Monday, September 26, 2016

The speech Minister MacIsaac MEANT to give

I was fortunate enough to attend the COPC 13th Annual Harvest Meal last night at the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown.  In attendance was our Lieutenant Governor, a representative of the opposition, a couple city councilors, and our Minister of Ag along with his deputy.  Of course, he was given some time to speak and it would seem that the current trend in politics is to appear relaxed and nonplussed, by not having prepared notes.  Minister MacIsaac certainly achieved the unprepared look with a speech that rambled on about farming and fishing and spent more time on the optics of agriculture and the beauty of the province than on anything of any merit.  During the last three sentences he suddenly remembered where he was and mentioned the word organic but without any real conviction or sincerity behind it.
So, I've taken the liberty of preparing the speech I'm sure he meant to have on hand last night. It must have gotten lost when he was spending the night previous reading it over while at the Fall Flavours event at Crowbush that he was so happy to tell us all about because we care.

Thank you for the warm welcome to this 13th Annual COPC Harvest Meal and celebration.  13th annual!?  I think we often underestimate just how long organics has been growing and organizing together under an association like the Certified Organic Producers Cooperative, but this event really serves as a reminder of just how far you've come and hints at the potential for the future.
It's really exciting to see so many young faces at an event like this.  Often, at agricultural gatherings it looks a lot like a political caucus- so many old white haired men ! (har har).  But this crowd is so diverse in age and background and that speaks volumes for the future of your sector! 
Can I get a sense of who are the organic farmers in the room?  Could you all please stand up? Certified organic farmers.  Wow!  That's really fantastic, I hope to get to chat with you all about your operations sometime in the future!  I would love to hear about your challenges and successes and what we can do for you as the government right now on PEI.
For the rest of you, I hope you took note of who the farmers in the room were when they stood.  And I hope you take a moment to appreciate what it took for them to provide this meal for you tonight.  I have little doubt that under the competent guidance of our chef, Ilona Daniel, these ingredients, grown with the care and particular intentions of these farmers will far exceed your expectations.  That's the thing about organic farmers.  They really care.  They care enough to maintain the necessary records, host a third party inspection annually, abide by national standards that ensure your food is free from GMO's, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and that livestock live lives on pastures, eating only organic food themselves.  
While I'm the Minister of all agriculture, not just organics, and I respect and admire all farmers and the work they do, organics is a particular shining jewel in the considerable crown of PEI agriculture.  It is a constantly growing sector, with consistent margins, strong yields and a vibrant community.  Did you know that 73% of new farmers are choosing to farm organically or ecologically?  And 56% of those are women?  Isn't that inspiring? I can talk openly and with conviction about organics like this because I'm not disparaging conventional ag, which we all know has a strong place in our landscape, but I am confident enough to recognize the value of a community like this one and the significance it carries for the health of our province, ecologically and economically! 
In response to what I'm sure will be a rousing rallying cry from Sally Bernard coming up, she'll likely mention soil health and will be correct in saying that soil is the resource we're depleting the fastest here on PEI and it's past time that we do something serious about it.  So I'm thrilled to announce that we're working on a program based on soil organic matter levels, providing funding for new soil tests that show actual soil health and activity and better enforcement of rotation rules.   

So I won't keep us from the food any longer. I hear the chicken livers are particularly tasty tonight. :)  I promise not to continue the legacy of being a Ag Minister dinosaur, living in the past, guided by antiquated ideas pushed by the old boys club who tell me that only conventional food can feed the world and that organics is a blip on the long term radar.  Nope, I will be an effective, open-eyed minister who will stand up and openly admit that organics is doing great things for this province and we will work with you to help it continue to grow.  
Thank you!

Yep, pretty sure that was the speech he meant to make instead of the mess we heard about inconsequential fish kills (YES! He actually brushed off fish kills at an organic supper), the importance of Fall Flavours and pretty landscapes.  Good thing the food was so good I was able to get past the anger lump in my throat.   

Friday, April 29, 2016

Farmer knows best.....?

