John Boy Farms


Farming Practices

Store Bought

Store Bought VegetablesWhere does my food come from and how is it grown? This is a very important question that more and more people are asking these days. When you go to the grocery store and look at the endless food choices that are all beautifully packaged and look perfect, do you know where they came from? Do you know what chemicals have been sprayed on them? Are they Genetically Modified? When were they harvested? These are all questions that are almost impossible to answer, yet many consumers do not feel they have any other choice but to buy these mass produced foods.


Local VegetablesThe wonderful thing is that people are starting to have more and more responsible choices when buying food. You don't need a massive garden or a cattle pasture in the country to feed your family responsibly anymore. Fresh, local vegetables and meats sustainably produced in Manitoba are now available pretty much year round. Buying what is in season, from a local sustainable farm like John Boy Farms, ensures you are getting a safe, top quality product that is healthy and nutritious.   

Our Farm

On our farm we use a number of strategies to grow healthy crops without spraying them with conventional pesticides or fertilizers. We follow many organic production principles and strongly believe in their value. 

Legume Cover CropLegume cover crops, crop rotations, row covers, composted manure, strong vegetable varieties, healthy seed and organic controls are all methods we use. 
Not spraying our vegetables with synthetic chemicals can be very challenging especially as our farm has grown and the number of acres has increased. The key to meeting this challenge is good planning and keeping the farm a manageable size.

Everyone Organic

Commercial Potato ProductionMany people ask the question, if synthetic pesticides are so bad why don't all farms use organic control methods? It simply comes down to time, convenience, costs and ultimately profit margins. If it costs more, you don't make as much money and bottom lines are what corporate agriculture is concerned with. As well, large farms are sometimes not able to only use organic methods because of the size of their operation. Organically controlling insects, weeds and diseases on 100 acres of garlic would be very difficult and probably not feasible from an economic stand point.    

Know Your Farmer

We encourage you to get to know the person or people that grow your food (hopefully John Boy Farms of course). Here are some very important questions you should ask your farmer:

(1) What pesticides do you use?

This is a simple question that gives you a good overall image of a farm. Do they spray their crops with pesticides regularly, sometimes or never? If they do, ask which ones, what they are used for, how they use them, when they spray them. Almost all farms use some form of pesticide control even if it is rare. We have to remember that even organic pesticides are still pesticides and need to be used in moderation. It is important to realize that most organic farms do use as least some organic pesticides which can be as harmful as some synthetic pesticides.     

Biodegradable MulchJohn Boy Farms: We use a system of integrated pest management (IPM) to control insects, weeds and diseases. This is a big picture approach to farming that uses a number of tools including solid crop rotations, good fertility through composted manures, using strong varieties and daily field inspections. We do not spray any of our crops directly with synthetic chemicals and only use organic based pesticides that are 100% safe to humans and the environment as a last resort. The majority of our crops are never sprayed with anything at all and would be considered 100% naturally grown. 

(2) How do you fertilize your soil?

Synthetic FertilizerOthers:
 Synthetic fertilizers can make crops look nice, but they often weaken the plants making them more susceptible to disease and insects. These chemical fertilizers can kill earthworms and leach into our water systems. Using compost and manure is very important as they add organic matter and give crops the proper balance of nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy.   

John Boy Farms: Feeding our soil is very important to us and we use a number of techniques to maintain a healthy soil. We incorporate composted manure into our fields every year to help add stable nutrients to the soil. Also, we grow and till-under green manures (cover crops such as sweet clover, peas, alfalfa) into the soil to help recycle nutrients from lower depths of the soil, increase nutrients like nitrogen and prevent the nutrients we already have from being lost to the environment.  In addition we use proper crop rotations to make sure no single crop takes too much of any certain nutrient from the soil. By using rotations, we allow the soil to replenish and "rest" itself before a certain crop is planted a second time.   

(3) How many acres do you grow?

The number of acres a farm uses to produce food is a really good determining factor as to whether or not they are a well managed, small scale farm or a large corporate operation that uses widespread chemical pesticides and fertilizers. In our experience, it is very difficult to produce more than 5 acres of vegetables without the extensive use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Although organic vegetable production on more than five acres is certainly possible, it is very important to ask a lot of question in order to determine if they are growing food naturally and in sustainable manner. 

John Boy Farms: We have a 163 acre farm, but use around 20 acres to grow our fruits and vegetables. This is a sufficient enough area to grow a large variety of food, yet small enough to remain manageable while using sustainable growing practices. 

(4) How many employees do you have?

Others: This is a really good question that no one ever seems to think of asking. The vast majority of small scale sustainable farms never have more than a few full-time employees (other than family help). If a farm has 30 workers that migrate to the farm every spring/summer, then the farm is not really considered small scale. The more employees a farm has, the harder it becomes to follow small scale sustainable agricultural practices. 

John Boy Farms: Generally, we have between 1 and 3 students to help with the work. It's a great way for them to get some practical, hands on experience over the summer. 

Come Visit Us

We love growing food and would love to be your farmer! Come visit us at the local St. Norbert Farmers' Market in Winnipeg.