Asparagus in its Golden Spears…

We started planting aspagus several years ago and it is starting to really come into its own! Young asparagus takes a while to expand into a bed and build up a large healthy crown. First years of harvesting are light, as you let the plants keep a lot of their energy to grow and invest in future years. Our patch is just reaching full maturity this year and will soon be entering its golden years. That means we will have 7+ weeks of harvesting and heavier yields than we have had to date. It also means the patch is peaking over the next several years, after which we will slowly see some of it start to decline in areas that have heavy weed pressure. Hopefully the golden years last a good long time!

Asparagus Fronds in the Summer

We love asparagus, as it is one of the first green vegetables available in the spring and has a sweet and earthy flavour that is unique among vegetables. Some of our favourite ways to use it are grilled or sauted with a bit of garlic and oil or butter. It goes particularily well with toasted sesame seed oil. Wrapped in bacon and grilled, it is divine… It is also yummy pickled, in omlettes and frittatas, in pastas and pureed in soup. We make sure to put away a few pounds every year to make into rich creamy soups over winter.

Bunching the Harvest

Come on out to the farm to grab some asparagus during open hours or purchase our products through Eat Local Grey Bruce, Glencolton Farm Store, and Side Road Farm Store. If you are looking for a bulk order, reach out ahead of time to make sure we have supply and to check on wholesale pricing.

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Horsepower at the Farm

It has been years coming and there have been some bumps along the road, but horses have finally arrived at Fair Fields.  Devan has wanted to work with horses since he did an internship at Orchard Hill Farm, near Sparta Ontario, about 20 years ago.  Horses help reduce fossil fuel use on farms, provide a fertility source through their manure and are a joy to work with.  Before having horses at the farm, we wanted to build some housing for them, start our main business and start to get equipement.  It took time…

About 5 years ago, we had our first opportunity to bring draft power onto the farm.  Our neighbour Don had a team of young haflingers (smaller draft horses) and he offered to let us drive a manure spreader with them, spreading composted manure in our strawberry ground for the following year.  It was going great till we neared the end of the task.  Stopping to fill up the spreader with another load, the team spooked and charged off down the lane.  They had many choices of where to go, but decided to charge straight at our car.  The horses were fine, if a little shock up, the car was totalled.  Nicole saw the whole event from the kitchen window, our daughter Fiona was born the next day…  Not the auspicious beginning we were hoping for!

After a few more years gathering equipment, finishing off the barn (mostly) and regaining our confidence we feel ready to try again.  Our neighbour, Don, sold his farm last year and generously gave us his team of Clydesdale mares, Alberta (Bert for short) and Bonnie.  Bert is the boss and fairly steady. Bonnie is full of energy and curiousity. They are middle aged, fairly calm and steady, and have already worked on Amish and Mennonite farms in the area.  We have had them since mid-summer and have been finishing off their stable, getting pastures into shape and getting them used to us and the farm.  During a brief snowy and wintery spell recently (there haven’t been many this winter) we got out with them and drove a sleigh around the field with the family.  It was a beautiful afternoon and everyone was excited and relieved to be out there and have them working, even the horses.

A Great Day!

Over this year we will slowly get used to working with them at a variety of tasks, from ploughing and cultivating, to cutting hay and weeding in between our crops.  We are happy to be slowly moving away from tractors and generating more of our own manure compost.  Eventually we hope to offer wagon and sleigh rides, use them for logging in our woodlot and maybe even breed Bert, to have a foal to raise up to be part of the team.

We’ll keep you posted on how it all goes…

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U-pick and pre-picked strawberries

Strawberry Fields Opening!

 2023 Season:
Starting June 14th, we will be open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 am – 7:30 pm, as production lasts.  We expect production to continue through the first whole week of July.

Please check ahead for availability and picking conditions.  If you would like to get on our pre-picked order list, call 519-665-7982 or email me at devanpenney@gmail.com

For more information on u-pick, go to our u-pick page (Link here) 

Hope to see you in the patch!

Devan

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The Season Has Begun!

Our asparagus is coming up, the rhubarb is growing fast, and we are planting strawberries; spring has sprung at Fair Fields.  Despite that wacky warm week at the beginning of April, the last couple of weeks have been wet and cool, so we are a little bit behind in our first offerings.  Nonetheless, we expect to have both asparagus and rhubarb for sale at the farm starting Wednesday, May 17th and strawberries by mid-June.
Like last year, we will be open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 am – 7:30 pm.
We will post on facebook.com/fairfieldsorganics and update voicemail at (519) 665-7982, if we have a lull in production and are running out of produce.

