An Interview with Busy Liz

Oct 05, 2015

Liz Lambrick opened her farm stand “Busy Liz’ Farm Shop” in 2000. Selling local produce from our own garden, her focus is on fall and winter products, including sweetcorn, pumpkins, gourds, and Christmas trees. Liz gives us the inside scoop on her farm operation, how the name “Busy Liz” came about, and how the “The Farming Women of Halton” got started.

Greenbeltfresh: How did the name “Busy Liz” come about?

Busy Liz: I’m English, born and raised and I did not come to Canada until 2000, so I still use a lot of the English words for plants. When I was thinking of a name for the farm shop - well, I was called Liz, I was selling plants (in the spring), I was very busy - and the name for impatiens in England is Busy Lizzie. It just seemed a natural fit, and does seem to have touched a chord with people. I often get approached, often by strangers who will come up to me and say, “Oh, so you’re Busy Liz!”

Greenbeltfresh: What is your farm size? What crops do you farm?

Busy Liz: We farm about 800 of rented land in and around Halton Region. Our actual property and our base are only six acres. Peter has farmed here in Halton since 1978. We are cash croppers and the majority of the land is rotated between wheat, soybeans, and corn. We also grow oats, hay and have about 80 acres in switch grass.

Greenbeltfresh: How long have you had the farm for?

Busy Liz: As it is mostly rented land, the acreage can fluctuate - but the core 800 900 acres stays about the same from year to year.

Greenbeltfresh: What was the farm like when you started compared to now?

Busy Liz: It is very similar to now. When I first came to Canada, Peter was a founding shareholder in Proseeds (a seed company). We grew a great deal of seed beans, seed wheat, and barley. Peter still grows seed but we have moved out of the processing side of things, making life a little simpler. We are moving towards a slightly easier lifestyle (hence the switch grass) - as we come up to the traditional retirement age. We had fewer grain bins (we’ve put up 4 new (read second-hand) bins since I came in 2000. We now have a 2 acre garden and a large greenhouse plus a solar panel (called Esmerelda).

Greenbeltfresh: What is a typical day like for you?

Busy Liz: It depends on the season. Spring, summer and fall are really busy. Planting, weeding, grass cutting, tractor driving, harvesting, attending farmers markets (I go to two each week) as well as the shop - it keeps me busy. I cannot grow all that I would like to in my two-acre garden plus greenhouse, even though we rotate larger crops such as sweet corn, garlic and pumpkins in some local fields - so I also attend Elmira Produce Auction on occasion, which means the drive to Elmira and back has to be fitted into the day as well. I am also involved with community and volunteer work - which can eat up evenings with meetings etc.

Greenbeltfresh: What are your most popular items?

Busy Liz: Pumpkins and fudge!

Greenbeltfresh: What are “The Farming Women of Halton?”

Busy Liz: About three years ago, a small group of local people set up the Pumpkin Trail here in Halton - we were also very instrumental in starting harvest Halton (a farm / restaurant experience). The Region of Halton has largely taken over the running of these two events, although I still sit on both steering committees. Earlier this year we were discussing amongst a group of us, how we could maybe focus more on the actual farms and where and how we grow the actual food. From this was born the Farming Women of Halton. We held an Open Farm Day on the third weekend of September and the six farms showcased how and what we do. All the farm businesses we featured are run, as their primary source of income, by women. We had a lavender farmer, a meat producer, an apple grower (who also makes preserves etc. in her custom kitchen), and two pumpkin farmers, who have corn mazes, and mysef. Because my garden is not visitor friendly I featured what we grow in the fields - beans, corn, wheat etc. and had a combine parked beside the shop for visitors to climb into, as well as showing visitors what each crop looks like and what it can be used for. Did you know that your cell phone is partly made from soybeans?

Greenbeltfresh: What are your favourite items you sell?

Busy Liz: Pumpkins and Christmas trees. People are happy when they come to buy these items, it makes for really friendly customer interactions.

Greenbeltfresh: What are the pros and cons of owning a farm?

Busy Liz: I get to be my own boss, I can set my own schedule, work as much or as little as I want. This can be both a curse and a blessing! I love being able to interact with customers, talking to them and answering their questions. I love “educating” them on the how, the why, the when. If I can teach one person - a day - how to grow a crop, how to prepare, store, cook, eat a fruit or vegetable, then why should I complain about the cold, the rain, the hard work, (the weeding) and the slog it takes to be a successful farmer/retailer.

Greenbeltfresh: What do you think is special about farming in this region?

Busy Liz: What better place is there? We are on the edge of the GTA, with its 2.5 million people, who are all potential customers, looking for fresh, local produce. We have all the convenience of being within a spit of anywhere we want to go - but have the unique pleasure of farming on the Niagara Escarpment with all its natural features and interesting landscapes. Give me Halton, with all its twists and turns, small fields, and hedgerows full of wildlife–even if I do have to put up with poor drivers and fast traffic to get to where I want my tractor to be!

Click here to visit Busy Liz’s farm shop!

- Alexandra Lucchesi

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