Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Swing of Summer!

Wow, it has been a very long time since we posted anything on here... Sorry! We have Spring and Summer have been so incredibly busy, that we've hardly had a minute to sit back and reflect on it all. We just wanted to let you know that we are alive, very well and excited to now be at the pinnacle of harvest, reaping the abundance of our toils and ready to share with you all. We have been busy processing herbs, jams, jellies and other preserves for our pantry and yours. And as always, we use as many ingredients grown here on our farm as possible. The first round of honey harvest is wrapped up and there are many, many jars and pails of fresh, raw honey available for sale. The bees definitely worked their magic this season and provided us with a big harvest of that liquid gold. So thankful for that. The cows are all calved out for the most part, short of 2 of our lowline angus who were bred way later, so we are patiently awaiting their arrival. The calves are all very healthy, especially because the pastures have never looked lusher than this year with all the rain we've had. That made haying more than a bit challenging, but we finally (as of last week) managed to put up all the hay we need for winter.

Anyways, it is another day of harvest, so I better get back out there. We'll try to do a better job of keeping you all in the loop as to what's shakin' out here at Fresh Roots Farm. Oh ya, and if anyone out there is interested in coming out for a visit (working or otherwise), please get in touch with us. We love hosting.

All the best!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Spring (has sprung a leak)?

Our snowy little abode in late March
It is day two since the Equinox and while the calender indicates it is officially Spring, there are no signs of Winter's passing yet. Contrarily, I look outside and see small frozen mountains of snow nestled up against the hedges, house and outbuildings from one of the multitudes of winds we've endured this season. When you think about it, the first snow came along in early November and has not abated  since. In fact, I heard somewhere that we got upwards of 6 feet of total snowfall this year - that's a lot of snow! It has made many aspects of maintaining the farm more challenging these past few months, especially on the cattle side of things.

Just the other day when going out to feed the cows, I had to borrow the tractor-snowblower from Michelle's dad, Fraser (yet again), just to clear the road through the pasture enough to put out some bales. By the time i finished blowing snow, went in for a quick lunch and returned to put out some hay bales, it was almost as if i hadn't blown the snow at all, with snow quickly filling the voids. The winds and drifting action have been incredible this year! And it seems to be blowing from all directions, so snow has accumulated in every nook and cranny possible. The massive amounts of snow coupled with the general shortages of hay have forced us away from our bale grazing regimen as well. However, overall, we are impressed with how the cattle look, all things considered. One has to be willing and ready to adapt and change things up, if necessary, out here. The cows made it through a really tough winter and are looking forward to fresh grass and the first signs of spring as much as all of us. Afterall, they are very close to calving (3rd week in April), so some warmer weather would be welcomed! Soon enough.
Luring out the ladies with hay.     
Having a slurp of water.

Temporarily cleared of snow!

Before i gripe about these snowy climes much more, I need to acknowledge that we REALLY need the moisture it represents once it thaws. Last year's drought took a major toll on the water table, the pastures and hayland. It will be very nice to see the creeks and rivers fill up and the the wonderful ways in which the land can truly spring back into shape with a dose of the right medicine. Here's hoping it melts at a slow enough rate that the much of the moisture stays here rather than quickly over-swelling our rivers and flooding our friends and counterparts to the north and east!

Beehives enveloped in snow
One area where the snow has actually helped our cause is with respect to our the apiary. Our bee-hives are buried under about 5 feet of snowdrift. They are actually very content this way, especially with a long, cold winter like this one. The snow acts as an immense coat of insulation. And it is porous enough for them to breathe through. In fact, the heat the bees give off forms a little cave near their entrances where they can continue hauling out the less fortunate (ie. dead ones) and allow for more airflow. That said, looks like it is time for me to dig them out very soon here, as the forecast finally looks to be such that they might be able to get out for a cleansing flight and take a their first crap in several months! That will feel nice, I'm sure.