 

We hope to have a more consistent supply of corn this year.  Our ground preparation is better, and we are starting more seedlings in the greenhouse to try and start with a bang!  We have also learned our lesson on using old seeds, don’t do it!  Corn germination is a little more finicky, especially in organic production, so it is good to have new seeds and plant lots of it…

 

We are slowly expanding our tree fruit offerings this year.  Last year was our first successful tree fruit year, with apples and some pears surprising us in their abundance.  Our first trees are old enough, and my dad, Donald, has been caring for them well, so the trees are starting to bear fruit!  We have also planted plums, cherries and smattering of others that will hopefully produce fruit in the next few years.  Check-in with us closer to late summer to see how this year’s crop is shaping up.

 

This spring, we will also plant a few short rows of July raspberries and haskaps, as a trial to see if there is enough demand to add those to our list of fruit.   For those who haven’t heard of them, haskaps are a great northern fruit, native to Canada and very productive and winter hearty.  They are packed with antioxidants and have a flavour somewhere between a blueberry and a mild currant.

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Losing a Friend

We have some sad news to share.  Our dog, Lewis, passed away suddenly last week.  At eight and a half years old, he was getting on for a big dog, but he was still full of life, chasing animals, running through the woods and exited whenever anybody arrived at the farm.  He had been with us at Fair Fields almost since the beginning and he was very much a part of our family and the farm.  A little bit of a rascal at points, his biggest faults were probably being too curious and too friendly… that and eating the occasional chicken…!  His presence is sorely missed.  We buried him at the back of the property, so his body and spirit will continue to be part of the place for years to come.

Lewis, we love and miss you,

Your family

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Corn Is Here!

Our first planting of our early variety, Solstice, is in full production right now.  A smaller bi-colour variety (think peaches and cream), it has a nice delicate sweet flavour.  As the season continues, we should have 5 more varieties, Natural Sweet, Natural Bright, Allure, Enchanted, and Mirage.  We love the names…

We have been eating it grilled, boiled, in tacos, risotto, pasta salad, you name it.  In the case of Fiona, our daughter, even raw off the cob! (We don’t recommend this as too much can upset the stomach…)

Corn will be available Wednesday through Sunday at the farm as supplies last.  If we run out, we will post on facebook.com/fairfieldsorganics/ and voicemail.  Call 519-665-7982 or email devanpenney@gmail.com, ahead of time for bulk orders.

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Strawberries are done, corn is just around the corner

STRAWBERRIES

Our strawberry season was a little early this year, which caught us completely by surprise.  With the cold winter and late spring, we expected to not be picking till the third week of June, but we started doing our first major picking by June 9th.  The weather was fairly good to us, with no late frosts or prolonged heat waves and lots of dry picking conditions.  We had many happy u-pickers through the patch, more than ever before.

Our one challenge this year was pest and disease pressure.  Our mid-season varieties got hit fairly hard by verticillium wilt, a fungal disease that becomes obvious the week before the berries are ready…  It was a little heartbreaking to see large parts of the patch wither and die, just before we were starting to pick them.  We will be changing some of our practices to try to avoid this wilt in the future, however, a big contributing factor was the damp cool weather we had last summer through till Christmas, not something we could have done anything about.  Our late-season varieties had a lot of insect pressure, leading to scarring on the fruits that deform them and make them leathery and bitter.  Thankfully our earliest variety was a powerhouse and carried on producing for 2.5 weeks!

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SWEET CORN

The next crop we will have available is sweet corn, hopefully by the last week of July.  It is looking very nice and our first variety, Solstice, has small cobs fattening up as we speak!  As with our strawberries, we will be open for sales to the public from Wednesday through Sunday 9:30 am till 7:30 pm, as supplies last.  If we are out, we will update on Facebook and voicemail.

Our price is $7 for 6, $12 for a dozen, or $10.50 per dozen if you buy 5 dozen or more.
We take cash, cheque (made out to Devan Penney) or eTransfer (send to devanpenney@gmail.com).  The price may seem high to some, but growing sweet corn at this latitude organically is challenging.  When you buy certified organic sweet corn from us, you know you are not getting any GMOs, insecticides, seed treatments, or chemical fertilizers, used heavily on most conventional corn on the market.  It is also picked fresh, so it is sweet and tender whenever you come by.

Thanks for a great season thus far, we hope to see you out for sweet corn shortly,

Devan and the team at Fair Fields

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U-pick and Pre-picked strawberries ready for the season

Out with the old… in with the new!

