The Cutting Veg Story

2005: The Cutting Veg hasn’t come into existence yet, but The Global Garlic Project begins. 100 bulbs of organic garlic seed is sourced (10 varieties, 10 bulbs of each), and planted at Whole Village Farm in Caledon. In total, approximately 600 cloves are planted.

2006: Approximately 600 bulbs of garlic are harvested in August. The best 250 bulbs are held back for replanting. In total, approximately 1500 cloves are planted in October 2006.

2007: The garlic crop continues to grow. Of the 1500 bulbs harvested in summer of 2007, approximately 650 bulbs or 4000 cloves are replanted in fall. Not a single bulb has been sold at this point.

2008: The Cutting Veg is officially born. A 1 acre plot is secured at FarmStart’s McVean farm in Brampton, ON. Organic mixed veg is grown, and sold at two weekly Farmers’ Markets. Our volunteer program begins, with people coming out regularly to the farm to help out and learn about farming. Three years after starting The Global Garlic Project, bulbs become available for sale. People visiting the Farmers’ Markets can purchase from among our ten varieties of garlic — Russian, Ukrainian, Persian, Sicilian, Korean, Italian, Thai, Tibetan, Salt Spring Island, Former Yugoslavian. In fall, we plant 15,000 cloves. Among the planted cloves are a couple of new varieties — Israeli and Chinese.

2009: Our plot at McVean Farm grows from 1 to 2 acres. The Cutting Veg Intern Program is born in which 12 people, ranging in age from 19-65 work on the farm 2 days a week, in exchange from farming skills, knowledge and abundance of veggies. In addition to continuing to vend at Farmers’ Markets, The Cutting Veg Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA) begins, with our first pick-up location at Shoresh’s Kavannah garden. In our first year, 70 families/individuals join, who become members in the farm for the season, and receive a weekly share of the harvest from June through October. The Cutting Veg also begins to offer Food Coaching Services, including workshops such as “Planning Your Organic Veggie Garden”, and “Preserving the Harvest.” Another aspect of Food Coaching is our Garden Coaching services, which we begin to offer at people’s homes and at a Synagogue. 21,000 cloves of garlic are planted in the fall.

2010: Our farm has grown from 2-4 acres. We hire our first two employees. We grow from 1 CSA location to 3. Membership grows from 70 members to 185. A dry April and May allows for an encouraging start to the season, with huge volumes of veg planted in April and May. However, it rains nearly every day in June, and our plants suffocate from lack of oxygen. Some plants die, and those that survive experience stunted growth. Much of the veg for our 185 CSA members needs to be purchased from other local, organic farmers. We purchase our first company van, which is used for both produce deliveries and transporting Interns to and from the farm. 12 new Interns join the team for the year. With our garlic harvest in August, we have grown from 100 bulbs to 21,000 in under 5 years. 27,000 cloves are planted in fall.

2011: We continue to farm in Brampton. However, incessant spring rains, in combination with the clay soil of McVean Farm, makes planting impossible before the end of May. With the CSA due to start the first week of June, planting must occur in April. Thus, we secure a second location, with sandier soil, and begin farming at Elmgrove Farm in Sutton. Weather extremes and managing two farms in two locations makes for a very stressful season. Our CSA grows from 3 to 4 locations, and from 185 to 300 members. While crops at Elmgrove Farm thrive, the soil doesn’t fully dry out at McVean Farm until July. We push it, and plant too early, and the crops in Brampton do very poorly. Again, much of our veg for our CSA needs to be purchased from other farmers. The Intern program continues into its third year, and two new fantastic employees join the team. We harvest our 27,000 bulb garlic crop in summer, and plant 50,000 cloves in fall at Elmgrove Farm. Among the 50,000 are a few new varieties, including Northern Quebec, Siberian, Japanese, Romanian, and Polish.

