The Sassy Tomato and The Spicy Olive, it was only a matter of time before our paths crossed. Sassy meets Spicy and Tomato meets Olive.
The roots to our names are different yet share commonalities. However, one thing is for sure, we share the same love and appreciation for good food and the farm to table movement.
Let me take you through my day at Plan B Organic Farms with the lovely Irene Matys, The Spicy Olive. I spent the day helping out in the fields and later preparing lunch with Irene for the Plan B family.
Driving up to the farm was peaceful. Took the back roads around the Milton Escarpment and continued into Burlington. The farm itself was tucked away in between shrubs, there was a sign “Plan B Organic Farm,” and next to it a single driveway.
I made my way down the winding driveway, passing some parked cars until I reached a modest mid-sized house with a a small warehouse beside it.
Still in unfamiliar territory, I timidly stepped out of my car and looked for Irene’s scrunched up ponytail look. It seemed my luck was cut short because there was no one on sight.
So I waited.
A couple of minutes later, a girl stepped out of the house. Before she could disappear, I grabbed her and asked her if she knew where Irene was.
She said, “Irene, I don’t know. I think she is in the fields. She always disappears! But let’s find her.”
The first 15 minutes on the farm were spent on a scavenger hunt for Irene. It was really amusing actually. I think I ended up meeting everyone but Irene!
We finally found her and I met Irene for the first time. She gave me a hug like we were old friends reuniting after a long time and not just meeting for the first time. The slight moment of feeling like a stranger quickly disappeared and I felt welcomed at Plan B Organic Farms.
It’s not a fancy farm, but it sure does have heart and real awesome people. I was excited for my day at the farm to begin.
Irene is not a farmer but a volunteer at Plan B Organic Farms. She goes to the farm three times per week, usually Monday to Wednesday and helps out with planting, weeding, harvesting, and just about anything that is needed that day to be tended to!
Perhaps her greatest and most appreciated contributions are her meals. When she is at the farm, Irene always makes lunch for everyone. She goes out into the fields and picks whatever her mind and heart direct her towards. She then brings the freshly picked produce back to the kitchen and creates a meal on the spot.
“Irene brings us, everyone here, together.” - Farmer Rodrigo commented.
It’s true, the days Irene is at the farm are called “Irene days,” which means everyone shows up at 1 to eat and share a meal together.
With Irene’s cooking, I 100% understand why no one would want to miss out! Her food is absolutely delicious and I can attest to do first hand.
Irene introduced me to Rodrigo, one of the founders and farmers of Plan B. Rodrigo was going to take us to the fields to weed out the sunflower patch.
After a short introduction, we were on our way. There was lots going on the farm, you could hear the chickens, ducks, roosters in the background. Along our path, there were some wild berry bushes, some edible and some not according to Rodrigo. Though Irene admitted she had been eating all of them since the start of the season!
Maybe they were all edible. I didn't risk it and went for the wild (edible) blackberries which were so tiny but full of flavour. You could have left me there to eat the entire tree!
Much to my dismay, we left the berries and continued on. We passed other workers and walked past a few fields until we reached our destination. The sunflowers and the garlic fields.
Irene was going to get our hands dirty. I probably shouldn’t of have worn white...
Rodrigo grabbed one of the rakes he was carrying and showed us how to pull the weeds out without damaging the sunflower stem. He then gave me and Irene a rake and told us to get to work.
Irene started at one end and I at the beginning, and we would eventually meet in the middle.
I’ve never worked at a farm, the closest I have gotten to farming is weeding my tiny garden in my backyard. Nothing compared to this!
And let me tell you, it is work.
If you don’t respect and thank your farmer yet, you should start.
Ever since I started involving myself in the farm to table world, I had respect for farmers but after each weed I racked, my respect grew.
This is exactly why we should push ourselves to do something like this. We buy our food already washed, packaged, and sometimes even cut. We are used to having it so easy, that I think we have forgotten about how our food really ends up on our table.
Helping out at a farm, whether its with weeding, harvesting, or planting, is something everyone should strive to do, at least once. The appreciation, knowledge, and education you gain from this experience is truly valuable.
As I was raking away at the weeds, Rodrigo comes to help and talk. We chatted about farming and the farm and how the sunflower patch came to be.
“This line of sunflowers was actually planted because one of Irene’s friends like you came to help out. If not this would have never been done.”
There are so many other duties on the farm, that even though sometimes Rodrigo would like to start other projects like planting sunflowers, he simply can’t get to it.
Which brought up me asking, “Would you like volunteers to come help out?”
He responded, “Yes, that would help a lot. If we had more people I can only imagine what we could do, what we could grow!”
It was a moment of realization and enlightening for me about the local food community. It’s much more than just supporting local through buying. It’s also about tracing back to its roots. It’s not just about a piece of fruit or vegetable but the farmer, the farm and the work behind it all.
And what’s the best way to experience that? Helping out at a farm, especially those that don’t have scaled operations and thus need the extra hands.
Something definitely to consider if you have some free time and can spare a morning or afternoon.
As I work away, Irene has to step out to gather the produce for lunch, leaving me in the fields to finish our work for the day. At about noon I finish up with the sunflower weeds and Rodrigo tells me to go inside the house to help our Irene with lunch.
I don’t oblige as I want to see The Spicy Olive in action in the kitchen! I quickly clean up and hurry inside the house.
When I reached the house, Irene was halfway between the kitchen and the barbecue outside.
She wasn’t exactly grilling anything but cooking on the barbecue like you would on a stove! Irene says that she prefers to cooking everything on the barbecue, “It just brings another kind of texture and flavour,” she says.
I must admit after I saw her do this, I have been cooking everything on my barbecue back home.
Irene had planned for us to have breakfast for lunch. She was going to make scrambled eggs accompanied by roasted tomatoes and potatoes, which she would top with a purslane chimichurri sauce. Yummm-yy!
With a dish like that, I could have breakfast for lunch every day!
Back in the kitchen, I helped out with the eggs and green salad while Irene finished up on the grill. Everything took about an hour to prep, cook, and plate.
Before we all sat down of course, we took our photos. After all we are food bloggers.
After 15 minutes of some social media time, it was time to eat and it seemed that everybody knew it too because right at 1 o’clock, everyone came flocking in, following the delicious aroma or Irene’s homemade meal.
It all looked delicious, simple but delicious. Everyone helped themselves to a portion. There were so many of us, about twelve total. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough!
Some sat around the big table and some took their plates to the living room area where they sat on the couch to eat their meal. It all felt very connected, like a family. Well they are the Plan B Organics family but I also felt very much part of it even though I was just a guest.
It reminded me of family dinners, which I find now are a rare occurrence.
We made small conversation as we ate our meal. My favourite was the purslane cilantro pesto that Irene made for the potatoes. I could not get enough! Paired up with the roasted tomato and scrambled eggs, my taste buds were very content... as was my tummy.
This was such a wonderful experience. From helping out in the fields to interacting with the people on the farm to sharing a meal with them. It all felt very gratifying.
“We always need help on the farm, there’s so much we can do but we don’t have enough hands,” says Rodrigo.
Although it was just one day, it felt nice to help, to do something good for someone else. Plus, there is no better way than to get to know your food and where it comes from than helping out at a farm!
Thank you so much Irene for inviting me to Plan B Organic Farms and into your second family. It was a pleasure meeting you and spending some time with you in the fields and in the kitchen. I can’t wait to be back and share another day with you and the Plan B family.
Until Next Time,