped to pick a lot more and freeze it, but between everything else going on, time will tell how much of that gets done.   We're considering staggering some of the plantings next year to drag the short season out just a little longer.  

Here's a shot of my lil beach bums enjoying the last days of heat at Chelton beach here on PEI.  Actually I think they're enjoying a juice box and cheezies here, but also taking in the sights.  They have their mother's addiction to people watching down to a science.  Plus, they get away with staring much easier than I do.

So although Earl was a bit of a bust, the air has managed to change and sleep is not a sweaty struggle anymore.  There is something about this time of year that I love so much, or maybe it's just the changing of a season.  Either way, I welcome this autumn with open arms.

Hope this finds you finding a peace within yourself, whatever that may be.