Carina Phillips and Byron Petrie are young farmers and parents to one-year-old Remy. In 2012, they built a home encircled by fields scattered with wildflowers and trees, and started farming.
The couple own Thistle Dew Farm, located on the Byrne Road, near Morell. Together with Reg Phelan of Seaspray farms, they sell their produce through Seaspray Cooperative. They grow more than 20 varieties of vegetables and flowers for customers in Charlottetown and Eastern PEI.
“We are proud to be considered an essential service, because getting nutritious food to people during the time of COVID-19 is so important,” says Carina.
“It is a joy to be building these relationships with the land,” says Byron. “Plants are generous in supplying us with healthy food when they are treated with respect. There really is nothing better than working outside in the warm sun with a slight breeze at your back and then coming in to prepare the most nutritious and delicious food that is possible. We are happy to grow enough to share with our community.”
New marketing strategies as a result of COVID-19
“Dealing with the pandemic has meant a steep learning curve in presenting ourselves online, from telling our story on social media, to taking nice photographs of our produce, to highlighting ourselves on online shops.”
For the first time, the couple is offer a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Customers pay in advance for a box of produce to be delivered weekly during the summer months. The CSA guarantees financial support for growers in the early spring when expenses can be high. In return, people receive a fresh, high-quality variety of vegetables for 12 weeks.
The Charlottetown Farmers’ Market, which is closed to the public, is offering an online ordering platform. Visit www.charlottetownfarmersmarket.com to sign up.
The couple also sells through an online ordering platform called Local Line, which was set up by Jordan MacPhee of Maple Bloom Farm. Visit www.localline.ca/eatlocalpei to order weekly.
Their produce is also sold through Aaron Koleszar’s Organic Veggie Delivery service.
Community support programs
They have applied to participate in a provincial bursary which pays students to work in agriculture for the summer. For more information, visit www.peifarmteam.ca.
“The Canada Summer Jobs application deadline was extended, and we are applying for that as well. We would love to pay two students for their labours. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn new skills and have some fun while they’re at it. Since demand for safe, local food has gone up so much, we will surely need them.”
Workers in the fields and in the packing shed will be practicing social distancing, and disposable masks and gloves will be available. A hand washing station has been installed, along with hand sanitizer. Workers have been told that if they feel even a little bit sick, they are to stay home.
“All our CSA deliveries are contact free. We drop off the boxes in a shady location of your choice and off we go.”
Search Seaspray Co-Operative on Facebook and on Instagram @seaspraycooperative.
By Stella Shepard