Friday, 12 June 2009

A Visit to Twin Creeks Farm

To celebrate my blogiversary, and to sign up for a meat CSA, we visited Twin Creeks Farm, just to the west of Meaford. This is a family-run mixed organic farm.

We started by walking to a back field, where pastured chickens were cleaning up a field after it was grazed by cows; this is a typical technique in rotational grazing. The cows leave the grass short, and full of their droppings. The chickens then come through and break up the droppings, eating bugs which hatch in them, thus reducing the number of pest which will follow the cows, and distributing the manure into the ground.

The chickens have two lightweight, mobile shelters so that they can be moved from field to field to follow the cows.

Ian, at 14 the oldest of the te Velde children, started the tour with us as his parents were both busy when we arrived. He was able to answer most of our questions, and one of these days soon he will man a booth at a Toronto farmers market by himself.

Next we walked over to see the cows and calves. They were curious, and came up to the fence to check us out before they decided that we weren't actually all that interesting.

The cows are mostly shorthorns, and are a beautiful shade of red and white. They don't all have horns, but many of them do. These are dairy cows.

As usual with rotational grazing, they are in small fields divided by movable electric fence.

There are at least four large piles of manure near the barns, in long rows so that they can be mixed with straw and turned occasionally; they may sit for three years before being deemed sufficiently composted to be used. If they were turned more often, they would be ready sooner, but space and time are more readily available than the labour to turn them, so they sit.

The vegetable gardens are extensive, and include large fields of corn and potatoes as well as smaller beds of greens.

These lush lettuces were planted in flats, and went into the ground very early. Row-covers get such early lettuces off to a fast start; keeping them a few degrees warmer than the surrounding temperatures, and also keeping flea-beetles off.

Here's some direct seeded lettuce, for later in the season.

Tomatoes get a head start growing through what looks like black plastic, but which is actually made of corn starch, which will eventually decompose.

Most of the pigs were in a far barn and we didn't see them, but we did see these three sows.

They were in a spot of their own to keep their babies safe. Once the babies are big enough that they can't get through the fencing, they and their mamas will go out to pasture.

Finally, we went to see the sheep. They are actually on a neighbouring farm.

There were three heifers (young female cows) staying with them, as they were a bit young yet to be put in the field with the bull. It's one way to avoid unwanted teenage pregnancies...

This was a rougher piece of ground than the main farm. We were amused at how much the rocks look like sheep, or is it that the sheep look like the rocks?


And this is Tasha, an important member of the family, even if her desire to herd outstrips her ability.

Twin Creeks Farms go to the Collingwood, Meaford, and Trinity-Bellwoods (in Toronto) farmers markets. You can buy CSA shares for pick up there as well as in Owen Sound, or you can buy whatever meat and vegetables they happen to have that week on an individual basis. If you are close enough you can also pick up at the farm. They have turkeys in season as well, which must be ordered in advance.


Marc Beranger said...

I first read about these farming techniques in "The Omnivores Dilema"

The farm mentioned in the book was Polyface farms

Ferdzy said...

Yes, that's right. Joel Salatin is the great-granddaddy of this technique.

I first read about it in a book called "Chicken Tractor: The Permaculture Guide to Happy Hens and Healthy Soil" but Michael Pollin did talk about it a lot in "The Omnivore's Dilemma".