The Coop Les Jardins de la Résistance is making it easier for Valley residents to access locally grown organic produce throughout the long cold winter months. As members of the Bio Locaux, a collective of 20 organic farms located throughout Quebec, the Ormstown-based market garden is now offering a winter season of veggie baskets to be picked up at the farm every other Friday starting in mid-November.
“When people ask about what to expect from the winter baskets, I often tell them it is eating just like a farmer, fresh vegetables right out of the cold room all winter,” says Jess Elwell, a long-time member of the Coop. The baskets will contain a large variety of vegetables such as carrots, beets, cabbages, onions, garlic, turnips, rutabaga, and other favourite root vegetables. But they will also include options like apples, apple juice, greens, frozen berries, sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, dry beans, and other goodies. The pick-up will resemble a market stall, with lots of choices built into the baskets. A selection of locally baked bread, eggs and meats will also be available for sale alongside the vegetables. A farmer will also be on hand during the pick-up to talk veggies, recipes or farming in general.
“Providing folks with local organic produce year-round is an ideal that I think all organic farmers strive for,” says Elwell, who suggests the Coop has been wanting to offer winter baskets for years but did not have the capacity as a solitary farm. “Many small organic farms simply don’t have the infrastructure or financial liquidity to do this alone,” she explains, while detailing the draw on space, time, and human resources, it would entail. Not to mention the expense of heating a greenhouse. “In order to do it, we had to pool together our resources and vegetables to meet the demand.”
Enter the Bio Locaux, a collective marketing project born out of the CAPÉ (Coopérative pour l’agriculture de proximité écologique), which brings together Quebec organic farmers to promote organic farming in the local economy, to educate the public about local organic agriculture and to give farmers better access to tools, resources, and information. “As a cooperative farm ourselves, we were already familiar with the idea of individuals working collectively to accomplish bigger and better things, and so naturally the business model attracted us,” Elwell says while admitting the opportunity to work with other farmers around the province is also a big perk.
A significant driving factor for the Coop in extending their season through the winter was to see the service extended to the Valley. “Even though we are a community of farmers, rural people often do not have adequate access to affordable, local, organic produce,” Elwell laments. The majority of organic produce sitting on grocery store shelves has travelled extended distances and, as Elwell points out, the standards for certification and working conditions “can be questionable.”
A winter basket allows customers to support the local economy directly and is one way to foster community and combat the isolation rural communities can experience in the winter. “Gathering together with farmers and other folks to exchange recipes, talk about the weather or laugh at bad vegetable jokes is a great way to get through the long, cold winter.”