Keep updated on all that is happening around Thiessen Farms!


1 Comment

First Blossoms!

027

The first blossoms of the season opened today – apricots!

Two days ago they were still tight buds, round & plump, but the warm sunshine of the last few days brought them out in a hurry. They are extra special because we thought the cold temperatures in February had killed all the apricots.

It is an exciting time! Each day we can see the crops progressing – growing & developing.

Here are some cherry buds a few days days ago …

010This is what they look like today …

012

Pears …

006

Raspberries …

023

Peaches …

013

The green tips on the peach branch are the leaf buds. On either side of that are the fruit buds. I was not able to get better pictures to show the difference between live & dead fruit buds. Overall the crop looks to be quite variable. Most of the fruit buds on the lower half of the trees are dead. The top part of trees seem to have more live buds. It also varies by variety & age of tree. We’ll have to wait a bit longer yet to get a more accurate sense of what the crop will be.

Blackberries …

011

Blackberries are the bad news story. The canes are all dead! By this time of the season they should be leafing out similar to the raspberries, but there is nothing! We will leave them as is for another week or so, and then cut everything off at the ground. The roots should be alive and will send out new canes, which will bear a crop next year. For this year, there will be no blackberries.

We have a new row of blackberries that was planted last spring. There are a few leaves on those canes, but most of the buds were chewed off by the rabbits over the winter – guess they were really hungry!

In the greenhouse the vegetable & herb plants are growing well.

Tomatoes …

023

And out in the field the garlic is up, and peas & spinach too.

014

Here are some (almost straight) rows of broccoli we transplanted today.

017

Of course Oliver is always “helping“!

017


6 Comments

It was almost on a whim that we began selling our fruit at farmers’ markets 25 years ago.

A small ad in a farm newsletter called for growers willing to sell their produce at a market to be held at Nathan Phillips Square in front of City Hall in downtown Toronto. We decided to try it.

We knew nothing about farmers’ markets – all our fruit was sold wholesale. On that first day, for our first market, the first things we loaded into the truck – the important supplies we were sure to need – were folding lawn chairs & magazines to read. Our set up was an old, wooden peach packing table with a patio umbrella stuck in it for shelter from sun or rain. We guessed at how much fruit we might sell & what size containers to sell it in.

But at the end of that first day our van was empty & our pockets were full. It was a lot of fun & we were hooked!

Fast forward 25 years … We now sell almost all of our fruit & vegetables at farmers’ markets. Our set has grown to 30 feet of tables protected with a large canopy.

markets 004

markets 011

Thanks to careful records & many years of experience, we have a pretty good idea of how much fruit & vegetables to bring for any given market day. We are confident in our product, and in our abilities to sell it. But the goal remains the same – to come home with an empty van & full pockets (it doesn’t always happen). And market is still a lot of fun!

Throughout these years we have been vendors at 9 different markets. We attended our original market at Nathan Phillips Square for 18 years, others for more than 20, and some for only a year or two. Our heyday was the year we did 6 different markets each week.

These last few years we have settled into selling at 3 weekly farmers’ markets – East York & North York (both in Toronto), and downtown Georgetown. These markets together with the CSA form the base of our marketing plan. From May until late October, Amy & Ron are away at market 3 days each week & on the farm the other 3. Lorie stays on the farm all week looking after the CSA & keeping things running smoothly, with the help of some great employees. It’s a rigorous schedule but one that has become routine, and it has worked for us …

… until now. It’s time for a change!

This season we will not be attending the East York Farmers’ Market.

It’s been a difficult decision to come to, and one that we’ve discussed & struggled with over the winter.

The reason for dropping a market is simple – we don’t think there will be enough fruit. This winter was harsh & indications are for a reduced crop. While we won’t know for sure what the crop size will be until blossom time, we have to make preparations in advance. We recall the season of 2012 when most of the blossoms were frozen during an early spring bloom & we struggled to have sufficient fruit to bring to all our markets. It was tiring & ended up making little sense financially. We choose not to repeat this.

Plus, our CSA numbers have increased again this season and we need to have ample fruit for our members. A goal we have been working toward, is to grow our CSA large enough that we can drop one of our Toronto markets. We have been hesitant to do this when the crops are plentiful. This season the decision has almost been made for us.

The reason for dropping East York rather than another market is also simple – it will cause the least disruption to our picking/marketing schedule. As a bonus, it is also the worst of our markets to get to, or rather, to get home from. We find ourselves almost giddy with the prospect of avoiding the Tuesday afternoon drive on the Gardiner Expressway & QEW during rush-hour, especially with the added impact of continuing construction & the Pan Am Games this season. Neither will we miss the 3:30 AM alarm each Tuesday morning.

What we will miss are our friends – both fellow vendors & customers – and after 15 years at East York there are many!

One of the biggest pleasures of  selling at a farmers’ market is getting to know the people who eat our fruit & vegetables … the guy who can hardly wait for the white flesh peaches, the couple needing Damsons for their favourite plum torte recipe, and Lynne who lives for our green zebra tomatoes. We know who always squeezes the peaches, who will try to pick through the heirloom tomatoes looking for all the purple calabash, and who will dare to buy that hefty blue hubbard squash that others only gaze at in awe. Our friends wonder how the crops are coming in, ask if we’ve had enough rain, and worry about the hailstorm they heard about. They tell us how much sweeter the peaches are getting each week, and share a recipe they tried using our eggplant. We’re happy when Peter photographs our tables, satisfied when the discerning chef chooses our fruit for the party he’s catering, and proud that our vegetables will be on morning television with Mairlyn …

We’re going to miss you East York!

markets 008

markets 005

Amy & John (Lorie’s father) all set up & ready for customers.

005

003

001


1 Comment

Happy Easter!

Easter is one of my favourite holidays!

Who wouldn’t love a holiday that includes chocolate animals, coloured eggs, & paska (Easter bread)?

Even better is the celebration of Resurrection & new life.

This is also evident on the farm. After a long, cold winter new life is appearing – slowly, maybe too slowly it seems, but nature cannot be rushed. Perhaps we appreciate it more, having to wait & to search for these first signs of resurrection.

Along the railway tracks the pussy willow catkins are putting on their soft, furry show.

017

The mint has started to pop up in the hoophouse.

025

The weeds are there too. Oliver, hungry for something fresh – as we all are – enjoys snacking on the these first, succulent shoots.

026

Outside in a few sheltered spots, grasses are gradually greening up.

021

And in the gardens, rhubarb has finally appeared …

033

… along with tulips & daffodils.

037

035

Our curly willow by the pond has taken on a greenish tinge. It’s always the first tree to come alive.

022

But in the orchard the buds have not yet moved – no signs of life yet. We’re waiting (im)patiently & expectantly, as we we’re anxious to see how the fruit buds survived the winter.

080

079

It is pruning season and the brush is flying – in the orchards …

076

… and in the raspberry patch.

038

039

The little greenhouse is like a tropical paradise – green, warm, steamy, and smelling like summer. The vegetable seedlings are mostly thriving & growing well. Next week we move over to the big hoophouse and begin transplanting – thousands of tomato plants, broccoli, eggplant, peppers …

045

068

broccoli

062

tomatoes

064

onions

065

Frisco, our own resident Easter bunny! Frisco is dreaming of summer & looking forward to his favourite snack – apricot leaves from the tree that shades his cage.

075

Happy Easter!