This profile is the second in JSC’s series Young Local Talent
From farms to forks on your family’s table the interest in our food, and where it comes from, has possibly never been greater. Driving our interest is freshness and quality, supporting local, and a desire for improved health. An intensified understanding of the impact of how we eat on the environment also feeds into this thirst for knowledge.
One way to understand farming better is to get to know our farmers. Here in Caledon Sarah Dolamore agreed to an interview to give us insight into her role as Farm Manager at Caledon’s Mount Wolfe Farm and CSA.
Sarah is originally from Caledon. After leaving in her late teens she returned seven years ago to help launch the farm and CSA.
Mount Wolfe Farm is owned by four sisters – Debbe Crandall, Sarah Crandall Haney, Marce Showell, and Sheilagh Crandall who is Sarah’s mom. The women, who are well known in Caledon environmental circles, brought Sarah in during the visioning process and to be the farm manager. This was a natural progression as she was coming to the end of a farming position south of Guelph.
Sarah’s interest in farming started in her late teens “when I became aware of the challenges modern society had created in regard to humanity’s role in the health of the biosphere.” She began working with plants while on a summer job as a gardener through Sheilagh’s Caledon-based company, Gardens by MsPlants. Then, after attending the University of Guelph for a degree in Studio Art, she went on to work at a certified-organic vegetable farm in Puslinch.
Do You Feel Your Degree In Studio Art Influences How You View Your Role?
“While not directly related, my education in the arts has come to inform my farming practices by giving me the tools to interpret and create with nature. I’m not just talking about the tangible world of event posters and well-framed pictures of beautiful veggies” she explains. “It’s the intangible stuff like communicating with people about what we’re doing here, seeing its growth and what it means to them. As well it’s our vision for the farm in the future, both of this landscape and in the community. It is a massively creative process.
I feel so grateful to share this experience with them. I’m grateful for what it affords me in my identity, which is an invaluable sense of connection to other humans on our common ground. That commonality being our need for food and meaning; biological and spiritual sustenance if you will!”
Sarah continues “One of the larger takeaways from my education was the building of my ‘interpretation muscle’, and the infinite directions that that can take you. The farm is essentially just a big collaborative piece of installation and performance art with Mother Nature. Art can be anything really, if you name it as such.”
What Does Your Role Look Like?
Sarah estimates she works at least 40-50 hours a week depending, of course, on the month. She says she loves crunching data and dreaming up new plans. Her work primarily focuses on:
- Project development and administrative management
- Arranging farm events
- Participating in community events such as farmers’ markets on behalf of the farm
- Giving input from the production side into the CSA program management
- Strategizing about seasonal logistics for fieldwork
- Planning for, raising, and taking to slaughter, the farm’s meat chickens
- Managing some of the ordering in the foodstuff producers network
- Teaching workshops (pre-Covid)
- Sitting, as a farmer board member, on the National Farmers Union local 305 (Toronto/York/Peel)
I ask whether she considers being a woman in the role of Farm Manager to be non-traditional. “It depends on how you want to define traditional I suppose” she begins. “If we were a large-scale conventional agriculture operation perhaps I’d be inclined to say yes, but in the world of small-scale diversified ecological agriculture there are many women in management positions.”
Explain The Concept Of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) For Us
“In general, a Community Supported Agriculture program uses the membership fee to fund the up-front costs a farmer must incur to grow crops for the season ahead. These costs can include seeds, any crop supports we have to acquire, wages for staff, and inputs like compost and chicken feed. Many months can pass from the time you have to buy the seed to when you get a ripe cucumber to sell. And you need to pay staff to cultivate those plants in the meantime!”
CSAs vary greatly and one thing that sets the Mount Wolfe Farm CSA apart is that they procure items from local producers that share their ethical and ecological values and practices. These include items like bread, flour, granola, chocolate, pickles, and seasonal fruit.
“Some of our members have been with us from the beginning”, says Sarah. The feedback we’ve heard from them is that they appreciate the quality of the food and the connection to land and people. They love being able to show their children where their food comes from, and of course eating more vegetables!”
Interested in pursuing a career in farming? Sarah says an option for sourcing out work is GoodWork.ca and membership in your local NFU is a great way to get involved in the farming scene in your area, even if you’re not a farmer!
Read the first article in our Young Local Talent series: Vanessa Cocca