Strawberry Hill Farm is a certified organic family farm in the Saint John River Valley about 7 km outside Woodstock. We grow over 60 types of vegetables and berries plus livestock on pasture. We believe that growing food without the use of chemicals is best, from the point of view of our families' health, the health of our workers, the environment, and for the sake of our many customers who enjoy the vegetables, berries, and other farm products that we sell.
In a world where farms are growing larger and larger with fewer crops, our objective is to have a farm that is diversified where all parts of the farm work together in a sustainable way. The farm provides income for our family while also providing local employment and good organic food at affordable prices.
Our main focus is on growing vegetables, fruits, and berries for our weekly vegetable boxes during the summer, fall, and winter. Our cows graze parts of the farm that are not suitable for growing vegetables, which enhances the soil nutrition. Broiler chickens, layers, and pigs that are raised outdoors are also a key part of our nutrient cycling program. We also use crop rotation to help create an organic farm system where the many parts work together to produce high quality, nutritious food in a sustainable fashion.
No artificial additives (unaudited)
Vegetables and Berries
Most of the vegetables we grow go straight into our weekly veggie box program where our customers can receive our produce directly and affordably. The rest are sold to wholesale customers and through our online market.
What makes our produce so good? It is organic. We hear that word all the time and see it everywhere. But why is it so important?
No Chemicals or GMOs
We do not use any artificial chemicals, on our land, crops or animals. Instead of using chemicals on our plants, we ensure the soil has all the nutrients the plants need to grow and be healthy without artificial help. this is done through spreading compost, cover crops and tilling plant material back into the soil. We use tactful ways to avoid pests with crop rotation, predatory insects and covers.
We are committed to farming without chemicals because we believe that our earth and our bodies deserve a break from the poisons all around us.
Our Rich Soil
A huge problem in the world now is the incredible loss of topsoil. It is being lost much faster than it can be built up. This is due to many factors including the loss of life in the soil from chemicals, over tilling, mono-cropping, and the lack of adequate soil rebuilding before another crop is grown. Poor soil life, leads to soil that needs ever more chemicals to grow plants and eventually can fail to grow healthy crops at all.
Healthy soil life is the foundation of our farm. Because we grow so many crops, we can use cover crops, crop rotation and natural alternatives like compost, earthworms, ash and properly treated manures to build up the organic matter and give the plants all they need to thrive. With this careful replenishing, the topsoil is built up instead of lost.
The Environmental Impact
Organic farming means less chemicals are being dumped into the ground, into the air and running off fields into our rivers and oceans. Buying local also means less transportation needed to bring you your food, so there is less air pollution.
Full of Nutrients
Our produce is not artificially ripened. It is grown until it is fully ripe, then harvested and sent directly to our customers. Often non-local produce is harvested unripe and artificially ripened in shipping to prolong its shelf life. This means it did not have time to fill with the nutrients that organic, local produce have. This also explains why local, organic food has a fuller flavor!
As many of our older customers have remarked "These vegetables taste like vegetables I ate when I was young!"
Grass Fed, Organic Beef
Our herd of cows has grown over the years. They serve several purposes on the farm including using land where the soil is only suitable to grow grass. By allowing our cows to graze this land we turn otherwise unproductive land into food in a sustainable way, and are able to use all parts of the farm. Their bedding area from winter housing is used as a fertilizer to grow crops. Well managed grazing has been shown to increase the health of the soil, sequester carbon, and in some parts of the world is one of the best keys to mitigate climate change.
How We Feed Our Cows
Our cows are fed grass and other forages. They occasionally get a veggie treat but we do not feed them grain. They are herbivores with a ruminant digestive system which means their bodies are designed to eat grass - not grains.
In the wild, the ancestors to cows traveled in large herds utilizing the forages very effectively and building soil fertility. The Bison on the plains of North America created some of the richest farmland in the world as they grazed in large herds. We simulate this as best as we can by moving them onto fresh pasture routinely. This gives them a balanced diet and fresh grass while allowing the grass the rest period needed to sustain healthy vigorous regrowth.
Keeping the Herd Healthy
We raise organic beef, which means they never eat food that has come in contact with chemicals and they do not receive antibiotics or hormones. Fresh air, quality grass, and good exercise helps our cows stay healthy so they do not need antibiotics or other growth stimulators. Our herd is about 1/2 angus (mix of black and red angus), 1/4 Gelbviegh, and a little of several other crosses including belted Galloway. We've chosen these breeds because historically they've been raised to grow well and finish well on grass only. We look for cows that birth easily because we are busy on other parts of the farm.
Our pigs are raised outdoors on pasture and in woodland areas during the spring, summer, and fall. They are mini rotavators and make perfect use of the woodlands and fields that do not produce enough grass for the cows.
During the winter, we provide warm, dry bedding in the barn but leave plenty of space outside for them because their thick skin and layer of fat keeps them warm. They love to play in the snow.
