Spring into inaction

It would not be a stretch to say that the world is a very different place these days. Each and every individual and community has been affected by the COVID-19 health crisis. Agriculture is no exception. In fact, many of those who work in the farming sector have been disproportionally hard-hit by rail blockades in Canada earlier in the year, price drops from everything to dairy quotas to ineffective government supports for agricultural businesses, and the loss of significant seasonal workers and employees who play a major role at farms across the country. 2020 has not been off to a dismal start – and that’s saying it lightly.

Seven Fields Farm & Orchard has also experienced its own isolation as my wife and I focus our efforts on our retail business in town. The uncertainty of how the dust will settle in the retail and farming sectors, both short and long-term, poses more questions than answers. The black walnut orchard was not fitted with tree guards/protectors over the past winter (early snows and onset cold temperatures made it impossible to anchor the guards partly in the ground) but survival has been excellent to our surprise. There is however a growing number of deer in the area that have been congregating in our fields (at least someone is getting some social interaction). These groups have appeared to be rather large with neighbours recalling up to 80 deer in one field in January. We have noticed that increased “hoof” traffic has led to some damage to tree branches but so far the spring buds on the walnut trees have remained untouched. I fear more protective measures around the walnut orchard may have to be installed this year.

The white pine which, as you may recall, was also apart of our subsidy from Forests Ontario when the orchard was planted back in 2016, seems to be doing just fine on its own. We had hoped to clear that field in 2019 and provide better care to the white pine but they are a rugid tree and fast growing. Similarly, the apple orchard appears to be doing well and this year we hope to make some significant progress in bringing parts of the heirloom apple orchard back to life with some TLC, fencing, and pruning. Yields fluctuate from year to year, as they do elsewhere, but it has always been our dream to expand our apple production and grow more unique heirloom apple varieties.

Other projects we hope to achieve this year is to complete the gravel road from the new metal storage structure to the county road, repair and install new fencing and fencing gates, dig a well, plant some ornamental trees along the county road frontage, and perhaps look at even building a sustainable structure at the farm as well. This may all sound ambitious…and it is. The uncertainty of what is left of 2020 will make it hard to predict outcomes both in retail and agriculture. Keep on truckin’ they say, right?



Make hay while the sun shines

It has been a strange season for weather. It appears we have gone from winter straight to summer without a spring. Our fellow farmers have had a tough slog with excessive rains, flooded fields, and the inability to plant for the season as early as before. The first cut of hay only happened this past week. We too have fallen behind our schedule at the farm. Our black walnut trees are in fantastic shape, thankfully. The water has done wonders for the young trees but we have been challenged to keep up with general orchard and farm maintainance. You can see just how fast the grass in the orchard has grown and how much work is still to be done.

As mentioned in a previous post in May, we are continuing with a second year research study with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) on the best organic herbicides and pesticides to use with black walnut. We have applied our first round of organic spray in the test area and have diligently made obsevations. We have luckily experienced minimal loss over winter and, as mentioned, the orchard is stronger this season as the roots establish. We have not seen the level of catepillar infestation as last year and so very few leaves have been affected. The early application of organic sprays certainly played a positive role as well. If we can get caught up on orchard maintance then the trees will be strong next year when first pruning will need to occur.

It is a wonderful site to see our black walnut orchard grow each year. It is hard to imagine that we planted 2,000 walnut saplings back in 2016. More to come!