Once upon a time it used to be said that consumers drive the markets, and that farmers will grow whatever there is demand for. 
In recent years, this seems to have turned on its head and now farmers are spending a lot of time 'educating' consumers on what it is they want.  There's a lot more talking than listening going on and it's going to be the downfall of any sort of economically sustainable agriculture in Canada. 
The recent decision by the restaurant chain, Earl's, to source Certified Humane beef has my social media feeds all fired up and full of furious tirades and accusations from farmers angered by the move away from Canadian beef.
I've read the statements from Earl's and I've read the criticisms from Canadian cattlemen and I continue to be stunned by the ignorance and defensiveness that seems to be growing rather than fading, despite more information being made available each day.
Earl's was pretty darn clear that they made the decision based on the demand FROM THEIR CUSTOMERS.  And that they only went to the US because they couldn't source enough Certified Humane meat from Canada. 
If I were a beef farmer, rather than tearing apart the Certified Humane label, I would very quickly be organizing a delegation and representative to approach Earl's and other higher end restaurants to see if there could be some assurance that if Certified Humane beef was available in volume in Canada, they would buy it (as they have said publicly, they would). 

This is a textbook case of consumers asking for something and instead of farmers seizing the opportunity, shouting back at the consumers that they are clearly idiots and "YOU WILL LIKE WHAT WE GIVE YOU!"

I can't help but compare it to the situation of GMO's where consumers continue over and over again to say they'd really prefer food without and yet, rather than find ways around them, farmers continue to expand their use and even when the benefits don't outstrip the non-GMO options, continue to insist that the consumer is wrong and ignorant to the realities of life. 

There's been a lot of misinformation about the Certified Humane label being passed around and although we don't use it at this point because its less stringent than organic, I read the indepth standards that Certified Humane farms are obligated to abide by and they're really comprehensive, detailed and fair.  Here's a couple excerpts:

H 1: Animal Health Plan

a.An Animal Health Plan (AHP) must be drawn up and regularly updated in consultation with a veterinarian.

b.The AHP(which is part of the Farm Plan) must include details of:

1.Nutrition program

2.Vaccination program

3.Parasite prevention;

4.Biosecurity and infectious disease protocols, including tolerance limits on overall herd performance;

5.Non-ambulatory (downer) animal procedure; and

6.Euthanasia for culling and emergencies

c.  Records must be kept of all medical/animal health procedures that are performed

Or this one:

Any cattle suffering from illness or injury must be treated without delay, and veterinary advice sought when needed. If necessary, such animals must be euthanized.

Or the intro to the Enviromental Objective section:

"The environment in which livestock are kept must take into account their welfare needs and must be designed to protect them from physical and thermal discomfort, fear, and distress, and allow them to perform their natural behavior.

NOTE:These standards are written for beef cattle, which are raised outdoors on range or pasture

 As someone who rents chickens to sometimes fairly ag-ignorant people, I am well aware of the fact that there is some elements of education needed, and that we can't let the public entirely dictate what happens with farming in Canada, I am so frustrated to note the complete lack of listening and learning on the part of conventional farmers.  I know many many beef farmers would meet and even surpass the standards set out by the Certified Humane label, but their resistance to being asked to look critically at their production and marketing decisions is making them look pretty foolish to those with money to spend on food with a third party assurance label. 
So my wish of all wishes is to have everyone ranting and raving, sit back and consider what an opportunity this might be. Are you meeting the standards now?  What would it take to get there?  If you are, can you justify the label?  Do the benefits (higher price) outweigh the extra work (some records and plans you're probably already keeping, or should)?
Let us not be angry with those who want to spend extra money for the assurance of meat raised on pastures, without preventative antibiotics, and the willingness to undergo an inspection and a little extra paperwork.  It won't be for everyone, but why not accommodate for those who can afford it?  I don't know about you, but rather than fire and brimstone, I see dollar signs.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mother Nature can be a cruel teacher

Lucy came screaming out of the hay mow in the cow's barn.  She could hear little chirps coming from under her newly made kindred spirit of the bird variety. 

