Three farmers in the Digby area want to help people learn more about where food comes from.
Gilberte Doelle of Gilbert’s Cove, Tilo Kolass of Deep Brook and Karen Enright of Bear River East will open their gates on Sunday, Sept. 18 for Open Farm Day.
At Doelle’s Wild Rose Farm you can learn about organic vegetable farming, seed saving, companion gardening or just visit with and possibly pet the alpacas.
At Kolass’s Bear River Farms you can learn about self-sufficient or bio-dynamic farming, tour the grain and hay fields and no-shovel cow barn, and check out the cows (with horns) chickens and sheep.
At Enright’s Annapolis Highlands Vineyards and Wine you can tour the vineyards of both vinifera and hybrid grapes, tour the winery and of course taste the finished product.
Doelle runs Wild Rose Farm, an organic vegetable farm on Highway One overlooking the lighthouse in Gilbert’s Cove and St. Mary’s Bay.
Although vegetables are the farm’s main products, visitors can also see their horse, cattle and several alpacas.
Doelle is known locally as the Queen of Greens because of the wide variety of salad greens she grows. But you can also find almost every sort of vegetable and herbs imaginable growing amongst the straw rows of her massive gardens, under cover in the greenhouses or tucked into little corners of flower gardens.
Doelle has a degree in horticulture from the Nova Scotia Agriculture College and her farm is the only certified organic farm in Digby County. She uses techniques such as permaculture (which causes less soil disturbance) and French-Intensive growing practices to lessen weed pressure.
She uses companion planting to confuse pests and protect against diseases and to improve the overall vitality of her gardens.
She is also growing many plants for seed both for her own market-garden and under contract to Hope Seeds of Granville Ferry. She keeps several heirloom varieties of tomatoes that you can’t find anywhere else.
Doelle sells her vegetables at farmers markets, from the farm itself and also through a share program called CSA or community-supported agriculture. With this program, customers or shareholders pay Doelle up front in the spring and then receive a weekly share or basket of vegetables throughout the harvest season. She also offers a fall CSA of mostly fresh greens and storage crops.
Tilo runs Bear River Farms in Deep Brook on the Waldec Line. The hilltop farm with a view to Digby Gut is the only certified bio-dynamic farm in Atlantic Canada.
Tilo says bio-dynamic is a step beyond organic – his goal is to run the farm without outside inputs: no boughten fertilizers or pesticides or feeds.
The farm is run as a closed operation – the manure from the cattle is the only fertilizer, the crop rotation includes grain, clover and hay. In fact Tilo often sows clover under the grain to keep weeds down, and then harvests his grain starting a foot off the ground to let the clover keep coming.
Tilo believes when cows are fed only from a particular hay field, the manure they produce is exactly the fertilizer the field needs. He also insists horns play an important role in a cow’s digestive system and so none of his cattle are de-horned.
He currently has four cows and a bull and the calves that were born on the farm this year.
He is building his herd with Canadienne cows. The breed looks similar to Jersey or Guernsey cows but can have very dark coats. The cows are relatively small but efficient milk producers making them ideal for small grass-fed operations like Tilo’s.
Tilo’s barn, still partly under construction, is unique in that he doesn’t shovel manure but keeps piling on the straw bedding and raising pen boards throughout the winter.
His “chicken chalet” is towable and his sheep, he uses as lawn mowers, moving them around the property as needed.
Currently Tilo sells eggs and his partner Saski Kolass makes bread from rye, wheat and spelt, all grown on the farm.
Tilo is hoping his new flourmill will arrive in time for Open Farm Day.
“So people can see, this is where the grains are growing, this is what the harvested grain looks like, this is the mill making the flour, and this is the bread,” says Tilo.
Tilo also has unusual plans for the operation of the farm – he wants to set up the farm to run as a co-operative, with 40 people owning shares in the operation and splitting the harvest. He wants the farm to be a model of how to operate a sustainable farming operation.
Not far from Tilo’s farm is Karen Enright’s Annapolis Highlands Vineyards and Wine on the Clementsvale Road in Bear River East.
Open Farm Day falls this year with the grapes “pretty darn close to harvest” so visitors will see the heavy clumps of grapes, the trellising systems, and the pest control netting will also be in place.
Enright’s husband Brendan gives tours of the vineyards and demonstrates pruning while Karen is inside giving tours of the winery.
“They can see everything from how we grow the grapes to how we make the wine and bottle it,” says Enright.
The Enright’s have about 10,000 grape vines in Bear River East and then buy other grapes, blueberries and arctic kiwi from growers around Nova Scotia.
Enright says she looks forward to Open Farm Day so they can talk to people interested in becoming grape growers.
“We need growers in this province, there is such a competition right now for the grapes.”
Visitors will naturally also be able to sample the vineyard’s award winning wines