Thursday 7 February 2013

Castor River Farm

Among the thousands of conventional farms that cover rural Ontario there are a few that defy standard chemical based agriculture in order to forge ahead with change.

George Wright and his family are one such example of a successful organic farm growing and living the way they see best.

Castor River Farm lies just east of Metcalfe, near Ottawa.

George specializes in organically produced grain, but the farm also contributes pork, chicken, and eggs to the local food economy.

I was offered the opportunity to see George's innovative techniques for myself.

David Bathe of the Haliburton Grain CSA took me along for a research trip to see how George handles his grain products in addition to investigating his growing techniques.
There was also great interest in George's succesful marketing techniques and experience.
The trip was sponsored by the Haliburton Community Development Corporation as part of an initaitive to foster local food production in Haliburton county.
Four of us made the journey to the Ottawa area to see what we could learn from George's wealth of knowledge and experience with small scale organic agriculture.


The meet and greet was followed by an intensive interrogation and photo session, but George is passionate about what he does and was more than happy to answer our questions and show us around his farm.
His record proves that there's no need for large and expensive equipment to handle and process grain.
On the heels of large scale argriculture there is a wealth of discarded machinery and tools available for those who need a low cost solution.
George's home and farm remain off-grid which helps him stay focused on keeping power equipment simple and efficient instead of having an excessive stockpile of powered gear and energy hungry devices.

Simplicity and affordability are particularily attractive to the Haliburton Grain CSA in order to keep start-up costs and overhead sustainable.
One of the greatest foes of food production is unnecesary expense that drives the need for increased volume at the expense of food quality, farmland degradation, and ecological integrity.
It is also important to maintain a good standard of living for the farmers themselves in order to keep them on the land and to attract new farmers at a time when the rural communites are seeing their youth driven to urban centres for jobs.
Despite the wide appeal of farm life, the economic reality keeps many would-be farmers from taking over from the older generation.

George's indefatigable tenacity is an inspiring example for anyone who may have farming ambitions.
He doesn't have it all figured out and that keeps him constantly immersed in trying out new methods and seeking advice and knowledge from all over the continent.
Armed with classic agricultural texts and an extensive online network, he is working hard to improve his farm and the farms of others who are looking for a better way than simply forcing product from the ground with synthetic compounds.
The organic farming community needs farms like Castor River where innovation and resourcefulness are more important than mere profit.
The entire food system needs people like George who tirelessly battle for the change that is so desperately needed.


We enjoyed a hearty lunch of pork, served with pork, prepared on the wood fired cookstove.
The conversation was as rich as the meal and we asked George our questions and listened carefully to his advice.
The members of the grain csa, like myself, have very limited farming experience. We are new farmers, armed with far more passion than knowledge.
George is willing to impart, not only his own unique perspective, but also much of the basic farming ways, without judging us as impertinent newcomers.
He would like to see new farmers succeed and thrive using techniques that will improve the land for coming generations.

Whether you live near or far, be sure to visit Castor River Farm.

They are famous at the Ottawa farmer's market and also sell their produce from a store at the farm.

I promise that you'll leave with not only great food,
but an impression of hope and passion that will stay with you.



  1. Very exciting! Entirely off-grid too? Solar and wind? or generator driven? I would like to visit.

    1. George has solar panels, wind generators, a diesel generator, and some other clever rigging for saving energy.
      Much of it has been experimental and hasn't worked out just right. One wind generator is broken and I don't think he uses the diesel generator much. He also supplements with propane.
      So he is completely off-grid, but still working on perfecting his system.
      My favourite was the portable diesel engine for powering equipment in lieu of electric motors.
      It means a single engine that has variable speed which allows him to apply it to many different purposes.

  2. this looks very interesting I can see why you would be passionate about being there ( good for you )