Our asparagus season was short and sweet.  We harvested for about 4 weeks and enjoyed some lovely spears.  Now it is time to leave our young patch to store up energy and grow for future years.  Asparagus is a hearty perennial that takes about 4-5 years to start producing fully.  Our patch is 1-2 years old, depending on the row, so it has a little while to go before it is mature and pumping it out.  We expect next year we will have a season closer to 6 weeks long and 7-8 weeks the year after that.

Just in time, the strawberries are rushing to take the asparagus’ place!  We have started pulling out a few quarts for the family this week but expect them to start producing in earnest next week.  We have moved ahead our official opening day for U-pick and Pre-picked strawberries, Saturday, June 11.  Starting on June 15, we will be open Wednesday through Sunday 9:30 am – 7:30 pm, as production lasts.  We expect production should continue through the first full week of July.

Please check ahead for availability and picking conditions.  If you would like to get on our pre-picked order list, call 519-665-7982 or email me at devanpenney@gmail.com

For more information on u-pick, go to our u-pick page (Link here)

Hope to see you in the patch!

Devan

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Open for Asparagus and Rhubarb!

Hello fellow farmers and eaters,

Our asparagus and rhubarb decided to come out of hiding in a big way this week… The old winter to summer in 6 days or less trick!

We currently have a lot of asparagus for sale and more and more rhubarb as the days go by. Both the asparagus and rhubarb are available pre-picked Wednesday through Sunday 9:30 am to 7:30 pm, or by appointment. The rhubarb is also available for u-pick (by appointment only). We expect to have them both for 4 weeks or more.

The pricing is as follows:

Pricing

Asparagus

$7.50 for 1 bunch (1 lb.) $30.00 for 5 bunches

Rhubarb

$3.50 u-pick
$7 per bunch (about 1.6 lbs.)

Please inquire about wholesale pricing for large orders. Yeah warm dry weather!
Devan

Contact:
devanpenney@gmail.com

(519) 665-7982

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Is it Spring yet?

Asparagus and rhubarb will be available by the second week of May

As I set up to write a spring post for the website, I can’t help but ask myself, is it spring yet?  Last year this time, we were about 3 weeks ahead of where we are now.  We had started working the soil, had finished planting our strawberries and asparagus and had even started harvesting asparagus and rhubarb.  This year, we have barely been able to get into the fields and there isn’t a single asparagus spear to be found!

 

In the past we have lamented about mild winters and how they have allowed pests to overwinter and become a real problem.  While we always wish for a long cold winter, to kill pests and replenish ground water, we are happy for it to be over.  We are hoping the weather turns soon, as we have strawberry crowns to get in the ground, field work to do and weeds to take care of (they don’t seem to mind the cold as much…).

We are excited for our asparagus this spring.  With last year’s planting, we are up to a little under an acre of production, enough for us for the foreseeable future.  Though still young, our crowns should produce a lot more this year, allowing us to offer 3 weeks of sales and hopefully enjoy some more ourselves… mmm…  We expect to have asparagus by the second week of May.

Our rhubarb will also be available by the second week of May.  Like asparagus, rhubarb is an early season perennial and we always find it to be a treat.  Nicole makes great drinks with rhubarb, from iced tea, juice and cordial, to some truly wonderful cocktails!  I love to use it in baking, oatmeal and brewing beer, I make a refreshing rhubarb saison.  One thing we would like to try this year is roasting it.  We had it at a restaurant last season and it was special.  Interest in rhubarb has grown in recent years, enough so that we are thinking of doing a large second planting for next spring.  Let us know if you need more rhubarb in your life.

Our strawberry patch is looking good this year.  One variety didn’t do as well, however, we have more than doubled the size of our patch, so we should have enough sweet berries to meet demand this year.  We also have a little farm celebrity here at Fair Fields.  Our youngest, Fiona, is being featured, along with the strawberries, in the June edition of Chirp, an educational magazine geared at 3–6 year-olds. We hope the fame doesn’t get to her as she is not yet in Kindergarden!

We have two wonderful staff members joining us again this year.  Daniel Parrish and my uncle Jim Penney are both back for the season.  Daniel worked part time with us last season and has stepped up to the full-time full season position.  He has an incredible attitude, positive, keen and eager, and is a real pleasure to have around.  Jim brings his many years of agricultural experience as well as his knowledge of this land and our operation.  We are lucky to have a great team again for 2022!

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Last year we successfully completed our organic certification process.  We are now certified organic with Ecocert Canada.  All of our crops, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, sweet corn, pumpkins and hay are all now certified and will be moving ahead.  We see certification as a minimum standard, one which leaves plenty of room to go further, and we will continue to do just that, as we try to make our operation and the food we grow more and more sustainable.

 

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Hope to see you in the patch,

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