Welcome to Fertile Ground Farm

At a farm near the St. Agatha’s northwestern fringes, a few people are eagerly washing basket after basket of carrots in a gnarly looking washing machine. Now, these carrots are not the usual orange ones you see in retail stores. These are rainbow carrots, which have more variability in colours. If you were to enter the farm, a dog named Coho would rush to greet you. A few friendly barn cats may also pop over to check you out, if you are lucky that is. Welcome to the Fertile Ground Farm.

In early November, a University of Waterloo class, GEOG 460 taught by Dr. Steffanie Scott, had this experience when they toured Fertile Ground Farm for a field trip. The class formed a sharing circle for a round of introductions and questions with their guides, Angie Koch, Fertile Ground farm owner, and Nikola Barsoum, an herbalist and owner of a medicine garden and apothecary called Half Moon Herbals. The purpose of the trip was to gain insight into organic farming within the local food system and to learn about their produce and the operations of growing, harvesting, and selling their crops.

Group of people standing beside farm crops

GEOG 460 class in sharing circle with Angie Koch and Nikola Barsoum

Angie Koch, farm manager of Fertile Ground farm, holding a cat at the farm

Angie Koch, Owner/Farm Manager (Fertile Ground, 2022b)

Fertile Ground's vision

Cats, dogs, and colourful carrots aside, Fertile Ground farm is a serious small-scale agriculture operation with strong beliefs in producing sustainable and organic food. Angie Koch, a brilliant and passionate woman, slowly but steadily developed the farm to provide the freshest, highest-quality food for more than 300 households. Fertile Ground believes organic farming is the best practice to nourish themselves, their customers, and the earth in a sustainable, resilient way (Fertile Ground, 2022a). With their values to give back as much as they take, Fertile Ground has become an inspiration to the community and staple in the local food system (Fertile Ground, 2022a).

Pillars of permaculture

Fertile Ground apply the Pillars of Permaculture into everything they do (permaculture principles, n.d.): 

Earth Care means regenerative agriculture which focuses on building soil health and increasing biodiversity.

People Care means the combined efforts, compassion and resilience of neighbours and the broader community to make positive change.

Fair Share means the ability to share with others within and throughout the community.

Our guide, Nikola, frequently referenced this triad of ethics throughout the farm tour.

Venn diagram of permaculture ethics: Earth care, people care, fair share

Permaculture Ethics. (Keveral Community of Growers, 2013).

Member of EFAO Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario

Earth Care

Being an organic farm, Fertile Ground farm utilizes a variety of sustainable practices:

  • No synthetic fertilizer, herbicide or pesticide use
  • Crop rotation, cover crops, compost
  • Movable chicken coops
  • Minimal water use
  • Use mostly organic and always non-GMO seeds
  • Caterpillar tents
  • Pollinator strips and non-GMO habitat
  • Selling locally
  • And more

Just like other organic farms in the province, Fertile Ground does not use fertilizer or pesticides. Instead, they use alternative methods that restore soil fertility and soil health. Crop rotation means some fields are left fallow for a season to rejuvenate the soil and allow the land to heal. The area is also planted with winter cover crops that are then dug into the soil to boost fertility and soil organic matter. Additionally, it was a surprise to see the chickens running along the farm. Movable chicken coops are moved every month and a half as the chickens are a natural soil fertility enhancer. The chickens would then be happy to pick out the leftovers, eat bugs, wander around (their little feet help till the land), and poop (natural fertilizer). Caterpillar tents, which were seen placed of the spinach and herb plants, help curb persistent bugs and serve as a very effective and user-friendly way of protecting the plants from the elements if need be. Two hundred pollinator strips and planting non-GMO plants create habitats for pollinators and a diversity of other valuable critters, including bees, wasps, hoverflies, moths, butterflies, beetles and more!

[It] is both beautiful and functional, providing pollination and predation services that improve yields and decrease pest pressure.

Fertile Ground (2022a)

People Care

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Angie employs a model of farming called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA members pre-purchase a share in the harvest & are treated to an assortment of the fresh, locally-grown vegetables in season each week.

CSA connects you directly with your farmers.Being a reciprocal relationship, members in this CSA also have opportunities to help invest or donate to better the farm in terms of equipment and other maintenance.

