We've been so lucky to enjoy Littlejohn Farm founders Luhana and Zach’s warmth, hospitality and soulfulness over several dinner parties, for work and play, each following a tour of their beautiful farm. An Agricultural Tourism Destination in Prince Edward County (PEC), Littlejohn Farm specializes in farm-to-table living and educating people about the origins of their food. The memorable meals Luhana and Zach have created for us, with a backdrop of fields glowing from the setting summer sun, showcased everything that the region has to offer (agriculture, culture, ecotourism and gastronomy) and was the perfect introduction to the next few days as we photographed our way through PEC. Striking success in Canada, Luhana and Zach are currently expanding their unique offering to Brazil, connecting people with the land through regionally inspired, wholesome, healthy and sustainable cuisine. We are proud to share our cultures with our clients and friends; merging our diversity in backgrounds and skills is a big part of our identity.
FORS: Can you share how you met?
LJF: We met at a train station in Bayonne (south of France), on our way to start the pilgrimage walk called the Camino de Santiago. We were both traveling alone, for different reasons and looking for different experiences but instantly felt a connection. Beyond the romance, it felt like our paths were meant to cross. Timing in life is everything, you cannot turn it back or forward and we believe that there was a reason that we both ended up at that specific train station and time with no one else around. As we started to get to know each other, we realized that we had the same dream of creating a sustainable project and that our skills complemented one another. In that instant, Littlejohn Farm was born.
FORS: How would you describe your practice at the farm?
LJF: It is a prototype for families to see what it takes to create a more sustainable lifestyle using a small amount of land. We have set our property up to be able to give our family healthy daily routines and practices that we then share with others that are visiting. We come from different countries, Zach being Canadian, and I am from Brazil. We have completely different professional backgrounds, talents, and skills – but when it comes to principals, values, and opportunities, we have had the same education. We are proud to share our cultures with our clients and friends, merging our diversity in backgrounds and skills is a big part of our identity. We always aim to grow products that are expressive of where we come from and the memories we have from our childhoods. Take the Biquinho peppers, okra, sweet potatoes, specific eggplants and couve that we grow – these are all products that would be typically found on my family’s dinner table growing up in Brazil.
FORS: What are some early memories of farming?
LJF: I grew up going to my dad’s citrus farm in the rural countryside where he would plant and harvest the best oranges and limes to take to the farmer’s market in the larger city of Salvador. For me it was an adventure seeing the tractors, eating the freshest fruits and learning to appreciate the simple moments in life. Zach grew up on a hobby farm in Stouffville and his dad was a veterinarian, so he has basically been able to recreate his childhood for our daughter Flora. From a young age he remembers tending the gardens, looking after the animals, and the family working together to preserve and cellar everything to consume over the winter months. Food wise, his family was pretty self-sustaining and he still uses some of those traditional family recipes.
FORS: Can you describe the terroir of Prince Edward County and why you decided to start a farm here?LJF: The County has a rich terroir! It is just the perfect combination of areas of limestone soils for grapes and areas of prime-agriculture with deep top soil for the vegetable and grain farmers. When we were looking for a property, we were looking for a prime-agriculture area that would have an upcoming tourism industry. The County was just the perfect combination for our wholesome project to start!
FORS: What was your first harvest at Littlejohn Farm like?
LJF: Our first harvest was planned and organized, but as anyone that works with agriculture, the season dictates the next task at hand. Rain and sunshine are unpredictable and most often they are what dictates how and when we work. The main thing to understand is that every season will be different – we learned to do our best with what we have and to make do with imperfections. Some years are going to be great for things like melons, peppers, and tomatoes but they may also be terrible for brassicas and leafy greens. It’s a lesson in being happy with what you have.
FORS: How do you decide what you are going to plant each season? Is there anything you just can’t get the hold of growing?
LJF: Our booking calendar dictates a lot about how much we plant and when we plant it. We try to produce a variety of crops that cellar well and that are lower maintenance to grow: potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, squash. One thing that we do struggle with growing are late harvest roots such as celeriac, parsnips, and salsify. Still working on our seeding timings for these sorts of products.
FORS: You also farm pigs, chickens etc. how did this come about?
LJF: We have kind of leaned into the animals out of necessity. We started with some laying hens for our eggs, they worked out really well so we then decided to start producing some meat chickens. While the gardens are in bloom, they produce a ton of vegetables for our consumption, but they also produce a lot of waste. Some places choose to compost their vegetable waste, but we see it as great animal feed. We decided to get some pigs to help take care of our garden compost. It’s a win, win situation for us because our pigs get a super healthy diet and a happy life and our property does not have a large, stinky, rotting vegetable pile attracting outside animals. We also have seasonal lambs that help maintain the grass in an area on the property that we do not use. Without the lambs, these areas would be an overgrown tick infested part of our property.
FORS: What would you like to explore more of?
LJF: More edible flowers, mushroom cultivation, artichokes.
FORS: You are known for hosting amazing dinner experiences, why was it important for you to share what you do with others?
LJF: Beauty in life is meant to be shared. There is nothing better than sharing beauty with likeminded people. Since the moment we met, it was clear that both of us love to share what we have with the people around us. Zach is very thoughtful when it comes to learning, embracing, and teaching people about the things he studies in my culture. He spends a lot of time when we are in Brazil experiencing how to prepare regional cuisine from the locals. He is also learning Portuguese and is happy to see Flora (our daughter) learning it too.
FORS: How has traveling influenced your culinary experiences?
LJF: It has expanded our views of the world on how other people live, how they produce their food and how they cook and eat the foods they produce. Every time we travel we are left inspired by the history, stories and local terroir that contribute to culinary experiences. We take it all in as we gain inspiration to grow our business and farm practices. And now we live in two countries, Canada and Brazil, creating and developing a business in two completely different climates and cultures. As a chef, Zach draws inspiration from everywhere he goes. He probably learns the most from the places you would least expect (people in small rural areas and home cooks) and then takes those skills and techniques and refines them.
FORS: What is your vision for your life split between Brazil and PEC?
LJF: We dreamed of creating a lifestyle where we would spend a few months in each Country, working, learning and cherishing each other’s cultural backgrounds. Most people in Canada see immigrants as people that moved to Canada to have a better life and to get away from something bad in their home country of origin. Zach and I are very different in that respect because we actually did it for love rather than lack of opportunity. We see opportunity in both countries and are excited to promote both places.
FORS: What is a constant ritual, routine, space you carve for yourself in your life?
LJF: Our days start with our rooster singing, and then it is time to collect the eggs, feed and play with the animals around the farm, go for a walk checking all our veggies, legumes and fruits to see how everything is growing. It is a wholesome way to start the day connecting with the land.
FORS: Who gives you hope?
LJF: Our daughter, Flora gives us hope! I know it can be a cliché, but it is the most truthful thing. Raising a child makes us see and approach life with more awareness, enthusiasm and hope. She makes our world full of love! We get to see our lifestyle choices shape a young being.