Tag Archives: friends

farm work party: painting the pig pen


My good friend Aram and I spent a portion of the work party day painting our new pig pen. I don’t have a completed pig pen photo yet (I just finished the white trim today), but we got the majority of the pen painted ‘rustic red’ (or as Chantalle put it, ‘bad lipstick red’) to match our barn and chicken coop.

While we were painting, our neighbour Kerri-Jo came riding by on her horse to check out what we were up to. I’ve gotta say – the community aspect to our project really hit home at this point. In addition to having a wide variety of people come out to help us, having neighbours come by on horseback to say hi and see what we’re doing is seriously cool. Rural living at it’s finest! While we were painting, Kerri-Jo’s husband Michael and their two kids were helping out with the deep bed part of the project too. Gotta love community!

farm work party: the deep beds


We had our first farm work party of the year this past weekend! Despite the on-and-off-again rain, a solid crew of old and new friends came out to help us get some important work done. A lot of tasks were accomplished and a lot of photographs were taken, so instead of plugging everything into one blog post, I’ll break the activites down into smaller, bite-sized chunks.

I’ll highlight the work we did on and around the deep beds first. This was the first ‘job’ of the day and involved turning over the earth in our last unprepared deep bed, adding composted manure to the bed, digging a path along the ditch side of the beds, laying bark mulch along the pathways between and around the beds, and planting wildflower seeds along the ridge of earth between the north pathway and the ditch.

TIP: when laying bark mulch down for paths, make sure you lay down layers of newspaper first, then add the bark mulch. This will help keep weeds from growing up through the bark mulch. We learned this the hard way and had to redo some of the paths that we had started a few days before the work party. Special thanks to Chris’ Gaia College instructor for the helpful tip!

Thanks to everyone who pitched in on this job. Helpers included old high school friends and their children, neighbours, community members we’ve connected with through the CEED Centre, fellow students of Chris’ from his Master Organic Gardening course, our local Green Party candidate and family members. The deep bed area is looking so much better now – we can’t wait to get our seedlings planted and watch that part of the garden develop into an abundant food provider!

an encouraging letter from a fellow farmer


A little while ago, I created a contact email address for this blog and it’s been surprising and encouraging to see that emails are actually coming in – and mostly from people we don’t know! Strangers who have somehow found our blog are following along with us as we document our adventure and are writing to us to let us know what they think. To those of you who are doing this – thank you! We love hearing from you.

We’ve received emails from young people (including two from the Czech Republic) wanting to know if they can come and live and work on our farm with us (something that we’re not set up to do now, but hope to be able to accomodate one day) and from individuals in the Maple Ridge community who want to come and volunteer their time helping out on the farm because farming is something they dream of doing too. And just the other day we received an email from someone who lives right around the corner and who wants to donate her family of five’s weekly compost scraps – yes please!

I’m reposting an email we received a little while ago from the brother of our good friend Dave. Mark Veenstra and his wife Tania have undertaken their own sustainable farming project in Ontario and emailed us about their project, including words of encouragement and advice for what we’re doing. So much of what they’re doing (and how they’re doing it) is aligned with our own way of thinking so I thought our readers might appreciate their story as well. Thank you Mark and Tania – it was so nice to hear from you! We look forward to seeing your own website once you’ve got it set up!

Photos of Mark and Tania’s farm (above) were taken by the lovely Kailey-Michelle Plain (soon to be sister-in-law to Mark and Tania).


Greetings from snowy, cold and yet hauntingly beautiful southern Ontario! I can’t help but be enthusiastic for what you are doing and what you are committed to do over the next year. My wife Tania and I have been involved in similar projects, although on a slightly bigger scale, here for the last 2 years. We have teamed up with some friends (Ron & Adele Service of Black Walnut Lane) who have been raising heritage sheep and heritage cattle for the last 10 years. Together we are trying to fulfil a dream of having and maintaining local, sustainable, profitable mixed family farms. The adventure has not been without its struggles and hardships but in the end we wouldn’t want to have it any other way. After all, The Old Order Mennonites that live in this part of Ontario have been successfully doing this for many, many years! In short, we believe that there are better ways to raise animals destined for the dinner plate. To that end, we have gotten glowing and gushing reviews from farmer’s market customers and restaurant owners/chefs about what we are doing and that is part of what motivates us to continue!

We have learned that farming takes team work, co-operation, blood, sweat & tears, faith and friends! We have learned to never turn someone down who says, “Hey, can I help you with that?” The four of us have found our unique places on the farm, at the farmer’s markets and in the process have discovered a little more about who we are and what our roles are on this planet. We have decided that we are stewards of the land, that it is our responsibility to work with the earth and the animals and to leave our little patch of it in better shape for the next generation. We have learned to smile and appreciate new life in the spring. To admire a young animals drive to stand up and drink after being born in a late winter storm and to soak in the smell of hay cut in mid July. We have cared for the sick and said our respectful good-byes to those animals that have been unloaded at the butcher’s back door. I guess the long and short of it is that we believe in and are passionate about what we are doing and we will continue in those endeavours.

On the other side of it, we recognize that this is also a business. Feed needs to be purchased, equipment needs to be repaired, barns, water lines and fences need to be upgraded and maintained and to that end we are learning to never undervalue what we are doing or what we are selling. Tania and I raise heritage pigs (Berkshires) in a market that in Ontario is having a tough time. Currently Ontario’s conventional pig farmers are averaging $1.20/lb at market for their animals. To put that in perspective, the average hog producer is losing $18.00 for every animal they raise, if you multiply that by the average herd size of 1,800 hogs, it becomes easy to see that they are in a bad way. We, however, manage to market and sell our own animals for much more than the average Ontario hog producer. We have learned that marketing what you raise also means marketing yourself, and finding your niche. We have learned the value of honesty in business, transparency in our relationships and that we should be confident in the prices we charge.

We are also learning the importance of down time. Time on the deck with a cold beer and good friends, a quiet walk around the farm, a ride on our horses, an afternoon at the beach, a quiet and still morning in a tree stand or an hour to sit on the couch and catch up on some reading or to watch a movie! Farming can consume all of your time and attention and we are learning that it is OK to step away from it and recharge. Let me conclude by saying we wish you all the very best in what you are doing. If you are interested you can find us and our partners on twitter or online at:




 Tania and I have recently bought our own farm and have just registered as  ‘The Boar & Chick: Pork and Poultry Products’. We are in the process of getting ‘branded’ and we look forward to what we can do with a website and other social media outlets.

Take care, good luck and I look forward to your updates!

All Best Regards;

Mark & Tania Veenstra – The Boar & Chick Veenstra Family Farm

Ron & Adele Service – Black Walnut Lane