Pigs have worked very well for the farm because they are easy to fence, and eat almost anything. They are very intelligent creatures and love rooting in the ground, playing in the puddles, and otherwise just being lazy.
It is so hard to imagine that most pigs are raised in barns on slatted floors and never get to experience the outdoors in their lives. It is especially hard to imagine when we see how much our pigs love the experience of nature.
How We Feed Them
We mix a custom grain ration for our pigs that is organic and therefore free of GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. This grain, along with the pasture, roots, and veggies, provides them with a well balanced and nutritionally complete diet.
How We Raise Them
Raising organic pigs is a challenge because it means we must start with mama pigs and raise them from birth to make sure they are raised fully organically.
We try to mimic nature as much as possible allowing each mother privacy at birth and then integrating them with the herd again. Pigs are social creatures and do not do well in long term isolation.
A mother pig is large and can have 12 or more piglets in a litter. The piglets have a challenging first couple days but are incredibly resilient and gain strength quickly. They are hard to contain as they get older because they love to explore and dig in the soil.
Dealing With Problems
As with the cows, our pigs are organic and do not receive hormones or antibiotics. We use the same system of management as the cows to ensure the health of the group. Rotating to different fields along with lots of exercise and sunshine minimizes the issues we face.
Pasture Raised Organic Chicken
We raise our meat chickens on grass and feed them organic grain. Their hoop houses keep them protected from the elements and wild animals but are easy to move, allowing us to give them fresh grass on a daily basis. Our donkey Damien (pictured below), lives in the field with them during the summer to keep them safe from foxes, coyotes, and other animals that could try to get into their houses.
The Benefits of Raising Them on Pasture
Raising chickens on pasture has three purposes. The first one is of course humanitarian treatment for the birds allowing them to do the things a bird loves to do. They have plenty of space and fresh air. The second one is the added elements to their diets. By having them on pasture, they can eat the fresh grass and bugs they find to give them a wider range in their diet. The third reason is that their manure is full of nitrogen and other key nutrients which vastly promotes the health of the soil. All these reasons help both the chicken’s health and the health of the soil, allowing us to build the ecosystem in the soil for future nutrient rich crops.
How We Feed Them
We blend a mix of organic grains containing no GMOs, antibiotics, or hormones. We grow as much of the grain here on our farm as possible. This grain along with the grass, clovers, and bugs provides our broiler chickens with a balanced and nutritionally complete diet.
Most chicken you buy in the store has been raised using antibiotics and genetically modified crops . Those birds are raised in close quarters in large buildings where they don't enjoy the benefits of the great outdoors. Even organic chicken is often raised primarily indoors, so these birds are really quite special. They grow at a natural pace which results in a healthy bird and the free space allows them the freedom that nature intended. We get many comments from people who really notice the difference in flavor!
Pasture Raised and Free Run Organic Eggs
Our laying hens spend much of their life outside, enjoying the sunshine and grass, the dirt and the bugs they find jumping around. We surround their coop with a fence to keep the skunks and raccoons from reaching them, but they still have lots of space to run around and enjoy the fresh air.
In 2018 we added a donkey named Damien to the field. He is excellent at protecting the birds from coyotes and foxes!
We move the layers regularly to give them access to green grass with all the grubs and worms they can find. At night they have a house that gives them safety and provides comfortable perches where they can roost.
Laying and Collecting
Their custom-built nest boxes placed conveniently on the side of their house gives the chickens a secluded place to lay their eggs. It is designed with a sloping floor allowing the eggs to roll gently to the back, keeping them clean and making them easy to collect.
How We Feed Them
We blend a mix of organic grains containing no GMOs, antibiotics, or hormones. We grow as much of the grain here on our farm as possible. Chickens need the energy from seeds and grains much like wild birds and have the digestive system to deal with them. This grain along with the grass, clovers, and bugs provides our hens with a balanced and nutritionally complete diet.
Not only are the hens happy, their eggs are also of superior quality with bright yellow yolks during the summer due to the fresh green grass. In winter their yolks are not quite as yellow, but we still give them hay to peck around in and as much of the "green grass" benefit as we can.
The Benefits of Pasture Raised Layers
The other benefit of the movable pasture system is that they leave their fertility behind, building the soil. We grow other crops on that land the next year after the soil biology has done its work to convert the nutrients into rich healthy soil.
During the winter, it is too cold for them to be outside so they are moved to the barn. They enjoy the cold months in a spacious and warm room, with fresh bedding and they can go outside on the warmer winter days as they choose.
The Gift of Diversity
As you can see by now, having a diverse farm, means that no patch of land is unused and everything put into that lands improves it and put more nutrients back into the soil. The pigs use woodlands and poor-quality pasture. The cows graze grassland that isn’t suited for farming. And the chickens follow the cows, spreading out their manure to fertilize more soil and controlling the bugs. The vegetables are grown on the nutrient rich land and all leftovers are given back to the animals as treats. Nothing is wasted and everything that is put to use, comes out stronger and healthier than before. This is why it is called regenerative farming.