Back to Additional Resources

Mill Creek Organics Ltd.

Alex Boersch is exploring ways to “try to fix the food system,” which he feels is “completely broken. Alex’s solution is to grow nutrient-dense, organic food.

Posted in Farmer Profiles
View Next Resource
Mill Creek Organics 1

Family Farm:

Alex Boersch with his parents, Elke and Andreas Boersch, his Sister Jillian and brother in law Markus, and his fiancée, Emma.

Farm Location:

St. Eustache, MB, 30 kilometres west of Winnipeg.


The family started farming the land in 1988; Alex started farming in 2009. For the organic farm, the transition began in 2017 and finished in 2021.

Approach to Farming:

Focusing on improving health. Trying to promote healthy soils, healthy crops, (for the future with sheep) healthy animals, healthy profitability, and thus healthier people.


  • Acreage: 1,200 acres in organic (Alex’s parents farm another 3,800 acres).

  • Crops: Wheat, barley, oats, peas, flax and hemp (including intercrops). On the non-organic land, Alex’s parents also grow corn, canola and soybeans.

  • Cover Crops: Red clover, alfalfa, pea/oats, diverse blends of up to 7 species.

  • Livestock: Recently bought 200 ewes. 

  • Soil: Heavy clay (Red River Valley).

Alex Boersch is exploring ways to “try to fix the food system,” which he feels is “completely broken.”

“I think there’s a lot of sickness and disease that’s caused by poor nutrition,” he adds.

Alex’s solution is to grow nutrient-dense, organic food. The young farmer (born in 1991) has converted 1,200 acres of field crops to organic production on his farm, Mill Creek Organics. Meanwhile, he continues to help his parents farm conventionally nearby. Both farms are in the Red River Valley, about 30 kilometres west of Winnipeg.

Mill Creek Organics 2

Nutrition Farming

A passion for soil health was passed down from Alex’s father, Andreas Boersch. He and his wife, Elke, moved from Germany to Manitoba in 1988 to farm.

“My father’s obsession is to get your organic matter up,” Alex explains. Even though Andreas hasn’t farmed organically, the farm isn’t entirely conventional. Andreas has grown a diversity of crops, and experimented with organic production and no-till.

“I think he’s always thought ‘outside the box.’” Alex describes the motivation behind his father’s interest in organic matter; he wants the farm to be in better shape for the next generation.

Alex helped on the farm while growing up. After high school, he earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degrees in agriculture from L’Ecole d’Ingénieurs de PURPAN (in Toulouse, France). When he returned to Canada, he worked in grain trading and particularly enjoyed meeting farmers who were practicing regenerative and/or organic farming.

Discussions with these farmers led Alex and his dad to take an intensive four-day nutrition farming course led by Graeme Sait.[1] Nutrition farming links the health of the soil to the health of plants, livestock and humans – with soil health being the foundation.

The course inspired Alex to come back and farm with Andreas. They wanted to transition part of the farm to organic. At the same time, they wanted to improve how they farmed on the non-organic side by intercropping, using cover crops, increasing the efficiency of fertilizer applications and applying various amendments.

Mill Creek Organics 3


Alex has been seeding various crops on the organic land but his goal is to use the following four- or five-year rotation:

  • Cover crop mix
  • Spring wheat, often intercropped with flax
  • Peas, usually intercropped with barley or oats
  • Oats (if not grown in Year 3) or hemp
  • Hemp (if oats were grown in year 4)

Hemp is a new addition to the rotation. The yield after screening but before cleaning was 1,100 pounds an acre.

Alex is experimenting with intercropping. “We’ve had really good results. And that’s one of my favourite things. I just love watching intercrops grow,” although, he admits, separating can be frustrating. On the farm, they screen and separate the easy ones, like peas and mustard or wheat and flax. If there isn’t much of a difference in seed size, such as peas and barley, they take it to a cleaner. 

To decide which crops to grow and selling price targets, Alex considers his cost of production. He refers to his detailed, and constantly updated, spreadsheets. 