We've got big plans cooking up for the looming spring. Michelle has been busy planting seeds for the veggie side of the farm, I have been searching for some bred heifers and a bull to expand and introduce some new genetics into our cattle herd and polishing off my maple sugaring gear. We officially have 8 inch high tomato plants along with a bounty of herbs, onions and other wonders quickly growing, awaiting the transfer from the house to the warm embrace of real sun in the greenhouse. As you can see in the pictures, there is a ton of snow out there snugged up to the greenhouses! For local people, we still have a few spots left in our CSA program, so let us know if you or someone you know might be interested. For everyone else, we have big plans for delivering delicious food to you with our diverse other product line, so stay tuned.

Well, time to stop procrastinating, get the shovel out and liberate that greenhouse! Here's hoping for a windless week so i don't have to do it all over again sooner than later. Thanks so much for your ongoing support and we look forward to hearing from you soon. All the best from us to you this spring!
So much snow!!
A cross-section of of our winter
Merle guarding the greenhouse

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Now taking interest for 2013 CSA veggie delivery program!

The time has come, everyone - Troy and I are now officially putting the call out for new members of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) vegetable home delivery program for 2013! As we start our first seedlings this week (yay!) we also need to find out how many customers we will be looking to supply with delicious fresh, local produce this year.

We are the only people offering this unique food delivery program in our area (between Cartwright and Pilot Mound, MB), which was very popular last year! There are limited spots, and we will take interest by first come, first serve. There are only 2 weeks left to take advantage of Early Bird pricing (before the end of February).

Click here to find out more about this year's CSA program, and contact us to register or ask us questions:
Fresh Roots Farm - Troy Stozek & Michelle Schram     Ph: (204) 529-2083

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Winter Wonderings

By Michelle

Alright. Three months has passed since our last website update, and I'm embarrassed. It would be easy to say that we just haven't had the time (only slightly true), we got caught in traffic (definitely not true), or that the dog ate my computer (only true in that my hard drive got 'eaten' by fate and resulted in 2 weeks of internet sabbatical + lessons in systsems back-ups). So, I'm coming clean, and going to admit that - I have a hard time sharing my world with the online public. I am becoming increasingly proficient at following and organizing my favourite blogs and websites, which mostly consist of what I like to call 'canning porn' (endless photos of gorgeous-looking food in jars), small farm & holistic management livestock practices, whole foods cooking, and sometimes, DIY health & body products. Oh, how foodie-homesteader of you, you say. (Well, yeah, so what, I say.) And it's very inspiring to read through blog posts from talented folks such as Aagaard Farms, Boundary Creek Farm, and The Dirty Life's Kristin Kimball, but when it comes to trying to emulate nuggets of wisdom to share with the foreboding interweb, I freeze up. Nevertheless, in the wise words of friend Pamela Cavers from Harborside Farms, 'Write it down. Write it all down'. Because, let's be honest, as much as I'm sure the average Joe/Jane doesn't give a flying flapjack about everything that goes on in the lives of two young, slightly green, aspiring/practicing small farmers, well, I might at least find some of it funny 20 years from now, when I look back with a shaking head (and ragged body). And, if nothing else, it really is nice to communicate with some of the people that are buying the food we grow/raise; that's why we do it that way, silly. The problem is, when you only post as sporadically as I do, then you end up turning nuggets into mountains o'words. Like this post. Oh, geez.

The winter is a time for reflection; on the past season, what worked, and what didn't. Both logistically and financially. And mentally/emotionally. Sometimes we forget about that last one. This past Spring/Summer/Fall was probably the busiest we have ever had, but one of the best. I mean, we've still only been 'farming' for two years now, but the difference between this one and last felt immense. This year, the two of us managed to grow, nurture and harvest 30 different types of vegetables (over 100 varieties, started from seed) in over 1 acre of gardens, virtually without the aid of heavy machinery...not counting 55 varieties of herbs and all of the greenhouse plants we started and sold to the public...we supplied 35 families from 5 different communities with a variety of vegetables for 15 weeks throughout the season, through our first-year CSA delivery program, which we are really proud to consider a success. We ramped-up the production side of things this year, using our newfound canning & preserving, drying/dehydrating skills, to make over 40 different products, many of these sold to the public, via word-of-mouth local sales, farmers markets, CSA members, and the Harvest Moon Local Food Buying Clubs. Despite all of the extra work that this requires, including late nights canning over the stove, re-trying many failed batches, seeking out the right packaging and branding techniques, we do feel like it was worth it - it is great to offer unique products, with ingredients that we grew ourselves, and, the kicker - to have people appreciate it. So - thanks, you guys! I can't help feeling an overwhelming gratitude to everyone that supported us this year, even if it was just a jar of grape jelly and some words of encouragement. It means a lot. Oh, and we managed to save some food for ourselves, too - if the 'apocalypse' really is upon us four days from now, we've got the pantry stocked to keep us goin' for a while. Alternatively, it'll do us the winter :)

