A week ago, I was invited to come “help out” at Plan B Organics for the day.
Irene Matys, a foodie friend better known as the Spicy Olive (because of her Cypriot roots!) has volunteered her time on the farm for some time. Knowing what a great place this is, Irene asked a few of her foodie friends to come out and see what this amazing farm was all about!
That morning, I drove to Oakville to meet up with Irene and we picked up Tara Maini (another fellow foodie known as Choperella!) and began our journey…
Before I get into the nitty gritty of farming, let me give you some good info on a great bakery. Tara just started working at this fantastic place in Burlington called Kelly’s, so she brought some goodies along for the ride.
Okay, just look at these incredible morsels…vegan, gluten free, healthy AND totally yummy! If you are ever in the area, you MUST try it out!!
Sorry, sugar makes me digress…
We arrived at the farm first thing in the morning. We meandered through the vegetable patches with Irene where she began to tell us why she loved volunteering here so much.
Then we met Alvaro Venturelli who, with his wife Melanie Golba and his brother Rodrigo Venturelli, run this incredible place.
While working on an urban gardening project in 1996 Alvaro & Melanie came up with the wild idea of starting their own organic CSA farm. They convinced Alvaro’s brother to join in and and in the spring of 1997 Plan B Organic Farms was born! They thought the name “plan b” really conveyed their intention of providing the community with an “alternative” food source to foods produced through “conventional agriculture” aka plan a. In 1998, they moved to a beautiful 50 acre sandy and rocky piece of land in Flamborough Ontario. The first 5 years, the land was worked by hand, where they learned that there was a lot to know about growing vegetables. With the support of family and the local community they made it work.
They continue this work still with this mission in mind:
• Grow delicious, high quality vegetables, herbs, and fruits using certified organic farming methods that are in harmony with our environment.
• Provide freshly harvested, certified organic produce at affordable prices to local households.
• Work in partnership with other local organic farmers to reliably provide our shareholders with the variety of crops that our region offers.
• Create a place where our community can come to learn about organic farming, the source of our food, and the natural cycles of our bioregion.
We met a few of the animals on the farm…like this very kissable Llama…
…and the cutest goat!
Alvaro took us into the forest right beside one of the vegetable patches and showed us the mushroom spores that were producing mushrooms…
The logs were “implanted” with spores where the mushrooms would grow.
He explained that they were almost at the end of their cycle (you can see that this one pictured above is not good).
Here was a picture perfect mushroom…grown safely in a somewhat controlled environment.
Such a beautiful specimen. However, when these are done, Alvaro explained that they would begin cutting the tops of some of the trees so there would be a bit more sun exposure where they would plant hops and use the base of the trees as trellises for the hops to grow on. When that cycle is done, they would open up the tree canopy a bit more to allow more sun in so they could grow something like blueberries.
It is absolutely incredible to listen to such an educated man speak (he speaks at U of T on agricultural issues, amongst other things!) and to hear his logic on using land well and really giving back to the earth…the way nature intended it!
Rows and rows of vegetation…it is in these fields that they create organic products which are raised, grown, stored, and/or processed without the use of synthetically – produced chemicals or fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, or any other pesticides, growth hormones or growth regulators. Only farmers who produce food according to a set of standards, undergo evaluation by other certified growers, and pass a yearly inspection by a trained independent inspector can label their products certified organic.
As we walked through the farm, Alvaro would show us some of the things growing in the fields!
Kale in all it’s glory!
And Irene, so proud of “her” farm!!
It is really something special to see how Alvaro connects with his piece of paradise.
So much to see here, but…
…we came to work, so, work we did!! We weeded a patch of bok choy by hand (which is how they weed most of their plants…done by some amazing workers and many volunteers!).
After weeding, it was nice to look back and see what a difference we made.
Farming is hard work…and that kind of physical work isn’t something that many people are used to doing on a daily basis. These farmers battle the elements and need to be well nourished to do their job well.
So, after our job of weeding was done, we headed to the kitchen to cook up a meal made completely from things produced on the farm!
We went to the cold cellar and grabbed some eggs and some produce that was picked earlier that day…then we headed to the kitchen to get creative!!
Here’s Tara getting her “chop” on!!
We chopped and stirred and mixed and came up with a very quick, very healthy meal for our friends.
And, of course, when you have foodies in the room, there are always photo ops!
We made 3 vegetable frittatas that were served with a cilantro tomato salsa. We made a huge salad with greens just pulled from the ground and finished with a plate full of yellow watermelon, grapes and cantaloupe.
Then, when it was all ready, they all came from the fields to break some bread together.
We sat with everyone and enjoyed the fruits of our labour…literally.
If you have time (and are in the vicinity), pay them a visit. If not, take a look at their website (http://planborganicfarms.ca/)….you will be amazed at how a handful of dedicated people can change how we think about food!