|Nick Smith & Becca Jones in late April.|
When Becca Jones steps out of her small cabin onto a hay wagon turned into a deck (which works fine once you get used to the slight wobble), she takes in the early spring view: A mid-sized greenhouse where leafy greens are planted, the almost-an-acre of muddy soil waiting to be tilled for this year’s seedlings, and a wide expanse of field and sky for which this stretch of Route 6 in Shinimicas is known.
And you know when a young woman like Becca says, “We’re into food in a big way,” you’re talking to that new breed of small-scale farming entrepreneurs that believe in growing their own good food and making sure others enjoy it as well.
Becca, and her partner Nick Smith who grew up on his parents’ beef farm in Shinimicas, know what it’s like to spend hours every day with their hands buried in soil; they met while tree planting out west.
As they worked their way back to Nova Scotia, the couple, who now are in their late twenties, spent a season volunteering on small, organic farms that gave them the knowledge and confidence to start their own market garden once they returned to Cumberland County.
As Good Thyme Farm heads into its third season, Nick admits market gardening comes with a huge learning curve.
“The first year we lucked out; everything ran smoothly,” he says. “The second year was a lot more challenging. We had a wet spring and a dry summer. We learned a lot quickly.”
They sell their vegetables at the Pugwash Farmers’ Market and at a roadside stand at their farm, and part of that learning curve involves planning what vegetables to grow. Two summers ago, they grew tomatillos (small, green tomatoes) and sold them with a recipe for salsa verde. I loved it and had looked forward to buying tomatillos the following year but Becca says they didn’t sell very well so they didn’t grow them again.
“The thing about market gardening is that you want a good variety so that your table looks nice but you also want to grow what’s profitable.”
She says kale was their best crop last year.
For the second year, Good Thyme Farm is participating in the Local Food Box Program, an offshoot of the Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) movement. CSA brings farmers and lovers of fresh veggies together by allowing consumers to purchase a season’s worth of vegetables at the start of the season. According to Becca, this is a way of supporting a local farmer because people pay up front to get whatever farmers can grow for four or five months.
While Becca and Nick aren’t part of CSA, they do support the Local Food Box Program which uses the same model as CSA to pair low-income families with boxes of fresh veggies.
“The point is to make healthy, local food available to those who might not normally have access to it,” Becca explains. “Instead of paying up front, these families pay weekly and only half the cost of a regular box.”
The other half is covered through fundraising. Local Food Box Program is a partnership of the Ecology Action Centre, the Cumberland Food Action Network and five Cumberland County Farms: GoodLake Farm, Side By Each Farm, Wysmykal Farm, Glennie’s Farmgate and Good Thyme Farm.
“I really like this because it challenges the traditional charitable food model,” says Becca. “It empowers low-income families to put a value on food because it’s not just a handout. It helps them realize how great fresh food is and gives them access to it. We live in this amazing farming community and all people should be able to experience it. It shouldn’t just be people with better paying jobs who get to be part of CSA.”
Good Thyme Farm can support five Pugwash-area families in the Local Food Box program so for more information, call 902-297-1687.