a community dedicated to sustainable living
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All About Our Farm
Our 191 acre farm features a hardwood forest (9 acres), a provincially significant wetland (27 acres), pasture land, and fertile crop land. Our soil is mostly sandy loam with hills that are part of the Orangeville Moraine protected by the designation of Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). This diverse, beautiful property is also protected by a conservation easement with the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy. Credit Valley Conservation has documented the natural life and created a conservation plan. Their assistance and the help from the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association have been instrumental in developing the farm in an ecological manner. We also have an Environmental Farm Plan which guides our improvements in a way that protects the land and its features.
The main access to the farm is from Shaws Creek Road on the west. A farm lane continues to Mississauga Road on the east. This area in the northwestern corner of Peel Region is the headwaters for four rivers – Humber, Credit, Nottawasaga and Grand. Shaws Creek, which flows into the Credit River, runs along the southern edge of the property. Wildlife observed to date include wild turkeys, white tailed deer, coyotes, a wide variety of birds, snapping turtles and salamanders.
Our two houses, barn, and sheds are located in the centre of the farm. A large dug pond south of the century old farmhouse provides irrigation for our agricultural activities and recreation. A 30’ tiled well services the barn. A 78 foot new, drilled well services the farmhouse, two greenhouses and gardens while the 98 foot well, drilled in 2005 feeds into the ecohouse, Greenhaven.
Before 1965 this was a mixed farm, cash cropping small grains and potatoes and raising cattle, hogs and poultry. During the next 37 years a family from Toronto used the farm as a retreat, renting land to local farmers for pasturing beef cattle. Since purchasing the farm in 2002 we have used organic practices but have not yet become certified. We market directly to customers and to the local farmers markets. Neighbouring properties consist of natural areas, hay fields, pasture and cropland. Local farmers have been instrumental in our farm development by consulting, loaning equipment, contracting to bale hay and straw, combining grain and cultivating fields.
A detailed site plan was prepared by Brad Peterson, MLA from Guelph to help guide the development of the farm over 20 years using permaculture principles. Permaculture design is based on three important ethics – care of the earth, care of people, and fair distribution or sharing the surplus. Villagers have used a wide variety of permaculture techniques on the farm, e.g. mulching, catching and storing rainwater, creating swales, wild land foraging, solar siting and natural building.
Over 18,000 trees and shrubs have been planted to provide windbreaks, shelterbelts and wildlife corridors throughout the property. Buffers for the wetland forest have been created as well as a new, mixed forest just west of the upper woodlot. Tree corridors are beginning to bring relief from prevailing westerly winds and create microclimates for specialty crops. Our commitment to replacing much of the tree canopy is one way of restoring the integrity of the land and introducing agro-forestry to the area.
Experiments with a variety of fruit have resulted in two small orchards of apples, pears, cherries, and plums growing in sheltered areas. We have grown strawberries successfully for ten years and bush fruit like currants, raspberries, haskaps as well as grapes. Two edible forest gardens have been started to grow fruit and nuts. Native trees and plants are the priority as we try to find which varieties best grow here. Members also grow herbs, dry beans, rhubarb, asparagus and heritage tomatoes.
Poultry have been a mainstay at the village since 2004. Villagers manage a flock of chickens and ducks for eggs, meat and manure. Mixed grains are grown every two years to provide for poultry feed and bedding. New, young chicks are introduced to the flock every spring. The chicken coop is in part of the barn with a large barnyard for foraging in the warm months. Some chickens help fertilize the orchard as they are moved through in a “chicken tractor.”
Young farmers are provided with an opportunity to practice organic agriculture and management skills here as an incubator project. Their CSA and market garden provide members and the local community with food while we support them with fair rents, infrastructure and community support. This exchange benefits both groups and has resulted in seven different operations honing skills while deciding whether a career in farming is a fit for them.
CSA stand for community shared agriculture – a way of bringing eaters and growers together. After buying shares in the garden harvest, subscribers receive a basket of fresh, organic produce for 18 weeks. CSA members get to know their farmers and their growing practices and can participate in farm activities if desired. Farmers receive income early enough to buy seeds, materials, and tools without having to negotiate a loan. Members share the risk of the growing season with the farmers.
Education is also important to Whole Village. School groups are welcome for tours and hands on activities from spring until fall. Members share their knowledge and skills with volunteers and interns who come to help and learn about ecological building, food production, and tree care. The farm team also teach their interns how to grow and manage a CSA project. Work bees are one-day events where volunteers participate in a variety of seasonal farm activities from wood splitting to preserving to cider pressing. Whole Village has hosted visitors from Canada World Youth, Katimavik, the Toronto Waldorf School as well as environmental and farm groups for tours and activities.
For the past four summers Whole Village has offered an intensive two week permaculture design course on the farm. Theory and practice are combined to build a repertoire of principles and techniques to build a more sustainable lifestyle. Field trips and hands-on activities complement the lectures and discussions. Students are immersed in an intentional community on a permaculture planned farm while they learn to mimic nature’s processes while creating sustainable designs.
Stewardship is very important in our development of the project. We are recreating some of the ecosystem of the past to encourage beneficial insects, birds, amphibians and mammals to live in harmony with us. A woodland care plan ensures the health and sustainability of the wooded areas. The soil is carefully tended and fields are regularly rotated to allow time for regeneration. Every member offers to support one or more stewardship activity, e.g. growing food for the community, forestry, pond care, eco-building.
The community uses the existing buildings to house livestock and machinery and to store hay, straw and grain. There are two 900 square foot greenhouses to start seedlings for the gardens and then to grow heat loving plants all summer. Hardy greens are often grown during the winter with some extra cover. Part of the farmhouse is retrofitted for a root cellar. There are three outdoor composting toilets that serve hikers and workers. Campers enjoy two outdoor solar showers.
Conservation and footprint reduction are very important at Whole Village. Residents share resources, including space, tools, vehicles and clothing. We collect and reuse found materials, including lumber, plumbing and electrical, waste wood and chips. Villagers are very grateful to friends who donate furniture, tools, etc. We use low flush toilets in Greenhaven and collect rainwater from most buildings. Two cisterns hold rainwater collected from the large barn roof for irrigation of crops. We buy food in bulk, eat evening meals together five days per week and share household duties. Ride sharing is often arranged to reduce our fuel and material use.
Villagers have created many perennial gardens to ensure pollination and provide beauty. There are also wild areas of the farm that are infrequently visited and protected in their natural state. Composting of food scraps, plants and manure is important to create on site fertility. The recreational advantages of the farm include swimming, skating, hiking, tobogganing and snowshoeing.
May 9, 2015
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