Innovative farm operating in Brookvale

Dave Stewart
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One of the world's first commercial permaculture farm operations is now growing on Prince Edward Island

Rory and Darcy Beck, two beginning farmers, lead a tour showing their permaculture design on their farm. The Tour was part of the Annual P.E.I. Adapt Council Great Projects Field Day.

BROOKVALE— One of the world's first commercial permaculture farm operations is now rising from the ground here on Prince Edward Island.

More than 80 people, many of them conventional and new growers, took part in the P.E.I. Adapt Council's sixth annual field day on Wednesday.

One of the stops featured in what the Adapt Council refers to as an edible forest permaculture garden, not far from the Brookvale Ski Park.

Darcy and Rory Beck are two beginning farmers who have studied permaculture design and are now putting techniques they learned into practice on their 200-acre farm.

A new mixed fruit and nut orchard includes many new species that have never been grown in the province before.

"We're trying something . . . and learning as we go,'' Darcy Beck said.

"We've tried to make our mistakes on paper,'' Rory responded.

When the orchard matures it will look a lot different than it does now.

Phil Ferraro, executive director of the P.E.I. Adapt Council, said it will resemble a forest moreso than a typical apple orchard.

"But it will be a forest with edibles being grown in it,'' Ferraro said. "The idea behind it is to tap new markets for crops that are not normally grown here but also to interplant that kind of mixed variety.''

That mixed variety means fewer pests to deal with.

Another interesting aspect of the Beck farm is how it deals with a common P.E.I. problem  runoff and riparian zones.

The farm sits on a hill and at the top of that hill sits a large berm that acts as a windbreaker, providing a microclimate for the orchard.

"The wind will hit that berm and blow up over the orchard. It reduces the wind speed out in the orchard but won't eliminate it because they do need the wind speed for aeration and health and bugs,'' Ferraro said.

All of the contours in the orchard lead to a man-made pond at the bottom and that serves several purposes  it prevents runoff and captures rainwater, allowing it to seep back into the ground and into the water table.

"It's pretty ingenious,'' Ferraro said.

According to the Adapt Council, 95 per cent of new farmers in North America are small, diversified, direct marketing people. All that means is that farms like the Becks will take over from conventional operations as time goes on.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: P.E.I. Adapt Council, Brookfield Ski Park.Darcy

Geographic location: Brookfield, Prince Edward Island, North America

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Recent comments

  • EvaLuna
    July 28, 2012 - 12:17

    Hi there, Can you tell me what new species you've planted? I would like to plant some things on my parent's new land in South Ontario that would work now, but are new and exciting. I'm thinkin plump berries of all kinds, nut trees, etc... Any ideas? Thanks so much!

    • Darcy Beck
      August 01, 2012 - 08:38

      Check out green barn nursery's website. They are in your area and have a lot of interesting species/ are excellent to deal with.

  • Kari
    July 26, 2012 - 19:03

    Way to go Darcy! I am so happy to see that your project is doing so well and you are truly making Permaculture viable commercially and sharing it with the masses! So proud of you! ~Kari (from the Sepp workshop in Montana)

  • Bright
    July 26, 2012 - 16:49

    This is exactly what I would like my tax dollars spent on. The basic need for nutritious food is something I want my government to support. I have 2 children and admit that when I go to the grocery store I often take for granted where our food comes from and the hard work behind the scenes. I am grateful to those who do not. These people have definitely done their homework which will benefit us in the end. Best of luck!

  • Darcy Beck
    July 26, 2012 - 14:20

    Hello this is Darcy Beck and I just wanted to answer the questions and concerns of Micheal and Garth Staples. For Garth, we have applied for and received assistance from existing provincial and federal farming programs, but the vast majority of our operation is funded by private capital. Future Farmers, the innovation program, and ADAPT are all great programs that any new or existing farmer can access and should apply for. The Agriculture sector on PEI has been very supportive and forward thinking as we enter into a time where food security and environmental degradation is a looming threat. They have been supportive of local initiatives and innovations on existing farms, and also supportive of sustainable and organic alternatives. The government help has been appreciated, but there is no doubt that private industry is going to have to play a big role and prove that alternative farming methods can be profitable. For Micheal, all of the species we have planted have been thoroughly researched and none of the species we have planted are considered dispersive or invasive. It is important for any gardener to consider this when planting new species in their back yard. Some species that run by rhizomes or disperse their seeds by air should be observed and controlled by the person who plants them and considered the gardeners responsibility to keep in check. The theory behind our planting is that most of the "exotic" trees that we planted were already in the process of moving north after the last glacial thaw, and that we are just helping them speed up the migration now that the climate is suitable for these plants on PEI. Hope this helps answer some questions. We are very happy with the turn out to the farm day and interest in our project. I should also mention that our farm organizations name is Island Forest Foods, that we are organic, and that we will have our website and social media up and running soon (kind of busy with planting lately!) Thanks again, I'll try to answer any more questions as they come up.

  • Michael
    July 26, 2012 - 11:04

    Farming species that have never been grown in the province before.... We read so much about the negative impact of invasive, non-native species. I wonder how this project fits into the mix.

  • Mother Earth
    July 26, 2012 - 08:52

    Fascinating concept. Makes a lot of sense. I wish more farmers and governments were interested in sustainable and healthy ways to produce our food! Good luck guys!

  • This guy
    July 26, 2012 - 06:36

    Garth Staples... What kind of moronic question is that? The Becks poured their own money&labour into this. Good luck guys, great to see it's receiving some attention from other local farmers!

  • Charlottetown Resident
    July 26, 2012 - 05:46

    I'd like to comment on this post, and others like it. But The Guardian chooses to filter my comments.

    • Jocelyne Lloyd, web editor
      July 26, 2012 - 08:59

      Hi Charlottetown resident, of course you are free to comment on this story and others like it! The only comments we filter are those that contravene our terms of use. Generally speaking, if they attack individuals, are vulgar, have links to outside websites we can't verify or make criminal accusations that haven't been proven in court. I see that this comment came in at 6:46 this morning when there is no one monitoring comments. If you submit comments overnight, you can expect it can take up to 9 or 10 the next morning before they're approved. Nothing personal! Let me know if you have any questions about submitting comments. Jocelyne Lloyd, web editor, jlloyd@theguardian.pe.ca

  • robert
    July 25, 2012 - 23:33

    Wow! This gives me hope for the future of food production! These type of natural sustainable food systems are necessary if we are going to maintain the quality of our farm land and our environment. Well done guys!!

  • Garth Staples
    July 25, 2012 - 20:58

    Pls tell me there are no taxpayers' monies in this project.

  • intobed
    July 25, 2012 - 19:11

    Finally, some farmers who are planning their farm, with an eye towards sustainability and minimal pesticide use. A multi crop farm, instead of intense monoculture. Good work guys!