Squash Thanks Giving

Winter Squash

What an abundant season for Winter Squash! We planted our winter squash in a section of our farm that really seems to love growing cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, melons, etc.). We brought in all of the squash right before our first frost and there were only a reasonable amount of seconds (reasonable = an amount we can easily eat ourselves). Over the past years, we have kept good notes on which squash our customers really seem to love a lot and are growing more of those while continuing to try out new-to-us, exciting, and promising-sounding squash varieties.

One of our favourites from last year is the heirloom, Japanese Black Futsu Pumpkin with the incredible grayish-blue pebbled skin (that looks weird but is actually edible). This is one that is not only delicious but looks amazing while sitting out waiting to be eaten. The inner flesh is a brilliant bright orange. Last year was the first year we grew them and we did not grow enough….they sold out quickly. So, this year, we grew much more and we are excited that more of our customers will get to try them!

Japanese pumpkin

We grow a bunch of pie pumpkins including an adorable one called Baby Bear that is delicious but we decided to try a larger one as well this year, Winter Luxury. This is the first season we have grown it. It has a stunning whitish netting that covers the skin which reduces the brightness that most pumpkins possess. We like pumpkins that are beautiful and unique-looking while they sit on the counter or dining room table awaiting a special dish. This is the largest squash we grew this year and the skin (or shell) would definitely make an amazing pumpkin soup bowl with the flesh scooped out and made into a soup puree (topped with the roasted seeds)….yum….


Butternut squash are a staple squash for us. This year, we grew 3 different varieties of them: Honeynut, Nutterbutter, and Tiana. Tiana is the largest one we grew. Nutterbutter was developed by High Mowing Seeds to be an earlier-maturing butternut squash for northern growers. Honeynut is the smallest butternut squash we grew. It is a personal-size type of squash that was bred in collaboration between farmer, chef, and plant breeder. It takes longer to mature and starts out green, maturing to a darker beige (that we cannot get in the field…they change for us in storage).

Tiana Squash

We have loved Delicata squash for years. The typical one we grow has a light, cream-coloured skin with green stripes. The skin is edible and great-tasting. The most common way we eat delicata squash is to slice them in rounds and stick them in the oven (seeds, skin and all). We roast them until the seeds are crispy and then eat them like cookies. Definitely whole-foods cooking! This year, we grew 3 varieties of Delicata including one called Candy Stick Dessert. I ate one for breakfast the other day without anything added (no salt, no oil) and it tasted (to me) EXACTLY like pumpkin pie…I could taste a hint of cinnamon and it was super sweet and the texture was perfect. I imagined myself serving it for dessert with guests over….just a half on a plate!

We have a few other types of squash that we are storing a bit longer….they are the long-keepers and we want to be able to sell them closer to Christmas. They include some beautiful red, pinky orange, and pale blue Kabocha and Hubbard types: Sunshine, Winter Sweet, and the very cute Gold Nugget.

Hubbard squash

Posted in On the farm, Vegetables, Winter Storage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Obstacles New Farmers in Canada Face

Food Secure Canada

This election season, Food Secure Canada has created the Eat Think Vote campaign, which is drawing the attention of politicians from all parties and citizens from all parts of the country to the critical issues facing food systems. They state that the Government elected in 2015 should work with others to ensure that:

As part of this campaign, I was asked to write a part of our story of becoming new farmers and to reflect on the policy that our country needs in order to support the next generation of farmers.

Here is the post I wrote (which you can find on the Food Secure Canada website in addition to your chance to sign the petition for the campaign and learn about other ways you can support these 4 food pillars).

National New Farmer Coalition

My name is Shannon and I am a farmer. My partner Bryan is also a farmer and together we own and operate Broadfork Farm, a small-scale, organic market garden that provides us with 100% of our income.

Neither of us grew up on a farm. We each started our farming journey by apprenticing on farms we admired. It took a number of years learning from experienced farmers before we felt ready to think about starting a farm. We met while working on neighbouring farms once each of us had independently decided we wanted to start our own farm. We had almost a decade of experience between us.

