growing season

Grow a Farmer (It could be you!)


We're sharing this press release below from ACORN to spread the word about farm apprenticeships starting up soon! It may be freezing drizzling outside (aaaargh) but farmers are planning for the warmer months ahead, and need workers. If learning on a farm has always been a dream of yours, then this could be your growing season. Check out our past post What are your plans for the growing season? for links to other farm internship programs and interviews with people who have worked on farms and have lots of tips for greenhorns.

Deadline Extended for Farm School: March 15th

Applications are available on the program website:

indexEver wondered what ‘farm-school’ would be like? The deadline to apply to the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network’s (ACORN) first organic farmer-training program–the Grow A Farmer Apprenticeship Program– is March 15th! Apply now to secure your farm-placement for the season, beginning in early April 2013.

The Apprenticeship Program is catered to farming-enthusiasts who are keen to participate in an intensive, 7-month program guided by a curriculum communicating the core components of organic agriculture and activities that foster community growth among new and long-standing growers in the region. The program curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including both production techniques for vegetable growing and soil fertility, to broader topics covering the more ideological origins of organic farming and the next steps to take forward as ‘growing farmers.’

For those unable to commit to the full season, summer-term placements are also available from May-August.

“As we see increasing concern about the social and environmental effects of the industrial food system, it seems more people are expressing interest in organic (chemical-free!) farming, or simply, how to grow food for themselves,” says Shannon Jones of Broadfork Farm, NS, one of the ten host-farms participating in the program. “These people are reaching out to long-standing farmers to seek the best type of training they can receive: actual farm experience! This is where the next generation of farmers is coming from–a grassroots movement to apprentice with the people that are doing it, literally from the ground up.”

Considered as a ‘next level’ to more traditional and informal farm-stays, in addition to the curriculum, apprentices will participate in a series of monthly webinars, farm tours, and workshops that will link them to fellow apprentices and new farmers, and the broader group of long-standing organic growers in the region–making ties to potential partnership, land access and future collaborations. Other benefits include free access to major ACORN events, including the annual 3-day organic farming Conference and Trade Show, and the Beginner Farmer Symposium.

The program has been developed in collaboration with a dynamic network of ACORN staff, Maritime organic farmers, government advisors, and resource specialists to create an exciting new initiative that will offer comprehensive education and on-farm training for those keen to participate in the future generation of organic agriculture.

Scholarships are still available to applicants with limited means. ACORN strongly encourages interested participants to apply by March 15th, to secure their placement for the full season! Applications are available on the program website:

About ACORN: Since 2000, ACORN has been the key organization for information on organic agriculture, eating organics, and connecting all the parts together in order to advance the local organic sector in Atlantic Canada.

For inquiries, please contact: Lucia Stephen, Program Coordinator, 506-536-2867 or 1-888-322-2676,



Heat waves and cold snaps


This summer has been something else, hasn't it? My tomatoes are fruiting happily, my zucchini are starting to flower, and even my very-late-started cucumbers look like they might provide me with a few crisp slicers before the frost hits them. It's glorious. However, there's always a price to pay for nice weather. My spring-sown greens - spinach, rapini, arugula and the like - all bolted to high heaven when the hot weather hit. So I missed out on my rapini - one of my very favourite vegetables - again. I've sown some more arugula, and I'll try the rapini and spinach again later this summer for a fall crop. But still, my repeated failure on the rapini front is getting more than a little discouraging. Fall had better be good to me.

I may have had success with my garlic, but of course I can't tell until I dig it up. If it has formed decent-sized bulbs I'll be super impressed, since I don't think I got it in the ground until after Christmas (the recommended time for planting garlic being, oh, around October). Here's the thing, though: if my garlic is ready to come up within the next few weeks, as it looks like it will be, then what am I going to plant in my newly-emptied garlic bed? On one hand, it's exciting to have a bunch of garden space come available., especially now  that almost every corner of my garden is full to capacity. On the other, filling a bed in part shade with something that will be up and out of the ground by the time I have to plant next year's garlic (some time before Christmas this year, fingers crossed) is a lot of pressure. What grows that fast? Radishes and lettuce, I suppose. Nothing wrong with radishes and lettuce.

