Bryan Dyck (left) and Shannon Jones are farmers from Ontario who have established themselves well into the community with their organic farm in River Hebert.
©Chelsey Gould - Amherst News
RIVER HEBERT - An organic vegetable farm in River Hebert started by two young farmers is on a mission to provide sustainable farming.
Bryan Dyck and Shannon Jones started Broadfork Farm in 2011. Covering 15 acres, the farm on Boars Black Road sells organic vegetables and flowers, using a property that was once a dairy farm many years ago.
Jones grew up in Winnipeg and Ottawa. She studied nutrition and did apprenticeships at farms across the world for about seven years.
Dyck, from Kitchener, was a University of Waterloo student concerned about the loss of farmland and forests to urban development. After a summer at an organic farm, he dedicated himself to farming.
They met and decided to start a farm in Nova Scotia. Originally, they looked at farms in the South Shore, but it was after an email from Su Morrin suggesting a neighbouring property that they decided to settle in River Hebert.
“As soon as we came up here and saw the place it had all of the things we were looking for, said Dyck, who is currently president of the Cumberland County Agriculture Federation. “Lots of forest, lots of farmland.”
“We cared more about the soil,” said Jones. “We didn’t spend that much time looking at the house.”
Some might say that young people are attached to technology and social media, but here these farmers are only connected to the world through a landline phone and internet access at the local library.
The two do not use any pesticides, even ones approved for organic use. That, with the wildflowers they allow to grow, makes their farm certified bee-friendly.
“It promotes an ecosystem that is more self-sustaining,” said Dyck.
They also refuse to clear-cut for fields, instead growing on land in and around the forest. That way, the ecosystem is balanced.
“Even though there’s deer here, there’s also coyotes,” said Jones. “And so the deer here aren’t crazy, whereas in lots of places without coyotes the deer are crazy. So at this point we don’t even have deer fences, because it’s kept more in balance.”
Broadfork is a successful case of young farmers starting up a farm. However, due to the narrow market of consumers for organic vegetables and local produce, the duo has to travel to sell their products at the Dieppe Market each Saturday. They also sell to local restaurants including the Wild Caraway and the Black Rock Bistro.
They have advice for young farmers.
“Don’t try to do it all at once,” said Dyck. “Sometimes people have visions of all the different kinds of things they want to do. If you try to take on too much all at once and if your focus is too spread, I think that decreases your chances.”
They also suggest that young farmers go to farming conferences, get involved with local agriculture groups and speak to experienced farmers.
They envision staying there until they grow old, but don’t want to think of selling the farm as a retirement plan. Instead, they envision transitioning the farm to a younger farmer and possibly still living on a piece of the property.
“By the time we got old, if we were hoping to sell this place for everything we put into it, over our whole lifetime, a young farmer without a lot of savings probably wouldn’t be able to buy it,” said Jones. “We don’t want to think of the farm as a savings account. Farmers that retired 10 years ago were able to do that but I think that’s going to be a harder and harder situation.”