Sustainable Organic Farming

good food + grown for you

We believe that, at a minimum, we should grow organically.  We meet and often exceed organic standards, we strive to make the farm sustainable; as a community farm, as a business, and as a diverse and vibrant ecosystem. 

ABOUT THE FARM: CloverCroft is a part of 100 acre parcel of land, a part of traditional territory of the Anishnaabeg, and Haudenosaunee Peoples.

A couple rolling hills.  A wee stream running through it.  Sitting atop the Paris Plain.  Since my partner and I moved here in 2012 and joined the story of this land, we've been dreaming of how to engage our community and grow healthy food for them in a way that can be sustained.

Step 1:  Make the shift in practice here to organic agriculture.  We won't "certify" for a while, but we meet, and often exceed, the requirements set out by the Canadian Organic Standards Council. 

Step 2:  Build a chicken coop: Because eggs are delicious.  Because I feel livestock is an essential part of the nutrient cycle in a sustainable farm. And because chickens are hilarious.

Step 3:  Plant a food-forest or forest-garden: the loooong-term project, and one of the most exciting things happening here. Conceptually, this is Permaculture.  Harnessing forest-edge-ecology we are layering food producers.  Instead of taking 1/4 acre and growing one small harvest of squash there each year, we are layering together a wonderous diversity of food and flora.  An over-story of oak trees (acorns) and other protein-rich hardwoods; a fruiting middle-story of apple, peach, plum, pear, Asian pear, and cherry; below that is bramble and bush (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, haskap), and then below are culinary and medicinal herbs and roots.  It's perennial.  It's a TONNE of food in one small space.  It's ** exciting ** :D (for food-security nerds like me, anyway)

Step 4:  Education.  A graduate certificate in Sustainable Agriculture.  I went to school full time and slowly built infrastructure at home as funds came available.  

And in 2015 we finally felt ready to launch.  To open a produce CSA, and share our food with our people. Since then we have steadily grown in size and diversity, and look forward to increasing our sustainability and biodiversity through adding more and more perennial crops to our farmscape.

OrganicWe feel the minimum requirement for us to farm well and sustainably is to grow our products organically. Thus, we follow strict organic growing practices throughout the farm. Thus far we've chosen not to certify as we maintain a direct connection with the families that eat our produce, though the expense and effort of certification may prove appropriate in the future. 

Soil: It is the soil that imparts flavor to produce. Thus we never grow hydroponically and we are constantly working to make sure the soil is rich in organic matter, life and nutrient balanced. We then protect that hard work by never tilling or driving machinery over our precious soil.

No Till: Tilling destroys soils structure and diverse biological communities and burns up organic matter. We practice no till and use permanent beds that minimize soil disturbance. Instead of tilling our fields we manually broadfork our permanent beds. This maintains soil structure, reduces our weed pressure and helps keep our soil fertile. Care for the soil is an integral part of growing intensively without tractors. We feel it is also a requirement to grow the best tasting produce. Vegetables need complex soil that is alive to reach their potential.

Deep and Intensive: We then move beyond the minimum of organic standards and practice intensive planting and growing techniques. Our beds are replanted constantly through the season from early April through late fall. Our hoop houses produce vegetables well into the shoulder seasons. We do this by maintaining extremely fertile soil. We believe that farming this way creates healthy vegetables resistant to diseases and pests.

ABOUT THE NAME:  clover/croft   My grandparents named this farm after moving here in the 1940's. Of Scotch descent, they considered themselves crofters, a word for farmer more commonly used in Scotland.  Clover is a powerful word when it comes to food.  To cattle, it means protein. To bees and other pollinators, food for winter (or honey for us).  To soil-nerds [like me], it means more nutrients for the vegetables that grow afterwards.  To kids, its pretty.  

To me, CloverCroft is a blending of heritage with care for a diversity of species, species which in turn nourish us as a community.  These are sentiments that ring true as we've launch CloverCroft anew as an organic community farm, one I feel all of my grandparents would be proud of: Both in the innovative and intrepid nature of Tommy and Marie Sayles, and the calm reverence for nature and guardianship thereof, that I always loved about Norman and Beatrice Shantz

ABOUT YOUR FARMER:  My name is Ryan Shantz and I'm the lead farmer here.  Food has always been on my mind, I just love it.  The same goes for community. But I also worry; about the direction food policy is taking, about how we value independence more than interdependence, and if we can sustain our choices today to still grow food beyond our own generations. Do we borrow from the future to grow cheap food today? 

I've worked as a server and chef before, I've been cooking up a storm at home ever since I could clean up my own messes, but I've often longed to be more connected to the food I eat, to know what's in it.  Growing up the way I have, I'm fortunate enough to have access to land so that i may grow my own food.  I see this as a responsibility. Wanting to do this properly I enrolled in the Sustainable Agriculture program through Fleming College, and soaked up as much knowledge as I could about growing healthy food for today, while also preserving skills, knowledge, and genetic diversity: safeguarding the future.

To pair these two values, food and community, which are so fundamental to me, I am excited to grow food not just for myself and my family, but for my community as well.  

COMMUNITY GIVING:  Farming this way; small scale, intensive, hyper local, inevitably leads to foods that costs more than average.  Our farm reflects the true price of growing vegetables in a local context, without government subsidies. Ethically, we struggle with trying to remain a profitable farm, but keeping a price structure that excludes the less fortunate in our communities.  We haven't sorted this out yet.  

In the meantime, here's what we can do:

  • When we have a bounty of vegetables that cannot be sold at market, it goes to the local food bank association.
  • Missed weeks for pre-packed vegetables shares go to the nearest food bank to that pickup location. 
  • Donations from members: You'll see an option when you sign up for a vegetable share, to add on a sum of money, which goes toward vegetables shares for the Paris Food Bank to pick up.  The collective membership donations determine how many shares of food the Food Bank collects.