Last winter, as always, we made the rounds of local craft and artisan shows. My husband and I prefer local treasures to mass-produced ones, and we have found some lovely things. Many of the gifts we give to friends and family are also of the hand-crafted, few-of-a-kind variety. Last year, however, we stumbled across something so special it has delighted us for much of this year.
It would be more correct to say we stumbled across someone. Her name is Bailey, and she was selling shares to her farm produce, that we would be able to enjoy the next season. We hadn’t expected to see a farmer at the craft show, but talking to her was fascinating. She was engaging, clearly passionate and knowledgable about her produce. She also raises chickens and presses oils. Her farm is energy efficient to the point where they sell energy back to the grid.
There was, we thought, much to admire about her.
We like to support young entrepreneurs and Bailey is in her early twenties. After some debate, we decided to go for it and it was one of the best decisions we made in 2016. Nearly every weekend for the past few months we have driven to Four B Farms and picked up our basket. Bailey has been most accommodating, adjusting things on weekends when we were away.
There has been so much to enjoy about this adventure. The first is the drive to the farm. We live on the east side of the city and Bailey’s farm is on the west end. We had factored this in when we made the decision but at the time, we didn’t know I would be a student driver myself. This means I haven’t been able to take the highway, which made the drive twice as long.
However, it also made the journey twice as nice, as we have rediscovered the joy of rural roads and small communities.
Then, there is the basket itself. We never know what we’re getting, but the variety and quality has been fantastic. It’s challenged me, sometimes, to find new ways to use produce I’m not as familiar with, but I’m pleased to say we’ve wasted very little. I learned how to make eggplant parmigiana, a tomatillo sauce that is a new favourite in our house, and I even found a way to preserve the hot thai peppers so they are still being used–sparingly, perhaps but then I’ll be appreciating them until the new year, I’m sure.
We’ve had a few rainy Saturdays, and on those days, our produce bag is damp when we bring it home. Bailey has been out in mud to dig our potatoes, onions and carrots, or pick our beans, tomatoes and kale. Knowing this has given me a new appreciation for this gift.
Is it a gift, if we had to pay for it?
I think so. For one thing, we believe we’ve saved money this season, in spite of the challenge of the big purchase back at Christmas when it was a bit tougher to do. We’ve done less impulse shopping, and our trips to the store have resulted in modest purchases. We’ve been more inclined to eat-in because we want to honour the hard work, and this has led to discussions about sustainable practices in other food industries such as wild salmon fishing (for an insightful read on that, I suggest Leslie Leyland Fields book Surviving the Island of Grace).
We have a standing date each weekend, and what started out as a drive to the farm usually results in us spending the entire day together, having brunch, cleaning vegetables and seeking out a new recipe to prepare.
Today for our Thanksgiving dinner, nearly everything accompanying the chicken that will rotisserie on the barbecue is because of this weekend’s basket. We will have an apple and squash soup, brussels sprouts with a cashew cream, roasted beets and beet greens, roasted carrots, a kale slaw, and green beans. I am humbled by this feast–which hardly makes a dent in our basket–and when we say the blessing, offering thanksgiving for the hands that made it–this year, it means even more.
This year, we are especially thankful for Bailey. We are grateful, too, for the old farmers we once took for granted, those who came before her and for young farmers like her who are courageous enough to labour in the fields. Thank you, for your hard work, for sharing your bounty, and for teaching me.
Four B Farms is located 8331 Bleeks Road, Ottawa Ontario Canada.