We’re getting ready to get in the fields

by Jay Reesor

Ever wonder what is on a farmer’s to do list in mid-April? Just in case you’re interested, here is what is on our list for the next few weeks.

This was the winter of flat tires, so we called in the tire repair guys to fix two flats on two different tractors and replace our cultivator’s tires. Then we have to replace the points on some of the cultivator shanks as they are worn out.  Next we have to get the corn planter out and make sure everything is working well to get the seeds planted at just the right depth and properly firmed into the soil. Next priority is to make sure all the oil and filters are changed on the tractors and all of the equipment is greased and ready to go when we get a sunny, dry day.  As well, any day now we need to take the straw off the strawberries with a small tractor and rake and then walk the entire field to touch up any areas that the machine didn’t do well. Yep. It’s going to be a busy few weeks!

I wish each of our readers a wonderful spring season!

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Jay was serving up free coffee at Reesor’s Market & Bakery recent open house.

Ready, set, melt!

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by Jay Reesor

The sap is running, the snow is melting, and the farmers, including Grahame and I, are getting anxious to be out in the fields. It has felt like a long winter and since there have finally been at least a few mild days, many of us are thinking about spring and growing things!

Grahame and I are excited about using some new planting techniques this spring, planting more cover and green manure crops, and trying out a new pumpkin seed to give us a basketball sized pumpkin in early September.

The very first outdoor task for the year will be removing straw from the strawberry plants. Straw has been on the plants all winter long to protect them from those frigid January and February temperatures. Once that job is done, the growing season will begin! So, let’s hope for favourable weather in 2015.

Remember, the best food is the food that you grow yourself. Can you find an area to grow a small garden this year?

Winter. What’s it good for?

by Jay Reesor

At this time of year many of us are already very tired of winter. Perhaps this winter especially, with the extremely cold temperatures and then the awful ice storm and power outages. Unless we are skiers or snowshoe enthusiasts, what is winter good for?

Well on the farm, winter is good for something!  Those very cold temperatures help to destroy plant disease organisms as well as make life very difficult for overwintering insects. Although we obviously cannot be growing things year-round in the fields of southern Ontario, winter is indeed good for something.

But winter won’t be here forever and there are a few signs of spring out here on the farm. The first sign of course is the longer days. Hurray! The second  is the calendar. Because in a few days it will be February and that means time for the maple syrup producers to tap their trees. Now that is a sign of spring for sure and then soon we won’t have to think about winter for a long, long time!

Ready for winter – the strawberries are all tucked in under their straw

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by Jay Reesor

Way back in sunny, warm August our neighbours delivered about 60 giant, round bales of golden straw. We carefully stacked them up and securely covered them to keep them dry. Last week we uncovered those bales and using our 25-year old bale-buster chopped them up and blew them on our rows of hibernating strawberry plants.

Even though it is an old machine it does an amazing job of distributing the straw over the berries. It saves so much work!

The straw  is used to protect the plants from extremely cold conditions and then in the spring it is helpful to deter the weeds and also keep the strawberries clean. This job is really the final thing we do on the farm for the season. Rather sad, but it is cold and it feels like we should be finished!  But, I am already looking forward to the 2014 farming season.

Have a wonderful Christmas and all best wishes to you in the new year.

It’s quieting down on the farm and in the fields

by Jay Reesor

This is the time of year when our farm market gets its hatches battened down and the corn wagons are parked for  the winter.  Our late summer planting of winter cover crops of rye and oats and clover are well established and we can seriously think about the quieter winter months. One of the final late fall jobs is to uncover the big piles of straw in the berry fields and chop the bales over the strawberry plants to protect them from the very cold winter temperatures. That same straw will help keep the weeds controlled, the berries mud free and make it nice for picking next summer. Seems so far away doesn’t it?

I know that each year many of our farm market customers stock up on as much Ontario produce as they can when the market closes at the end of October.  I am pleased that this year we will be offering as long as we can, Ontario fresh and preserved fruits and vegetables at Reesor’s Market & Bakery in Stouffville, so that we can all continue to eat as locally as possible, year-round.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….to eat locally

By Jay Reesor

Late summer and early fall is the time of year when almost every food Ontario has to offer is available.  Locally grown asparagus or rhubarb and many green peas are finished, but virtually everything else is in season. The range includes ever-bearing strawberries, early squash, peaches, field tomatoes, green and yellow beans, sweet corn, red and green peppers, wild blueberries, fall- bearing raspberries, pie pumpkins, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower…. you get the idea.  I am reminded of this bounty every day because the farm market and our store in town are so full!

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I am always inspired by people who recognize that this local food cornucopia will not last all year. They are currently busy freezing sweet corn, canning peaches and making tomato sauce. They know the pleasure of reaching into their home freezer and pulling out a container of their homemade tomato sauce as the basis of a quick and local winter pasta dish. They also know how incomparably superior homemade frozen sweet corn is to the commercially available kind.

What does it take to get started to become one of these local food preservers?  A little extra produce from your garden or market, a little space in the freezer, a new or used poly bag or container, and a little time. That’s it!

To freeze sweet corn some of our customers tell us they always cook a few extra cobs every time they eat sweet corn.  Then they simply slice the kernels off the cob and put them in a bag in the freezer for winter use. Very easy and very tasty come January!  If you’d like a little more information about food preservation, below are a couple of local links.

Have a wonderful fall and eat well!

http://www.foodland.gov.on.ca/english/freezing-on-veg.html

http://chd.region.waterloo.on.ca/en/healthyLivingHealthProtection/resources/Fruit_recipecard.pdf

Young people and that first job on the farm

by Jay Reesor

Every once in awhile, I am asked what I enjoy most about being a farmer. It would make sense that I would respond, I love to watch things grow or I enjoy planting corn, both of which I enjoy. But that is not my answer to that question. What I really enjoy is working with youth. Our farm, market, and store have given me plenty of opportunity to hire and work closely with perhaps hundreds of high school and university students through the years.

