Over the past decade, we've grown at seven different vegetable farms, including school gardens in Nova Scotia, anti-racist urban agriculture in Toronto, horse-powered farms in Ontario, and big, long, beautiful rows of carrots in Maine. We've worked on some great farms that have been completely different from one another! Old Hat Farm is our attempt to apply the best lessons we've learned over the last ten years to a project of our own.
We'll be growing on approximately 1 acre of land again this year. We farm without the use of any tractors, besides our trusty BCS "walk-behind" tractor (basically a heavy-duty rototiller that can hook up to numerous attachments, from plow to mower) and so we're able to space of rows of plants fairly close together. This means we can fit more food into a smaller spaces and thus grow more intensively, making it possible for us to grow enough food for our CSA on just 1 acre. We don't have any heated greenhouses but we do have a 100 foot unheated hoophouse that we use to grow our tomatoes and ginger, both of which love heat. We also use some black plastic mulch (we lay it over the soil, which then warms faster, and plant into it) and other methods to enable us to grow earlier crops.
We also employ many techniques commonly used on organic farms to make weed control easier, since that's generally the most time-consuming problem to continually solve when you're farming without herbicides. We grow many crops from "transplants" - baby plants that we grow from seed on heated, well-lit tables - so that the plants have a head start on the weeds. We also use hand hoes intended to kill weeds when they're in the "white thread stage" or slightly bigger, thus expending little effort and taking down the weeds before they're large and difficult to kill. For crops that must be planted from seed in the field (like carrots) we make use of a "flame weeder" for the same purpose - its small flames and heat kill the first flush of weeds that's quicker to emerge from the soil than the carrots, thus giving the carrots (when they emerge soon after) a clear path for at least a week or two.
We believe in growing great vegetables in healthy soil - an invaluable resource - that is incrementally improved upon each year, rather than being depleted by cultivation practices. To this end, we stand by organic farming practices such as crop rotation, the use of cover crops, the addition of compost and organic matter to soils, and the minimization of tillage as is possible. We also chose to cultivate vegetables without using chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers. Instead, we add fertility and micro-nutrients to the soil in the form of composts, manures and other types of soil amendments like greensand, alfalfa meal, and kelp emulsion.
We want our customers to know as much as they want to know about what goes into the production of this food! We’re always glad to answer questions about where seed comes from, how we manage pests, what type of materials we use to boost soil fertility, or anything else and, above all, we'd love to show you the farm in person. Don’t hesitate to ask!
A note on organic certification
Our food is grown according to organic methods but, for this season, we are not certified organic. This has been a tough call for us - we value certification as a tool to support consumers in their quest to ensure that the food they buy is healthy and as a tool for producers to encourage best practices and to build community. We have certified with MOFGA before and will again, but can’t justify the cost this year. We know the folks at MOFGA work hard to make sure the burden on producers is minimal, and we look forward to getting our act together and certifying our food soon. By growing according to organic methods, we pledge to use no GMO seed and no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. We honestly love to talk about how and why we do what we do on-farm and are always open to answer questions about what goes into the food you're getting from us.