Tag Archives: Winter

Winter, spring, summer or fall – its always the season to farm

Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 by Sarah

Sheep in Barn DoorLike every other person in Canada right now, I am so unbelievably ready for summer, its almost painful. I’m ready to take a vacation, to sit back and relax, and to not need to wear 16 layers just to go outside and still freeze.

The thing about summer though is when you’re a farmer, it’s actually the busiest time of year. Starting in about April, farmers are getting antsy to get out in the fields to start planting their crops. But planting isn’t the only job, once the crops are in the ground you have to fertilize, spray for weeds, monitor for disease, maybe even spread manure on the field, and if you’re on my farm, drive by the field everyday just to make sure it didn’t disappear.

When we aren’t focused on the crops we could be cutting grass, fixing machinery, putting the sheep out to pasture, fixing electric fences, cutting more grass, cleaning manure out of the barns, cutting, raking or baling hay, picking stones or maybe cutting some MORE grass!

 

My dad out checking on the girls, just because it was hot out.

My dad out checking on the girls, just because it was hot out.

The point of all this is that farmers work every day and they don’t get vacation days. 365 days a year a farmer is on their feet. On the sunny, hot, hazy days when you want nothing more than to be laying on the beach, a farmer is out working. On those minus 40 degree nights that we saw last winter where you didn’t want to uncurl from under a blanket in front of a fire, we went to the barn to make sure our sheep were okay. And we are okay with that.

We don’t get sick days either. We can’t wake up and play hooky from work, or stay in bed when we have the flu. We feed our sheep twice a day, once in the morning, once at night. There’s no back up plan. Lucky for my parents they had two kids, I got suckered into doing some chores around the farm when I was younger if my parents were sick. But you know that saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? It is extremely relevant to farmers, especially the older ones! Even when you help them, they supervise, then double check your work to make sure its done right.

I think this commitment and responsibility gets forgotten a lot of the time.

Think about it.

On those cold February days, when you were inside eating your dinner, did you think about how lucky you were that you were inside and out of the cold? Probably. Did you think about the farmers, who are braving the cold to feed their livestock? The farmers who didn’t get to stay inside where it was warm? Probably not.

I hate the cold, but its never too cold to stop me from getting a selfie with these cuties.

I hate the cold, but its never too cold to stop me from getting a selfie with these cuties.

What about on those hot, humid summer days, when you can come home from work, crack a cold drink and take a dip in the pool? Did you think about the farmers who are riding the back of a wagon, stacking hay bales so that their sheep or cows or whatever it may be, can have their own dinner when winter comes around and they can’t get to the grass in the pasture?

Being a farmer can be relentless. It can seem like the work never ends, and your to-do list just keeps growing and growing. But its worth it. Providing food for families across the country, giving a safe home to our sheep, that feeling of accomplishment that is felt at the end of every single day makes it worth it.

There is no greater thing than being a farmer. I challenge you to find a happier or more grateful person than a farmer.

Stats Canada says there are over 200,000 farms in Canada, 97% of those are family owned. Over 195,000 farming families in Canada working everyday. 365 days a year.

Of course I love the saying “If you ate today, thank a farmer”, but what I think everyone needs to remember is not only to thank them, but also to appreciate them, because they appreciate you.

Snow Is A Good Thing

Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 by Erin M

As Canadians, we are good at many things – but one of the things we’re best at is talking about the weather. Especially our dislike of the weather. It always seems to be able to be too hot, too cold, too wet, too something. This is always extremely evident once we start getting snow and it’s been on the ground for a while. It’s wet, it’s cold and if you’re not tobogganing, skiing or snowshoeing – most tend to find it more bothersome than exciting.

Unless of course, you’re a farmer.

If you’re a farmer like us? We love snow. Love love love it. 

For one? Snow has great insulating properties. It covers up perennial plants like strawberries and keeps them from being damaged by the cold weather, or short term changes we see between the warmth and the cold. It allows them to have a better winter, stay healthier and produce a better crop the following season. Every year we put strawberries “to bed” by covering them up with a layer of straw to help them survive the harsh Canadian winters filled with cold and wind. The plants are much healthier when this layer of straw is covered with healthy layer of snow. (And it’s the straw that helps collect the snow to keep on top of the plants!)  Years where there is little or no snow cover often means that the plants and the fruit will struggle to produce the next spring and summer because they exerted so much energy trying to survive the winter and build themselves back up into healthy plants once spring arrives. If there is not enough straw or snow cover, the crowns of the plants can be damaged both temporarily or permanently.  