Neither of us had accumulated much savings but through a farm field management job I had and the incubator CSA Bryan ran the season before we started out on our own, we each saved $10,000. That $20,000 was what we used to start Broadfork Farm on leased land and pay our living expenses until our produce was ready to sell.

We spent the winter prior to starting Broadfork Farm working on a business plan, in conjunction with a farm business planning course we attended.

We wrote a lengthy and detailed lease agreement with the landowners we leased land from. Our 1st growing season offered challenges and rewards. We had dreams of putting more money and time into soil-building and planting perennial crops. Both of these activities were part of the vision we had for an agro-ecological, regenerative, healthy farm system and both require commitment and long-term vision. We knew we wanted a stable land situation and dreamed of buying our own farm. It felt like a far-off dream but we ended up hearing about a small farm for sale in another county. We visited a few times and ended up deciding that it was a perfect farm for us to fulfill our dreams.


But accessing capital to purchase this small farm was a complete unknown to us. Neither of us had ever tried to get a mortgage. Both the bank and the credit union we had accounts with said they did not give farm loans. We asked for advice from other farmers and ended up sending an application to Farm Credit Canada.

An appointment was set up and we drove 2 hours to the nearest FCC office. We had worked on updating our business plan and financial statements and sent all the necessary paperwork by email a week prior to the meeting.

When we arrived at the FCC office we met with a loan officer. He had not yet looked at any of the documents we had sent so we waited patiently while he found them in his email inbox. He glanced through and told us that he would be in touch in a few days but it did not look promising. Our meeting was over 10 minutes after it began. During the 2-hour drive back home, we discussed what our other options might be.

A few days later, as promised, we received a call saying that FCC would not give us a loan but would reconsider if one of us got a full-time, off-farm job.

We were not impressed. Our business plan required both us to be working on the farm full-time to meet our goals. And we had been under the impression that Farm Credit Canada offered loans to farmers, not only to people with off-farm income.

Luckily for us, Nova Scotia still has a Farm Loan Board (which every province used to have). Through communications that happened by phone and email (no 2-hour drives), they approved us for a loan for both a mortgage and some needed infrastructure, based on our business plan and experience.


That loan has enabled us to meet our production goals, bring stability to our marketing channels, and work towards the ecological and societal benefits that form the basis of our farming vision.

And from my perspective, we were a good bet. We have always paid our mortgage payments on time and have always paid back more than the minimum owed. We also feel comfortable thinking about taking on more debt in order to build our farm business because of the positive experience we had with the NS Farm Loan Board. 

I think one of the issues in Canada is that farmers like us, who come from non-farming backgrounds and want to create small-scale, ecologically-resilient and livelihood-generating farms, are not always recognized as viable farmers. The get-big-or-get-out, monocultural and heavy-input philosophies of so many of our country s farms and farm policies have made it increasingly difficult for farmers like us to be seen, heard and valued. And yet, results from a recent New Farmer Survey, put out by the National New Farmer Coalition and the University of Manitoba showed that over 70% of new farmers come from non-farming backgrounds and many of them are choosing biodiverse, small-scale, socially-beneficial, and ecological farming philosophies. The survey also showed that access to capital is one of the major barriers for these new farmers and one that impacts whether they start or continue to farm at all.


With the interest worldwide in local-lending, Slow Money initiatives, and ethical investing, it seems that people would be lining up to invest in ecological and socially-minded, family-scale farms. Here in Nova Scotia, there is an inspiring example in Farmworks, where investors put money into a pool that goes towards local food and farm businesses.

It also seems that traditional farm-lending agencies, like Farm Credit Canada, would recognize the aging farmer crisis nationally (with the average farmer celebrating their 55th birthday this year) and be on the look-out for new farmers from all backgrounds and sectors of the industry to start paying them interest.

I think one of the most important changes that needs to happen and in which any average person can contribute is by helping to change the conversation on who and what a farmer is. I remember having a conversation with a woman who asked if Bryan and I had animals on our farm. We have kept laying hens but we are primarily a vegetable farm. She then said that we were hobby farmers. I have to admit, when we think of keeping livestock on our farm, we typically think of the animals as a hobby, not the vegetables, just as farmers who primarily raise livestock but grow a home vegetable garden might think of the vegetables as a hobby. Stamp collecting is a common hobby but there are definitely people who make a living from the buying and selling of stamps and for them it is not a hobby.


