Members of communities across the province had the opportunity to visit the farmers who bring food to their table again, during the annual Open Farm Day organized by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture on the third Sunday in September.
Taproot Farms, in Port Williams, was one of several Valley farms that opened its doors on Sept. 15.
Patricia Bishop and Josh Oulton, along with their three children Izaak, Lily and Frank, farm 280 acres of land on Taproot Farms, which is currently 70 per cent organic, with the goal of being 100 per cent organic by 2020. The family has also adopted the UN Sustainability Development Goals as a framework for decision making and planning. They produce a wide variety of vegetables, raise free-range hens for eggs and pastured animals for meat.
“We feel that farming in this way will make the farm better for the future and make the farm more resilient so we don’t have to rely on outside inputs, and so we can cycle the nutrients through the farm,” Josh Oulton said in a recent interview.
“We are going back to our roots, with lots of biodiversity within the farm, and livestock which is creating better agroecology. It’s not the norm. It used to be the norm.”
Oulton said Taproot Farms is certified organic, using lots of cover crops and not tilling as much as most people do. They also use animal manure, rotating the animals through vegetable crops and not using chemical fertilizer.
They also have chosen people power over machines.
“We have a lot of people working on the farm. We could probably mechanize in some ways, but we like having people around. So, we hire people rather than machines,” he said.
Oulton said the big farmers are doing the best they can. But they are under a lot of pressure to produce large crops, which is harming the soil.
“We need to do a correction. We really depleted our soil globally. We are trying to use regenerative agriculture to build up the soil,” he said.
“We don’t see the same kind of income as a farmer that is really pushing and using all the tools that are available. But, I think in the long run, it will be good for this farm.”
Another aspect of resilience that Oulton and his family are working on is reducing the risk to crops and infrastructure from weather events like hurricane Dorian, which cut a swath through the region recently, damaging crops and infrastructure after being downgraded to a post-tropical storm at landfall.
Oulton estimated the cost of storm damage to crops, as well as lost sales and lost work hours spent preparing for and cleaning up after the storm, could be as high as $100,000. Several large poplar trees blew over, landing on crops and damaging market garden vegetables as well as apple crops.
“Determining what we can do to be more resilient and reduce the risk to what we grow when it comes to weather events is important because they seem to be happening more often,” Oulton said.
GO ONLINE: More information on Taproot Farms is available at www.taprootfarms.ca.