Jason & Twan
What an exciting year it has been at Sunnivue farm. Our first project was to cover the pasture field in manure, incorporating it into the ground prior to planting corn. A few days after applying the manure, we plowed and disced the field. It worked up very nicely and we were impressed with the quality of the soil. We then let the field sit a couple of days to dry out a little bit before planting.
Planting day was new experience for us, as it was the first crop we would ever plant for our own use as opposed to planting for somebody else. It was quite a challenge to decide how we would plant such an irregularly shaped field in straight rows but in the end we got pretty close. It took 10 bags of seed to plant the field, it then rained a few hours after we finished planting and the corn was up within 5 days.
Our first time removing weeds from the corn was interesting. The corn was planted with a 6 row planter, but we only had a 4 row scuffler at the time. This made it nearly impossible to drive through the rows without removing any corn. We also kept plugging up with remnants of hay from the previous years’ crop so we needed a solution before we could move forward and continue. Making some modifications we were able to turn a 4 row scuffler into a 6 making removing the weeds much better on our second attempt.
Another project which was completed was putting 24 acres of hay into the silo. It took more time than expected and after a few wagon repairs and silo pipe unpluggings, we eventually finished the job.
The day after filling the silo was our first day of baling dry hay in another field. It was close, but we got the last load finished just before dark and even though it didn’t rain like it was supposed to, it is a good feeling to be able to park the baler in the shed at night knowing the job is done.
Meanwhile, along with board trustee Ralph Van der Wal and bush committee chair Chris White, we worked on the walking trails in the Sunnivue bush, opening them up and putting in a culvert to allow easy crossing through the creek. In the future we are hoping to connect the walking trail to the main trail behind the barn.
Mid summer we noticed the corn was knee high and presented some nitrogen deficiency that needed attention. In order to solve this and help it prosper we went to a local chicken farmer and purchased some manure to inject between the rows. To test the effectiveness of our plight we left a test strip with no manure on the north side of the field. It didn’t take more than a week for us to see immediate results. The leaf colour quickly went from yellow to bright green on the corn that received the nutrients. At the end of the year the test strips’ yield was about half compared to the rest of the field.
August at Sunnivue brought the end of an era as most of the old equipment left the farm. As the auction fast approached we put lots of hands together to get organized, cleaned up and ready. We even managed to discover lots of hidden treasures that we didn’t know were there. When sale day arrived the weather cooperated and we had a good turn out.
Closing out the summer we were able to take off our second cut of hay, selling it to a young organic dairy farmer from Kincardine in need of feed. Following this we planted oats and peas in the low land field. We did this in hopes of controlling the alfalfa so it doesn’t compete with next year’s corn crop and also to get some additional feed. This was important to us because of our intention to feed livestock at Sunnivue during the winter months with our own home grown feed.
Sunnivue managed to make news in the Parkhill Gazette by hosting an open house BBQ/Retirement Party in October. This event was spearheaded by new board trustee Ralph Van der Wal and attracted more than 100 guests who enjoyed all the festivities, including hay wagon rides. It was a fun day with good food and great people but it was also a time to reflect on the past and start planning for the future.
In October the remainder of the hay was cut for the last time in 2016. This hay cut brought some challenges with the weather deciding to not cooperate. It provided us wet and overcast conditions that are not ideal. These conditions hampered drying and brought forth challenges with selling our 3rd cut. Thankfully we were able to find a buyer who could feed it quickly and it all worked out.
Rolling into November we began our first corn harvest. After securing a local farmer willing to run a combine we were able to beg from a friend, borrow from the combine operator and steal a family wagon (with permission). Now that we had all of our equipment in line we were able to harvest the crop and deliver it the Beechwood organic corn elevator located in Parkhill. After it is dried at Beechwood it will then be distributed and sold to organic livestock operations in the surrounding area.
We would like to thank Alex and Ellinor, the retiring farmers at Sunnivue, for all that they have done for us through this transition, such as helping us to fill the silo and allowing us use of their equipment. We would also like the board of the R.O.S.E. land trust to know how much we appreciate this opportunity to try our hand at organic farming. Being young farmers there are so many opportunities for growth and improvement and we are very grateful for the guidance and support provided to us at Sunnivue. 2016 was a very educational experience and while we realize there is a lot more for us to learn we are looking forward to growing and prospering with R.O.S.E in the coming years.
Jason O’Neil & Twan Peters