Getting to Know Our Farmers

Welcome to our "Farmers' Profile" post - we'll be highlighting specific farmers in our area as a way to get to know our farmers a bit better and this is our first profile!
Special thanks to Tracy who is pulling these profiles together. And thanks to Plan B Organic Farm!

Farmer Profile of Plan B Organic Farm

What do you grow?

We grow approximately 30 acres of certified organic vegetables each season on our farm in Flamborough, and on another rented property down the road. We sell our products mainly through our weekly, year round, CSA program. We have nearly 800 families subscribed to our program in the summer season! We also sell our produce weekly at the Dundas Farmers' Market in Dundas, and Dufferin Grove Park Market in Toronto. We've just started a new market in Burlington, on Brant street at Centro Gardens, Fridays from 11-2.

What is your farm story?

While working on an urban gardening project in 1996 Alvaro Venturelli & Melanie Golba came up with the wild idea of starting their own organic CSA farm! They convinced Alvaro’s brother Rodrigo to join in and and in the spring of 1997 Plan B Organic Farms was born! We thought the name “plan b” really conveyed our intention of providing our community with an “alternative” food source to foods produced through “conventional agriculture” aka plan a.

In 1998 we moved to our beautiful 50 acre sandy and rocky piece of land in Flamborough, Ontario. The first 5 years we worked the land by hand, learned that there was a lot to learn about growing vegetables, but with the support of family and the local community we made it work. We continue this work still with this mission in mind:

• Grow delicious, high quality vegetables, herbs, and fruits using certified organic farming methods that are in harmony with our environment.
• Provide freshly harvested, certified organic produce at affordable prices to local households.
• Work in partnership with other local organic farmers to reliably provide our shareholders with the variety of crops that our region offers.
• Create a place where our community can come to learn about organic farming, the source of our food, and the natural cycles of our bioregion.

Did this year’s late frost affect your crops? In general, how do you feel about the volatility of the farm as a business from season to season?

Our crops definitely suffered in the drought this year, but with intensive planting techniques, growing things close together, and drip irrigation that conserves water by watering right onto the soil, we managed to make it through the drought into this late summer rain we've been having, glorious! Climate change definitely adds a new dimension to the already volatile nature of farming as a business, but organic farms are very adaptable.

How do you market yourself, and why do think your method of selling and marketing fits with your vision of a farmer’s role in the local community?

Our farm is a "multi-farm CSA" we set up this model in order to "grow what we grow best" and then support other local organic family farmers in Southern Ontario by purchasing their produce to supplement our CSA shares. In this way, we have become a local organic food hub, redistributing local organic food from farmers who are further afield and getting their goods into the GTA through our CSA system.

Can you please share a recipe with us that you are particularly proud of?

We grow about 3 acres of amazing garlic each year, it's one of our specialties, so I recommend roasting it, chop off the tops, soak in olive oil, roast at 350F until soft, then eat it on bread, add to salad dressings or anything else you can think of!

What do you love most about farming?

We love farming, we are doing this because we think it is so important that there are farms to serve our local community, and show them that organic is possible, even on a medium-large scale! One of the main challenges of farming is making it work as a business. There are few financial supports, government, charitable or otherwise for people wanting to start or run a farm business like ours, making it a big burden on us and on our family to keep the farm running, this is a challenge we hope to overcome in coming years.

What advice would you give to a new or young farmer/grower?

Make a good financial plan before you start! Think about your personal needs as far as living situation, housing and factor that into your plans. There are some great workshops available at Farmstart, called "Exploring Your Farm Dream" and another one called "Holistic Farm Management". Might be good to try these out!

Plan B Organic Farm
1377 5th Concession West

Branchton ON N0B 1L0
(905) 659-2572

Rural Routes Visits Waterhall Farm!

Environment Hamilton hosted another great Rural Routes trip last Saturday when we visited Waterhall Farm.  However, Waterhall is not a typical 21st century farm.  And I'm not just saying that because they sell antiques from centuries past.  Although, their Antiques store is a must see as the old relics are situated alongside a tranquil indoor pool.
Waterhall stands out among the cash crops and factory farms of the 21st century raising instead an incredibly diverse selection of flora and fauna.  John Flechl, who gave us an enlightening tour of his farm, wants to offer customers unique products and experiences and in the process we all benefit as crop rotation and crop diversity help eliminate the need for pesticides, prevent the soil from being depleted and drained of nutrients and protect the farm from vulnerability to unexpected weather or pests.  On top of all that Waterhall is helping preserve the biodiversity of our plants and is providing people with a richer variety of nutrients.

