Inspired to act on Food Security issues and looking to create their own meaningful work, two Hamilton youth spent the winter of 1996 researching, writing business plans and grant proposals. The goal for Melanie Golba and Alvero Venturelli was to start an organic CSA farm in the Hamilton, Ontario region.
A partnership with three others (Andrea Hall, Rodrigo Venturelli, Cirvan Hamilton) was struck, land was rented, a trainer found (Grant Brooks - a CSA operator in the Toronto area for four years), and work began in early March. Happily, a federal Youth Entrepeneurship grant proposal was accepted. This allotted training money to hire Grant Brooks full time, paid for a business course, and gave a modest stipend for eight workers. This allowed the hiring of Melanie Bolster, Mike Hrycenko and eventually Christopher .
The plan was ambitious: the 12 acres were planned for 100 shares. Full shares were sold for $450, 1/2 shares for $250. A majority of sales were warm sales to friends and family, and relationships with some restaurants were made. Many sharers would receive their produce via home delivery, others would pick them up at a neighbourhood depot. Over 40 different cultivars of vegetables and herbs were to be planted, from Arugula to Zucchini.
Seedlings were started indoors under lights, then moved to a greenhouse for hardening off before being transplanted into the fields. The amount of labour put in by the nine Plan Bers was stupendous. With only a rototiller and hand tools, enough food was grown to feed a Peace Corps.
Here's an example of the labour-intensive nature of the process: Onions were started from seed, tended under lights, then brought to the greenhouse while the land was cleared. It was first raked clear of last year's corn stalks, then tilled and tilled again. The young onions received a handful of homemade soil amendment - a concoction of composted manure, lime, rock phosphate, and blood meal. Hundred foot rows were planted, four holes across, four onions per hole every foot. The four rows planted represented 6,400 onions. All this, and we haven't even started weeding or harvesting... and that's just the onions!
Fortunately, the backs were strong, the training was excellent, and the motivation was sustained. After all was said and done, Plan B delivered the goods. Shareholders received 18 weeks of over-stuffed grocery bags filled with everything from salad greens to watermelons. Some crops (like peas, beans) were in such abundance that sharers were invited to come out and pick to their heart's content. By the end of the summer, 80 families were receiving weekly locally grown, pesticide-free, delicious vegetables.
Next year, all the training and practice of this summer will be put to work in two separate enterprises. Both of these CSAs will service the Hamilton area. One of these will continue to be called Plan B, while the other will be known as Community Roots. The latter will also be affiliated with Edible Roots, a brand new organic restaurant started by one of the owners. Look for both of these organizations to provide you with high quality, local, and affordable organically grown produce and products.
To get in touch with these fine farmin' folks, please contact:
Andrea will be opening a restaurant in February:
The Edible Roots, A community based Resturant & Juice Bar.
It's Located at 182 Locke St. South in Hamilton, On.
Please support Hamilton's only restaurant dedicated to serving locally grown organic foods! Phone:(905)521-6875 or Fax:(905)521-9243