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Renfrew County farms on display this weekend

Renfrew County farms on display this weekend

Sept. 18 is the first ever Farms Open event

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Farmers in Ontario’s Renfrew County are opening their gates to visitors this weekend for the first ever Farms Open event.

Nine farms are participating in the Sept. 18 event, organized by the Ottawa Valley Food Co-op, County of Renfrew Economic Development, the National Farmers Union and the Renfrew County of Agriculture.

From 10:00am to 4:00pm on Sunday, the public can visit host farms free of charge and engage with local food producers, interact with farm animals, learn about agriculture and taste local food.

Some of the host farms see Farms Open as an opportunity to have meaningful discussions with members of the public.

For Marshall Buchanan, owner and operator of Ottawa Valley Farm to Fork, transparency played a factor into why he’s participating as a host farmer.

“I want to impress upon people how complex the food system is and how much more respect it needs in our lives,” he told “Our farm is a demonstration of one style of agriculture.”

Buchanan and his partner Kathleen Lindhorst practice regenerative agriculture on their farm, which they purchased 21 years ago as a native tree nursery.

Today they grow vegetables, raise chickens, goats and Scottish Highland cattle. And use the cattle and chickens to fertilize the vegetable gardens.

Buchanan wants visitors to understand farming is different today than it was in the past and it will be different in the future than it is today.

“We hear a lot about the need for more technology and that everything is in good hands and the system is providing affordable food in the right supplies,” he said. “I would agree with that, but it’s not the whole story. And we need to be able to have discussions about ag topics that aren’t being talked about.

“Part of our industry looks at efficiencies based on dollar amounts but doesn’t look at the side effects of those efficiencies. That’s what we need to be talking about.”

Visitors to Buchanan’s farm will have opportunities to meet animals and taste sausage rolls and pierogies made with ingredients grown on the farm. And they’ll get to tour an 1860s log barn that’s been restored into a hall available for event rentals.

“Some of the farms around here have very old infrastructure that you’re trying to restore to be useful in a modern economy,” Buchanan said. “Part of that modern economy includes agri-tourism and having farm to table dinners in a restored log barn. The more people we can get to visit rural Ontario, the more chances we have to tell agriculture’s story.”

Trending Video

The Anaerobic Digester at Barstow's Longview Farm

Video: The Anaerobic Digester at Barstow's Longview Farm

As more and more people discover the importance of healthy soil in relation to healthy plants, pastures and gardens, many are also discovering that manure is one of a farm’s most valuable resources. Cows, in particular, are extremely efficient converters of mature plant matter into nutrient-rich, highly degradable organic material. But fresh, or raw, manure can cause problems for the local ecosystem if it is not managed properly.

At Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley, MA, Denise Barstow and family have taken an innovative approach to manure management. With 350 cows and heifers in their dairy herd, they have a bountiful supply of fresh manure each day, and also accept food waste from area grocery stores, restaurants and processors.

In the fall of 2015, the farm began a partnership with Vanguard Renewables which included the addition of an anaerobic digester. Barstow’s now has one of the largest and most modern anaerobic digestion systems in New England. The zero-waste, closed-loop, farm-powered anaerobic digester converts farm and food waste into electricity, heat, and fertilizer.

The 2,100 Mwh of electrical energy produced from the digester powers the farm and heats water to warm farm buildings and the family homes. The farm-powered anaerobic digester also provides enough energy to power 1,600 average Massachusetts homes in the surrounding community via the Eversource grid and to the Cabot Creamery/Agri-Mark Cooperative butter plant in West Springfield, Massachusetts, to which Barstow’s also supplies milk.

This video was created by Barstow's Longview Farm as a part of a NOFA/Mass MDAR Dairy Promotion Project highlighting the positive impacts on the environment by Massachusetts dairy farms


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