While Waterhall farm is not yet certified organic they are operating in accordance with organic values.  Flechl says he prefers to stay away from herbicides because he's not sure what effect these chemicals  have on our health.  Instead, the Flechl family use people power and smart design to eliminate weeds and do the work required to have a flourishing farm.  On that note, Waterhall loves company so if you would like to come by and help out on the farm you are more than welcome.
Waterhall also has a petting zoo and a growing variety of unique animals including rare breeds of miniature horses, goats, rabbits, pigeons, turkeys, chicken and even a resident peacock.  The animals are not grown to be eaten but they do help the farm function and provide nutrients for the soil.

Rural Routes would like to give a special thanks to Waterhall Farm and Brock Road General Store for letting us park our bus in their parking lot.  Don't miss our next trip to Alpacas from 8th and Mud.  Tickets are available at Homegrown Hamilton (at 27 King William St) $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and children.

Crop Mob at Heart's Content Organic Farmstead

Last Sunday Environment Hamilton tagged along on a Crop Mob organized by Mac Farmstand to Heart's Content Organic Farmstead.  Volunteers with a desire to learn more about organic farming were given the opportunity to spend a day on the farm.  We started out with a tour of the farm.
 After the tour we spent the day pulling weeds until it started raining.
During the rain we took shelter inside and helped prepare garlic for the market.
Heart's Content is an interesting farm which already operates through farmers' markets and through their CSA, which delivers weekly or bi-weekly shares that members pick up at Homegrown Hamilton, the Brantford Farmers' Market or at the farm.  Farmer Richard Turnstall also works as a Naturopathic Doctor and runs his clinic at the farm as well. 
Heart's Content is working to move beyond the confines and limitations of modern industrial farming and our greater economic system.  Their newest project is a community land trust where they are planning to buy and preserve land just outside of the green belt with help from community bond holders who will see a 4% return on their investment in the form of organic food.  For more information contact Ella Haley at ehaley1[at]

Visit to McMaster’s Community and Teaching Garden

Mike Lee chats with Karen and the interns
Mr. Mike Lee gave Hamilton Eat Local’s Karen Burson and the Environment Hamilton summer interns a tour of the McMaster Community and Teaching Garden and were we ever impressed!   The garden was started in January of this year, and in that short amount of time it has flourished under his hands into a producing food hub.  The garden is laid out in three triangles separated by water permeable walkways. One triangle is a raised bed, made of pressure treated wood, so the bed has a liner.  Companion planting plays a role in this great garden, with marigolds interspersed among the many different types of tomatoes and peppers, eggplants, beans, Swiss chard, chives, oregano, rosemary, beets, basil, and a pumpkin plant.  The garden is located right next to an outdoor sitting/teaching area.  Mike hopes for plans to better develop this area to better promote the space, and use it for workshops as well. Some of the food produced goes to the Mac Farm Stand, and a scale is on its way so the garden can track its net product weight. The money made from sales goes directly back into the garden. In the fall, Mike hopes to supply some fresh produce to one of the near-by cafés on campus in the coming fall.

The raised bed and permeable pavement.

Mike Lee and the garden’s volunteers maintain the garden, weeding, watering, and whatever else the plants might need. Having no past gardening experience, Mike has done wonders with the garden, and states “there is so much to learn”.  Mike sees the garden as a pilot project: if it is successful Mike hopes the university will start larger projects.  He has identified many areas that would be ideal for potential urban agriculture and campus farms.   The plans for the immediate future are to have several courses and professors become involved in the garden in integrated science programs doing project-based learning.  Mike hopes to coordinate with next year’s summer day camps and high schools that need volunteer opportunities.  

Hamilton Eat Local looks forward to the future of this garden and is excited to see where Mike will take it next.  “I have had a few spots in mind for a project just like this in the core,” says Project Manager Burson, “But while we’ve had other major projects on the go we haven’t been able to start one.  Having the right partners in place would change all of that, and I have to say I’d love the idea of collaborating on a teaching garden as a research project with McMaster or with Mohawk College”.  Let’s see what ideas will take root this winter!

Peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes in the community garden.

Lynn Ogryzlo was a hit at the Dundas Farmers Market

Lynn Ogryzlo was a welcome addition to the Dundas Farmers Market last Thursday during their regular hours of operation from 3pm to 7pm.

Lynn stayed busy with the many market goers who showed genuine interest in easy recipes made with local ingredients from her Ontario Table cook book.  Here she has a fan sign part of the longest table cloth in Ontario.
Market manager Lisa Anderson works very hard for the dedicated customers at the Dundas Farmers' Market.  In this photo she is preparing samples of an heirloom tomato salad with a basil vinaigrette straight from page 64 of the Ontario Table.  Every ingredient used is from Ontario and the majority of the ingredients in our dish came straight from the Dundas Market!