Sustainable Plant Production and Farming in Thunder Bay
Our farm factors sustainability issues into our decisions every single day. Now, as third generation farmers working the same land since 1946, this stewardship is as relevant as ever. If you're looking for ways to verify the sources of your food, Click this Link to Sustainable Table's Questions to ask a Farmer. It is just as important to ask these of your "organic" farmers as anyone else! After all, the rules are only as good as the person using them...
Our Farm Land
Our inspiration is simply the pleasure of food. It’s watching our kids devouring sun-warmed strawberries - juice dripping off of their chins. It’s preparing vegetables picked only hours ago and then gathering together at our table to eat. And, as farmers, being a part of the larger re-discovering of those pleasures is a tremendous honour and responsibility. As the third generation responsible for the stewardship of our land, we’re continually maintaining and improving our sustainable farm practices. Our reward is growing amazingly fresh and delicious fruit and vegetables knowing that, on our farm, the same opportunity will be available for an indefinite number of generations. - Kevin and Jodi Belluz
Well, here’s what we’re doing now (and always looking for ways to do things better!):
In the Greenhouse – We are growing Organically
- We collect rainwater off the roof and recycle our water through a floor drain system.
- We use only organically certified growing media with compost
- We use special 99% efficient boilers to heat the floors and an energy retention curtain that closes at night to trap heat.
- We use biological controls – good bugs to eat the bad bugs – to prevent insect problems.
- We’re currently experimenting with vermi-compost and compost tea to broaden the way we feed our plants.
- Our Pot-less Plant (Plant the Pot) program is designed to eliminate plastic waste from production – just plant the pot and return the tray to be reused.
- We reuse plastic pots. Bring back any pots larger than 4” (they must be thoroughly washed) and we’ll re-use them next year.
In the Farm Market Store
- We’re a plastic bag free zone. Bring your own bag and we’ll fill it or we have 100% compostable, plant-derived bags available for sale.
- Only natural, earth-friendly cleaning supplies are used.
- We've converted our disposable food ware in our Harvest Cafe to 100% compostable options.
- No high-fructose corn syrup beverages are sold in our Harvest Café or bottles of water – oh - and no mass produced hot dogs either. (But lots of other better, yummier things!)
- Our washrooms are equipped with composting toilets. Paper towels and toilet paper are made of recycled paper with the highest amount of post-consumer recycled material that we can find.
- The Farm Market Store is a minimum waste zone. We manage our waste through recycling, re-using and composting.
Out in the Fields
- We maintain many natural habitats around the farm including over 70 acres of woodland, shelter belts and grassland, over 2 acres of wetland and marsh area, and 4 ponds.
- We use organic practices like crop rotation and cover crops to limit pests and improve soil structure and nutrients, companion crops to encourage biological controls and bees, hours and hours of hand weeding,100% biodegradable mulches and straw to limit weed germination, natural fertilizers like gypsum, lime, and potassium sulphate to help feed our crops, natural pest controls (spinosad, soaps and kaolin clay), and crop scouting to identify pests early and treat them only when necessary for minimal impacts.
- Our vermi-compost and compost tea experimentation extends itself from the greenhouse into the fields.
- We have installed drip irrigation into our strawberries to minimize water use.
- We employ only local labour (over 50 students each summer) and provide a great working environment with paid breaks, good health and safety programs, WSIB coverage, and complete insurance coverage for our staff, facilities, and products.
- When we don’t use an organic product we make that decision based on the long term impact to our land, our health, and the safety of our produce – not just on today’s economics.
Agriculture, like all jobs, must be treated as a profession if you are going to be successful in the long term - especially if you believe in providing safe, good quality food to thousands of people each year. It requires respect for time-honoured traditions and constant learning about how to make those fundamentals better and safer. There's no tenure or guaranteed income on the farm, although there is always work to do! We receive 5 different professional publications and attend numerous learning opportunties each year. While these cost us money, it is really an investment in our business and your food. We also belong to numerous professional organizations:
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Canadian Agricultural Safety Association
Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association
Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Association
North American Strawberry Grower's Association
ONTRACE - Food Traceability
Ontario Berry Grower's Association
Seeds of Diversity
Slow Food Superior
Thunder Bay Country Market (Founding Member)
Back to Front, L-R: Claire, Jodi, Don, Kevin, Findley and Lily
Not pictured: Farm founders Mary and Bernie Belluz