Local Flavour: Seeding good ideas
Real, good, honest food is the motto of Westham Island’s Cropthorne Farm, but it’s not just a sales pitch. It’s a way of life.
Run by sisters Rachel and Lydia Ryall, their knowledge of organic farming is buttressed by two unbroken lines of farmers on either side of the family.
And while the farm isn’t certified organic, it uses all organic practices. They have been recognized for their sustainable farming practices by organizations like Oxfam and UBC Farm.
“It just fits with how we want to grow things,” says Rachel. “We want to grow in the most environmentally responsible way.”
The Ryalls moved from their Ladner farm on 41B Street to 20 hectares off Tamboline Road last May. They plan on using 2.5 acres for farming and two greenhouses.
One of their greenhouses is mobile, which allows for maximum protection of crops during the fragile planting season. When the crops are robust they can be left on their own and the greenhouse moves on to the next patch. And by having 20 hectares they’ll be able to use the land responsibly.
“We don’t grow crops in the same soil every year, which helps prevent disease.”
Right now they’re using one greenhouse to grow arugula, kale, various mustards, six varieties of lettuce, and other greens, mainly for their dinner table. Rachel’s kids love to wander about in the greenhouse and snack on the raw food like potato chips.
This week the Ryalls are seeding for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, whereby Ladnerites and other local residents can purchase 20 weeks of produce at $27.50 per box. That provides between eight to 11 different varieties of fresh, seasonal vegetables every week for five months.
By signing up now the money provides the capital they need to get the seeding done.
“It’s a really labour intensive crop and the seeds are expensive but in the end it’s worth it,” says Rachel.
The first greens to be harvested are usually the salad greens and radishes, but by summer the Ryalls expect to grow between 40 and 50 kinds of vegetables which they’ll sell in Farmers’ Markets and through the CSA. They also plan to have a roadside store by the summer.
For more info visit cropthornefarm.com.
Winter salad greens recipe
Salad greens are one of the items Cropthorne Farm offers in both their summer and winter CSA programs.
Their summer salad green crops are planted outside and their fall and winter salad greens are planted in their hoop house to ensure a constant supply of fresh produce.
Cropthorne Farm's salad green mix is made up of eight to 15 types of leafy greens, depending on the season.
Arugula, mustards, kale, beet greens and heirloom lettuces are among the many varieties in their mix at various times of the year.
Their salad greens can be paired with whatever toppings are in season. In the spring, the Ryalls love to eat them fairly plainly with thinly sliced radishes, sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. In summer the greens are accompanied by multicoloured cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, and olive oil.
In autumn they add grated heirloom beets and carrots and a lemon, cumin and olive oil dressing for a heartier version.
The following is a winter take on Cropthorne Farm's salad greens:
125g Cropthorne Farm salad greens
2/3 cup good feta cheese
1/3 cup olives
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
a drizzle of good quality olive oil
a drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients gently and serve immediately. Walnuts or sunflower seeds are good substitutes for pine nuts if you don't have them on hand.
Salad greens are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.