Standing in their greenhouse, munching on garlic shoots and lemon balm leaves that were growing around us, David Beyers shared the story of Beyers & Jacks Organics with us – from their aim of always more sustainability, to their love/hate relationship with challenges. The brothers, David and Meiring, along with Joel Porter, their assistant farmer, run the certified organic farm near Campbellville and supply Goodness Me! Natural Food Markets with fresh vegetables during the growing season. A few of us from the Halton Food Council Communications Workgroup recently trekked out to the farm to meet with David. During our visit, we learned that these guys aren’t afraid to break things, rebuild them, and learn by trial-and-error. They want to keep things as inexpensive and simple as possible, so they create and build a lot of their tools and systems.
We were amazed at the thoughtful design of the water warming system in their greenhouse! As you can see in the photo, there are tables covered with reflective material where the numerous seedling trays sit on top of thin hoses circulating water from a barrel in the greenhouse. During the day, the heat of the sun warms the dark plastic trays, and the reflective material on the tables help direct more heat toward the hoses, thus warming the water. Overnight, the seedlings are protected by the warm water flowing through the hoses underneath the trays. A clever design with inexpensive and recycled materials!
David and his brother are driven by challenges, particularly if something looks impossible. David told us, "If it's impossible, go for it!" He admits that challenges can be a pain in the butt, but from what we saw, challenges lead to their most creative and exciting outcomes. "We talk a lot, we love our food, and we work hard," explains David. That love of food is one of the connecting points between the farm and Goodness Me! Natural Food Markets. Their first delivery was made in David's car to the Hamilton store - just a few containers of produce grown in their backyard. Four years later, they deliver twice weekly during the growing season to all nine Goodness Me! stores (and not in David's car, thankfully). The brothers went "full tilt" from the backyard garden to the Beyers & Jacks Organics farm where they grow 15 to 30 different vegetable varieties in a season.
Biodiversity is their calling card. They don’t have actual business cards, because there are better ways to spend money, says David, and it “doesn’t help to advertise if you can’t produce the goods!” (Personally, I’d take the word of a good tomato over a piece of paper any day.) From the starting point of organic methods, they constantly pursue increased sustainability using principles of agroecology. David explained that biodiversity is immensely important to the success of their organic produce, but that it’s a can of worms trying to figure it out! The challenge is in anticipating and countering problems like disease and pests, because they cannot simply correct a problem with chemical sprays after the fact. On their farm, more diversity means chaos, and the more chaos the better (it sounds and looks more like carefully planned chaos). Mixing different crops together attracts beneficial insects and confuses potential pests. Cover crops and rotation methods help maintain healthy soil, regenerating it from the top down instead of mining it for nutrients year after year. During our farm visit, we learned that organic soil is in balance, and the farm, or your home garden, should mimic the forest, where there are layers of leaves and other matter that provide nutrients.
David equates building soil with building people, and he says they are always building, always taking care of the earth, and taking care of people. He poses the question, “Where are you going to make a difference?” and challenges all of us at home to start our own vegetable gardens (in the ground or in containers). His advice is to just tear up your lawn! (But don’t actually tear it up, he says, use the lasagna method and layer mulch on top until your soil is ready.)
While you wait for your lawns to transform into rich, delicious soil for your plants, get your fill of Beyers & Jacks farm fresh veggies from late June to mid-November at your nearest Goodness Me! and/or by purchasing a share of the Beyers & Jacks CSA. Keep an eye out for their roadside farm stand, conveniently located at the farm on Guelph Line, to open this season!
By Michelle Malandra