La Bikery hosts: an Organic Plant Sale with Broadfork Farm

plant sale

On Sunday, June 5th, between 10 am and 2 pm, ride on over and find the perfect plants for your garden. We’ve got vegetables, flowers, and herb plants to go straight into your garden.

Everybody knows there’s nothing like biting into a fresh homegrown tomato! And organic seeds too!

Need to build up your soil fertility? We’ll have green manure/cover crop seed, compost, and organic soil amendments available.

Bonus: you can ask these organic farmers any gardening questions you have.

Bike on over and pick up what you need for the best garden season ever!

Where: Cooperative La Bikery Co-operative, 120 boulevard Assomption, Moncton, NB

What: Seedlings from Broadfork Farm: Lots of varieties of tomatoes (different colours, different sizes, bush and vining types), basils, peppers, flowers for cutting your own bouquet, pollinator/butterfly packs, Swamp milkweed (a non-invasive type of milkweed great for Monarch butterflies!), Lemon Balm, Mountain Mint, Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth, Grindelia herb, Sacred (or Holy) Basil.

There will also be organic seedlings from Ruhe Farm which will include lots of vegetables and herbs such as kale and cucumbers.

purple basil

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Fermenting the New Farm Culture

Atlantic Canadian New Farmers

On a Sunday at the end of March, around 50 new farmers from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick got together to learn from each other, share with each other, and enjoy good food together!

The first ever (hopefully not last) New Farmers of the Maritimes event (click on the link to the event to see more photos) was held at the Dieppe Market in Dieppe, NB. It was organized by a group of new farmers from all 3 provinces, with the help of Amanda, the executive director of the National Farmers Union in New Brunswick and Av Singh, the farm director of the Just Us! Centre for Small Farms in Nova Scotia.

I was one of the new farmer organizers and I can tell you, it was really cool to organize an event with other new farmers and farm supporters and see it happen…and happen successfully!

We set it up to have many short presentations, mostly panels, with time for discussion and questions afterwards. We left a fairly lengthy time for a potluck lunch for socializing and networking.

These were the topics we discussed with brief descriptions of each:

New Farmers. I was on this panel and I spoke about the results of the New Farmer survey (read my blog post about that here) as well as our personal access-to-capital story. Byron, PEI farmer from Thistle Dew Farm also spoke on this panel about his experience learning to farm, having not grown up on a farm.

access to capital for new farmers

The next session was on Land Access, given by Adam McLean who is farming at Holdanca Farm in NS but planning his own future farm business in PEI. Adam is passionate about pastured livestock and is going about planning his future farm in all the right ways. He has done a lot of research on different land access scenarios and is methodically seeking the right piece of land to meet his personal goals (as well as the goals of the current landowners).

After lunch, we had a Women’s Panel. Considering that close to 60% of new farmers are women, it was important to discuss issues that personally affect women farmers.

women farmers

Cammie Harbottle of Waldegrave Farm spoke from the perspective of a woman who is also the sole owner of her business. A few years ago, when Cammie had her first child, she needed to figure out how to manage her farm during her pregnancy and after her baby was born. This season, she is pregnant with her second child and, with the experience and wisdom gained from her first pregnancy, has decided to have a slower farming season, mostly focused on selling wholesale. She’s basically creating her own kind of maternity leave, since those are not provided to the owners of farm businesses. Cammie spoke very frankly about the challenges and blessings of farming while pregnant and with a young child.

Eva Rehak, from Ferme Alva in NB spoke (in French…we had translation services available for English and French) about raising her 3 children on the farm. When she and her partner Alain started their farm their first daughter was a baby. Eva spoke about being a mom and a farmer and a partner. While there are many cool things for children on a farm, being available for your children all the time while farming is a challenge. And it’s not easy to find childcare in a rural area and pay the high hourly wage on a lower hourly wage as a farmer. I know how much our farm feels like a big child, I’m amazed at farmers like Eva and Alain who are also raising 3 young human children!

