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Local Farms Take Climate Action Through Net Zero Farms Pilot Project

By Christine Drage
Net Zero Farms Pilot Project graphic. An image of a farm with hay bales in the background with text reading: Net Zero Farms Pilot, 2023-2024

By Natasha Sheward, Net Zero Farms Program Coordinator

GreenUP, a non-profit and local leader in sustainability, has launched a farm-focused pilot project in partnership with Farms at Work, with support from Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development. The Net Zero Farms pilot project is powered by Green Economy Peterborough (GEP), a GreenUP program that supports regional businesses to reduce their emissions, waste, and water use. Fleetwood Hills Farm, Woodleigh Farms, Lakefield College School’s Northcote Campus, Harley Farms, and Carrot Top Organics are already pilot participants, reaping the economic benefits of being the first to join.

“Businesses are increasingly approaching Green Economy Peterborough for advice on becoming more efficient and resilient”, says Jackie Donaldson, GEP Hub Coordinator. “When they reduce their operational dependence on fossil fuels, businesses save money and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing our climate to change. Given the central role agribusinesses have in our local economy, it became obvious there was a need to develop supports specific to this sector.”

Man in coat and jeans placing a shovel into the ground
Norm Lamothe of Woodleigh Farms, Net Zero Farms Pilot Participant

Pilot participation begins with a farm visit, where farmers share their climate-smart projects, goals, and plans for the future. Norm Lamothe, of Woodleigh Farms, shared his upcycled yard waste project that produces rich compost to feed his fields. Stephen Moore, of Fleetwood Hills Farm, explained his circular economy bee boxes, built using trees that are thinned from an on-farm woodlot.

Many farms in this area take incredible strides toward climate action but don’t yet have the tools to quantify their impact. Similarly, numerous farms want to make positive changes, but aren’t sure what actions to prioritize first. The 6-month long pilot project helps farmers assess the environmental and financial impact of their current operational and agricultural practices. Through data gathering, and peer educational and sharing events, participants develop a deeper understanding of the opportunities available to them.

Farms who participate have a range of motivations when they join the Green Economy Peterborough Network. For some, the priority is to discover inefficiencies and find opportunities for cost savings. For others, it is to find tangible numbers which support the sustainability work they are already doing, and become more attractive to green innovation funders. The commonality between all participants is their interest in joining a community of peers that share insights and experiences.

Farmers prefer to learn from each other, they always have. We have already seen the value of facilitated conversations between climate-smart farmers. These engagements stimulate collaboration, inspiration, and change-making.”

Natalie Stephenson, Director of Programs at GreenUP

Following the launch of the pilot, a group of sustainability-focused farmers were brought together for a roundtable discussion on what they need to support their interests. “We learned a lot of things from this gathering, including the limitations and challenges of collecting data. We heard great ideas and now have a better understanding of what should come next,” says Donaldson.

Pig and piglets in the snow
Tamworth Sow and Piglets at Harley Farms, Net Zero Farms Pilot Participant

Net Zero Farms Pilot participants represent various types of farming operations, from cash croppers, to livestock farmers and market gardeners. This diversity is intentionally incorporated to demonstrate that every style of farm is able to measure their impact and make positive changes to move their farm, and our community, closer to Net Zero.

Climate action is far from a one-size-fits-all approach, especially when it comes to farming. Whether green-curious or a sustainability expert, Net Zero Farms provides tailored 1:1 supports for each farm’s unique needs.

With a few months left in the pilot, there is still space for a small number of additional participants. To learn more and find out how to get involved, contact Program Coordinator Natasha Sheward at before January 15th 2024.

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