Orchard Hill Farm is a 93 acre organic farm powered by Suffolk Punch draft horses, established in 1979 by Ken and Martha Laing. Orchard Hill Farm is blessed with excellent soils and a spectacular view. It is located on a ridge northwest of the village of Sparta (Ontario, Canada), near the north shore of Lake Erie. Recently, their daughter Ellen Laing has moved back to the farm with her family – husband Aaron Berg and their two daughters.
The farm is tended to by Ken and Ellen, and seasonal apprentices who come to learn skills related to organic farming and gardening, and how to work with and drive heavy horses. Ellen is the seventh generation of her family to steward this land. Currently, the farm produces vegetables and small fruits for around 100 families in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) garden, grain and hay for six Suffolks, and grain for La Houlette De Vie Bakery (or if you’re a local, ‘Seth’s Bread’). Ken and Martha also raise and train Suffolk horses to sell, and offer three day Draft Horse Workshops to teach people about working with horses. They aim to reduce the use of petroleum products on the farm by the use of the Draft Horse (also called Work Horse or Heavy Horse).
Ken and Martha Laing
Both Ken and Martha grew up with connections to farming. Ken grew up on a farm near the town of St. Mary’s, while Martha spent the summers of her childhood on the family farm. When they studied at the University of Guelph, Ken’s passion for agriculture led him to earn a degree in horticulture. After completing their studies they moved to Martha’s family farm, part of which is now Orchard Hill Farm, and began cultivating fruit crops. Following many evolutions the farm’s primary enterprise is now the CSA garden powered by Suffolks Punch draft horses. Martha has retired from the ‘front end’ of the business, but is still very much involved in almost everything.
Ellen Laing and Aaron Berg
Ellen grew up on the farm and developed her love of food and a table full of people among wwoofers, apprentices and lots of vegetables. She got a degree in English and History at Trent University, and met Aaron in Homer, Alaska in 2002 while working at a remote fishing lodge. She moved with him to Portland, Oregon in 2003 and they lived together there for 12 years. Ellen worked in the food service industry – first in coffee at Stumptown Coffee, and then at a few fine dining restaurants (most recently Beast) before feeling the pull back to the farm in 2015. Her last project before leaving Portland was working on the cookbook Taste and Technique with Naomi Pomeroy. 2017 will be her first year managing the CSA and internship program. There are more culinary-related projects (farm dinners!) in the works.
Aaron Berg grew up in River Falls, Wisconsin with a healthy love of football and graduated with a B of A in Business Management and Accounting from the University of St Thomas. After working as an accountant for a short time, he escaped to Alaska, which satisfied his love of the outdoors and his desire for a life outside the boundaries. Since, he has worked in fish packing, construction, tax accounting and started his own consulting company specializing in clean energy finance. He still loves football, but now he also knows how to drive a four-horse team.
For more information about us or our farm please contact us at:
Orchard Hill Farm CSA – firstname.lastname@example.org (519) 200-1403
Ken and Martha Laing – email@example.com (519) 775-2670