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Sustainability Resources

Harvest Hastings is about living lightly on the land. Sustainability Resources has sections on land stewardship, tree planting, managing woods and wildlife at  Caring for Land; discussion about Climate Change; you can find out about Green Communities, and read about what's happening in Local Agriculture and Local Forestry. There are  AudioVideos, and a Photo Gallery. Look for "Know your farmer" video or audio interviews with local farmers and other producers.

 Web links has contact information about local organizations as well as provincial ones.

Check Coming Events to find workshops, agricultural events, community meals and much more. 

Farmer to Farmer Workshop: Asparagus growing

February 1, 2016 by Louise Livingstone

Farm on Fish and Game Club Road, City of Quinte West.

When Jack retired in 1984, he did not know what he and his wife Betty were going to do with their farm in Sidney Ward. They had bought the farm in 1972 while Jack was a professor in the Soil Science Faculty of the University of Guelph.

The soil at the farm is a Bondhead sandy loam, which is good, but susceptible to drought. The previous farmer (Mr. Garrison) made a living by working the soil heavily with horses. There were a number of sand dunes created by wind erosion.

“One could see the third fence built on top on sand dunes,” said Dr. Ketcheson. He felt they would be able to improve the soil.

With a droughty soil like Bondhead, one can lose a crop of corn or soya beans as they depend on steady rainfall.

“Rainfall seems goes by the farm diverted by the Oak Hills,” said Ketcheson.

 He emphasized the need to understand your soil. One can download the Hastings County Soil maps.

Herm Tiessen, crop specialist at the University of Guelph suggested they try growing asparagus as it needs deep, well drained soils and is more resistant to drought.

The Ketchesons bought Lucullus, a German seed used to grow white asparagus all male variety, from the Asparagus Marketing Board. They planned to use it for fresh green asparagus. This was a major investment which took five years to start to get a pay back.

In 1984, they planted the seed in their garden in shallow rows close together. They left it to grow crowns and the following year they planted the crowns out in the field. Jack Ketcheson remembers sitting on the ground weeding the asparagus shoots which looked like grass. It was difficult. They planted five acres with Lucullus, some of which is still there after 25 years. He did say the plants have started to get weaker, to develop root rot and to produce thin spears. They have removed some of it by mowing it every two weeks through the summer.

Jack said growing asparagus has been very good for him and his wife Betty, and attributes having reached his age to the asparagus operation, being on the farm, and having a good wife.

They did a second planting of asparagus crowns in 2000 with the variety Millennium, which was a new variety developed at the University of Guelph. They got the seed from the Asparagus Growers Marketing Board. They again planted the seed in the garden. They dug up the one- year old crowns and planted them in a field, which had been covered in switch grass. They used a herbicide to get rid of the switch grass. They put on one application of manure and this has been the only application of organic matter. The manure came from for their neighbour’s barn yard.

Soil tests indicated they did not need phosphoru,s but they did need nitrogen and potassium (potash). They did put some phosphorous in the bottom of furrow before planting the crowns as a good insurance. The plants need phosphorus at the root level and not at the surface.

Asparagus originally grew on salt marshes. However, when asked about applying salt, Jack Ketcheson said he did not think an application of salt would extend the life of an old asparagus crown. After 20- 25 years, he advised it is best to start again. He also said do not put new asparagus on a field where asparagus has been growing. Leave the field farrow for four or five years. Plant the new crowns on new land and give the plants the proper nutrition.

One can plant asparagus seed in April as it has a better chance if one starte early. Leave until the next spring, letting it grow foliage all summer. Plant crowns 18 inches apart as each crown need its own territory. The Ketchesons leave 4.5 feet between rows to enable them to drive a tractor straddling the rows. In a garden situation, one can plant the crowns closer. When planting the crowns make the trench deep enough to have four or five inches soil cover to the growing point. Keep filling in the trench, which should start at around 8 inches to 12 inches deep and place the crowns 4 to 5 inches below the surface. The trench should be around 12 inches deep and four and half feet apart so one a tractor can straddle the rows.

