Workshopping and wellbeing…

I, for one, love a good visit! Visits are a time for chatting with your neighbours, catching up with old friends, and meeting new and interesting people. And, it just so happens that a visit is exactly what we had up at the Bethany Garden a couple of Saturdays ago when our mentors, Jen and David, made the trek up from the Annapolis Valley to help us put on a market gardening workshop.

IMG_2093You might be thinking: “Hey now, an event with the word work spelled right into it sure doesn’t sound like a nice visit”. But, I assure you, in my eyes, it really did constitute a visit in its truest form. Honest to God, all of us who gathered that day seemed to not only learn tips, tricks, and technicalities from each other, but we also seemed to strengthen old, and build new relationships with each other.

While David did an outstanding job of taking the lead on explaining many of the technologies and strategies that us market gardeners use to aid us in our daily work, Jen, Werner, Wyanne, Mathieu, and myself chimed in when there was something to add, chatted with our new friends, and took the curious on little excursions to many corners of our garden.

IMG_2095It seemed as though everyone who attended our workshop – participants, mentors, leaders, apprentices, etc. – had both wisdom to share and minds eager to learn new things. We mainly learned about the BCS walking tractor and its various implements, the Jang seeder, flame-weeding, and preparing a permanent raised bed system. However, there were many questions, conversations, and side-notes about innumerable aspects of market gardening. We talked about, greenhouses, irrigation, soil quality, planning, and timelines. But, most importantly (in my opinion) was the underlying current in our conversations that flowed towards the overarching importance of growing good quality food in our own backyards and the people and communities which are nourished by that food.


When I look back at the visits of my childhood to the porches and kitchens and living rooms of humble homesteads in Nova Scotia, I remember talk of family and neighbours and politics and religion. At the time, there didn’t seem to be a theme to it all, but now I look back at those visits and I see people talking about hard work and change. And, today I look back at our workshop and I see people talking about hard work and change. That’s why I think our workshop was more a visit than anything. In fact, I think it just about embodied what a visit should be – regular people talking about working hard, little by little, to eventually create great change and those dedicated people building relationships all along the way.






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June 18: Saturday garden workshop 2-5pm


IMG_5630You are invited to join David Greenberg and the four new growers at Bethany Garden in Antigonish for an afternoon gardening workshop.  There will be a hands-on instruction session with all of the human scaled tools used in the one acre garden. Topics covered include: The BCS walking tractor and its use, maintenance, and implements; using silage tarps and flame weeding to control weeds with minimum effort; hoop house tips and tricks; and a lot more.

We will meet at the garden by the barn and water tower, at 45 Bay St, Antigonish 2pm.

To register, email Jen Greenberg ( There is no charge for this workshop.




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Spring at Bethany Garden

Although the winter weather seems to be lingering, there are also signs of spring all around.  The snow has melted, the crocuses are blooming, the grass is turning green, and we are getting down to work in the Bethany garden.  As four of us embark on the adventure of navigating this growing season together, we have all remarked on how far the program has come in the three years since it began.  The commitment, hard work, and skill of the new growers who participated in the program in the previous two years is apparent in the way the soil has been built up, in the infrastructure that has been put in place, and in the tremendous community support for the program.  We are also grateful for the vision, leadership, and knowledge that the program mentors (Jen and David Greenberg) and the Sisters of St. Martha have shown in creating this opportunity to support aspiring farmers.  As we begin this season, we want to acknowledge the thought and work that have gone into getting the gardens to where they are and express our thanks for this opportunity.  We hope to continue to build the soil and the program over the coming year.


Rita, Matt, Wyanne and Werner – looking forward to working together this season

After getting together in late March to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the Sisters of St. Martha, we continued the process of crop planning (and seed ordering) by distance until Mathieu arrived in Antigonish on April 10th.  The following weekend we had our first in-person meeting with the whole team.  Werner and Mathieu had put the plastic down on the hoop house earlier in the week, and although snow had fallen in the meantime, inside it was warm and humid.  We talked about record keeping and managing finances, and got an orientation to some of the tools and equipment we have access to through the Bethany apprenticeship.  Rather than a large tractor, the Bethany program uses a BCS walk behind tractor which offers a big advantage in terms of being able to work the land earlier in the spring.  A BCS is also much less expensive, uses less fuel and has less of an impact on the soil.  The Bethany BCS has several attachments such as a mower, tiller, and power harrow.  Other tools we will be using (typical of intensive market gardening) include a Jang seeder, flame weeder, broad fork and wheel hoe.


Despite the snow outside, inside the hoop house was ready to plant



Getting an orientation to the BSC walk behind tractor

Later in the week, we got together again to build a heat table in the seedling greenhouse and to plant the hoop house.  Things may be a bit muddy but we are thrilled to be putting some seeds in the ground and are looking forward to some early greens!


Seeding the Hanley hoop house.  One of the advantages of the hoop house is that we can move it later in the season when we are ready to plant out tomatoes and peppers.



Muddy boots!

This season, with more land in production and with more hands at work, we are planning to attend two weekly markets (in Antigonish on Saturdays and Mabou on Sundays).  We also hope to supply some local restaurants and the “Our Food Store” weekly food bags.  In addition, we will be offering a limited number of weekly veggie box deliveries in Antigonish and Mabou.  If you are interested in signing up for a weekly veggie delivery, please get in touch at

We look forward to seeing you at the market!

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Four New Growers at Bethany Garden


David and Mathieu

We are so happy to announce that there are four new growers at Bethany Garden.  What a great way to welcome spring!  On Saturday March 19, the Memorandum of Understanding between the new growers and the Sisters of Saint Martha was signed, and a new season begins.