It started a while ago when Mark discovered the clutch of eggs in the hay mow and mentioned it to me.  I kind of forgot until many days later when I saw a lone hen out wandering around the cow barn, when the rest of the flock was well up in the pasture.  I took notice of her and she seemed to spend far too much time out wandering about to be actually sitting on the eggs so I called to Lucy to get an egg basket and we'd go clean up the clutch before it got even more rotten. I also thought it had been too long since she and the rooster had friendly relations so I felt pretty confident that we were doing the hay mow and thus, ourselves, a favour.

So we gathered up 29 eggs (!!), took them home and did the float test to see if there were any worth keeping for ourselves.  There were some that had obviously been there far too long and some we could even hear thuds as we shook them.  Lucy really wanted to see and smell what a rotten egg looked like (curiosity beats common sense every time) so she was keen to take the floaters across the road and break them open.
"Mom!!!  COME LOOK!"
Two of the eggs she cracked had chicks in them.


So I went into suddenly overly sensitive mode and carefully loaded the eggs gently back into the basket and advised Lucy to quickly take them back and GENTLY set them back in the nest.  Thinking to myself the entire time, "Well, that's likely futile.  First they had a bumpy ride over here, then we dunked them in cold water, shook them around and now we're going to give them back to a hen who may or may not have given up brooding."
Upon her lengthy return she happily reported that the hen had been waiting for her on the nest and let her lift her off, return the eggs and set her back on.  Then Lucy found water and feed dishes, set her all up and petted her and reassured her in only the way she can.

Everyday after that, Lucy would twice daily, sometimes more, refresh the feed and water and continue the soothing petting and chatter.  She christened her "Baby" and brought her flowers and the grasses she found she liked.

Finally, two days ago came the grand announcement of the impending arrival of (can you believe it!) chicks, working away at breaking out of their eggs.  All day, Lucy would lift Baby off to check the status and come back with the ongoing play by play.  "She's got 3!"  "There's an all brown one!" "There's five!!"
At one point she met me in the barnyard with a still wet chick in her cupped hands, looking devastated because "his head or neck or something doesn't work right."  I suggested she let the Mom look after it; he had JUST come out of a tiny egg after all (again, thinking to myself, futile- a brand new, wet chick with a wonky neck, handled by a 7 year old...yeah right).  But shortly after, "He's good now! And he's got brown on his head!"  There was even one egg that hadn't fully hatched by nightfall and I had tried to convince Lucy that sometimes they just don't finish hatching, and it's not good to help them hatch.  She agreed not to 'help it' and listened to my doom and gloom, but obviously never lost faith because early the next morning she was over in the hay mow, her faith rewarded by yet another wee fluff ball, for a grand total of 7 chicks.

We have hatched eggs in an incubator before.  It is a finicky, temperamental and sometimes frustrating undertaking.  The humidity has to be just perfect.  The temperature to the degree.  Turned just right, etc. etc.  And here we had shaken, drowned, moved, carried eggs all over the farm, replaced them under the hen and she had managed to get 7 babies out of it.  Nature is an omnipotent being, handicapped by our interference.

And for some reason, that hen trusted Lucy with her precious cargo.  Any of the rest of us would go in and Baby would ruffle up, purr angrily at us and be clearly unhappy with our intrusion.  Lucy however, could go in, stick her hand under, lift a wing, cuddle the chicks to exhaustion and Baby wouldn't blink an eye.

 So when Lucy decided that day 2 was a good time to bring the chicks outside, Baby followed obediently and then excitedly out the cow barn door and enjoyed a scratch in the late morning sun.  It was incredible to watch the chicks imitate their mother immediately.  Two day old chicks fighting over a tiny spider is a magical thing to see.  Nature just kept surprising us all with Her infinite, innate wisdom.    

Lucy replaced the chicks back in their nest before we did the pasture chores, but by the time we were done, Baby had them all back out again, this time in the doorway of the barn.  Clucking to them when they got too far and happily pecking away at Rosie's straw bedding.

Lucy left them reluctantly to go home for lunch and when I announced that we had an errand run in town, she insisted on checking on them before we left.  So I drove over to pick her up at the barn once the boys and I were loaded up and ready to roll.

