Farmer Profile: Broadfork Farm, Nova Scotia

Posted by Shannon Jones on April 3, 2014

Name: Shannon Jones (and Bryan Dyck)
Age: 32 (and 29)
Farm name: Broadfork Farm
Location: River Hebert, Nova Scotia
What do you produce? Organic mixed vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, some fruit, a little bit of vegetable seed production, and a small flock of laying hens.
Size of farm? Our farm is 15 acres. We create our livelihood from about 2 acres though.
Number of years farming? 10 years total, 3 years running Broadfork Farm, 2 years on the land we own.
Farming background? I didn’t grow up on a farm. I learned to farm by apprenticing and working for a number of different farmers.

1.     Marketing?  We sell at the Dieppe Market in Dieppe, NB. I love that market. I hope to be a vendor there for the rest of my life! We also run a Market Food Club CSA at that market. It’s essentially a way for customers to support our farm at the beginning of the season but then works more like having a tab or gift card at our stand.  People only take what they want in the amounts they want. It doesn’t matter if they’re away for a few weeks or if they have guests one week and need a lot more produce. We also sell at a few health food stores and some restaurants.

2.     Finances?  We had both been working for other farmers for quite some time and didn’t have much in the way of savings. What we did have was experience and a good business plan (we took a farm business planning course through Everdale in Ontario). Our bank and credit union wouldn’t do farm loans. Farm Credit Canada wanted one of us to get a full-time, off-farm job, but the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board took a chance on us and gave us a mortgage. We’re pretty grateful for them!

3.     How’d you come up with your farm name?While talking with some friends, we started brainstorming. Bryan and I wanted our farm name to convey our ideals of soil health and human health. The name is really a double meaning: the broadfork tool that is used to aerate and break up hardpan in the soil without destroying soil life and a kitchen fork with a broad diversity of foods on it for human health. That’s why our logo is a picture of a fork with different foods on it. We also use bent forks (that we get from thrift stores) as sign holders at the market…our customers like that!

4.     What do you want your farm/farming career to look like in 20 years? Our vision of expansion is really about expanding upwards (like always doing a better job) rather than expanding outwards. I mostly want us to continue to challenge ourselves with new crops and whatever excites us as we age. I never want to feel like I’ve got it down. Though we’re already thinking about our bodies as we age and creating systems that will help our changing physical capabilities.

5.     Who are your farming mentors?Too many to name them all! Paul and Sandy Arnold from Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle, NY. Tim Livingstone from Strawberry Hill Farm in New Brunswick. David Blanchard and Cindy Rubinfine from Pleasant Hill Farm in Nova Scotia. Johann and Maggie Kleinsasser from Whole Circle Farm in Acton, Ontario. Murray Bunnett from Bunnett Family Farm in New Brunswick. Margie Pikarsky from Bee Heaven Farm in Homestead, Florida. Brian and Justine Denison from Denison Family Farm in NY. Our neighbours Dara and Lois Wilson. I could go on and on….

6.     What book changed your world?The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk and Towards Saving the Honeybee from Gunther Hauk.

7.     For this upcoming season, what are you most excited about?Growing fresh ginger! And expanding the cut flowers! And senposai (a new green)! And putting up a tunnel for seed production!

8.     Why did you join the National Farmers Union? Or What do you love about the National Farmers Union? Here in Nova Scotia, we only have one provincial farm organization (The Federation of Agriculture) and all registered farms pay to be members (whether they choose to be a member or not). Bryan is fairly active in that organization. But we also wanted to be members of the NFU because of its representation of farms like ours: small, family farms. We really value the collective voice the NFU gives to small farmers like us. I was especially inspired after last year’s NFU Youth Retreat. Everyone there was so amazing!

9.     Farm fashion: what’s hot on your farm?Bug jackets….they are also our beauty secret…..to keep our complexions free of red, itchy bite marks.

10.   What advice do you have for aspiring farmers? Learn from the best. Seek out farmers who are doing what you want to be doing and learn from them. Even work without pay from these farmers. The value you will get is worth so much more than you can imagine. And the blessed experience of thinking about the work you do in non-monetary terms is beautiful and fleeting – once you’re a farmer, you won’t have that luxury. Enjoy the no-risk, no money time in your young life while you still can!

11.  What’s your guilty pleasure? Or What wouldn’t you mind being paid with instead of money? Dark, organic chocolate. Preferably from Anna Tolazzi in Kitchener, ON.

12.  What resources have been most useful to you? The Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN). Growing for Market. The Greenhorns blog “The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles.” Floret Flower blog. The Roxbury Farm website has great resources for farmers too.