I also sat on this panel. I spoke about my experiences with some people who have assumed Bryan is “the farmer” and me “the farmer’s wife.” I spoke about going to apply for a loan or purchasing a tractor or attending a farm organization meeting and people (men) talking to and facing Bryan….until I would be the one to respond (I’m chattier than Bryan) and having them realize they’d need to face both of us. I spoke about telling another young farmer about how reliable our tractor is but how it wouldn’t adjust far enough forward for me to safely reach the pedals and him saying that so many tractors are designed in such sexist ways. I spoke about the challenge in finding good quality work wear. And as I spoke, I looked around the room and saw female heads nodding. I had Bryan stand up and stand next to me so people could see how different our body types were and that even on our farm, we needed to be always making sure that infrastructure was built with both of us in mind. This panel sparked later conversations, including the idea of a Winter Women Farmers Retreat. It was very clear to me how much this conversation needed to happen and needs to continue happening.

After that, we had a panel on Agroecology and Food Sovereignty. (The booklet pictured below was one of the handouts from this session, click here to read it online. The other handout was on Food Sovereignty, click here to read that one online).

food sovereignty

Jordan MacPhee, from Maple Bloom Farm in PEI gave us the definitions of both terms then spoke on trade deals (the TPP and CETA specifically) and how they were basically creating policy that works against the principles of Food Sovereignty. In addition to being a new farmer, Jordan is also a student studying Political Science. He has used his time in academia for good, learning more about things that affect food, farming, and the environment. He is great at explaining complex (and often boring) topics like trade deals.

The majority of new farmers sell to (and want to continue selling to) local markets. Trade Deals can hurt local sales, in particular sales to local institutions like schools, because they require contracts to be opened up to any of the trading countries. So, if a province in Canada decides that local food procurement is important for their school system, Canada as a country can be sued by another country for “preferring” local food. This really limits the potential markets for farmers, especially considering how much people are starting to realize the benefits of local food.

Josh Oulton of Taproot Farms in Nova Scotia was also one of the speakers on this panel. He spoke about the challenge their farm had in sourcing non-gmo (genetically modified) grain for their meat CSA. They asked a bunch of different farmers to grow non-gmo grains for them and they all said it couldn’t be done. Mind you, they weren’t asking these farmers to grow organic grain, just non-gmo. Josh and his partner Patricia were finally able to convince a young farmer to grow non-GMO grain by promising to buy all the grain at the price he needed to make it work (which wasn’t cheap). That young farmer has been amazed at the higher yields and lower input costs (non-GMO seed is about half the price of GMO seed) which he never expected. Since Taproot Farms grows a lot of organic vegetables and has been transitioning more and more of their farm to organic every year, they have set a goal to certify their livestock as organic by 2020. And so, they’ve told that goal to the young, non-GMO grain farmer and he has agreed to grow organic grain by that target date as well! This is such a great story. Bryan and I are inspired by Josh and Patricia every time we talk to them. They are so great at making cool things like this happen!

After this, Rebeka Frazier-Chiasson from Ferme Terre Partagee spoke on Farming for Change. This was an empowering session, really about the idea that farming (and eating!) is a Political Act and that farmers have done a lot of innovative things over time so that their voices would not be lost in society’s move away from rural communities and away from farms. I know, for too many farmers, this aspect of farming, the speaking up and advocating for a fairer food system, is intimidating at best, and at worst, feels like a waste of time. But the fight for change has also inspired many to farm and to keep farming. Rebeka’s farmer is a farmer who has devoted much of his life to improving the food and farming systems. She shared stories she had heard from him and pictures from farmer political action across the Maritimes.

And, in order to share a concrete skill for making change, Carina Phillips, farmer and artist at Thistle Dew Farm in PEI, led a lesson in zine making. A zine is a homemade, inexpensive booklet or magazine. We collectively made one at the end of the day with participants making one or 2 pages each (about anything…their personal farming story, pictures, comics, jokes, collages, thoughts from the day) that Carina will put together and send out to each participant. It seems like such a great idea for the end of the day in any workshop or conference…imagine a session on carrot-growing with each farmer making a small page with their own tips, tricks, favourite varieties, recipes….on how they grow carrots. What a priceless collection of zines we could create to share our collective knowledge!

