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The 2017 EFAO Conference is Coming!

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Early Bird Rates in effect until November 6th

4th Annual Ecological Farmers of Ontario Conference

November 29-December 1, 2017
Blue Mountain Resort, Blue Mountains, ON
Visit conference.efao.ca or call 1-877-822-8606 to register.

Join over 300 ecological growers and supporters from across Ontario and beyond for an incredible three days packed full of practical farmer training, networking opportunities, and celebration.

A draft program illustrating this year’s theme, Rebuilding Rural Economies from the Ground Up, is now available online.

Conference program highlights include:

  • Thursday keynote address by Shannon Hayes, the Radical Homemaker
  • Friday keynote address by Lauren Martin of the Canadian Organic Trade Association
  • Speaker panel on co-operative farming models, facilitated by Faith Gilbert of Letterbox Farm Collective
  • Intensive pasture management & land restoration with Shawn & Beth Dougherty, authors of The Independent Farmstead
  • Farm business management sessions addressing cost of production, marketing, and labour management
  • Soil-focused workshops on topics such as low-input agriculture and soil carbon sequestration
  • Workshops on grain production, intercropping, natural beekeeping, seed crops, and animal health
  • Tours at The New Farm and Eat Local Grey Bruce
  • Many more exciting topics and speakers!

Early-bird pricing ends November 6th – register early to take advantage of this reduced rate!

Visit conference.efao.ca for the latest updates!

EFAO Seeking Fundraising Coordinator

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The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) is looking for a motivated and organized individual to research, design, carry out and evaluate a fundraising strategy for EFAO. The position will also provide opportunities to connect with Ontario’s ecological agriculture community and take part in a dynamic grass-roots organization dedicated to supporting farmers!

Position: 30 hours/week, offered through the Ontario Job Creation Partnerships (OJCP) program (see eligibility criteria below)
Duration: September 11, 2017 – June 29th, 2018 (40 weeks)
Compensation: $423/week through OJCP program
Location: Guelph, Ontario

About the EFAO
The Ecological Farmers of Ontario (EFAO) is a farmer-led charitable organization that has been supporting ecological farmers in Ontario since 1979. We strive to provide practical farmer-to-farmer training in ecological farming and to build community and support for our member farmers. Our main activities include workshops, farm tours, kitchen table meetings, an advisory service, farmer-led research, an annual conference and a bi-monthly newsletter. To learn more about EFAO please visit efao.ca.

Eligibility

This position is being offered through the Ontario Job Creation Partnerships (OJCP) program. After being selected by EFAO, candidates will also be interviewed by a program representative. Eligibility criteria include the following:

  • Unemployed and legally entitled to work in Canada (if working part-time, must be less than 20 hours per week);
  • Eligible for Employment Insurance Benefits, or have collected EI Benefits in the past 36 months, or finished a maternity or parental claim within the last 60 months are now looking to return to the work force;
  • Have completed a Needs Assessment interview with a designated Service Provider, and developed a Return To Work Action Plan (RTWAP) indicating that a JCP position is a suitable intervention to meet the Plan’s goal.

Responsibilities

  • Research potential fundraising opportunities
  • Develop both a short-term and long-term Fundraising Strategy
  • Coordinate and attend fundraising events, gather feedback and prepare reports on event success
  • Develop communications materials
  • Attend public events, conferences and tradeshows to promote donor fundraising program
  • Explore fundraising opportunities through EFAO merchandise (i.e. baseball hats, t-shirts, etc)
  • Other project-related activities as needed.

Skills & Assets Required

  • Experience with fundraising and marketing/communications
  • Experience preparing budgets and making budget reports
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Experience with social media platforms
  • Timely and attentive to details
  • Relationship-building skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Self motivated, creative problem solver with the ability to prioritize and see tasks through
  • Experience working or volunteering with non-profit organizations
  • Familiarity with the broader ecological farm community in Ontario
  • Access to a car and valid driver’s license
  • Ability to occasionally work on weekends

To apply please email the following in a single PDF document to jobs@efao.ca   

  • A cover letter describing why you would be a good fit for this position
  • A resume outlining relevant experience
  • 3 references

Deadline: **Deadline Extended** Please apply on or before September 4, 2017.

Please note that only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.

