There is a season turn turn turn… and just like that Fall is in the air. It’s a difficult shift for many but Mother Nature waits for no one.
Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Corey Ceccolini, farmer and CSA owner/operator extraordinaire. I have been so impressed with the produce that she and her partner Justin have been growing; a visit to check out their acreage was long over due.
After a large welcome from their Great Pyrenees, Moose, we toured the gardens and got to chatting about her season and what was in store in the coming weeks.
Rachael: What does CSA stand for?
Corey: CSA means Community Supported or Shared Agriculture. With a CSA model, shares are purchased by the community ahead of the growing season, allowing the farmer to plan and plant accordingly.
Every week for about 17 weeks in the growing season, the customer receives a basket of a variety of vegetables. Often there is information and recipes included to help you cook what you get.
CSA’s provide local food security, employment, community building and benefits to the environment! Wins all round.
Rachael: How has your season been so far?
Corey: Really great! I’m always amazed at what these plots of land can produce. We grow fresh produce baskets for about 40 families every week. Once everything has been harvested, cleaned and packed, the sheer volume on pickup day is very satisfying. This Spring we dug a pond and added a well for some much needed irrigation which has made a big difference in our crop.
Rachael: 40 families! Wow! That is impressive Corey. Can you share some of your secrets that set you up for success and such a great haul?
Corey: It comes down to planning and hard work. You really have to have a love for it. We are in the midst of our growing and harvesting but are already setting ourselves up for next Spring.
Rachael: You had me at planning and design! Most would think that this is a Winter time activity, curled up by the fire with a seed catalog. What are you doing now to plan for next season?
Corey: Now is when we get to see the planning from last year in action. It’s when we decide what will make the cut for next season. Starting with some of our earliest varieties right through to frost, we allow some of the plants to flower and then produce seed. It’s great for our honey bees and is the basis for our planting next Spring. Right now, broccoli is flowering, beans, peas and tomatoes are all ready to be picked for seed saving. We also have a great crop of buckwheat in flower as a cover crop. Our garlic is drying and 1/3 of that will be planted again for the next growing season.
Rachael: Would you have some tips for people trying this for the first time and perhaps not on this scale?
Corey: I would start with vegetables that are easy to dry, collect and store. Beans are perfect and produce beautiful seed. Plant extra to grow just for seed so you don’t cut into your fresh bean supply. Allow the plants to do their thing, they know what to do. The pod will eventually shrink and the seeds within the beans will bulge. Pick the beans when dry (no dew etc.) and lay them out flat in an area with good air circulation so that mould doesn’t form. The pods will become brittle. That’s when you know they are ready to be shelled. Load them into a basket and some night with a relaxing drink and Netflix you can make great headway!
Rachael: Multitasking at its best, I love it. You are involved in a local seed collective, what is that all about?
Corey: Pictou County Seed Collective is a group of people who love seeds! The power of the seed is amazing. We collect and save seed to trade, build community and to be a resource to one and another. Seed collection is just one piece of the sustainable chain that we all have a role to play in. We have a Facebook group and hold a Seedy Saturday in the Spring that is open to all.