October 12, 2016 5:30 pm
Updated: October 12, 2016 9:22 pm

Uxbridge farmer transforms food culture and lives through mentoring

WATCH ABOVE: Mike Lanigan, an organic farmer in Uxbridge, Ont. cultivates more than just crops. On his farm, he patiently grooms and cultivates the next generation of farmers as part of a province-wide internship program he offers for free. Interns from all walks and stages of life are invited to Mike’s farm to learn from him as he shares his knowledge on ecological farming.

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An organic farm in Uxbridge, Ont. is cultivating much more than just crops.

Farm owner Mike Lanigan is a multi-generational organic farmer who moved to Uxbridge in the ’50s when he was a child. After university, he left the farming life for two decades but ended up returning and buying the farm from his father’s estate.

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Now, 24 years later, Lanigan has taken his knowledge and is cultivating the next generation of farmers as part of a province-wide internship program called C.R.A.F.T. (Collaborative Regional Alliance For Farmer Training) and he said not just any farmer can be a host.

“To be a participant, you have to be an organic farm—most importantly (and) you have to be making a living farming. So you can’t have a wife that’s a dentist paying the bills, you’ve got to be a bonafide farmer.”

Interns Michelle and Dean were invited to live and work on the farm in order to get hands-on technical training from Lanigan and his two sons while getting paid a weekly $100 allowance.

“My partner and I got on this journey because we want to learn about sustainable living – just getting back close to nature. It’s a way to counter the high cost of living in Toronto,” Michelle said.

Interns come from all walks and stages of life typically stay between three and six months, or in the case of Edith Barabash they don’t leave at all.

She has been working for Lanigan for the last five years. The former intern is now a cashier at the Village Market in Thornhill, Ont. where she sells the crops he grows.

“Not a lot of people are connected to their food,” Barabash said.

“They just have no idea where anything comes from or how it grows or even the hard work and passion that goes into growing everything that we bring to the market.”

Lanigan said the C.R.A.F.T. program has not only given him the opportunity to make a difference in his interns’ lives, but has also assisted in shaping him.

With Barabash’s counsel and advice, Lanigan transformed his farm that once raised cows to be sent to the slaughter into an animal sanctuary.

“I don’t think she knows it … but she’s stuck in a lifetime job,” he quips.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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