The increase of customer interest in local food, organic food, and buying directly from a farmer has really helped smaller-scale, ecologically-minded farms gain acknowledgment and respect from the greater farming community as well as policy makers, but we still have a long way to go. Keep voting with your dollars and being the change you want to see in this world and in your community, and policy-makers will have to take notice. And if you have some money you would like to invest while making a big difference in the life of a new farmer, consider finding (or starting) a local-investment initiative (I recommend looking to Farmworks for inspiration).

Changes in Canada’s food system, health-care system, and farm systems need people working from both the top-down and the bottom-up. Every citizen can make a positive change for the present and the future.

Get more details on the issue on this page.

We need more new farmers and we need national policy to support them. Take action:

CTA sign the petition eat think vote  Join or host an event eat think vote


Posted in Food Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Flower Farming Workshop

cut flower growers

On Sunday, September 13th, close to 30 flower-growing enthusiasts were stuffed into our old farmhouse (read: small rooms, or the opposite of open-concept) for a workshop called The Business of Cut Flower Farming. Our hope had been that the weather would cooperate and it would be an outdoor event, however knowing there was the possibility that it would need to be indoors, we capped registration at the max we thought we could even hope to have in the house at one time. And the workshop swiftly sold out. The weather did end up being rainy and mosquito-y in the morning so we grabbed every sofa, chair, lawn chair and even some sacks of cover crop seed to seat everyone.

flower workshop

Svenja Dee of Tulipwood in Lunenberg county led the workshop. Svenja was a fellow vendor back when we sold at the Lunenberg and Hubbards Barn markets and was a big inspiration for us in starting to think about growing cut flowers in addition to vegetables. Her market stand was always beautiful and her bouquets always sold out quickly.

For the morning and part of the afternoon, the workshop was classroom-style. Svenja taught us about how and why she runs her cut flower business from production to marketing.


After an incredible potluck lunch, we headed outdoors for a harvesting demo and discussion on flower harvesting efficiencies, and techniques. And then, we moved to our vegetable wash station which had been converted into a bouquet-making factory!

Flower bouquets

Svenja had brought a wide array of flowers and everyone proceeded to walk around the tables, choosing stems for their bouquets.

making bouquets

Svenja showed us her technique for making bouquets step-by-step and how she wraps them the stems together with raffia twine (which can be composted….great idea!).

Bryan and I posing with our creations.

local bouquets

Here is the gang (minus a few people that left a bit early and our photographer Lucia from ACORN) holding their bouquets in the serious shot.

local flower growers

It was an awesome group of people and I know there are many more in our region who would have liked to make it. We have got a facebook group going called Atlantic Canadian Flower Farmers where future events will be posted.

Notes from the event will also be posted on the ACORN website Resources page so keep your eye out for that.

The upcoming ACORN conference in November will also have a cut flower workshop with Amanda Muis Brown from Humble Burdock Farm that I am super excited about.

There has been mention of this being an annual event. My personal hope is that workshops like this for regional flower farmers can become more frequent, perhaps a few times per year, and rotated around to various farms, with seasonal topics and areas of focus.

I am so grateful to Lucia from ACORN for doing such a fabulous job organizing this workshop. And to Svenja for all the knowledge and experience she passed on. And to all the flower farmer participants for sharing their passion, knowledge, and delicious potluck items (and for being good sports about squishing into our house!).

