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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!