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Honey Tree Farm

  • 4 min read

 

Laura and Stephen Besaw's Honey Tree Farm, a fixture in Petite Riviere, NS is a colourful painting straight out of a storybook. 

As we drive up the steep hill, overlooking rolling hills and a rushing river, their cute blue farmhouse greets us, nestled between rows of colourful Swiss chard, heads of bright green romaine lettuce and school bus yellow zucchinis. There is a large barn to the left with a red steel roof and white topped greenhouses dot the lush landscape. A blossoming fruit orchard to the right leads us to a giant tomato greenhouse also home to some honey bees.

Walter and Chebucto (the dog) lead the way while we stroll throughout the land. Laura and Stephen tell us about life on the farm, organic techniques for keeping the weeds and bugs at bay and about why local organic farming is so important.

 
Laura, Introduce us to your family and who works on the farm?

Our family consists of Stephen, myself and our 8 year old son Walter and my big kids Oliver and Stella Thompson. All the kids have done a bit of farm work but it’s been Stella who has been on the crew working in the field with us the most.  

Please elaborate on your organic farming journey.

We exclusively use organically approved growing practices here at Honey Tree Farm. The health of the soil is directly related to the health of the plants that grow here. We care for not only the soil where we grow our crops but also our organic fruit orchards, our nearby water and our nearby woods. It’s all connected. The health of this beautiful place grows nutrient rich produce and fruit. We bring it to market and sell it to our community and it brings us everything our family needs. We’re super lucky and grateful.

Stephen and I actually met at the Lunenburg farmers market and soon after fell in love and began our farming journey. He gave me a peach tree on our second date. We planted it and now 11 years later we take care of that tree and harvest the most delicious peaches. We count our lucky stars as we eat those peaches. This is our family’s origin story. 

Why is it important for local communities to support their local organic farms? 

There is something wonderful that happens when our friends and neighbours buy our produce and in turn support our farm. We feel so grateful we get to do what we love and they feel so grateful to have access to very fresh fruits and vegetables grown just miles from their home. It a great feel good feedback loop!




Then there is also the aspect of supporting local agriculture and food security. Shortening the supply chain. More dollars going to the families who will grow your food for you. Each village needs a farm … or each neighbourhood needs a farm…. And the more small farms the more food security an area has.

When you buy from a local producer, whether it’s meat, produce, baked goods, dairy, the carbon footprint is much smaller than a far away producer. Even a great organic farm product like salad mix for example if it comes to you all the way from California, it travels an incredible journey to arrive at your table. So you can choose to buy from a farm near to you and save the trip lettuce could take by train, plane, boat and truck to your table.

 

How did the name Honey Tree come about?

Honey tree farm comes from our first business plan, which was centred around fruit and honey production. We prepared our land for planting a small organic orchard with acres of peaches, apples, pears, plumbs, and cherries.

Then we collected all the supplies and began to keep bees and grow our hive numbers. As our trees grew ever so slowly we knew we needed other avenues to bring home the bacon. Working for other businesses wasn’t satisfying anymore and we knew we were very motivated to work for ourselves. So we began the market gardening adventure and took a break from bees as they didn’t fair well in our coastal freeze thaw winters.

The Honey Tree from Whinny the Pooh reminds us of the 200 year old oak tree that's growing in the centre of our 8 acres of land.  

 

 
What do you grow? Do you have a specialty? 

We grow a wide variety of greens on our farm. Lettuce, Asian greens, broccoli, kale, spinach and Swiss chard. We grow greenhouse crops of cherry tomatoes and large Heirloom tomatoes and San Marzano sauce tomatoes. We specialize in having early tomatoes. We grow ginger and a lot of hot peppers with which we make and sell bottled hot sauce. We grow onions, shallots, garlic, turnips, carrots, potatoes and beans. The list goes on and on and changes with the seasons. 
 

 
What’s the most challenging vegetable or fruit to grow and what works best for your region?
 
Each crop has its challenges and they all have specific nutrient requirements to thrive. We are always researching and experimenting to find the methods and crops that will work for us. Our soil type and our climate here in the south shore of Nova Scotia all comes into play in our growing choices. We would say that the tomatoes are the top of our list for the most complex crop but most profitable.
 
Where do you sell your produce?
 
We sell our produce at the Lunenburg Farmers Market and at our local general store in Petite Riviere.
 
What's one tip would you give a first time gardener?
 
Just go for it!!! Get dirty! Research and you’ll find your questions answered. Once you sit down to a meal made from your own garden you’ll be hooked!
 
You can find out more about Honey Tree Farm here.
 

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