In 1996, I began a journey into agriculture. Leaving suburban Burlington for experience on rural farms was a step taken for personal education and for positive mental health. There was always a seed of intention, however, to bring what I had learned back into the city.
In the spring of 2009, after 13 years of farming and community gardens work, I decided to start an urban vegetable farm in the City of Hamilton.
With one backyard in the North End, two in the Strathcona neighbourhood, and the encouragement and help of my partner Liz and many friends and neighbours, Backyard Harvest was born.
For the first two years we enjoyed selling produce at the Makers’ Market. In the spring of 2010, we started a community-supported agriculture (CSA) project by offering food shares to seven local households. These folks understood and shared the inspiration of growing food in our neighbourhood to feed our neighbours.
Since 2011 we’ve been happy to have a home at the Locke Street Farmers’ Market from late May to early November. Our customers appreciate the freshness of our food, with many items harvested within three hours of market start! Most of our plots are within 12 blocks of the market, so it’s possible for us to harvest so fresh. You may even see one of us with our bike trailer delivering food mid-market if we’ve sold out.
Our friends and supporters at Simpler Thyme Organic Farm have generously allowed us growing room in their greenhouse to start our spring plants. We look forward to building our own greenhouse in the city to be able to more fully meet our vision.
Today, we grow produce in 11 backyards in the Strathcona, Kirkendall and North End neighbourhoods. We also farm an additional third of an acre at the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent just beyond Cootes Paradise. We are supported in this work by an incredible group of staff and volunteers.
We continue to grow produce for our community-supported agriculture project. Forty households are now food share members! Every Tuesday through the growing season, our sharemembers pick up their fresh share of produce from our Strathcona backyard.
In 2013, we expanded our operation enough to be able to supply local retailers. We are now happy to have our produce at The Mustard Seed Grocery Co-op and at Picone Fine Food.
Backyard Harvest brings us joy. Our work in the neighbourhood plots brings us into close contact with so many of our neighbours, increasing our feeling of belonging to this place and to each other. Growing fresh healthy food in this place is vital work that feeds us physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Thank you for visiting our web site.
– Russ Ohrt, Farmer