I grew up on the dairy farm just south of St. Marys. I still farm on the same farm. I started market gardening as a teenager in the 1970′s, growing vegetables organically and selling most of them at the corner of Queen and Wellington Street in St. Marys and from the farm gate. This was my summer job through high school and university. From the beginning, I farmed organically, always conscious of protecting our environment. The dairy farm is now a certified organic dairy farm run by my brother, Stewart, and his family, and shipping milk to the Organic Meadow Farmers Co-op. My separate farm – a market garden and small sheep flock is hidden away on the dairy farm.
Over the years I have continually added new crops, and occasionally dropped crops, but have always tried to keep in mind what vegetables people eat in my community. This selection of crops may be different than what I would grow for a more urban market, but I continue to sell over 99% of my vegetables within 10 km of my farm.
Overtime I found the best way to balance the time spent marketing vegetables and the time spent growing vegetables. The St. Marys Farmers’ Market was established as a producer-based farmers’ market with a focus on local products in 1992. At that time I moved my street corner table to the St. Marys Farmers’ Market and I have a stall there every Saturday morning from mid-May until November. Soon after the farmers’ market was established, I started what is commonly called a CSA or community supported agriculture. Each year over 35 households from the St. Marys area sign up in early spring to get a bag of fresh produce delivered to their doorstep every Tuesday afternoon – the vegetables they receive are a selection of what is ready in my gardens that week. There are no special orders, just a surprise bag of fresh, local, organic vegetables.
I have always farmed organically and became certified organic in the mid-1990′s. With a focus on local markets, most of my customers do not require that I be certified, but over time I began to feel that certification was an important step for me. It allows me to acknowledge that ‘organic’ has some carefully thought out standards behind it. In addition, certification allows me to contribute to and be part of the wider organic community which I hope will continue to evolve and continue to encourage farming practices which are environmentally sustainable.
Along the way, I also made the decision to stay small and to rely only on my own labour. Although, there have always been more market opportunities available I decided it is not my responsibility to fill them. I prefer to spend my time growing vegetables and doing the hard work in the field, not delivering vegetables to communities further down the road or managing workers.
My goal is to grow great tasting vegetables with care and concern for the environment and people. My hope is to see more small-scale farms growing and producing food for their local communities across the region and across the province. I value my friendships with other farmers who also see opportunity for small-scale farming focused on local markets as a way to make a living and to contribute to a better society.
Interested in learning more about Ann & her organics, check out some featured articles!