When growing from seed, Jack waits until the plants are three years old before cutting the shoots. A good crown should have several buds on it. The plant will send up new buds in the spring if one keeps cutting. Once one lets the shoots come back it will inhibit bud growth. When asked when they decide to stop harvesting. He said “Stop when the shoots start to get thin as they are not as nice a product to sell. Some people go on harvesting well into June and July.” He advised to stop earlier as plants need the summer to replenish and refurbish themselves. 

Jack cuts down the fronds in the spring with a bush hog, and leaves the material on the row as mulch. They use Round Up to keep the fields and area around them clean and free from weeds. One can do this manually or by using a rototiller. The important thing is to keep the area free from weeds. He said root rot can be a problem if one discs the field as one can damage the crowns and this gives entry to root rot.

Elly Blanchard of Railway Creek Farms says she tills over the top of the crowns in her quarter of an acre. She does not think this causes much damage to the crowns.

The thing to remember is that one can not grow asparagus with weeds. The Ketchesons found there was no way to keep five acres free of weeds manually. However, if one has just a quarter of an acre manual weeding is more feasible.

Jack Ketcheson said one should always put on organic material if one can get it. Manuring in the fall adds organic matter in the soil. Every fourth year the Ketchesons would put on nitrogen, in the form of urea, and potash in a mixture that Tri-Counties made for them. They broadcast it through the summer so it is ready for next spring. Light, sandy soils are often low in potash. 

“We do not have a good soil test for nitrogen so one has to predict,” said Ketcheson. “Nitrogen levels depend on the weather and the. The general recommendation for all asparagus is to apply nitrogen every year.”

He did a calculation on how much nitrogen come out of his soil and decided to apply nitrogen every four years rather than annually. 

If one uses a mulch of straw or wood chips one might need to compensate by putting on more nitrogen. If one uses a mulch one has to add manure.

“What ever your aim you have to keep the quality up for the customer,” said Ketcheson.

“You have to trim it properly trim back to the tough section”, he said. “One can tell by the colour which the tough bits are. One has to judge where the spears should be cut. He estimated one only take about 10th of the crop. They put the unsaleable bits back onto the field.

They use boxes to store asparagus. The shoots are nine inches lo. In the field, they use a knife as a guide where to cut. If one leaves too much the shoot will grow too much over night. They also look for a good, compact head on the spear. If the head starts to come out it goes into seconds bag.

There are guidelines on the amount of ferning out that there can be and still label a shoot as first class, at Ontario Asparagus or OMAFRA.

J & B Ketcheson have had little trouble with asparagus beetle. The beetles lay a lot of eggs of the spears, and one does not like to see them. One can not wash them off. They have not been a problem. If there is a problem with insects they use an insecticide and then delay harvesting.

“Food safety is important”, said Ketcheson. “One has to be careful when one uses herbicides and not to use herbicides close to harvesting.

There are good programs on food safety and J. & B. Farm has a manual that their staff follow.

Good quality asparagus is essential both ascetically and taste wise. One should be able to eat asparagus raw. Cooking a little bit does bring out the sugars. Some people like the spears to be thin and others liek them thicker. The taste differs with the variety and the season.

Temperature is the main determinant of growth. If it is warm too soon and the asparagus starts to grow and then there is frost those spears are ruined. One needs to chill the spears as soon as they are harvested to take field heat off as they will start to deteriorate otherwise.

Someone asked a question about the market for white asparagus. This requires high labour input as asparagus has to be grown without light.

J & B Ketcheson g higher than average yields. This year they got 5400 pound from 1.6 acres, which is approximately 2.5 tons per acre. Forty percent of sales goes towards labour costs. They paid Pay $10.25 per hour. The asparagus is sold at $3.50 a pound. In the previous year, this used to be $3.25. Jack Ketcheson sees a growing demand for local asparagus. On average, their customers buy 4.5 pounds each. With a harvest of 8000 pounds, this means between 1,000 and 2,000 people come for asparagus. When asked about the return per acre, he said if took them five years to start getting a pay back. He has not seen any average returns for asparagus published. They keep proper records of what is sold. The Ketcheson they divide any profit amongst their grand children, who help keep the farm going.

