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Thursday, May 1, 2014

The newest member of the OCIA International Board of Directors is no stranger to the organization or farming.

Susan Linkletter, 44, grew up on a dairy in New Brunswick, Canada, with farming in six generations of her family on both sides.

“So I guess you could say it’s in my blood,” she said.

Spinach grows in the unheated Earth Friendly Farm greenhouse, near Salisbury, NB, in April, as four feet of snow climbs the walls. (Photo by Susan Linkletter)
Spinach grows in the unheated Earth Friendly Farm greenhouse, near Salisbury, NB, in April, as four feet of snow climbs the walls. (Photo by Susan Linkletter)

While her family’s farm had few vegetables, she went into the business of raising them on her Diddley Squash Farm near Salisbury, NB, in 1997. She saw how tied down her family was milking cattle; you could never leave. With vegetables, she said she “can leave them for the weekend and they’re fine, usually.”

She grows salad greens in a greenhouse she called Earth Friendly Farm in winter months and a little of everything in the summer; tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash, spinach, parsley, kale, cilantro, and she sprouts broccoli, lentils and alfalfa. “All that stuff,” she said, and it’s all organic. She certified organic in 1998 through the Organic Crop Improvement Association. OCIA was one of only a couple certifiers in the region at the time, with a member group OCIA New Brunswick Chapter 1.

“It doesn’t hurt that they were a great bunch of people,” she said.

She was the chapter president for five of the last seven years. Now she was elected to a three-year term on the OCIA International Board of Directors at the 2014 Annual General Membership Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. OCIA is a global certifier that has a strong local presence, where Susan said people look for pesticide-free produce. Pesticide use is a growing environmental concern, such as with pollinator declines, she said. She can’t grow enough organic produce to meet demand. When they deliver produce locally, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3 p.m., it’s all gone by 5 p.m.

“I’d love to grow all of it year round,” she said, “but it’s only 6,000 square feet of greenhouse space so I have to be selective.”

She owns 130 acres, but only 10 acres are fit for farming. The land hadn’t been farmed for 10 years when she bought it, but it had some of its topsoil stripped and was mostly woods. Some describe the province as undeveloped: 87 percent of food is imported with about 750,000 people living there, she said. She had two interns from France who couldn’t get over how many trees New Brunswick had. Her own farm does selective woodcutting mostly for heating the greenhouse. Thinning out the trees helps them get optimum growth, she said. Having some isolated land was ideal for an organic farmer, she said.

She remembered what started her onto organics. She read warning labels on chemical bottles her family used to spray on corn as child, and realized how horrible they were. She didn’t want her own children around those chemicals. She now has four children with her husband Jeff, 52. Their children are Jonathan, 19, Brittany, 16, Natalie, 13, and Mathew, 10.

Susan, with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in environmental science from Mount Allison University, shares her knowledge with home gardeners and works with schools on growing their food. She teaches her own children about earning money, helping at her farm during the summer. She said when Matthew asked for a new Playstation, she told him, “That’s a lot of beans.”

The OCIA Family Spotlight is a series of stories about OCIA members, in celebration of the International Year of Family Farming.


Date Published:  May 1st, 2014
Author/Title:  Demetria Stephens, OCIA International Board Member
E-Mail:  sandnuri@gmail.com
Address:  OCIA, 1340 N. Cotner Blvd, Lincoln, NE, 68505

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