Learn about interplanting and paper planters at upcoming field day

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The farmer-led research field days have been off to a great start, coming up next we’ll be visiting Ryan Thiessen at Creek Shore Farms in St. Catharines.  Ryan has been using a paper-pot transplanter and wanted to try planting some crops at a foot spacing, but the largest paper-pots are six inch spacing… so he got creative!  He’s trying out inter-planting onions in his brassicas to see if that will help limit moth pressure on the brassicas, and to see if the onions will still get enough light tucked in between his broccoli.  Come on out to see his farm and his experimental plots on the afternoon of Monday August 7th. For more info and to register check out https://efao.ca/upcoming-events/.

 

Here’s a video on the paper planter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMSpN0E8_H8

Media Release! EFAO Recognizes Grant from Ontario Trillium Foundation for Farmer-led Research

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On Monday, June 26, 2017, Heather Coffey of Fiddlehead Farm on behalf of Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO), welcomed members of the public to a farm tour and plaque presentation to mark the growth of Ontario’s first Farmer-led Research Program. Local MPP Todd Smith and OTF Grant Review Team member Nancy Parks were on hand to congratulate the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario and the farmer-researchers conducting research trials this summer, and to hear more about how farmer-led research is a powerful decision-making tool that helps farmers innovate in the area of ecological agriculture.

“I am pleased to see this Ontario Trillium Foundation Grow grant go to such a worthy recipient,” said Todd Smith, MPP for Prince Edward – Hastings. “This farmer-led research project will bring vital information to Ontario farmers, for them to learn and share with one another and create an environment that is both economical and environmentally friendly. Congratulations to the EFAO on this successful application.”

Thanks to the $362,000 Grow Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Farmer-led Research Program is supporting Ontario farmers to conduct research trials that address their challenges and fit their farm and equipment. In addition, the program hosts webinars, supports farmer-to-farmer information sharing at field days and workshops and a publicly available online database of farmers’ knowledge (efao.ca/research-library).

“This grant has allowed us to grow farmer-led research in Ontario. The program is about cultivating a culture of science and curiosity that supports farmers to innovate on their farms”, said Heather Coffey, Eastern Ontario Research Coordinator of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario.

EFAO’s Farmer-led Research Program is committed to supporting farmers to generate and share evidence-based information about ecological farming practices and archiving farmer knowledge specific to Ontario. Visit EFAO’s website for more information on how you can join or support farmer-led research efforts in Ontario (efao.ca).

An agency of the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is one of Canada’s largest granting foundations. With a budget of over $136 million, OTF awards grants to some 1,000 projects every year to build healthy and vibrant Ontario communities. www.otf.ca.

Photo caption: Participants learned about farmer-led research at a field day hosted by Heather Coffey and Steve Laing of Fiddlehead Farm. MPP Todd Smith and Ontario Trillium Foundation volunteer Nancy Parks were also in attendance to help the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario recognize funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to expand farmer-led across the province. (Left to right): Ayla Fenton (Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario), Heather Coffey (farmer-researcher and Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario), Nancy Parks (Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant Review Team member), and MPP Todd Smith (Prince Edward – Hastings)

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Hargreaves, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario 226-582-0626 (cell), sarah@efao.ca

Tax Tips for Farmers!

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With tax season on us, Three Ridges Ecological Farm held a Kitchen Table Meeting on Tax Tips for Farmers. Greg Schoniker from FBC in London dropped by the farm to discuss all things farm taxes. The four of us in attendance all learned something important so I thought I would share Greg’s tips and advice.

FBC’s Top Tax Tips for Farmers:

  1. Keep good records! This includes readable copies of all your receipts, and credit card statements aren’t receipts!
  2. Always file a tax return AND file on time – even if you don’t owe! Late filings increasing your chance of an audit!
  3. Time capital gains and losses to reduce your overall tax burden. This is especially important for large purchases or sales with large capital gains.
  4. Plan borrowing to avoid losing tax deductions. Separate loans between personal and business to help identify tax deductions, remembering that interest is a tax deduction.
  5. Make mortgage interest tax deductible. Consider refinancing and investing the equity in your business.
  6. Get the facts before you rent out a portion of your property! Aside form legal implications, there are tax implications to consider, like depreciation on part of your primary residence.
  7. Use spousal RRSP to split income. This is especially pertinent if the farm business structure is sole proprietor.
  8. Plan your RRSP contributions. The tax deduction of RRSP may be better used in years when you anticipate having higher net income, while Tax Free Savings Accounts may be better used in lower income years.
  9. Invest in a Tax Free Savings Account. 
  10. Have a Risk Management Plan. 

