Workshops & Courses

We offer workshops and courses on a wide range of topics to help you develop the wide range of skills necessary to run a successful farm – from practical production to business planning.



Seed Saving in Northern Ontario: Workshop Series – Sault St. Marie & Sudbury

(La version française suivra)

The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security the Sault Ste. Marie Horticultural Society and FarmStart (with funding from FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation) are pleased to bring Michelle Smith of Northwind Farm all the way from Cape Breton to Sault Ste. Marie to offer an in-depth seed production workshop series for farmers and gardeners. These workshops are offered in conjunction with Seedy Saturday in Sault Ste. Marie– come early to take part in the seed exchange, tradeshow, and other seedy activities!

Local food should come from local seed. But what are the challenges of producing high quality local seed in Northern Ontario? How can we overcome those challenges? Most seed-saving resources do not offer tips on how to grow seed in marginal climates or regions that experience shorter growing seasons. Learn how to push the limits of your region, from market gardener and seed-saver, Michelle Smith of Northwind Farm. Michelle has been growing vegetables and open-pollinated, heirloom seeds in the challenging climates of Cape Breton for 30 years. Check out this excellent series of workshops we have put together to save seed in Northern Ontario:

Sault St. Marie information, dates, descriptions & registration

Sudbury information, dates, descriptions & registration

*Veuillez noter que ces ateliers sont seulement offerts en anglais.*

L’Initiative de la famille Bauta sur la sécurité des semences au Canada, la Société d’horticulture de Sault Ste. Marie et FarmStart (avec l’aide financière de FedNor et de la Société de gestion du Fonds du patrimoine du Nord de l’Ontario) sont fiers d’accueillir nul autre que Michelle Smith de la ferme Northwind, qui se déplace du Cap-Breton jusqu’à Sault Ste. Marie pour offrir aux fermiers et fermières une série d’ateliers approfondis sur la production de semence. Ces ateliers sont offerts dans le cadre de la Fête des semences de Sault Ste Marie, samedi le 7 mars 2015 – arrivez tôt pour profiter de la table d’échange de semence, des expositions, et des autres activités spéciales de la journée!

Notre nourriture locale devrait provenir de semences locales. Par contre, au nord de l’Ontario, il y a plusieurs défis à relever afin de produire des semences viables. Comment pouvons-nous les surmonter? Les ressources qui nous sont présentement disponibles ne nous donnent malheureusement aucune directive en ce qui concerne la production de semences dans un climat marginal ou dans une région ayant une courte saison de croissance. Apprenez comment profiter pleinement de ce que peut offrir votre région avec l’aide de Michelle Smith, maraîchère chevronnée et experte en conservation de semences. Depuis plus de 30 ans, Michelle cultive une vaste gamme de semences patrimoniales à pollinisation libre dans les conditions climatiques rudes du Cap-Breton. Elle est donc fière de pouvoir vous partager ses connaissances dans ces prochains ateliers :

Sault St. Marie information, dates, descriptions & registration

Sudbury information, dates, descriptions & registration




Crop Planning Workshop

In this full day workshop you will learn the basics of how to plan a successful season as a market gardener. You will learn how to read seed catalogues and pick suitable varieties, plan greenhouse work, plan effective seeding strategies, and will be introduced to more advanced topics such as crop rotation. We will also touch on further resources such as textbooks and software programs that will help you to apply your knowledge and continue learning.

When: Saturday March 14th
Time: 9:00 am – 3:30 pm
Location: Black Creek Farm at 4929 Jane Street, Toronto
Instructor: Graham Corbett, FiddleFoot Farm
Cost: $100 inclusive
Registration: Click here

NOTE: The book Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers is also available for sale at the Tool Shed. Purchase your copy here.


Weed and Insect Management Workshop

In this course participants will first learn to identify weeds and pests. Participants will then learn about control methods. Emphasis will be placed on the economic benefits of preventative techniques in an ecological farming system. Finally, participants will be directed to applicable resources to continue learning beyond the workshop.

