A tour of Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm

tree and twig farm

Linda uses hoop houses to extend the growing season, so those lucky enough to get a weekly basket of produce through her CSA program receive a diverse selection through the year.

On a hot, sticky day last week I found myself in Wainfleet, a small township in the Niagara region of Ontario. We all know that delicious things come out of Niagara, and I took the opportunity to visit Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm, the home of a huge vegetable garden (not to mention a wonderful pig named Joey). I’ve grown tomato seedlings from Tree and Twig for the past two years, but they’ve always been picked up by a friend and brought to me in Toronto. I was excited to see the farm for myself and to chat with owner/farmer extraordinaire Linda Crago.

I taste-tested my way through the farm, while learning more about how Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) works. Members of a CSA receive produce on a regular basis from a nearby farm, not a grocery store. For the past 16 years, Linda has been providing a weekly basket of fresh fruits and vegetables from her farm to members who have invested for the year or six months. In a way, her CSA members become shareholders, because they experience the ups and downs of farming in every basket of produce they receive.

szechuan berry

This Szechuan berry has gone down in my books as one of the most interesting things I’ve tasted. It makes your mouth go numb! Linda grows produce for chefs, and this is a requested ingredient. The berry tasted sour, but the numbing effect kicked in quickly, and my mouth was numb for about 15 minutes, though it’s different for everyone.

Linda is so passionate about heirlooms, animals, seed saving, the environment and good-tasting vegetables, that it’s apparent everywhere you walk on the farm and in every choice she’s makes about what to grow. While she realizes not everyone shares the same lifestyle as hers (woken each morning by the animals, out in the gardens all day, eating only fresh and local), it’s a lifestyle that came naturally to her after being raised by two farmers, and it’s one she’s happy to share with others. In fact, last week Linda and her family were hosting a young girl from Brooklyn, New York, who was experiencing farm life as part of the Fresh Air Fund, which gives kids the chance to experience life outside the city — see the stars, play in the dirt and get some fresh air. I felt like yet another city kid visiting the farm, enchanted by the land and the delicious things it can give us.

taste testing basil

Linda is growing many different basil varieties this year. The juicy-tasting lime basil blew me away, and I’m putting it on my list for next year.

wonderberries

I also tried wonderberries for the first time. They’re not sweet, and maybe not as flavourful as other berry relatives (the taste and texture reminded me a bit of tomatoes), but they’re certainly pretty.

hornworm

Excuse my out-of-focus photo, but this was the first time I had seen a hornworm. (Yup, I’m a new gardener!) This was the first one Linda found in her garden this year, and while she wasn’t happy to see it, her chickens were thrilled with the find.

joey the pig

Joey, a rescue pig, was a highlight for me. He’s on a diet, but lucky to be on a farm like Tree and Twig, since his version of a diet includes homegrown apples and greens.

tree and twig sign

Not only does Linda grow enough produce to fill dozens of baskets every week for those in her CSA program, she also collects and sells seeds from her plants, and sells seedlings every spring.

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