Innovative farm operating in Brookvale

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

Dave Stewart
Published on July 25, 2012
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.
Guardia photo

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.