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New organic farmers putting down roots in Oro-Medonte

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the ‘essential’ back into farming, says local farmer, adding seven-plus acres of prime farmland will stay in vegetable production
Farming shutterstock

The demand for locally grown food is on the rise and the COVID-19 pandemic has put the ‘essential’ back into farming. Luckily for Orillia, there are three new farmers ready to grow.

McBrides' Organic Farm has been in production on the 8th line in Oro for over 25 years, but Sharon and Doug McBride are ready to scale back. Serendipitously, a handful of farmers were just getting ready to go.

After an epiphany in Algeria and two years interning on farms around Canada, Greg Kamphuis, a 35-year-old Orillian, happened to be looking for a place to put down some roots. 

“The McBrides have been building healthy soil and a complete chest of tools since before organic farming was popular,” says Kamphuis. “I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found this farm at this point in my life.”

Kamphuis was connected to the McBrides via friends at the Orillia Fairgrounds Farmers' Market last year and began production in the basement over the winter. This year he is set to grow over 50 types of vegetables and is distributing produce via a 50-person vegetable subscription service.

Brendan Behrman also found his way to the McBride’s farm after two years of interning on small farms.  He has wanted to be a farmer his whole life and, after co-founding the Toronto seed library, this was the next step.

Mackenzie Hillard worked for the McBrides for the past six years, being groomed as a greens master. This year she is stepping out on her own.

Between the three of them and the McBride’s scaled back operation, over seven acres of prime farmland is going to stay in vegetable production.

“The opportunities for collaboration and the diversity of crops we will be growing are amazing,” says Kamphuis. “The year of 2020 has a lot of uncertainty, but we can guarantee Orillia will have a healthy harvest of vegetables!”



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