Some other tips we took away from the KTM:

  1. Keep a vehicle log for all vehicles driven for farm-related activities.
  2. Each farmer-owner is eligible for up to $1 million in Capital Gains Exemptions, which need not be only on the gains on a property.

Similarly, ACORN released a blog by Coastal Tax and Accounting Services about Tips for Small-Scale Farmers, which you can read here.

Also note there will be a similar Tax Tips Webinar in May – keep an eye out!

Cheers,

Sarah

This blog cannot and does not replace or substitute in place of a consultation with a knowledgeable accountant who may offer tax advice based upon the specific circumstances of your situation, and the tax layws in effect in your geographical location and jurisdiction.

Dundalk Area Beef Farmer Wins 2017 Mapleseed Pasture Award

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February 22, 2017 (Toronto, ON) – The Beef Farmers of Ontario, Mapleseed and the Ontario Forage Council, sponsors of the Mapleseed Pasture Award, are pleased to announce that Paul DeJong of Ventry Hill Farm from the Dundalk area in Grey County is the winner of the 2017 Mapleseed Pasture Award. The award was presented this afternoon at the Beef Farmers of Ontario Annual General Meeting in Toronto.

 

For his environmental improvements and exceptional pasture management, Paul received a cash award of $500 and a bag of forage seed courtesy of Mapleseed.

 

Ventry Hill Farm consists of 450 acres, 100 of which are in pasture, along with an additional 30 acres of rented pasture land. Paul runs 50 cow-calf pairs and currently raises about 70 stockers that are pastured during the summer months. In order to maximize pasture production and weight gain, he uses a strip grazing system to maintain a consistent forage height and improve forage quality. This method allows Paul to meet his herd’s nutritional requirements, contribute to calf growth, and ensure his cows are in optimal body condition.

 

“Pasture is the main source of feed for my herd and there is a high water table in our area,” explains DeJong. “We try to pasture at least six months of the year, and by grazing a fall rye cover crop, pasture can be extended by two weeks.”

 

To prevent excessive trampling of his forages, Paul installed a waterline to provide fresh water to each paddock, which is equipped with quick-attach couplers for a convenient water supply at all times.

 

“The weight gain and cost per pound of gain achieved by Ventry Hill Farm proves that effective rotational pasture management can have many environmental and economical benefits,” shares Lawrence Levesque, District Sales Manager, Mapleseed.

 

Ray Robertson, Manager of the Ontario Forage Council, commented that as producers try to maximize their net profit from every acre, the management decisions made on Ventry Hill Farm are a great example of how some producers can improve the overall profitability of their operation.
The deadline for applications for the 2018 Mapleseed Pasture Award is November 30, 2017.

EFAO Volunteer Opportunities

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EFAO Volunteer Positions

On-Farm Event Coordinators

Position: On-Farm Event Coordinators

Type: 7 month volunteer (details below)

Organization: Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (efao.ca)

Location: Guelph, Ontario

EFAO is looking for 2 Volunteer On-Farm Coordinators, one located in Eastern Ontario and one located in Southwestern Ontario.

In this position, you would attend and facilitate farm tours and on-farm workshops (for free!) on behalf of the EFAO. These events cover a variety of topics, from irrigation to cut flower production. The On-Farm Event Coordinator is a volunteer position starting in April and lasting until November 2017. The position involves approximately 40 hours of work total, depending on schedule and availability. Events may be on weekends or weekdays (typically, though not exclusively, Sunday, Monday, or Wednesday) and can be up to 6 or 8 hours, including travel time. Volunteers are reimbursed for travel expenses.

More details at: https://efao.ca/seeking-on-farm-event-coordinators/
Deadline: February 24, 2017

Questions about the position can be directed to Naomi Krucker, Membership Services Coordinator (naomi@efao.ca, 519-822-8606 x.105)

Email resume and cover letter in a single document to naomi@efao.ca

EFAO Online Community Forum

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EFAO Online Community Forum

 

The EFAO is proud to launch a new online resource built to serve Ontario’s ecological farming community: the EFAO Online Community Forum. This tool is meant to foster and facilitate the exchange of ideas, knowledge and expertise, as well as the pooling of resources amongst members of the ecological farming community.

 

As with any community, you get what you put into it. Therefore we encourage you to actively participate: ask questions, offer up opinions, and answer other members’ questions. The forum is open to anyone that has an account on efao.ca (members and non-members alike).

