A CSA with Unique Historical Roots
We all want (our kids) to eat more veggies... maybe you need to introduce them to a unique-looking kohlrabi and all the other seasonal veggies that come in a weekly CSA box. If you love the thought of eating more locally grown food and really knowing where your food comes from, signing up for a CSA share for the summer is a great start. Phil and Heather Seutter of Feather & Hill Farm have the privilege of farming on land that's been in Phil's family for generations. Read on to learn more about why they do it and how you can get to know them better (and note: they offer more than just vegetables!). Be sure to follow on Social media too if that's your thing; the photos Heather takes of her garden veggies and farm experiences are works of art and need to be made into a calendar and/or art cards...
Laura: What is the nature of your farm? Can you tell a bit of the story about how you started?
Heather: We are a small family market garden located just southeast of Edmonton. We are big on community, growing vegetables and flowers mainly for our CSA program. This will be our third year growing for our CSA. The interest in market gardening began when we bought land close to the city nearly 5 years ago. A love for growing and preserving food was something I’d grown up with and couldn’t imagine not having a big garden! The idea to begin a CSA was gradually born out of a passion for growing, eating and sharing nutritious food and wanting to supplement our family’s income after recently becoming a new mom. It’s been a good marriage of doing something I love and allowing me to work with my kiddos at my side, not to say that hasn’t gone without it’s own set of challenges. It is a lifestyle we value for our boys and ourselves; it has been so great for them to spend so much time outside learning about nature and their food. Additionally, giving credit where it’s due, Sarah Preston of Bumble Beets Farm was integral in giving me the confidence I needed in starting a CSA. She graciously let me spend time with her in her garden where I riddled her with questions. I’m grateful to her and appreciate when farmers help farmers grow better as we work hard to offer our communities better local food options.
Laura: What have you found to be a surprising blessing/perk of having this farm/CSA?
Heather: Having CSA members out to the garden whether it’s for a vegetable box pick up or just a visit has been such a joy! Many families with kids will come out and it’s fun to see them experience farm life, helping dig potatoes and tasting fresh-picked peas off the vine. Parents have told me their kids started eating so many more vegetables after farm visits because they were excited about seeing how it grows and where it came from.
Laura: Which gardening zone would be your ideal if you had a choice (it’s ok if you wouldn’t change a thing- gardening in zone 3 keeps life challenging and interesting?)
Heather: I am definitely a seasons kind of girl. I need the downtime in the winter to re-charge and do other things that I enjoy. Truthfully though, I’d likely choose something like a zone 5 or 6. It'd be nice to have a bit more of an extended growing season on both ends and overwinter some lavender!
Laura: What is one interesting/unique thing people would be surprised to know about you/your farm?
Heather: The land we grow on has been in my husband’s family since the late 1800’s. It was primarily a dairy farm and the old barn still stands! A really cool thing about the history of the farm is for years it was a big community garden for many newcomers to the Edmonton area. Families would grow root vegetables to get them through the winter. I still meet people occasionally who remember coming out to the farm when they were younger to help with big harvests.
My husband’s family now raises elk on the farm which some may find interesting! We sell pasture-raised elk meat through our CSA or on it’s own and to some local restaurants.
Laura: This may be a leading question, but ‘why do you think it is important that people “support local” with their food choices’? What is the benefit?
Heather: Some of the primary benefits of "eating local" include superior nutrition and flavour, earth care, growing community while building connections to local farmers, and supporting the local economy. I believe the nutritional benefits alone are vast in eating food grown locally, especially when particular attention is given to plant and soil health. Vegetables begin to lose nutrients shortly after they’re picked, so fresh, local, and in-season really is best, not to mention it tastes great! As relationships with local farmers increase, there is greater transparency in how food is grown or raised, and that's something, in my opinion, worth caring about. It can certainly be a challenge to exclusively eat local, but small intentional changes make a big impact. The average North American meal has travelled further than most go on vacation, typically thousands of miles. Eating local has a ripple effect of benefits with the opportunity to essentially cast a vote, creating demand and declaring our values every time we eat!
Laura: How do you find time to rest during the busy summer months? What does your family enjoy about summer in the Edmonton area?
Heather: It can be a challenge to get away from the farm for more than a few days during the growing season and my husband, Phil, works in civil construction so summer is the busiest season for both of us. We have prioritized carving out time to rest during those busy months even when to to-do lists seem to pile up. Day trips to nearby lakes with friends or short camping trips have been great. We love hiking and absolutely love exploring the Whitemud Ravine right in the heart of Edmonton! We’re learning we really don’t always have to go far to get a break from the busy rhythms of life.
Laura: How can people best follow you/contact you to learn more about your farm/ How can people get involved/sign-up for a CSA share?
Heather: To find out more information and sign up for our CSA visit www.featherandhillfarm.com
You can also shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org