Clark Phillips and Susan Tyler were organic pioneers in New Brunswick, and they remain active promoters of certification to this day. They started farming full-time in 1966 in French Village, near Saint John, but with suburban developments were forced off their farm. Although their first farm wasn’t certified, their vegetables were grown using mostly organic methods.
“Things have certainly changed since then,” says Clark, recalling that they flooded the market by growing a quarter acre of brussel sprouts. In contrast, they have since offered their increasingly knowledgeable customers as many as 53 different varieties of lettuce in a single season. They concentrate on old-fashioned vegetable varieties with excellent flavour, like the Amsterdam bunching carrots they sell by the truckload. By the time Clark and Susan moved to their present location (near Route 114, en route to Fundy Park) in the early 1970’s, they were enthusiastic practitioners of organic farming.
Clark describes their farm as “one thousand acres in an upland valley, seventy acres farmed, the rest managed woodland”. Whaelghinbran Farm was originally seven different farms, mostly untended since the beginning of the last century. The original land grants owners’ are collectively remembered in Whaelginbran’s unique name.
Clark comments that it takes variety to return customers to the roadside stand and farm market. Over the years, he has planted with direct marketing to consumers in mind, and sold the extra vegetables to wholesale customers.
At first they sold vegetables from the back of a truck, then for 25 years from a small stand in a couple of locations. They helped found the Sussex Farmers’ Market and were a presence there for many years, as well as at the Kingston Market where they currently sell. Upscale restaurants have become increasingly important customers.
Most planting is done when the soil has warmed up in late June and early July, to minimize both potato blight and bugs. “Fingerlings” were also added to the important new potato sales a couple of years ago, and are available in a rainbow of colours from yellow to cranberry red and blue.
Today, their gardens are shrinking, as Clark and Susan head gently toward retirement. Although the acreage being cultivated at Whaelghinbran Farm is becoming smaller, Susan and Clark’s original approach continues to thrive, setting a standard for Canadian organic operations.