By Tara Taylor
The idea of a market garden had been in the back of my mind for a few years when I started Quadra Roots in the spring of 2020.
Our family farm was already selling eggs, lamb, and poultry and we were producing significantly more fruits and vegetables than we needed for ourselves. Selling produce seemed a logical next step that was in line with my belief in the importance of sustainable local agriculture.
I spent countless hours during the winter months choosing crops, planning my planting dates, and packaging and designing a website. The business was geared towards tourists who wanted a fresh food experience during their time on Quadra. But just as I launched the website, COVID hit and it seemed all that planning was for naught.
Offering CSA style produce bags seemed a good way to maintain my momentum while also supporting food security during tenuous times. Twelve weekly customers put their faith in me and signed up for the season.
Each bag contained between 7 and 9 different veggies and fruits grown on the farm, with as much balance between root crops, leafy cooking greens, salad mixes, and things like broccoli, asparagus, squash, and tomatoes as I could provide.
You may remember how long spring was last year and by the time the first beans were picked I was sure that my customers were sick of chard and spinach! Nevertheless, everyone was supportive, gracious, and appreciative each week for their bounty.
While there were plenty of challenges in 2020, I will always be grateful for the sanctuary that my garden has provided over the past year. Making a commitment to grow food for others meant that I needed to focus on the job in front of me, while limiting my time to fret about the state of the world. I know that many gardeners find soil to be the balm for a worried mind, and plants can be wonderful, judgment-free listeners!
There were many opportunities for learning throughout the growing season of 2020, some of which were unexpected and occurred because of COVID. I was surprised at how quickly costs added up, from website registration to online payment options, emergency garden expansion, and packaging. COVID upped the stakes significantly for anyone producing food and had us all scrambling for seeds and supplies which made it easier to put a dollar value on my time and products. Because of this sense of urgency, I had vigorous sales of starts and bulk purchases of foods that could be stored or preserved.
I was also surprised at the perspective shift once gardening became a necessity rather than a pastime. A lot of time was spent planning and adjusting expectations as the season wore on.
Taking on the unexpected role of a homeschooling parent meant frequent juggling of priorities so that we could learn, play, and work in relative harmony. The kids weeded, dug, and planted with me so that we could go to the beach and be back in time to harvest and package our produce for pickups. I’m sure for my teenager it was torture, but my younger child has fallen in love with growing food and the garden has become a big part of what we do together.
My first year as a market gardener during COVID taught me a lot about priorities. For 2021 I have decided to limit the number of weekly CSA shares and will be delivering produce to those customers. I’m fixing up a ratty old flat deck trailer to use as a roadside farm stand and will be selling a majority of items “a la carte” from our farm. Hopefully, this will give me more flexibility and options through the season as we all continue to adapt to our next new normal.
Tara Taylor is a long-time Quadra Island resident who is passionate about a farm-to-table approach to growing food. She enjoys sharing her vision for a sustainable future as the proprietor of Quadra Roots. To find out more about her CSA and produce boxes go to https://www.quadraroots.com