Farm Red Orach. A Small Organic Vegetable Farm. Just outside of Montreal.
Meet Nick Kuepfer the farmer!
Harvesting cherry tomatoes.
Small-scale organic farming involves plenty of manual labor. This portrait is just a glimpse of what happens in the field, before a vegetable hits your plate.
Nick grows a variety of lettuces.
Greens straight from the earth.
Washing the lettuce is the 2nd step after harvesting them.
Swiss Chard! One of my fave greens.
Beautiful ripening tomatoes.
Tatsoi. A tender and delicious Asian Brassica / green leafy vegetable.
Delicious heirloom tomato.
Awesome baby cucumbers!
Nick’s harvest plans.
The farm has a beautiful chicken named Icky, just because Nick likes chickens – as do I!
Cherry tomatoes we picked, ready to be delivered!
Sitting down to eat our lunch straight from the earth was a real treat!
Nick’s dog Fitzca basking in the sun.
On the ride back to Montreal.
Red Orach Farm is a 2-Acre organic vegetable farm located one-hour outside of Montreal. Run by my friend, farmer Nick Kuepfer, and owned by Kiva Stimac and Mauro Pezzente, of Montreal’s fantastic restaurants/venues Casa Del Popolo, La Sala Rossa, La Vitrola, and Popolo press. Nick grows a variety of organic heirloom vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms, providing a number of the city’s chefs with high quality produce. He also offers an annual CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture), delivering Farmers’ baskets to your door each week, from June to August. I had the pleasure of spending a day at Farm Red Orach, and learned a great deal about sustainable agriculture. In conjunction with my visit, I interviewed Nick about his personal experience being a small-scale organic farmer in Quebec, and am happy to share these insights with you!
What is the biggest challenge you face as a small-scale organic farmer in Canada?
One of the hardest things is finding a consistent client base. I understand that with busy lives and busy restaurants, not many people have the time to find out if the vegetables will be ready from week to week. Numerous issues arise regarding crop failures, droughts, flooding, bad seeds, and varying temperatures. Sadly I lost an entire crop of Jerusalem artichokes to rodents over the winter.
Could you tell me how and why you got into farming?
Before moving to Montreal in 2003, I was working at a small restaurant, Chez Jimbo’s, in my home town of Stratford, Ontario. Here I was introduced to food in a different way, and learned how to cook amazing food without making it complicated. I remember late nights after the kitchen closed, we would talk about food ethics and sustainable practices ,and the quality of locally grown food. It had a profound impact on me, just absorbing information with like-minded people. In 2001, the restaurant closed, but after many conversations with chef Jimbo, we had the idea to start a small landscaping business, developing organic vegetable gardens in peoples yards. We researched seeds, ordered and started seedlings in my house, handed out fliers around town, and waited. We got one phone call, from a local landscaper, who said that we were ahead of our time in Stratford, and offered us a job, which only I took. This turned out to be an education I didn’t know I needed. Learning how to work the soil, about drainage, the needs of plants, water lines etc. After a few years doing this, I decided to move to Montreal, to pursue other interests of printmaking and music. I was also working odd jobs doing renovations on a small farm (Farm Red Orach) not far from Montreal. The resident farmer was leaving, and he asked if I’d be interested in taking over. I met with the owners Mauro and Kiva, and I’m going into my fourth year now. I’ve been seasoned by the land itself.
What is your ‘mission’ or ethos as a small-scale organic farmer?
There are fewer younger farmers right now than ever, and with a growing food shortage plus exponentially inflating vegetable prices, locally grown food is becoming increasingly more important. If more focus were placed on purchasing from local producers, as oppose to buying imported foods, this would help the local economies, increase the quality of food, and create jobs. There’s also a philosophy behind the lifestyle. Growing your own food, I find, is a huge step in moving away from the systems we as a society rely on. The industrial agricultural model was designed in such a way that has left us with no choice but to rely on it. One of the many tipping points is when companies (like Monsanto) started developing seeds with trademarks, branding seeds and developing strains that won’t reproduce seed. This increases farmers reliance on purchased seed stock.
Another issue that has pushed me into growing food is quality. Often when I go to grocery stores, I leave feeling depressed. It’s almost impossible to pick up an item off the shelf that isn’t riddled with sugar and salt. I find it insulting how the food industry is intentionally working on our vices, creating addictions for brands and generally keeping society churning with its reliance. Processed food is laced with chemicals deemed ‘safe’ for consumption. Yet these processed items are addictive – increasing long-term health problems into a cyclone of new reliance on the health system – which has its own agenda of keeping people diligently reliant on pharmaceuticals. It is a nefariously perfect design to have people working for money, to purchase variations of the very product, that they could be growing themselves – if they spent less time at work. It’s as though the knowledge of our grandparents generation is being intentionally bred out of future generations, for a strictly reliant-based system. I think what modern organic farmers are advertently or inadvertently doing, is choosing to defy these systems, and are maintaining our human right to provide sustenance for future communities and ourselves.
To learn more about Farm Red Orach and order their weekly vegetable baskets contact Nick: firstname.lastname@example.org (438) 821-8828
A basket of fresh, organic, seasonal produce from Red Orach starts at $25/week. Depending on the month, baskets will include leafy greens, kale, snow peas, peppers, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, beets, herbs, radishes, cucumber, summer squash, winter squash, and melons. After August, you can continue receiving food from the farm on a ‘pay as you go’ system.