Markham Fair Eco Farm
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This EcoFarm, created by Markham Fair with funds from the Markham Environmental Sustainability Fund, is a miniature farm showing 21 different ways farmers preserve and protect our environment. We hope this brochure helps you to understand the environmental practices on display.
1. The small Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) sign at the farm gate indicates that the farm family has completed an EFP. In Ontario, over 40,000 farmers have voluntarily evaluated their farm practices with an EFP. During the EFP process, farmers highlight environmental strengths on their farm, identify areas of environmental concern, and set realistic goals and timetables to solve these concerns. Together they have invested over $100 million of their own money in on-farm environmental improvements.
2. The water well used both by the farm family and used to water livestock must be properly installed and sealed so that no contaminants can enter.
3. Natural ventilation uses sidewall ‘curtains’ and rooftop ‘chimneys’ to draw fresh air into the barn without the use of fans. This helps to save energy, reduce noise, bring fresh air, and keep livestock comfortable.
4. Plastic is used to wrap around hay bales to keep them fresh and nutritious for livestock. All this plastic can now be recycled. Farmers bring the used plastic to recycling depots. It then gets made into a strong plastic lumber called BaleBoard which can be used to build decks, fences and much more.
5. The Nutrient Management Act sets clear regulations for the handling, storage and spreading of manure. Nutrient Management Plans are designed to ensure water quality, to maintain and improve soil health, and to minimize odour.
6. The size of the manure storage is built according to the number of animals that live in the barn. It should be large enough to hold all the manure produced for up to eight months. This allows the farmer to store the manure until the time is right to spread it on the land. Proper storage also ensures there is no run-off or spills.
7. A buffer zone is a grassy area beside a body of water like a stream. The buffer areas have many benefits including reduced soil erosion from livestocks’ hooves; cooler water temperatures (because of increased shade) that attract desirable fish species and increased biodiversity through rich and varied streamside habitats.
8. Livestock is fenced out of the stream so their hooves do not trample the stream banks, causing erosion. Fencing is also an obvious way of keeping manure out of water and restricting livestock access to waterways.
9. An alternate watering system keeps fresh water available for livestock, while protecting the stream.
10. A solar panel provides power to the water pump at the livestock water trough, saving energy and money.
11. A well-managed forest or woodlot provides the farm with fence posts, firewood, income from logs, and even delicious maple syrup. The woodlot is also home to wildlife and birds.
12. Crops grow better if their roots are not too wet, so farmers install drainage tiles to take away excess water underground. This also helps to preserve topsoil as rain soaks down, instead of running off the surface taking soil particles with it.
13. Windmills provide an alternate source of energy for the farm and the community.
14. Trees play many important roles on the farm, including preserving soil and improving water quality. When trees are planted in fencerows they act as a windbreak so soil particles do not blow away. Trees also provide homes for birds and other wildlife.
15. Tillage refers to plowing or working up the soil, to control weeds and to prepare the soil for planting. Many farmers use “conservation tillage” or “no-till” practices. When they reduce tillage, crop residue is left on top of the soil rather than being incorporated underneath. This makes for better moisture retention, lower vulnerability to erosion, and a better soil structure and health. It also reduces fossil fuel use and allows the soil to sequester carbon, which reduces our greenhouse gas emissions.
16. Farmers use certain pesticides to protect crops from insects and disease. Farmers have reduced their use of pesticides by 52% over the last ten years. To become certified to purchase and use pesticides, farmers must take a course and pass an exam. They learn about integrated pest management, stewardship measures to prevent pest resistance, how to avoid health risks and protect the environment, proper storage, maintenance of application equipment, and the importance of record-keeping.
17. When farmers use conservation tillage and less pesticide farm equipment travels over the fields fewer times each year, saving fuel and reducing compaction of the soil.
18. Erosion on a sloping field can be controlled by using farm equipment to work the soil going across the slope instead of up and down the hill. The contours will help to slow the runoff water and conserve topsoil.
19. Livestock manure is valuable natural fertilizer and farmers use soil tests and computer software to determine the amount of manure required for each of their crops. This saves money on chemical fertilizers. Manure is rich in nutrients as well as organic matter, which are needed by plants to grow and produce the best crops.
20. In order to reduce complaints about odour, and also to preserve the nutrients in the manure, farmers will work the manure into the soil within 24 hours whenever possible. Modern manure spreading equipment is so advanced, it can take a satellite image grid-map of a field and apply exactly the amount of manure that’s needed in each section of the field. Some parts of a field may have soil that is already rich in nutrients and doesn’t require any manure; other parts of the field may require more fertilizer.
21. Soil tests help to identify the nutrients that are already present. When combined with knowledge about the needs of a particular crop, the farmer can determine the type and amount of nutrients to put on the fields.