British Columbia·Photos

Raw horsepower adds life to the land for Pemberton farmer

"I just feel like you should try to breathe life into your farming," says Naomi Martz, the 24-year-old farmer at the reins of Four Beat Farm, located just north of Pemberton, B.C.

'Horses are essentially solar-powered,' says Pemberton farmer Naomi Martz of her Belgian draft horses

Four Beats Farm Pemberton Farmer Naomi Martz (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

"I just feel like you should try to breathe life into your farming," says Naomi Martz, the 24-year-old farmer at the reins of Four Beat Farm, located just north of Pemberton, B.C.

The young farmer is using a pair of Belgian draft horses to turn back time on her farm and grown vegetables the old fashioned way — without the use of fossil fuels.

Four Beat Farm owner Naomi Martz harvests crops with the help of Tom and Judy, a pair of Belgian draft horses. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The horses — named Tom and Judy — have been providing the raw power to till the fields, getting rid of weeds and preparing the soil for planting with the help of a forecart armed with discs and a row cultivator. 

"We're all just kind of learning. They are really patient with me," she said. 

She uses horses to to till the soil using a fore cart with discs attached. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Her neighbour helped plow the field with a tractor when she first started working on the farm because the horses weren't in shape yet.

Today, the horses help keep her in check.

Martz said the horses keep her in check because they will remind her when lunch time is. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

"They make me a better farmer. The horses notice if you don't stop for lunch and it forces me to take care of myself and the land in a different way, because you can't rush things," she said.

She has a truck and power tools but she barely uses fossil fuels for harvesting crops. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Now other than her truck and some power tools, Martz says she enjoys using almost no fossil fuels to grow over two dozen types of vegetables.

"I like not having to put gasoline in my tractor," she says. "Horses are essentially solar-powered. They function on grain and hay."

She tries to use basic tools to get the job done. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Martz and her dog Keisha live in a small house on 10 acres of farmland she has been leasing since April.

Martz already follows organic practices and so did the farmer before her, and now she is in the process of applying for an organic certification for her farm.

Martz lives in a house on the farm with her dog Keisha. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Come late July, Martz will be sharing her vegetables with North Vancouver residents as part of a community-supported agriculture program. 

"The idea is basically, as a farmer you're supported by your community of eaters and your community of eaters is supported by their farm," she said. 

She grows over two dozen types of vegetables including salads, leafy greens, onions, squash, potatoes and beans. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Through the program households financially support the farm early in the season — where costs are high for farmers — and at the end of the season they get a portion of the crops.

But there is some risk involved because there is no way of knowing which crops will be more abundant. 

"If it's a really hot summer maybe there'll be more tomatoes. If it's cooler maybe there'll be more salads that will produce well," she said. 

Martz uses this row cultivator with the help of her horses for preparing the field for planting. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Martz said the unknown is what makes the exchange exciting because it gives households a feel for eating seasonally. 

"Eating locally and in season when it's in November means you're learning how to eat cabbage, parsnips and potatoes," she said. 

Her farm is part of a community-supported agriculture program, where households financially support the farm at the beginning of the season and get a portion of the crops. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The program's bi-weekly vegetable pick-up in Lynn Valley begins July 28 and runs until Dec. 1 and those interested can sign up for the 2016 harvest season online.

Martz said she loves living on the farm with her dog Keisha and the horses. She said sometimes the lines between work and leisure are blurred. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

About the Author

Tina Lovgreen

Video Journalist

Tina is a Video Journalist with CBC Vancouver. Send her an email at tina.lovgreen@cbc.ca