Tillage and Cultivation

For the most part, tillage on the farm is shallow – a maximum of three inches. After harvest, they apply compost and then do a pass, light enough to leave a lot of stubble on the surface. Then they plant a cover crop. They till again before winter to try to control perennial and biennial weeds.

In the spring, they pre-work right before seeding, usually 1.5 inches deep. They seed straight into that on a 10-inch spacing, often seeding red clover or yellow sweetclover with the crop. If not, they will underseed using a Valmar seeder on the tine harrow.

The harrow and a camera-guided Hatzenbichler inter-row cultivator at 10-inch spacing are used to control weeds.

“The inter-row cultivator with the camera guidance is a cool piece of equipment,” Alex says. “I think you almost have to have it for organics to work, at least for our spring-seeded crops as they do not provide as much early competition as winter cereals would in Europe or Eastern Canada. Spacing tighter than 10 inches would help but if bigger weeds get ahead of the crop, without interrow cultivation, there is no recourse other than re-seeding or eliminating the crop.”

They have used yellow sweetclover, mainly because the first three years of organic farming were “super dry and only sweetclover worked in those years. But those were not typical years,” Alex explains. “We’re usually battling too much moisture rather than not enough. And in a year where there’s too much moisture, the sweetclover turns into a monster.”

Alex has grown alfalfa, which establishes well but is “really hard to kill and can easily become a weed. I prefer red clover,” he concludes. “This year, we had an awesome catch with red clover. Going forward, I think that’s the clover that we’re going to use.”

Alex says that their most common weed is red pigweed but “wild oats is the one that hurts the most yieldwise.” Where wild oats are particularly bad, he pre-works the field twice before seeding. The first time is very shallow, just to get the wild oats to germinate, and the second cultivation controls them.  

“If we had a longer growing season, I think we could maybe get away with less tillage,” Alex says. “We could, say, get fall rye established over winter and then crimp it in the spring.”

Mill Creek Organics 4

Facing Flooding

The main challenge at the farm is water infiltration and flooding. The top 12-18 inches of soil at Mill Creek Organic Farm is mostly gumbo, a heavy clay. Below that, it is entirely hard clay.

The topography doesn’t help with drainage. “We’re at the bottom of an old lake. I don’t know if it could be any flatter,” Alex laughs.

Most years, Alex says, “we’re battling water.” Over the last several years the weather patterns have changed. Now, there is less consistent rainfall but “a lot of really big weather events.” This makes it all the more important that the water can infiltrate into the soil, not remain as standing water or as runoff that leads to erosion and nutrient loss.

“We have seen some improvements in infiltration rates, for sure,” says Alex.

Even though Mill Creek has faced drought conditions and flooding, Alex says that he hasn’t “had a complete crop failure yet, knock on wood.” They don’t have crop insurance. Alex adds that even in the worst drought they’ve had on the farm, their drop in yields did not hit the threshold to collect crop insurance.

He has, however, reseeded crops that had poor establishment or were weedy.

“We’ve learned the hard way,” he states, “if you think a field is mediocre, do not hesitate to take it out and seed something else. We found that, compared to conventional, there’s less of a yield loss to seeding late in organic production. If I see there’s too much wild oats coming, I won’t hesitate to take it out and start over again, even if that means seeding in the middle or end of June.”

Mill Creek Organics 5

Fine-Tuning Amendments

Alex has an intensive approach to farming. He uses a lot of inputs – both variety and volume. This is partially because he is striving for more than just commodity production – he wants nutrient-dense crops that will contribute to the health of the people and animals that eat them. 

Crop rotation and compost are the main sources of fertility for the organic fields. Last year, they spread 5000 metric tonnes of compost on the organic farm (7,000 MT total on both farms). So far, every fall for every year of the rotation, they have applied 3-5 MT/acre of compost, which has 15 lbs/MT of nitrogen, 35 lbs/MT phosphate and 25 lbs/MT potassium, as well as containing many micronutrients and high levels of organic matter. The compost is a commercial product made from potato waste and straw. They also add humic acid, fulvic acid and fish emulsion, as well as various inoculants and sometimes micronutrient fertilizers.

