the agritect

@VELD architect, southwestern Ontario

Archive for March, 2012

Inside-out Hay Barn

When would a farmer ever think to turn his barn inside out?  Sometimes it takes an outsider to rethink, reinvent, and make something beautiful.  That is exactly what SPF architects have done. This horse barn has been turned inside out.  The architect used the hay bales themselves to create walls for the building. As the hay is fed the barn changes; and as the season progresses the colour changes.

Source: SPF architect

The barn is quite functional as well as beautiful.  The clerestory gap between the walls and the roof allow ventilation through the barn for the horses. The large overhanging roof protects the walls & hay from both rain and heat gain from the suns rays. The structure is simple and open for easy cleaning, maneuvering, and an open interior feeling. In our winter climate, the hay bales can actually provide insulation, as you can check out in my blog post.

source: SPF architects

This barn is a simple structure designed to hold hay bales, not different from any other hay barn, except in how it holds the hay bales. What I love most about the barn is that it evokes sentiment and emotion that we might get when looking at a traditional bank barn, clad in wood.  Its different than the cold steel agricultural buildings that are so common in our landscape. There is something warm about this building. It connects us to the farmer and what he does.

source:SPF architects

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One man's waste is another man's landscaping material

site from roof 1

In 2012 I took a slight delve into landscape architecture (while Job Captain at John MacDonald Architect inc.) and the Recycling Centre project brought out some great green ideas to their parking lot.

The parking lot&#39s first aim was to divert all the water run-off away from the combined storm sewer and allow it to infiltrate back into the soil. The design of this parking lot allows all the water from the 25year storm to infiltrate into the soil rather than enter the City&#39s sewer system. Two storage ponds filled with crushed stone and recycled ground glass allow water to reach the soil below the asphalt. The first pond connects water and runs it through an underground irrigation pipe system to water the trees in the parking lot that would not normally survive. Any overflow runs into the trench and second pond to infiltrate.

Central Irrigation trench with crushed stone and ground glass, surrounded by recycled crane rail curbs and baleboard bollards

The parking lot uses a lot of uniquely reused products. At the Niagara Recycling Centre your glass is ground into a sand material, that can be used in sandblasting. We chose to use your waste as a landscaping material (the green stuff in the photos). This saved money and gave the parking lot a personal touch. The recycling centre is located in the old E.S. Fox building which used to make wine vats. We reused scrap crane rails removed from the building to create the curbs throughout the parking lot.We also used a product from ThinkPlasticsin New Hamburg for bridges and bollards, that uses recycled bale wrap.Finally the plant finish.  We used a field of daylillys in various colours and various bloom times to ensure a lush and beautiful parking lot all summer long. Honey Locust trees line the parking lot and are good choices for their drought and salt resistance, two common characteristics of parking lots.  They also do not shed berries on the cars each year. The daylillys and honey locust trees are also salt resistant, native, and low maintenance plant choices. Along the centre infiltration trench I choose a native grass hardy to dry places as all the water was going to drain away from them.  The Parking lot is one year old now and doing well.  The daylillys should fill in this year and create a pleasant ‘green’ place to arrive every morning at work.

One man’s waste is another man’s landscaping material

site from roof 1

In 2012 I took a slight delve into landscape architecture (while Job Captain at John MacDonald Architect inc.) and the Recycling Centre project brought out some great green ideas to their parking lot.

The parking lot&#39s first aim was to divert all the water run-off away from the combined storm sewer and allow it to infiltrate back into the soil. The design of this parking lot allows all the water from the 25year storm to infiltrate into the soil rather than enter the City&#39s sewer system. Two storage ponds filled with crushed stone and recycled ground glass allow water to reach the soil below the asphalt. The first pond connects water and runs it through an underground irrigation pipe system to water the trees in the parking lot that would not normally survive. Any overflow runs into the trench and second pond to infiltrate.

Central Irrigation trench with crushed stone and ground glass, surrounded by recycled crane rail curbs and baleboard bollards

The parking lot uses a lot of uniquely reused products. At the Niagara Recycling Centre your glass is ground into a sand material, that can be used in sandblasting. We chose to use your waste as a landscaping material (the green stuff in the photos). This saved money and gave the parking lot a personal touch. The recycling centre is located in the old E.S. Fox building which used to make wine vats. We reused scrap crane rails removed from the building to create the curbs throughout the parking lot.We also used a product from ThinkPlasticsin New Hamburg for bridges and bollards, that uses recycled bale wrap.Finally the plant finish.  We used a field of daylillys in various colours and various bloom times to ensure a lush and beautiful parking lot all summer long. Honey Locust trees line the parking lot and are good choices for their drought and salt resistance, two common characteristics of parking lots.  They also do not shed berries on the cars each year. The daylillys and honey locust trees are also salt resistant, native, and low maintenance plant choices. Along the centre infiltration trench I choose a native grass hardy to dry places as all the water was going to drain away from them.  The Parking lot is one year old now and doing well.  The daylillys should fill in this year and create a pleasant ‘green’ place to arrive every morning at work.