What I came upon is what can only be described as a scene of the deepest, gut-wrenching heartbreak.  There was Baby, outside the barn, repeatedly calling out to chicks who were nowhere to be seen and a little girl who couldn't let her heart believe what her eyes were seeing, or rather not seeing.  Crying tears of pure loss, Lucy was first like a frantic mother in a busy shopping mall, checking all the corners and hiding places, then in a moment of acceptance, collapsing beside Baby, saying things to make both of them feel better.  It was equally hard on the heart to listen to Baby not giving up, continually calling babies who would not return.  Lucy gathered her up in her arms and wept and for those moments, the both of them were silent, mutually mourning.  And then they'd find some resolve and go searching and calling again before finding each other for another quiet cuddle. 

Not one for sentimentality towards livestock, I surprised myself when I found myself weeping quietly, watching the heartbreak of a hen who had defied the odds only to lose them and a girl whose faith had proven itself only to be shattered.

The trip to town was replaced with a long cuddle on the front step while we talked about what predator might have been the culprit, how Baby knew just what to do to hatch them, how amazing nature is and mostly just sat in silence (and sniffles).

 I know there is some seriously valuable lessons in this and that if Lucy truly does grow up to be a farmer as she claims she wants to, this will stick with her in a larger way than just the heartbreak of the day.  Perhaps if more of us went through the anguish of feeling responsible for lives so easily lost, we would take the ones we have more seriously and appreciatively.  In any case, it was a hard day here on the farm. 
But as if to soften the blow, the kids and I did the chores tonight while Mark was gone to a meeting and the layer pasture was bathed in perfect sunset light and every last one of them was happily digging, scratching, pecking, dust-bathing, clucking and running about without a care in the world. I noticed Lucy looking resigned and as she held my hand in a rare moment on the way home, I could almost feel her understanding that the circle of life goes on.  


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Election Time on the Island!!

disclaimer: since I'm such an infrequent poster these days, I feel like I can post such a long tirade about local politics because I have so few followers left.  For those hangers on, thanks for sticking around- sorry about the length!  For farm photos and updates, you're much better off watching the Facebook page or Twitter.  :S

I have loved politics for as long as I can remember.  And politics was a favorite topic in our house, at all times of year, at every level of government.  Being heavy Conservatives at home mostly meant that it was easy to get into a good debate as long as someone else was willing to be a supporter of a different stripe.  And hell, if not a different stripe, there were always lots of politics within parties to discuss.  Federal, provincial, municipal, even international, a constant feed of TV news, newspapers and CBC radio gave lots of fodder for lively discussions and I was welcome to participate in the discussions, despite being a chunk younger than the rest of my siblings.
I'll never forget a conversation one night, while watching the news during a federal election and hearing what I thought were some interesting policies from the NDP, who were pretty new on the scene and at that point were totally new to me, a rural New Brunswicker kid.  I remember asking my parents about the 'orange party' and why we never talked about them, and their response being, "Well, they know they're not going to get in, so they can make crazy promises."  And at the time, it was certain that they weren't going to get into power and maybe some of the policies at the beginning weren't actually reasonable, but I also recognize that that belief about the not-blue-and-red parties still exists with a lot of voting Canadians, and I wish it didn't.

As someone who has voted for every eligible party at one time or another, I don't take my vote lightly and let's be honest, I just need a good political rant and Mark won't take me up on it and his family don't have the lively debates that I miss, so here goes!

It's election time here on PEI, and the Liberals have crafted what feels like a plan that has been in the works for months and months, with their too-smooth-talking Wade MacLauchlan up at bat, and acting as if it's in the bag in many ways.  Sadly, the attitude of some people I've talked to is that the party has actually convinced some that it IS in the bag, and voting otherwise is just a waste of time.  I'm generally a liberal 'sympathizer' (note:different than a supporter) but my distaste for the last government under Ghiz and the increasing sleeziness or condescension of this round of reds is really turning me off.  There was the careful exit of the former premier, timed just exactly right with Wade's coronation and the lack of any budget or sitting of the house before the election all just feels...a little too....something.  Something not good. 
Anyway, the point is, that the 'new' Liberals feel NO different from the last bunch and have offered nothing much to suggest it will be any different, so I find it pretty hard to get behind this crew.  Not that I've heard anything from my Liberal candidate whatsoever.  (Also, the way they're rolling out a wierd 'platform' of sorts, one day at a time, like it's a little gift to voters each day who are willing to stop by the website and try to figure out just what exactly they stand for...ugh...just adds to my distrust and distaste.)

