Weed ’em and reap

For a new generation of farmers,
organic is the only way to grow

Catherine Lawson, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Sunday, April 13, 2008
Alex MacKay-Smith and Juniper Turgeon produce 60 varieties of vegetables on Juniper Farm north of Wakefield. 'I've had the hardest and most rewarding years of my life with this farm,' says MacKay-Smith.

Tarrah Young studied environmental biology at the University of Guelph because, as she puts it, “I wanted to save the world.”

But the environmental movement is all “doom and gloom and frustrating,” says Young, 30, who just bought a farm with her fiancĂ© in Grey County near Georgian Bay. She still wants to save the world, but she’ll concentrate on her own 50-acre plot where she plans to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables and raise chickens, turkeys, pigs, lamb and cattle.

Alex MacKay-Smith, meanwhile, admits he and his wife, Juniper Turgeon, were “city kids, super naive.”

That hasn’t stopped them from making a success of Juniper Farm, just north of Wakefield. They’re entering their fourth season of producing more than 60 varieties of vegetables. “I’ve had the hardest and most rewarding years of my life with this farm,” says MacKay-Smith, 32, “I’m extremely healthy, except for my back.”

As a kid, Dan Brisebois resented having to help his parents in their backyard vegetable garden. Now he puts these skills to work on the organic farm he works with four others near Vaudreuil, Quebec.

“We are living modest lives,” says Brisebois, 30, who has a degree in agricultural engineering from McGill University. But the rewards are many, he says. “We eat amazingly fresh vegetables. We get to work outside. We don’t have a boss.”

Meet Canada’s newest farmers. They’re well educated, with university degrees in everything from plant biology to film studies. They’re idealistic, committed to the principles of organic farming and the local food movement. And, though they grew up in suburbs or city neighbourhoods, they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty.

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