‘New Farmers’ initiative with Farmstart
The healthy harvest that greets you at McVean Farm in Brampton belies the fact that it has been a difficult year for farming in Ontario. The array of crops grown, the experimentation and curiosity of the farmers at Mc Vean to try new crops and the sheer amount of food produced by so few people make it hard to believe that this summer Ontario was plagued with abnormally heavy spring rains that stalled germination. Coupled with a particularly hot and dry summer, the projected yield dropped significantly across the board for all crops.

These are IDRF supported farmers who have benefitted from last year’s successful ‘New Farmers’ initiative with Farmstart, a Guelph based Canadian non-profit advocacy group for people interested in getting involved in the farming sector. Having successfully lobbied the Toronto Conservation Authority (TCA) to allow for the cultivation of certain TCA-governed land parcels, Farmstart actively works to engage Canadians in the farming sector, supporting local food movements and lobbying on behalf of startup incubator farmers across the province.

Nestled within a nexus of housing developments, some might find it surprising that a fully operational farm growing exclusively organic produce exists so close to the GTA. Standing in the middle of McVean Farm, it is difficult to imagine that one is twenty minutes away from downtown Toronto. It is in this not-so-sheltered setting that Farmstart helps facilitate the acclimatization of new farmers to the realities of the Canadian farming sector. The project supports farmers with inputs and materials required to establish their business which is complimented by diversified trainings directed at enhancing the skills of the farmers while simultaneously familiarizing them with the requisite steps to become a farmer in Ontario.

Despite their relative youth, the six IDRF supported farmers have over 100 years of farming experience combined. The farmers are only ‘new’ in the Canadian context, coming from developing countries with a farming background, but lacking the capacity to access land and apply their expertise in Canada. To this effect, practical trainings in farming accounting, liability and various integrated pest management and good agricultural practices are catered to the growing conditions observed at McVean. The ‘new’ farmers are also encouraged to borrow from the skills and expertise of their neighbouring incubator farms and in turn their knowledge of climactic mitigation and water retention measures have been successfully mimicked by other farmers. This melting pot of experience and dedication serves to encourage the farmers and nurture their aspirations to one day own and cultivate their own land.

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