As for the Conservatives, or the PC's as they would prefer to be called, I am still waiting to hear ANYthing about agriculture from them. There's been the usual blurbs about the importance of the primary industries and encouraging the use of local food in hospitals and schools, but I don't hear a lot of details behind any of it to give it some traction.  Wouldn't we all love that, but how can gov't make that happen and how can I tell it's a real priority if the word agriculture isn't actually used anywhere in any of the platform information?!  At least my local candidate has been by (I wasn't home dammit!) and left some info and his cell number.  His Twitter account also feels pretty genuine and down to earth, so at least there's that.  :/

Now, I'll admit some ignorance with the NDP this time around.  I certainly admire Mike Redmond, the leader, who spent a lot of time in Province House for the few weeks it has actually sat in the last year or so, and he addressed a lot of very valid concerns that I'm sure the gov't wished he wouldn't.  Sometimes I think the media put him into a bit of an out-there pigeon hole, but his presence in the house certainly made it much more interesting and legitimate than when it was the less-than-a-handful of dysfunctional PC men and the wave of back-patting Liberals.
Anyway, in my district, I've heard I may finally have a candidate, but I don't know who it is.  Someone swung by the farm the other day looking for signatures on a nomination form but he didn't live in my riding and admitted that he hoped the Green candidate in his riding would get in, so not sure he was the orange blooded candidate that the NDP's were hoping for.  I signed his form anyway of course and wished him luck, but I think I heard it was a woman who got the nomination.  In any case, the rather vague sounding 'platform' is another one totally void of the word 'agriculture' and in this case, even food.  (Note: just found out that my candidate is actually Mike Redmond's partner, who lives in Montague...with their five children...)

So now we've come to the Greens, who my parents would certainly have put in the 'will never get in' category. It's worth saying from the start, that I know my district Green candidate quite well and I really like him and his frankness and appreciate his willingness to say what no one else is saying.  He's also a farmer (our pig, Nancy,'s former owner) and has a true appreciation for agriculture of various scales and commodities, locally and nationally.  But he'll also call out farming practices that don't make sense or are unsustainable.
So yeah, it's a bit obvious now where I stand with my vote right now, but even if I didn't know Ranald, my review of the parties and my careful observation of their platforms would still have put the Greens out in front.  Their platform sets out a very specific strategy for agriculture on PEI, including land acquisition for new farmers.  There's actually two whole pages on agriculture!  And yet I can't find even the word from the other three parties!

I know that education, and health, and economy are important.  I pay taxes and use hospitals and sometime my kids will go to school.  But I also live here and breathe the water, drink the air and eat the food, EVERY DAY.  The current strategy with agriculture on PEI seems to be a continued head-banding-into-walls as we try to compete on an international, monoculture scale that is only serving to degrade soil, erode soil, kill fish and contaminate water.  We are too small to compete with Idaho or China or whoever, so why are we trying and then crying when it doesn't work!?  Let's differentiate, let's turn this thing upside down and look at new ways of doing things?  Actually new and not just the PC version of "new". 

Here's my 'thing', again.  Canada exports a LOT of alfalfa.  GMO alfalfa is in Canada and has the potential to cross pollinate with other alfalfas, both wild and otherwise.  Europe and Asia hasn't been real excited about GMO contamination in things thus far, but the Pandora's box of GMO's seems like it's probably a reality that will affect that entire export market.  UNLESS, there was a jurisdiction with like a physical border, maybe water, that could better ensure a GMO-free alfalfa product?!?  Hmmm..growing an Island full of a perennial legume, rather than a soil-exposing, tri-annual root crop?! 

But that's too hard to get our head around, or spend time on right now. Right now we have farm debt and too much big equipment and contracts and no one to buy the farm, and retiring farmers and dead fish and on and on.  Of course the parties don't want to touch it. 
But the Greens have.  And they are offering a short term plan, but also a real willingness and desire to set up a long term goal of legitimate sustainability. 