 

We know your time is precious, and with that in mind we made sure the Forum is easy and convenient for you to use. Some of its features are:

 

  • Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Yearly digests (you decide!)
  • Topic activity notifications
  • Reply-by-email
  • User preferences to customize your forum experience
  • Fully indexed and searchable content
  • Actively moderated by EFAO staff and volunteers

 

As far as content goes, you can expect the following:

 

  • Categorized content for all aspects of ecological farming
  • Input from the EFAO member base
  • Classifieds (buy/sell, jobs, etc.) section exclusive to EFAO members
  • Special content from EFAO events (presentations, workshops, etc.) and post-event discussion

 

In order to access the Forum, you simply need to use your efao.ca account username and password. If you don’t have such an account, you can create one for free and get access to the forum. So don’t wait and bookmark the link below.

The EFAO Online Community Forum is generously funded by Carrot Cache!

 

Join the discussion now at:

http://forum.efao.ca

Seeking On-Farm Event Coordinators!

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EFAO Volunteer Positions

On-Farm Event Coordinators

Position: On-Farm Event Coordinators

Type: 7 month volunteer (details below)

Organization: Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (efao.ca)

Location: Guelph, Ontario

EFAO is looking for 2 Volunteer On-Farm Coordinators, one located in Eastern Ontario and one located in Southwestern Ontario.

In this position, you would attend and facilitate farm tours and on-farm workshops covering a variety of topics, from irrigation to cut flower production on behalf of EFAO. The On-Farm Event Coordinator is a volunteer position starting in April and lasting until November 2017. The position involves approximately 40 hours of work total, depending on schedule and availability. Events may be on weekends or weekdays (typically, though not exclusively, Sunday, Monday, or Wednesday) and can be up to 6 or 8 hours, including travel time. Volunteers are reimbursed for travel expenses.

Deadline: February 24, 2017

Responsibilities may include:

  •  Bringing necessary supplies
  • Taking registrations and payment
  • Introducing EFAO
  •  Supporting farm tour host as needed
  • Collecting evaluations
  • Documenting the event (blog post, pictures or video)

Assets:

  • Experience coordinating events
  • Experience public speaking
  • Practical farming experience
  • Knowledge of ecological agriculture
  • Excellent oral communication skills
  • Timely and attentive to details
  • Relationship-building skills
  • Ability to see tasks through
  • Familiarity with broader farm community in Ontario

 

Position Requirements

  • One of the volunteers must live in, or close to Guelph, Ontario and be available to come into the office
  • You will need to have access to a car and valid driver’s license

 

A complete application will consist of:

  1. A resume outlining relevant experience
  2. A cover letter describing why you would be a good fit for this position

 

Questions about the position can be directed to Naomi Krucker, Membership Services Coordinator (naomi@efao.ca, 519-822-8606 x.105)

Email resume and cover letter in a single document to naomi@efao.ca

Member Profile: Fiddlehead Farm

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Member Profile: Fiddlehead Farm

This is the full version of the member profile that appeared in the recent September/October edition of the Eimg_1197-version-2cological Farmer in Ontario newsletter.

 

1.)    Please tell us a bit about you and your farm.

We are Heather and Steve of Fiddlehead Farm in Prince Edward County. We run an eight-acre market garden producing veggie boxes and running farmer’s markets locally, as well as in Toronto 11 months of the year. We have six amazing crew members who are a mix of full and part-time employees on hourly wage.

We grew up in Montreal & Toronto and came to farming in our mid-twenties. With the help of parents, we were able to purchase a farm in 2012. Steve had spent a few years WWOOFing, interning, and completing the Fleming Sustainable Agriculture program. I spent the first two years working off farm, continuing to learn from other farmers, and then joined Steve full-time, full-year, on farm in 2014.

 

2.) Where do you farm, and why are you there?

Our farm is in Prince Edward County, and it’s a kind of natural in-between location for family in Montreal and Toronto. Moving down from Ottawa, it was right in the middle of all our social networks. It’s in a very touristy area, which helps support city luxuries like fine dining, independent shops, and lots of other small businesses. They in turn also attract lots of folks like us who believe in making the world a better place, and it’s got a whole different vibe from some of the other rural townships we visited when property hunting… this feels so much more like home!

“The County” is a little blip on the climate zone map, so we can add a month on either end of our growing season compared to the rest of eastern Ontario. Unfortunately, it’s a bit drier too… It is in the east, where land prices are way lower than the south-west. Finally, we’re in a corner of the county where there weren’t major farm stands to compete with, we’re closer to the 401, and property values were lower as it is a quieter “ward” – although we’re happy to be part of changing that!