Bryan and I had a great time at this event. We feel a strong need to connect with other farmers and know the benefits of it especially when first starting out. Events like these help us to feel part of a community and re-invigorated by passionate people with similar dreams to ours. Oftentimes sharing our struggles and successes will help other farmers and can create lasting connections or solutions. I’m looking forward to attending more events like this in the future! If you’re interested in events like this, sign up to get the online newsletter of the NFU-NB. Even as a farmer in Nova Scotia, who is also a member of the NS Federation of Agriculture, I have found this newsletter to be a great resource.

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The Cutest Thing You’ll See All Day!

brooding ducklings

They’re here!

Forty-three of the cutest little beings imaginable.

These are a breed of ducklings called Khaki Campbells. We’re raising them (for the first time ever!) because we want organic, pastured duck eggs.

These little guys had big adventures on their first day alive! They left the incubation chamber they cracked themselves out into and got scooped up by an orange-bearded man (Bryan). Bryan then drove them 3 hours home (he picked them up at Wayne Oulton’s Farm – W.G Oulton & Sons – in Windsor, NS). Once he got them home, I (Shannon) ran from the field where I’d been transplanting and carried these puffballs into the porch where we’ve created a brooder for them to live for the first few weeks of their lives.

duckling starter mash

They all look alike so we have no hopes of remembering any names….though, at least for now, there’s one we’re calling Baldy…because there’s a little bald patch on her/his head where the fuzz hasn’t fully grown in. I expect it’ll grow in pretty quickly and we won’t be able to tell Baldy apart any longer.

Chick waterer

They’ve all been exploring the different areas of their new home.

They’ve got their 2 water dishes….I floated bits of weeds in one of them so they’d get a taste for them. They are obsessed with those floating bits!

They have 2 feed dishes which we’ve filled with organic starter mash from our friends Mark and Sally at Barnyard Organics in PEI.

And they have 2 heat lamps where they’ve been nestling under for their little naps.

Just like chicks, they have complete disregard when any of their siblings are napping….they just run right over them!

webbed feet

Their feet drive me wild! I love watching them pad around on them. And up close, they look dinosaur-like.

sleeping duck

This little baby is wiped out from his big adventures!

Check out the video we made of their first day in this world and hear their constant chatter. And see if you can spot Baldy!

Lil’ Kevin’s been keeping an eye on them through the window.

Cat and duck

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Nourish Your Roots Box

squash seeds

Here I am starting some acorn squash in the greenhouse. I’m planting these acorns for the Nourish Your Roots Box program. This program will see students from local schools fundraise by selling boxes of local, sustainably-grown produce (rather than the typical fundraisers of chocolate bars and tulip bulbs).

These local food boxes will be ready in time for Thanksgiving but the students will be working hard to sell these boxes far before then, just as the farmers will be working hard growing the produce far before then.

The farmers will sell the produce that goes into the boxes at a wholesale price. The students will sell the boxes of produce at a retail price. The difference will go to each student’s school. The money the students raise will go towards (and only towards) food and nutrition initiatives in their own schools. Pretty awesome!

Me and Bryan at Broadfork Farm are growing the squash for the box and some of our other farming friends are growing the other vegetables (delicious Thanksgiving-y things like carrots, potatoes, kohlrabi, etc.).

The idea behind the Nourish Your Roots Boxes comes from an organization called Nourish NS, an organization that supports nourishment and food literacy programs in schools.

I’ve decided to grow 2 varieties of acorn squash for the boxes. One has a green skin (like regular acorn squashes) and is called Table King; the other one has a cream-coloured skin with greenish stripes called Jester.

I start them all in the greenhouse in trays with 50 cells, one cell for each seed. They grow quickly in the warm, protected environment in the greenhouse which allows me to start them earlier than I could if I planted them directly in the soil. Squash can’t tolerate cold conditions and we’ve still been getting cold days and lots of cold nights.

