Scratching the farming itch

The Canadian Press
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Documentary examines future of local food and farming

Nathan Karey (left) and Tarrah Young, from Neustadt, Ont., stand in one of their greenhouses which grow pea sprouts, leaf cabbage, and salad greens all year. The pair, along with four other young farmers, is the subject of the documentary film “To Make A Farm,” named one of the 10 most popular Canadian films at the Vancouver Film Festival.— The Canadian Press/Waterloo Region Record

When organic farmer Tarrah Young turned the first shovelful of soil on her farm, she was on a serious mission.

“My desire to farm came from my desire to do something for the environment,” said the 34-year-old Young, who admits she set out to “save the world.”

The toils and determination of this Kitchener-born farmer, along with four other young farmers, is the subject of the documentary film “To Make A Farm,” named one of the 10 most popular Canadian films at the Vancouver Film Festival.

The film also won three Golden Sheaf Awards at last weekend’s Yorkton Film Festival: Best of Festival, Best of Saskatchewan and Best Documentary Nature & Environment.

The film is being screened across Canada and the U.S.

It was when she was in her final year studying environmental biology at the University of Guelph that her world was shaken up.

“I took intro organic agriculture,” she recalled. “I don’t know why I took it. I didn’t need it to graduate, and it was the hardest course I took.”

Professor Ann Clark had invited many speakers to the class, several of whom had chosen farming as a career.

This was “an epiphany” for Young, who hadn’t considered farming.

In 2002, she completed an internship at Everdale Organic Farm, near Hillsburgh, Ont.

The farm offers training, workshops, special events and school programs, and in this environment Young thrived.

After completing the internship she stayed on, took a management position and met her partner, Nathan Carey.

After four years, she was offered a job that seemed too good to be true. It turns out it was.

“I took a job in the Yukon,” she said. “They offered me part ownership of the farm. Now I know, when someone offers you part ownership in a farm, something is wrong.”

“They were in severe financial trouble.”

The farm was too far gone and, months later, folded.

Young doesn’t regret her move to the Yukon with Carey, an organic farm enthusiast. “It was an amazing experience,” she said.

Returning to Ontario, Young joined FarmStart, a program located on the grounds of Ignatius Jesuit Centre, north of Guelph, where newly minted farmers are provided with everything from equipment to advice.

By then, Young was already an experienced organic grower and only needed a plot of land.

But she soon outgrew that space and yearned for land the couple could buy together.

A short search found the perfect property: a former 20-hectare hobby farm east of Neustadt with a few small buildings and, of all things, an in-ground swimming pool.

Being the practical sort, Young repurposed the pool.

Today, it serves as a cold cellar since they covered the top with a roof and grass and dug out an entrance. Inside is another surprise: a bicycle-powered drum for washing vegetables.

Everything on the aptly named Green Being Farm is done with the environment in mind.

The farm is home to a small flock of Katahdin sheep, which have hair instead of wool and provide better tasting meat.

There are free-range poultry, Berkshire pigs and soon beef cattle will be added to the menagerie.

All the animals are pastured and fed organic feed, which she said is surprisingly easy to purchase nowadays.

Two greenhouses on the property provide a year-round supply of vegetables, from spinach to tomatoes.

Everything is sold through a Community Shared Agricultural program, more commonly known as a CSA, which means customers purchase shares and, in return, receive a weekly bag filled with fresh seasonal produce.

In 2011, Young provided produce for 45 clients. This year she expects 75 and, when she’s at maximum capacity, hopefully 175.

Farming is still a tough way to make a living, she admits, yet there are five new farmers who have taken over land on her road alone, most of them organic growers.

“If you’re buying right from the farmer, you can come to the farm, talk to the farmer,” she said.

Organizations: University of Guelph

Geographic location: Kitchener, Yorkton, Yukon Saskatchewan Canada Hillsburgh Ontario Guelph Neustadt

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