The Community in Community Supported Agriculture

Many people don’t realize that for farmers, production begins in December. While most of my friends are shopping for Christmas gifts and celebrating the holidays, I am pouring over my notes from the previous season to decide which crops were well-loved by customers, had a good vase life, long stems, and provided the best colours, textures and perfumes to make it onto the following year’s seed order list. Some tried and true flowers I will even purchase in December. But come January 2nd the online flower seed shopping arena is a battle of the fittest — one in which only those with a well-organized and executed plan come out on top. The last few years I had my list organized alphabetically, and the minute online seed shops opened I was a mouse clicking machine! Despite my wicked finger clicking skills however, every year by the time I make it to checkout someone else has gotten there before me and I receive the groan-worthy message when I try to pay: “this item has sold out and has been removed from your shopping cart.” It is always seeds that are in high demand, and I always kick myself for not splitting my order up into smaller groups that I pay for along the way even if it means that I have to pay more in shipping just to make sure I score the seeds I most want to grow.

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This year I developed a new strategy: Organize my seed order list with the seeds I couldn’t do without at the top, divide my order in two, and have someone (in this case it was my dear mother) help me with placing the order. She had her list. I had mine. When the shop opened we both went into a clicking frenzy, calling out whenever we finished ordering something and cheering for each variety successfully added to the order. This year my strategy worked pretty well. I only had two things removed from my card at checkout! It wasn’t perfect. I’m still waiting for Floret to restock the things I didn’t manage to score the first round, and that means more shipping, but I got most of what I wanted and I’m looking forward to another bountiful season overflowing with swoon-worthy flowers to use in my arrangements and bouquets in 2019.

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By the end of January I have spent a pretty penny on seeds. It is expected, but it leaves the barrel pretty empty at a time of year when I have almost nothing to sell. By February I am beginning to organize my seed-starting plan and budget for seed-starting soil, trays, and heating for the greenhouse. Especially on Prince Edward Island, my seeds need to be started and grown in heated greenhouse space from the end of March through the middle of June. Once we are finally past last frost I have to prep my field. This means doing soil tests to see what my soil needs to yield a healthy harvest this season, purchasing and spreading compost and any other soil amendments that are needed, transplanting my babies out into their new beds, and then babying them with row cover and water and whatever else they need until they are strong enough to stand on their own stems (with netting support!)

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Bulbs like narcissus begin to bloom some time in June and, depending on the year, can bloom into early July. A few perennials like lilacs start blooming in early summer too. But unless we have an unusually warm spring (which has not been the case the past couple of years) my seeds often don’t start blooming in any great quantity until mid July. This means that I have been investing in my crops for over six months before I begin to see any return on my investment. Why am I sharing all of this? Because I want to communicate what you, my customers are investing in when you purchase your Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share in December, January or February. The idea behind a CSA is that customers are invited to invest early so that the farmer has the income necessary to be able to invest in seeds, compost, heat, irrigation, and everything else that guarantees that you receive gorgeous flowers come summer. Your early investment makes a world of difference in the quality and health of the flowers I am growing for you.

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I am very excited to be embarking on my 3rd season of growing at the Mount Continuing Care Community this spring. In 2018 you told me that you loved my Sweet Peas, so this season I am going to attempt two rounds of sweet peas: one in the spring and a second in the fall. The Foxgloves (one of my all-time favourites) and Icelandic Poppies were also a hit at the farmer’s market, so there will be more of those beauties this season, as well as my old faithfuls, Zinnias and Snapdragons. A couple things did not make the cut this season. While Cerinthe has always been a favourite of mine in bouquets, it did not hold up well in market bouquets last season, so I have decided that until I am doing more design work in air-conditioned spaces I am going to have to put that beauty on hold. Another flower that did not make the cut this year unfortunately is Stock. I love love love this flower, but we have been having some super cold springs that then turn into super hot, dry summers overnight, and this past season my Stock sat in the garden all summer taking up valuable space and doing very little, and then burst into bloom in the fall. I may give it another go in the future, but given our long, bitterly cold springs lately, it won’t be for a while.

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There are a number of flowers I have never grown before that I am going to give a try this season, like Geum, Astrantia, Sicilian Honey Lily, Tuberose and a variety of Gladiolus that I have fallen in love with this winter in California (I had never been much of a fan before). I look forward to receiving your thoughts and feedback on my selection this season!

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I will be selling at the Saturday Charlottetown Farmers’ Market for you to pick up individual bouquets, but if you are at all intrigued by the idea of pre-ordering and receiving a weekly CSA bouquet this season (or gifting one to someone else) I hope you will hop on over to my shop and place your order now. A few good reasons for joining my CSA:

*CSA bouquets are larger and fuller than market bouquets. More bounty for your table or desk!
*My CSA customers are guaranteed flowers every week (I will not sell that gorgeous bouquet to someone else before you arrive at the market)
*Starting this year, CSA customers will receive early-bird discounts on Christmas wreaths and design workshops
*CSA customers are the first to receive news on upcoming seasonal floral events and workshops
*CSA customers can pick up their bouquets at the Saturday Farmers’ Market or from convenient downtown locations during the week

All that to say that I hope you will join me! If you have any questions feel free to shoot me a message via my contact form

Wishing you all a great weekend!

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