In our area, we can plant these squash out into the field at the end of May. So, we’ll give you an update when that happens….so that all the students selling these Nourish Your Roots boxes and all the community members who will be buying them can keep up to date with how their acorn squash is growing!

squash seeds

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Who are Atlantic Canada’s New Farmers?

 

young farmers

A few years ago (in 2014), I had the great privilege to head to British Colombia in March (winter here in Nova Scotia/spring there) and hang out with this group of amazing young farmers from all over Canada for 3 days.

We talked about our farms, our successes, our challenges, who we were and what we needed to succeed.

Building a Future with Farmers

We were all totally inspired by the U.S.-based National Young Farmers Coalition and the amazing work they had been doing down in the States to help young farmers and advocate for changes to agricultural policy towards ones that would help young farmers succeed.  They had created a really awesome report called Building a Future with Farmers and we thought Canada needed something similar.

New Farmer Canada

So, we started the National NEW Farmer Coalition for Canada. We changed the Young to New because we realized that the stage of farmer, rather than age of farmer, really impacted the similarity of challenges farmers were experiencing in Canada.

We wanted it to be an initiative led by new farmers for new farmers but we also recognized that Canada has a lot of great organizations who were already doing work on new farmer issues. We wanted to pool those great efforts with each other and with our own efforts as farmers.

So, the National New Farmer Coalition is not a stand-alone organization, but a partnership with new farmers and a bunch of organizational members (currently: Young Agrarians, Food Secure Canada, National Farmers Union, Farmstart, and ACORN, with more to come).

National New Farmer Coalition

The first thing we did was create a new farmer survey. That is also what the U.S-based National Young Farmer Coalition did and they had 1000 respondents.

We ended up getting 1374 full survey respondents (but over 1500 who at least started to respond). So, we beat the group in the States…yay!

To create the survey and to understand the responses, we had the great fortune to partner with PhD student at the University of Manitoba Julia LaForge.

We did a lot of work to make sure the survey wasn’t only filled out by people who read newsletters from those organizations mentioned above. We had a long list of organizations and people we contacted that included the provincial and national organizations of all the commodity groups, marketing boards, and other farm organizations. As responses were coming in, we would find gaps where we weren’t getting as many responses as we hoped (for example, low numbers in Saskatchewan or the Northwest Territories, low numbers in the pork or beef sectors, low numbers of respondents identifying as Indigenous farmers) and we would seek out ways to reach out more strongly to those sectors to get a well-rounded set of responses.

So, what are some of the results of the survey?

new farmer statistics

This is the National percentage. Atlantic Canada was higher in new farmers who didn’t grow up on a farm (around 74%).

This seems obvious to people like Bryan and I who didn’t grow up on a farm and the majority of new farmers we know claim the same.

But this stat is actually shocking to a lot of people. And has huge policy implications! A few years ago, I attended a presentation by an employee from Farm Credit Canada who said there is no problem with finding new (or young) farmers. They come from where they always came from…..farm families. I remember being shocked that he thought that.

And if most new farmers are not inheriting a family farm AND they didn’t grow up learning how to farm from their family members, they need to be able to access land, equipment, and knowledge some other way.

Here’s another stat:

women farmers

That means the MAJORITY of new farmers are female. This one is also not a shocker to us. But I heard a stat from the last census (which was back in 2011) that 22% of farm operators were female. And that seemed very low to me.

However, there is still a cultural tendency to think of farmers as men. When children draw farmers, they usually draw a man. I know we’ve  experienced this first hand, whether when purchasing a tractor or applying for a loan, people have first started talking to Bryan as the farmer and slowly realized during the conversation that they need to face and speak to both of us.

Next stat:

ecological farmers

This one makes my heart sing! A very large percentage of new farmers are farming ecologically. This gives me so much hope for the future.

Now, for the next few survey results, these are specific to Atlantic Canada. Because I gave a presentation on this topic to new farmers in the Maritimes and I wanted them to really see themselves in it.