Sometimes it’s a young person’s first real job working with us, so they come rather nervous and shy. Sometimes their moms or dads “make” them come to work and they really don’t want to be working. One of the things that we have learned is to make sure that we are dealing directly with the young person, and not their parents. (But on that note, my dad got me one of my first jobs at a golf course.)

I think I am drawn to working with the shy ones ’cause I used to be pretty shy myself and I love to build them up and help them gain confidence. It is remarkable to watch the positive development of youth through their experience at work. To watch them grow from awkward and a little slow to confident and capable is really a privelege! It is also wonderful for me to be in an environment that includes youth. It gives me a window into the challenges that teenagers and young adults face.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to wander through the soybeans and check for pod development and I enjoy seeing my customers select their corn from a giant pile of Gourmet Sweet Corn. But I get a great sense of accomplishment from observing one of our young staff gaining confidence and practical skills on the job.

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Jordan Barkey is one of our summer staff who started last year working in the farm market.  This summer he’s also doing deliveries and selling sweet corn from one of our trucks.

Sweet corn–a sure sign of summer

by Jay Reesor

Every year when it’s time to put up our fresh sweet corn signs, I know that summer is truly here.  Yay! Sweet corn!  Why do so many of us have such a strong love of Zea mays var. Saccharata, the scientific name for sweet corn?

It’s quite simple really. It tastes SO GOOD!  Plus probably many of us have good memories of eating sweet corn as a child. Carefully clearing off row after row, cob after cob of the tender sweet kernels.  And could our early enjoyment of sweet corn possibly be linked to the fact that we were actually encouraged to pick this vegetable up and eat it….using our hands? Maybe turnip would be more popular if it had this eating rule.

Another fun thing about sweet corn is the names of the varieties of sweet corn.  Consider these tasty-sounding names from this year’s Stokes Seed Catalogue:  Luscious, Delectable, Fantastic, Awesome and Gourmet Sweet.  Who wouldn’t want to eat a vegetable with fun and delicious names like these?

This year we have three varieties of sweet corn planted in sequence for harvest between the end of July and the end of September.  Our early corn is called Navajo (an interesting name and a great early corn) and the other varieties are Gourmet Sweet 274 and Gourmet Sweet Awesome.  My personal favourite is the Gourmet Sweet 274. It has large cobs, very tender and is very–delicious!

The sweet corn crop this year looks fabulous, (hey that’d be a great name for a sweet corn variety) so keep the butter handy, the salt close at hand and get the water boiling.

The View from the Farm – What Inspires?

by Jay Reesor

Before we opened our new store late last winter, we went through a significant process to come up with a name for it. After all, it was a new location and we were planning to offer more than what we had offered at the old location, and so Reesor’s Market & Bakery was born.

We also wanted to have a defining catch phrase for our shiny new store. After lots of deliberation and guidance from our friend Leslie Boctor, “Growing and making good food”, came into existence. I really like our new slogan because I believe it describes so well what we do on our farm and in the kitchen and bakery of Reesor’s. It’s even inspired me to create a little jingle to go with the slogan that I sometimes hum while I go about my work.

I am the head grower at the farm with the responsibility to produce the good food in “Growing and making good food.” My staff and I all work very hard at planting, cultivating, weeding, monitoring and caring for all of our crops including strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes and squash. We take pride in producing delicious, nutritious produce that we are proud to offer to our customers.

An example of why I am particularly pleased to call the food we grow “good” this season is the fact that because we have learned to find ways to incorporate more clover into our sweet corn crop rotation we now will have healthier soils to produce healthier crops. That’s pretty exciting and I think helps to make for really “good food”.

It’s interesting how a few words can inspire and “Growing and making good food” has certainly inspired me to continue to search for new ways to make food that nurtures us all.

What words inspire you?

The View from the Farm

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The other evening three generations of my family sat down together at our dinner table. My daughter Jessica and her husband Steve had come home to help plant strawberries. Since they were around it seemed like a great opportunity to have my parents, John and Anna, come for dinner.

We were tired after a long, hot day transplanting strawberry plants. Although three out of four of the tasks to plant strawberries can be done while sitting down on equipment, it is still very tiring, dusty work.

Dinner conversation with my parents turned to what farming was like before the advent of tractors and other implements to help them with their work. Farm tasks were much harder and took a lot longer back in the days of my parents’ youth.  My dad remembers when his father bought their first tractor in the early 1940s. He recalls what a great advancement tractors were because they could plough a field a lot faster than a team of horses.

In the old days it would have taken days and days to hand plant the 10,000 strawberry plants and the 2.5 hectares of sweet corn we had planted earlier.

Today, farmers typically specialize in one or two crops. But in my parents’ day, farmers diversified their harvest, with a variety of crops and livestock to best utilize their resources and the growing season. My mother’s family farmed on Elgin Mills next to what is now Hwy. 404, and raised pigs, chickens, dairy cattle, and they raised sheep to sell the wool. They grew strawberries to pick and sell to the neighbours, and planted crops. I’m sure they were dead tired every night from May till the end of October. Funny, it sounds like my days, even with tractors and implements.  Perhaps the life of a farmer isn’t that much different from generation to generation. Hard work, good weather and good luck are still necessary to have a good crop.

By the way, it isn’t too late to plant a garden for this season.  Turn your gardening aspirations into a reality this year and develop your own connection with the land.  In my opinion, it’s one of the most satisfying things you can do.