Yes, it would be different.  It might be uncomfortably different.  But being uncomfortable is a helluva lot better than being indifferent, which is where a lot of Islanders seem to stand right now.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

What I learned on Mark's summer vacation

For those of you who don't know, a couple important things happened around here lately. Firstly, Mark left for a 10 day trip to Chile with his Atlantic Agricultural Leadership Program for their international study tour.  At the same time, PEI experienced Snowzilla like never before (well, since 1923 at least).  Here's 10 things I learned from Mark's Summer Vacation (it was 30 degrees and sunny in Chile).

10. I'm tougher than I thought.
9.  But not tough enough that I don't call a brother in a blubbering mess in the middle of the night.
8.  Certain kinds of snow make for much easier shoveling than others.
7.  Milking a cow can be a very meditative time.  The world can be crumbling around you, but it's a task that requires your presence and patience and must be done, no matter what else is happening.  Despite having to dig a 4 foot tunnel everyday just to get to the door, it became my "be still and know" moment.
6.  I can understand how people get addicted to their cell phones. Mark left his behind when he went, and I came to rely on it for everything when our internet went out, and then had a hard time giving it up when he came back.
5.  Asking for help is still hard, but so effective.  Neighbours, family and friends are so good.
4.  Snow and wind can be very scary.  I've never actually been scared of being outside before, but there were true moments of fear (hence reliance on cell phone for security blanket).
3.  Furnaces are wonderful when they work.  Mysteries of frustration and anxiety when they don't.
2.  I take a lot of what Mark does for granted.  And mostly the small things that really add up.
1.  My role as the mere 'housewife' is a crucial one.  I truly gained a new appreciation for my role and the importance of what it is I do around here.  Twice, I forgot to eat supper until I lay in bed and my stomach growled.  I slipped into Survival Mode and all the extra niceties of life gave way to the bare minimum requirements and it became so clear to me just how valuable all those little things that I do, actually make a difference to not only the household but the farm and our business. 
So for that, I'm very thankful for Mark's summer vacation.

However, he will never go that far, for that long ever again. 
Without me.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Investing in Permanent Infrastructure

I suspect that if a statistician moved into our house to figure out what stirs conversation about the farm between Mark and I, they would find that many times it starts with a discussion regarding a capital purchase.  Mark will present his idea (which by now he has learned to carefully craft before bringing it forward in order to have a much better chance of early positive reception) and I will respond accordingly (which by now I've learned to do very carefully so as not to 'crush dreams' and instead, encourage spirited conversation) and then the discussion will grow from there, spreading to cover anything and everything and often topics that we've been wanting to discuss, but haven't made the time for, or thought of in the quieter moments.
Lately we've been talking a lot about our livestock rotation plans and fitting all the pieces together this coming summer.  With the sows both farrowing, we'll have more pigs than ever and they're past due needing to be moved to a new section, but we've never done a real temporary, or frequently-moved set up for them before, which we'll have to if we want to move them out onto a more established, nice pasture that we want to not tear up too badly.  And the cow needs to move to a new pasture before we get a parasite problem happening there.  And finally, the chickens need to shift around a bit, and perhaps separate the hens and meat birds.  Anyway, many options and much to discuss so that's been on the table quite a bit lately, but doesn't mean we're not talking about those other 'investments' and purchases as well.

Without talking in length about it, sometime in the last couple years, we mutually agreed that while all the wonderful infrastructure in the world would certainly make things easier and many times more efficient, there a couple pieces of infrastructure on the farm that although may be aging, don't need to depreciate so quickly and actually make more difference to the day-to-day operations and overall goals of the farm; it's us.  Mark and I came out of the gate from school, charging ahead at full steam, confident in our knowledge and curious about where it would take us.  With every conference, webinar, magazine and book that we read, it's clear that our own knowledge base, experience and relevant research will be what keeps us competitive.
But we've felt over the last years that we were starting to farm ourselves into a rut.  We had figured out how to do a few things really well and had sort of stopped innovating in a big way.  We are constantly changing small things to make our lives easier, but weren't breaking ground with new ideas, crops, rotations, livestock, value-adding, etc. and immediately recognized this as a problem, given agriculture today and our need to be diverse and 'innovative'.

