Opportunity for Orchard Specialists at Ignatius CSA & Farm

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Request for Proposals – December 2012

Seeking entrepreneurs to launch sustainable food enterprise(s) at Ignatius Farm: Specialty area – Orchards & Tree Intercropping Systems

Purpose of the RFP

Crop diversity within organic operations contributes significantly to their productive and financial success. Ecological diversity combined with a Community Shared Agriculture model of marketing has proven to be successful for Ignatius Farm and other organic farms in Southern Ontario, particularly for vegetable production.

Organic fruit production has been less successful in Southern Ontario. Meanwhile Tree Intercropping Systems, Forest Gardening, Permaculture, agroforestry, holistic orcharding, and community fruit tree projects are garnering increased interest amongst ecological farmers and local communities.

This RFP aims to find an entrepreneurial individual or organized group to implement a new model of orchard growing or integrated tree cropping within the young orchard at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre.

Background

Climate change presents a need to enhance farm resilience to unexpected droughts and floods. Simultaneously, increased demand for local and organic food requires novel and financially viable approaches to improve Ontario’s food security. Integrating ecological orcharding with the production of other high-value crops holds promise for an enterprise that is ecologically, socially, and financially sustainable.

The Ignatius Jesuit Centre (IJC) is a leader in local organic agriculture, with organic vegetables and orchards. Annually, over 1500 people – from Guelph, across Ontario, and internationally – visit, consult with, or participate in Ignatius Farm projects. The farm is oriented towards the local community, with well-established programs in Community Shared Agriculture, Community Gardens, Organic Agriculture Internships, and volunteering. In addition to its own agricultural enterprises, IJC rents land and infrastructure to a number of small farm businesses and researchers.

IJC is a 600-acre property which encompasses farmland, wetland, and woodland, with meditational landscaping and over 15 km of hiking trails. It includes the Loyola House Retreat & Training Centre, Orchard Park Office Centre, and the Plant an Old-Growth Forest project.

IJC currently has two orchard sites:

a) The younger orchard was first planted in 1995, and has been managed organically since 2001. The three-acre orchard is primarily apples, but also includes some pears and cherries which were added with later plantings. A section of young heritage apple trees was transplanted here in 2010. All trees are semi-dwarf, with a diversity of rootstocks. The system of training has been modified central leader. There are over 65 varieties of trees in the young orchard. Trees are healthy overall and any diseases addressed by annual pruning, or by removing the tree entirely. With appropriate care, we expect the yields to increase as the orchard matures. The young orchard is the RFP site location.

b) The old orchard was initially planted in 1953 and was conventionally managed until 2001. The older trees are past prime production and have not adapted to an organic regime. Replaced trees in this area have experienced slower growth than in the young orchard. The older orchard trees will be removed for firewood in the upcoming months; the land will undergo systematic cover cropping to address the diseases which have built up in the soil. The old orchard land may become available in a future RFP. Ignatius Farm will accept proposals immediately for bare-root removal and transplanting of replacement trees (3-8 yrs. old) for home or community orchards, with the caveat that they are coming from an orchard known to contain disease. These trees will not be moved elsewhere on Ignatius Farm.

Ignatius Farm has a direct market for a large percentage of the orchard fruit, both fresh and processed, through its CSA program. Historically, seconds have been processed at a local cider mill for unpasteurized cider, apple butter, and apple syrup.

Ignatius Farm supports research in integrated and organic cropping systems. The young orchard has wide enough spacing between rows to crop between the trees and therefore to support a multi-cropping system. The young orchard may potentially be a site for a combination of business enterprise(s), Tree Intercropping Systems research, education and outreach.

Parameters

Ignatius Farm is seeking proposals from entrepreneurial individuals or organized groups to launch their own business(es) within the established young orchard lands.

Examples of proposals that would be considered:

Organic management or ecological tree fruit production (organic certification optional)

Alley cropping – tree fruit production combined with annual crops between tree rows

Forest gardening or permaculture– diverse annual and perennial cropping integrated with

some or all of the established orchard

Research programs involving any of the above forms of production

Education and outreach programs involving any of the above forms of production

Collaborative proposals combining production, research, and/or education & outreach

Any one component above with an openness to working with a complementary proposal

Details:

Ignatius Farm currently rents crop lands planted to productive perennials at up to $475/acre,

with a 2% annual increase for long-term leases. Up to 40% of the annual rent may be bartered for in-kind services from the tenant if a suitable exchange is agreeable to both parties. A lower rental rate plus a low percent of gross sales, or other terms, may be negotiated.

If the tenant’s fruit is marketed through Ignatius Farm, then Ignatius will receive a percent of the sales.

Lorne Jamieson, the Fields Manager who has managed the orchards since 1995, is available for mentorship and/or consultation for up to 4 hours per month in the first year to assist in launching the farm business.

The orchard is available for immediate tenancy.

A long-term lease is preferred.

Some Ignatius Farm infrastructure and orchard equipment is available for rent or for sale;

Ignatius Farm equipment is not generally available to tenants outside of custom work provided by the Fields Manager or other Ignatius Farm staff.

RFP Evaluation Process and Assessment Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated by the Ignatius Farm Task Force and its advisors. Evaluation criteria include:

Fit with the Ignatius Farm Holistic Goal (see website)

Expertise and experience of the applicant

Proposed communications and collaboration plan

Ability to design & implement site plan and production/research/education plan

Integration of triple bottom line strategies – for Ecological, Economic, and Social benefits

Cover crop or ground cover plan complementary to production plan

Likelihood of business success

Likelihood of long-term tenancy

Application Process

Those interested in submitting a proposal should send a letter of interest to Ignatius Farm by February 14, 2013. The letter of interest should not exceed four pages and should include:

full contact information of lead applicant: first & last name, business or organization name if applicable, postal address, email & phone

full contact information of any team members

summary of proposal

clear objectives of the business relating to the RFP

proposed methodology and timelines – an overview

equipment, infrastructure, and resources summary – indicating those which the applicant brings

and those they need to access from Ignatius or otherwise

communications plan – a summary of areas for collaboration, communication, and/or outreach

expertise & experience – a brief description for lead applicant and each team member along

with references (including phone and email)

budget overview

RFP Deadline

The deadline for submitting a letter of interest is Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 4pm. Letters of interest should be addressed to:

Heather Lekx

Farm Manager Ignatius Jesuit Centre 5420 Highway 6 North Guelph, ON N1H 6J2

Please submit an electronic version in Word to Heather Lekx at farmmanager@ignatiusguelph.ca . Inquiries may be directed to the same email or to 519.824.1250 x243.

Next Steps

Ignatius Farm anticipates requesting full proposals addressing specific questions in late winter of 2013. All those submitting a complete letter of interest will be notified after decisions have been made.

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