So, some other things that happened on Fresh Roots Farm this year, that you'll know all about if you know us personally or follow our sparse online updates, include: raising 400 Cornish Cross chickens, 20 cows, 22 calves (that's right - 110%) and 3 heifers, 20 hives of about 2 000 000 bees, and 17 laying hens (let's not talk about the 6 roosters, shall we?) Not to toot the ol' horn or anything, but that makes me pretty proud. I'm less proud about the fact that we never took a 'holiday', let alone a weekend off, to inhale and exhale a few times; or that we rarely attended or hosted social outings. Holistic Management principles (and common sense) remind us that the work ain't worth it if you don't take the time to regenerate the mind, body & spirit - if you don't take a break from cultivating the rows to cultivate valued relationships with important people. It's sad for people that work to raise good food for others that we sometimes don't have time to make three wholesome meals a day for ourselves. So, in conclusion, we've decided to forgo [meat] chicken-raising and greenhouse sales for an increased focus on the market gardens, cattle and bees. Giving up the chickens makes me only slightly sad (ask Troy how he feels about it), as we did get some really great feedback from those who bought our meat this year. In the words of my cousin's friend, "Do you have more of those chickens? They're like crack!"  Some things work, some don't. And that enterprise was one with little financial gain and a large loss of sanity. (Have you ever tried herding chickens?)  But I regress...

In the avoidance of 'Christmas madness' (and we all know it can drive you mad, if you let it), we've settled into a nice, slower pace, with a lot more off-farm work and time to read a book, and even pore over seed catalogues perhaps (just give me another week or two, and I'll be mentally ready for that). I'm noticing that we get this question, a lot: 'So, uh, whattya do in the winter? You keeping busy?' Well-meaning, but I can't help feeling slightly resentful of the 'idle' undertones...'Well, since there's no plants to plants to grow outdoors, the chickens are butchered, and the cattle chewing their cud, I find myself listlessly drifting between a comatose-meditative state and thumb-twiddling during these precious hours of winter daylight.' ...Or not. Troy and I have four to five off-farm jobs, that we spend time at particularly during the winter (though some of these also during busy warmer months), 'cause, like everyone else, we got's to pay the bills. And we consider ourselves lucky, that we really do enjoy the work we do at our non-farm jobs, utilizing existing skill sets and developing new ones. Thanks to my entrepreneurial father, I get to work at Northfork Ranch Supply (your total livestock supply store*shameless plug*). Oh, and we do have cattle, laying hens, cats and dogs to care for, at home. So, thankfully, thumb-twiddling is kept to a bare minimum.

Most recently, we basically sold out our value-added stock after about 10 days of ordering online through the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative and its four buying clubs in Winnipeg. A friend and I just made 3 different types of soap, a salve and lip balm from natural ingredients (including those from our own gardens). This latter is a new and exciting venture [read:hobby] that I can see myself doing much more of. Troy is experimenting with medicinally-infused honey, as well, which is exciting. We're pretty darn determined that we're going to keep our bodies somewhat healthy as we simultaneously work them to the bone. Okay, Captain Dramatico, here we go once more...Point is, we love the work we do and feel lucky to be able to do it. We also love winter because it does give us a bit of a break. 

Here's to exciting new adventures in 2013...we wish you are able to spend time with people you love, doing things you love and, obviously, eating food you love. And, if the world at large experiences a 'mass shift in consciousness' (or even if they just think they have), maybe it will mean more people will want to put good, healthy food in their bodies and support the farmers living near them, and that can't be all bad. Not bad at all. 

My New Year's resolution involves pushing my personal boundaries to write more frequent and less wordy blog posts. Until then, Happy Holidays, all.

