You may recall from previous posts that one of my favourite springtime activities is visiting local farms. This is one of my duties as Chapter Leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, but mostly I do it because I am a farm girl at heart! I grew up on a farm, and being on a farm again and talking with farmers always brings back memories of my dad who passed away in 2011. This year, I even recalled some of dad’s stories about farming that I was able to share with the farmers I visited. “When all that’s left of me is love, give me away.”** Love you, dad!
This spring’s farm visits took place during some typical spring weather – gray skies, soggy ground, and bitter cold winds! I visited farms in Aylmer and, in spite of the weather, I came away excited that change is happening! I am sensing a movement away from CAFO systems and a resurgence of humane, ecological and symbiotic practices (aka the family farm).
So let’s meet the farmers…
Three Ridges Ecological Farm is a 50-acre farm located at 48211 Sparta Line in Aylmer. It is a mixture of pasture, woodland, native grasses and wetlands. Three Ridges is operated by Drake Larsen and Sarah Hargreaves, and utilizes ecological & permaculture practices. Trained as conservationists, animal ecologists and soil microbiologists, they are well positioned for the agro-ecology trials which they are running on the farm this year. The studies are related to nutritional content (mostly OMEGA 3 and 6 fatty acid) of pastured meat chickens. They are comparing two breeds (traditional industrial White Rock vs Nova Free Ranger, a new breed from Nova Scotia derived from European Heritage chickens) to see if there is a difference in their foraging ability and, therefore, in nutritional quality and taste. Sarah says that, “Research on pastured eggs shows that pasturing (i.e. eating green grass and insects) greatly improves the nutritional profile of the eggs compared to non-pastured eggs. We are also very interested in conducting trials on the effect of soy in the meat chickens’ feed rations, as other studies have shown that soy is the main culprit behind lower OMEGA3:6.”
Three Ridges’ layer flock of 40 chickens and 4 ducks provide eggs for sale. The duck flock will expand in size and diversity this spring when 24 heritage ducklings (Buff Orpington and Welch Harlequin) arrive. A larger flock of 600 White Rock and Nova Free Ranger chickens, plus several hundred Pekin and Muscovy ducks, provide meat. All chickens and ducks are free range and pastured. Supplemental feed is diverse mixed grain from “in transition to organic” farm, low soy, non-GMO, and the layers also get sprouted greens in the colder months. Supplemental feed may also include Jersey milk.
Sarah and Drake also raise Tamworth pigs, a heritage breed, which are pastured from April till autumn at the forest edge surrounding the farm. It is a closed system with their piglets due to arrive in late May. Supplemental feed includes milk from Butterfly and Buttercup, the farm’s Jersey cows, as well diverse mixed grains which are soaked and sprouted. WAPF Chapter members will be familiar with the idea of soaking of grains to reduce anti-nutrients and improve digestibility! Three Ridges’ pigs may also receive additional protein from clover, alfalfa or honey locust pods. The late spring birth of the piglets means they are finished on an assortment of fall crops of nuts, apples and winter squash, which makes for healthful meat with complex flavours. The pork is sold in 30 lb. bundles at the farm. Drop-off locations for all meat include The New New Age in Port Stanley and Booch Organic Kombucha in London.
Check out Three Ridges Farm on Facebook. Hopefully they will be posting the results of their farm studies later this year. Maybe one day we’ll even hear a presentation of their findings at a WAPF conference or read it in the Nourishing Traditions journal!
https://www.facebook.com/threeridgesfarm/ www.threeridges.farm farm[at]threeridges.farm
Dancey Family Farm (Chris & Wil Dancey) – The Dancey Farm has been in the family since 1844. During the first 120 years, livestock was part of the farm, providing manure and grazing to enhance the soil fertility. In the 1960s the farm became dependent on synthetic fertilizer, when Chris’ father sold the dairy herd and rented the land. Then in 2000, Chris took over the management of the farm and the farming practices changed once again. As Chris says, “We are farming using what could now be called ecological, organic, holistic or regenerative methods. My ancestors just called it farming.” Welcome back, Dancey Farm! Your journey is like that of many farmers in southern Ontario and indicative, I hope, of the overall change that farms are making back to more sustainable practices.
On arriving at the Dancey farm, I could immediately see that this was something different! The farmhouse is atypical, built in an octagonal shape with walls of lime and hemp fibre within a timber frame structure. Using wood from their own woodlot, an outdoor heating system burns wood and circulates warm water to heat the farmhouse floors and various outbuildings. It’s easy to see that Chris and Wil think outside the box! Not just in life, but they also think outside the usual CSA box to market their farm produce.
