Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Land!

Looking across our field at our neighbours barn peaking through.

 We are pretty stoked for 2017!  We have a new opportunity to transition another 30 acres into organic. And this opportunity is right next door.  The Jopko family has graciously rented us a most unique property comprised of 5 small fields with very good buffer zones. By the summer of 2019 we will be able to pull organic veggies from this newly replenished soil. It takes a total of 36 months after the last application of prohibited substances to have the crops certified organic. The past farmer (whom I will get to fill out a prior land use affidavit with all information including past substance use.) grew conventional cabbage then corn and soybeans for quite a few years, so we have some work to do. During the next few growing seasons we will be cultivating green manures on this land, minimal grain crops that will be sold conventional/transitional, and soil testing will be done. We'll do the best we can to leach the unwanted out and add in the good stuff. Build ‘er back up and put this land into our rotation. The goal will NOT be to max out the land and grow tons more veg. The volume of veggies produced will increase slightly, but our rotation and the health of our own farm land will be improved. We will proudly still be farming just under 100 acres. The vegetable portion of the farm will rise to no more than 25-35 acres per year which is the majority of all our income.  We've been able to pay our mortgage, mass debt down and remain alive and kicking without supplementing our income with any off farm jobs growing on that small acreage. As Ben says about our land and opportunity here: “we haven’t even scratched the surface”…


I wanted to learn the history of this quaint family farm we've lived next too for so long that I had the Jopko family over for dinner to hear their farms story. I’m sure glad I did. The landowner Anton Jopko has lived his entire life on the home farm. His father Michael was born in 1906 and in the spring of 1930 at the ripe age of 24 purchased the farm. By the fall of 1930 he married Anton’s mother Irene. Anton was born in 1944. That same year of Anton’s birth the original farm house burned down. A new home was built that same year and stands today. Mike and Irene grew strawberries and raspberries and lots of tomatoes. The tomatoes were delivered in hampers to the old cannery in Simcoe in their two ton truck. Anton also said they did local door to door strawberry and raspberry delivery sales which I think is just awesome. In 1950 they introduced dairy cattle to the farm. Anton and his father  built other barns and sheds on the property together.  By the time 1963 rolled around, they stopped milking cows as Anton left for University. The family continued to farm and Anton was always still very active on the farm as well.  In 1967 they put up their first corn crib and a second one in 1970. Anton and his wife Carolyn raised twin sons Adam and Brandon and daughter Erin during the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's on the home farm. Anton continued to farm well into the 1990's after his parents passed on. Along with farming, Anton had a part time job for 35 years as a professor teaching physics and math to first and second year engineering students at McMaster in Hamilton. It was important to them to raise their kids on the farm and he explained that for them, his job at McMaster enabled them to be able to do it.  They are known for their large vegetable gardens they have grown over the years.  When I asked Anton what he thought about us renting the farm to grow organically he said:
"We are glad you will be growing organic vegetables here because it is environmentally friendly with less use of pesticides"
And we couldn't be happier for the opportunity to have use of this land next door.  It's a complete win win for both families.  And with fields of organic vegetables surrounding them - they don't have to worry much about growing that large vegetable garden anymore! So welcome 2017, new year, new land - let's fire up that soil and get growin'!
Ben and neighbour Anton looking at a land atlas of our farms from 1877!