Full disclosure: Alex sells specialized soil amendments. In 2018, he started a business, RegenAgSolutions Inc., to import equipment. When he couldn’t find many of the fertilizer additives, biologicals and inoculants he wanted to use on their farm, he decided to import these products as part of the business.

On both the organic and non-organic farm, the Boersches treat all the seed (in addition to inoculating legume seed with Rhizobia). They treat seed with a commercial compost tea product that contains ‘catalysts,’ including humic acid, kelp extract, alfalfa meal and other substances that can stimulate the plant and the soil life.

The effect of the seed treatment seems to vary. On the conventional side, they found that the treatment had a greater impact when fertilizer applications were lower, and the impact was greater in dry years.

The impact on yield can be as high as a three- or four-bushel response on wheat (per acre). In other years and fields, there might not be a dramatic impact on yield but they find the plants from treated seed have greater root development. Inoculated legumes have “way more nodulation, especially on the lateral roots, the finer roots,” Alex explains.

“Our philosophy is that if the plant is healthier, it should be able to fend off diseases better. It’s hard to say what’s going to affect the plant on a year to year basis. It’s not as exact as when you spray a fungicide,” Alex laughs. “But we think that [using permitted seed treatments] along with balanced nutrition to increase Brix numbers is, obviously, way more beneficial in the long term.”

Mill Creek Organics 6

Testing, Testing and More Testing

The Boersches want to fine-tune the nutrient levels of the soil, and ultimately of the crops. They constantly want to identify their limiting factors and address these through soil amendments or crop rotation. They perform a series of tests including:

Brix tests. These provide a rough estimate of the sugar content of plant sap. High Brix numbers are often associated with greater flavour, improved storage qualities of a crop and the ability of a plant to resist pest pressure. Alex says their Brix numbers have improved over the last several years from 8-9 to 12-16 sometimes going as high as 20-25.

Tissue and sap analyses. The Boersches now do more of these lab tests than Brix tests to better quantify the sugar content and to see how the nutrient balance in the plants compares to the nutrient levels of the soil.

Soil nutrient tests.  Alex aims for the Albrecht-recommended ratio of 13 parts calcium to 2 parts magnesium to 1 part potassium, however he finds it a challenge to achieve this due to their soil’s very high cation exchange capacity (40-50). On the conventional fields, they have been encouraged by seeing a dramatic drop in the level of nitrates. Alex feels that nitrates are directly correlated to Brix – with high nitrates leading to a drop in Brix. (The nitrate levels on the organic fields have never been excessive.)

Soil micronutrient tests. At times, their organic fields have “been a bit short on boron, zinc and molybdenum.” They address these deficiencies partially through fish emulsion but also through application of specific micronutrient amendments as allowed by the Canadian Organic Standards.

Soil biological assays. Alex uses the Haney[2] soil tests to measure macro- and micro-nutrient levels, carbon-to-nitrogen ratios and various biological parameters, such as biologically active carbon and carbon respiration. Essentially, the test evaluates the level of nutrients available for soil microorganisms and describes the soil biota.

Alex aims to increase the level of biologically available carbon to better support soil life, and also to change the bacteria-to-fungi ratio. When they started testing about four years ago, the bacteria-to-fungi ratio was about ten-to-one, which Alex considers is likely similar or better than most farms that only grow annual crops. He is aiming for less bacterial dominance, perhaps even getting to the one-to-one ratio promoted by Dr. Elaine Ingham[3].

Mill Creek Organics 7

Split Operation

Having both organic and non-organic production on the family farm can raise challenges. The Boersches take the necessary steps to ensure there is no contamination of the organic operation or commingling of product. One way is by growing different, visually distinguishable crops on the two separate operations.

When deciding which land to transition to organic, Alex chose their best-drained land. The organic parcel is self-contained, ten miles away from their non-organic land. They own the whole organic parcel – there are no internal neighbours – and much of the boundaries are denoted by tree lines and rivers. This makes it easier to maintain buffer zones. The organic farm also has its storage and much of its own equipment, such as tractors.

