In this story, we see the incredible transformation a formerly downtown city family experienced in a year of regenerative agriculture. And the surprisingly voracious help of bats!
The Kelly-Stanoulis family’s story (as told by Christina Kelly-Stanoulis):
Thanks to the forward-thinking of my Mom, I was raised in a household where sustainability was always considered. This was well before climate change entered the public consciousness. When my wife Alicia and I welcomed our daughter in 2016, we knew we wanted to instill in her the importance of sustainability from the get-go.
We were living in downtown Toronto then, and we tried to consider sustainability in all our actions. We installed more energy-efficient heating and cooling systems in our home, reduced our household waste to one small bag of garbage every two weeks, and walked as often as possible — driving only when necessary.
Then the pandemic hit. Maintaining these positive changes while trying to keep a 3-year-old entertained all day and managing our anxiety about the state of the world became more challenging.
As our worries grew, we considered what we could do to make a positive change. For us, the natural first step was our food. We started watching YouTube videos about how to grow our own food, which led us to discover the concept of regenerative agriculture. We immersed ourselves in learning about the critical role of soil health in producing nutritious food, supporting healthy communities, and contributing to thriving ecosystems.
A year into this journey, we took a leap and started our small sustainable farm, All Things Grow Market Garden & Flower Farm just 8 minutes north of Guelph, Ontario. We still have anxieties about the future, but the changes we’ve seen so far have given us reason to hope.
When we first moved to our farm, it was a large, grassy area devoid of wildlife. Now, after just one year of investing back into the land, our farm teems with life. It’s not unusual to see deer, bunnies, songbirds, and frogs thriving in the restored habitat. We are now a haven for pollinators and a diverse array of creatures, and we have provided sustainable and nutritious food to hundreds in our community.
That’s just what’s visible above ground. When we first began planting, the soil was dull, gray, and lifeless. Now, after one year of regenerative farming practices, it’s rich in colour, and full of worms and healthy fungi.
And this is just the beginning. We plan to introduce indigenous trees and grasses and create a small pond to attract even more local wildlife. Each day is about learning something new that will help balance the ecosystem.
Recently, we researched how to create bat boxes. Half of Ontario’s bat species are endangered. They are great pollinators and can each consume thousands of mosquitoes and cucumber beetles (a farmer’s nightmare!) every night. Our hope is to install these boxes in the next month and begin monitoring their impacts on our farm and the creatures who live here.
We are only one small part of the fight against climate change, but we believe every positive action counts. Our farm, spanning only a third of an acre (15,000 sq ft / 1350 m2), shows how small-scale sustainable farming can support biodiversity and healthier communities.
If we could do that in just one year on a small piece of land, what else can we do? What kind of impact could we have as a collective if we all played our parts, however small they may seem to us?
There’s still more work to do. The pandemic has resulted in a surge in online grocery ordering, and farmers’ markets have taken a big hit. Many small farmers are struggling to stay afloat.
Our advice to make a significant contribution to a more sustainable future? Visit a farmers’ market — and bring a friend!
It may not seem like much, but supporting farmers that grow sustainably, and eating locally and seasonally as much as possible makes a big difference for our health and the health of the planet.
Small actions build over time. And when we work together this impact grows exponentially. We can build a safer, more sustainable future for all – and it starts with just a few steps.
At My Climate Plan we’re exploring the desire to confront the reality of what our lives will be like as climate impacts worsen, and to prepare ourselves to be part of collective communities that rise to that challenge and build a better world.
If the Kelly-Stanoulis family’s story resonates with you, we invite you to join My Climate Plan as a founding member to take action towards a climate safe future.