Monday, 3 September 2012

September Update

Wow - what a long time it's been since we updated our blog! For shame. Truth is, there hasn't been much time...too much to do in the gardens, farmyard & kitchen! But now we have lots to share...

CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) Program
We're currently in week 13 of 16 of our brand spankin' new CSA program...hard to believe! As we near the end of our first season delivering vegetables weekly to 33 different households, we're reflecting on how it's gone and looking towards next year. We've been overwhelmed with the support from our CSA members here in the rural communities of Cartwright, Mather, Clearwater, Crystal City and Pilot Mound; really thankful to everyone who jumped on board and are giving us great feedback! Though we acknowledge that there are many things we can improve about the system, and though Thursdays are a long, tiring day (getting up early to harvest, clean & process, package and then deliver for four hours), we love seeing and forming meaningful connections with the people that are eating our food. This means a lot to us and fits really well into our vision of how we'd like to see our farm business function and develop.

One of our Large-size CSA baskets!

The market gardens are still producing lots of food, despite the extremely dry weather we've been having here in Cartwright. It's a bit overwhelming trying to keep up with it, frankly. On top of maintaining and harvesting the vegetables, we are really striving to process and preserve as much of it as we can - some for ourselves (this is one of the main reasons we grow a garden, after all) and much of it is being sold as value-added products. This means lots of delicious pickled things, jams and jellies, and freezing. We have some really diabolical plans for some special products that should be ready in mid-September (whoa, that's soon!)

...which brings us to value-add. Here's a list of some of the things that we've been using garden/farm products (and adding value to) in the past while:
*note: we may not have all of these items currently in stock. Please ask if you are interested.
  • Pickles (Zesty Bread & Butter, Dills)
  • Dilled Beans - a combo of our green filet and yellow roma beans with dill, garlic, & other seasonings. A real popular summer treat!
  • Pickled Beets with Fennel - an anise-flavoured twist on a classic fave
  • Jardiniere Pickles - a tangy mix of cauliflower, onions, zucchini, carrots and bell peppers. Great with grilled meats and seafood, or on their own for a healthy snack...
  • Troy's 'Billion Dollar' Relish - no, it doesn't cost that much, but totally worth that much, on a delicious burger. Made with our own honey to sweeten.
  • Chokecherry Jelly - Troy harvested local wild chokecherries, and also made the jelly, sweetened with our honey. Sooo good.
  • Gingered Citrus-Rhubarb Jam - A fresh-tasting Vitamin-C-enriched party in your mouth.
  • Apple Jelly - made with locally picked crabapples
  • Cran-Apple Jelly
  • Apple Rosehip Syrup 
  • Pesto (classic basil; garlic scape & herb)
  • Kale Chips - these have become one of our most popular item, selling out quick at the Farmers Market! Kale leaves seasoned with a garlicky-cheesy mix, and dehydrated, they're addictive (but it's okay 'cause they're crazy good for you)
  • 'Sundried' Tomatoes - actually dehydrated (hence the quotations), these gourmet little beauties packed in extra-virgin olive oil taste amazing with pasta, vegetables, meats and breads...or just as a tasty snack on their own!
Coming soon:
  • Dried herbs - stock up for the winter with our very own Fresh Roots Farm-grown herbs, from culinary singles and mixes to teas!
  • Herbal-Infused Vinegars - to use in salad dressings, meat or vegetable marinade, pasta salads, pickles, etc.
  • Ketchup - This ain't the same ol' Heinz 57. Tangy, made with real tomatoes.
  • Hot Sauce - Made with our own tomatoes and hot peppers, we have a variety of spicy sauces comin' down the pipe, for those that like it hot...
  • Dips, Sauces, Marinades - ....wait for it...
Many of the items in the first list are available now - call or email us for more info! Our new value-added products should be ready for sale at the Harvest Moon Festival Farmer's Market in Clearwater on September 16th, and the Country Vendor Showcase in Pilot Mound. We're really looking forward to these events. And of course, local folks can always give us a call to order.