But the National New Farmer Coalition is right now working on a report for the country so keep your eyes wide open for that!

access to capital for new farmers

These are the top 5 obstacles mentioned by Atlantic Canadian new farmers. I remember how challenging it was for us to figure out how to access capital for our farm since the bank and credit union we use don’t offer farm loans. And Farm Credit Canada told us they’d only consider us if one of us got a full-time, off-farm job. Luckily the NS Farm Loan Board gave us one based on our years of experience and detailed business plan.

#2, the low profitability of farming relates both to the perception and the reality. A lot of farmers are scared to enter the sector because of the perception that they won’t make enough money to survive. And a lot of farmers start farming and find they’re struggling to make a living on it.

programs for new farmers

This next one is about what’s working for new farmers now. As you can see, it’s really educational opportunities that are currently working for new farmers.

what do new farmers need to succeed

These were the top 5 recommendations from new farmers on what they would like to see (or see more of) in Atlantic Canada. Two of these (farmer to farmer mentorship programs and on-farm training including apprenticeships) were also on the list above about what’s working, but clearly new farmers want to see more of these opportunities and more supported by the government.

policy recommendations

What’s the next step for the National New Farmer Coalition? Well, the report I mentioned before, which will have recommendations for government in addition to case studies of new farmers across the country. It will be a reader-friendly report that I think any person even slightly interested in the topic of new farmers will find interesting.

Last year, I went to Parliament with a bunch of other new farmers from across the country and sat down with 5 MPs. We showed them some preliminary stats from the survey and they were surprised and also very supportive. It made me feel really empowered to be able to say my story and feel listened to. We definitely need to cultivate within new farmers the confidence to speak up and tell their stories to policy makers!

National New Farmer Coalition

If this is the kind of thing you want to stay up-to-date about, join the National New Farmer Coalition facebook group.

Once the Canadian New Farmer report comes out, the Facebook group will definitely be the first place you can hear about it. I’ll also share it here on our blog as well as on our facebook page and twitter account. I think (and hope) it will have a great impact on the success of current and future new farmers across our country!

If you know of any members of parliament, organizations that work with new farmers, or new, aspiring, or experienced farmers that might be interested in these preliminary stats, please share this post with them and get them pumped to read the whole report!

 

 

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Letter to the Minister about GE Alfalfa

alfalfa field

picture from: http://www.honey-whizz.com/alfalfa-honey.html

 

Here is a copy of a letter Bryan just sent out about genetically engineered alfalfa. This is an issue that hasn’t been getting much press in our area, even in our farming publications and we hope it spurs conversation. We’ve posted some links where they apply to parts of our letter. These are not references but rather articles you might find interesting for further reading.

We would love to read your comments and, as people send us interesting comments or information by email, we will post them in the comments section below.

 

Dear County Boards of the NS Federation of Agriculture, NS Commodity Groups, Council of Leaders members, Executive members, staff of the NS Federation of Agriculture, staff of the Department of Agriculture, staff of  Perennia and to our honourable Minister of Agriculture Keith Colwell,

I am writing to you today to make you aware of an issue you may be unfamiliar with given the lack of education and media news surrounding it, but one which will have a large impact on the risk management strategies of many farmers across the province.

This spring, after Western Canadian producers decided against the release of GE (genetically engineered) alfalfa, Forage Genetics International decided to instead release the seed for sale in Eastern Canada (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland).

This GE Alfalfa variety is called HarvExtra. It contains 2 GE traits. One is the Roundup Ready trait. The other reduces the lignin content of the alfalfa.

The purpose of my letter is not related to genetically engineered technology in general, but very specifically to GE alfalfa.

Western producers who grow GE corn and soy have taken a stand against GE alfalfa due to the nature of this particular crop.

Alfalfa, as many of you know very well, is a perennial crop, most often grown in rotation and in combination with other crops. It is pollinated by bees, which makes it difficult to control in terms of the unintentional spreading of GE traits to non-GE alfalfa stands. It can also become a weed very easily and Nova Scotia has a population of wild alfalfa on field edges, in ditches, along roadsides everywhere which cross-pollinates with our cultivated varieties.

