With an increasing demand for local food and a growing concern about the health of our environment and our bodies, Thunder Bay continues to see new farmers sprout businesses. Established in 2014, Root Cellar Gardens is one of these new farms and has been welcomed by Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s (TBRHSC) Fresh Market, an onsite farmers’ market.
“Root Cellar Gardens is a small market-garden business dedicated to growing high-quality organic produce using ecologically-minded practices,” says owner Evalisa McIllfaterick. “Our aim is to support and maintain the health of the both the social and ecological communities of which we are all a part of.”
Root Cellar Gardens’ commitment to sustainability is about more than non-chemical practices; it’s also about encouraging our population to eat locally for an extended part of the year – which is reflected in their farm’s name. One way in which they encourage an extended local eating season with our short growing season and a looming winter season is by growing food that stores well or that can be harvested early and/or late in the regular growing season. “Foods that we focus on include parsnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, radishes, peas, squash and a variety of greens. We are also continually trialing different foods, growing and storage methods to figure out what else can be grown and harvested in a way that supplements our vegetable supply in the more meager spring, fall and winter months,” explains McIllfaterick.
When it comes to using locally grown produce that can be harvested outside of the July and August garden bounty boom, McIllfaterick is full of tasty ideas, like cheddar and parsnip soup (see recipe). In addition to encouraging sustainable eating, McIllfaterick and partnering farm, Mile Hill Farms, know that not everybody can store food all winter which is why they are offering their first ever winter community supported agriculture (CSA) box.
You can find Root Cellar Gardens at the Thunder Bay Country Market (Wednesdays from 4:00 – 7:00 pm and Saturdays from 8:00 am – 1:00 pm) and the TBRHSC Fresh Market (Wednesdays form 11:30 am – 1:30 pm). For more information about Root Cellar Gardens visit www.rootcellargardens.com or find them on Facebook. Information about the winter CSA box can be found at both Root Cellar Gardens and Mile Hill Farms websites.
Serves 6 people
In a large saucepan, sauté the onion with the slat in the oil on low heat until the onions become translucent, about 10 minutes. Mix in the caraway seeds and parsnips. Stir and simmer them gently for about 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes and water. Bring the soup to a boil. Moderately simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Remove the soup from the heat.
Stir in the fennel and the cheese. When the cheese has melted, pour in the milk. Allow the soup to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Then in a blender or food processor, puree the soup. Gently reheat it, being careful not to let it boil. Serve hot with parsley or dill.