Workshop: putting up a new farm building?

February 1, 2016 by Louise Livingstone

If you are thinking about putting up a new barn, building stables or erecting a greenhouse, there are many things to think about. Don Reed, chief building official for Stirling-Rawdon, Madoc Township, Tweed, Tyendinaga and Desoronto spoke on September 23 at a workshop in Ivanhoe on "New farm buildings" put on as part of the Local Wood Initiative.

He pointed out each township has its own zoning by-law covering such things as set back from the road. There are other regulations to think about with farm buildings that relate to different sorts of animal, such as manure storage and nutrient management planning, and MDS (minimum distance setback) between barns and ones neighbour. which are set by the province. The best thing is to call the County of Hastings Planning Department as they can tell you about the regulations that apply to your situation. You need to know what size of barn you want, what kind of livestock that are going to be in it, and how much land you have  as you may need to develop a nutrient management plan.

Small farm building have different building code requirements. (Greenhouses are engineered buildings that have their own regulations.) With the application process, if you are building on your own property you can do your own design. However, you may want to hire someone with a BCIN (Building Code Identification Number) which gives them a licence to draw a design for a small building. Depending on scale of project your might need to hire an engineer or architect look at your design.

You need to look at the site and consider the type of soil you have. In Tyendinaga rock is close to the surface and a building may need to be bolted to the rock. In Stirling Rawdon you may be on clay or sand. Tweed is different again. The plans will change based on subsoil and bed rock. A good foundation is the key to a good strong farm building. There are many different thing you need to look up. You need to think about orientation in terms of the wind direction and the sun.

"Talk to your township, talk to your local building centre as they have all the resources to help you," said Reed.

You need to think about the about span of the building and the trusses you need. It is getting more an more important to think about snow load and wind as we are having 110 km/per hour winds. Reed has seen horse shelters blown sideways. Anything over span or not built to codes is at risk of blowing down or collapsing under snow. The building centres have calculation they can do for you.

If you are going to build in wood you can use wood from your woodlot. However if you want to use it as structural timber you need to have is graded and stamped. Most of the local mills can process and grade wood for you. If you don't get the wood graded and on inspection there is a problem you will be asked to bring in an engineer. You may need to have an engineer's stamp ion the wood f you want to use it for something like a beam in a new barn.

There are Canadian standards for wood and the building code sets regulations related to the structural use of wood. You can get graded and stamped wood from the Building Supply Centres as well as advice on such things as information about post sizes, floor joists, and beams. 

You do need a building permit for new building, other than one 10 by 10 foot or smaller. If you are doing structural repairs to a barn, which involves structural change to anything that carried a load such as repairing beams, you need a bulding permit. You need a permit if you are replacing a shingle roof with a steel one. If you are taking a building from one place to another you probably need an engineer as the site conditions will be different.

"The application form look daunting with lots of pages," said Reed "You are welcome to phone me or talk to your township."

The form has two pages and a designer sheet at the back, which has to be signed by a BCIN number holder, architect or engineer if they are involved.

New guidelines and regulations about energy efficiency came out in January 1 2015 and now all new houses have to meet these energy efficiency standards. There are also new rules about overhead power line clearance to new building and additions. It is very important to make sure you consider these.

Garnett Rollins of Rollins Building Centre, Stirling, has full line up of building supplies. As part of Rona Group he brings in steel roofing from Weston Steel. He carries a wide variety of products and has access to all pressure treated wood for Jan Woodlands. Larry McTaggart said Jan Woodlands in Bancroft produces all pressure treated products in a wide variety of timber sizes up to 24 foot long. All the lumber is stamped and graded.

Chris Rashotte Home Hardware Building Centre has a number of designs for different sorts of farm buildings, which means he to make a quick estimate of materials and costs.

It is getting to be more and more important the consider wind direction and wind and snow loads as we are getting 110 km per hour winds. Building need to be built to code to with stand snow loads. There are local truss builders who can design trusses for you and advise on what snow loading you should build to. Conditions at the south end of Desoronto is different because of the effect of the Bay o Quinte. Staff at the Building Centres can do the calculations for you.