"Healthy agritourism is like having a factory in your economic community"

This quote by Vance Blackmore was the introduction to a conference dedicated to agritousim in hosted by Tourism Middlesex last month. The event was aptly called ‘Beyond the City Lights’ originally initiated by OMAFRA. He was referring to the equine industry in Middlesex County and its ability to generate income and economic growth in the community through tourism. What an inspiring statement for anyone considering agritourism!

But agritouism on your farm can come with a lot of concerns and worries, branding, liability, financing, planning, zoning, etc.  Plan carefully! Planning involves all the aspects of your business, from building, to loans, to permissions, to getting the word out there. Here are some tips to help you get started on your agritourism business.1. Get connected with your local tourism association and see where their goals lie for the area where you live. They can assist you with marketing, funding, planning and direct to other resources. They can also connect you to tour operators who can plan your stop as destinations.

2. Check with your local township office for the zoning of your property and ensure that you can have the type of agritourism business you want.  If you can’t but think that you should, it might be time to hire a professional architect or planner to discuss with the township the possibilities of rezoning and costs and work associated with it.  Just because the township says that you can’t does not mean that you shouldn’t try for a worthwhile cause.

3. Brand your agritourism destination. Why should people come to see you? What unique experience do you offer? Why do you want people to come to visit you? This might be a time to start thinking about your website, blog, twitter or facebook page. These days if your not online, you don’t exist.

4. Safety is an important thing to consider.  Make sure you think of prevention first and design your public areas to be safe and secure from tractors, heavy machinery, chemicals, or unattended animals. With the general public coming to your farm, you should also be covered by insurance just in case an accident should happen.

5. Begin designing, planning, budgeting. This is where a professional architect can help. They are trained to think of all the things that can go wrong, all the possible situations your farm might be in, and how to make your farm a great experience for public.  Remember the urban public have a different level of expectation when they come to visit the farm, you want to make sure they are comfortable as well as exposed to the ‘real thing’.  A professional can also help you navigate regulations and building codes that you would not normally need to meet if you were just building a barn.

6. Take out a permit, and build anything that needs improvement.

6. Make sure people know how to get to your farm. Back roads can be difficult for many who are not familiar with the territory. Signage from the township, tourism board, or region local food movement can help with this.

7. Open your doors and greet your guests!

Feel Free to check out #agchat on twitter, for more ideas. I am a big supporter of agritourism and think I have a lot to offer making our rural communities economically diverse, and connecting them back to the consumers. Feel free to contact me to chat about your ideas!

“Healthy agritourism is like having a factory in your economic community”

This quote by Vance Blackmore was the introduction to a conference dedicated to agritousim in hosted by Tourism Middlesex last month. The event was aptly called ‘Beyond the City Lights’ originally initiated by OMAFRA. He was referring to the equine industry in Middlesex County and its ability to generate income and economic growth in the community through tourism. What an inspiring statement for anyone considering agritourism!

But agritouism on your farm can come with a lot of concerns and worries, branding, liability, financing, planning, zoning, etc.  Plan carefully! Planning involves all the aspects of your business, from building, to loans, to permissions, to getting the word out there. Here are some tips to help you get started on your agritourism business.1. Get connected with your local tourism association and see where their goals lie for the area where you live. They can assist you with marketing, funding, planning and direct to other resources. They can also connect you to tour operators who can plan your stop as destinations.

2. Check with your local township office for the zoning of your property and ensure that you can have the type of agritourism business you want.  If you can’t but think that you should, it might be time to hire a professional architect or planner to discuss with the township the possibilities of rezoning and costs and work associated with it.  Just because the township says that you can’t does not mean that you shouldn’t try for a worthwhile cause.

3. Brand your agritourism destination. Why should people come to see you? What unique experience do you offer? Why do you want people to come to visit you? This might be a time to start thinking about your website, blog, twitter or facebook page. These days if your not online, you don’t exist.

4. Safety is an important thing to consider.  Make sure you think of prevention first and design your public areas to be safe and secure from tractors, heavy machinery, chemicals, or unattended animals. With the general public coming to your farm, you should also be covered by insurance just in case an accident should happen.

5. Begin designing, planning, budgeting. This is where a professional architect can help. They are trained to think of all the things that can go wrong, all the possible situations your farm might be in, and how to make your farm a great experience for public.  Remember the urban public have a different level of expectation when they come to visit the farm, you want to make sure they are comfortable as well as exposed to the ‘real thing’.  A professional can also help you navigate regulations and building codes that you would not normally need to meet if you were just building a barn.

