Meet Matt and Liz, the famers of Joyfully Organic
“Farming breeds practical wisdom, as well as a humbling respect for our natural world.” – Liz
Matt and Liz, partners in life and in farming, began their journey as farmers eight years ago with a curiosity about the ethics and practices of growing good food. They wanted to understand more about how high quality food could be cultivated with both people and the planet in mind. This curious spark grew into a firm belief in the value of organic farming and the creation of Joyfully Organic Farm based in Markham, Ontario.
“We are not farming organically because of a trend, we are farming organically because we wouldn’t do it any other way.” - Liz
My introduction to Joyfully Organic Farm came when I first heard about their Community Shared Agriculture (C.S.A) or harvest share program. I signed up and enjoyed 6 months of a weekly basket of vibrant, local vegetables. I was so impressed with the quality of vegetables, the care with which they were selected each week and the thoughtful weekly email that accompanied each delivery describing each vegetable along with storage tips and recipe suggestions. I wanted to know more about the people behind Joyfully Organic, and Liz graciously agreed to answer my questions and share their story.
C&C: Do your families farm? Does your passion and purpose come from them?
Liz: Surprisingly, neither of us grew up farming. Organic vegetable farming involves many skills that need to be acquired theoretically and on a very practical level. As first generation farmers, we learned our trade through the knowledge shared with us by other respected organic farmers. Over the years we fervently studied on their farms, worked under mentors and researched the best and most successful methods for small scale organic vegetable production. This allowed us to shadow some really experienced and capable farms, before stepping out on our own. We have also spent a lot of time reading and researching the most efficient organic farming practices. I doubt we will ever stop. Farming is an incredibly humbling form of work. For each new thing you figure out, you find something else to learn. I have met some of the best people I know through farming and I think that’s exactly why - farming breeds practical wisdom, as well as a humbling respect for our natural world.
C&C: Why Joyfully Organic? Where did the name come from?
Liz: Oh man - naming a business turned out to be really challenging! For weeks we were walking around with this little crumpled piece of paper that was a mile long, with lists of potential farm names. We asked the opinion of every friend, family member or stranger that would humour us! When it came down to it, we wanted our name to communicate how we farm and the attitude we farm with. We are not farming organically because of a trend, we are farming organically because we wouldn’t do it any other way; we farm organically with joy.
C&C: Your mission is “growing local food with passion and purpose”– what does it mean to you to grow food with passion and purpose?
Liz: Simply put, our days are long and our hands are dirty but we genuinely love what we do.
C&C: It’s clear that growing things that are local, sustainable and organic is very important to you – what difference do you think that makes?
Liz: We believe that good health starts with soil health. More and more research shows that the food we eat is no healthier than the soil it is grown in. As such, we put a lot of work, time and research into stewarding our soil to its best potential. That way, we know we are growing the most nutrient packed, delicious vegetables we possibly can.
C&C: What do you think sets you apart from other, similar farms?
Liz: One of the best things about organic farming is the open and supportive community that comes with it. There is very little ‘competitive’ spirit in the organic farming world - it’s more common than not that we all want to see each other thrive. We are constantly leaning on one another for resources, tips, and solutions to the myriad of challenges that come up every year. We aren’t necessarily looking to set ourselves apart from other farms. We are working to grow great food for our local community and to change the face of food, farming and the environment.
C&C: Why do you think farming and eating locally is important in 2017 and going forward?
Liz: In a shifting and unknowable world, we can find stability and comfort by empowering and participating in our local community. We like to focus on strengthening our local economy, healthy food and family.
C&C: What are your favourite vegetables you’ve ever grown and why?
Liz: Broccoli! This year we had a successful crop of broccoli that I was so proud of. Broccoli is a challenging vegetable to grow organically. It has a number of aggressive pests and the window of time that it must be planted in is very short. We had tried before to no avail, but this year - wow! I had never eaten broccoli so full of flavour from floret to stem. Our customers really loved it and one C.S.A Member said our broccoli was "the best I've ever seen or tasted!" which just made our hearts beam.
C&C: What do you most like to cook with your own vegetables?
Liz: Matt is an incredible cook - a wizard in the kitchen! I think my favourite is when he makes a roasted medley of our root vegetables. Whatever is coming out of the field gets cut into cubes and goes into a roasting pan; parsnips, potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, squash. All of those hearty, soul warming vegetables come out slightly caramelized and melt in your mouth.
C&C: You grow some unique vegetables that aren’t originally from this climate, such as tomatillos – what is your inspiration for doing that?
Liz: There are so many foods that the grocery store does not bring us. We like to expand people’s imaginations and send home vegetables that are both nourishing and tasty. Biodiversity is an important focus for us, and as such we grow over 40 different types of vegetables! We seek to revive varieties uncommon to the grocery store and bring inspiration to people’s kitchens.
It’s clear that Matt and Liz are the real deal. They truly care about the practice of farming and bringing the joy and wonder of fresh, local produce to their community through their C.S.A program, which they’ve been running since 2014. As Liz puts it “We see Joyfully Organic Farm as a community building tool because we know that vibrant and strong communities are built around good food.” I couldn’t agree more.
To find out more about Joyfully Organic Farm or to sign up for their harvest share visit joyfullyorganicfarm.ca. They currently deliver to a handful of GTA neighbourhoods including several convenient pick-up spots.