According to the Peterborough County Federation of Agriculture, Canada is one of the world’s leaders in agricultural innovation.
That includes creative land use, as well as the technology used on the land.
Harley Farms, in Keene, Ont., about 17 kilometres south of Peterborough, has a form of creative land use by farming on a seven-year rotation. Co-owner Roger Harley says the crops, such as red clover, fix nitrogen back into the soil.
“Our field has had no sprays, no fertilizer at all. It’s just pure, 100 per cent naturally grown red clover,” he said.
Harley Farms also has several types of livestock which are kept outside year-round.
“The pigs come in through the rotation: the sheep and the cattle,” Harley said. “And we’re now starting to also grow vegetables in part of the rotation as well for human consumption.”
But this seven-year rotation didn’t grow overnight. Since the Harley family moved from England to Canada 18 years ago, it’s been working to get the growth rotation right.
Harley says it’s important to him to be 100 per cent chemical free.
“We run our farms but at the end of the day, do we have the right to pollute the next-door neighbours’ water course with chemicals we put on our fields? I don’t think so,” he adds.
“I don’t think we have the right to pollute the Great Lakes. But until somebody comes up with another option for these farmers who are using chemicals and sprays — and getting rid of their hog manure by liquid tanks and spraying it all over the field — those things are going to run off, and get into our water supply. They’re gonna get into the food supplies.”
These days, farmers also need to find multiple ways to sustain their business, Harley says.
His son James co-owns the farm. He and his sister have focused on expanding the farm’s agri-tourism potential: Adding activities or features that brings visitors to a farm.
“We’ve started doing a lot of farm tours, and different events on the farm,” James said. “We do a cross-country skating trail in the winter, and just this past spring we did an event with our lambing.”
Technology on the farm is also changing.
Paul Glenn, president of the Peterborough County Federation of Agriculture, says to compete in the global market, Canada needs to create new ways to produce food. That means staying updated with technology.
“Like my combine, it’s the new diesel technology, so it’s very clean,” he said. “It’s basically the same production value of two combines that I used to have. So now I’m doing two times the amount with two thirds of the fuel.”