Welcome to the June edition of the FarmStart Newsletter!

May and June have been a busy, challenging couple of months for FarmStart. After a late, cool spring in Southern Ontario, the last few weeks have brought warmer weather and a chance, finally, for our new farmers to work the land and start planting. However, sourcing water to irrigate our McVean incubator farm has proven to be stressful for our new farmers and farm managers, as the property does not have a well of its own. Fortunately we’ve managed to gain temporary access to water from a fire hydrant on a corner of the property, and thanks to the Toronto Regional Conservation’s generous help, we’ll soon be able to establish a permanent water main connection.
May also saw some mischief done to the heritage barn at the McVean farm by some local youths. In response to this incident, FarmStart has increased our efforts to engage local young people in our work, through odd jobs, farm work and community outreach. This summer, we have invited Afri-Can Food Basket to run a youth market garden on site. We look forward to engaging AFB youth leaders in the world crop research trials that Farm Manager and Agronomist, Carlton Allen, will be running at the site.

FarmStart is also starting to meet the local community and let them know what we are doing at the farm. We will be hosting a grand opening this summer for the McVean farm’s neighbours and friends. Beginning in late June, Brampton residents will be able to purchase our new farmers’ produce at the local farmers market. We also hope this season to lay the groundwork for a community gardening project at the McVean farm.

In other news, we are delighted to welcome Alma O’Connell to our team. She will be coordinating our Newcomer FarmStart-Up Project, helping new immigrants start viable farm operations in Ontario. Please read on to learn more about Alma and her exciting work. Alma and Sophie, our Resources and Training Coordinator, have been working on some new workshops and a new course for prospective farmers: Exploring the New Farm Dream. Details are provided below.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in receiving this Newsletter, please pass it along. Anyone can sign up at http://www.farmstart.ca/signup/

Happy strawberry season!

FarmStart Director

2008 Summer/Fall workshop series: call for suggestions!
FarmStart will be hosting a series of monthly workshops over the summer and fall, focusing on technical skills for new farmers and future farmers. We’ve set three exciting workshop topics so far (see below), but we’re looking for your input on future educational offerings! Please let us know what kinds of skills you’d like to develop and what kinds of workshops and farm tours you’d like to attend, by filling out our short workshop survey.
Summer workshop topics: preliminary schedule

June 28th: The Dirt on Soil, with Tarrah Young of Green Being Farm

As a farmer, the most important resource you have is the soil under your feet. In this half-day workshop you will learn the basics of soil science in an accessible and hands-on way. Rather than relying on inputs for fertility, get ready for ideas on how to optimize your soil’s health, and ultimately the health of your crops, by using the biological community to unleash the tremendous potential in your soil.

July 16th: Market garden basics for newcomer growers, with FarmStart’s own Alma O’Connell

Even for newcomers with experience growing vegetables ‘back home’, learning to grow vegetables in Ontario can take some time. This workshop will introduce new Canadian gardeners and future farmers to the basics of setting up a market garden. Topics will include: understanding the Ontario growing season, drawing up a crop plan, sourcing and selecting seeds, extending the season with greenhouses and row cover, and managing weeds and pests the organic way.

August 23rd: Post-harvest handling and market readiness, with Ali English, formerly of Whole Circle CSA

Join Ali English, innovative CSA farmer and Agroecology MSc, to learn more about the ins and outs of post-harvest handling for small- to medium-sized market garden operations. From cooling and preparing for market to storing and transporting vegetables, the workshop will focus on designing post-harvest systems that ensure both high produce quality and optimal labour efficiency.

Workshops take place at the Ignatius Incubator Farm, Guelph. For more information or to register, please visit our website

Coming soon: Exploring the New Farm Dream course
FarmStart is excited to announce our latest educational offering: the Exploring the New Farm Dream course, originally developed in by the New England Small Farm Institute. This course is intended “to help pre-venture, aspiring farmers learn what it would take to start and mange their own commercial agricultural businesses, and decide whether this is a path they really want to take“.
We intend to run the course over five sessions – two in-class sessions, and three farm tours – held on Saturdays from late July to mid-September 2008. Dates and exact location in the GTA will be announced at the end of June.
If you’ve been thinking about getting into farming but aren’t sure how to start, this may be an ideal learning and networking opportunity for you. For more information about the course, please contact Resource and Training Coordinator, Sophie Llewelyn, at sophieATfarmstartDOTca.

FarmStart welcomes Alma O’Connell: Newcomer FarmStart-Up Project Coordinator!
FarmStart couldn’t be more excited about the latest addition to our team. A farmer, community leader, and agent for change, Alma O’Connell comes to FarmStart from an impressive career in community development, both in rural Guyana and southwestern Ontario.
Alma O'Connell

Alma brings to our Newcomer FarmStart-Up project a deep understanding of the value of growing your own food, and a commitment to sharing these skills with a new generation – a practice which has been in her native Wapishana culture for generations. Her Wapishana values and her experience with self-sufficient living in Rupununi, Guyana, provide a unique perspective on agriculture in Canada.

Alma’s personal experience as a recent immigrant to Canada has given her an intimate understanding of the challenges faced by new Canadians wishing to farm here. In the three weeks since she has joined our team, Alma has made impressive strides towards helping newcomer farmers to realize their dreams. She has met with new farmers from China, Zimbabwe, India, South Korea, Cuba, and Ghana, several of whom will be growing at our farm facilities this year. She is also working hard to design an educational program to help equip newcomers to farm in Ontario.

When Alma is not growing her own food or helping others to do so, she can often be found at her loom. Alma is an avid weaver, a passion that she turned into a successful community development project in Guyana through her role as founder of the Rupununi Weavers Society. Alma’s outreach and coordination work with the society reinvigorated the traditional practice of growing, processing, and hand-weaving cotton among the Wapishana people of Guyana. Her efforts to promote the group contributed to the international market that their beautiful, handwoven hammocks now command.

More information about our Newcomer FarmStart-Up project will soon be available via FarmStart’s website. Prospective farmers wishing to reach Alma can do so through our contact page.

Last month’s featured article on the role of copper- and sulphur-based fungicides in organic vegetable production received a critical reception from some of our readers. An organic farmer friend wrote to let us know that these mineral-derived chemicals can be far more harmful than our article suggested. As an organization that supports ecological agriculture, FarmStart has since realized that we need to be a lot more careful about the types of products that we promote! And so, in the interest of balanced and thorough reporting, we commissioned a second article on these chemicals from Jillian Smith, a Guelph-based researcher currently working on her P.Ag. Jillian’s article suggests that ecologically-minded growers need to carefully consider the significant environmental impacts associated with copper sulphate and sulphur before applying them even as a method of last resort.
Is there a topic you’d like to see covered in this space? Please send your comments and suggestions to us at info@farmstart.ca!

Continue reading…

Upcoming Events:
FarmStart will be exhibiting at this year’s Pick Ontario Freshness Farmers’ Market at Queen’s Park, Tues June 24th from 11am-2:30pm. We hope you’ll stop by our table and say hello!
FarmStart will soon be opening the McVean Farm gate to neighbours and friends, at the grand opening of this new farm facility. We haven’t set a date just yet. but will let you know when we do!

Visit FarmStart’s newswire for updated event listings.

Featured books:
by Gareth Davies, Becky Turner, and Bill Bond
Visit the FarmStart bookstore to view other essential titles in .sustainable agriculture!

One Response to June Newsletter

  1. Zaposlitev says:

    walwidciauafshxdacwl, delo, aJPrJnx.