Farmer Profile: Haliburton Community Farm

2014HaliFarmers plse credit RazzlePhotography

Photo by Haliburton Farm:

As the weather gets warmer, more and more local farmers are starting to give us a call, offering rhubarb, spinach, 
sprouting kale, and cabbage tops. These days are the beginning of Niagara's shining season of local produce and, 
understandably, the staff is beyond excited. One of the key local farms that has started providing the first produce
of the season is Haliburton Community Farm. This cooperative farming operation provides a space for small-scale 
farmers to farm and collaborate on sales in order to increase shared profits. Haliburton is more than just a collection 
of farms, it is also a place of learning. With their weekend work parties, farming classes, and school visits, Haliburton's 
farmers engage the public and increase awareness of sustainable farming approaches.

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with a few of the farmers at Haliburton to get their perspective on
farming and the local food movement. Farmers Shawn Dirksen and Elmarie both had inspiring insights on growing
food. Shawn Dirkesen began farming at Haliburton two years ago and just recently has begun farming a plot by 
himself under the name 'Northstar Organics. On his plot, Shawn farms a wide array of fruits and vegetables, 
including kale, chard, raspberries and spinach. He has chosen such a wide range of produce for a few reasons.
Customers enjoy having a variety of produce to choose from at market and for Shawn, having many crops acts
as a form of insurance.

Through wholesale distribution, CSA food boxes, and booths not only on the Saanich property but also at 
local farmers markets, Haliburton's produce is widely distributed. The accessibility of their products 
in conjunction with their society principles of stewardship, education, economic viability 
and community involvement have allowed Haliburton's community farming operation to become a well-known and 
respected entity in the Greater Victoria area. Through their innovation, Haliburton has become a driving force
in community-based agriculture and the local food movement. This movement, which Haliburton has helped to grow, 
may be aided, in Shawn Dirksen's view, through further increasing the availability of urban and fringe farm land 
to market growers. “The main impediment to farming near Victoria is the cost and availability of affordable farm 
land”, Shawn notes, yet through support for local farmers at local markets and shops like Niagara Grocery, 
everyday Victorians can influence change.

Elmarie, another farmer at Haliburton Community Farm, has a similar view of the importance of buying local 
and increasing local farmers' land access. She has been farming at Haliburton since 2003 and focusses her 
growing on herbs and flowers because of her work as an aromatherapist. In her view, “the most important 
steps that we as Victorians can take to ensure local food security is to educate ourselves to grow our own 
food and to know where to shop for local, pure food. We have to lobby to get planners and landowners to dedicate 
land for food and follow proven models for community farming – such as Haliburton farm has demonstrated over 
the 12 years of its existence.”

Haliburton's true community farming approach has allowed for small-scale farmers to not only have land and 
market access, but also to share information and resources through research, education and community engagement. 
This space has brought about an amazingly collaborative farming effort which provides top-notch, sustainably 
farmed produce while sharing knowledge and creativity with the Greater Victoria community.

No wonder we couldn't help but smile when the Haliburton crew came into the store this Saturday carrying 
totes full of colourful leafy greens. Their growers are lovely, their cooperation is innovative and their 
products are out of this world delicious!


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