Posted in Farm Workshop, Flowers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seasonal Snapshot: August 2015

Orange Honey honeydew melon Dieppe Market

The melons have been ripening during August and we’ll have lots of delicious fruit for the market in September. This year, the majority of our melons were planted under a caterpillar tunnel and we’re really happy with the quality (and flavour) compared to other years. Overall, we’ve found the abundance on the farm this season to be wonderful and sometimes overwhelming with just the two of us. But we are feeling a lot of gratitude for that abundance, as well as the abundance of kindness and thankfulness of our wonderful customers. We couldn’t be luckier to feed such amazing people!

heirloom tomatoes Sunflower

Our tomatoes got off to a later start this year than in the past few years due to the cold nights we experienced earlier this season but they are really pumping them out now….over 50 varieties of them, both heirloom types and newly-bred/future heirlooms. There are also always a few hybrid varieties that we love for their flavour, disease resistance, reliability.

overwintering onions summer squash

Once again, we’ll try to overwinter Bridger onions which we seeded at the beginning of the month. They’ve been growing in the greenhouse all month and we’ll be planting them outside soon. Onions have never been our strongest crop since we moved to this farm but we keep on growing some and getting better each year. The summer squash (well, all cucurbits actually), on the other hand, has always been one of our farm’s favourite crops to produce and so we make sure to grow as many cool varieties as we can find. This year, the pattypan types have been more popular than ever with both home cooks and restaurant chefs.

Posted in Seasonal Snapshot | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Local Cut Flowers?

Black Knight Scabiosa

Buying local, ecologically-grown food is a no-brainer. There are so many benefits, both for families as well as for our local community, economy, and ecology. Voting with our dollars and choosing food grown by a farmer we know and whose values and practices we respect is one of the biggest social, ecological, and economic changes we can make to boost our (largely-rural) Atlantic provinces.

I know firsthand, I’m a first-generation farmer who could never have dreamed of settling and making my livelihood here in Atlantic Canada without the support of eaters. Eaters who choose to eat the fresh, local organic food that I imbue all my values into through the way I raise it. What are some of those values?

Bumblebee on Cosmos

My partner Bryan and I value providing wildlife corridors on our farm and enhancing soil health for the billions of creatures that inhabit it as well as for future human generations. We value protecting the water that courses on top of, underneath, and alongside our farm. We value the diverse insects including pollinators that serve an important purpose on our farm but are also important for their place in the web of life that is too complex for us to fully understand. We value biodiversity, of plants and animals.


And all these values are inherent in, not only the food that we and all the other local, ecologically-minded farmers produce, but in the local, ecologically-grown cut flowers that an increasing amount of farmers in Atlantic Canada (and around the world!) are growing for their communities.

Think of some of the reasons you may be wary of the industrial food system. And then apply them to the industrial cut flower industry. Most of the cut flowers you can easily buy for your wedding, for your hospitalized relative or to brighten your home, have been grown on large, monocultural, heavily-sprayed farms in tropical climates where farm-worker health, safety, and recompense are questionable.

Compare that to your friendly, neighbourhood farmer-florist who lovingly tends their diverse flower patch and wants the flowers they’re picking and arranging into beautiful, imaginative bouquets to be safe and healthy for them to handle as well as for you to take a big whiff of.

kraft paper sleeves


Flowers add so much biodiversity to our farm with the over 50 different kinds we grow. Very few of them are closely related to our vegetable crops so growing flowers helps us with our crop rotation (an important principle in managing soil health and reducing weed and insect pressure).

In addition, many of the “wild” elements on our farm, whether in the hedgerow or part of our cover crop rotation, as well as field weeds, are beautiful additions to a lush bouquet. This helps us to value and admire these “crops from nature” rather than hoping to control or eradicate them.

Adding diversity to our farm increases our resilience with weather instability and market unpredictability, just as it does with our communities overall. How many one-industry towns and villages have we seen boom and bust across our region? One-crop farms are equally as fragile.

Buckets of cut flowers

Perhaps the biggest reason an increasing amount of discerning customers are choosing locally-grown flowers is to celebrate the awe-inspiring beauty of where we live. I love knowing that a customer is sitting down to a meal to be nourished with the vegetables we grew while their soul is nourished by the seasonal floral abundance from our farm that week. Their connection to the farm is enhanced and we get to share more of the beauty and uniqueness of our small farm. Now if we only we could package up the bird song and wonderful feeling of a cool breeze on our sweat-covered brows….

