There are a lot of things that make it tough to eat the right foods. Especially for people who give a fork.
What do we mean by “give a fork”?
Our customers tend to care (or give a fork) about the same things we do:
The food we eat is connected so strongly to our overall health. Healthy bodies is the #1 reason we grow what we do, the way we do.
Eating an abundance of fresh vegetables, especially a diversity of different ones, helps prevent diet-related illnesses and is the commonality found in different food recommendations.
We choose to farm organically for many reasons, but one of the big ones is that we don’t want pesticide residues on our produce. While there are organic-approved pesticides that certified organic farmers can use if they need to, at Broadfork Farm, we don’t use any pesticides at all, including organic-approved ones.
A recent study came out about the pesticide levels in the urine of families across the United States. Just 6 days of switching to an all-organic diet reduced the pesticide residues in their urine by a huge amount. Imagine what months can do! Check out more about this study by watching this video or reading this article.
Another health benefit that is being researched heavily is the link of healthy microbes in soils and healthy microbes in our guts. On our farm, we use practices that encourage a diversity of healthy microbes and, while we rinse our produce before bringing it to market (with our amazingly clean well water), we don’t use sanitizing products that are designed to remove all microbes (including beneficial ones).
Knowing your farmers is really important in the light of (what feels like) a constant barrage of food recalls and food fraud. Every time we hear of another one, we are reminded of how important it is to know where our food comes from. We want our food chain to be as short as possible, with minimal stages of handling where something could go wrong. The food we grow is only every handled by the 2 of us, Bryan and Shannon, with really high standards of care.
Shannon first became a farmer because of her passion for nutrition. She studied Holistic Nutrition, and then, wanting to learn about herbalism, decided to learn through a farm apprenticeship, rather than a classroom setting. This is what started her journey to become a farmer. When she met Bryan (working on a neighbouring organic farm), our passions for farming, cooking, and nutrition inspired the farm that we subsequently created together.
Growing nutrient-dense foods is incredibly important to us. It’s the nutrients in soil that give food its nutrients.
Over the past century, soils have been degraded around the world. This relates directly to tests of nutrient contents of foods which show that, overall, a carrot grown 50 years ago contained more nutrients than one grown today.
This doesn’t need to be the case, and in fact, we are among a movement of farmers who are feeding their soils minerals that are needed for the health of humans and animals, rather than only feeding plants what they need to be big and heavy and marketable.
By building healthy soil we are growing nutrient dense food.
As food lovers and home chefs, we are really into flavourful food. This begins with the seeds we select, chosen among various seed companies (Bryan has an incredible knack for remembering the character of the varieties we grow now and the ones we’ve grown in the past). We also save seeds and select for qualities that are important to us and our customers, especially flavour. Our food system over the past century has been marked by plant breeding to meet the demands of a global, export-oriented food system. This has meant that many varieties have been selected for their ship-ability (easy to package, non-bruising, not delicate), rather than flavour or nutrition or beauty (we eat with our eyes too). We are lucky to be able to sell to customers nearby so we can grow food for its flavour and uniqueness.
You may have heard of “terroir” before. It is most frequently used to describe the unique taste of a wine to its region. However all foods have terroir – the impact of soil on taste. Healthy soils provide great flavour and our farm has its own unique terroir, with its own geology, surrounding forest and proximity to a tidal river running into the Bay of Fundy.
When we see the vegetables and herbs most commonly offered by grocery stores, it’s shocking how few varieties are available. Diversity is important (and exciting) for our bellies, but it’s also really important to the planet. Different varieties, with different characteristics, have different abilities to survive and thrive under different circumstances. As farmers who love growing varieties that aren’t found commonly elsewhere, and as seed-savers (and by extension, plant breeders), we consider ourselves Stewards of Biodiversity. And an important part is our customers who are open and excited to try new things, because that is what makes it possible for us to keep doing this.
Oh, the environment! There is so much to say here. And while I won’t write as much here as I really should (or could) about this topic, I will say this: We believe that the right choices for the health of the environment and all the other species we share this world with, are also the right choices for building healthy humans.
Climate Change impacts us directly on the farm. And our food system (of which farms are a part) has had a great impact on greenhouse gas emissions. However, farms can be an extremely important resource, as a place to store carbon. This is known as Carbon Sequestration. Plants need carbon. They also use carbon as a currency with other species (like fungi and microbes). This economic model (carbon-based not money-based) is incredible inspiring to us and informs the way we farm (like minimizing tillage so we don’t disturb this underground trade and planting hedgerows, perennials, and plenty of cover crops). In fact, sometimes Bryan says he could spend all of his time growing cover crops because the positive impacts on the soil are endlessly fascinating.
When Shannon was working on a farm on an ecoaldea (ecovillage) in Colombia, a woman there told her that her totem animal was the ant. And immediately, this felt right and true to Shannon, who has been fascinated by insects for as long as she can remember. Supporting insect life on our farm is actually one of our main strategies to avoid insect “pest” damage. And this is why we never spray pesticides, including organic-approved ones. The insects that we tend to see as “pests” are the ones that are quick to return. The ones we see as “beneficials” who eat the “pests” are much slower to return once killed (or once they find their food source killed). We’re taking the long-term approach towards a balanced ecosystem. Lately, there has been a lot of news (like this and this and this) around the world about declining insect numbers (aka the “Insect Armageddon”). Insects are so important as they form the basis of our food chain. When insect numbers are reduced, the species who rely on them for food will be reduced and so on all up the food chain.
People are looking to reduce their food miles. The average food item travels 1500 km to its final destination. By comparison, our produce only goes 86 km from our farm to our market which makes it ideal for those trying to follow a 100 km diet. This means we can harvest soon before our customers are eating our produce. Fresher produce lasts longer and is more nutritious (many nutrients are time sensitive).
Supporting local farmers and young farmers
The benefits of supporting local farmers include supporting our local economy and local rural revitalization. Farmers don’t tend to be highly mobile (for example, we plan to live on this land for the rest of our lives) so supporting local farmers tends to be a long-term investment in the region.
Supporting farmers locally also helps keep the traditional skills and knowledge inherent in living off the land alive in our region. There are way fewer farmers than there were 50 years ago. We mentored with different farmers and are glad to be safe-keeping the farming skills and knowledge we have learned (and continue to learn) for the future.
Farmers are aging.
The average age of farmers in Canada is close to retirement age. And it’s higher in Atlantic Canada. Farming has been seen as an unappealing career choice for young people and it’s important to us to work towards a change – where farming is seen as a viable career choice for young people who are interested in the environment, food, health, the land and soils, and working outdoors.
No one has said that farming is an easy way to make a living but our loyal customers make a huge difference to us.
Isn’t it cool that you, as a person who “gives a fork” can make 1 choice that promotes all of these?
Our goal isn’t that every person joins our Market Food Club.
Just those who share these values.
We’re a small farm and we have simple needs. We don’t need all the customers in the world to keep our farm going, just the right ones.
Join our Market Food Club for the season. Head on over to our sign-up page now to learn more.
Be an important part of Broadfork Farm.
Love, your farmers, Shannon and Bryan
P.S. We’re a small, 2-person farm and we could definitely use your help in sharing. Word-of-mouth is the most valuable way that people find out about a community-based farm like ours.