Beekeepers have come out against the release of GE alfalfa because there are already so many things contributing to the decline of bee health and there is a possibility that this crop could add to their burden.

Farmers who grow alfalfa as a part of a rotation and in combination with other crops see the Roundup Ready technology as a pointless, even burdensome trait. Roundup Ready alfalfa will not be able to be killed using Roundup. The Roundup Ready trait is also outdated technology for new varieties being released, since so many farmers are seeing Roundup Resistance among their most persistent weeds.

The low-lignin trait, while at first glance can seem appealing since lignin is not digestible and therefore a low-lignin crop has the possibility of offering more nutrition with less plant material, is also a potentially harmful one. Lignin is a fibre and all animals (including humans) require fibre to maintain good health.

There is also the fact that as both an industry and as a country, agriculture in Canada needs to move towards more carbon-friendly practices. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is taken up by plants and stored in the lignin (in addition to the root matter). And so, low-lignin alfalfa is actually a step in the opposite direction to the one we should be moving in for Carbon-friendly farm practices.

As farmers, we must always be aware of the risks to our business and try to mitigate them. This is what Western farmers have done in speaking out against GE alfalfa. It is a huge marketing and profitability risk, for both producers who are selling to export markets that don’t accept GE product as well as to producers who sell domestically and locally to markets that don’t want GE product (such as non-GMO and Organic markets). GE alfalfa seriously reduces our marketing options.

As an Organic farmer, I can tell you that GE alfalfa will heavily impact the organic sector which is a sector that is growing quickly around the world and offers a lot of economic benefits to farmers in Nova Scotia as well as across the country.

Organic dairy and meat producers rely on organic alfalfa. Organic crop farmers use alfalfa within their rotation and as a soil amendment due to alfalfa’s great ability to bring nutrients up from deep within the soil. Organic farmers cannot use any alfalfa that has been contaminated with GE traits.

A co-existence plan for GE alfalfa has been created however most farmers who have read it and are familiar with the way bee-pollination happens as well as the nature of alfalfa as a plant have realized how ineffective that co-existence plan will be in the long-term.

I believe it is the responsibility of each of us to ensure that we are moving agriculture as a whole in a positive direction and to not put the viability of any farmer’s business at risk where we can help it.

Farmers I have spoken to, in general, feel that regular alfalfa has not been a difficult crop to establish and that the new GE alfalfa varieties are unnecessary, however I would be very happy to talk with farmers who feel that this GE alfalfa variety is very important for the success of their personal business because I do want to hear all sides.

As President of the Cumberland County Federation of Agriculture, a member of the Council of Leaders, and a young farmer looking towards the future viability of my own farm business, I am asking you to seriously consider this issue and look at both the pros and cons of this particular crop being released in our region.

At the very least, I believe this issue should be widely discussed and disseminated by our Federation and Department of Agriculture so that farmers can make their own personal risk management plans around the GE alfalfa release into our region. The NS Federation of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture have the responsibility of being the main ways issues like this are shared with the general farming population in Nova Scotia and need to help farmers learn about the risks to their farm businesses before it’s too late.

Thank you very much for reading my letter and seriously considering my thoughts. It is a privilege for me to be a farmer in Nova Scotia and to be able to learn so much from so many experienced farmers across the province. Through you, I am being mentored as a better farmer, better agricultural leader, and better rural community member.

You are welcome to share this letter as widely as you’d like to and I look forward to hearing your own thoughts on this issue.

Sincerely,

Bryan Dyck, farmer at Broadfork Farm and President of the Cumberland County Federation of Agriculture

 

 

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Spring Update on the Farm

 

tulips

The sun feels good! It’s been nice to see plants that spend the winter in the ground sprouting up and doing well. With the mild winter that alternated snow and thaw, we weren’t sure how things would overwinter. It’s still unknown whether everything did well….our overwintered onions seem alive but their black plastic ground cover blew off during heavy winds mixed with thawed out soil. A bed of overwintered baby kale (never harvested) looks really nice and we’ll be harvesting from it soon. This year our biennial flowers were planted into beds that were pretty wet this winter….though bulbs like tulips and daffodils are looking good in those same beds.

hoophouse

We left this caterpillar tunnel up all winter so we could plant it earlier in the spring. It was an ideal winter for tunnels (very little snow means very little shoveling snow off the tunnels). We planted into it at the end of February. Most things are still little and growing slowly but we did harvest some salad mix for market last week from it.  That bed next to the caterpillar tunnel in the picture above (with the white row cover over it) was where the baby kale lived over the winter. That was all the protection it had.

