Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Yarrow Ecovillage Community Farm is organizing a good old-fashioned Barn Raising!


The Community Farm at Yarrow Ecovillage leases land to farmers who are committed to growing organic produce for sale around the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland. If you are signed up for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Harvest Box program, then all the produce you eat this summer will be grown by Yarrow Ecovillage Community Farmers!

One thing the farmers at Yarrow Ecovillage are without is a barn. They have no dry place to store their equipment, cure their garlic, or pack their produce. The Community Farm also needs a barn to host local food and agriculture events, such as gardening workshops, local food dinners, and of course, barn dances!

In the past, when a barn was needed, communities came together in a fun and frantic weekend to build it. Now, you can take part in a barn raising yourself. All people, young and old, are invited to participate – the handiest people will be given the difficult jobs, and children and anyone uncomfortable with a hammer can pick fresh vegetables from the farm, and prepare a lunch for the crew. Since very few people nowadays have the skills required to build a timber frame barn from scratch, we will be buying a Gambrel barn kit, which will have all of the lumber cut to size and the holes pre-drilled.

So how can you take part? Well, before the actual barn raising, the Yarrow Ecovillage Community Farmers need to do some barn fundraising. They will be launching a peerbackers.com campaign from April 21st to May 31st. Anyone who donates, even if it is just one penny, will be invited to take part in the barn raising fun. Those who donate more are eligible for all sorts of amazing rewards, such as organic produce, an invitation to a pumpkin picking party, or a fancy local food dinner for two. To donate and take part in this project, go to peerbackers.com/projects/community-barn-raising.

Thanks for your Support!

All the Farmers here At YECFarm

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

"When an egg is not an egg… it’s an uovo"

In a few short weeks your CSA will begin and with it the option to buy some organically raised, nutritionally dense, flavorful ‘uovos.’ And behind every uovo, there’s a story. 
Some years ago I was ill with the flu and didn’t pick up eggs from a local farmer.  My wife Janet picked up some eggs from a local grocery store.  When we went to make eggs for breakfast, up from the frying pan came the distinct, unmistakable, nose pinching odor of rancid fish. It was awful. We ditched the egg into the dog dish and tried again. 
And up from the pan rose the rancid smell of long dead fish… once again. The dog dish received the unwelcome culinary failure a second time.  And a third. All six eggs were consigned to the dog dish and the dog reluctantly ate them and burped and farted for about four hours.
I was furious. I grew up on a caged layer operation and I knew that a poor quality fish oil was used in the “get it as cheap as you can” layer ration used to feed chickens in a caged layer operation. This Canadian Food Inspection Agency approved feed supplement was putrid. I decided that very day, that nature’s perfect protein deserved better. And so began the journey to raise chickens with consideration and create a taste sensation we call, “the Uovo.”


                We use a standard brown layer chicken that we raise ourselves as day old chicks. The birds are bedded on two layer s of woodchips and shavings that are then topped with coffee bran that is recycled from local coffee roasters. The coffee bran when ingested doesn’t ‘gum up’ the gastrointestinal tract of the baby chicks like sawdust does.
There is only one breed of chicken that was developed in Canada. Father >>> of Oka Quebec *the same place that developed gourmet cheeses we still enjoy). Father /// was concerned that Canadian farmers didn’t have a chicken that was thrifty, laid lots of eggs, was dual purpose and could withstand the harsh winters of Canada.
The Chantecler was the fruit of his diligent efforts to create a bird for Quebec farmers struggling to provide for their families. We are in the process of trying to secure some White Chantecler chicks to see if we can use them for uovo production. Stay tuned.


                We use an 11 grain, certified organic feed produced by our good friends at In Season Farms. Most caged layer birds are fed a two or four grain feed mix (soya-corn, or soya wheat and a vitamin mineral premix). Even organic layer rations produced by the large feed companies simply use the same feed formula, the just use organic soy, corn and wheat. We believe the 11 grain feed is the foundation for flavor in our uovos.
Then, and in addition to the great feed, we feed our birds salvaged organic bread,  salvaged organic dairy products, craft beer brew mash (barley, wheat, oats)and restaurant kitchen refuse like squash, kale stems, carrot tops and celery butts.
Spring, Summer and Fall we believe our birds have access to about 130 different items for feed.  In the winter, that is curtailed –dandelions don’t bloom in January. The feed is free choice. The birds choose what they want to eat on any given day.

