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Farm Glance: Waldegrave Farm

August 4, 2010


Cammie traces lines in the soil for efficient and consistent rows. She uses a home-made rake with adjustable teeth and a smart ergonomic handle angled to facilitate walking along-side her beds.

Cammie Harbottle is in her second season farming at Waldegrave Farm in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.  In her short time there she has already established a very impressive and successful market vegetable business. Her success can be attributed to four key factors:

First, she is a super efficient and hard worker!

Second, she has a very strong background of training and work experience: In 2002 Cammie completed the Linnaea Farm Ecological Gardening Program on Cortes Island in BC.  Linnaea Farm is a 315 acre Land Trust held by The Land Conservancy of BC and Farm Folk/City Folk through their joint Community Farms Program. According to Cammie, the Ecological Gardening Program instilled in her ‘the passion, as well as a practical and theoretical basis, to start farming’.  With this foundation, Cammie moved to Mara, BC and worked for five years  at Wild Flight Farm.    At Wild Flight she picked up ‘many of the skills and systems’ that she is now putting to good use on her own farm (and that are featured in the pictures here). Cammie speaks very highly of these farms, her experience there, and of the critical mentorship they have provided her in getting her own farm started.

In the greenhouse Cammie uses landscaping cloth to blanket the soil between the rows. Due to the gusty Tatamagouche winds, she uses bent 'U' shaped wires as staples.

Third, Cammie hasn’t had to purchase the land she is farming. She leases about 5 acres of land from the Tatamagouche Community Land Trust.  She has a twenty year lease on the land that is renewed annually and everyone at the Land Trust seems really supportive of what she is doing.  With a secure long-term payback period and a very affordable cost for land access, Cammie has been able to focus her financial resources on building her business: for example, in her first year she was able to build a moveable greenhouse (pictured above) and purchase a truck and trailer to transport her produce to the very popular Halifax Farmer’s market. Now, in her second year, she has installed a heating unit in her seedling greenhouse and, while we were visiting, was building a new veggie washing and packing building with a walk-in cooler.

Waterproofing the new walk-in-cooler with a hole in the wall for a turbo-charged air conditioner.

The washing and packing building had a few interesting features.  In the walk-in cooler pictured above,  instead of installing a costly cooler compressor, Cammie is using an air conditioning unit hooked up to a Cool Bot.  According to the website, The CoolBot turns any brand of off-the-shelf, window-type air conditioning unit into a turbo-charged cooling machine that can transform a highly-insulated room into a walk-in cooler.  Cammie also has a laundry washing machine in her wash shed that she uses for spinning her salad mix.

Set to 'spin cycle' a standard laundry machine becomes an electric salad spinner!

The fourth reason for Cammie’s success is that she is really dedicated to sustainable farming practices and food systems.  Beyond her own farm, she is engaged at the national level in advocating for and supporting Canadian farmers.  In 2009, Cammie was elected as Vice-President of The National Farmers Union Youth. The NFU Youth is ‘a network of young Canadians committed to building a food system that is economically viable for family farms, socially just and locally focused.’  They promote the concept of Food Sovereignty in Canada and have recently launched The Campaign for New Farmers.

It seems like Cammie has come up with a great recipe to grow successful new farmers:  She has the skills, knowledge and mentorship needed to get started; The Tatamagouche Land Trust provides affordable land with a supportive community of people; and she has the passion and drive to make sustainable food systems thrive.

Thanks to Cammie and everyone at Waldegrave for a great visit and lots of inspiration!

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