Her community of “customers” shares the risks and bounty of the land. Signing up for membership you are committed to receiving a steady supply of vegetables for about a 20-week season (June-October) for pickup at the local farm or at a depot in Kitchener. All the products in the box are selected based on what products are in stock, then with what’s available, curated to be a nice mix of greens, fruits, and alliums. This offers a full diversity of produce whereas in wholesale, customers have a subset of crops they think are highly profitable and want to grow larger amounts to make available but that wouldn't be a broad enough diet for households.

People buying from Fertile Ground's Friday On-Farm Pick-up

Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) Friday On-Farm Pick-up. (Fertile Ground Farm, 2022c)

Fair Share

We are a living wage employer. Livingwage.ca

Living Wage

Not only is Angie and Fertile Ground transforming the food system at consumer supply level, but they are also setting new standards for food production and farm labour by being a Living Wage Employer. Farmers tend to be grossly undervalued and underpaid despite their specific skillset and demanding work, labour and long hours (Fertile Ground, 2022a).

Community Shares Program

The Community Shares Program creates a sliding-scale pricing for CSA Shares, so households can purchase Shares on a pay-what-you-can basis (Fertile Ground Farm, 2022d). When registering, all CSA Members are invited to donate to the Community Share Program Fund which directly decreases share costs for household on fixed income, single parents, underemployed and others who love but can’t access Fertile Ground veggies basis (Fertile Ground Farm, 2022d).  

We want our Community Shared Agriculture to be accessible to anyone who would enjoy it, so we offer a Community Shares Program.

Fertile Ground Farm (2022d).

Half Moon Herbals

Towards the end of our tour, we looked inside the tomato crop greenhouse, it was great to see so many tomatoes still red and fresh this time of the year. In the herb garden beside it, the class learned about how to collect and plant calendula seeds, the process of growing using hand-harvesting regenerative farming practices, gathering using GACP certified collection methods, and the various medicinal benefits wholistic human health care these plants provide. These are the types of things Nikola Barsoum teaches in the education programs at Half Moon Herbals, her small artisan herb business that is partnered with Fertile Ground. As a certified Community Herbalist, Permaculture Designer, Ecological Farmer, Nikola hosts these permaculture and herbal medicine workshops on the farm (Half Moon Herbals, 2022).

Nikola Barsoum with a black cat

Nikola Barsoum, Owner and herbalist at Half Moon Herbals (2022)

Opportunity for diversity and community

Visiting the Fertile ground farm was an inspiring experience. The scenery and learning about CSA and regenerative farming were eye-opening. Visiting the farm yourself could be an option, whether it be for participating in Nikola’s workshops or subscribing to Angie’s CSA membership. Currently, the farm is near its full capacity. If you find yourself on a waitlist, try other CSA farms in the region. There are quite a few like-minded individuals who share a similar passion to Angie Koch. One lasting impression from this trip is the importance of connecting with your local farmers and being more aware of where your food comes from. So, don’t be shy and reach out. After all, bringing you healthy produce is why they are doing this in the first place.


Fertile Ground Farm. (2022a). About Us: Learn about our farm’s vision and growing practices. Retrieved from https://www.fertilegroundcsa.com/about

Fertile Ground Farm. (2022b). About: Meet our team at Fertile Ground. Retrieved from https://www.fertilegroundcsa.com/staff

Fertile Ground Farm. (2022c). Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). [Image] Retrieved from https://www.fertilegroundcsa.com/csa

Fertile Ground Farm. (2022d). Community Shared Agriculture: Community Shares Program for Fertile Ground’s CSA. Retrieved from https://www.fertilegroundcsa.com/communityshares

Half Moon Herbals. (2022). Half Moon Herbals: Community Supported Herbalism Ontario. Retrieved from https://www.halfmoonherbals.com/

Keveral Community of Growers. (2013). History. [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.keveral.co.uk/history/

Permaculture Principles. (n.d.). Permaculture Ethics: Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share. Retrieved from https://permacultureprinciples.com/ethics/

(Permaculture Principles, n.d.) Permaculture Ethics: Earth Care. Retrieved from https://permacultureprinciples.com/ethics/earth-care/

(Permaculture Principles, n.d.) Permaculture Ethics: Fair Share. Retrieved from https://permacultureprinciples.com/ethics/fair-share/

(Permaculture Principles, n.d.) Permaculture Ethics: People Care. Retrieved from https://permacultureprinciples.com/ethics/people-care/