Jang Seeder

More caterpillar tunnel plastic has gone up in the last few weeks and we’re already seeing the little seedlings sprouting up!

starting seeds

Every year, we scramble for enough space to house our seedlings  before they’re ready for the big world. Bryan built an extra little space this year with a heated bench in the center and a “hardening off” section along the side (where the plastic can roll up).

salad mix

Our high tunnel has been bursting with greens. These guys lived in there all winter and started really growing as days started getting longer and warmer. We started going back to the Dieppe Market on April 9th this year, a few weeks earlier than we’ve ever gone before. It’s been so great seeing all our awesome friends (customers and other vendors) again!

organic vegetables Dieppe

Posted in Farm Infrastructure, Market, On the farm, Seasonal Snapshot, Updates, Vegetables, Winter Growing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How old can a Young Farmer be? and Another Cat named Kevin

young farmers

In early March, the NFU (National Farmers Union) Youth held our annual retreat – this year just outside Edmonton, Alberta, at a historic log cabin called Rundle’s Mission. We had at least one person from each province in attendance (except for Newfoundland-Labrador and the Territories…it would be great to fill those voids for next year!).

There were some conversations about being referred to as “Youth.” All of us in attendance were clearly grown-ups…I’d say that 30 was an average age. But when we’re talking about the farming community, under 40 is often considered a young farmer (technically within the NFU right now, it’s under 35).

You can see the faces of all of this year’s attendees in the picture above…..and yes the plaid was planned (as it has been for the past few years). These faces make me so happy. This is the future of our farm and food systems in Canada!

It’s so great to be able to take a step back from thinking about our individual farms (the production, the marketing, the business management) and think about the BIG picture. Of where each of us fits in the larger landscape of farm and food. The reasons we became farmers, the problems we see with the status quo, the solutions that each of us are coming up with.

This is why I’ve attended this event for the past 4 years! (You can read my blog posts from the previous 2, here and here.)

And of course we eat great food, socialize, tell stories, dance, sing, and drink together!

young agrarians

A lot of what happens during the NFU Youth Retreats are young farmers sharing and teaching young farmers. We had one presenter, Cory Olikka, who presented ideas for hosting kitchen table meetings to us but wasn’t there for the full 3-days (Cory is a former NFU Youth President) but otherwise, the presenters were also the participants.

The current NFU Youth President, Ayla Fenton, gave a brief overview of the history of the NFU and all the work farmers from across Canada have been doing since the 60’s to improve farming and food systems.

She showed this gem of a picture below. These are NFU youth members from 1971. How great is that! The clothes! (old photos like this one can be found in the History of the NFU on the website)

National Farmers Union Youth 1971

We learned about some farmers in Manitoba who had won a provincial award through their Department of Agriculture for their sausages……then later that year had those sausages confiscated for “food safety reasons” but the sausages were destroyed by the Department before they were tested. Read more about that here.

We learned about regulations that affect small farmers in Alberta (many of the regulations are the same or similar in every province). If a farmer was selling frozen pesto, they can’t put it in a Mason jar….why not? Because apparently customers would then think it was a canned product and they would leave it on a kitchen shelf rather than in the freezer, and then would get sick after they ate it. This farmer blending their basil up before the frost hits it in the field also would have needed a certified kitchen to process it in and a food handlers certificate for themselves as well as a food permit for both the freezer they’re storing the pesto in at the farm and for the delivery van they use to get the pesto to their farmers’ market customer. All of these steps makes it less and less likely that customers will be able to access products made in small batches by the farmers who grew the ingredients.