Uproar Rose zinnia

And….for all you cut flower growers out there or for anyone interested in growing cut flowers as a business (either stand-alone business or as part of an existing farm), there’s a super exciting workshop coming up in September! It’s being organized by ACORN, hosted at our farm and led by Svenja Dee of Tulipwood (she was one of my original inspirations for growing cut flowers because her bouquets are INCREDIBLE!).

I am crazy excited and know it will be great! Space is super limited (I think it’s already half booked up) because of the hands-on nature and intimate setting so sign up asap if you’re interested. Here’s the sign-up link: http://acornorganic.org/events/calendar/cutflowerworkshop

Cut Flower field tour

Posted in Flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Case of the Unapproved Biodegradable Plastic Mulch

I wrote this article for ACORN’s summer 2015 newsletter and am now republishing it here.

biodegradable mulch

At the end of March of this year (2015), we found a memo in our inbox from Ecocert (the organic certifying body that we are certified with). In this memo, we were told that we would no longer be able to use the biodegradable plastic mulch (made with non-GMO corn starch) that we had been using unless we removed it after use. We were surprised and concerned. It was definitely a little last-minute! We still had leftover rolls of it at the farm from last season and had made our order for this season back in December (when we do a lot of our inputs purchases). And the removal part….it’s pretty tough to completely remove something that biodegrades as it’s in use.


Bryan and I have been using biodegradable plastic mulch (which I will refer to from now on as biofilm to reduce typing) since the first year we started Broadfork Farm. As small farm operators, we have appreciated the reduction in our time spent weeding in particular. But there are other benefits to using plastic mulch, like warming the soil and retention of moisture in the soil. With our deep feelings of stewardship for the soil, we have also liked how we have been able to keep more of the soil covered during the season (with the biodegradable mulch in the beds, our pathways have been maintained in living mulch that we mow). Soil left bare tends to create its own “cover” of a dry, dead, erodible soil layer.

clear plastic mulch

We knew that, as a manufactured product, biofilm wasn’t the perfect solution in our utopian organic vision. But it was a solution we preferred to regular plastic mulch (with the required pulling up at the end of the season and taking to the landfill) or frequent cultivation.  There are of course other mulches like straw or leaf mulch but they didn’t fit in as well with our whole system (but rather have fit in with some crops in certain instances when we could access sufficient quantities without prohibited substances).

We had often talked about the fact that we didn’t think we could have made 100% of our household income from our farm from our first year without the use of biofilm. We even listed it as one of our 5 favourite market gardening tools! Especially in our first year while we converted hay fields to vegetable fields…while growing vegetables. The sod clumps that we’d overturned were too lumpy to be able to use a wheel hoe (or any other kind of hoe for that matter) for weeding.

lettuce on plastic

So, after receiving the Ecocert memo, I contacted other people involved with the Organic Standards and asked, what’s up with this? It turned out, that our Canadian Organic Standards had never allowed the use of the biofilms (without removing from the field after use) that are currently available in the marketplace. But there was a lot of confusion around this, both by farmers and certifiers. I think the confusion stemmed from the language of the Standard (very Standard-y) and the uncertainty of exactly what substances each biofilm on the market contains.

This is what the Standards said:

Fully biodegradable films: permitted without removal if they do not contain substances prohibited by par. 1.4.1 of CAN/CGSB-32.310, Organic Production Systems — General Principles and Management Standards.

I think it was clear to everyone that the biofilms couldn’t contain GMOs or pesticides. And the ones organic farmers were using don’t contain these.

Many organic farmers had happily been using this input for years and so, when the memo came out right at the beginning of the growing season, it was a big shock. People involved with the Crops Permitted Substances List (PSL) working group of the Organic Standards Technical Committee, the Standards Interpretation Committee (SIC), and the Canada Organic Office (COO) at the CFIA all started trying to figure out an appropriate and fair solution.

So, why aren’t biofilms allowed? Well, all of the biofilms on the market currently contain a certain percentage of petroleum source materials (which are prohibited) that seem to be referred to as raw fossil-based ingredients (by manufacturers). The biofilm that we had been using, while having the lowest percentage of petroleum source materials of any other biofilm, is still around 20%. I didn’t like learning that. And I was disappointed it wasn’t clearly expressed by the companies that were manufacturing and selling these biofilms. I had thought the biofilm we were using was actually 100% non-gmo corn starch.

