The Gleaner
Agriculture

So many good things, all in one basket

With summer on the horizon, vegetable baskets are back for another season. In the Valley, there are three farms working with the Family Farmer’s Network (FFN) to provide CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) baskets of produce to members at multiple drop-off points.

The FFN’s focus is to bring farmers and clients as close together as possible. Within the network, many small organic farms participate in selling CSA baskets by subscription. Clients pay a fixed rate for a certain number of vegetable baskets throughout the year. This subscription service is efficient and beneficial to both the farmer and consumer.
One of the farms within the FFN is Les Jardins de la Résistance, located in Ormstown.

Jessica Elwell has been growing produce here for 13 years and has seen the positive effects of the FFN firsthand. “Before we were a part of the FFN, we “ceilinged off” at about 130 baskets. It was really hard for us to get more people, because we were limited in our publicity power.” Being a part of this organization has helped them to expand, since promotion is available through a much larger network.

Les Jardins Glenelm in Elgin has been working with CSA baskets for eight years. Farmer Ian Ward says that “Baskets are the key to small-scale organic farming. We couldn’t have the same diversity, or the same regenerative practices, if we were selling at wholesale prices.” He describes the FFN as a “community of people who are trying things in Quebec and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It’s innovative.”

 

Seedling greenhouses are quickly filling at area market gardens where the summer season is just around the corner. PHOTO Les Jardins Glenelm

 

The third regional farm within the network is Les Jardins d’en Haut in Havelock, run by Mylaine Massicotte who has also been working with CSA baskets for eight years. She explains that “The benefit of having money in advance” by way of subscriptions helps because “we have a lot of expenses to cover,” such as employee pay and the costs associated with growing diverse products over longer terms.

These farms are heavily involved with the community. All three are members of the Coopérative pour l’Agriculture de Proximité Écologique (CAPÉ), which houses the FFN. “Part of their mission is just to spread the word about local organic agriculture and how great it is,” says Elwell. CAPÉ also provides workshops and resources for farmers, and helps with farmland preservation in the face of the urban development boom seen across Quebec right now.

In recent years, there have been quite a few smaller-scale farms popping up, which has a positive effect on the environment. Ward explains that it’s a “way to limit emissions. Cutting out the ridiculous number of miles that [food] travels before reaching your plate is a big part of that. The only reason we have these transportation networks is because of gas.” More food being grown locally means less gas burned.

Ward also mentions that “It’s an honour to earn the trust of our community,” and that this kind of farming makes him “feel really lucky to be able to meet our clients, to be able to know their kids by name, and watch them grow up as they eat the food we’re producing.” Massicotte echoes this sentiment by adding that producers getting to know clients “directly builds community spirit.”

CSA basket subscriptions also have financial benefits. Because subscriptions are paid for at a fixed rate, clients don’t have to be worried about inflation. Elwell explains that “A grocery store depends on a supplier, and how far [the produce is] coming from, and so many factors.” Keeping food affordable is a goal for her: “We really want to keep the food accessible for people. We don’t just want rich people to be able to eat healthy food.”

Massicotte adds that it is also about how the money is spent: “If we consider that 50 per cent of our costs are salaries, that means 50 per cent of the money goes back to people in our community. We create jobs, we buy locally, and we have an impact directly on the economy of the region.”

Basket subscriptions for the 2022 summer season are available now through the fermierdefamille.com website. With COVID restrictions loosening and people traveling more, sales numbers for baskets have recently dropped. But the service tends to be flexible and can work with customers’ summer schedule to ensure that they have fresh, affordable veggies for months to come.

 

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