Rita Morley from Cape Breton and Wyanne Sandler from PEI, both very familiar in Antigonish, were selected, along with Werner Ajquejay (Wyanne’s husband) and Mathieu Tremblay from Ottawa.  We wish them all the best for this season!


Rita signing the MOU


Werner and Wyanne signing the MOU


Rita and Sister Rita


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Accepting new applicants for Bethany Garden New Grower Program


Colleen and Michael (2015 participants) with David Greenberg (mentor)

The Bethany Garden New Grower Program is seeking motivated individuals who want an opportunity to learn about gardening as a career.  The garden is set up with raised beds, irrigation, deer fence, and greenhouses.  A barn near the garden houses many tools, including a BCS walking tractor and implements.  There is also a walk in cooler and a vegetable processing area.  High quality compost, cover crop seed, electricity and water are included.

Participants pay a fee of $4,000 or 50% of gross sales, whichever is less, and purchase seeds, fuel and other consumables. Last year our participants (one full time and one part time, working together from early May until mid November) sold almost $38,000 worth of produce.  After paying expenses, there was net revenue of almost $30,000.

 If you are in transition between apprenticing on farms and starting your own market garden, this is a perfect learning opportunity for you.  You also get access to two experienced market gardeners as mentors.  If you are from out of the area, we will do our best to help you find a place to live near by.  The Bethany Garden is located right in the dynamic university town of Antigonish NS.

To apply, please send a résumé and letter of intent to Jen Greenberg (  We will begin interviews as soon as we get promising applicants.Colleen and Michael, July 14, 2015 (1)

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“If you fall here, it’s easy to get back up.”

There’s still time to apply for the apprenticeship: The deadline is Friday February 12.

If you are interested in applying to be the Bethany Garden apprentice(s) in 2016, please submit a letter of intent, a résumé, and three references to Jen Greenberg ( before February 12 2016.  Selection of an apprentice will take place in February so the apprentice can get started early in the spring of 2016.

Michael and Colleen at Market, July 11, 2015Colleen Freake and Michael Overmars, who were the apprentices in 2015, reflected on their experience:

Michael: It’s amazing the depth of things that you learn with the initial act of planting a seed.  At the moment, you reflect having never done anything like this before, I hope I’m ready for this — go for it.  All of a sudden you’re on board — it’s a wild ride — you’re making decisions that you never anticipated, forced to step outside your comfort zone and persevere because in essence, what you’re doing you know is right, the soil, the food, the community — that’s what matters.  Sometimes you’re right and most of the time you’re wrong but those are the best opportunities to learn and adapt, and this is the place to do it.  Bethany Garden is an amazing self-led learning opportunity in an incredibly supportive and beautiful environment.  If you fall here, it’s easy to get back up.

Colleen: The process of apprenticeship is in itself rewarding and includes personal growth, development of values, ideals, and plans for the future.  The support of the Antigonish community, and beyond, has been outstanding.  The family farms and gardens in the area are friendly allies and provide good examples to apprentices.

Michael, Colleen, harvesting

Photo: Sr Florence Kennedy

Colleen and Michael, July 14, 2015 (1)

Photo Sr Florence Kennedy

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Bethany Garden Apprenticeship Program 2016

David Greenberg talking with Colleen and Michael as they prepare for Jean-Martin's visit.

David Greenberg talking with Colleen and Michael, Summer 2015

This program is a unique opportunity for someone to have access to land, resources, and experienced mentors as they start small-scale gardening.

The Sisters of Saint Martha are the land owners and program sponsors for the Bethany Garden Apprenticeship Program.  The purpose of the program is to provide the opportunity for an Apprentice Gardener to learn about small-scale gardening and the best practices for sustainable food production in an environmentally friendly and responsible manner.

In the summer of 2014, two apprentices were selected for Bethany Garden.  Sean (full time) and Michael (part time) helped develop the garden infrastructure and grew enough produce to sell significant amounts of product for the Antigonish Farmers’ Market, Chester Farmers’ Market, as well as several restaurants.

In 2015, Michael returned once again in a part-time role joined by Collen as the full time grower.  The garden was beautiful and very productive.  They were able to double the income from the previous year.  Almost all of this was sold within Antigonish.

For 2016, we are looking for (a) highly motivated, capable person (people) who

  • has some experience with small scale gardening;
  • has a clear sense of what they want to accomplish and learn;
  • has some business experience;
  • has good work ethic;
  • is committed to ecological methods of growing food;
  • is financially able to sustain themselves; and
  • is able to work independently but knows when to get help

The Bethany Garden Apprenticeship Program will provide basic garden infrastructure, such as a Hoop House (17 x 100 feet) and a small seedling greenhouse; a wash station; tool storage area; potable water for irrigation and washing; a BCS walking tractor; some hand tools; and compost.  Mentorship support will be provided by phone and text; a monthly visit; and through other phone and email communication as needed.  The apprentice will be responsible for seed, concentrated fertilizer, row cover, and other consumables such as fuel.

This position is not paid, however the apprentices sell the produce they grow and keep the income except for a percentage that covers their tuition.

If you are interested in applying to be the Bethany Garden apprentice(s) in 2016, please submit a letter of intent, a résumé, and three references to Jen Greenberg at the address below before February 12 2016.  Selection of an apprentice will take place in February so the apprentice can get started early in the spring of 2016.

To follow the progress of Bethany Garden, please see



Colleen and Michael, July 14, 2015IMG_9797Colleen harvesting, Oct 5, 2015IMG_0427

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