A few pieces of equipment are shared between the operations, such as the seeder and the sprayer (which is used for compost tea and liquid soil amendments on the organic farm). Before any equipment is used on the organic farm, Alex uses a special cleaning procedure involving pressure washing.

The seeder is low-risk because they don’t use fungicide-treated seed and never use the organic seeder for GMO seed on the conventional side, but the sprayer takes extra time to clean. The equipment design is important. Whereas typical sprayers have dead ends at the ends of the boom, the Boersch’s sprayer, however, has “no dead ends. It’s constantly recirculating. Every section has a pipe that circulates back into the tank.” Alex explains that this makes it simple to collect all residual product and clean it out thoroughly.

Alex concentrates on the organic farm but helps his dad with scouting, seeding and a few other chores on the conventional land. His father helps him pre-work the organic fields.


For farmers considering transition, Alex recommends first “priming the soil.” Ideally start the transition with a year of cover crops. But if you need a cash crop, he suggests fall rye underseeded with sweetclover. After harvesting the rye, let the sweetclover grow and “you have a super cheap cover crop that’s super competitive. Use at least one year in transition as a cover crop year.”

One advantage to organic production over the last few years is that the organic prices have been so much more stable than conventional. Alex says it’s far less stressful to market the organic crops. With conventional crops, he’s “constantly second guessing himself” as to when he should sell and at what price. On the conventional side, the prices of inputs, such as nitrogen and phosphate, are “going through the roof. There’s so much risk involved; it’s really scary.”

Before considering transitioning the rest of the land, Alex wants to operate it for another three to four years, basically to go through two full rotations, and then “see how everything goes.”

The challenge with organic production is that it’s so much more work per acre. Alex estimates it takes “about three times as many hours per acre on the organic side, compared to the conventional.” 

“If we wanted to do more acres of organic, we would need a lot more labour, which is really hard to find,” says Alex. “The other thing that’s holding us back is the other land has more flooding issues and we are very worried about weed control.”

“We want to try to figure out a really good system for us and then potentially transition more land in the future.”

For Alex, farming is a way of life. He likes working outside in nature and not being in an office (although, he admits, at times the work can be tough, like during harvest). He also appreciates the independence – the ability to make your own decisions and see the consequences within a year.

“There’s a sense I belong here,” he says.

Sheep on The Road to Regenerative Organics

Alex is considering applying for regenerative organic certification. In the journey towards this goal, livestock were just added to the operation. Alex’s brother-in-law recently bought 200 ewes. He chose sheep rather than cattle because lamb commands a higher price than beef.

The goal is to integrate the sheep into the crop rotation on both the organic and non-organic land (the sheep won’t be certified organic). This will help the farm reduce tillage by incorporating two to three years of pasture into the crop rotation, as well as using the sheep to graze crops and crop stubble.

The sheep will graze whenever the weather permits but for winter feeding, the family want to make silage from multi-species cover crop blends. This way, they can add value to the cover crops without having to worry about drying down the mix for hay. Another benefit of livestock is having an on-farm source of manure.

Lessons to Share

  1. Focus on soil health.
  2. Pay attention to the results of soil, sap and tissue tests.
  3. Grow a full year of cover crops for at least one year in transition.
  4. If you think a field is mediocre, do not hesitate to take it out and seed something else.
  5. Intercrop whenever possible.






The Prairie Farmer Profiles (Sundog Organic Farm, MJJ & A Organic Farm, Haywire Farms, Mill Creek Organics Ltd, Pristine Prairie Organics, Upland Organics, Our Farm, G & G Farms, Marshall Farms and Penny Lane Organics) were written by Janet Wallace.  The Ontario Farmer Profiles were provided by the Organic Council of Ontario.   The Farmer Profiles were developed as part of the Prairie Organic Development Fund’s Canadian Organic Ingredient Strategy (COIS).  The COIS was funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Government of Canada.  Translation services were provided by the Government of Manitoba.