When: April 12th
Time:  9:30am -12:30pm
Location:  Black Creek Farm at 4929 Jane Street, Toronto
Instructor: Paul Stewart, Footstep Organics & McVean Training Farmer
Cost: $100 inclusive
Registration: Click here



Regular Offerings 

We strive to develop training opportunities in response to your needs. Don’t hesitate to get in touch ( if you have suggestions for workshop topics!

The following course are offered at various times through out the year.  Dates and locations will be added as announced.  Please sign up to our bulletin mailing list to be kept notified of upcoming workshops.

Introduction to Tools and Supplies for Market Garden Efficiency

Running a sustainable and efficient market garden business requires the right tools! Knowing how to use them is almost as important as knowing how to grow. Join us to discuss, share ideas and learn about tools and supplies available to the small market gardener, from hoes and seeders, to row cover and harvest bins.

Time of year to expect next course: Early Spring

Weed Management for Small to Mid Scale Organic Vegetable Production
Knowing how to control weeds is one of the most important skills needed for successful organic vegetable production. Organic vegetable farming requires a diverse and very proactive approach to weed control. You can avoid the constant scramble to save crops from weeds by understanding important concepts and techniques in weed control and by having a plan in place before you put the crop in the ground. Join co-owner and manager of Cedar Down Farm CSA Jeff Boesch for discussion of the terms, concepts and techniques for weed control in organic vegetable farming.
Topics that will be covered include:

  • stale seed bed preparation,
  • cover cropping and crop rotation for weed control,
  • a large selection of hand and tractor powered weed management tools,
  • timing; weeding schedules in different crops,
  • mulching,
  • soil conditions and fertility in weed control,
  • composting for weed control,
  • weed identification,
  • and much more….

Time of year to expect next course: Early Spring

Food Safety for Vegetable Growers
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and the Ontario Ministry Rural Affairs has tailored a food safety training program especially for small to mid scale vegetable production! This workshop will help you learn what food safety programs, resources, and practices are available. You will be given tools to help you assess your present farm practices, and develop an action plan to ensure safe practices. The workshop topics will include proper hygiene and sanitation, compost, and post water harvest use. OMAF staff will give you all the information you need to help you develop a basic food safety plan that you can later use to help market your products. There will be demonstrations, and you will receive a free copy of the 3-2-1 Assessment of Your Farm Operation for Food Safety DVD!

Time of year to expect next course: Early Spring


Buying A Farm: Planning Ahead for Farm Ownership
Do you have the dream of buying a farm? If so, the earlier you begin to
research and plan for it, the better! How should you begin your search? How do you find financing? How do you make an offer? These questions and lots more will be the focus of this workshop, geared towards first time buyers.
Topics to be covered will include:

  • Setting priorities on what to look for in a farm, and where to look
  • Financing: the process of getting approved for a mortgage, the role of a mortgage broker and the difference between a residential and agricultural mortgage
  • The process of making an offer and learning the lingo (ex: signbacks, amendments, chattels)
  • Who you need on your team (ex: mortgage broker, real estate agent, lawyer, home inspector)

This workshop will help demystify the process of purchasing a farm, and help you decide if this is the right choice for you.

Time of year to expect next course: Fall / Winter


Introduction to Pastured Poultry
Join us for this very popular workshop offered by Tarrah Young from Green Being Farm. Tarrah, who raises chickens and turkeys on pasture, will explain her system from day-old chicks and poults to the finished product. Topics to be covered include brooder design, feed requirements, bird health, marketing, and calculating sale prices based on the cost of production.

Time of year to expect next course: Summer


Introduction to Pastured Pigs
Join Tarrah Young of Green Being Farm as she shares lessons from her own experiences raising heritage pigs on pasture, as well as innovative and valuable information gleaned from research abroad. Topics to be covered include feeding and grazing options, natural health care, farrowing, breed selection, processing, marketing and economics.  Plus, get a chance to meet some of the first Kune Kunes in Canada, a small, rare breed of pig able to fatten on forages alone – the true enviro-pig!

