New Farms Big Success

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This inspiring documentary, presents three ecologically responsible farms in the USA and Canada. Their unique business plans eliminate the middle man, use sustainable methods and few fossil fuels and show a decent living can be made! These new farming practices avoid the destructive trap of industrial food production and its financial burden. With the participation of Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations and leading USA environmentalist, author and educator, Bill McKibben, this documentary provides critical information to develop an enduring, local food network in a time of climate change.

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Description

NEW-FARMS-BIG-SUCCESS-cover-smallThis inspiring documentary, presents three ecologically responsible farms in the USA and Canada. Their unique business plans eliminate the middle man, use sustainable methods and few fossil fuels and show a decent living can be made! These new farming practices avoid the destructive trap of industrial food production and its financial burden. With the participation of Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations and leading USA environmentalist, author and educator, Bill McKibben, this documentary provides critical information to develop an enduring, local food network in a time of climate change.

The three rock star farmers:

  • Kristin Kimball, author of The Dirty Life and farmer of Essex Farm

  • Jean-Martin Fortier, author of The Market Gardener and farmer of Les Jardins de la Grelinette.

  • Lauren Rathmell, greenhouse manager of Lufa Farms.

This documentary includes the official point of view of The Convention on Biodiversity, the UN office specialized in the protection of life on Earth, about the links between climate change, biodiversity and farming.

Copyright ©2014-2015 Monde Films.

Running Time: 52 minutes. NTSC – Colour
Community Screening Package Available (click image)

community-screening-package

COMMENTS

I read the market gardener and then listened to a podcast featuring Jean Martin Fortier. I am totally impressed with what he’s accomplished. We have been doing CSA for 20 odd years. We know the hard work that goes into it. We also are strong believers that this is the way well have to feed the future generations, glad that somebody did an inspirational film on market gardening and responsible agriculture in general.

Linda Borno, farmer in BC, Canada.

I discovered this film after reading an article about Jean Martin Fortier’s market farm in Quebec. I am also a fan of Kristin Kimball farm model. Like many of my friends I tends to be very interested in environmental and sustainability issues. I imagine there are several regions in the U.S that would warmly receive your film. I’ll be sure to check back for the pay per view option.

Ryan Metz, Denver, USA.

Your documentary is really interesting! … With very good examples of new farming methods, environmentally and economically viable.

– Mathieu LEPORINI – FACTS (French Ameri-Can Climate TalkS)
conferences series about Climate Change and Solutions from Innovation.

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    TRANSCRIPT
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    – [Voiceover] This documentary is based on three farms and two books that are bringing a lot of hope and real solutions. It is also about the official point of view of the United Nations regarding farming, climate change, and the protection of life on Earth.

    – Our lives depend on biological diversity.

    – [Voiceover] For now let’s start with the contribution of the most respected American climate change activist, Bill McKibben in one of his public presentations in Vermont.

    – It is a great pleasure for me to get to be here tonight. We’re no longer at the point of trying to stop Global Warming, it’s too late for that. We’re at the point of trying to keep it from becoming a complete and utter calamity. We shouldn’t have to be here tonight. If the world worked in a kind of rational way we shouldn’t have to be here. Our scientists started telling us about climate change. I played my small role in that by writing the first book about all this in 1989 for a general audience, a book called “The End of Nature”. If the world worked as it should our leaders would have heeded those warnings, gone to work, done the sensible things that at the time would have been enough to get us a long way where we needed to go. They didn’t, and that’s why we’re in the fix we’re in.

    – [Voiceover] We all know the atmosphere is filling up with CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The impact on agriculture is important. Even oil company CEOs are talking about it.

    – The CEO of Exxon, Mr.Tellerson, gave a speach in which he said “Yes it’s true, global warming exists”.

    – Clearly there’s going to be an impact. So, I am not disputing that increasing CO2 emissions in atmosphere is going to have an impact, it’ll have a warming impact.

    – [Bill] But since the only way to stop that would be to take a hit to the company’s’ profitability, he immediately tried to change the subject.

    – It’s an engineering problem and it has engineering solutions.

    – Really? What kind of engineering solutions were you thinking?

    – Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around, we’ll adapt to that.