 

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Spreading straw, trying to get it done before there’s too much snow cover!

 

Snow is also great for farmers because it adds moisture to the soil. As farmers, we rely a lot on mother nature to give us enough water in the soil to grow our crops. If there has been a lot of snow over the winter, then when that snow melts, the excess water will drain into the fields and add moisture to the ground. Starting off a season with a healthy amount of water in the soil means that plants and trees are better able to grow the next summer. For us on our farm, it also usually amounts to being able to harvest a better maple syrup crop, because the trees have more water that they are able to turn into sap.

And one of the biggest reasons we love snow though?  It gives us a little time to slow down, catch up on work, catch up with family, and possibly even get in a small vacation or two.

 

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                                                                         Vacations various family members have been able to take over the years in our off season!               

 

…When we’re lucky!   

Winter Harvest

Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 by Erin M

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If you’ve visited a grocery store lately, you’re probably well aware that there aren’t a lot of things for sale in the produce section that are ‘Product of Ontario’ this time of year. If you’re lucky you’ll find a few Ontario apples from last fall, though after last year’s spring frost that badly damaged a large percent of Ontario’s apple crop they’ve been harder to find this winter. Otherwise you might be able to scoop some of last year’s garlic harvest or some greenhouse tomatoes or cucumbers. On the whole this time of year though most of the produce that we as Canadians have access to during the winter months is from far and wide across the globe. 

Just because your local fruit and vegetable farmer isn’t necessarily milking cows, collecting eggs or feeding animals day and night doesn’t mean we get to slack off in the winter though – there’s still lots to do on the farm even when we’re not growing delicious fruits and vegetables!

Here are just few of the things we’ve gotten done in our “down time” this winter while we weren’t growing on our farm:

*Cleaning – Winter is a time when we’re able to give things a big thorough going over. From cleaning and organizing workshops, scrubbing ovens in the markets and washing walls and much more – we have time in our off season to be able to check all sorts of cleaning and organizing jobs off our to-do list. Making improvements around the farm to buildings, roads and cleaning up inside and outside all need to be done to keep the farm in tip top shape! 

*Fixing machinery – The guys took apart (and luckily put back together!) tractors and anything else that wasn’t running *just* right. They needed to repair, replace and make sure they’re running smoothly for when we need them the rest of the year.

*Accounting – Definitely not a favourite job on the farm..but to help us farm better we keep full records of what we grew and what we sold so we have a better idea of what we need to grow the next year – plus – we have to submit our taxes (we have to do those too!) sooner rather than later so we can get it out of the way and move on to what we’re really interested in – farming!

*Paperwork – Another low key task that takes up more time than you would believe. From updating staff manuals and training tools to creating new brochures, ensuring we’re up to date with necessary government postings and everything in between – we could probably fill up an entire winter just with catching up on paperwork!

*Planning ahead – We do lots of planning during the winter…from debriefing and talking about our festivals and events, talking about changes we want to make and new ideas we have for the farm – we’re always making lists and plans of things we want to do for the day, the week, the year and beyond.

*More planning – After looking at our records, our field rotations, and figuring out where we’re going to plant what next in future years (yep – we always have to be looking at LEAST a few years ahead!) we can finally order our seeds, containers and any other farming equipment or supplies we might need for the spring, summer and fall. 

*Building things – I’m finally getting new display cupboards in our farm market!!! After ten years of asking for this to be a winter project…I’m so excited that it finally made its way up the winter list and got accomplished! 

*Making syrup – We make lots of maple syrup every spring so this takes up a large portion of our time…from tapping the bush, to boiling the sap and bottling the syrup…and of course our MapleFest – there’s lots for everyone to do!

*Growing as farmers – Every year we attend various conferences throughout Ontario to talk and network with other farmers, learn from experts in the field and learn about everything from new technologies, nematodes or new ways to use marketing – all things we can learn to help make our farm the best it can be! We also attend lots of different meetings, AGM’s, community groups and workshops to learn how our farm can contribute back to the community, events and organizations around us.

Even though it may not seem like it…there’s lots to do on a fruit and vegetable farm when it’s too cold outside to actually grow anything. There is ALWAYS lots to do – and this is only a small portion of the things we’ve been able to get done this winter – our own version of a winter harvest! As always we’ve been super busy getting ready for another summer season…so busy in fact that I think I need a nap just thinking about it. Except that it’s spring – which means that the farm is ACTUALLY getting busy and there is even MORE work to do now!

Next up…planting, picking and preparing – oh my!