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August 1st, 2010 by Admin

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Cedar Isle Photo Album: consequences of a long, cold, wet stretch

July 10th, 2010 by Admin


A ray of hope!

It’s been wet here, folks. I’m sure that everyone who has lived through the past few months in the Lower Mainland can sympathize with our grain in the feeling that we’ve all had our feet wet for far too long.

Last year, which was Urban Grains’ first season of operation, we were blessed  with exceptionally hot and dry conditions, basically ideal for growing grain. Perhaps that was the universe’s way of encouraging this little endeavour. This year is different though, and it seems that even if we were handed an easy pass last season, we are being challenged in the current one.

Jim has just sent along these photos, which show the damage that the crops have suffered, but also some encouraging progress.

Below, you can see a head of Triticale looking fat and fine, in a photo that was taken on the first truly sunny day in months. As a fall-planted crop, it has seen a hard winter and has come out the other side looking battered, but still going. In the background is Mt. Cheam, still capped by clouds.

triticale head

This next shot was taken in the winter wheat field. Again, the w.w. has struggled all winter, first with a long bout of leaf rust, and later with the hardships of the cool, wet spring.


The grain you see below is soft white spring wheat, planted just before the rainy stretch of the early summer. Jim thinks that it should mature well if we get some good heat now in the late summer.


Likewise, the hard red spring wheat has put on a lot of growth and now has ample  stored up to make the most of the hot, sunny weather.


Below is a field containing two different hard red spring wheat varieties. A variety dating back to 1969 (to the left of the photo) is distinct from its bearded modern counterpart (centre and right of photo).  With continued good weather, both varieties should make excellent wheat for milling.


Here now is a head of each of the grains we discussed in the photo above. On the left is Neepawa, released as a new variety in 1969, which was common across the prairies in the 1970s. Seed was obtained from organic grower Norbert Kratchmer in Saskatchewan specifically to trial in the Fraser Valley for Urban Grains.

On the right is the more recent (bearded) variety CDC Go, which was the main variety grown for Urban Grains last year.


So that’s it for now. Lots of sogginess, but lots of growth, too. And a positive outlook for the next few months. Jim sounds extremely relieved to be coming out of the rain clouds and into the real heat of summer. And I must admit, I am with him.

Green, green grains

June 3rd, 2010 by Admin

Gorgeous progress shots from Cedar Isle, sent along by Jim the other day.

In this first one you can see three different winter varieties (left, centre and right, discernible by slight color variation.) There’s also a bit of “lodging” visible in the distance, where rain and/or wind has knocked down some of the shafts. This makes machine harvest difficult, so is not ideal, but I believe it can rectify itself with time.


Here, a close up of one of the above varieties; this is the winter Triticale.


Below is a field of winter rye, some of which has recently been cut to save as silage for the cattle kept by Cedar Isle Farm and their neighbours.


And here’s a closer shot of that same winter rye; you get a good view of the seed heads here, which have already formed.


This is a patch of winter wheat that has been affected by rust, which you can tell by the yellowing of the leaves.


Close up of the rusted leaves:


Now, onto the spring-planted varieties which were put in much more recently. This first one is a soft white spring wheat. It will be more of a pastry/cake/cookie flour when it ends up at our members’ homes, due to the low gluten content.


Next up we have two varieties of hard red spring wheat, side by side. These guys have higher gluten content, and will therefore be better bread flours. As you can see, the spring-planted varieties are much farther behind the overwintering fields in terms of growth, but they should catch up with some summer sun.two-varieties-of-hard-red-spring-wheat

This last shot is of a trial plot where Jim is seeding some older heritage grains. These won’t end up in the CSA packages, but we’ll keep you informed if anything interesting comes of them.


What lies below

April 28th, 2010 by Admin

For those of you who like nothing better than to run your hands through the soil, this batch of pictures should be quite enjoyable. Jim sent along the following shots from his field work on April 20th.

A field of freshly seeded soft white spring wheat, a new variety for Urban Grains this year

A field of freshly seeded soft white spring wheat, a new variety for Urban Grains this year.

Rain stopped the plowing on this day, but this photo shows the rich soil Jim was turning at the time

Rain stopped the plowing on this day, but this photo shows the rich soil Jim was turning at the time.

Jim told me he hates the thought of killing worms when he's on the tractor. Here you can see evidence of their important work - tiny holes perforating the soil.

Jim told me he hates the thought of killing worms when he's on the tractor. Here you can see evidence of their important work - tiny holes perforating the soil.

The roots of this cover crop help Cedar Isle's by adding nutrients, holding it in place when the rains come, and providing a habitat for the life that builds it.

The roots of this cover crop help Cedar Isle's soil by adding nutrients, holding it in place when the rains come, and providing habitat for the life that builds it.

A block of sod that's just been turned. Healthy cover crops - grown without chemicals - are a sign of healthy soil below.

A block of sod that's just been turned. Healthy cover crops - grown without chemicals - are a sign of healthy soil below.

First share offers are out! + Farm photos from early April

April 25th, 2010 by Admin

The first batch of 2010 share offers has been sent out - 2009 members, who have priority this year, should all have received an email today. The next batch will be sent a week from now, so stay patient.

Take a look at these photos that Jim sent along from plowing at the beginning of the month. Springtime is so fine!


Plowing a new field, to be planted with hard red spring wheat


Sod turning


The field after turning


Spring chickees, 5 days old.


