Spring is just around the corner and we are even more excited for the 2016 season than we have been for any other! Our organic, heirloom produce gardens at Spring Manor are going to be exploding with a bounty of new varietals, and we even planted fruit trees in the fall of 2015. The seeds we saved from last year’s harvest have been waiting for their soil beds to unthaw, and some plants are on their way to the seedling stage even now. Most of the seeds we started with, and continue to discover, are from our friend Linda Crago of Tree and Twig Farm. So, if you haven’t heard of the phrase “heirloom vegetable”, then you need to visit treeandtwig.ca or take a visit to her farm and discover what growing heirlooms is all about.
Here at Spring Manor we love the phrase. To us, it means that we’re doing what we can to ensure our food system maintains its genetic diversity. Linda has been central to the popularity of the heirloom movement here in Niagara and her farm is like a vegetable sanctuary. She’s doing her part to stem the loss of these true, “as nature intended” varieties. Over the last century we’ve lost 90% of them!
Tree and Twig Farm is nine acres along the Welland River in Wellandport and supports the hundreds of heirloom varieties Linda grows every year. She also has a seed catalogue that’s supplemented from growers and savers from around the world. It’s a magical place of rolling hills planted with rows of vegetables of every shape and size, hoop houses filled to the brim with every green imaginable, a handsome pig, dogs, chickens, and a true farmer that’s organic not because it’s trendy, but because that’s the way it should be.
Every trip to Linda’s farm is a learning adventure. She’s an encyclopaedia of knowledge and we love to pick her brain while we’re there. Starting a home garden can be daunting and growing heirlooms isn’t always easy, but Linda is there to offer advice or even welcome you to the farm so you can gain firsthand experience.
What I’m most impressed with is Linda’s vision of how food should be grown and distributed; from the farmer to the consumer. Her CSA (Community Shared or Supported Agriculture) Baskets are just that. For a reasonable cost and a season’s commitment, you can have an overflowing basket of vegetables grown by a farmer (Linda) and sold to the person who is going to eat them (You), delivered to a convenient pick up point. Along with traditional choices, Linda is sure to have something in her basket that’s rare and unusual to the average consumer, and the quality compared to supermarkets isn’t even worth mentioning. The contents change from week to week as different vegetables become available, and you can even try out new recipes for your heirlooms, as Linda posts wonderful ideas on her CSA blog.
If you aren’t quite at the level of starting your garden from seed, Linda has a seedling sale called “Tomato Days” on Victoria Day long weekend, May 21st, 22nd, and 23rd from 8am until 3pm. Spring Manor Bed & Breakfast will be there with bells on, looking for new ideas and who knows, we may bring along some of our fresh baked goods and refreshments to share with our friends. We hope to see you there, and stay tuned for photos of our weekend at the farm.