Stormy weather takes its toll

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June 25th, 2009 by Martin

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Jim sent me an update of the grain today with the photo above. It may be hard to make out, but a combination of wind and rain is starting to flatten the Triticale. Luckily, Jim says the damage is so far modest and the rain is expected to let up later today — let’s hope that happens.

Protected: CSA Members Only: Farm Visit Carpooling

June 18th, 2009 by Admin

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Cedar Isle Farm Visit (Part II)

June 9th, 2009 by Martin

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One of the most significant hurdles we faced in starting this CSA is a lack of grain infrastructure in B.C. (both for cleaning and for milling.) While we were able to take care of the milling side of things by partnering with Anita’s Organic Flour Mill in Chilliwack, we had, until quite recently, still been lacking the capability to adequately clean our grain. Thanks to the arrival of our newly refurbished Kipp Kelly cleaner/dockage tester, however, that issue has now been resolved.

Using $10 of every share from the CSA, we were able to order this prime piece of equipment from Manitoba. It was originally intended for test purposes, so the scale of its cleaning is quite small, but it cleans to a very high standard. We did a test run with a small batch of sprouted grain leftover from last year’s crop to see how it works.

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It’s relatively simple to operate. You turn it on, adjust the knobs to determine how finely it sorts the grain, then pour the grain into the top. The different parts of the grain are then sorted into a variety of trays.

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Here’s a short video of the cleaner in action:

After the cleaner has done its work, you’re left with a pile of nice, clean grain ready for milling, while the leftovers can be fed to the chickens.

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2009 Shares are SOLD OUT

June 7th, 2009 by Admin

We’ve sold out, folks! All 200 shares in the pilot year of the Urban Grains CSA have now been claimed by eager grain-eaters. We are maintaining a waiting list, so if you are still hoping to nab a share please sign up for our mailing list by visiting our  ‘About’ page.

Thanks so much to everyone who has purchased a share this year, and to all of you who are watching the process unfold. We are so excited to have you all involved in this project. Be sure to stay tuned to this website for updates throughout the season. Upcoming things on our agenda include organizing a visit for CSA members to Cedar Isle Farm where we’ll visit our grains, bringing you more information about storing and using your share and coordinating the milling of the flour once it’s been harvested. We’ll keep you up to date on all of it, so keep reading!

Martin + Ayla

Cedar Isle Farm Visit (Part 1)

June 3rd, 2009 by Martin

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It had been awhile since we last visited Jim in Agassiz, so we dropped by on Monday to chat and see first-hand how the grain was progressing. While it’s always a treat to visit Cedar Isle Farm, we were especially antsy to make it out there this time because 1) our new grain cleaner that we purchased with part of the CSA funds arrived 2) Jim warned us that the winter wheat is showing signs of rust (which had us worried) and 3) the weather has been so darned amazing lately that we knew the farm would look absolutely gorgeous (I think that alone is reason enough.) We have much to share from the trip, so we’re going to spread the visit over a number of posts.

First up, the grain.

Jim approached me awhile back with the possibility of getting the UBC Agriculture faculty to plant some grain test plots on his farm. The idea was to see how well certain varieties grow in Agassiz, since many of the “conventional” grain varieties grown in Canada have been bred for the much drier prairies and BC itself has a great deal of variability among its many micro-climates.  We never had time to organize a proper study with the University, but Jim went ahead and planted a few plots himself for comparison.

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Among the grains included are Marquis, Soft White Spring and Hard Red Spring (CDC Go). Just starting to make an appearance out of the ground, it’ll be interesting to see how they all fair by the end of the season.

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After examining the test plots, the first of the grain that Jim took us out to see was the Triticale.

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Compared to the winter wheat planted in the adjacent plot, it grows quite high (around chest height), which makes for a rather picturesque scene as it gently flows in the wind. We were happy to see the crop looking robust and healthy.

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By comparison, winter wheat grows much shorter. You can see the stark contrast between it on the left and the Triticale on the right.

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If you look closely, you’ll notice a yellowish tinge covering parts of the winter wheat. This is what Jim had warned us about before our visit. Commonly called “rust,” it’s a fungus that thrives in damp environments. winter wheat is particularly vulnerable for that reason because it has to overwinter. Although it shouldn’t prove disastrous, there is a chance that the crop’s yield will be significantly reduced as a result (since winter wheat is supposed to account for half of the CSA crop, this is especially worrying.) Jim said he’s hoping the good weather keeps up for most of the summer so the winter wheat can grow through it. We’ll definitely be watching it closely.

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We also checked out the fields at the opposite end of Jim’s farm where the rest of the winter wheat and the more recently planted Hard Red Spring is growing.

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All in all, I think the grain is looking pretty great. While the rust issue is certainly a bit disconcerting, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had initially feared — let’s just keep our fingers crossed for good growing weather throughout the rest of the summer.

(If you’d like to get a better sense of how the grain has progressed, check out our update from last month here.)

Stay tuned for Part 2 when we reveal the fancy new cleaning equipment purchased by the CSA.