Greenhouses are engineered building with their own specification. The uplift of wind can turn greenhouses over on their sides

If you planning anything bigger than 10 by 10 feet, do talk with your township  and find out about filling out the necessary forms. If your need to put in a wash room you need to consult a designer. 

Straw bale construction is allowed. Some are fully structural and other are timber frame with straw insideIt is important to have the right moisture content with straw bale constuction.



Güssing in Austria goes Carbon neutral

January 25, 2016 by Louise Livingstone

Güssing, Austria achieved energy independence by producing its own renewable energy locally, and mandating that all public buildings must be powered by non-fossil fuel energy.

See video

Falcons: airport wildlife managers

January 25, 2016 by Louise Livingstone

 airport wildlife managers

Event Date and Time: 
January 28, 2016 - 19:00 - 21:00

Farms at Work Annual Farm Stewardship Workshop

January 22, 2016 by Louise Livingstone

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear knowledgeable speakers on current topics

Highlights for this full-day workshop include:

  • Changing Climate and Agriculture: Featuring OFA president Don McCabe and U of Guelph Professor and Loblaw Chair in Sustainable Food Production Ralph Martin 
  • Priority invasive plants impacting farms in the Kawarthas
  • Local Source Water Protection updates
  • Stewardship funding sources and technical support for on-farm projects

Ticket purchase includes a hot lunch. Satellite farm maps will be available on request at no charge.

Register online at, or contact Farms at Work at info [at] farmsatwork [dot] ca or at (705) 743-7671 for more information.

Event Date and Time: 
February 6, 2016 - 09:30 - 15:00


West Dale United Church
1509 Sherbrooke St.
Peterborough, ON K9J6X4
44° 17' 26.8656" N, 78° 21' 58.3488" W

Video Farmer to Farmer Workshop Growing Asparagus

January 16, 2016 by Louise Livingstone

 On June 16,2012 Jack Ketcheson lead aHarvest Hastings workshop on growing asparagus at J. and B.Farm on Fish and Game Club Road in Quinte West.

See video

Native Plants for the garden

January 11, 2016 by Louise Livingstone

Peter Fuller, owner of Fuller Native and Rare Plants in Belleville, will discuss the benefits of using native plants in your garden, introduce the plants which are best for sustaining pollinators and birds and explain how to go about propagating native plants yourself.

This is organized by Quinte Field Naturalists. All welcome, by donation.


Event Date and Time: 
January 25, 2016 - 19:00 - 21:00


Sills Auditorium
60 Bridge Street East Bridge Street United Church
Belleville, ON K8N1L7
44° 9' 51.6312" N, 77° 22' 54.1812" W

Traceability Workshop

January 11, 2016 by Louise Livingstone

This free one plus half day workshop will focus on how you can gain a competitive advantage and improve your bottom line with your traceability system. Real life examples and business profiles focused on traceability best practices will be examined throughout the workshop. Learn how to assess your current traceability system to identify gaps, and methods to improve your traceability system in order to gain added value through reduced costs, improved profit margins and increased market potential.  Lunch is NOT provided so please bring your own. Refreshments and snacks will be available. 

eric [dot] lawlor [at] ontariosoilcrop [dot] org 

Register on the Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association website:

Note: this is the only Traceability workshop in this area for this winter.

You can also register on this website for the Environmental Farm Plan Workshop Feb 1 and 8, 2016 at the Thurlow Community Centre and the Growing Your Farm Profits Workshop March 9 and 16, 2016 in Roblin (just north of Napanee). Educational workshop completions are now a requirement for most GF2 funding and EFP and GYFP workshops must be done every 5 years to be eligible for funding.
Eric Lawlor
Workshop Leader
Eric [dot] Lawlor [at] ontariosoilcrop [dot] org
Tel: 1(289) 251-3042
Event Date and Time: 
January 27, 2016 - 10:00 - 16:00
February 3, 2016 - 10:00 - 13:00


Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre
116 Industrial Park Road
Colbourne, ON K0K1S0
44° 1' 6.4164" N, 77° 53' 31.6392" W
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