6. Take out a permit, and build anything that needs improvement.

6. Make sure people know how to get to your farm. Back roads can be difficult for many who are not familiar with the territory. Signage from the township, tourism board, or region local food movement can help with this.

7. Open your doors and greet your guests!

Feel Free to check out #agchat on twitter, for more ideas. I am a big supporter of agritourism and think I have a lot to offer making our rural communities economically diverse, and connecting them back to the consumers. Feel free to contact me to chat about your ideas!

Farmer's share of the Food Dollar

farmer's percentage of the food dollar

If you been in farming for a long time or exposed to the farm life you are aware of the economic struggle that the farmer encounters daily. In fact, the economics of the food dollar don&#39t look good for farming. From 1910 to 1990 the percentage of the food dollar has been consistently declining.
Gliessman, Engles, Krieger, 1998

There are two factors affecting this percentage, the marketing and the production costs of farming. Farmers have two ways then, to get back more of the food dollar, reducing production costs or taking back marketing/selling dollars.

Production cost have increased with the need to buy more equipment, purchase more land and create a farm that can operate with a large scale that the economics allow for a reasonable salary. There is a lot of technology to keep up with and technology costs money. Using co-ops and neighborhood collaborations can reduce the investment costs.

High oil, nitrogen, and energy prices are here to stay. Farmers can start to look  at reducing energy inputs based in oil.  The sun is a free source of energy for you whole farm.  Assessing your energy uses and deciding where you can cut could be very beneficial.  If you have a high electricity bill, you can think about switching to more passive natural systems, for ventilation, heating, or lighting.  You can look at where energy potential is being wasted, for example cooling milk, where does that heat go? It could go towards heating your house, or perhaps contribute to heating a pig barn?

The other aspect is the marketing and selling food to the consumers.  Big grocery stores and processing companies have taken a major portion of the food dollar.  These companies govern the price of food for consumers and the price of food that the farmer should get. There are two major industry concerns here, is the consumer willing to pay more for food? and does the local food market allow farmers to recapture some of their food dollar share? Most people are not willing to pay more for food if they don’t have to, we are all cheap (not just the dutch)! So how can we skip the middlemen grocery stores? On-farm markets and in-town farmers markets, or even CSA, and other food share programs which deliver the food directly to the customer and the profits directly to your pocket!

Gaining back some of your food dollar will require some creative and perhaps even out-of-the-box thinking.  It might even get you criticized, but just image the white area in the chart representing the food dollar increasing and I think you will find its worth it!

Farmer’s share of the Food Dollar

farmer's percentage of the food dollar

If you been in farming for a long time or exposed to the farm life you are aware of the economic struggle that the farmer encounters daily. In fact, the economics of the food dollar don&#39t look good for farming. From 1910 to 1990 the percentage of the food dollar has been consistently declining.
Gliessman, Engles, Krieger, 1998

There are two factors affecting this percentage, the marketing and the production costs of farming. Farmers have two ways then, to get back more of the food dollar, reducing production costs or taking back marketing/selling dollars.

Production cost have increased with the need to buy more equipment, purchase more land and create a farm that can operate with a large scale that the economics allow for a reasonable salary. There is a lot of technology to keep up with and technology costs money. Using co-ops and neighborhood collaborations can reduce the investment costs.

High oil, nitrogen, and energy prices are here to stay. Farmers can start to look  at reducing energy inputs based in oil.  The sun is a free source of energy for you whole farm.  Assessing your energy uses and deciding where you can cut could be very beneficial.  If you have a high electricity bill, you can think about switching to more passive natural systems, for ventilation, heating, or lighting.  You can look at where energy potential is being wasted, for example cooling milk, where does that heat go? It could go towards heating your house, or perhaps contribute to heating a pig barn?

The other aspect is the marketing and selling food to the consumers.  Big grocery stores and processing companies have taken a major portion of the food dollar.  These companies govern the price of food for consumers and the price of food that the farmer should get. There are two major industry concerns here, is the consumer willing to pay more for food? and does the local food market allow farmers to recapture some of their food dollar share? Most people are not willing to pay more for food if they don’t have to, we are all cheap (not just the dutch)! So how can we skip the middlemen grocery stores? On-farm markets and in-town farmers markets, or even CSA, and other food share programs which deliver the food directly to the customer and the profits directly to your pocket!

Gaining back some of your food dollar will require some creative and perhaps even out-of-the-box thinking.  It might even get you criticized, but just image the white area in the chart representing the food dollar increasing and I think you will find its worth it!