    – Look, all respect, but that’s crazy talk. We can’t move crop production areas around, ok. Crop production areas are what people in Vermont refer to as farms, ok? We already have farms. Every place that there is decent soil on Earth. It is true that Exxon has done all it can to melt the toundra. But that does not mean that you can just move Iowa up there and start over again there’s no soil!

    – [Voiceover] Bill McKibben suggested that we visit a successful farm that is using a small quantity of fossil energy and other sustainable methods. Kristin Kimball and her husband Mark are running Essex Farm in Upper New York State.

    – So, our dream when we started this place was to grow all the food that we wanted to eat and then to expand that into a business that would feed our neighbors and our community. So, we started out with the same varieties of food that we have now. We do grass-fed beef, we do pastured pork, we do chickens that are raised on pasture both for meats and for eggs. We have a small dairy, we milk about 16 jersey cows now. So, we do dairy products and milk. We also do about 50 to 60 different varieties of vegetables. We grow some small grains for wheat flour, cornmeal, and oats. We do a little bit of fruit, so we do strawberries, raspberries, and rhubarb which isn’t actually a fruit but it counts as a fruit here in the north country.

    – [Voiceover] Kristin Kimball has a sense of humor. In her highly acclaimed and entertaining New York Times reviewed book, “The Dirty Life”, she explains how she became a farmer after being a Manhattan city girl.

    – [Kristin] We started with 17,000 dollars in savings between us which is an absurdly small sum just to begin with, and we were very frugal our first few years and only bought things when we absolutely needed them. We never borrowed money. We borrowed generosity, we borrowed tools, we borrowed people’s good will. We borrowed a lot of hours weeding in the fields and helping us lift things. But we didn’t take a loan out our first years. We have taken loans for things in more recent years. We build a 25-kilowatt solar array and we took a loan to make that happen. And some other things that we’ve taken loans for more recently. But in the beginning it was such a radical idea and such a risky venture that we really wanted to bootstrap it and not go into debt when we were still figuring out if it was going to work. We’re striving for economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and social sustainability. And you have to keep those three things in balance. We would love to just use horses, but economically for us right now that would not be sustainable. We would love to pay the farmers who work here more money but economically that wouldn’t be sustainable. So, it’s really about cultivating a balance among those three things and keeping those three things in mind at all times, right? Every decision we make we sort of refer to those three points and try to do the best we can while keeping them all above water. We’ve seen this amazing growth of small farms in our small region. So, when we first moved here we were the only farm in the area and we hire somewhere between 10 and 20 young farmers every year. And many of those farmers have started farms right in our same area, which is wonderful for the area, but it’s also created a little bit of competition for us here. So, I think we’re all looking for ways to expand and improve our market and become better farmers because of this healthy competition that we have around us now.

    – [Voiceover] Essex Farm is doing an extensive type of agriculture. They use a lot of land for the produce that they pull off of it. They build the fertility of the soil and give plants a lot of space. Because of the good rainfalls in the northeast USA they don’t need an irrigation system.

    – [Kristin] So we have nine draft horses working on the farm. But that’s a two-horse cultivator. It was made in the 1930’s, toward the end of the ’30’s when some really interesting horse equipment was made. And we use it to do almost all of the weeding on the farm. Each horse walks on a different side of the crop and then the teamster is sitting above the crop and he has foot pedals that steer the cultivators that are in the ground. And so he’s watching the ground and steering the cultivators to make sure that he’s killing weeds and not killing the crop. And at the same time trying to look up and drive straight with the horses and the horses are living things so they don’t always go like a tractor exactly the way that you want them to go all the time. But it’s a pretty miraculous tool and very, very effective against weeds. It’s one of those tools that really just works excellently well with horses.

    – [Voiceover] Essex Farm does not work with a middleman. It weeds with horses and has solar panels. This is already impressive regarding climate change and they have more responsible practices.

