• James Armstrong

Bumper tomato crop marks successful season for local community farm


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

With their functioning well and pump provided by the Town of Hudson, harvest is in full swing for Hudson’s Heartbeet Community Farm members, (from left to right) Robyn Rees, Loïc Freeman-Lavoie, Rébecca Phaneuf-Thibault, Natasha Klein-Panneton and watchdog Bali Bei.

Hudson Heartbeet Community Farm has, among other successful crops, lots of tomatoes on hand as the summer growing season comes to its inevitable end. “Things were great once we got water. There was a lot of heat and a lot of sunshine,” farm manager Rébecca Phaneuf-Thibault told The Journal. “The tomatoes are our star crop.”

The water issue referenced was the well and pump supplied by the Town of Hudson. The water source played a crucial role at the end of the spring planting season as it needed to be connected to the irrigation system installed on the farm. ”It arrived just in time in July, just after the first heat wave,” she said.

Abundant first-year harvest

As a project of the Hudson Food Collective in partnership with the Town of Hudson, the community farm has a renewable five-year lease for the land located at 723 Main Road, Hudson next to the dog park and opposite Thompson Park. The water connection was made and the seedlings were able to survive the hot, rainless weather conditions.

“Our sales have been good and people are beginning to discover our farm stand,” said Phaneuf-Thibault. The stand and its sign that was installed last week are among the many improvements that Phaneuf-Thibault and her farming partner, Loïc Freeman-Lavoie have made to the new, permanent location.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Start-up expenses

“This is our first season on this field so we have had to make adjustments such as adding more drainage trenches,” she said, “but it’s really beginning to come together.” The next big project is the construction of the main building in the centre of the field. “It will have a wash station, storage space and a small kitchen, and welcome area,” she said. “It will be a lot more work friendly,” she added with a smile. That construction project is expected to be complete by the end of October.

Farm development

In 2017, the farm managers focused on preparing the soil of the new site for the 2018 growing season. It was a tract of land left fallow for many years and required breaking through a layer of sod and adding large amounts of compost to the heavy, clay soil. It was also the beginning of the process of applying the standards required to achieve organic certification.

Funding

As a non-profit organization, the Hudson Food Collective receives some funding from the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS), a loan from Réseau d’investissement social de Québec (RISQ) and grants from Caisses Desjardins and Fondation Béati. “We had to buy all of our tools, equipment and tractor,” she added.

Farm stand hours

The farm stand is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Similar to many farm roadside stands, it’s a self-serve, pay-on-the-honour system although there is usually someone working on the farm. An important source of income for the farm comes from the sale of weekly vegetable baskets, Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) food baskets, offering over 40 different varieties of vegetables throughout the season.

Hudson Food Collective

According to General Manager Robyn Rees, the Hudson Food Collective (HFC) has three main projects: the kitchen garden project in partnership with the History Garden located between two heritage houses at 539-41 Main Road; the wild foraging educational series, and the HeartBeet Community Farm. As a non-profit organization, HFC is dedicated to building a healthy community food system through education, developing skills and relationships around food that is ecological, healthful and just.

The upcoming Harvest Gala is a fundraiser for the entire collective and its projects. “It’s also a celebration of the harvest and the successful first year of the farm,” said Rees. “We started from an educational point of view and these projects emerged from that.” The Harvest Gala will feature a five-course farm-to-table vegetarian meal prepared by local chefs. The event takes place Saturday, September 29 at the Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre in Hudson. Tickets are available online at www.hudsonfoodcollective.com or Pure Art Foundation, 422 Main Road, or Galerie +, 448 Main Road, Hudson.

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