Green Tourism Canada
Canada 150 Plus recognizes that the history of First Nations, Métis and Inuit, predates confederation by millennia. Topsy Farms is proud to have its products used and valued by many First Nations groups and individuals, as well as in events that celebrate Canada’s heritage since 1867.
We are fund-raising for the www.downie/wenjack.ca fund to help heal residential school survivors, to celebrate Canada 150 Plus.
The fund honours the memory of Chaney Wenjack, who died while trying to find his way home. Topsy designed a sock scarf similar to the ones worn by Gord in his 2016 series of concerts across Canada. $15 from each sale – $10 from the purchaser and $5 from Topsy Farms – is donated to the fund. We pay most of the shipping costs; coupon word GORD.
We have paid for services from native healers in the traditional way, with a gift of a blanket and tobacco. We provided bouquets for a big wedding, requesting a donation to a First Nations healing group in B.C. in return. Our Throws and Lap Robes have also been used at the South-west Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, Chippawa.
A neighbour on Amherst Island was taught traditional leather hand stitching and beading by her grandmother on the reserve. Using our crafting shearling sheepskins, she has created magnificent mukluks and gauntlets for members of her family. She uses hides, prepared by people on the reserve in Deseronto.
For many years, Topsy has gathered and donated fresh food produce from Amherst Island gardeners to the hungry in Kingston, through the Partners in Mission Food Bank then more recently, through Loving Spoonful. Once our donation included elderberries, delivered to the Friendship Centre in Kingston. A maker of traditional medicines was delighted to receive them and to use them. That started a relationship with medicine makers from the reserve in Deseronto.
We will give seed corn for Three Sisters to anyone asking, who visits, to celebrate Canada 150 Plus.
Learning from native gardeners over eons, we plant a Three Sisters garden, using traditional corn and beans, though our own squash and pumpkin. The corn, provides height and structure for the Rattlesnake beans, which climb the stalks, and replenish the soil with much-needed nitrogen. We plant the squash and pumpkins in alternate hills to the other two foods, cover ground, controlling weeds and providing shade to the roots, helping moisture retention. These foods complement each other, providing a balanced diet we consume all winter.
Several of our products have been used in activities celebrating the 150 years of Confederation.
Here are two examples using pure wool yarn from Topsy:
Kate Munn created the Margaret’s Gift sweater for Canada’s 150th, using all natural pure wool yarn from Topsy Farms. There is a wonderful story behind this sweater design, described here.
The Ontario Science Centre is producing a coverlet using an historic Jacquard loom once owned by John Campbell. (photo) Volunteers are weaving one of John Campbell’s patterns that has not been woven for over 100 years on his loom that dates back to the 1840’s. The warp is of white cotton; the weft is a combination of white cotton and Topsy Farms red yarn. If you wish to see more of the process, there is a brief video here that describes the awesome complexity of the planning and setup, starting at minute 6. The overlet weaving progress may be viewed all summer at the Science Centre in Toronto.
We applied for Green Tourism Canada Certification this winter.
A branch of Green Tourism International, Green Tourism Canada promotes ecotourism by :
• Encouraging tourist-oriented organizations to examine and improve their carbon footprint.
• Helping eco-minded travelers locate and choose their destinations.
The Canadian organization, http://www.greentourismcanada.ca/, is determined to create a sustainable industry that welcomes visitors across the country.
Topsy Farms worked with Green Tourism Canada for a few months, supplying initial data, participating in telephone interviews, then providing documentary and photographic proof of claims.
There were 5 required criteria:
• Sustainability commitment
• Risk management standards especially regarding disposal of toxic substances
• That we know and evaluate our energy consumption, waste disposal, water use, and money spending patterns
• That we establish a Green Policy regarding environmental, economic and social issues
• Creation of a Green Management file, documenting problems and solutions
There are 140 possible measurements of strengths and problems, but the evaluator applied only about 60 appropriate ones to Topsy Farms. We were scored 0 – 5 on each to be evaluated for Green Canada Tourism certification.
The interviewer was supportive and encouraging. The 5 to 6 hours of interviews by phone were both stimulating and exhausting, with a free flow of information both ways.
The staff at Green Tourism Canada was impressed by many things already happening at Topsy Farms:
- commitment to permaculture with the land
- efforts to assist Syrian refugees, First Nations healing, local schools
- support of our local community, including the donation of a lambskin to each Island newborn; producing the Amherst Island newspaper, The Beacon, for over 30 years; participation in First Response since inception; gathering fresh food from Island gardens for Kingston shelters
- welcome extended to the public to visit our shearing and foster lamb operations, educating families about eco-farming practices
- recycling materials used on the farm; repurposing others. (One example: 7 miles of wood retrieved from a derelict grain elevator we took down built the second floor of our barn – now our shearing floor.)
- support of our environment with gardens, Monarch Way Station certification, raising bees and producing honey, mulching with belly wool.
- no chemicals at all are used in the production of our roving, yarn and blankets.
We learned a great deal about ourselves as well as developing ideas for improvement.
We were fascinated by the exercise of drawing a geographical chart, showing where our money was spent in 2016. The pie chart summarizes our proud results. Topsy paid 72% of last year’s goods and services within Ontario, mainly locally. Only 5% was spent outside Canada and we hope to reduce that!
We received a report suggesting areas of vulnerability, making practical recommendations, and stimulating new ideas.
We are proud to announce…
On Earth Day, Topsy Farms was awarded the Gold Classification for Green Tourism Canada.
It is the highest possible standard that a tourism business can receive regarding ecological sustainability.
Of 110 businesses classified in Canada, Topsy Farms is the FIRST farm – one of a very few agribusinesses including vineyards – to receive Green Tourism Canada Certification.
We are deeply gratified that our efforts, our values have been acknowledged. Our wool products are the most sustainable, environmentally friendly anywhere.
We can also clearly see new ways to improve our practices to be even more ecologically friendly.
Do walk or cycle this pathway with us.