    – One of the great advantages that we have here is that we have 500 acres and so we’re able to rotate widely when we really need to. Three years ago we had a really bad Colorado Potato Beetle problem in our potatoes. So, we rotated our potato crop, which is a really important crop for us, to the other side of the farm which is about 3/4 of a mile to a mile away. And that completely solved our Potato Beetle problem for the year. We tried to focus on making sure that our plants are strong and healthy. And as a last resort occasionally we use organic pesticides if we have a serious problem. You know for a few crops we will use an organic pesticide. So, this is our full flock of sheep. We have about 40 animals in there right now and they’re meat sheep. We can also harvest their wool but they’re primarily for meat. We rotationally graze them using electric net, and one of the best uses of the sheep is to graze them in front of our broiler chicken flocks because they take the grass down enough so that the chickens are easy to move and the grass is low enough for the chickens to utilize it. That’s one of the benefits of being so diversified, that we can use different groupings of animals to actually improve the pasture for the next group of animals that comes along. Come, good dog, get behind! Get behind. That’ll do, good girl. I’ll see what I can do, darling. Let momma hold this one ok, and then you can hold that when I’m finished. So, these are the meat birds. These are broiler chickens, cornish crosses. They come to the farm as one day old chicks and we raise them in the greenhouse brooder for three weeks, and then they come out here to the pasture and we stock them 75 birds per coop. These coops are moved every day one length ahead of where they are which gives the bird fresh grass and fresh insects. So, next year when we harvest hay from this field we’ll probably get three times more hay than we got last year because of all the nitrogen that’s going in. Whoops! This is our brood sows. These sows are bred and one of them has had her piglets already. She had nine piglets and they’re all happy and healthy. And these girls will stay in this shed until all the piglets are born and then they’ll all move out as a group to the pasture and that’s where they’ll grow out into their slaughter weight. When they’re on the pasture we’ll keep them in sort of brushy areas that we’ll need to be clearing in the next few years and they like to eat the roots of the sod and of the small trees so they help clear away some of the brush that we don’t want growing in the pasture and also add some fertility to that area. All of our animals are slaughtered and butchered here on the farm so that we don’t have to put them through the stress of being sent away for slaughter.

    – [Voiceover] At Essex Farm the members have to pick up their food once a week. If they want they can use homemade two-wheel carts and this is their store.

    – [Kristin] You have to be very dedicated to your food to be a member of our farm. You don’t get any convenience food, right. You come to our farm every week and what you get is food that basically still has the dirt clinging to it. Stuff that has just come out of the Earth. It’s all whole food. There’s nothing easy about it. You know, you go home with that food and there’s no meal that’s ready to eat. So, our customers are people who recognize that it’s ok to make food one of the real centers of your life and of your family’s life. These are people who’re going to spend a lot of time cooking together, eating together and really enjoying the whole process together. I think they are people who also recognize that they’re not going to get the same quality of food from conventional agriculture. We always talk about how we use the drug dealer model of sales here because if you can get somebody to try food that’s fresh from the ground they won’t go back to the grocery store. You know, you’ve got them for life at that point. I think the first way that we have to measure success in farming is quality of life. So, you want to make sure that you’re doing work that you find satisfying and that gives your family a reasonable standard of living and we look at the health and happiness of all the creatures that are on the farm, the plants, the animals, the humans. On our farm in particular we look at how much energy is being put into the farm versus how much energy is coming off of the farm and trying to make sure that there’s more calories being harvested than are going into the farm. We also look at carbon and we are trying to sequester as much carbon as we can in the ground instead of releasing more carbon than we’re keeping. And then we look at the food that we’re producing and how happy are the members that we’re feeding. Are we providing them with an interesting and nutritious diet year-round like we set out to do? And when we look at all of those things together, I mean some years we do really well and some years we don’t and so much of it depends on weather and you know, a bit of luck. But I think 11 years in, I think we’re doing better now than we did in the beginning and I think that if we continue to improve I think Mark and I will be happy to continue with this life.

    – [Voiceover] We are now at Les Jardins de la Grelinette, a profitable organic small-scale agricultural project based in St-Armand, Quebec, Canada. Every Monday the owners, Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife Maude, are meeting with their employees and interns. Direct sales is central for them.

