Thiessen Farms

Keep updated on all that is happening around Thiessen Farms!


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Cauliflower is big news!

I have never been a fan of cauliflower.

There are enough other vegetables that both look better & taste better, that I will gladly skip the cauliflower in favour of … almost anything. (though as an excuse to enjoy a rich, creamy, delicious cheese sauce, it is acceptable!)

So the ridiculously high price of cauliflower in the grocery stores this winter does not affect me. I would not be purchasing it anyways. A combination of the low Canadian dollar & a shortage due to difficult weather conditions in the southern US where it is grown have resulted in heads of cauliflower costing up to $8. And while other vegetables & fruit have also increased in price, cauliflower is the one that’s making the news. It seems every news source in the country has been talking about it. Even the New York Times had an article on the high price of cauliflower in Canada.

I have never been a fan of cauliflower – and so we have never grown it.

Then last summer I decided to give it a try. While not my vegetable of choice, many of our CSA customers have requested it, and since we like to try something new each season … It was almost a success. The plants, which we grew from seed, started off great. Then frost got most of them, and we sort of ignored the few that remained. Later, when we searched through the weeds, we found some very nice heads of cauliflower – small but clean & white. And they tasted great!

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This season we’ll be growing cauliflower again – enough for our CSA, and enough for me too.

I’m now a fan of cauliflower!

What else will we be growing for our CSA program? Here’s a reminder from last season …

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 We are now accepting applications for CSA 2016.


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Thiessen Farms – our new look!

My father used to remind me to finish up the fall farm work and have the orchards “put to bed” for winter by the end of November – because freeze-up usually happened the first week of December. Any job not completed by then might have to wait until spring.

But not this year!

Here we are in the 3rd week of December & it feels much like October. We have only had a few nights with frost all fall. The temperature almost reached 20 C last week!

That’s great because we have had much to do on the farm this fall. It was a lot of work to cut down our fruit trees & clean them up & burn them (cherry, plum & pear branches were saved for firewood). Do you have any idea how many roots sweet cherry trees have?!! We cultivated the ground & picked up roots several times, then plowed the soil & picked up roots again. But I know we will still be finding roots for a few years. More cultivating & discing was necessary to get the ground level & smoothed so we can plant vegetables in spring. Then we spread manure & lightly worked it in. Finally a layer of leaves & grass clippings was spread over everything to try & cover the soil. We did all this on about half of the farm.

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We really don’t like leaving the soil exposed over the winter – the winter winds cause erosion & blow our soil to the neighbours. However by the time we were finished everything, it was too late to seed a cover crop to protect the soil through the winter.

On the other part of the farm we only removed the trees – no cultivation or plowing. We won’t need this ground for early planting so we can prepare it in the spring. This allowed us to leave the grass & mulch that were already there from when it was orchard and will prevent soil erosion over the winter.

 

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We left 4 rows of trees spaced throughout the farm. The purpose of these trees is to be windbreaks for the vegetables. These will be removed once better & more permanent windbreaks are established. Because I don’t intend to prune or spray these 4 rows, we probably cannot expect to harvest any quality fruit from them.

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The farm looks totally different now from what it has looked like for the past 65 … years.

It’s going to take some getting used to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Changes

Our farm used to be totally surrounded by fruit farms. Everything was orchards – fruit trees in every direction, as far as the eye could see.

While the neighbourhood is still primarily fruit orchards, things are changing …

On 2 sides of us the farms are now planted to strawberries. Beyond the strawberries we see can fields of gladioli & soybeans and a large nut grove. Visible in the other direction through the peach trees is a spread of greenhouses.

Our farm has also changed. We too used to be all fruit trees. Then we planted some raspberries & blackberries. Slowly we added vegetables to sell at our farmers’ markets and through our CSA program. Earlier this summer we talked about cutting down our cherry trees. (http://thiessenfarms.com/2015/08/31/csa-2015-week-14/)

They’re all gone!

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Now we have made an even bigger change. All of our fruit trees are gone! No more peaches, no more plums, or pears, nectarines … (actually there are a few cherries still in front of the barn for separation from the road and a few rows of trees throughout the farm for windbreaks – but they will be replaced soon.)