Seasons and Size

                We notice subtle changes to our eggs as the seasons change. Eggs in May when fresh greens are lush with chlorophyll will give you a darker yoke, than say an uovo laid in December.  A chicken that prefers worms to dandelions will have a slightly lighter yoke, than a chicken that’s crazy about chickweed.
A chicken will begin laying at about 20 weeks and will produce several ‘small’ or peewee eggs. In my culinary tradition, these eggs were prized for making egg noodles: lots of yolk, and a lot less white. The French call this egg poulet.
Then as the bird matures it will lay medium sized eggs and finally the grade ‘a’ large that is most common. Older birds will lay extra large eggs.
If you happen to buy a dozen eggs from the local supermarket and notice a bright, almost exotic orange yoke, in all likelihood you are eating an egg that has had a dye added to the feed to make it look more ‘natural.’ Our birds are never fed dyes of any kind!


                I recently completed a workshop for the Certified Organic Association of B.C. annual convention. In that workshop I had an item in my presentation I called, ‘lies I’ve been sincerely told.’
I’ve been told that chickens do not modify their food, and yet I’ve seen our birds dip a leaf of hay in yogurt, and slurp it down like spaghetti. Go figure.
I’ve been told that chickens only eat grain, and yet I’ve seen them attack mice and eat them.
Last year we raised fodder beets and fed them successfully to the birds. Greens and roots. Beets have a naturally occurring enzyme called bentolain: it’s found in cranberries and rhubarb as well. This enzyme makes our cells ‘slippery’ to bacteria and enables our bodies to eliminate bacteria or yeast that cause infections. I have not used any antibiotics on our birds, ever. Beets give them an immune boost in winter when cool temperatures and humidity make for long winter nights.
I wonder if this nutrition is detectable in the eggs. Don’t know, but I wonder.
A lot has been written about omega 3s. After my experience with fishy eggs… I’m a little averse to feeding my birds fish for the omega oils. I’ve discovered a herb that has 11-17 times as much omega 3 as flax and the birds love it. I had it as a weed in my garden last year, this year I’m intentionally growing it.

And the result is

                We think we’ve got the tastiest egg in B.C. We believe the proof of our husbandry is in the flavor of a fresh egg, one of nature’s perfect foods.
 The hubris of an industrialized agriculture unconcerned for the well-being of animal, or the nutritional quality of their husbandry has left us alienated from the very food we eat. And that food is often a degraded, genetically modified tasteless shadow of the goodness Creation has to offer.
With your participation we want to be a part of returning to a harmony with Creation and the good food it provides. Our motto is ‘fresh from the soil, food for the soul. Thanks for joining us on this journey that we trust will nourish your body and soul. 

Walter Bergen
Six Masters Farm, Chilliwack BC
April 2012-04-16

Sunday, 15 April 2012

First Transplants of the Season!

I was so excited to be transplanting our first crops of the season the other day. Our Frilly Kale, Black Kale, and Collard transplants were ready to go out into the field. And seeing as how it was a lovely cloudy day we knew the timing was right. Also, I was given a really neat wooden dibbler (a hole maker for planting transplants) from a friend of mine at the village (thanks Ann!), and couldn't wait to try it out. It handled like a dream!

Transplanting crops from the greenhouse to the field is one of those daunting joys of mine. Its a little nerve racking making sure that the timing is just right (that they are not too big or too small), ensuring that they are transplanted on a cool, cloudy day (evening is best), and that they are going to get some rain in the days after they are planted. But at the same time, its so satisfying putting those little guys in the field, and knowing I gave them the best start that I possibly could (they are spoiled in the greenhouse, and get plenty of compost tea). And so off they go, out into the great wide fields to start little lives of their own, and thrive on all the nutrients we have prepared for them. Its like having children: caring for them when their young, and then sending them off into the great wide world and hoping that you gave them enough to ensure that they can make it on their own.

As well, hardening off transplants (slowly acclimatising them to the "outdoor" weather) can be a risky business. Our greenhouse is designed to harden off transplants as they are growing. They "grow up" getting lots of sun, and plenty of wind and cool outside air. Which makes this process pretty easy for us.

I love my little seedlings, and it shows in the mature plants that they become. We will be sending thousands of little seedlings out into the great wide feilds this year, and cant wait to share their abundance with you!

Shauna Gavigan