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Get your slow, sensual subversiveness on

Slow Food Cycle Sunday: not just another pretty ride

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"I'm looking out the window right now and my mom (Jeanette) is working out there. She is in her late 60s, it's 35 degrees out and she just walked by with this enormous wheelbarrow full of things," says Anna — the farm produces up to 18 varieties of specialty potatoes as well as root crops, mixed vegetables and honey.

"If you walked by you would say, 'Oh, this place looks amazing!' But don't forget, someone has been working and working to get it that way."

Every farmer has his or her own strategies for keeping things going; the resulting farm models are equally unique.

"I don't do housework in summer — there's no time for it," says Sarah McMillan, farmer and co-owner of Rootdown Organic Farm operation along with partner and equally active farmer, Simone McIsaac.

The total farm site is 20 acres, which Sarah owns and the farm operation leases back from her. Together with two apprentices taken on every year for six months, they pull 12- to 15-hour days during high season to farm a mere three-acre site with mixed vegetables and Tamworth pigs, an endangered heritage breed known for its excellent bacon.

Only last year, after three years of operating, Rootdown started to earn its keep in summer. The plan is that it will one day offer the two partners a full-time living but for now both Sarah and Simone still have to work winter jobs to stay afloat.

Over at Ice Cap Organics, where Delaney and Alisha Zayac farm five acres and lease an additional five to grow more than 30 varieties of vegetables and herbs, they've been putting in full working days seven days a week, especially in the beginning when they were just starting up.

"We've worked really hard to be able to afford our own farm, but we've also had to be really aggressive in our business plan, and take some substantial risks to get to the point where we can afford to pay the mortgage," says Delaney via a 6 a.m. email from the farm.

"To do what we wanted to do we had to be realistic about what we could afford, because starting a farm from scratch takes a lot of capital and time.

"But how hard should it be?"

It's always been hard for start-up farmers and it can take generations to establish some farms, but from what Delaney has seen lately, it's even harder than ever with the cost of land.

"I think this is largely due to the ALR being chopped up into hobby farms and estates," he says. "If there was no way in hell a person would be able to subdivide any piece of land in the ALR, then (it) wouldn't be open to speculative buying."

But farmers have to do much more than just farm. Marketing is equally important and demanding, and it can go way beyond hauling your produce to farmers' markets, setting up, standing there for half a day to sell it, then reversing it all to bring it back home.

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