Hello from all of us at Zephyr Organics! It’s mostly just family at the moment working to get the greenhouses growing to make this season abundant with delicious local veggies. We were slapped with some grim news when all flights became cancelled: most of our labourers come from Jamaica, the same capable, hard-working crew we have hired for season after season. I know many people think, “why not fill the labourer vacancies with all the people out of work in Canada right now?” It sounds perfect, really, but in all honesty these experienced workers from Jamaica are almost impossible to replace in Canada. They have the knowledge of how to work safely & efficiently, the skill to produce quality results, and the work-ethic and stamina to work through those long summer days, planting and watering and weeding and harvesting and packing. They have families they have been supporting on this wage that bests many of the opportunities back home and they make a big sacrifice travelling to Canada to provide that income to help their families thrive. Recently we heard that agriculture workers will indeed be allowed into the country (as producers in horticulture) big and small let out an outcry and a warning of how this will affect the supply of fresh produce on Canadian shelves. They will be doing a 2-week quarantine to make sure they are healthy and ready to work. It takes time to train a skilled agriculture worker, and in our experience, not many Canadians are willing to stick it through the learning curve (and the sore muscles) it takes to get there. Do we hire Canadians? Of course! I am looking for someone to help me harvest and pack for your farm share boxes and we have some driving and office positions already filled, but please- if you have a hearty soul up for a physical challenge, that can transport themselves to the farm, send them our way! (send resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org please)
As we are an essential business (thankful for it!), we are continuing to work hard in the midst of this pandemic. I am getting lots of calls and emails from folks looking to try our winter Farm Shares for the first time or add fruit to their existing deliveries. We are doing our best to accommodate the new wave of people hoping to avoid the grocery store or protect their loved ones. I am very thankful to be in a position to help. It makes me feel I am able to help in a situation that is well beyond my control. You can check out what we have available for delivery right now. We are also stocking up on honey, maple syrup and still have mango preserves and dry beans available to stock your pantries that you can add on to your produce orders. In our efforts to serve you better, we are taking precautions on the farm to keep ourselves and your food safe, including regular disinfecting, wearing gloves and hand washing often, and minimizing our exposure in our own personal lives. The good news is the Covid-19 does not thrive on organic surfaces and food delivery services are safe to use. We are still using extra precautions, as should you! I am quarantining our farm share bins for 2 weeks after collection (the virus is said to be able to survive on plastic for 5 days) and then after this I am using bleach to carefully disinfect them. Your vegetables go through very few hands that are carefully washed and never open to be touched by the public. To be on the safe side, you can gently clean your veggies with a little soap and water . Don’t forget to rinse out the soap! This video is from a whole week ago so the later advise given about social distancing sounds to be more lax than we are now being advised so look for more current advise on this. Your summer shares will go ahead as planned- we will continue to work hard to provide you with safe food close to home, delivered right to your door. While we are a business with expenses of our own, rest assured if your financial situation changes and you are in need of a refund, please reach out to us and we will refund you. You can place your summer Farm Share order with confidence. You have just over a week to enjoy the best pricing (already applied on the website). After that the prices will go up, but new payment options will also be made available for your convenience.
Now to the fun stuff: growing things! I hope you take some time to observe the signs of spring outside. We have spotted many birds like robins returning home. My tulips at home are breaking through the ground. I can’t wait to see them, as they were my keepsake from visiting Holland (don’t worry, this was over a year ago!) :). We started our sweet potato slips in our home, some under the grow lamp and some just in the window sill. Do you want an experiment to keep you busy at home? Ok- it’s a very slow process, but so cool! Check out this video for how to, just remember to use an organic sweet potato because it has not been sprayed with a sprout-retardant. Mine are finally growing some half-decent roots after being starting on Mar 16. The second photo of the sweet potato with roots was taken on Mar 22. Not every sweet potato has rooted at this point but I apparently put them upside down (pointy end down) so I will try a new batch with the pointy end up and see if they sprout faster.
We are already harvesting our first crop of spinach, which will be available for a while. We have many greenhouses planted from the fall. We are simply taking the top leaves off and letting the roots stay and re-grow. When we do bunched spinach later, it takes a lot less time to harvest, wash and pack but the plant will not regrow after that. We had so much fun with the kids showing them how to harvest and teaching them about condensation on the greenhouse walls and how to make it “rain”. Who says the kids aren’t learning while not in school?! I encourage you to get some outdoor education in during our time of social distancing- just keep a good 6 ft space between yourself and others (except your immediate family). Our abundant local trails have been popular of late, but a simple walk down the road in a subdivision will give you the chance to look for new flowers and birds. Some people are even leaving scavenger hunt items like teddy bears in the windows. How cool!
Next up for crops we will have baby bok choy (to be planted by April 1 and ready that same month), followed by radish. They have been sown directly into the ground in the greenhouse and can grow as quickly as 40 days in ideal conditions. Both the radish and bokchoy will tolerate a little frost, which is prefect because most of our greenhouses are not heated, and the temperatures can still get quite chilly at night. All our plant babies (seedlings) are kept in the heated greenhouses as they are more tender.
Other things we are up to- finishing up the pruning of the apple trees. I have learned the hard way that you should always use safety glasses- I am writing this with seriously swollen, sore and light-sensitive eyes, just thankful that my vision is still intact. We are busy doing lots of seeding and ordering new ever-bearing strawberry plants and lots of ’em! With the new plants and some special attention, we are hoping for a great strawberry year.
I mentioned earlier my desire to start a children’s garden and maybe program. I’m sure you can all appreciate with me that this is not the year for that! Who knows when social distancing will end? I am hopeful, but also taking each day and week as it comes. Even our May 30th Open House may go virtual to keep everyone safe. Stay tuned- that decision will be made when we see the state of things in May. What I am going to do is order some chicks this year! I have been wanting chickens for years now and I think this is good timing for it. I am going to be offering -some eggs and whole chickens for sale. Stay tuned and check the website for chicken eggs and later chickens to go on sale!
Stay safe, stay well, and stay home! But don’t forget to connect with others through phone calls, cards, and technology 🙂 We all need some extra love today.
-Jenny & the Zephyr Organics Team