Then there is the issue of biodegradability. Most farmers who have used these biofilms know that the biodegradability varies (so the ‘fully biodegradable’ part of the above Standard was a tricky one). It varies from farm to farm, field to field, season to season. In particular, it varies based on the life in the soil, the soil temperatures, and the soil moisture. There has been a bit of research done on this but not enough. The primary ingredient in the biofilm we’ve used, the corn-starch material Mater-Bi, is shown to be compostable in ideal composting situations but that’s not the same as using it on top of the soil in highly variable field conditions.

kohlrabi on black plastic

As I was trying to learn as much as possible about this input, I realized that there are currently too many unanswered questions. Like what happens to all the bits (even the bits we can’t see with the naked eye) that don’t fully biodegrade? Are they contributing to those floating garbage islands in the ocean? Are they being taken up into the web of life through food chains (insects, birds, mammals) and their materials concentrated? And to what effect? Are the microorganisms in the soil changing…adjusting to a new food source….and if so, is this harmless or harmful on the balance of life in the soil? Are there residue buildup issues we should be concerned with (the labelling always says “No toxic residues’ but what is this claim based on? Over how many years and with how much biofilm use? Is this claim unlimited?)?

With both the sustainability of farm businesses and care of the soil in mind, the Organic Technical Committee brought forward a revision to the 2015 Canadian Organic Standards. This is that these biofilms with the prohibited substance of petroleum products (all that are currently on the market, remember) will no longer be allowed unless removed from the field….but that, in order for farmers to figure out new systems without the use of these products…or, fingers-crossed, time for the manufacturers to figure out a way to change their products to be compliant….organic farmers will still be allowed to use the biofilms as they have been (i.e. tilling back into the soil) until 2017. And, for this 2015 season, since the newly-revised 2015 Organic Standards won’t come out until the fall, the Canadian General Standards Board has sent out a bulletin saying that this new Standard will be in effect for this season  as well (you can read that bulletin here).

As organic farmers, we are committed to being stewards of the soil. While we need all the help we can get with improved products and efficient techniques in order to provide ourselves a livelihood, as small-scale organic farmers, we realize that we are only the caretakers of this land for the tiny time period of our lifetime. This land needs us to consider our impact on the generations that follow ours. So, we are always researching, learning, and questioning what we thought we knew.

Bryan and I have decided that, beyond using up our leftover biofilm from last year (we cancelled the order we had made back in December after the memo came out), we wouldn’t use any more biofilm (unless the manufacturers make some serious improvements in the future). But how will we replace it’s benefits in our operation?

At this point, we’re thinking about increasing our annual use of landscape fabric (which can be rolled up at the end of each season and re-used for many years). This reduces our opportunities for living mulch in our pathways which we’ve really liked having…though there are always plenty of beds that don’t get any mulch at all (like beds of salad mix, carrots, salad turnips, radishes) that will still have the living mulch pathways.

Landscape fabric

We’ve also been experimenting with rolling/crimping rye and flail mowing rye and then planting fall brassicas (like cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi) into it.

flail mowed rye

Since biofilms haven’t been allowed on U.S. organic farms (but many farmers there have wanted to), there has been some thought and a little research coming from there on this topic.  Here are a few resources you may find interesting for further reading:


Posted in Farm Infrastructure, Organic, Tools | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Visits to far-off farms

We spent 2 days in a row away from the farm early this week, to learn through on-farm workshops that were each being held about 3 hours from our farm but in opposite directions. On Sunday, we went out to a field day at Strawberry Hill Farm in Pembroke, NB and then, on Monday, to Abundant Acres in Centre Burlington, NS for a workshop called Grow Better, Not Bigger with Jean-Martin Fortier, farmer and author of The Market Gardener.

