What do you produce on your farm?
On our little Organic Oasis we grow a variety of organic fruits and vegetables, keep treatment-free bees and pasture-raise animals. In the winter we rely on greenhouses to grow fresh greensincluding lettuce, kale, spinach, beet greens, dandelion, herbs, bok choy, and swiss chard. In the summer we fill our gardens with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, elderberries, mulberries, blackberries, and pretty much any garden vegetable you can think of! We rase pastured pigs, 100% grass fed Gallowat beef, pastured laying hens and meat chickens. We also keep bees in our treatment-free apiary so we can offer raw honey.
When did you start farming?
I grew up on an organic dairy farm, so have basically been farming my whole life. Organic Oasis Farm Store opened in June of 2001 – that’s when we got heavily into fruit & vegetable production.
Why did you start farming?
I liked the peacefulness of the country and wanted to raise my children in a wholesome, healthy environment the way I grew up. I also wanted to work from home and be around for my children.
What practices do you use to preserve or improve the health of your land?
All over the farm property, we encourage pollinators by planting bee forage. This is good for our own bees but also for other pollinators such as butterflies and native bees. We plant living fences wherever possible. We also use a diverse variety of cover crops to both limit pests and enrich the soil. We’ve incorporated the animals into our farm ecology, and we farm completely organically – that means no chemical sprays, no synthetic fertilizers, and no gmo’s.
What practices do you use to ensure your animals have a high quality of life?
Our animals enjoy life in a setting that’s as close to nature as it can be. They get as much fresh air and exercise as they like out on the pasture. Our pigs can root, wallow, and graze to their hearts’ content. Our chickens are free to forage outdoors and our cows are rotated regularly through various paddocks to intensively graze the pastures.
What is the biggest challenge you face today?
We’re always trying to figure out how to best manage new pests and prevent them from ruining our harvest. For example, the “Spotted Wing Drosophila” is a type of fruit fly that recently made its way to Canada. It infests soft fruits early in the season, during ripening, which makes the fruit turn soft very quickly and drastically reduces its shelf life. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries seem to be the worst inftected, though they are said to affect strawberries as well. Flea Beetles are another pest. We have to keep our summer brassicas (arugula, cress, mustard) under row cover, or these beetles will destroy whole crops. We’re also constantly battling potato bugs – these we hand pick, and my children are a big help with this.
What do you really want people to know about what you do?
I’ve heard some people say that organic food is overpriced. It’s getting harder all the time to produce good quality food due to new pests and also increasingly unpredictable weather. There is also a tremendous amount of labour and other costs associated with sustainable farming. For example, we hand-weed, purchase large amounts of hay mulch for suppressing weeds and building up the soil, plant cover crops to enrich the soil, and maintain crop notes to organic certification standards. We’re also regularly building or updating fencing or moving portable animal housing around. We strongly believe that every animal deserves to live like nature intended - cows to graze rather than stand in a barn, pigs to wallow and root rather than stand around on concrete, chickens to scratch and peck like a real chicken… organic food may not be cheap, but it is not overpriced when you consider these costs and realize that what we eat determines the health of the planet and all of us. And after all, health is wealth!