Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Officially a farm!

Today I was finally assigned my Farm Business Registration Number (FBRN)! So in the eyes of government, Black Sheep Farm is now an official farm :D

I had to have my 2009 tax forms completed and send Agricorp my 2009 Statement of Farming Activities showing that the farm had grossed a minimum of $7000 in 2009. I paid my yearly $204.75 fee via a National Farmers Union membership, and I should be getting my 'farm card' in the mail in the next few weeks!

As you may remember from a previous post, I had found the tax filing process rather disappointing on many levels, but I've now reconciled myself to the fact that half of my non-refundable tax credits are useless to me, and am moving on. It's just concrete proof that only those who make a lot of money actually benefit from tax credits, because I certainly benefited greatly from them when I used to make a lot more money than now. People I know who've never made the yearly gross income of your average office worker, are very used to having more non-refundable tax credits than they need.

Some people have commented to me that one of the major tax incentives to being a farmer is reduced property taxes, which is absolutely true. The main reason why I need a FBRN is to maintain my farm's reduced property tax rate (farm tax rate is 25% of the residential tax rate). In the case of my property, less than 50% is taxed at the farm tax rate - my house and one acre of land are taxed at the full residential rate for their MCAP assessed-value (standard for all farm properties). This means that for 2009, I saved $800 or 36%, as compared with having no farm designation.

You may think this is a pretty good deal, but consider that as a person who used to donate around 10% of her gross income to charitable organizations (it took many years of spiritual discipline to get to that point, so it's certainly no easy task), I can tell you that I got a many times more significant tax break from that, and got to support many worthy causes in the process. But given that the average Canadian adult only donates $341 per year (StatsCan for 2004:, clearly 10% of gross income isn't anywhere near the norm. So for all those people out there who think farmers get big tax breaks, think again (and think of the tax break you'd get if you donated more money to your favourite causes).

My farm's property taxes for 40 acres of land with a house, bank barn and various outbuildings, are less than my former condo's were for a year. That said, my condo was worth more as real estate than my farm property, and relied on lots of Toronto's urban infrastructure of plumbing, water, gas lines, community services, road maintenance, etc. The farm itself has its own well, septic and heating systems (which I need to maintain), and many fewer community services and roads than an urban environment.

I guess my point is that the urbanite's holy grail of reduced property tax rates isn't the huge tax savings they think it is ;P There are many more effective ways to reduce taxable income or accumulate tax credits than getting a farm designation. People forget sometimes that their urban property taxes do pay for many services. And of course, the value of real estate in Toronto is many times that of rural properties, which is how selling my 711 square foot condo managed to pay for a 40 acre farm with a 2400 square foot house ;)

Friday, April 9, 2010

2010 produce sales begin!

This morning, I sent out my 2010 vegetable subscription plan. I'm hoping for 40 subscribers who will receive a large vegetable package every second week from mid-June/early July until October. The deadline for applying is April 30. I will be selecting subscribers based on efficient delivery routes, with the same 20 subscribers receiving vegetables every second week. I hope that from the many households that got to try out my vegetables last year, 40 will be willing to commit to me and the farm for a season. I've got my fingers crossed!

Technically, my first produce sales for this year were for my lamb and goat's meat, which I delivered to the GTA the Monday before Easter. I had very little to sell (only 2 lambs and a goat after all), so the cuts went quickly. I hope everyone who bought roasts are enjoying them. I know I've been quite impressed by their flavour and tenderness when cooking them at home, but then, I've always enjoyed the gamier meats. I made a stew from goat ribs, potatoes and onions that was originally supposed to be a curry, but had such a delicious aroma at just the salt and pepper seasoning stage, that I left it the way it was, which was super tasty!

Looking out my window right now at some heavier than expected snow flurrying, I find it hard to believe that I'll be picking stones from my field and rototilling it over the next week of dry, sunny days. This time last year, I was just getting settled into the farm, doing lots of cleaning, unpacking, and renovating of the large upstairs room. I hadn't even fully decided which field to plant into for that year. Amazing how much can change in one year :)

This year, for better or worse, I'm planning to till my field (either myself with the rototiller, or through a tractor disking by my neighbour) and then sow the majority of it immediately to dutch white clover. I really didn't like how uncovered the field was last year and am hoping that my small seed germination issues will resolve this year since the soil is better prepared than last year. By seeding the clover first, I run the risk of having that overrun future vegetables. But since I won't be planting out the majority of my transplants until mid-June, I'm hoping that I can establish a good cover of clover, keep it mowed, and then just rototill the strips I'll be planting into, a week or so before planting. I'll leave a section of the field clear for the earliest plantings of sugar snap peas and direct seeded salad greens, spinach, radish, etc. I may regret making this decision, but for now, it feels right. I'm sure I'll be second guessing myself horribly as I stand on the field with clover seed and my handheld seed spreader next week.

My lower field, which will be put into vegetable production next year as the current field gets a rest, is looking great as the red clover that was planted with oats and barley last year, is coming back beautifully. Its establishment will keep the field relatively weed free, fix nitrogen into the soil, and provide lots of flowers for bees and other pollinators. Around August, the fully grown red clover will get tilled under, and a winter-kill crop will be planted so that the field will be ready for vegetables next spring.

I'm quite excited by the prospect of a summer hotter than last year's rather frigid temperatures. I will definitely prepare myself to set up irrigation drip lines, but the prediction of early heat means I might actually have harvestable crops before July! I won't get my hopes up too high, but I can't help looking forward to eating that first super sweet sugar snap pea. Aah, crunchy tastiness!

Below, I've listed the various vegetables that I'm hoping for throughout the season. I don't expect them all to be successful, but I can have faith :)

Early summer (June/July) Mid summer (July/August)
Beet greens Beans
Black cherries Beets
Bok choy Bok choy
Chard Carrots
Herbs Chard
Leeks Herbs
Radishes Kale
Rhubarb Kohlrabi
Salad greens Leeks
Spinach Lettuce
Spring onions Onions
Sugar snap peas Spring onions
Wild raspberry (black caps) Summer Squash

Late summer (August/September) Fall (September/October)
Beans Beans
Beets Beets
Bok choy Bok choy
Cabbage Cabbage
Carrots Carrots
Chard Chard
Cucumbers Cucumbers
Eggplants Eggplants
Herbs Herbs
Kale Kale
Kohlrabi Kohlrabi
Lettuce Lettuce
Napa cabbage Melon
Onions Napa cabbage
Peppers Onions
Summer Squash Parsnips
Tomatoes Peppers
Turnips Pumpkins
Summer Squash
Winter squash