Written by Janet Davies
Tim and Angela Bakker were both raised in The County, Tim grew up on a dairy farm, Angela became a nurse. Today their lives still revolve around food production and health but in a vastly different way. A powerful documentary, Food Inc., was instrumental in setting them on their current path, creating a small organic farm to feed their own family and hopefully produce enough to sell to others who are sick, sometimes literally, of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and over-processed food.
In their first year they have produced red winter wheat, fallow fall rye and buckwheat plus 200 pounds of pure, delicious honey from their first two hives. “We were shocked by our success with the honey,” says Tim. “Although my beekeeping mentor is Andrew Burkinshaw, who is brilliant.” The drought defeated their peas, corn, red fife and flax, but the Bakkers are not discouraged. Theirs is a long game. “Ten to fifteen years,” says Tim. “Our children will reap the benefits, because, once established, this kind of farming requires practically no inputs. It is very different to conventional cash crop farming, and anyone looking for high yield and quick profits would not be interested.” They are combining deep organic, agro-forestry and permaculture principles to create their farm, and, while the systems develop, they grow annual crops to generate income. With two small children (and their third due very soon) it is a challenge, but their passion is strong.
BEFORE THEY CHOSE FARMING
“I was the son that didn’t want to work the dairy farm with my dad,” Tim grins. “I went off to college, took a plumbing job to help pay my way, and found I really liked it. So I dropped college, became a licensed plumber and eventually started my own business. I’m still plumbing to help finance our farm.” Angela went to Ottawa to pursue her dream of nursing and jokes she only came home because she met and fell in love with Tim at an Emmanuel Baptist church meeting in Bloomfield. “But honestly I was disillusioned with the healthcare industry,” she says. “Doctors and nurses are wonderful and work so hard, but I felt we were seeing people too late. Bad diet and lifestyles are ruining people’s health, and it seems food and pharmaceutical corporations don’t care. We were handing out so many pills, and then more pills to counteract side effects.” A big change in their own diet, after the birth of their first child, sparked an interest in less adulterated, more healthful food, and from there the desire to be part of sustainable, healthier food production.
PERMACULTURE AND GREENHOUSES
We are currently hearing a lot about permaculture experiments in The County, but far from being a new fad it is an ancient method that mimics Nature. Growing grains and fruit and nut trees and bushes, raising pigs and cows, ducks and chickens, keeping bees … in permaculture all the elements work together. Bees pollinate, animals fertilize, trees provide shade and windfall fruits for animals to forage. Careful husbandry ensures it all stays healthy, the plants thrive and propagate. Angela enthuses about one permaculture expert who planted grapes to grow up and through apple trees, doing away with costly trellising! The Jubilee Forest Farm website is up and running with good explanations of agroforestry, permaculture and more.
Angela and Tim have added a greenhouse to the mix. “It’s the ducks and chickens survival shelter for winter,” he explains. “They can survive to minus 25 if they are dry and sheltered, but they’ll die at minus 5 in the wind and wet. They have a third of the space in the greenhouse. In late March it becomes our season extender for growing. What’s so cool is chickens produce carbon dioxide which the plants eat up and then repay with oxygen. Some Dutch growers actually pay to pipe carbon dioxide into their greenhouses.”
“We are learning by trial and error,” Angela concedes. “But we are surrounded by amazing people, like Deb and Don Hudson of Valley Pine, Stephen and Laura Morden, experts in permaculture, Niki and Ken Thompson of Island Meadows Family Farm and Coleen and Andrew Burkinshaw of Morrison Point Farm, who all help us. Nobody feels threatened because somebody else is coming to try what they’re doing. That’s what is so neat about this place, everyone wants to share and encourage.”
“You know what we need in The County? Someone with a dehuller.” says Angela. “We’d love to grow ancient grains, and so would others, and there is a big demand for them. Bakeries in Toronto are crying out for good suppliers. But you really need a dehuller for those grains. Unfortunately the dehuller costs about $15,000 used. Now there’s a business opportunity for someone!” she laughs. In the meantime they use a small Diamant home mill to grind their wholewheat, rye and buckwheat flours to sell. They make a very good pancake mix as a value added product that sells like – well – like hotcakes, at local markets, places like The Local Store. Tim makes his own maple syrup, too, and, although he is enormously busy all the time, he feels he can make time for what’s important to him, now that he works for himself. He does enough plumbing to survive these early establishing years of Jubilee Forest Farm, but is content to trade income for precious hours to spend growing high quality “health food” for his family … alongside his family. The couple are investing everything in the future but determinedly avoiding debt. They have no love for The System that they believe in many ways damages modern life.
“We are passionate about local food production, supplying your local community and being accountable to them. The world would be a better place if communities concentrated on supporting themselves and helping each other. We’d also like to think this farm will provide a good grounding, interest and pride and responsibility for our rather headstrong daughter,” says Angela with a smile. “Perhaps she can run the chickens as her own business!”
Theirs is a big project, an ambitious learning experience, with potentially great rewards, and Angela and Tim have the optimism and energy to make it happen.
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