Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Beginnings

It is probably appropriate for our first official blog post to give everyone a little background info about Skeeter Farm and the three new farmers who are currently working the land. We are: Hannah, Amy and Jamie. Three folks with diverse backgrounds, none of which include farming. We are teachers, government workers, athletes, friends, family, creators, thinkers, ecologically minded, nervous and excited.

We got our humble beginnings through the help two a fantastic groups in Abbotsford, the Abbotsford Food and Agriculture Connection Table (AFACT) and the Barrowtown Agriculture Development Society (BADS) who are working to help new farmers get started producing by helping to secure access to land and resources. We are their pilot project, but they have big things in store for all new farmers who are looking for a similar start.

Skeeter Farm is a 14 acre beautiful, scenic, piece of farmland situated in East Abbotsford, British Columbia. It is owned by the City of Abbotsford who has graciously leased it to BADS to allow new farmers to start their businesses. The property has fantastic tall trees, grasslands, wildlife and is surrounded by water. It is within the Agricultural Land Reserve which, in BC, protects farmland from certain types of development and ensures its primary purpose is for agricultural production.

We have been told by our neighbours that the land has not been worked for 2o years, which has certainly presented its challenges with site preparation and weeding, but is also a great advantage to the health of our soil and our ability to create a farm that works for us.

The decision to enter a farm partnership happened in early April 2009, and site preparation including mowing, ploughing and soil prep happened in mid May. Which is quite a late start for the vegetable farming done here in the Fraser Valley. Despite the late start, there has been a flurry of activity and we are close to having most of our seed for the 2009 season in the ground.

There is an incredible learning curve associated with this type of farm start up. Everything from planning your planting, crop interactions, interpreting soil tests and plant nutrient needs, installing irrigation, buying equipment, starting a business etc, etc. We have been extremely lucky to have the support of the community and certain industry experts which we have no doubt annoyed with some silly questions over the last few months.

As for our growing methods, we will be cultivating weeds, not rounding them up, nurturing our soil and feeding our plants with recycled nutrients from our farm, green manures and manure local livestock producers, trying to keep ahead of the bugs and grubs with careful planning and non-chemical tricks, reusing and upcycling as much equipment and materials as possible, valuing the wildlife we share the site with and maintaining habitat. That being said, our product will not be certified organic as we will be lucky enough to have the opportunity to explain our growing methods to each of our customers.

Our product will be primarily sold at the Abbotsford Farmers Market in downtown Abbotsford starting mid August and through a small weekly box program.

This blog will be a story about three newbie farmers, our thoughts and feelings, experiences, challenges and successes. Stay tuned for more from myself, Hannah and Jamie.

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