I presented on Organic 3.0 which is a vision for the future of the Organic Movement. Because I love being both an organic eater and an organic farmer, and because I’m planning/hoping to live on into the future, this is an important issue for me. If you want to learn more about it, check out the discussion document here.

Our retreat happened to coincide with March 8th, the International Women’s Day. So, of course, with members of 2 farm organizations that have really honoured women as farmers (before it was politically correct to do so), the NFU Youth and youth from Union Paysanne (in QC) stood in solidarity with women farmers from around the world. You can see the awesome photo we took below. And here is our statement:

International Women’s Day Statement
Youth of the NFU and Union Paysanne
March 8, 2016

On this International Women’s Day, 2016, we the youth of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Union Paysanne stand in solidarity with all of the women farmers, peasants and Indigenous women around the world who are sowing the seeds for change, which includes undertaking a disproportionate amount of the work in feeding communities everywhere.

We recognize and honour the efforts of women within the NFU and Union Paysanne who have taken on a leadership role in fighting for equality within the Canadian food system, and who continue to play a strong role in building food sovereignty in this country.

Women farmers in Canada have played a significant part in the forging of alliances with peasant women internationally, through their work with La Vía Campesina. This has been an inspiring process of movement building and knowledge sharing. Women are shaking the structures of power within the patriarchal economic system that is capitalism. We recognize that women around the world are continually putting their lives on the line through this struggle.

We collectively mourn the loss of Berta Caceres, Indigenous environmental leader from Honduras, and we condemn her recent murder, which is a manifestation of the attack on struggles for land, justice, and freedom throughout the global south. Here in the territory known as Canada, we stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities who are demanding justice for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and who are dealing with the ongoing consequences of colonialism.

Globalize the struggle! Globalize the hope!

La Via Campesina

 

Each year I’ve attended, as we’re all hanging out in the evenings, we’ll share photos from our farms. This is a great way to get to know each other better as farmers.

During my farm slide show, the last photo was of our newest kitten, who we had still been struggling with naming (we tried out lots of names on him for a day or 2 at a time).

A few other farmers had cats named Kevin (random cat name…) and so, I suggested it to Bryan when I got home. We changed it slightly to Li’l Kevin. Li’l Kev for short. And it seems to work….it’s different enough from our other cats’ names (Yuki and Kubota) that I think he gets who we’re calling.

kitten

 

I can’t recommend the NFU Youth Retreats highly enough. I think that attending one is one of the coolest things a young/aspiring farmer in Canada can do to set the stage for their successful/empowered career/life as a farmer.

All of the participants of this year’s NFU Youth Retreat from the Maritime Provinces were so stoked about the event that we wanted to bring the event home. So, we’re organizing a mini-version (one-day only) on Sunday, April 24th at the Dieppe Market. It’s called New Farmers of the Maritimes – Fermenting the New Farm Culture! | La fermentation de la nouvelle culture fermière ! You don’t need to be “young” to attend, just young-at-heart. I hope to see you there!

You can find all the info on the facebook event page here.

During one of the annual NFU Youth Retreats, we started the National New Farmer Coalition (which is a Coalition with other Canadian organizations that are working on supporting new farmers). If you haven’t already, I recommend reading more about it here. And join the facebook group and share your thoughts.

There is also both a National Farmers Union facebook page (where you can see what the organization is sharing) and a facebook group (where you can see what NFU members are sharing). I encourage you to check them out and like or join if you want to keep up-to-date.

Here are a few online resources that I learned about during the retreat and wanted to share:

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Back at Market April 9th!

Winter greens

We’ll be back at the Dieppe Market this coming Saturday, April 9th. We’ve got lots of greens in our unheated tunnel with more ready to be planted in their spot.

We’ve got some greens you may never have tried before like Mache (aka Corn Salad) and Miner’s Lettuce (aka Claytonia).

We’ve also got the sweetest spinach you’ll ever eat, gorgeous kales, and bok choi.

Can’t wait to see you at the Market!

your farmers, Shannon and Bryan

overwintered kale

 

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Why We Started Broadfork Farm

Start with Why

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