June 24, 2019 — "What do farmers do in the winter" is a question likely followed in both popularity and curiosity with "what do farmers do when it rains?" It’s been a wet spring at Ignatius Farm, part of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario, Canada — the wettest that Ignatius Jesuit Centre’s farm manager, Heather Lekx, has seen in her 18 years here. So what does the centre’s dedicated team do? Improvise.
“Farmers are so fussy,” says assistant manager Donald Bowyer, who’s been running scenarios back and forth in his mind, as everything from light trickles to torrential downpours play havoc with the crop plan. When the ground is too wet, planting becomes impossible.
The farm team recently launched this season’s CSA, or community supported agriculture, where subscribers receive a portion of the farm’s seasonal production in exchange for their support of the farm. A group of families eagerly anticipates their weekly baskets of organic vegetables freshly harvested from Ignatius’ fields. When it comes to growing, farmers are also known for making the impossible, possible.
“We’ve been experimenting with planting crops we’d normally have outdoors in our dry, indoor spaces,” says Bowyer. “So, we’ve planted lettuce, radishes and onions around the tomato and cucumber plants in our hoop house. Also, we’ve planted spinach in our standard, three-row practice but hand-seeded two more rows in between so we can grow more food in less space.”
The CSA has been part of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre’s farm since 2001. Ignatius Farm uses organic farming methods and is certified organic through a third party, Ecocert. The result of purchasing a local organic CSA share is more vegetable variety and fresher, more nutrient-rich vegetables.
Despite the difficult weather conditions, the farm team had an assortment of fresh produce timed to ripen for the first CSA share on June 18, and the rest of the fields are displaying the promise of abundant harvests. The strawberries have all set flower, and are just waiting for the heat to kick in and sweeten them.
“It’s been a spring of great flexibility, and a reminder that all good plans are just guides to better implementation,” adds Bowyer. “This year sure is the year of tearing up the plan!”
It isn’t too late to sign up for a CSA share. There are early, mid, and late summer shares as well as winter shares available. Those in the Guelph area (100km west of Toronto) interested in becoming CSA members can drop in, or order online at ignatiusguelph.ca with the shopping cart.
Ignatius Farm expresses the program objectives of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre through organic and relational farming.
Organic farming focuses on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. They build and sustain healthy soil through the use of composts, complex crop rotations, and green manure crops. No synthetic fertilizers or pesticides are used on the farm. Ignatius Farm is certified organic through Ecocert, a third-party international organic certification and accreditation body.
Relational farming focuses on nurturing human-scale economics. You can keep a "zero-mile diet" by going directly to a farm for the food they grow, or by growing your own in a garden plot. Farm staff explains that eating locally and in season does more than reduce the travel distance to food — farms and communities need each other to survive and thrive. In order to make farms and organic food more accessible, they offer opportunities to get involved with farming activities, to sponsor harvest shares and garden plots for families and service agencies, and to be mentored in organic agriculture practices. [Source: Jesuits in Canada]