field day

The field day at Strawberry Hill Farm was organized by ACORN and the NB Department of Agriculture. Tim and Kirsten Livingstone, are really inspirational farmers. They received the Gerrit Loo award 2 years ago to recognize their contribution to the organic farming community in Atlantic Canada. A few years ago, Tim was our mentor through ACORN’s Grow a Farmer program and we were super excited to get out and see the farm at this time of year. It was only my (Shannon) 2nd time visiting their farm and Bryan’s 1st time.

vegetable farm

Tim and Kirsten grow lots of different vegetables, strawberries (with the name Strawberry Hill Farm, the neighbours expected strawberries at the farm stand though they named the farm after their road), raise pigs, layers, broilers, and cows, and produce some vegetable seed for Hope Seeds. Everything they produce is certified organic and they sell through their CSA, their farm stand, and to wholesale accounts.

In the top picture on the left, you can see a bed of ground cherries. They put bread trays out underneath the plants covered with row cover. When the ground cherries drop, they harvest them out of the bread trays. The picture below that shows their sweet potatoes on clear plastic. They’ve tried sweet potatoes on different colours of plastic mulch but have found the highest yields from using the clear plastic.

Tons of farmers and farm apprentices came out to the field day and the potluck was amazing (farmer potlucks are always the best!).

On Monday, Perennia and ACORN’s Grow a Farmer program organized the first of 2 workshops called Grow Better, Not Bigger with farmer and author Jean-Martin Fortier. The one on Monday was held at Abundant Acres where farmers Jen and David Greenberg have been experimenting with the techniques Jean-Martin writes about in his book The Market Gardener on a section of their farm. The workshop sold out quickly with a limit of 50 participants and it was great to catch up with farmers we hadn’t seen in a while. We’d never been to Abundant Acres before and were super stoked to see their farm.

farm workshop

The day started out with some overall growing philosophies from Jean-Martin (JM). People had lots of questions and asked them throughout the day. We moved on to a demo of how JM creates his raised beds. He used the berta plow attachment on the BCS walk-behind (or 2-wheel) tractor to make the raise bed from an area that was in sod and had just been flail mowed. He explained that with the residues in the bed he would then cover it with silage tarp for a few weeks. Then he’d broadfork the bed, add compost, and go over the top with a power harrow to make a nice firm, smooth seed bed.

The Market Gardener

Many of the participants have been using the techniques Jean-Martin talks about in his book The Market Gardener and had questions based on the successes and challenges they’ve had. There were questions around crop spacing, fertility, disease management, weeding, and more.

ginger growing

I was excited to check out Jen and David’s ginger crop. This year, they were growing most of it in these corrugated plastic bins and were adding compost and peat throughout the season. Jen said she thinks it’s really important not to let the ginger tops and roots get too big before transplanting to their final space, something that I think was the main issue with our ginger crop failure last season (the ginger never really recovered after being transplanted). Their ginger looked great! Their customers will be some very lucky people when the ginger is ready for harvest!

And here we’ve got a length-wise hug with Av Singh from Perennia, Bryan, Jean-Martin from Les Jardins de la Grelinette, Jamie from Off Beet Farm, me (Shannon), and Lucia from ACORN.

Av Singh

Posted in Books and Resources, Field Trip | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lovin’ this Lettuce!


I know I sound like a geek….but it thrills me that our current salad mix contains a lettuce whose seed we saved on our farm. It’s one of 6 varieties of lettuce in the mix at the moment (we change up the lettuce varieties pretty often during the season). It’s called Italian Red Parella and it’s super cute and beautiful. It’s a sun-kissed, freckly beauty with a nice round shape.

We grew it for Annapolis Seeds 2 years ago and kept quite a bit of seed for ourselves so we could see how it fits in best with our crop plan and what qualities we want to select for in the future. We liked it as a full-head but, right now, I’m really loving it in our salad mix.

It’s really fun to fine-tune our salad mix each winter through the selections we make from various seed companies. But, it’s a whole other level for just one component of our salad mix to have been in the works for much longer. It’s definitely not our flashiest lettuce. I’m not sure if anyone eating the mix would point it out and say “how special is this one?” so I just wanted to mention it. It’s special.

