Carl Atkinson: Farming for the Long Term

A profile of ALUS Norfolk Participant and community leader, Carl Atkinson. 

Carl Atkinson on his farm with a wetland in the background.
Carl Atkinson on his farm with a wetland in the background.

Carl Atkinson and his wife Rhonda have been farming Ginseng in Norfolk County, Ontario, for 40 years. Although retirement is on the horizon, he’s currently managing 35 acres with the help of his son, Mat.

An ALUS Norfolk participant since 2013, Carl’s experience as a farmer and community leader have made him an excellent advocate for ALUS.

For several years, Carl worked as an on-farm Food Safety Inspector, which allowed him to get to know many farmers and learn about their challenges and successes. Through his exposure to the wider agriculture community, Carl came to learn about, and then promote, ALUS.

Carl and Ronda believe in best management practices on their farm, including erosion control and the value of an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). The ALUS model was a natural fit for the vision of their farm, originally located in Vittoria, now in Walsh. As Carl puts it, the benefits of ALUS projects include: “improving the quality of farmland, such as building organic matter, slowing wind and water erosion, and improving your property both aesthetically and monetarily.”

“ALUS uses simple common-sense approaches which it has developed by working closely with farmers, conservation groups and ALUS staff,” says Carl.

Carl thinks of enrolling in the ALUS program as an investment on his farm.

“The returns may not be obvious for some years, but in time you will recognize that the hopes and attitude you had toward the ALUS program become part of your general practices and habits,” he says. “And eventually you will see benefits to your farm and personal enjoyment of your property that you did not originally consider”.

Carl and Ronda’s ALUS farm in Walsh is surrounded by Provincially Significant Wetlands as designated by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Carl looks forward to building a house on this site, eventually, to enjoy the wildlife attracted to the wetland complex.

Currently, Carl has nine acres of tallgrass prairie enrolled in the ALUS Norfolk program adjacent to the wetlands.

“Turkey and deer love it and so do many species of birds. Watching how different species interact with each other in the [grassland project] is most enjoyable,” he says.

Carl has been involved with several organizations over the years, acting as Chairman of the Ontario Ginseng Growers Association and as a director on the Norfolk Agricultural Advisory Board. His involvement furthered his awareness of conservation issues on farms.

The ALUS Norfolk team wants to recognize the amazing work of Carl and thank him for taking the time to share his perspective on ALUS and how it fits with his farm operation, and for mindfully stewarding his land.

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