By Meghan Balogh, Napanee Guide
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The art of small-scale, mixed farming may be a disappearing skill, but it’s alive and well in Centreville.
John Wise grows organic meat products and certified organic grain, vegetable, and berry crops at Wiseacres, his farm on Centreville Rd.
The 100-acre property, plus another 150 acres of rented neighbouring land, provides the platform for Wise’s crops and livestock.
“This is a mixed farm, which isn’t quite as common as it used to be,” says Wise, walking along a path between strawberry patches. “That means we do a little bit of a whole lot of things.”
A whole lot of things is right. Potatoes, cabbage, beets, squash, onions, tomatoes, carrots, asparagus, strawberries, plus the animals: beef calves, pigs, meat chickens and laying hens, and a few turkeys for good measure.
And, 50 per cent of all his business is done in providing organic crops like wheat and soy beans to organic grain buyers across Ontario and Quebec.
A veritable feast, for him and his grown sons and his partner, freelance writer Anita Jansman, who is not much involved with the day-to-day farming chores but who turns all the fruits of Wise’s labour into delicious meals, canning and freezing to carry them through the winter months.
“That, of course, is one of the other reasons I farm — I get to eat really good, fresh food,” says Wise. “I call it the hundred-metre diet.”
Wise is the son of a history professor and didn’t grow up in agriculture, but as a younger man, after a year in academic studies, decided he had to do something different. He had to get outside.
He went on to study fruit and vegetable production at the University of Guelph, and eventually ended up at the Centreville property in 1978.
Wiseacres and its endeavours today were arrived at through trial and error. Wise started out with some berry patches, bought a jersey cow, planted an orchard. He dairy farmed for five years, which he said was the hardest he’s worked in his life. He sold the dairy quota and pursued berries.