Snap the duck’s nest, full of eggs

Update from Cedar Isle: Spring has arrived

March 22nd, 2010 by Admin

Jim on the tractor

Happy Spring Equinox to all! On the farm this means the beginning of spring planting season, and Jim has just plowed under two acres that are destined to grow soft white spring wheat. There are rains predicted for Agassiz, which will delay planting by a few days but should not create any big issues. In the upcoming days the family will be spreading nutrient-rich manure over the fields and then planting the seeds for this fall’s soft wheat crop.

Grain on the move: from farm to mill

September 6th, 2009 by Admin

In the last post from mid-August we saw photos of the harvest, which was very successful but kept Jim, Diane and the kids busy as bad weather threatened to catch the crop at an inopportune time. All crises were averted, however, and the result was an abundant harvest for this year’s CSA members. Today we’re sharing photos from the farm taken last week, as the grain was loaded into the truck and driven to Anita’s mill, one step closer to it’s final destination in Vancouver.

We’re getting very close to setting a delivery time so watch this space for an update from Chris announcing pick-up times and location. In the meantime, enjoy the photos! The new faces you’ll see below are Todd Wilson, who transported the bags, and Christiaan + family, visitors to the farm. Thanks to all of those who helped out with this stage.


Todd maneuvering bags


Loading up the truck


Todd and Christiaan pause the work for a photo


Jim loads using the tractor, as Christiaan and kids look on


A job well done!


The grain arrives, safe and sound, at Anita's.

The harvest begins

August 15th, 2009 by Admin


While working out a timeline for the CSA in the spring, we didn’t think that any of the harvest would happen this early, but all that hot weather in July really pushed things forward. Fear of rain (which was well justified) stirred Jim and family into action on the farm, and the combine was brought out of the barn, cleaned off and put to use. On August 2nd we received notice that they were finished combining the winter wheat. Jim wrote, “As for amounts … After cleaning we should have enough to meet the 9,000 lbs. needed. That’s the winter wheat alone.” Fantastic news, eh? Things are looking very good, thanks to great weather and a good judgement of the chances of rain (which could have ruined, or severely damaged, a crop at this time of year).

The only bad-ish news is that the Triticale looks like it may be difficult to harvest. Jim reported that the he plugged up his combine while leaving the field because it’s got so much more stem. We’ll update you soon on how that works out.

Enjoy the photo evidence of your grain being harvested, compliments of Jim.






Cedar Isle Farm Visit (Part 1)

June 3rd, 2009 by Martin


It had been awhile since we last visited Jim in Agassiz, so we dropped by on Monday to chat and see first-hand how the grain was progressing. While it’s always a treat to visit Cedar Isle Farm, we were especially antsy to make it out there this time because 1) our new grain cleaner that we purchased with part of the CSA funds arrived 2) Jim warned us that the winter wheat is showing signs of rust (which had us worried) and 3) the weather has been so darned amazing lately that we knew the farm would look absolutely gorgeous (I think that alone is reason enough.) We have much to share from the trip, so we’re going to spread the visit over a number of posts.

First up, the grain.

Jim approached me awhile back with the possibility of getting the UBC Agriculture faculty to plant some grain test plots on his farm. The idea was to see how well certain varieties grow in Agassiz, since many of the “conventional” grain varieties grown in Canada have been bred for the much drier prairies and BC itself has a great deal of variability among its many micro-climates.  We never had time to organize a proper study with the University, but Jim went ahead and planted a few plots himself for comparison.


Among the grains included are Marquis, Soft White Spring and Hard Red Spring (CDC Go). Just starting to make an appearance out of the ground, it’ll be interesting to see how they all fair by the end of the season.


After examining the test plots, the first of the grain that Jim took us out to see was the Triticale.


Compared to the winter wheat planted in the adjacent plot, it grows quite high (around chest height), which makes for a rather picturesque scene as it gently flows in the wind. We were happy to see the crop looking robust and healthy.



By comparison, winter wheat grows much shorter. You can see the stark contrast between it on the left and the Triticale on the right.


If you look closely, you’ll notice a yellowish tinge covering parts of the winter wheat. This is what Jim had warned us about before our visit. Commonly called “rust,” it’s a fungus that thrives in damp environments. winter wheat is particularly vulnerable for that reason because it has to overwinter. Although it shouldn’t prove disastrous, there is a chance that the crop’s yield will be significantly reduced as a result (since winter wheat is supposed to account for half of the CSA crop, this is especially worrying.) Jim said he’s hoping the good weather keeps up for most of the summer so the winter wheat can grow through it. We’ll definitely be watching it closely.



We also checked out the fields at the opposite end of Jim’s farm where the rest of the winter wheat and the more recently planted Hard Red Spring is growing.




All in all, I think the grain is looking pretty great. While the rust issue is certainly a bit disconcerting, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had initially feared — let’s just keep our fingers crossed for good growing weather throughout the rest of the summer.

(If you’d like to get a better sense of how the grain has progressed, check out our update from last month here.)

Stay tuned for Part 2 when we reveal the fancy new cleaning equipment purchased by the CSA.

Progress update from Cedar Isle

May 1st, 2009 by Martin


I was delighted to discover some photos from Jim in my inbox this morning. They were all taken yesterday, the same day that Jim finished sowing the last of the hard red spring wheat (CDC Go variety) picture above. I believe that’s Mt. Cheam in the background.



This is 2 acres of winter wheat (Buteo variety), which was sown on September 22, 08.


Here’s the other half of the winter wheat (Falcon variety), which was sown September 27, 08.


This is 1 acre of Triticate (Pika variety), which was sown on September 27, 08.



Last but not least, this is the first sowing of the hard red spring wheat (CDC Go variety), which was sown on April 22, 09. As you can see in the second picture, it has hardly been a week and the grain is already starting to emerge.

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