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County Sustainability Group bursaries honour ecological farming practices

The County Sustainability Group presented two $1,000 County Ecological Farmer awards to residents working on environmentally-friendly farms.

Recipients this year were Hans and Judy Ning, of Paper Kite Farm on Mitchell Crossroad, and Mike Barnes, of Lamb’s Quarter’s Farm on County Rd 4.

“Thanks to the success of our annual spring CSG Rain Barrel Fundraiser we were able to provide this award to two local farmers doing outstanding work on their environmentally friendly farms,” said Don Ross, of the County Sustainability Group.

The group shares information on the winners:

Jennifer Ackerman and Don Chisholm, County Sustainability Group members, flank Hans Ning, of Paper Kite Farm, for the presentation of this year’s $1,000 bursary.

Hans & Judy Ning began converting their two-acre lawn at 62 Mitchell’s Crossroad into a market garden and permaculture food forest two years ago. While there is still much work for the food forest left to do, their market garden has grown significantly and has been producing a ton of food that they sell through their CSA and also at the Picton Farmers Market.

They have been members of EFAO for two years, and farm using ecological principals, with no need for pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. The only inputs used are from local sources, such as compost, wood chips, straw, and mushroom blocks to build up the organic matter in the soil, and make compost tea to add microbiology. They do not till the soil, and are always searching for other methods to improve it.

One of the most important inputs that Paper Kite uses on the farm is BioChar, an ancient indigenous innovation that has the potential to improve agriculture in remarkable ways. They produce it with the brush from their property by using a controlled burn with limited oxygen. Last year, they participated in the Farmer Led Research program with the support of EFAO, with the intention of finding an alternative to peat moss use in seed starting mediums. The theory was that BioChar can potentially make it a substitute due to some similar physical characteristics. The results showed that not only was BioChar a viable alternative, but is likely a superior one. Furthermore, the use of BioChar not only reduces the damage done by harvesting peat, but also actively sequesters carbon.

With the bursary funds, Hans and Judy hope to conduct more studies on BioChar, and create better spaces to conduct workshops on BioChar production and use. They hope that by sharing the knowledge with the community, that more people will make it part of their gardening staples. The benefits of more BioChar use can be pretty much miraculous if widely adopted and they believe that they are capable messengers of its potential.

County Sustainability Group members Don Chisholm and Jennifer Ackerman flank Mike Barnes of Lambs Quarters Farm for the presentation of this year’s $1,000 bursary.

Mike Barnes’ Lamb’s Quarters Farm is a small farm in Picton dedicated to demonstrating ways to grow food without the use of added chemicals and fertilizers, while revitalizing natural habitat for insects and wildlife. Their motto is “Growing for Today and Thinking of Tomorrow”

Barnes will be providing tours and education to school groups and not-for-profit groups for free. Mike and Rachel have three children themselves that have gone through the local school systems, so they know first-hand that young people are just not getting the access and education to farms like theirs. They want to provide basic education, including things like how to grow food without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and plastic; how integrating wild birds can be part of an integrated pest management plan; how native bees and pollinators are allies; how to harvest rain water for gravity feed irrigation; showcase the hundreds of trees planted and plants that benefit pollinators.

Recently, they’ve have added a building that will have a small open classroom setting where guests can come to learn about our farm. With this award they will allocate the funds to enrich their education plans.

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