Project Turkey has begun at Rootdown – a.k.a. the six day-old turkey poults arrived in the mail from the hatchery last Tuesday. They are still cute right now, before they turn into awkward and homely turkeys. A few weeks back Simone and Sarah approached Aurélie and I and asked us if we wanted to take on raising some turkeys, with the idea being we would raise one turkey for each of us. All would share in daily turkey chores, but Aurélie and I would be the ones keeping tabs on what the turkeys needed and when and why. We were definitely into it.
Apparently, however, turkeys are very sensitive to temperature and can die if they get too cold, and there are a few diseases that they are prone to catching that can be fatal. They also need to be shown repeatedly where their food and water is in the first few days, as they may not find it on their own and can die of starvation with food right in their pen. Basically, young turkey poults are delicate creatures, and so we decided to get two “insurance turkeys” on top of the four needed for us each to have one by Thanksgiving.
We constructed a small turkey brooder out of cardboard in the corner of what used to be a very well insulated winter chicken house, put in the necessary heat lamps and heaters, and all has been going well so far. Aurélie and I camped out the first night so that we could monitor the temperature and make sure the turkeys survived their first night at least. Since then, we have had some cold nights, and the brooder temperature has dropped down a couple of degrees below what it should have been, but our turkeys seem to be fine, and in fact seem to prefer it a little on the cooler side. They also caught on to eating and drinking quite fast. Must be good genetics. Fingers crossed this keeps up!
On another note entirely, Aurélie and I went down to the lower mainland this weekend past to visit a couple of different farming cooperatives, which I am very interested in. On both we were generously toured around the farms, with our hosts giving us their valuable time in order for us to glean some inspiration from the workings of other farms.
Farming coops or even business partnerships, such as the one between Sarah and Simone at Rootdown, seem to offer many benefits, not least of which is the ability to share the workload inherent in running a business and in farming. Being a small business owner, and a farmer to boot, means small scale organic veggie farmers have a lot on their plates these days. On top of the work needed to grow and harvest the veggies, it all most be sold, your farm must have an attractive logo and online presence, and customers need to be looked after. So why not share some of that with a business partner or other cooperative members?
The first we visited was Glen Valley Organic Farm Co-op, which is a model where about 50 or so members cooperatively own the 50 acres that the farm is on, and there are two independent farm businesses on the farm. It is a beautiful farm on the banks of the Fraser River, in a beautiful area, complete with a wooded area as well as pasture land. The farmers who run the businesses are also members of the coop, and are also the residents and main caretakers of the property and infrastructure. In this way, the land is kept as farmland by caring and concerned citizens, as well as being made more affordable for farmers wishing to make a living running a viable organic farm business. Glen Valley Coop has been operating as an organic farm for over 15 years. Currently the two businesses that are part of Glen Valley Farm Coop are Close to Home Organics, and Pitchfork Organic Farm, although they are accepting applications now for new resident farmers next year…hmmm…tempting.
The other farm we went to was Glorious Organics, which is a cooperatively owned and operated farm in Aldergrove. It was a beautiful farm as well, with many different fields and meandering pathways, lots of native vegetation, and trees. Glorious Organics is the farm business, and it is situated on Fraser Common Farm, a separate housing cooperative that owns the land. Many members of the housing cooperative that live on the farm are not part of Glorious Organics, and some members of Glorious Organics are not part of the housing cooperative. Or at least that was how I understood it. Fraser Common Farm has been cooperatively owned and managed for nearly 40 years, with an organic farm business running successfully since 1986.
Glorious Organics made their name, so to speak, by doing beautiful, high end salad mix. While we, regretfully, did not get to see any of the finished product, we did see their flower greenhouse and area, where much of the flowers and herbs that go into some of their mixes are grown. There were wild roses, chrysanthemums, nasturtiums, borage, annise hyssop, and many more that I can’t remember or couldn’t identify. One of their salad mixes is called the Celebration Salad Mix, and I imagine it does feel celebratory opening that bag of loveliness.
We also visited with my good friend, Teresa, and saw the farm she works on. Zaklan Heritage Farm is a farm run by a young couple on some family land smack in the middle of Surrey! It is amazing – you can’t even tell it is there until you turn down a little dead-end cul-de-sac, and lo and behold, tucked in amongst the suburban neighbourhood of Surrey sits a beautiful mixed vegetable farm, complete with bees, chickens, and a lama named Reverend. And yet when you are on the farm you feel decidedly as though you are, well, on a farm, and can almost forget you are in the middle of the city.
The weekend filled me with inspiration and ideas. It was great to see some interesting cooperative models of farming, meet some friendly and interesting farmers, and geek out on all things farm related. It was a decidedly nerdy weekend, in a very farmy kind of way, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself!