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Family approach, natural approach at Harley Farms

KEENE – Harley Farm is sustainable from the ground up.

That might sound redundant. Of course their business runs from the ground up. It’s a farm, after all.

But the Harley family is a different breed with a unique approach to livestock farming, meaning the ground they steward – 1,300 acres of soil stretching along both sides of Heritage Line north of Keene – is particularly vital.

All they have is the ground and what grows on it. There are no barns for shelter. Their cattle, pigs and sheep live outdoors, 24/7, 365 days a year.

The operation is also entirely organic. No pesticides. No chemical fertilizer. No genetically modified seeds.

It is, Roger Harley believes, the largest-scale farm in the country that operates on those principles. The Harleys currently have 700 pigs (with plans to double that number next year), nearly 700 sheep and 200 head of cattle.

Innovation makes it work.

Roger and his son, 23-year-old James Harley, explain the ins and outs of the operation as we sit under a bright blue sky in front of the plain, neatly efficient retail store where a small percentage of the meat they produce is sold directly to the public.

Humane treatment of the animals is the key to their marketing success, Roger says.

They are the only farm in Ontario certified for humane animal care by the SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) audit programs.

Animals are happiest and healthiest when they live outside, the Harleys say. But that means selecting the right animals.

They use two breeds of cattle. Belted Galloways are native to the cold, blustery highlands of Scotland; “old style” British Herefords are from the England-Wales border area.

“You can take a Blonde Aquitaine cow (from the south of France) and you can put it outside and say, ‘Oh, it’s looking fine in the summer.'” Roger says.

“At minus 40 it will be shivering in the corner and looking dead. That is not animal welfare, that’s bloody cruelty.”

Their pigs are reddish brown and hairy, not “pink and naked” like pigs in a barn. Some live in the woods. They are, as Roger notes, clean and happy . . . and they don’t stink.

Pigs are social animals so they do have huts. Knocked together out of two-by-fours and plywood, the huts cover about 50 square feet and serve five or six animals. When it’s time to move the pigs to a new field the huts and electric fencing can be rolled up and reassembled in a single day.

Moving the pigs is an essential part of the Harley Farm system. It is, the two men agree, all about rotation.

None of the acreage ever lies fallow. About a third is pasture for the animals. Some is planted in forage crops and vegetables for feed. Ever innovative, the main Harley forage is sorghum, a hardy plant originally from Africa that does well in varied climates.

Pigs are the primary fertilizers so they move twice a year. The rest of the rotation is annual: pigs, then forage crops, then hay, then cattle or sheep, then pigs again.

No animal barns means very small energy bills. There are no buildings to heat, light or cool.

Solar battery packs about the size of a lunch box power the electric fences.

The Harleys buy their tractors from Germany, where strict environmental regulations have resulted in clean, high efficiency diesel tractors that cut fuel costs by a third.

All the family works the farm: mother Julie, daughter Emily and James’s partner, Jessica Farrell. Julie and Jessica are also nurses and Emily is a student in the Fleming College health and fitness program.

Working as a family is rewarding, Roger says, particularly when everyone is committed to the outdoor, all-natural approach.

“Some days when it’s pouring with rain, blowing a gale, you think: ‘What the hell am I doing out here?’ ” he says. “But then you get a day like today, there’s no better place to be.”

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner. By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Saturday, October 8, 2016.

Green power at the mall: Lansdowne Place works to offset its footprint on the planet

Lansdowne Place is like a village without housing, with an infrastructure system to match.

The mall is home to more than 100 retailers and fast food outlets, a department store and the city’s biggest supermarket. Approximately 1,000 people clock in for work every day.

It is also, and this might surprise those who equate shopping malls only with consumerism and rampant consumption, greener and more environmentally aware than most communities.

Cigarette butts are typically an eco-disaster, either as toxic, smelly litter or nasty additions to a landfill site.

At Lansdowne Place cigarette butts are collected and shipped to Terracycle, an innovative company that claims to be able to recycle anything.

“It’s the most disgusting smell. If you ever want to encourage somebody to give up smoking send them here and let them smell the bins,” says Diane Camelford, the mall’s general manager.

“UPS hates pickup days,” adds Mario Serracino, Lansdowne Place operating manager and, along with Camelford, its environmental conscience.

Every bit of material in the butts is recycled, Camelford says: plastic from the filters, paper, even cigarette packaging.

Lansdowne Place pays to ship the butts. In return it gets a volume-based credit that can be donated to a local charity. Just under a year into the program the credit has reached $70. It’s a token amount. The payoff comes from diverting those toxic butts from the landfill.

Regional Organics, just east of Lindsay, is another recycler Camelford and Serracino deal with.

Wet, heavy coffee grounds used to add considerably to the weight of mall waste trucked to Peterborough’s landfill. Now the grounds, primarily from Tim Hortons and McDonald’s, go to the mall’s Recycling Organic Room to be dried for weekly pickup. Regional Organics hauls away about 32 tonnes of grounds a year and uses it in a soil mix sold under its Sustainable Potting Soil label.

Coffee grounds are handled separately because they are too fine to be processed in the mall’s signature green waste program, the ORCA aerobic food digester. ORCA (not to be confused with the local flood management agency) is a composting system manufactured and marketed by Totally Green, another enviro company.

Food prep workers in the food court kitchens put all scraps into plastic bins about a foot wide, two feet long and four inches deep. Kitchen staff carry full bins to a room in the mall’s cavernous maintenance area, slide them into a rack and take back an empty one.

Mall staff weigh and record each bin then dump them into the ORCA, a shiny metal box about the size of one of those old metal soft drink dispensers where the bottles hung suspended from a grid. As the food scraps break down into odourless sludge, liquids are pulled out and flushed into the mall’s waste water system. Last year the mall shipped 23 tonnes of green waste to Totally Green.

The focus on sustainable operations is in part driven from the top down. Lansdowne Place is owned by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), which has a “green” mandate. HOOPP hired 20 VIC Management Inc., which has experience in sustainable practices, to run the mall. Camelford and Serracino work for 20 VIC.

But a bottom-up component is also necessary and the two managers foster that relationship.

“These programs wouldn’t be as successful as they are without our tenants. And they are motivated too, they know that that’s how we roll,” Camelford says.

There are tenant reward programs, including for top contributors to the ORCA digester, and tenants get regular green tips and reminders through the mall newsletter.

Waste management is one part of a program that includes equally comprehensive focus on cutting water and electricity consumption and the use of sustainable building materials. As a result, Lansdowne Place was the first retail mall in Canada to earn a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver designation.

There is more to come. Food court customers will soon take their trays to a central waste spot where mall staff will sort every item. Camelford thinks that could double ORCA’s green waste

output. Longer term, she and Serracino hope for a grey water system that uses waste water to irrigate the mall’s exterior gardens and plantings.

And as changing technology brings other new options, they expect to stay at the front of the curve.

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner.  By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Saturday, April 9, 2016.

SP Partnership Recognition Awards and CCAP Launch Event

The Sustainable Peterborough Partnership Recognition Awards and Climate Change Action Plan Launch Event will be held at Market Hall on March 1st,  5-8 pm.

In order to recognize the numerous sustainable achievements that our partner organizations have accomplished in 2015, Sustainable Peterborough is proud to announce the launch of the Sustainable Peterborough Partnership Recognition Awards. Included in the nomination package please find general information about the awards, as well as the nomination form.

All applications must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on February 12, 2016 to be eligible for the 2015 SP Partnership Recognition Awards. Award winners will be notified toward the end of February and officially announced at the SP Partnership Recognition event scheduled for the evening of March 1st, 2016 at Market Hall.

The event will also serve as the Official Launch of the Greater Peterborough Area Climate Change Action Plan, a collaborative project in partnership with the City of Peterborough, the County of Peterborough, the 8 member Townships together with Curve Lake First Nation and Hiawatha First Nation.  At the event each of the 12 community partners will receive their Milestone 1 Partners for Climate Protection Award for both Corporate and Community Sector. 

We have much to celebrate, please join us as we share our collective accomplishments with our partners and our community at the SP Partnership Recognition Awards and CCAP Launch Event on March 1st!  If you are planning to attend, kindly reserve your spot on the event registration page.

For further details, please refer to our event invitation and program.