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Farmer Stories

Broadfork Farm

Shannon Jones and Bryan Dyck steward Broadfork Farm. We talked with Shannon about their philosophy and practices.

Tell us about your farm:

Our farm is 15 acres. We grow certified organic mixed vegetables, herbs, seeds and seedlings and specialty cut flowers. We see ourselves as part of the ecosystem, working to find that balance between making our living from the land and space for other species to make their living on the same land. We’re passionate about biodiversity and wildlife and we don’t use any pesticides, not even organically approved ones, which helps us learn to support the natural balance between so-called pests and their predators. Leaving the soil undisturbed is part of this philosophy. We’ve experimented a lot over the years and finding the right rotation has made a big difference to the success of our no-till approach. Typically, we leave the land under a cover crop for three years and then grow vegetables for three years. In the first year of vegetable production, we mow the cover crop, cover the area with landscape fabric and plant cucurbits into holes in the fabric. In the second year, we pull up the fabric - which is reusable for many years - and plant direct-sown crops like carrots and salad mix. In the third year, we plant transplants and use compost mulch for weed suppression. 

Why did you become certified organic?

Even as a little kid, I was passionate about the environment and aware of my place as a part of a larger ecosystem. As a teenager, I was interested in health and nutrition and ended up studying to become a Holistic Nutritionist. Along the way, I realized that the best way to help people would be to become a farmer and grow nutritious food. After six years of apprenticing on organic farms around the world, I moved back to Canada and met Bryan, who was apprenticing on a biodynamic farm at the time. We both value organic food and the environment so it was obvious that we’d farm organically. Once we bought our own land, we started the certification process. The first reason for certification was marketability; the term organic let us more easily express to customers the way in which the food was grown. The second reason was maybe more political; we knew that statistically, non-certified farms are counted as conventional and we wanted to be counted as organic. 

What’s been your biggest challenge?

My biggest overarching challenge is farming organically (with the four organic principles of Health, Ecology, Fairness, and Care) within an industrial economy that does not share these same principles and is constantly adding toxins to the environment in amounts and mixtures that are overwhelming. And along with that, our need to look into every product we buy, since there isn’t as much oversight as one might expect. Adhering to the Organic Standards’ Permitted Substances List is helpful, but, of course, new risks are realized all the time, such as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Our farm isn’t contained in a bubble, and while we make the most thoughtful decisions we can, it’s a big challenge knowing that decisions made by industries,  individuals, or governments can have such a big impact.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The fact that certain jobs need to get done before it gets too hot. Flowers and leafy greens need to be harvested in the cool of the mornings and evenings. Also looking forward to breakfast!

Where to buy:

You can find Shannon and Bryan at the Dieppe Market and you can purchase bulk buckets of flowers for your special events directly from the farm. Check out the Broadfork Farm website for details.