    – We do two markets a week. One on Thursday afternoon and one on Saturday morning and we also have a CSA delivery that we do once a week to more or less 100 families that we care for. We also sell salad mix mesclun to half a dozen restaurants in and around the area here near the farm. We grow about 50 different crops at the same time on the farm, all vegetables and basically we grow pretty much of everything except storage crops, which would be potatoes and stuff like winter squash because they take a lot of space and we don’t have that much space on the farm. Our farm is really a micro-farm so we grow 1.5 acres of permanent raised beds and it was designed to be with intensive spacings and really designed to be really efficient and productive with regards to the fact that we didn’t have a lot space. So, we bought a two acre prairie that we had to manage and it ends up being 1.5 acres. It’s about the size of a soccer field in production. For us it’s all about selling directly so there’s no middleman. So, when we do the farmers’ market we’re there presenting our stuff and we’re getting the total income from the sale and it’s the same thing with CSA. Which is for small-scale growers like us, we’re not doing volumes, we’re doing direct sales and that allows us to have the full amount of money on each of our produce which makes a big difference in the end. Both my wife and I, we’ve been making a living on this 1.5 acres for the last decade and we managed to do so because we’re selling directly through farmers’ markets and CSA and because we don’t have a lot of operating costs because the farm is not mechanized. It’s just a low tech farm. There’s four of us full-time on the farm for the whole growing season, starts in March and ends in December. And we also have some interns that come and visit us but we don’t count them as labor force because it’s us training them and they actually end up taking quite a lot of our time. So, four of us working full-time to manage the 1.5 acres. There was a land constraint when we bought the farm here and that really narrowed our focus and attention to try and grow better instead of growing bigger. So, throughout the years we’ve really learned some tricks and techniques of how to intensify production, always trying to maximize the output without having too much input into the system. And all of this is pretty narrated in the book I wrote and it’s just for me, it just makes a lot of sense because the smaller the farm, the easier it is to manage it well. And that’s really the key to successful farming is management. Because of the land constraint, we left out the tractor so we don’t have a tractor on the farm. Reason is, tractors they do take up a lot of space. Since we’ve left out the tractor we’re working on permanent raised beds and all of our crops are tightly spaced because we hoe them with, you know, we weed them with hoes and it just makes it so that there’s just a lot more yields per acre. All you see is earthworms and toads. A lot of insects because the ground has been covered. So, when you remove the tarps it’s just amazing how soil is all bare and ready to be planted. We haven’t worked it and it’s ready to go. What you see is earthworms, they’re doing the work. Well, this is a broadfork, French name for it is grelinette, which is the name of our farm and we use it before seeding crops that have deep roots, deep rooting system, like carrots. And what this tool does is that is the tines work the ground,opening it up but not turning it over and that part is important because we want to have the carrots to have its roots shoot down as deep as possible. Now I’m applying a worming compost, making sure that the crops have enough nutrients inside. You see there’s a little snake there? These guys, they love it when it’s covered. So, that’s the secret of having the soil covered. Because soil doesn’t want to be bare and that’s the problem with big farms. So, what I’m doing here is using a battery-powered surface tiller to prepare my seed bed and it’s incorporating the composting to the top inch of the soil. This works with a DeWalt 18 volt power drill. Now I’m raking the surface of my bed, preparing it for the seeders that I’m going to use next.

    – [Voiceover] Jean-Martin adds some markers to it to help him mark his rows for the seeder. Simple materials, low-tech, less oil and not expensive.

    – [Jean-Martin] So, this is a hand-pushed seeder and it’s simple but sophisticated in its design and what it does is that you put your seeds into the hopper here and as the wheel turns it drops the seeds every half inch, which is what we want for carrots. Why do I grow organic? You know, is there another way to grow vegetables? That’s how we learned. I studied ecology and environment and for me it’s all about that. It’s all about getting closer to nature, it’s all about learning how to harness nature for production and it’s just so natural for me to think in that way. Nature is so clever and well-done, well-designed, we’re really trying to imitate what she’s up to, basically. The reason why we can space our crop really tight together to get some of the benefits is because we have amazing soil structure and good soil health with regards to its biology. That makes it so that the roots of the crops can really shoot down and there’s just enough nutrients and enough cycling of the nutrients to allow a lot of production crammed together. Biology, soil structure, really works together in that intensive growing system. So, we call it biologically intensive growing systems. We have insect problems and we use a lot of the nets to cover our crops but with regards to fungi or bacterial disease we just don’t have a lot. Which is perhaps explained by the fact that we really give a lot of attention to the biology of the soil and the soil is covered most of the time either with the crop that we’re growing or with tarps or with cover crops. The crops are already kind of super strong so they’re less susceptible to fall on those disease. We use a lot of compost, we use about 60 tons per acre. We’ve done that for a lot of years, trying to build up soil over the years. And we don’t turn soil, we only work the surface and we use wormy compost and we fertilize our aisles with organic material that we add to the bed after a year or two of having them decompose in the aisles of the beds.

    – [Voiceover] Les Jardins de la Grelinette is a very organized micro-farm so they plan ahead.

    – This is called crop planning and we do this in the winter. We take about two or three weeks to really figure out what we’re going to grow, where is it going to go and by what is it going to be replaced with in the garden, because we’re trying to do a lot of successions. Let’s say we have a crop of radishes that is harvested for one market, then it needs to be replaced with something else, let’s say lettuce, but we need to know when to start these lettuce. So, the crop-planning process is really important for us because it takes all of the decision-making that we would have to do in the summer and brings it into the winter time when we have a lot of time and we’re not rushed. So, basically what ends up happening is that we have a crop calendar that tells us what to do every week and that’s really a big time-saver for us. When I wrote “The Market Gardener” my interest was to pass along hard information about how to start and succeed as a small-scale organic vegetable grower. And what we do on the farm is very different. We rely on biologically-intensive growing methods. We work on permanent raised beds and we space the crop really close to one another. By doing so we have more yields but we also have the crops forming the canopy that shades out the weeds, retains moisture and just helps with the biology inside the soil. This is possible to get these crops close spacings because we’re not relying on a tractor and so by relying on a tractor for weeding control the spacing between the rows is not determined by how close you can put the crops but by your weeding implements. The growing areas, for example, five times more densely planted, covering the crops with a narrow row cover will take 1/5 of the time and use 1/5 of the materials to do the same job, saving both time and money. Similar efficiencies are also through for irrigation, mulching and weeding on the farm. We’ve calculated the production for all of our 50 crops with regards to how much time they’re going to take on a bed and how much money 100-foot bed is going to generate. Last year on the farm we sold for more than 140,000 dollars worth of vegetables produced on site. And so that’s quite a lot considering that we’re farming an acre and a half and almost half of it was the operating costs. So, at the end of the year, Maude-Helene and I, our salary is about 50% of that number. And it’s been pretty much that margins ever since we started the farm in 2005 and we’ve been growing our business sales for about 10% every year so I’m hopeful this year will be moving to perhaps 160, which is quite a lot if you think about it. We have no middleman so we get a net return on all of our production but also because we’re not highly mechanized and most of our tools, they’re really smallscale appropriate technology, which aren’t that expensive to buy. So, our overhead have been pretty low for the start up capital that we needed to start the farm and since the labor force is mostly Maude-Helene and I with two other employees, we don’t have high expenses that way. So, we’ve kept everything at a scale that makes a lot of sense economically wise and we’re trying to get as much production out with as few inputs in as possible because we’re interested in the margins, not just the gross sales. It ended up costing around 40,000 dollars to buy everything that we needed to grow and most of these tools we’ve been using for a decade now and they’re just as good as they were before. So, that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been able to make a better income every year, because our start-up capital was really small and it’s been paid for for a long time now. We got a grant of about 40,000 dollars to start the farm. In Quebec we’re really happy and lucky to have that, you have grants to start up your farm and so we were privileged enough to access that. That really gave us a good boost when we did start the farm. We had also a small loan because we purchased the farm. It used to be an old rabbit farm here and so we had a small loan and a grant but we had to put some of our money in that we had saved up working on other people’s farms for a few years. I sure wouldn’t like to be a conventional grower these days because it seems that everybody is making money except themselves. The people that are selling the pesticides, the insecticides, the tractors, the fertilizers and yeah, I know that they’re highly subsidized, at least they are in Quebec and we’re not and we’re making a good profit and they’re not. So, for me it’s just I sometimes I wonder why there’s corn everywhere. Who’s really eating that corn? All of the system and the farming, the growing practices that we’ve developed on the farm, they just don’t need a lot of fossil fuels to make it happen. You know, we’re really happy to have clear plastic for the greenhouses or for some of the tarps that we use but you buy this once and you have that for 10, 15 years. So, last year, to give you an example, to run all of our small engines on the farm, the total amount of money that we spent on gasoline was around 400 dollars which is not a lot if you compare it to growing for more than 100,000 dollars worth of produce. And we’re just replacing these gas-guzzling machinery with just more appropriate technology. More low-tech but sophisticated in their usage and on the farm. We’ve been doing this for a little while here and the last five or six years we’re just feeling this excitement about sourcing from local producers and people are excited about arugula, kale, all these crops that we used to grow that nobody knew about. Now they know about them and they’re excited. And for me this is the wave of the future. Perhaps we’re in the process of replacing mass production with production by the masses and having more diversified small farms supplying these local communities. And for me it just makes so much more sense. You shouldn’t be waiting for politics to make things happen. You know, I think this movement comes from the ground up. You know, there’s more growers now, young growers, that are interested in local agriculture because there’s a demand by customers for that produce. And you know government support has its role and it’s important but we shouldn’t be waiting for that to make these changes happen. And hopefully what I think might happen is that as we multiply the number of small farms we are going to become the main clients for these government loans, for these government programs and then the change will follow. As farmers now we’re showing that we can be productive on small-scale and we can also show that we can do without the globalized economy because we’re really doing nothing that’s really part of it here. Most of the food that we grow comes from seeds and the tools that we use all come from local shops, small shops. Our input don’t come from an industrialized process and the fact that we don’t have a middleman makes it so that we don’t need to have that global market. So, not to say that we can do without it but I guess as local farmers we’re showing that we can do without it to a certain degree and I think that’s really promising for what’s coming up next.

    – [Voiceover] The world is changing and the United Nations is more and more concerned about the loss of life on Earth because of climate change and human activities. The secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban-Ki Moon, has been very vocal about this.

    – [Ban-Ki] Our lives depend on biological diversity. Species and ecosystems are disappearing at an unsustainable rate. We, humans, are the cause. We stand to lose a wide variety of environmental goods and services that we take for granted. The consequences for economies and people will be profound, especially for the world’s poorest people. We need new vision and new efforts. Business as usual is not an option. I call on every country and each citizen of our planet to join together in a global alliance to protect life on Earth.

    – [Voiceover] The actual rate of extinctions is perhaps 1,000 times what it should be. Sustainability is more important than ever. The United Nations office specialized in the protection of life on Earth is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It’s called the Convention on Biological Diversity.

    – Well, climate change has the impact of changing rainfall patterns, of changing temperature variations, of changing wind patterns. And all of these things of temperature and rainfall impact living beings. They impact their reproductive cycles, they impact their ability to cool themselves, they impact their ability to feed themselves. And that happens whether that’s a question of invertebrates or mammals or plants, even bacteria in the area. Rising temperatures will make a lot of predictable cycles we have unpredictable. It will mean that rain will occur in times when it’s not expected, rain will incur with more intensity. It means that temperatures will be higher and a lot of the life on our planet now has been adapted to a set of climate conditions that have existed for a long, long period of time. If it changes quickly it’s very hard for that life to adapt. Agriculture requires water, it requires fertile soils, it requires protection from wind and erosion. Biodiversity produces all of the services that protect them. So, the loss of biodiversity would mean, for example, if you lost the forests or some of the cover around and away from your fields you might restrict the ability of soils to hold onto water, which means that when there’s a dry season, a drought, water would not be preserved in the soils as much. Or, when you’ve got a huge, powerful rainfall the lands might not be able to absorb it. Another example that everyone is very familiar with is the question of pollination. Biodiversity and the different species are key to pollination. Without bats, without certain kinds of birds, and certainly as we all know without bees, it’s very hard for crops to pollinate. Without that you don’t get reproductive cycles or you get very, very poor reproductive cycles and you get low crop yields. Another thing we don’t think of very often is the biodiversity in the soils because, in fact, something very important for the life of plants and agriculture is the richness of the soils, the variety of bacteria and microorganisms that make life possible. And things like a climate change, the loss of biodiversity frequently mean poor soils. You lose that organic material inside it which makes it possible to grow crops. And that loss of that organic material is very, very crucial to explaining why you’ve got artificial fertilizers being used, why you see declining yields, why you see land degradation around the planet. There are a number of different ways that you can add inputs to the land to increase crop yields and to make sure that agriculture produces the food the world needs. What we know now, however, is that there are potentially side effects from using that. Excessive use of fertilizers is one of those main problems. Pesticides as well. We know that pesticides in cases are needed to deal with pests, however we don’t know in all cases the full effects of these on biodiversity, on the birds, on the pollinators. And so it is important that if we are going to use industrial techniques that we use these in a way that doesn’t compromise biodiversity, that takes into account the potential harmful effects, reduces them as much as possible, and instead try to rely on other more biodiverse friendly ways. I mean, industrial agriculture has in cases allowed us to produce huge quantities of food, but what we do realize now is that the inputs from industrial agriculture require a heavy reliance on fossil fuels. And so the question is, how can we be reducing that? How can we find, given what we know about climate change, how can we be reducing some of those impacts? In the future as the population of the planet grows from six billion to nine billion people the question of how to feed these people is going to be extremely important for biodiversity. We’re going to need more food and given the tastes of many of these people we’re going to need to produce more food like meat for example. How do we do this in a way without harming the planet? These modes of production you’re talking about of trying to use less fossil fuels, trying to sell goods at a local location, trying to find ways to minimize these other inputs is good. It’s a very good way to reduce our impact on the planet. You know, when we eat our food, we’re eating something that was produced probably using some sort of, for most of us, using some of oil-based fertilizer we’ve probably brought from the fields using harvesting equipment that uses fossil fuels. It was probably trucked thousands of miles to see you, to get to your table. So, any attempt that can be made to reduce that, to find alternative means, is very, very impressive. The other part of that too is these kinds of food production systems where you rely on perhaps using fewer inputs but also selling to local markets, they also have another positive impact at the level of economic development, at the local community, and they have a positive impact on biodiversity. A positive impact of local development because the money remains in the community, it actually remains part of that cycle. And as far as biodiversity, a lot of these systems rely on maintaining or restoring landscapes that are more biodiversity-friendly. So, that’s a long way of saying that this is a really positive way of moving forward.

    – [Voiceover] Not far from the U.N. Office of the Convention on Biological Diversity, in an industrial area, an urban farm with two greenhouses is also growing food in a very responsible way. It maintains a good margin of profit and is thinking about expanding.

    – [Lauren] So, the company was founded in 2009. Our first greenhouse, the one we’re sitting in now, it opened in early 2011. We’re currently doing over 4,000 baskets per week through our basket subscription program. From this site alone we can feed at least 2,000 people year-round with fresh veggies. So, we have two climate zones in this greenhouse. We have the cool zone over here which is where we do all of our greens like charred lettuce and kale. And we’re standing in the warm zone of the greenhouse where we do all of our fruit and crops like peppers, cucumber, tomato and eggplant. We actually have over 30 varieties of vegetables, including 20 different tomato varieties and various eggplants, peppers, cucumbers and greens. Everything from our greenhouse is harvested the same day as delivery. We also partner with local farms and producers for a lot of other things like bread and berries and things like that. And everything goes to our distribution center, our warehouse, where it’s packed into boxes the same day and delivered to drop points around Montreal. This is our distribution center where we pack all our boxes. What you can see behind me are today’s boxes that are going out for delivery shortly. Every basket is a little bit different so people can customize their baskets up ’til midnight before their delivery and then everything’s as fresh as could be and a lot of it arrives the same morning and is packed and with the customer by the end of the day. We have a fleet of about four delivery vehicles that do these routes to deliver the baskets each day. We’re producing year round at both of our greenhouses. We’re able to do that and always have vegetables to pick by staggering our crop rotations. So, just to explain how the greenhouse is designed a bit, we have our curved glass greenhouse and the way we typically cool is just by opening the roof vents up top. And then we also have a way of helping to cool this zone with that panel on the wall over there and that’s just an evaporative cooling mechanism to help bring humidity and bring the temperature down in this zone. And then all the other structures we have various heating systems, which are these wide pipes that help us heat with circulating hot water, and our grow lights as well, to help us in the wintertime when it’s very dark. We’re always trying to reduce our footprint on all fronts in terms of energy and resource consumptions. So, for energy, by being on a roof that’s already a huge advantage. All the heat that’s normally lost from the building below us is helpful to us, it’s an insulating barrier. It’s also great for the building as well because we replace that snow covered roof with a warm bubble of air where the plants grow. And then we have energy screens as well, you can see them pulled above us now, and that creates this insulating barrier inside the greenhouse to reduce heat loss at night. For our products and everything we grow, everything’s harvested the same day as delivery and it’s on the customer’s dinner plate the same day, so it means that it’s as fresh as possible and has the most nutrient content as well. And then we pick varieties based on taste and nutrition. We’re not looking for things that just look pretty on a shelf and transport well, we really want something to taste good and be helpful to our customers. For our newer pepper crops here, and I’ll kind of give you an explanation of how these guys are growing. So, the plants are all watered through our drip irrigation system, these little white drippers going into the block. And that’s where all the nutrients in the water for the plant go in. And then the plants are growing in coconut fiber bags, so you’ve got ground up coconut husk in there, which is a nice substrate for the roots. And then we grow the plants up vertically so it becomes a wall of peppers before too long. So, you can see the purple twine and every week we have a team that goes through and twines and prunes the plants until they grow up tall and start fruiting. We’re not certified organic but we apply all the same principles as organic farming for pests and disease control. So, we’re using only biological controls, it’s mostly predatory insects, things like ladybugs that we can introduce in the greenhouse to control our pest problems. But we have other controls that we can use as well. This is a predatory mite that we can actually introduce in these little packets in the crop. So we use bumblebees to pollinate our crops, we don’t do it by hand, that would take a very long time. So, this is the bumblebee hive, you’ve got a little door on the side where they go in and out. And they do all of the pollination work for us, which is rather nice. So, we do use synthetic fertilizers, but the reason for that is because we circulate all of our irrigation water, which is very challenging to do and manage the solutions over time. So, we have 100% closed-loop irrigation system, so that anything the plants don’t take up we reuse all the time. So, here we’re in our cool zone of the greenhouse, where we do all of our greens. This is actually called an NFT system, so it’s a type of hydroponic system where the plants are constantly irrigated and all the water that comes out is collected here and sent back through the system and reused. So, you can see we’ve got kale growing, and some lettuce as well, and these take about six to eight weeks in total to grow. No runoff, yeah, the idea is that that’s one of the biggest issues with industrial agriculture in most settings is that you’re constantly leeching nutrients into the environment and creating things like algae blooms at runoff sites. So, we’ve eliminated that by having a fully closed loop system to completely resolve that issue and we also harvest rain water from the roof as well to supplement our irrigation water and reduce our consumption of water in the first place. So, these are our micro-greens systems where we grow things like sunflowers, pea shoots and radish and what you can see is that we have a vertical growing system where we have trays of micro-greens in each level at different stages. So, we’re always keeping it full with newly seeded sunflowers in this case. And then they’re all watered at a regular schedule with these little drippers here. We are looking to break even this year after about 3 1/2 years in operation. So it’s very successful and now that we’ve grown we should be at over 5,000 subscribers by the end of this year. We have about 50 people on our team including our pick and pack and delivery crew, all our greenhouse team, and our sales and marketing. This was a very challenging project all along the way, especially finding buildings and learning how to run a greenhouse. And to finance the site, it was actually all privately funded by Mohamed Hage, the founder and his family, and immediate network. Unfortunately there was very little outside funding. Most people thought we were too crazy and that the idea was way too risky, so we actually had little to no outside funding to finance the startup of this company. And since then with proof of concept we’ve been able to have outside investors on board and other financing options for future expansion.

    – [Voiceover] Visiting this greenhouse is truly a fascinating experience. Lufa Farms is a company that is very clear about its vision. This is how they see success.

    – So we’re not using new land by using old rooftops, or building on new construction so that those buildings can be more efficient. And we’re also we’re circulating our water, I mentioned, as well, and using bio-controls for pest control. So, all of these pieces are part of that responsible agriculture model. Urban agriculture is certainly an answer to a lot of issues that cities are facing in terms of sustainability, access to fresh vegetables, and reducing the energy footprint of cities as well. So, it’s certainly part of that solution and we believe that the key to sustainability is financial independence. So for us the measure of success is being profitable while maintaining a sustainable, responsible company. So, our core values will be the foundation of our company forevermore. But for us to be successful and to expand this globally to cities around the world, we need to be financially independent and profitable.

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