 

3.)    What are your short-, mid- and long-term plans for your farm?

Short-term we want to take a holiday this winter, provide year-round employment for at least some of our staff, and better balance out our workloads. We need to reduce our summertime stress levels, and want to do some re-visioning as we’re just coasting out of our start-up five-year plan.

Medium-term we want to make sure we can use farming to meet our life and business goals. For life, that means fixing up our 1845 house, having leisure time, and being able to spend quality time together, too. For business, this means building up our soils, improving our efficiency, adding screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-9-30-12-pmto our off-season capacity, and creating meaningful year-round jobs for employees. We want to reduce the endless training cycle of seasonal workers at our end and to creative viable long term farming careers for our employees.

Long-term we want to be able to feed people in a sustainable system that balances ecology, economics, and society. This sees us farming with minimal waste, incorporating poly-orchards into our produce offerings, and successfully feeding people 12 months of the year with a relatively stable work flow.

 


4.)   Heather — you have a M.Sc. in Landscape Ecology. How does this training play into your life as a farmer?

For now, it doesn’t feel like it has a role in daily life… yet I think it really does play a role in our underlying approaches to farming. Steve also has a Masters (in Political Science) and I don’t know if it’s the studies or our personalities but people seem to comment on our “business sense.” I’m going to chalk some of it up to a slightly more mature entry into farming, and most of it I’ll attribute to attending numerous workshops – like holistic management, growing forward, and endless local farm tours. We’ve also had a pretty hardline approach since the beginning: either the farm pays for itself or it doesn’t happen. That being said, we’ve heavily re-invested our “wages” back into the farm over the first five years, living off one person’s draw.

My background certainly got me through the first few winters farming as I was able to find work. I had a lot of fun tackling data management over at Vicki’s Veggies with Tim over a few winters, building a cost of production-driven employee tracking system. That itself was a huge boost to developing my “business” sense.


5.)   You are trying out different mulches this year, with the idea that you might conduct a trial with the Farmer-led Research Program (FLRP) next year. Can you talk more about your motivation to experiment with mulches, and how you are conducting this informal trial?

There’s been a lot of confusion around so-called biodegradable plastic mulches, and we got caught in the midst of it. Bryan and Shannon at Broadfork Farm do a great summary of the issue in an ACORN newsletter also posted on their website: http://broadforkfarm.com/2015/08/05/the-case-of-the-unapproved-biodegradable-plastic-mulch/

fiddlehead farm fieldBasically, biodegradable black plastic mulch is an amazing solution to the age-old problem of balancing the benefits of mulch with practical and efficient ways to use it. In 2015 the Canadian Organic Standards were clarified to specify that despite being biodegradable, the mulch would have to be completely removed after use to be permitted in organic systems due to the presence of a plastic polymer. If you’ve ever worked with it before, you’ll know that is almost impossible as it partly biodegrades within a season, and tears up into shreds. There was a memo extending the permitted use until 2017, but we’re left with figuring out how to replace it.

So this year we ordered two other mulches to try alongside our classic black biodegradable mulch that we’ve become so attached to.  We put three different mulches on three rows of tomatoes to get a first glimpse at how they compared. We’re comparing the classic black biodegradable plastic mulch, some reusable thick landscape plastic mulch, and some paper mulch.  It’s just a little demonstration – since there’s no controls, randomization or replication… basically it was the quick and dirty version to get an idea of things. First impressions are that the woven landscape fabric held up the best and is reusable while the paper mulch came apart easily and sections ripped out in the wind when wet. We want to take ecological footprints into consideration as well. Over the winter we’ll take some time to design a proper experiment by thinking through a research question and hypothesis, designing an experiment to test that question, and then draw conclusions.


6.)   What gets you excited about participating in the FLRP next year?

Since coming to farming I’ve found that farmers are always trying to learn and share their knowledge, which is great. Sometimes I feel that we never really “know” things though, we’re just constantly trying out different approaches. Other times, information is presented as facts, but some learning venues were harder for me to grasp. I finally realized the issue when Steve was watching a video one day on pseudoscience vs. science. It was an aha moment.

 

Pseudoscience sets out to prove ideas, while Science is a careful attempt to DISprove your ideas. You never really “prove” any one answer, you only disprove competing hypotheses. That way in Science the door is always open for another explanation to come along and explain something better. It ensures the system can “learn”!