A typical CSA box contains a variety of vegetables and fruits throughout the growing season. Chris and Wil offer MEAT CSA boxes — bundles of frozen mixed meats and cuts (beef, pork, duck and lamb) . MEAT CSA boxes can be picked up once a month near their farm. If combined with Little Fields Farm’s vegetable CSA box, the MEAT CSA can be delivered to your home. MEAT CSA memberships are limited. Apply now for the coming season.
The monthly MEAT CSA order will fit inside the freezer compartment of your refrigerator, so it is a great option for those who don’t own a large freezer or who simply don’t want to purchase in the large quantities (ie a side of beef) often required when buying direct from a farm.
All the animals on the Dancey Family Farm are pastured, including beef, duck, pork and lamb. The Angus beef are pastured, with managed grazing, and no grains. The Berkshire pigs are pastured with no addition of corn or soy. They do receive some supplemental feed of soaked/sprouted homegrown organic barley and field peas.
The Pekin ducks are pastured around a large pond. Ducks need VERY high protein feed for the first few weeks, so they receive certified organic starter crumb. While it does contain some soy (organic, non GMO), after the first couple of weeks the ducks are weaned off the starter feed and can begin to eat the organic oats grown on the farm, as well as forage the pond and surrounding grassy areas for greens.
The lamb comes from Katahdin sheep which, like the Angus beef, are pastured, with managed grazing and no grains. Lamb is available in the fall.
The Dancey Family Farm is also home to Milking Devon cattle. Despite the name, this is a tri-purpose animal, traditionally used for milk, meat and as oxen. On the Dancey Farm, Wil is slowly training their two Devon steers to be working oxen, to accept the yoke, verbal commands and hand signals which are given while walking beside the Devon steers. It started as a hobby, but it has created a connection for Wil with his ancestral roots, since oxen farming is part of his German heritage.
Farm tours are provided to CSA members in July, when their 2.4 acre plot of tallgrass prairie is in bloom.
dancey[at]amtelecom.net (519) 773-5273 www.facebook.com/DanceyFamilyFarm
Little Fields Farm (Claire Poulton) – To produce her seasonal vegetables, Claire rents little fields from Dancey Family Farm. It doesn’t take much land to produce a bounty of vegetables and it takes even less when you practice Hugelkultur! This is the practice of burying decomposing logs in a mount of soil which increases the surface area for planting. Hugelkultur is essentially gardening in a raised bed and, as such, offers a longer growing season, requires less irrigation, and increases soil fertility through soil activity.
This year, Claire has added eggs, chickens and turkeys to Little Fields. The 100 ready-to-lay hen pullets will arrive in mid-May and begin producing eggs soon after arrival. Layers receive supplemental non-GMO feed (contains corn and soy). For meat production, there is a flock of 100 Free Rangers chickens and 50 turkeys which receive supplemental organic feed (contains corn and soy). All poultry is pastured. Little Fields Farm uses organic practices, but is not certified.
Graded eggs and produce are available through Little Fields’ CSA or at Farmers’ Markets: Thursdays from 8am-2pm at Covent Garden and Saturdays from 8am-12pm at the Horton Market in St. Thomas. Poultry available through pre-orders. Chicken pickup at the farm. Turkeys home delivered before Thanksgiving.
Claireapoulton[at]gmail.com (226) 927-4440 www.littlefieldsfarm.org/
H.O.P.E. Store (Henry and Linda Wiebe) – Healthy Old-fashioned Pastoral Eco-Farms is a group of small family farms working together, offering their products at the H.O.P.E.Store located at 51681 College Line, Aylmer, ON (Malahide). Organic products include vegetables, heritage grains, legumes, milk and cheeses (sheep, goat), buffalo summer sausage (nitrate-free), lamb, and pasture-raised stewing hens and heritage pork. Other organic produces (oils, nuts, etc.) are available at the H.O.P.E. Store, but not produced locally. Check their brochure for the full line of products. H.O.P.E. Store (519) 765-4998, Mon-Thurs, Sat 9-6, Fri 9-9. Closed Sundays. H.O.P.E. products are also available at Zoe’s Marketplace, Lambeth.
Please support your area farmers!
**”Life Prayers From Around the World”, Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon