Today's post is all about my visit to the other half of Creekside Produce, the Menzies Family Farm. The recipe inspired by them is a delicious, healthy, vegetarian, easy and kid friendly dinner recipe-Zucchini Fritters with a Herb Yogurt Dip.
How To Have Your Own Hobby Farm
I am usually blogging about my own veggie garden which is on a regular city lot but these 2 farms have taken it a step further. These families have grown their gardens into hobby farms on small acreages with enough produce to sell at their local farmer's market and to neighbors. Both farms are small enough that it is not their primary job (both Kate and Angela are part time nurses and their husbands, Mike and Doug work full time) and they don't hire anyone to do the farming although this year Angela has had a friend help her as she has a new baby. They both have chickens which they keep for eggs and Angela also has goat which she milks periodically (after they have had babies that are weaned).
Team Menzies-A Sustainable Family Farm
Doug and Angela Menzies make a great team. Angela brings the commercial farming knowledge (she grew up on a dairy farm in Black Creek, a farming community) and Doug is a great handyman, building their greenhouse, chicken coops, various fencing to keep animals in, garden boxes and animal out buildings. The Menzies are very family oriented and have a great sense of humor, (almost every picture had them making goofy faces!) and this is clear right away. In the middle of Angela's garden is a swing set, a small trampoline and a small hideout for the kids made from the climbing peas. On the hill behind the goats is a pirate ship that Doug built for their son's birthday party that is another great spot for their kids to hideout and play.
"Making a garden family friendly and fun for the kids is almost a necessity in order to get anything done when you have small children." Says Angela laughing.
It is a fun farm and Angela's interest in food security certainly shows; they have an outdoor vegetable garden, greenhouse, bee hives, chickens and goats.
I wanted to pick Angela's brain specifically for any commercial farming tips and anything she could share about growing produce in a cooler and wetter climate. Below are a few Q and A's from my day on their hobby farm.
What is your favourite part about hobby farming?
Angela says, "I grew up on a working dairy farm and as one of the older kids, I did a lot of work on the farm. I always vowed I wouldn’t become a farmer because it took so much work and dedication. Little did I know, the farm life wouldn’t leave me! My husband jokes about that saying 'Remember you said you never wanted a farm?!'I see hobby farming as a joy but also as way for me and my kids to get outside. I love the interactions and learning that having animals teaches my kids. I love that my kids are starting to learn where food comes from and appreciate the work it takes."
Why did you decide to start doing the farmers market?
My desire to sell at the market came more from me not wanting to waste what I was growing. My first couple years gardening I didn’t really have a good idea of how much to plant and ended up with a lot of excess. I set up a little table with a couple heads of lettuce, some eggs, and a few herbs and that was my market booth! I found I really loved building relationships with people in my community through the market and also loved providing local, healthy produce in an area where farming and gardening are a bit more challenging.
What’s your favourite vegetable to grow?
I love my snap peas, but rarely get to eat or sell many this year as my kids have found out how yummy they are. I made my pea trellis to look like a little fort so the kids crawl in under the vines and pick away. I also really love the cucumbers and tomatoes I get in the greenhouse. After a summer of eating my own produce I find the store bought produce tastes so watered down!
What is your favorite way to cook eggs?
We love hard boiled. And if we don’t eat them all at breakfast I make potato salad or a Russian crab/egg salad I ate when I lived in Latvia. (For perfect boiled eggs put your eggs in a pot, fill with water so they are covered by about an inch. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat, leave the pan on the burner and cover with a lid. Let sit 10-12 minutes and voila, perfect hard boiled eggs. The beauty of this method is they won't overcook if you forget about them because you've already turned them off!)
What is your kids favourite things to eat from yard?
The berries for sure! But the novelty of picking a carrot, washing it and eating it almost rivals the berries. For some reason they leave my kale alone though 😉
Do you have any special growing/gardening tips you can share?
When I first moved here from the Comox Valley I thought starting a garden would be easy- you just push seeds into soil and voila! What I didn’t realize was the importance of good soil for growing! We have so much rain in the fall, winter and spring that it washes the nutrients out of the soil! Living on the North Island I didn’t have access to cow manure and had to figure out how to start building up my soil.
I now have a massive composter and am just able to start using compost from that. I also have my chicken manure but have learned the hard way when to add it to the soil and when not to. Chicken manure is put on in the fall or really early spring or you’ll burn your plants. I don’t use horse manure as they pass a lot off grass seeds through and I hate weeding. I also use goat manure in the spring. (Here is a great link to a simple guide to making your own compost)
What I choose to grow
It has also been a learning process. We have a shorter growing season so I grow a lot of cold weather crops (lettuce, kale, spinach, radishes, peas). Anything above 90 days to fruition I either put in my greenhouse or don’t try. I grow my squash in the greenhouse for that reason!
Do you have any industrial farming techniques that you’ve adapted for your home garden?
I have a soaker hose watering system in the greenhouse to keep plants watered regularly.
What kind of farm/garden chores are age appropriate to delegate to young children?
My kids ( 5/2.5) have helped all summer with the berry picking. They also helped me plant a bit and have their own watering cans to help me water. They feed the chicken scratch by throwing it by handfuls over the fence, collect eggs, and fill feed buckets. I’m trying to get them to pick up manure but I think we are a couple years away from that 😉
You have some pet goats, will you eventually milk or breed them again or are they just family pets now?
The goats are for milk and I make a lovely feta and chèvre cheese. While they are dried up right now (not producing milk) I am considering breeding again to milk again. At their peak I get about 2 litres a day.
What are the challenges to growing for the market?
The main challenge is trying to figure how much to pick as I don’t know how much I will sell. I have often come home with a lot of lettuce to eat;) I really like the CSA/ food box idea as this ensures all the produce you pick gets sold and used.
Delicious, Vegetarian and Family Friendly Dinner Recipe
Thanks to Doug, Angela and their kids for hosting me on a wonderful tour of their hobby farm. This weeks recipe is inspired by Angela's desire to eat less meat and makes a great kid-friendly dinner. Pan Fried Zucchini Fritters with Yogurt Herb Dip. Alternatively if your family prefers tomato type dips or is averse to dairy, these would be great with last week's recipe, Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Ketchup or a simple Marinara sauce.
Zucchini Cheddar Fritters
- 3 Eggs
- 1 medium Zucchini, shredded (About 3 cups)
- 1 c Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- ¾ c Flour
- ¼ c Bread Crumbs
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Pepper
- ½ c Vegetable Oil For Frying
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs then add in zucchini and cheese and stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, mix flour, crumbs, baking powder, salt and pepper well and then pour into zucchini mixture and stir gently just until combined.
- Heat oil in a large frying pan on medium. Once heated, drop batter in by heaping tablespoonfuls. Let cook until golden brown and then flip. (Turn heat to medium low if they are browning too fast, they should be golden by the time they are cooked half through and ready to flip). Once done, drain on paper towel lined plate or bowl in a warm oven until they are all cooked, 2 or 3 batches. (Makes 12 fritters)
- Serve with desired dip.
Healthy Herb Yogurt Dip
- 1 c Greek Yogurt I used 5% M.F.
- 1 clove Garlic, Minced
- 2 tbsp Parsley, Finely Chopped
- 2 tbsp Dill, Finely Chopped
- 1 tsp Olive Oil
- 1 tsp White Wine Vinegar
- ½ tsp Seasoning Salt
- ½ tsp Sugar
- ¼ tsp Pepper
- Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Let sit 30 min-overnight. Stir before serving.