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Our Work, Farming

Kaiya Farms & Market Garden: Growing a Healthier Community Through Sustainable Farming

Curated by Sawyer Thompson-Brown

Storytellers: Chris Prince and Aimee Prince-Johnson

June 23, 2023

What started as a place for healing has now become a flourishing business that challenges ideas about farming and takes responsibility for future generations. Chris and Aimee’s passion for community, sustainability, and gardening on their farm is helping them achieve their goal of becoming a healthier farming family and, in the process, rejuvenating the idea of self-sufficiency in their rural community. 

Kaiya Farms and Market Garden, located in North Buxton, is owned and run by Chris Prince and Aimee Prince-Johnson. The pair started gardening as a means of healing after the stillbirth of their daughter Kaiya in 2017. At first, they gave away or traded their extra produce, sharing with the community. Then in 2020, they officially launched Kaiya Farms and Market Garden, named after their daughter. Since then, they have continued to provide their community with local, fresh, and sustainably grown flowers, plants, and produce.  

Chris and Aimee standing behind their fruit stand of vegetables and sunflowers.
Chris and Aimee selling vegetables and flowers, 2020 Photo Credits: Kaiya Farm & Market Garden

Chris Prince comes from a long history of Black families who have been living and farming in North Buxton for well over 100 years. Chris, his father, mother, brother, and sister continue to farm the land their family has held for seven generations. He feels very fortunate to still have the ability to farm and he is thankful for his ancestors' hard work to sustain it through difficult periods, such as the 1930’s and 1980’s when many others in the North Buxton area lost their farms. The Prince family farm now consists of 950 acres. Chris’ partner, Aimee Prince-Johnson, comes from Walpole Island First Nation, forty-five minutes from Buxton, where she grew up on the land gardening, hunting, and fishing. Chris and Aimee are both passionate about land stewardship and work extremely hard to implement natural and sustainable practices into Kaiya Farms.  

They work their land by the seven generations principle, that is, “everything you do should positively impact someone seven generations from now”. The pair farm with the best intentions and are working to add more sustainable practices to their cash crop operation, like using cover crops to protect their soil from blowing away and minimal tillage. In their market garden operation, they operate organically, using low till methods and natural fertilizers like compost, chicken manure, and worm castings.   

Path and archway through vegetable garden.
A garden at Kaiya Farms, 2018 Photo Credits: Kaiya Farm & Market Garden

Kaiya Farms began growing their well-known sunflowers to address a drainage issue in one section of their fields, where water accumulated preventing crop growth. Instead of digging up the land to put in tile drainage or plowing deeply, which is often how this issue is fixed, Chris and Aimee decided to plant sunflowers. Sunflowers are a tap root and help drain the land, but the beautiful plant also sells well and has become a staple of Kaiya Farms. This year, they are selling 14 different varieties of sunflowers. 

Chris walking toward house with bucket of sunflowers.
Chris holding sunflowers grown at Kaiya Farms, 2020 Photo Credits: Kaiya Farms & Market Garden

Field of red and purple sunflowers.
Variety of sunflowers growing at Kaiya Farms, 2020 Photo Credits: Kaiya Farms & Market Garden

Respecting and giving thanks to the land is something Chris and Aimee both practice. For example, growing tobacco to give thanks to the land, is a traditional Indigenous practice. Aimee also gardens based on the ancestral practices that have taught her that everything has a purpose. Aimee always asks “why.” She examines why she is getting certain pests or why weeds are growing where she doesn’t want them. Weeds are like a band-aid for the earth after you clear it, she explains. The weeds have a purpose to cover up the soil and then break down and provide nutrients. Understanding the purpose of weeds is important for finding a remedy and these remedies don’t always work with conventional farming formulas. Chris who does large-scale farming at the Prince family farm once had the mindset of maximizing profits and getting as much as he could. His attitude about the goal of farming shifted after meeting Aimee and starting Kaiya Farms. He states, “There’s weeds that I couldn’t wait to get rid of that we now eat!”.  

View of garden plots from a distance across the lawn.
Garden plots at Kaiya Farms, 2021 Photo Credits: Kaiya Farms & Market Garden

Kaiya Farms prides itself on using regenerative, sustainable, natural practices, and learning from their mistakes to make their farming practices better. Chris and Aimee ensure their current operations will not hinder their children’s abilities to one day derive a livelihood from the land. They work together with their children, Solomon, Owen, Christopher Jr., and Zuri to grow and harvest many vegetables, plants, and flowers on their land. Part of creating Kaiya Farms was being able to teach and inspire their children with a respect for the land. 

Closeup of two wooden baskets of zucchinis and okra.
Baskets of a variety of zucchinis and okra, 2022 Photo Credits: Kaiya Farm & Market Garden

Starting Kaiya Farms and Market Garden has also re-introduced the idea of increasing food self-sufficiency within the North Buxton community. People in North Buxton formerly grew their own food, worked together, and shared their bounty. Since starting Kaiya Farms, Chris and Aimee have seen more people become interested in growing their own food again. People who have been buying vegetables from Kaiya Farms have now started to buy seedlings to start their own gardens. Chris and Aimee are happy to help people create their own gardens and have started doing some gardening workshops and presentations with local schools, organizations, and Indigenous communities. 

As spring approaches Chris, Aimee, and their children have been preparing for their big plant sale. Currently they have 9,000 seedlings in their home being prepared to be planted. The kids help to water the plants and will also help when it is time for planting. Each year Kaiya Farms grows many kinds of vegetables, including kale, tomatoes, peppers just to name a few, as well as a variety of flowers. They also tap maple trees and process the sap into maple syrup and the family is excited to introduce some bees into the farm this spring.  

As Kaiya Farms and Market Garden grows as a business, Chris and Aimee face more challenges, especially the increase in land prices in the North Buxton area. However, the couple continues to focus on doing more with the land they have, learning from their mistakes, and examining their practices to leave the land in better condition for future generations. 

Closeup of seven baskets of tomatoes and peppers.
Baskets full of a variety of tomatoes and peppers grown at Kaiya Farms, 2022

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