After growing up on a conventional farm, the young family decided to give organic agriculture a shot: they were looking for a fresh start, and Ernest's curiosity was piqued when he started to do extensive research into organic methodology. It all started as a hobby, "I just wondered", says Ernest, "can we really survive without chemicals? I wasn't sure if you could, so I thought I'd try it myself". They only started organic production in 2005, and they're still experimenting with organic methods in different types of crops.
Five Tier Farm is a well known producer of organic potatoes in New Brunswick, growing the traditional Yukon Gold, Russet and Red varieties. They also grow organic grains such as Hulless Oats, Red Fife Wheat, Milling Wheats, Dry Corn, and Winter Spelt. That they sell to Speerville Flour Mill; a mill focused on supporting local farmers and providing healthy food. They produce crops on almost 600 acres, and approximately 200 of those are organic. (Presently there is not enough demand for organic crops to warrant certifying the whole farm.)
Five Tier Farm has a name to match the rich history of the farmstead. Very early on in New Brunswick's agricultural history, the fertile Saint John river valley was allotted to the new settlers by England in tiers: large rectangles of approximately 100 acres each - evenly dividing the most fertile land in the area. Five Tier Farm has rolling land that spans five of those original tiers.
The farming history runs in the family too, Ernest's father was a farmer, as well as his grandfather and great grandfathers. Ernest came back to farming in 1997 after completing a degree in business from the University of New Brunswick. Beverley and Ernest married in 1999, and they now have two adorable young children. Beverley does everything but the fieldwork: all the bookkeeping and organic certification forms, and the chickens. Despite being a young family, the Culbersons' are not new to the farming business and they have a lot of experience and expertise behind them.
"Farming is not easy," claims Beverley, "and although the public is sympathetic, they don't really understand. Organic means better environmental management, better soil health, but people also expect it to be a better product even though they are more prone to insect damage and disease. Potatoes are particularly susceptible: Don't take it for granted when you purchase organic potatoes, you can bet that a lot of work went into those crops!" The Culbersons' future plans are to keep trial and error experimenting with organics, continuing to develop their crops, and offering the local best to their customers!