Lettuce Mix

Posted in On the farm, Seeds, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Veggie Field Day in Southeastern New Brunswick

ACORN farm tour

On Sunday, Bryan and I headed out a few hours northwest of our farm to go visit a few other farms in southeastern New Brunswick. A few organizations (ACORN, NB Department of Agriculture, and La Recolte de Chez Nous/Really Local Harvest Co-op) had organized a Veggie Field Day at a farm called Green Thumb Farm (or Ferme Pouce Vert). The field day had an impressive turn-out with over 40 farmer participants (which of course yielded an incredible potluck lunch including a meat BBQ generously donated by the Really Local Harvest Co-op).

Since we’re rarely out in that part of the region at this time of year, after the tour at Green Thumb Farm, we were happy to also get to visit 2 other farms we’d been hoping to see for a while now: La Ferme Terre Partagee and Ferme Alva.

La Ferme Pouce Vert

Green Thumb Farm is run by Roger Richard, his wife Carmelle, and his brother Jean-Louis. Like many farms in that area, it used to be a Brussels sprouts farm and that’s where the name came from: while topping 60 acres of Brussels sprouts, the farmers would end up with green thumbs. The farm now grows about 14 acres of vegetables and strawberries and sell through their CSA, local produce stands, and to the Farm to School initiative.

Rogersville, NB

La Ferme Terre Partagee is run by 2 young farmers, Kevin and Rebeka on part of Rebeka’s family land. They produce vegetables and lots of strawberries! They’re very involved with the NFU-NB and Kevin attended the NFU Youth Retreat I wrote about back in March. Their greenhouse summer squash were already producing zucchini on huge, beautiful plants!

Alva Farm

Ferme Alva (Alva Farm) is owned and operated by Eva and Alain (along with their 3 young kids). We see Eva and Alain fairly regularly at the Dieppe Market but had never seen their farm before. They’re farming on a small-scale, inspired by bio- intensive market gardener Jean-Martin Fortier. Eva and Alain are also very involved with the NFU (National Farmers Union) and Eva has been a strong advocate for access to childcare support for farmers in NB.

For Bryan and I, farm tours like these are important as sources of information, inspiration, and community-building. We’re so grateful to all of these farmers for opening up their farm to us and letting us learn from them. Having successful local family farms is a key requirement for the future of ecological land stewardship and food sovereignty.

If you’re interested in attending future farm tours, keep your eyes on the ACORN website which lists upcoming agriculture-related events, both ACORN-organized and otherwise.

Posted in Field Trip | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seasonal Snapshot: June 2015

Six row seeder

Right now, we’re planting (both direct-seeding like in the picture above and transplanting seedlings we’ve started in the greenhouse), weeding, mowing, preparing beds, covering crops with row cover, starting more seeds in the greenhouse for future plantings, harvesting and more. We’re basically trying to catch up to where we’d like to be at this time of year. The weather hasn’t made it easier. Our last frost was 2 weeks ago but last week it went down to 2 degrees Celsius and fields had frost just a 15 minute drive from us.

Roller Crimper

We’ve got a beautiful cover crop of rye. It’s just starting to shed its pollen so we’ll soon be either mowing it or attempting to “roll” it with our rototiller (note: the rototiller isn’t being run by the PTO on the tractor, it just turns as it rolls along the ground…this rolls the stem over and “crimps” the stem which kills the rye and leaves the stalks on the ground as a mulch). This will be our 2nd time trying this…the first attempt was ok, we had to roll over it twice.

Farmers' Market

The Dieppe Market has been going well. We’ve been inside the market so far this spring but will be moving to our regular spot outside next week (not this coming Saturday…the next one, the 27th).

And, finally, just in case you’ve been itching to hear either Shannon or Bryan’s voice, we’ve both recently been interviewed in audio format. Click on the photos below to hear:

a) Shannon talking with Chris Blanchard on the Farmer to Farmer podcast about Valuing Yourself to Mitigate Risk,

or b) Bryan on the CBC Shift NB Homegrown show talking about the farm-made infrastructure he’s created including our germination chamber (which we also wrote a blog post about).

Purple Pitchfork Bryan on Shift



Posted in Market, On the farm, Press, Seasonal Snapshot, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment