Eric Gluck and Jodi Griffith are farmers near Lowe Farm, Manitoba. They own and operate R.O.C. & The Fern Orchard and Gardens. Eric began farming cereal and pulse crops with his parents in 1997. Approximately 10 years later Jodi became involved in the farm while attaining her Master of Environment degree from the University of Manitoba. The couple’s experience with shifting agricultural practices, as well as, their connection with the land led them to their small farm dream. Together they wanted to learn how to grow fruits and vegetables for themselves and to provide a local food source to other families as well. They turned their dreams into a reality by converting 5 acres of conventional farmland into the beginnings of a certified organic fruit orchard and vegetable garden. They planted trees and shrubs, native to Manitoba, to provide a windbreak for the gardens and habitat for birds. They planted many types of fruit trees adapted to their growing zone, as well as, perennial asparagus and berries and many types of vegetables. In the first year, they lost most of what they had planted to wind, frost, rabbits and deer, but they have continued to grow! This is the fifth year offering a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) program, they continue to add fruit trees and vegetables to their gardens, and after this season will have converted 80 acres of conventional farmland to certified Organic land where they grow fruit, vegetables, grain and pulse crops. As property owners they are committed to the long-term care of the land and they are interested in providing opportunities for families to connect with the land and food that nourishes them. They believe that mutual inspiration between families and farmers will lead to better quality food for all families.
As farmers and landowners, they are invested in a long-term farm plan, which involves being economically, ecologically and socially balanced. Their farm needs to be economically viable in order for them to continue to own the land they farm. They balance their economic viability with their ecological and social aspirations. Their efforts to improve the ecological values on their farm involve; converting conventional farmland to organic farmland – they currently have 65 acres that are certified organic and 40 more acres in transition. Their organic farm practices include proper garden and crop rotations and summer fallow (leaving land unplanted) to help with weed prevention and rejuvenating soil nutrients, and they do not use any chemical sprays to prevent weeds and unwanted insects. Instead they use floating row cover to prevent insect damage and approved compost and planted green manure crops like oats to add nutrients back to the soil. They also use straw mulch, hand weed and limit tilling to improve soil health; planting native tree and plant species – ten acres of their certified organic land is surrounded by planted tree/shrub species native to Manitoba (Manitoba Maple, Red Oisier Dogwood, Hawthorn, Snowberry, and Chokecherry) and they add native Manitoba plants to their yard and garden on an annual basis; and providing habitat for birds and insects – the native trees and plants are added to increase diversity on their yard and farm and to provide habitat and encourage beneficial insects. They are committed to continual learning and knowing there is always room for improvement – right now their efforts are focused on improving soil health with reduced tilling and the incorporation of more straw mulch and green manure. Their efforts to incorporate social values into their farm involve; hiring local people to work with them and sharing knowledge through mutual learning opportunities with individuals, groups and organizations. Artbeat Studio Inc. (www.artbeatstudio.ca), a mental health recovery program, joined them on Open Farm Day 2013, and presented a “Garden Art Exhibit”. This partnership makes the connection between healthy food and healthy minds and works toward reducing stigma around mental illness while also providing opportunities to appreciate beauty in art and nature. Individuals have also joined them on their farm in mutual learning relationships about food security challenges. They share knowledge about organic gardening and guests provide them with experience hosting students and groups, as one of their future goals is to expand these mutual learning relationships
Near North Media presents R.O.C. & The Fern Orchard and Gardens
Eric is a conventional farmer well aware of the current trend in agriculture: Family farms are being gobbled up by large scale agri-businesses. His passion for growing quality food has been underscored by his passion for cooking and by the prospects of returning to small scale farm values; IE: farmers know the people who purchase their products, people know where their food comes from and how it was grown. Eric wants to give people access to fresh and wholesome produce. His motto is, “Delicious food is easy to prepare when you have good ingredients.”
Jodi is a naturalist at heart. She has an educational background in socio-ecological systems. She believes it is important to preserve and maintain knowledge about growing healthy food in harmony with natural processes. Jodi’s motivation is to sustain families and communities by connecting people with each other and with nature.