So Mark enrolled in the Atlantic Agriculture Leadership Program and has been doing courses and traveling over the last couple years.  And then this past fall he went to Ohio to take in the Acres USA conference.  I've been doing lots of bedside table farming, enjoying lots of books and cultivating lots of ideas, but not necessarily breaking any new ground.

We made a leap and an 'investment'.  In me.  I'm going to a Polyface Farms Intensive 2-day Seminar down at the farm in Swoope, Virginia.  In July.

If you haven't heard me talk about Joel Salatin, you haven't spent much time with me, as I've been reading him, watching him and listening to him for years now and implementing parts of his practices in what we do.  I've read most of his books, including Pastured Poultry, Holy Cows & Hog Heaven, Family Friendly Farming, Folks This Ain't Normal, and more.  He's not without controversy, but I think the best minds probably aren't.  He writes like he talks and he speaks with an eloquent passion that makes even his detractors sit up and listen.

Here's an overview of what I've signed up for:
"Two out of every three years, Polyface offers this two-day, six meal (it’s worth coming just for the meals) intensive seminar limited to 30 people in order to maintain intimacy. If you ever wanted to go behind the scenes with the Salatin family, this is your opportunity. We actually process chickens, process rabbits, go up the mountain to see pigs, discuss water systems and road building.

We go to one of the rental farms to talk about mob stocking and land lease options. A silviculture session accentuates good forestry management. We mill a log into lumber on the farm’s bandsaw mill, and talk about adding value to woodlots.

The first evening Joel presents a Relationship Marketing session until dark, highlighting the current techniques the farm and its collaborators use. This is a hands-on, in-the-field learning experience in which the how-to is smothered in Southern hospitality"

 It's not cheap and even though we used AirMiles to book the flights, I recognize the significant investment this is for our business and I am thrilled for the opportunity.  As I said to Mark when I was carefully presenting my idea (haha!) I feel like I could spend a few months in a classroom taking a course, but would still get more out of two days of hands on learning from a farm and farmers whose model I want to emulate, or at least implement many parts of. 

It may not be everyone's dream to travel to Virginia in July to kill chickens, but I am losing sleep I'm so excited (ok,there's so much more than that, but it makes it sound extra funny when I say it that way.).  Am already planning our own chicken killing chicken CSA break around it and canNOT wait. 

So that's my big news. You can relax now Mom.  :)

With this excitement fueling my farming train, I anticipate that my brain will be more awake and will have more to say and will hopefully fuel my blogging train.  

(For those with no background on this you can check out a little information about the farm here :  or just google Joel Salatin and watch one of hundreds of youtube videos of him and the farm.) 


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The (Bitter)Sweet Spot...

...between Christmas and getting back into routine again...

Have you heard about our Egg CSA?  It runs much the same as our chicken CSA, except instead of a chicken, you get 2 dozen eggs every two weeks, or more if you've asked for them. 

We currently have the pick up at the Summerside Presbyterian Church (the one beside Three Oaks) parking lot on Thursdays from 4:30-5:30 and the first one for this round is next week (the 22nd) so you're not too late to sign up.  Email Mark at infoATbarnyardorganicsDOTca for more info or to sign up.  This round runs from next week until the end of April.

And since our last CSA ended at Christmas and we skipped a couple Farmers Markets in favour of over-eating and merrying, we've got what you might call a PLETHORA of eggs right now.  I am headed to the Charlottetown Farmer's Market this week and boy am I ready to bargain!  You want 5 dozen!? Sure! Let's see what kind of deal we can do for you!  We'll start with a simple 3 for the price of 2 to get things going.  More eggs than that, lets play a game of "how good of a deal can I give you for a volume purchase!?" 

I have some very exciting news about myself, related to the farm, but I'll share that in another post, to come shortly.
Off to brush up on my current affairs as Mark and I off to defend a title in trivia with my derby team tonight.  #thankgoodnessforCBCorIdbedoomed