Time of year to expect next course: Summer


The Dirt on Soil
The root of all life, including human life, is in the soil. In this workshop, 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!  Come prepared to spend time outdoors.

Time of year to expect next course: Fall


Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers 
This webinar provides a much-needed structure for figuring out how to make money on a market garden.  It hones in on the core issues of farm success: which crops to grow, when to plant them, and in what quantities.  Then it provides a logical, linear process for getting it all done, on time.  It sets out 11 steps, including:

  • Decide how much money you need to make;
  • Calculate how much of each veggie you have to sell to meet your financial goals;
  • Decide where you will sell;
  • Make field planting schedules to ensure you have the crops you need at the right time;
  • Generate greenhouse/seed starting schedules;
  • Fill out a seed order;
  • Make a field operations calendar;
  • Analyze profitability and refine your plans for next year.

NOTE: It will be helpful to have a copy of the Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers book on hand.  Purchase your copy here.

Time of year to expect next course: Fall


McVean Farm Vegetable Grower Training Program

Program Objective: To better enable new farmers to gain the foundational knowledge and practical skills required to take the first steps to start their own farm enterprise.

This is a part-time, flexible farmer training program emphasizing small-scale intensive organic vegetable production methods.

A one of a kind opportunity:

  • Convenient urban location – accessible by transit
  • Part-time, flexible learning without interrupting employment or other commitments
  • Small scale, sustainable, intensive farming methods
  • Full growing season experience on the McVean Vegetable Training Farm in Brampton
  • Receive your own free small garden plot to hone skills, experiment and feed yourself!

The FarmStart McVean Vegetable Grower Training Program Includes

  •  Workshop Series for a Solid Foundation – approx. 35 hrs plus reading

A series of 10 practical and informative, vegetable growing workshops that will take place over the winter, early spring and fall. These workshops are designed to offer a solid foundation for the practical business of growing vegetables on a small scale intensively managed farm. These workshops will be delivered by McVean Farm staff and farmers and experienced organic vegetable growers.

  • On-Farm, Small Group Training –approx 330 hrs (300 in field, 30 marketing)

In late April, Farmers in Training (FT’s) will begin working toward the all important practical training component of the program. The training farm is a working farm business where you will gain experience b working with the farmers, Paul Stewart and Shira Katzberg, on many aspects of intensive organic vegetable production, reinforcing the material covered in the winter workshop series.  FT’s are required to work on the training farm for 12 hrs per week for 26 weeks following a schedule set out by the Training Farm Manager in consultation with the FT’s.  30 hours of marketing practice are included in this section. FarmStart will help facilitate opportunities for you to assist farmer vendors at local markets, connecting you from the field to consumer.

  • Tour Unique, Successful Small Scale Farms – approx. 20 hrs

Farm tours have been planned to 4 successful, intensive organic vegetable operations. These opportunities are an important part of the training, further connecting you to FarmStart’s network of innovative producers and letting you see their wonderful farms.

  • Free Small Plot Garden Space – unlimited hrs!

Each FT will have their own 500sqft garden to hone their skills and try new ideas.

For application and fee information contact: Sri Sethuratnam or 519-766-7493

Next intake: Fall / Winter 2015


Please note: There are no cash refunds for workshops, which require preregistration. Registrants who give a minimum 72 hours notice of a cancellation will receive a voucher in the amount of the workshop fee paid, less a 15% administrative fee. The voucher can be applied to any other FarmStart workshop, course or farm tour. Vouchers must be redeemed within one year (12 months) of the date of the cancellation.

Children & Workshops:  Children are welcome to attend farm tours, but we ask that parents leave their children (including babies) at home for workshops, and courses.


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