 

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Getting out of fruit-growing is a big decision. Our family has been growing fruit on this farm for 68 years. We have always thought of ourselves as fruit farmers. But now it is time for a change – now we are vegetable growers (with raspberries & blackberries)!

From a marketing perspective, growing both fruit & vegetables is great. At the farmers’ markets we were able to extend our season with an abundant display. Our CSA program attracted more members since we have been the only local CSA offering fruit along with the vegetables.

But from a growing point of view, doing both fruit & vegetables together is difficult. We often feel we are not doing either as well as we would like – one was sometimes neglected to work on the other.

We are looking forward to concentrating our time & energies on vegetables. There are kinds we have wanted to grow but did not have the space to try – now we have lots of room available! We won’t have to cram them all together so close, which should make weeding easier & less onerous (or so we’re telling ourselves).

I am especially excited to park the sprayer – we are planning to grow our vegetables without pesticides, something we could not do with fruit. Our fertility will continue to be mostly supplied by manure & compost. With more land available, we will increase our use of cover crops, green manures & crop rotation. Our goal is to raise healthy, delicious vegetables for us & our customers!

Another big change will be our labour force. For more than 45 years we have employed offshore workers from Mexico during the growing along with Canadian workers, mostly students. Next season we will only be using local workers. We have had some really great students throughout the years & are optimistic we’ll continue to find willing & capable workers. Anyone looking for work next summer!?

These are exciting times at Thiessen Farms – exciting and a bit scary too! Change always is. But we are optimistic for the future & looking forward to our new venture. We hope you come along with us!

Already the first seed catalogue came in the mail the other day. So many things to grow, new vegetables to try …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Good bye farmers’ markets!

This past Thursday was our last market day for the season – and what a day it was!

Mel Lastman Square in North York is usually a windy spot, but this week was extreme. With a wind warning in the forecast we knew better than to put up our canopy even though we needed protection from a few lingering showers – leftovers from Wednesday’s heavy rains. Fortunately the day was mild (12 C) & the showers were over by daybreak. Then the winds whipped up & the temperatures dropped …

We set out a lean market display. Hot peppers, walnuts & mini calico corn stayed in the van. We knew they would blow away. Squash, cabbage & pears were weighty enough to withstand the gusts! No signs or pricecards, recipe booklets or anything that could not be secured.

But sales were good! Many of our regulars braved the gales to purchase that last basket of pears or stock up on squash.  Some came just to say good-bye, wish us a good winter, and thank us for coming to Toronto with our produce. We even sold out of hot peppers & walnuts!

Our final Saturday market in Georgetown the other week was also marked by extreme weather – snowflurries & sub-zero temperatures. That day it was the lettuce that couldn’t be put out on the table, for fear it would freeze! (That actually happened a few years ago when freezing temperatures turned our lettuce black right on the table!)

Now that markets are over, we will miss our fellow vendors & our customers. What we won’t miss is the 3:30 AM alarm, loading & unloading the truck, the highway traffic …

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Setting up in the dark at North York – a few weeks ago.

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Our market season began in spring with uncertainty. We decided to drop 1 market, anticipating a smaller fruit crop due to damage from the cold winter. It proved to be the right choice. Our crops were indeed lighter & we would not have had enough fruit for all the markets & our CSA.

But overall we had a great market season. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Strong sales – our sales were up over the previous year. Vendors at other markets also reported increased sales.
  • Flavour – week after week our customers raved about the outstanding taste of the fruit & vegetables this season. We are thankful for lots of sunshine & timely rains on the farm which were the main factors responsible for this great flavour.
  • Good weather – while showers & rain were in the forecast many market days, the precipitation often waited until we were driving home. There was very little rain during market hours.
  • Safety – we are very thankful for a safe & accident-free summer on the roads, at the market & at home on the farm.
  • Great customers – we have so many regular customers who support the markets and all the vendors each week. Your appreciation & encouragement make the markets worthwhile and the comments & critiques make us better growers.

Thanks for a great market season! 

See you in spring!

