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