Lentelus Farms

Posted on Tuesday, 8 December 2020 under Featured Farmers

Off the side of a busy road in Courtenay, BC, the Lentelus Farms stand catches the eye. And, tucked away at the back of the property, at the end of a very long gravel road, the farm itself is perfectly protected by a long row of trees. David Semmelink, who comes from a farming and conservation science background, has been running Lentelus Farms since 2014. Starting out, Semmelink accessed FarmFolk CityFolk’s Local Food Microloan Fund to continue building his farm business. They are a mixed livestock farm that focuses on growing their feed and pasturing all of their animals. They have recently branched into doing some vegetables and different grains for human consumption as well. Farming regeneratively is a passion for Semmelink, adopting many climate-friendly practices on the farm. These include: creating riparian buffers and grassland set-asides, cover cropping all of their fields every winter, producing most of the feed for the animals on the farm, keeping their animals on a 1km diet, and managing an on-farm breeding program. Semmelink explains, “We try to take a holistic approach to farming or full circle farming where we use our own inputs, creating our own compost and adding back to the soil, not bringing in materials from elsewhere.” Since adopting climate-friendly agricultural practices, Semmelink is noticing a resiliency to a changing climate on his farm. This year’s oat crop is thriving, and he says he has good soil to thank for that. “Building soil health builds resilience. Good soil feeds good plants which then feeds good quality pigs,” says Semmelink.

With such good quality soil being built up from his pasture-raised pigs and broiler chickens, Semmelink took an opportunity to start growing vegetables on his farm for additional profit. He adds that growing vegetable crops with livestock go hand in hand. He says, “I have a rotation where I can grow grass, I can grow grain, I can grow vegetables, I can have animals, rotating them all around and they all feed into each other and create markets for each other so I can have a diverse portfolio of commodities I can sell, as well as building soil for different feed and crops.” With different pastures of pigs, broiler chickens, fields of crops, grain, flowers, Lentelus Farms is a beautifully mixed space for regeneration and healthy diversity. The entire area is thoughtfully farmed, with the future in mind. Semmelink adds, “To me, regenerative agriculture means farming holistically and looking at the whole farm picture, looking at all of your inputs and looking at what you can do yourself.”

Rotating animals, especially with crops, is beneficial for the plants, animals, and the farmer. Semmelink explains, “All of our animals, we try to keep them outdoors and we try to move them frequently to build soil instead of degrading the soil. The practice of using animals to build healthy soil reduces the need for fertilizer inputs. Semmelink says, “Instead of adding fertilizer every year to our pastures, we move our animals frequently, distributing manure all over the place and the grass has a better chance of re-growing and absorbing more carbon out of the atmosphere putting that into their root systems and building a healthier grass ecosystem that our animals can then graze more frequently. We’re reducing our input costs, and it’s a benefit to the environment being able to store more carbon in the soil.” How the poultry is managed provides an excellent example of how this works. “Our broiler chicks right now are on our brassica field for next year, moving them every few days to fresh cover crop, a specific cover crop for them to target and eat, things like oats and peas, etc. so they’re moving along, leaving their manure behind, adding nutrients to the soil, and then producing a crop of meat.”  Semmelink continues, “ And then next year we have our fertility already built up to produce a lot of vegetables on that land.”

Although Lentelus Farms is a farm for meat production, Semmelink is not one to recommend a heavily meat-based diet. He is the first to say, “I don’t think we need to live off of meat all the time. Eating quality meat, it’s enjoyable, you get a lot more out of it, it’s nutrient-dense, and packed full of good things. It’s about knowing where your meat comes from, savouring every bite and thinking about how it was raised is important. Getting to know your farmer and your meat will automatically reduce the amount of meat people are eating because you don’t need to eat as much meat when it’s really high quality.” The quality of meat at Lentelus farms is attributed to the climate-friendly practices Semmelink works at maintaining every year. All of these practices are mutually beneficial to both the environment and the sustainability of Lentelus Farms.