I’m really excited to participate in the FLRP because I feel like I have a grounding on both sides of the fence (research and farming) and there’s so much out there for us to learn. It is so simple to build some basic experiments and it is something I’ve not yet made time to do within the hectic farm startup life.  I think there is a lot that we can learn.


7.)    What has the impact of the drought been on your farm operations/yields this year? Have you seen any mitigating effects by the mulch trials so far?

At first, we were thinking ourselves lucky as we’re a market garden and we have an irrigation system. However, the system was not designed to handle this much water moving through it. Our irrigation pond, which typically runs out sometime in August was dry by early June. We got a second gas pump, and 500m of 2” piping to try to refill the pond from the marsh at the back of our property. We’ve spent a lot of time troubleshooting the system ourselves in addition to devoting one staffer full-time to irrigation, which is a huge cost, but thankfully she has embraced the challenge. The marsh water levels were far below normal when we got there, and by early August there was no more standing water (just muck). As I write this we’ve just gotten permission from a neighbour to try and run lines about 750m through his cattle pasture over to a lake, and if we can pull that off we’ll save our season, our staff, and our winter CSA. I’ve stopped speaking or thinking in “what if’s” as a basic attempt at sanity. 😉

The mulched beds have performed better overall as they are able to make better use of the water we’ve been giving them. We generally see better wicking of moisture and fuller saturation of the beds. They stay moist to the touch for several days longer than bare beds. It was a great year to try them out!

One challenge that evolved over the summer is that voles and field mice have been seeking sanctuary under the mulch and munching into the drip lines for water. We’ve have to do some patch work with the system running to make sure the lines weren’t flooding sections of the mulch. These days the leaks can be spotted by looking for patches of green weeds next to the mulched beds.


8.)   Have you had any “ah-ha” moments this season dealing with the drought?

There’s a huge difference between triage and production. A little water can keep a crop alive, but it takes a lot more water to keep them producing. We’ll need a way bigger reservoir to keep our vegetables producing if we have any more years like this one. Reducing the size of the garden to ensure that our land can “produce” the water needed to irrigate is an important consideration.

The drought has forced us to think critically about how we irrigate. We are hyper aware of the time, resource, and maintenance issues tied to our irrigation system as a result of this season. We entered 2016 wanting to upgrade and improve our system. At first that meant bringing in more overhead and reducing drip lines, largely from a time and footprint view of the materials involved. This year has pushed us to look more creatively at future solutions to address the major holes in the system, namely lack of capacity to move sufficient water in drought.

Moving to a solar electric pumping system emerged early since we are spending a hour of labour to cycle our pumps as the gas tanks empty, and a solar pump on a WiFi hookup could run itself with a text from our phone. Increasing our reservoir to allow us to survive extremely dry seasons is the another. Simplifying the system so that it is easier to water sections of the garden without switching each line on and off is the next challenge to think about. We like to build our infrastructure to survive the worst case scenario. This year has been a good case study.


8.) You are representing EFAO at the Organic Science Research Conference in Montreal in September. What are you hoping to learn or gain from the conference?

It’s so hard to tailor research to be useful to farmers and then get that research to them. Having worked in a research lab and also been a farmer I know it’s a tricky world to navigate. Research gets published in a scientific format in journals that are often physically inaccessible, as well as being overly technical. If we’re lucky, it gets interpreted by journalists who mostly interpret correctly. On the other side of  things, it’s easy to get lost in the concrete reality of farming and trying to think about science in season seems daunting, let alone tiptoeing around experiments and protocols as we work long days and are mostly desperately trying to keep things alive. There’s always something getting lost in the weeds, desperately needing transplanting, or drooping dangerously… at least at our place!

 

9.) What does the future of farming look like from where you are now? Fiddlehead farm team

Labour is a key issue on farms, and as we’ve moved from interns to staff on hourly wages we’re always dreaming about how to make it better. We see ourselves spending copious amounts of time training each year, and building a returning staff base feels like a far more efficient use of our time. We see that as requiring a new role on farms – rather than interns on minimal stipends or full-fledged owner/operators there needs to be a middle ground. Returning career farmers, with experience and expertise, could share the responsibility of farm management and production with the farm owner and should be compensated accordingly.

Starting a farm makes you realize how much of a jack of all trades you really have to be, and master of most. The trick is to recognize which bits you’re not good at, and to delegate or hire others to complement your skills. We’re lucky as our skills complement one another as a couple, but that’s not to say there isn’t ample work around to share the responsibilities of managing the farm with staffers.