I recently visited Shannon and Brian at Broadfork Farm. I had been there once before, in the spring, but never in the heart of summer. I was curious to see their gardens, especially now that they have added cut flowers into their business.
As we walked the grounds I marvelled at the variety of flowers, herbs, grains. Many of which I have never seen. Several of them are for bouquets. I ask how the idea came about. Shannon tells me: “When we were getting ready for market, at the end of the day, I use to wonder around the property and harvest one bouquet just as a decoration for our market stand. The other market vendors were supportive of me, they said you should get into flowers. Sometimes customers would ask to buy them. Then we slowly started to think about doing flowers and every year we’ve grown more and more flowers.”
Aside from vegetable and flowers, the couple also focus on saving seeds. Brian reminds me of the importance of knowing how to grow and save seeds. “Seed security is important, most seeds aren’t grown in Canada, seeds adapt and improve every time you grow a generation on a farm; they inherit the knowledge of that season.” Shannon adds: “we often save arugula seeds and if we plant our own arugula seed next to some that we buy from the store they’ll both come up, but our seed will come up faster and more vigorous because it’s more use to these soils. Most organic arugula seed in the world is grown in Israel, so it’s pretty different than here.”
When Shannon and Brian started their farm they had years of learning from working on farms around the world. They had mentors to guide them and have now become mentors.
What would you tell an aspiring farmer I ask?
Shannon says: “I personally think that it’s the best job for me and Brian to achieve our life goals. Our life goals of health, wealth, personal fulfillment, ecology, and continuous improvement, like trying new things. I think that farming is an amazing job, I can’t think of anything better and I think if a person’s life goals can be met through farming then I think they’ll love it. I can’t imagine any other job that would give me what I want out of my life.”
What about wealth? I know of many young farmers that are struggling to make a living.
Brian says : “we didn’t start with the preconceive notion that you can’t make money from it” Shannon adds: “We had mentors that were like; yeah, you can make a living farming. So we didn’t have that thought that it’s impossible. It makes you think: I can do this. So we always thought that we could. One of my farming mentor said: to be a good farmer you first have to be a good marketer, secondly a good business manager, and only third a good producer.”
Success also came by living simply, not having employees, doing all the work themselves. It is working with diversity: selling veggies, flowers, and seeds. Making the most of their resources. It was finding the right market to support their vision. For them the Dieppe Market in New Brunswick was the one.
Broadfork Farm produce are regularly featured at the Wild Caraway Restaurant in Advocate. Shannon and Brian can be found at the Dieppe Market every Saturday from April to November. I highly recommend visiting their website, for general information, blogs, tips, to order flowers, and more. It is always updated and most comprehensive : https://broadforkfarm.com/