2012: We decide that the necessity to find another location to farm in 2011 was a blessing in disguise. We move on from McVean Farm, and start farming in Sutton permanently. Farm and business growth continues. We go from 4 acres of mixed veg in 2011, to close to 10 acres in 2012! Perennial crops are added to the team, including 1.5 acres of asparagus, some oregano, some chives, and 200+ rhubarb plants. We go from two to three employees. From one van to two. From four CSA locations to six. From 300 CSA members to 375. From 12 Interns to 15. Sadly, all this growth is paired with our third consecutive lousy farming season. Crops are doing great until a summer heat-wave and drought hits. The infrastructure and water source needed to irrigate ten acres is not in place. Crop growth stalls, and never fully recovers. As for the garlic crop, deciding 50,000 bulbs is too much to manage, we scale back to planting 30,000 in fall. A new Garden Coaching initiative begins this year. In collaboration with Jane Hayes of Garden Jane, we start working with a Developer, The Daniels Corporation, to help start community gardens in two of their condos.

2013: After four years of running our CSA, and with our first baby on the way, it is time for massive change. As a father, one wants to provide time, energy, and income. Continuing to run the CSA seemed like a recipe for none of the above. We leave the CSA behind, and find new farmers to run them. We scale back from ten acres to one. No more employees. We take time off from running the Intern program. Only the garlic project continues on a larger scale, with 30,000 harvested in summer, and 40,000 planted in fall. Stepping away from the CSA was a huge risk, as it eliminated most of my income, while a baby was on the way. Fortunately, as one door closed, another one opened. The Daniels Corporation approached Jane Hayes and me with the opportunity to be the Garden Coaches for 6 more condos community gardens in the GTA.

2014: With emphasis now divided between Garden Coaching and farming, one acre of mixed vegetables seems to be the right amount. So, with the help of a strong volunteer team, we continue to grow 40 or so different crops for farmers’ markets. A nice mix of sun and rain throughout the growing season makes for a successful 2014 crop. The garlic crop seems to love the sandier soil of Elmgrove Farm, as clear from the large bulbs that emerge from the summer harvest. Another 40,000 are planted in fall. In addition to selling our garlic on-line to growers and eaters, we now start vending at the Toronto Garlic Festival. Further, Tridel, a second Condo Developer signs on to work with Jane and me.

2015: Another shift occurs for The Cutting Veg. After growing approximately 40 different types of veggies, fruit, and herbs year after year, we decide to specialize. Due to the multiple pulls of fatherhood, Garden Coaching, and farming, the need to preserve time and energy becomes paramount. Thus, we decide to grow approximately 10 crops in total. We focus on growing spring crops (e.g., rhubarb, asparagus, arugula, salad mix, etc.) for wholesaling, and then focus on the garlic crop in the summer. Our work with Developers also shifts, as Jane and I officially launch our own company together known as Hoffmann Hayes. In addition to providing Garden Coaching services, we begin to offer Pop-up Farmers’ Markets, Food & Sustainability Lobby Events, and On-Farm Team Building days. The summer garlic harvest goes well, although a lack of spring rains leads to smaller bulbs than usual. We plant 40,000 once again in October.

2016: The shift to farming spring crops for wholesale, and focusing on garlic in summer continues. Hoffmann Hayes continues to grow with discussions occurring with several new Developers. A season-long drought results in a so-so harvest. The garlic bulbs are smaller than usual due to the lack of rain.  However, our straw mulch provides enough moisture to continue the excellent quality. 45,000 cloves of garlic are planted in fall, including some new varieties (Transylvanian, Czech, Cuban, and Guatemalan). “Cultivating health through organic agriculture” remains the focus.

2017: Consistent spring rains lead to a joyful and bountiful farming season. The spring crops – rhubarb, arugula, salad mix, beets, green onions, etc. – are lush and abundant. And the garlic crop is one of our best ever. 46,000 bulbs are harvested in August, and we are sold out by October. We plant 52,000 cloves in October. Meanwhile, The Cutting Veg takes on an advisory role with the new and exciting project known as ClearWater Farms, helping them to grow their CSA.  Further, the interest in bringing organic community gardens to the condo environments continues to grow, as Hoffmann Hayes is brought in to consult on Castlepoint’s Perth-Sterling Revitalization.