As I write this, the second batch of chickens are facing the impending trip down the road to 'meet their Maker' as of tomorrow morning. We couldn't be more excited. It's been a long four months (between both batches of 400 total birds) and we are quite ready to see them go...and come back in a more delicious form. We have had a lot of orders for chickens this year, but may still have some available - we will see once we get folks their orders in the coming weeks. If interested or you want more info, please call or email us ( See more on our 'Chickens' page

It has been a strange year for the bees (and beekeepers), with some wacky weather and timing has been a little off (flowering, harvesting, feeding, etc.) but we still ended up with a good amount of wonderful, sweet sweet honey. It's for sale now in 500g, 1, 3, 5 and 7 kg sizes. I'm hoping Troy will do up a honey update on here soon - it's his baby and he's got the real 'deets.

That's all for now - I'm currently working on getting a bunch of recipes that we have distributed to our CSA members onto the website (see 'Recipes' page)...we've had some technical difficulties in getting this to happen thus far!

Cheers - hope to update again soon before the Festival!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Fresh Roots Farm in the News!

We're excited and honoured to say that Fresh Roots Farm has been featured in a few different articles recently, namely: An interview in the Western Canadian Edition of the Country Guide, within a larger article about the recent 'movement' of young farmers in Cartwright; a feature story in the Sentinel Courier about our new CSA vegetable program; and a photo-op in the Killarney Guide advertising the Farmer's Market we attend there. (See photos below)

We're super excited to have others get revved up about local food and the things we are trying to do - a big thank-you to everyone who supports us through buying our products and also promoting us!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Spring Madness! (The Good Kind)

By Michelle
I meant to post this about 2 weeks it's outdated but I still wanted to share these photos. More to come soon, including a 'Recipes' section of our website for ideas cooking with local food!

So here we are, a long time since we've made a blog's been hard to find take a break to share with you all everything we've been up to. In a nutshell (and this is hard for me): calving proceeded and ended (at 110%, not shabby); bedding plants grown and sold for the first time; 400 broiler chicks being raised; laying hens; CSA shares promoted and sold; market garden prepared & planted; 15 beehives purchased...etc. So basically that's what we've been doing for all of April and May. It's a lot of fun to be right back into the swing of things...but also crazy. A satisfying rush of insanity. I'm sure the short-term effects of such a feeling are fantastic.

Weather-wise, we've been having it all lately...'late' frosts, hot and dry, and now as I type - wet, chilly and miserable. We're very thankful for the recent rains (and missing the hail/tornado front) but looking forward to sunny days out in the garden/yard again!

Here's a short update on what's new - and check out our photos below:

  • We are still selling bedding plants for those that can come visit the Greenhouse - 50% off all flowers and herbs! Come soon as we'll be shutting things down in the next week or so.
  • For CSA customers: Yes, we will be making our first delivery this Thursday, June 14th! We'll be contacting you to remind you and if we need more info for drop-offs. This week's package will not be very large, but we will be making up for any lacking later on when the harvests are plentiful!
  • Chicken pre-orders have not officially gone out - we will be giving family and CSA customers first opportunity to get orders in...then keep a close eye out on our website here for a pre-order sheet for any extras! See more info on our pasture-raised meat chickens here.
  • We have laying hens now, and they are some fine looking assorted heritage birds! However, they won't be laying age until later summer-fall...we'll be sure to let you know when farm fresh eggs are ready...
  • We are still currently out of stock for honey, but as I said above, we've increased our hives substantially this year so look for lots of the good sweet stuff, starting late July-early August. 
  • We have decided not to raise pastured pigs this year - there is just too much going on already with our current enterprises. So no upcoming pork...
Please contact us if you have any questions about our products or wish to come out and take a tour of the farm! 
Phone: (204) 529-2083
    Outside view of the greenhouse, including some of Troy's new landscaping work...
    The inside of our greenhouse
    Just some of the greenery that's been growing at Fresh Roots Greenhouse...

A view of chicken batch #1 enjoying the great outdoors

Chickies stayin' warm in the new brooder house

Check out our newly renovated chicken coop! Doesn't look like much, but it keeps the young ones warm & dry...
Fifteen new beehives! Things are already buzzin, honey's being made...

Mom and calf doin' the right thing

Some more of our new calves

Garlic coming up! It's grown at least twice the size since this photo was taken