 

 

 

 

 


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CSA 2015 – Final Week!

Our last big crop of the season is squash & pumpkins. Most of them are now in bins in the barn & ready for selling – and eating!

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This year we grew about 30 varieties of squash & pumpkins. We choose as many colours & shapes as possible to make for an eye-catching display at market. And of course flavour is very important! There isn’t enough space on our farm to grow a lot of any of these – just enough for CSA & our farmers’ markets.

Here are pictures & descriptions of most of them. (The same gourds are in each picture to give some idea of the relative size of each squash.)

Butternut – everyone’s favourite squash. Rich orange flesh with a nutty flavour. We grew 5 different kinds of butternut – various sizes.

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Black Futsu -bright orange flesh with the flavour of hazelnuts.

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Sunshine – a beautiful, bright orange squash (inside & out) with a sweet & somewhat dry texture. Sunshine are great for pies, baking & mashing.

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Blue Hubbard (heirloom) – an old variety that is large, yellow-fleshed, somewhat dry, and not too sweet.

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Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato (heirloom) – a small, sweet, tasty, acorn squash.

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Jarrahdale (heirloom) – a beautiful, slate-grey, high quality, delicious pumpkin.

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Long Island Cheese (heirloom) – tasty pumpkin that looks like a wheel of cheese.

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Boston Marrow (heirloom) – large, dry & sweet, with good flavour.

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North Georgia Candy Roaster (heirloom) – a long, banana shaped squash with sweet, orange flesh.

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Moranga (heirloom) – a pink to salmon coloured squash from Brazil used to make a traditional “camaraona moranga” or shrimp in a squash.

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Tetsukabuto – deep yellow flesh with a sweet, nutty flavour & smooth texture.

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Stripetti – a spaghetti/sweet potato cross. The flesh is stringy like spaghetti! More flavour than a plain spaghetti squash.

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Australian Butter (heirloom) – beautiful, peach coloured squash from Australia with good flavour.

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Musquee de Provence (French heirloom) – The flesh is deep orange, rich & moderately sweet. The outside turns a rich brown colour as it ages.

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Red Warty Thing or Victor (heirloom) – gorgeous, red-orange, large squash covered in bumps.

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Galeux d’Eysines (heirloom) – commonly called “peanut” squash. A pale pink squash covered in warts or peanuts, & used for soup in France.

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Porcelain Doll – a pink pumpkin used for pies, soups …

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Sweet Dumpling – small, individual sized squash with very sweet, moist, yellow flesh.

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Mini-squashHoneynut (mini butternut), Gold Nugget (mini orange hubbard) & Shokichi Shiro (mini kabocha).

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Assorted small pumpkins

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What’s in the box?

Squash, Bosc pears, tomatoes, sweet peppers.

extras – hot peppers & Bartlett pears.

  • Your choice of a few squashes this week! Not all the varieties listed above will be available – but there will be a good selection! Squash can be stored for a few weeks & up to several months for some kinds. It is important to keep them dry & cool. The easiest method (& our favourite way) to prepare squash is to slice it in half, scoop out the seeds and bake it – usually at 350 C. until it is soft when poked with a fork (approx. 45 minutes to an hour depending on size). Bake it cut side up or cut side down – it really doesn’t matter. Then scrape the flesh out of the skin, mash & enjoy. You can add brown sugar or maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter squash, or just salt & pepper.
  • The Bosc pears in your box are still very hard & green. They will take more than a week or 2 to ripen. Bosc are at their peak for eating when they begin to turn a golden brown colour. If kept refrigerated, they will last until Christmas.
  • Tomatoes & sweet peppers are coming to an end along with the CSA. Enjoy the last of them!
  • There are still hot peppers available.
  • So many of you have said how delicious the Bartlett pears are. Grab another basket if you want more. Eat them now while you wait for your Bosc pears to ripen.

This is the final week of our CSA for this season!

Thank you to all our members for being a part of this adventure in fresh eating! We hope you enjoyed all the vegetables & fruit. 

See you next year! 


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CSA 2015 – Week 17

The season is coming to an end.

The orchards are empty – all the trees are picked.