Just across the yard from my speedy garlic is my very confused broccoli. Actually, it's called purple sprouting broccoli. It's very common in British home gardens, where it is known as one of the few vegetables that grows through the winter to provide fresh eats in the early spring; normally, transplants are planted out in the spring so the plant can grow over the summer. Then the plant stands through the winter and produces lovely purple florets in March and April. Well, I planted mine out in spring, just like it said to on the package. Then the weather got really hot. Then it got really cold. Then it got really hot again, and now my purple sprouting broccoli is sprouting, about eight months ahead of schedule. Did the frost in June convince my purple sprouting broccoli that it had survived a winter? Will my broccoli keep on sprouting into the fall and winter, or will it bolt and fizzle out? And what am I going to eat in March?

Finally, my broad beans (fava beans) are attempting to live again. They flowered spectacularly in the spring, delighting the eye and perfuming the evenings with the most divine scent. I pinched out the young growing tips of each plant and ate them as luscious salad greens. Then it got hot out and almost all the flowers fell off before setting fruit. So for all those lush red blossoms, I'm going to get a handful of beans. Sigh. All hope is not lost, though; pinching out the growing tips has made the bean plants send out side shoots, which means more flowers.  Maybe these ones will have cooler weather when it comes time to set fruit, and I'll have... two handfuls of beans.

Oh, my garden. Confused, off-schedule, and in too deep. But would I have it any other way?

Lazy in the fall, happy in the spring


Last weekend, I had the extreme good pleasure to attend a workshop on extending your growing season. The workshop facilitator was Dan Rubin, a home vegetable gardener who, through tactical use of raised beds, glass panes, and plastic row covers, has grown a whole lot of impressive eats in a location which is, essentially, a salt-lashed, wind-beaten, topsoil-less bit of rock (and I say that with love - I was born there and I adore the place). As the workshop participants wandered Dan's garden, and the garden at Points East Bed and Breakfast next door, we identified the plants which, despite having been left outside for the harsh coastal winter, were doing just fine: kale, huge leeks, sorrel, thyme, Egyptian onions... perhaps not looking quite as lush as they had been in October, but still mighty impressive.

Now, my own garden is also bursting with vegetables that survived the winter, however, in my case, most of the veggies are still there because I did such a miserable job of tidying the garden last year. Because really, aside from putting in a new batch of garlic, I didn't do a thing. Even the garlic I managed to mess up - I don't think I got around to planting it until January some time, so if I get decent heads it will be against all odds (and purely down to my excessive application of compost and prayer... and I'm an atheist, so it's really about the compost...).

I've been picking at the sorrel and the chives for a little bit now, and I ate what was left of the droopy kale. The oregano popped up, and my husband and I were compelled to fire up the grill for our inaugural spring "souvlaki plate" dinner.

And then I found something I hadn't anticipated. In the very messy bed in the front yard, there was this weedy-looking thing that had remained green under all the snow (and under the Christmas tree that we had stylishly discarded on top of it). I didn't give the weedy thing much thought, because I couldn't remember what I had planted there. But then it struck me: arugula! Survivor arugula! Survivorugula!

Sure enough, the weedy-looking stuff was the arugula that I had planted last year and which, in the terrible weather we had, didn't make much of an appearance at all. Here it had been, silently waiting out the cold, and then bursting into leaf as soon as the snow melted. It was tender, sweet, and possibly the most delicious arugula I have ever eaten.

I harvested a bunch of it, along with some sorrel, chives, Egyptian onions, and some lemon thyme (a little leggy from spending the winter in the kitchen window, but still tasty). Then I boiled some new potatoes until they were tender, while sauteeing my harvest with some of the last summer garlic. When the potatoes were done and the greens just wilted, I tossed it all together.

A meal fit for royalty, I tell you!

Since then, I have picked at the arugula a little more - I used some for greens in our burgers last night (along with some fresh herb mayo that I whipped together using some more of the chives and lemon thyme, with a generous grinding of black pepper). It won't last long, I'm sure; apparently overwintered arugula bolts at the slightest provocation. That's okay, though, because I have more arugula coming up in the cold frame to take the place of this stuff. I don't think it could possibly be as lovely, though.

This fall, I will definitely make sure I have some arugula overwintering somewhere in the garden. And I'll write down where I put it, too, so I don't end up wasting precious days asking, "What the heck kind of weedy thing is that?"