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Farmer Stories

Patchwood Farm

Kailea Pedley and her husband Andy run Patchwood Farm in Pipers Glen, Cape Breton. Kailey talked us through their approach to growing, and what balance means for them.

1. Tell us about your farm.

Our farm is called Patchwood Farm. We named it that because it's made up of patches of garden in the woods - super creative! But very reflective for us of what the place is. We live on a piece of land that's 106 acres and my grandmother's brother lived here before so that's really what drew us to this place, along with the amazing community that surrounds it. We arrived almost exactly 10 years ago, so it's quite a time of reflection for us as we hit that milestone. Over that time we've been slowly, incrementally expanding our gardens, and growing vegetables, herbs, and (in the last few years) more cut flowers as well for the Mabou farmer's market, which is about a half hour drive away. It's a brilliant farmers market and a great market community. We’re really grateful to have been there for almost a decade. We did run a CSA for a couple of years during the pandemic, and that was a beautiful experience but we didn't really have the bandwidth to keep that going once the market was back in full force, but we really loved it. The weekly market is our main income stream, and we sell to a couple of local retailers. We're getting close to 1/2 acre in production. We're surrounded by forests, and not a lot of other farms right in the close vicinity.

2.Why did you become certified organic? 


We're not certified for a couple of reasons - we don't have a lot of time, and we don't have a clear financial benefit because we sell directly to consumers only. Our customers know us and we get to talk about our growing practices and invite people to the farm, and so if we were selling through more indirect channels then it would become a very different conversation for us because our customers wouldn't get to see our faces and ask us questions about our growing practices. As consumers of course we have so much respect for the certified organic labels and rely on them in many spaces of life, but at this point we haven't taken the step to certify. But I really respect the certification process and (as a consumer) need for it to exist!

3. What’s been your biggest challenge?


It's time. I think we've just been forced to be really conscious of how we use it. Like everybody. Figuring out how we make choices about how we use the time, even though there are things that we'd really like to pursue, how to separate that out and really be intentional about how we use that precious resource that we have. That has meant things like we've really stayed pretty darn small. Even though there are restaurants and retailers that ask, and the farmers market still has more demand than what we can satisfy at certain times of year.., so the demand is there. But we don't want to do more, we want to have more time. So that's the challenge. Trying to piece together a puzzle that will sustain us and achieve the other goals that we have, and leave us enough time to enjoy long walks, and spend time at the beach and hang out with our kids and all these other things that we don't want to lose. How to make that happen is the biggest challenge. I think balance is an ever shifting concept that doesn't have definitive lines, but it's seeing every season what we can tweak to stay a little more true to what we're really trying to do

4. What gets you out of bed in the morning?


It's many pieces. But our kids are the thing that literally gets us out of bed in the morning with their immediate needs, and what motivates us to do what we're doing and to keep these conversations about values really present in all of it. It's the world that they are going to live in and that we want to help build for them. It's also that I love where I live and that I get to do this so there's a feeling of responsibility for this situation that I've somehow magically landed in to make the best possible use of it and to really try to do this place and all the creatures in it justice, and our community. We love what we're doing and also we feel that there's a sense of responsibility attached to it as well. 

5. What advice would you give to new/young farmers?


The role that social media plays in these conversations is so much more present than when we started.Seeing so much of what other people are doing and what other farms are up to.. there can be so much good learning and community building in that but there can also be a lot of comparison that can weigh on new growers, especially as you're trying to figure out what you're doing and what's right for you. This can be challenging anyway but social media makes it that much easier to compare yourself and the whole of your operation with the brightest shiniest parts of other peoples’ farms. Try to find a way to benefit from learning from other farmers in your community, while trying not to worry about comparing too much to what other growers are doing. That, and to the greatest extent possible, spend that time learning from people who have been doing it for a long time. Internships, WWOOfing, making connections with other established growers in your area. Whatever shape it takes, try to find those opportunities to learn from experienced folks whose styles align with what you want to do. 

Also, it really worked for us to invest as little as possible in the beginning - this was possible for us because I was also working off-farm.It allowed us to grow slowly with less pressure to derive income quickly from the gardens and to invest what we needed to and grow incrementally.There are just so many things when you’re starting out that you could spend money on. Try to keep that as tight as possible until you have a clear picture of what you’re doing.

Where to buy: 

Mabou Farmers' Market on Sundays (11am until 2pm) from July to early October

Learn More:

Patchwood Farm Website