One could make a case, though, that the overall quality of the products, primarily the imports, generally leave something to be desired.
To find the freshest, arguably healthiest local alternatives, then, one must dig a little deeper – but there are more viable organic options today than ever before.
In Brant County, two organic commercial farm operations stand out – Devon Acres Farms and Heart’s Content Organic Farmstead. Both are part of the Community Supported, or Shared, Agriculture (CSA) network. To the uninitiated, CSA is set up so you can buy directly from the CSA farmer, prior to the growing season.
You pay a fee up front and then get a weekly allotment of the farm’s bounty. You also, however, share in some of the risks, such as anything weather-related. And you generally have to personally pick up your order, as well. But supporting accessibility is afforded by both Devon Acres and Heart’s Content, which make their goods available at local markets.
Robin Kirby, of Devon Acres, says their farm has been involved with CSA for 19 years, and they grow over 40 different vegetables and herbs, keep a small herd of cows, a small flock of sheep – “plus a few chickens and ducks, for ourselves” – and a team of Belgian work horses to provide farm power for plowing, tillage, wagon work, compost spreading and, occasionally, haying.
“This greatly reduces our use of fossil fuels on the farm,” she says. “The CSA, for us, gives us another marketing option and there is definitely a demand for this way of connecting with the farmer; for those who eat the food grown on the farm.
“It’s also important to give us annual startup money at the costliest time in the season and to give us a known market for at least some of the harvest.”
Richard Tunstall, of Heart’s Content, points out that the farm has been following an organic path for six years. He says that they have additional depots for CSA customers so they can pick up their baskets in Brantford, Hamilton and Paris. They also supply McMaster University’s market and three restaurants.
“More people are asking questions about where their food is grown and how it is grown,” Tunstall says. “They are making the connection between what’s on their plate and what’s growing in the fields locally. A lot of people thank us for providing local, organic food.
“And there are more and more new farmers that are eager to learn how to start an organic market garden and I think you will see a real growth in small market gardens and urban farming.”
“The conventional thinking in our farm culture is that you have to get big or get out,” he says. “I think a small farm that focuses on local and organic produce can carve out a niche that matches what urban people want, which is the security of knowing where their food comes from and supporting local farmers in their community.”
Kirby agrees, saying :“I have not talked to anyone who was not aware of organic farming and what it means, at least in broad terms, and there is always a positive interest and desire to know more about what we’re doing.”
Next week Green Matters will look at a smaller quasi-organic farm operation in Brant County that operates on a far different scale and has no CSA affiliation.
Notes: More from Mary Ellen Kaye and her resignation from the City of Brantford’s brownfields community advisory committee, and she doesn’t mince her words: “I came to realize that, once again, we appear to have elected too many politicians who see no alternative than to continue their outward urban sprawl towards farmland and natural areas for our city to grow … brownfields and greyfields have no chance of renewal within such a limited philosophy of economic development.
“From its inception, the brownfields committee was limited to address the original identified properties. Unfortunately the committee’s mandate from council is not to address the rest of the brownfields and greyfields in the city. I believe that the discussion needs to focus on how we will bring these stagnant lands back into a meaningful use for our community.”
Greg McMillan is a founding partner at TheGreenHub.ca – Canada’s green news and information web portal. Feel free to contact email@example.com with any comments or suggestions for topics to be covered in the Green Matters column. That could mean green lifestyle, business or human-interest items, including any personal or school-related projects or initiatives. In this column, we’ll write about people who live in the Southern Ontario Green Hub area, which includes Brantford, Six Nations, Brant, Norfolk and Haldimand counties. Also, follow us on Twitter / @the_green_hub and @TheHubMan or Facebook / thegreenhub or Linkedin at gregmcmillan