Our path towards farming has been windy and unpredictable. Each fall, when it comes time to plant garlic for the following year’s crop, we have had an idea for a different farm project that wasn’t confirmed yet. Every time, we’ve taken a leap of faith and planted our garlic, not knowing whether we would be there the next summer to harvest it. And each spring, we have followed our fate to that garlic patch, and another adventure.
In the fall of 2010, we planted a tiny amount of garlic (50 cloves – ha!) at our friend Kelly’s garden near Wakefield. Brad and I were still at our desk jobs, in the process of selling our city home, and ready for a major life change. Kelly’s invitation to grow at her garden plot had been tempting us for awhile. We took the plunge, left our jobs the next spring, and moved to Wakefield. Brad worked full time as an intern at Juniper Farm while we started our own half-acre market garden with our friends. We ran a small CSA program where our 21 share holders got 2 bulbs of garlic each for the whole season. It was a good start.
In fall 2011, Brad and I were looking for a bigger piece of land where we could try scaling up to a more viable farm business. An opportunity arose in Chelsea, and before we had signed any other paperwork, we agreed to plant garlic there. We worked out the details over the winter, and in 2012 we ran a 2-acre farm in Chelsea with 50 CSA shares and several thousand garlic bulbs.
Our good friend Lana stopped by on a cross-Canada tour to spend a week with us harvesting garlic in July; in her words, she will never look at garlic the same way again. My parents came in August to help with the birth of our baby, and we spent many evenings watching the Olympics and cleaning garlic in our living room, waiting impatiently for the new arrival.
By that fall, we were busy with a newborn and still looking for a long-term farmland arrangement. Not ready to start a third business in a third year, we found part-time work at Just Food in Ottawa. We helped to get their new farm up and running in the Greenbelt, including their Start-Up Farm Program that supports other new farmers in establishing their own enterprise. One of the perks of working for a farm program is – you guessed it! – a small plot of land to grow your garlic on. Given the total lack of attention and giant thistles our garlic encountered in 2013, the harvest was miraculous. Being in withdrawal from growing our own crops, the garlic was a comforting reminder that we could, and would, do it again.
In 2013, we started to consider a plot of land near Smiths Falls that Brad’s parents owned. We’d never thought about it seriously as a farm option because of the shallow soil and poor drainage. Brad put a lot of research into finding creative ways to make it work, and with his dad’s help we got garlic into the ground. By now we had figured out that the garlic was leading us. Sure enough, a funding proposal was approved the next February, we started construction in the spring, and moved to Bluegrass Farm in July. The garlic harvest was small this year, but is an important part of our inaugural winter CSA.
This fall, we reached a milestone: planting our garlic in the same place for a second year in a row. We know we are going to be here next year, working with an amazing team of family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. We are excited for a second year in the same place, growing our business, working with the land, and building community. As we planted our garlic recently, I thought about how garlic brought us here, and now we are putting roots down in this soil along with it.