Raw horsepower adds life to the land for Pemberton farmer
'Horses are essentially solar-powered,' says Pemberton farmer Naomi Martz of her Belgian draft horses
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
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."
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.
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.
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 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.
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.