Many of the vegetables fields are empty too.

Our last workers are leaving this week – one going home to Mexico, and one going to work at a greenhouse operation for a few months.

Our CSA program is wrapping up – only 1 more week after this one.

But the season is not completely finished.

While the orchards are empty, the cold storage is full of pears to be packed.

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We are still picking some vegetables – tomatoes (mostly just some small cherries), eggplant (though the plants are going downhill fast), kale (still going strong), peppers (both sweet & hot continue to slowly ripen), and maybe some lettuce (here’s hoping the last planting will mature in time & still taste good). But our ambition & enthusiasm for harvesting is fading as fast (or faster) than the plants.

The squash & pumpkins are picked, but mostly still curing out in the fields & waiting to be hauled into the barn.

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We washed the last of the gourds today – it’s time for fall decorating! Our market displays are very colourful this time of the year.

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Although the CSA is finishing, but the farmers’ markets continue – one closes after Thanksgiving & the other goes right until the end of October.

Our days begin a little later now as the sun is slower to rise in the morning. It sure was beautiful this morning!

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What’s in the box?

Squash, tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic, kale, Bartlett pears.

extras – hot peppers.

  • The first taste of squash will be in your box this week. Next week’s newsletter will have pictures & descriptions of the many kinds we grow. Some will be familiar & others are less common.
  • The cooler weather on the weekend immediately slowed down the ripening of the tomatoes & peppers. Enjoy them, as they are coming to an end.
  • Another garlic bulb is part of your share this week. We have all the garlic trimmed & cleaned. Now we have to count out enough for planting & then we can see if there will be more for CSA next week or not?
  • Kale is one crop that likes the cooler fall weather. It gets sweeter as the weather gets colder!
  • Can you guess that there is an abundance of Bartlett pears this year! Your box will include another basket this week. They will be greener & will last longer – especially if stored in the fridge.
  • A selection of hot peppers will again be available for those who enjoy them.

Here are a few pictures of last week’s CSA pick-up …

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Only 1 more week left for CSA 2015!

 


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CSA 2015 – Week 16

The rain on the weekend was very welcome!

Things were quite dry on our farm, and the trees & vegetables were looking a bit weary after the heat of the previous weeks. However, 2 days of rain perked them up & freshened up the entire farm (including weeds).

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But it certainly looks like fall here.

Many of our tomatoes – especially the heirlooms – are brown & dying back. Other, like these cherry tomatoes are growing wild & unruly and still pumping out the fruit.

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There is only 1 row of peaches yet to be harvested.

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Some years when it is cool, these later peaches have little colour, and a dry texture. This season thanks to all that warmth we have had, they are colourful & flavourful – sweet & juicy!

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The Bosc pears are still on the trees & will be picked this week.

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A new planting of kale ready to be cut.

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What’s in the box?

Green beans, cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, Bartlett pears, Seckel pears.

Extras – peaches, hot peppers.

  • A late summer planting has produced a bounty of beautiful green beans. We had some at dinner today & they taste wonderful!
  • The cabbage that looked so good the other week is being eaten rapidly by … ? Good thing we planted lots – there will be enough for our CSA boxes this week!

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It may be the light green, tender, early cabbage that we had a few weeks ago, or the darker green, more robust late cabbage. Then there are some “conehead” cabbages – something new for us this season – that are round at the bottom & pointy on top.

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  • Sweet peppers & tomatoes continue to be a part of your share, though perhaps in smaller quantities.
  • It’s fall – pear season! This week there will again be 2 kinds of pears – Bartletts & the little Seckel “lunchbox” pears. A reminder again that pears can change from almost ripe to overripe very quickly. Store them in the fridge. One way to use very ripe pears is to make pear sauce – just like applesauce, but made with pears! Peel, chop, cook, add some sugar & mush them up. It’s easy & delicious!
  • An extra this week – peaches. There will be some #2 grade peaches available for those who want that final taste of summer!

After this week, there will be 2 more weeks in our CSA program for 2015!

Here’s what to expect in your box these final 2 weeks – garlic, pears, squash, sweet peppers, tomatoes, kale …

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