Glascott Farm, near Markdale Ontario, is currently in the transition process to veganic agriculture. The homestead has been farmed organically since 1958, and farmer Cam took over the land in the late 1990’s.
They worked the land for several years using biodynamic techniques, raising pigs in an outdoor setting to make use of the manure. Living in close contact with the pigs, they developed a kinship with the animals, and felt that they no longer wanted the pigs to be killed. When Cam came across the concepts of veganic agriculture and the book Growing Green, they decided to transition the farm to veganic. Sending the last pigs to an animal sanctuary, they chose to start growing food without animal products for reasons of compassion.
On their 75 acres of land, about 2.5 acres is used for growing veganic produce. Every year they break a bit of new land, rotovating and de-stoning the area to plant the potato crops. Some shallow tillage is done with a tractor. To maintain fertility, one field is committed to green manures. Crop rotation is done based on a general memory of where high-demanding crops were placed in previous years. They also uses some limestone dust which is the waste product of local quarrying. For future plans, they are planning to grow spiky hedges to use as living fencing, to discourage the local deer.
Cam has a special interest in medieval farming. He has independently studied the techniques used in medieval agriculture, to learn more about the practices that were successfully used before agriculture was heavily modernized. When choosing seeds, he prefers older strains of plants, because they were hearty and grew well before farming became industrialized. He also has an interest in indigenous agriculture from around the globe. Concerned that traditional farming pratices in other countries will be replaced by chemicals and machinery, he feels it’s important as a farmer in North America to also use low-impact farming techniques. He says that peasant farmers work the land more efficiently, and use techniques that have been refined over generations. Cam enjoys trying traditional hand-tools from other countries, and even thrashes his own grain by hand.
Cam uses many heirloom plants, and also varieties from other countries to bring diversity to their diet. With a desire to provide people with healthy food, they choose varieties that have high nutritional value, such as high-lycopene carrots. They grow a wide range of vegetables, but their main interest lies in legumes and ancient grains, since these provide a higher load of calories and act as a staple in the diet. About 50% of the farm is dedicated to legumes, either to be eaten green or dried. Cam is also doing trials with black soybeans from Asia, growing them for several years in tough conditions, and weeding out the weak plants to develop a hearty strain. Avoiding plastic, certain plants are held up with twiggy sticks. And with no more pigs on the holding, some of the old animal fencing is used for the peas to climb.
To market their produce, Glascott Farm has a close relationship with customers in their area. About 20 families visit the farm directly to make their purchases, and a truck brings produce to a nearby town. They are not set up to accept wwoofers or apprentices, although they’ve had the participation of young people from their local region. The farm is currently uncertified, and they do not feel the need to become certified organic, since they have a personal and trusting relationship with the people who buy their produce, and have plenty of interest from the local community.
Cam views farming as a spiritual initiative rather than a physical one. He views himself not as someone who grows food, but as someone who participates in a natural growing cycle. He wants to use sustainable farming techniques so that in a hopeful social order for the future we’ll collectively have a different relationship with agriculture.