Current Affairs

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Kerr Farms Limited / Wolfe Creek Organic Farms Limited

Welcome to Kerr Farms and Wolfe Creek Organic Farms.  We are presently building a new website.  We are posting this plain short version because of our urgent need for seasonal labour caused by the Covid-19 crisis.


We are looking for help to:

  • Harvest Organic Asparagus in the field
  • Pack and grade Organic Asparagus  in the barn
  • Plant Tomatoes using our 2 tomato transplanters
  • After the above, hoeing our Organic Carrots and Organic Onions


Please check out our "Employment Opportunities" page for detailed job descriptions.


Our Job Situation - We hire local residents for this work.  In recent years, as enthusiastic local help became harder to find, we brought in seasonal guest workers from Trinidad.  This benefits both ourselves and them.  This year our plan was to bring in 12 workers.  However, as a result of the pandemic, the government of Trinidad has not yet decided whether to issue travel Visas to these workers.  Even if they do, there will be a logistics delay.  Then the guest workers will be required to line in strict quarantine for 14 days.  They will not be available for work until the asparagus harvest, which may start early this year, will be half over.  We therefore have these seasonal job openings which are suitable for workers who have been laid-off due to Covid-19 or students.


In  the field, the work provides fresh air and the natural opportunity for social distancing.  In the barn, we have set up clear acrylic guards between work stations.  We will also provide masks when they become available.  Workers are welcome to wear their own personal face masks.  Gloves and hand sanitizer are standard.


We welcome your assistance.  For workers who we can rely on, we will provide a positive Letter of Reference.


If interested, please forward your resume to lise@kerrfarm.ca.

About Us

In prehistoric times, our area was occupied by a succession of glacial lakes.  At the end of the mos

HISTORY

In prehistoric times, our area was occupied by a succession of glacial lakes.  At the end of the most recent glaciation the land in Central Ontario, relieved of the weight of ice, rose and the water flowed south to Lake St. Clair via the Thames River.  Over 11,000 years, flooding deposited a veneer of limestone based sand and silt over the blue clay of the ancient lake bottom.  This is the versatile soil we use to grow grains and vegetables.  You could say that we are farming on the Thames River delta. Our farming business was established by Lawrence Kerr in 1934.  In the days before chemical fertilizer the sandy loam soil had intensively grown tobacco and was considered to have been "farmed out."  Lawrence restored the land to productivity, pioneering the use of fertilizer, and installing tile drainage. During his tenure, the area farmed grew to 1,100 acres of crop and pasture land, also feeding cattle and hogs.  Lawrence was one of the organic growers for both the Pioneer and DeKalb seed corn companies. Bob Kerr took over management of the farm in 1971, after graduating from the University of Guelph and the Harvard Business School. The farm no longer raises hogs or cattle, but has expanded further to 1,500 acres.  Asparagus was first planted in 1969 and first harvested in 1971. Tomatoes for processing were first grown for the Heinz company in 1975.  He was widely recognized for farm management and attention to detail. 


GROWING ORGANIC

In 2000, during a period of particularly low commodity prices, the business began the transition of part of its land base to supply the premium priced organic segment with the first organic crop produced in 2002.  To simplify the requirements for organic inspection and certification, the business was divided into two companies.  Wolfe Creek Organic Farms Limited was formed to do all of the organic farming business, separate from Kerr Farms Limited, but under the same management.  Some equipment is shared.  Individual farms are either exclusively organic or exclusively conventional. 

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PRESENT ACTIVITIES

KERR FARMS LIMITED


The crops grown conventionally include:

    *  Processing Tomatoes for Highbury Canco (formerly Heinz) in Leamington

    *  Hybrid Seed Corn for Corteva (formerly Pioneer) and C&L Seeds in Blenheim

    *  Sugar Beets as a shareholder of the Michigan Sugar Company Co-operative, delivered to Croswell Michigan

    *  Wheat

    *  Kidney Beans for the Hensall District Co-op

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PRESENT ACTIVITIES

WOLFE CREEK ORGANIC FARMS LIMITED


The crops grown organically include:

    *  Organic Carrots on contract with Natures Finest Produce in Pain Court

    *  Organic Seed Corn for C&L Seeds in Blenheim

    *  Organic Grain Corn

    *  Organic Soy Beans

    *  Organic Wheat

    *  Organic Onions for Natures Finest Produce (trial prospect)

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THE FUTURE - REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE

 The farm business is starting this year to gradually implement the following features of regenerative agriculture:

  1. Keep the soil covered at all times.
  2. Keep green plants on the land for the entire growing season using cover crops.
  3. Reduce tillage (plowing and cultivating). Adopy no-till or strip-till.
  4. Support soil microbial diversity by rotating crop species and growing multi-species cover crops.

It is our goal to produce nutrient dense health promoting food.  At the same time we will sequesture carbon from the atmosphere in the soil, help to cool the climate, reduce soil erosion and run off from our land, and reduce pesticide use.  See the tab "What Agriculture Can Offer In Today's World" for a more complete explanation. 

Articles

What Agriculture Can Offer in Today's World V4 (pdf)

Download

Employment Opportunities

Contact Us

Drop us a line!

Robert Kerr, President

bob@kerrfarm.ca (c) 519-359-0958


David Hunter, Vice President 

dave@kerrfarm.ca (c) 519-436-4434


Lise Robert-Babcock, Office Manager 

lise@kerrfarm.ca (c) 519-861-0178


Matthew Hunter, FIeld Operations 

matt@kerrfarm.ca (c) 519-917-5567

Kerr Farms Limited

309 Indian Creek Road East, Chatham-Kent, Ontario N7M0M5

Asparagus

Harvesting

Our Organic Asparagus fields are located on the "Fisher" farm at 9820 Fairview Line, approximately 3 km east of Highway 40.  We expect work to begin during the last week of April and to last for approximately 6.5 weeks.  Workers then have the opportunity to work hoeing Organic Carrots and Organic Onions.  

Each spear of Asparagus is cut by hand.  We select and cut spears over 7" tall.  Temperature determines how fast the asparagus grows.  No growth occurs below 50°F (10°C).  On a hot day, over 75°F, asparagus may grow 4" or more.  We pick over the entire field daily.  When days and nights are in between we may miss a day or a half day.  There is usually a peak of production just before the May 24th weekend.  Work starts at 7am.  Our workers ride on motorized picker aids.  We have mostly one person machines.  The worker steers and controls speed by foot leaving hands free to cut.  Two of our machines have wings and can carry a driver and another cutter on each wing.  The machines have a canopy for shade and protection from light rain.

The job requires good coordination and quick hands.  Expect to take a day or two to get up to speed.  Leaning forward to reach down for the asparagus stretches leg and back muscles.  Conditioning to this occurs over 2 or 3 days.

The work can be 7 days per week.  Sunday pay is at time and half.   We try to organize to minimize Sunday work where possible, but the weather rules.  Regular pay is at minimum wage (with recognition for high performers).

Aspargus

Grading & Packing

Grading and packing takes place on our "Home" farm, 309 Indian Creek Road East.  We expect work to start near the beginning of May and to last for 6.5 weeks.  Workers then have the opportunity to work hoeing Organic Carrots and Organic Onions. 

The asparagus is brought in from the field and is immediately hydro-cooled on its way into our cold storage room.  We then bring it out to pass over our camera assisted grading line.  The asparagus is removed from the field lugs and placed, one spear at a time, on the line.  It is automatically trimmed to length, washed in chlorinated water and inspected.  A camera measures the length and diameter and sorts the spears into grades and one pound bunches.  Workers then apply elastic bands and tags and place the bunches into boxes which get weighed, closed and returned to the cooler.

Work is normally 7am to 5:30pm, with possible overtime during the spring flush of peak production which may occur just ahead of the May 24th weekend.

We have re-organized the  work place to incorporate safety precautions due to Covid-19.  We have installed Lexan guards between work stations.  Masks will be provided if or when they become available.  Home made masks may also be worn.

Regular pay is minimum wage with time and a half paid after 10 hours and on Sundays, if necessary.

Tomatoes

Transplanting

We grow approximately 200 acres of processing tomatoes for Highbury Canco in Leamington.  Tomato seeds are planted in 288 cell trays at a local greenhouse in late March and early April.  Transplanting the seedlings or plugs into the field begins on approximately May 8th and continues for about 3 weeks.   Workers then have the opportunity to work hoeing Organic Carrots and Organic Onions. 

Transplanting starts on the Home farm, 309 Indian Creek Road East, and continues on several different fields in a 10km radius from Chatham.  Work normally begins at 7:30am.  The planters work sitting down, removing seedlings from the plastic trays and dropping them singularly into a carrousel which turns and opens at the right time allowing the plug to drop into the plant trench.  One person passes our the trays and two people take turns walking behind to fill in missed spots.  This is a team job requiring manual dexterity.  It may take a day or two to get up to speed.  Rain occasionally suspends planting until the land dries out again.  The work takes place outdoors, under a canopy for shade and protection from light rain.  We have made adjustments to the transplanter to incorporate safety precautions due to Covid-19.  We have installed clear vinyl guards between work stations.  Face shields will be provided.  Masks will also be provided if or when they become available.  Home made masks may also be worn.

Pay is minimum wage with time and a half paid over 10 hours a day and on Sundays, if necessary. 

Hoeing

Weed control in organic crops is sometimes a challenge.  We will be using a propane flamer to kill weeds that emerge before the crops do.  We will also be using a Weed Zapper to electrocute weeds that poke up above the crop canopy later in the growing season, late July and August.  It is, however, important to control weeds early in the growing season when the crop is beginning to establish.  We use specially set up cultivators to clear the space between the crop rows.  It is still necessary to manually hoe or pull the weeds that grow inside the crop row.

Our organic carrot and organic onion fields are on the "McNaughton" farm, on Fairview Line 3kms east of Highway 40, nearly across the road from the "Fisher" farm where we grow the organic asparagus.  We will supply hoes and training and will organize the work in teams.  Each team will be responsible for maintaining social distancing in the field.  This work starts approximately the time the tomato transplanting and asparagus harvest ends and continues until approximately mid July.  The pay is minimum wage, with the opportunity for the recognition of team performance.  There is no overtime pay in hoeing so work is organized in a way to ensure no overtime is necessary.