Here’s an interesting post from the people behind the new farming initiative called FarmStart:
FarmStart started with an idea that Ontario needed an organization that could support a new generation of entrepreneurial, ecological and locally oriented farmers. Our farming communities are aging as fewer farm kids take over the farm. Our farm landscape is changing as more farms are sold to developers, international corporations and non-farmers. Our family farms are disappearing as we lose independent small and mid-scale farm operations.
FarmStart is a not-for-profit organization that provides practical support, provincial leadership and a voice for a new generation of farmers. Over the last four years we have begun to sort out how best to encourage a new generation of enterprising farmers. We aim to provide new farmers with the resources, tools and support necessary to not only get their businesses off the ground, but to thrive.
What is The McVean Farm?
Our McVean incubator farm facility in Brampton is the first of its kind in Canada. It provides a working, vibrant example of near-urban agriculture: a place where new farmers from around the world can thrive, grow delicious food and contribute to the health of their communities. Located in the developing north end of Brampton, the McVean Farm is leased to FarmStart by Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA). FarmStart is bringing new life to this farm by providing new local farmers with access to land, equipment, and infrastructure as well as support during the first years of their farm business-start up.
The McVean Farm is a refreshing island of diverse, ecological food production surrounded by suburban development. This year, 19 new farmers are digging in with 11 different farm enterprises on-site. These farmers, from all over the world, are growing over a hundred kinds of different vegetables, which are fresh picked and often sold directly to their consumers through farmers markets, restaurants and through farm you-pick.
Harvest Celebration Fundraiser: Sept. 26
What Will the Fundraised Money Go Towards?
We want to build a sustainable, rewarding annual fundraising event.
The tickets will be $75/plate, with reduced rates for children. We will also be seeking sponsorship and donations to make the fundraiser viable. All the proceeds from the event will go to FarmStart to continue to develop the McVean Farm and other farms and programs for new farmers.
Our current funding needs include:
Onsite equipment and infrastructure: As the farm grows and more farmers start on-site we need funding to help with capital improvements such as irrigation lines, a wash station and new equipment.
- New incubator farms: Other partners and landowners, such as the Rouge Park, have approached us to build similar incubator farms. Funds may go towards helping us work with these other partners and develop a growing network of near-urban incubator farms.
- FarmStart up Grants: We are also looking to sustain our small grants program in which we provide often-critical grants up to $5,000 to new farmers for start-up expenses. Over the last three years we have supported 30 new Canadian farmers through these grants and we hope to continue and expand this program.
Two years ago Cross Town Kitchens held a fundraiser on the farm and $7,000 was raised. This money went towards the purchase of a small walk-behind tractor that our farmers now regularly use to cultivate their fields.
FarmStart is currently funded through grants provided by private foundations and several federal and provincial government-funded agriculture funding streams. With no stable funding, we constantly face challenges in ensuring that the delivery of our programs and services for new farmers continues. The proceeds from our fundraiser will go towards the most critical and timely expenses needed to sustain our programming.
OUR FARMERS, OUR FUTURE, OUR VISION
Every day, we meet passionate and dedicated new farmers who are exploring planning or making the leap into the thrilling, exhausting and rewarding journey that is becoming a farmer. It is these people who continue to inspire us. We believe that part of the renewal of our food system relies on protecting land for farms like McVean, as well as enabling the growth of new farmers who can pass on to future generations, ecologically restored methods of cultivation, and a healthier way of life.
The farmers we work with come from all over the world, with all types of backgrounds and such different stories. While they approach agriculture in many different ways, they are all committed to producing healthy, high quality food in ecological and financially viable ways. These innovative and dedicated people take the support, resources and opportunities that we can offer at FarmStart, and create real, healthy, delicious change that begins within their own lives and spreads far into our communities and farmlands at large.
McVean Farm Coming Events:
Aug. 29 Open House to meet the farmers and learn more about near-urban, small-scale farming.
Sept. 26 from noon to 5 p.m. McVean Harvest Celebration featuring local, organically grown food.
If you’re interested in successful local farm operations, read our feature “Snack Heaven: 150 Varieties of Picard’s Local Products.”