Monday, September 22, 2014

Brand Name Food

Note: This post is intended mostly for my CSA members, but I'm so proud that I'm sharing it on our general blog rather than in a newsletter.

Logos and brands are EVERYwhere.  So why not at Barnyard Organics?

Our original logo was hand drawn on a scrap of paper here at the farm by my good friend Lanna Campbell.  Thankfully another good friend, John Mills, was able to take that hand drawing (including font!) and turn it into a digital thing (and also built us a website!).  We love it and try to slap it all over as much 'stuff' as we can.  We're not exactly why, but it feels important to build our 'brand' here on PEI and since we get quite a bit of media attention now and then we thought we should have something on hand to capitalize on the free PR. haha.

So you will have noticed on the last CSA chickens and most of our egg cartons have shiny, snazzy fancy new labels on them.
This blog post is to share with you what all the logos are for.

So firstly, and by far the biggest, is our farm logo.  We want you to associate that logo with tasty, locally produced, healthy and quality food.  :)

The next logo is the Atlantic Canada Organic logo.  This is our certifying body.  That means they are the ones we send our organic application to and then they in turn review it, organize to have a third party inspector come to the farm every year and then review their report and determine our certification status.  There are several certifying agencies to choose from, but ACO is the only one based specifically in Atlantic Canada and we've been with them from the start.  They're a small company and have their struggles, but we like to keep it as regional as possible so they get a spot of pride on our label.

Next, in the centre is the Canada Organic logo.  I think it's pretty and it's what you should come to look for on organic anything in the grocery stores.  It's the national brand for Canadian organic products, or products that meet the Canadian Organic Standards.  There has recently been a media campaign to help with the launch of the logo, called "Think Organic".  I am very proud to be able to slap that puppy on our stuff.

Finally there is the PEI Flavours logo.  In the name of transparency, to access available funding for farmers to do marketing stuff (like labels) we were required to use it, BUT I do actually think it's a pretty appealing logo and I'm happy to be associated with a (thus far) pretty reputable logo.  It doesn't really mean anything, although I suppose it is supposed to prove that our product is from PEI, which it is, so I guess it's working.  ?  haha.  Anyway, it's got pretty colours and looks good on there, so there it is.

And the trailer!!!  Aren't we just like the big dogs now!  This is the view as we're loading up, ready to head out, so the side door is open (and my helpers are helping load/pose silly for a picture).

So now with all our fancy propaganda we'll soon cover the Island like the dew. ha!  

In other news:

Here is Nancy chowing down in her pasture, overlooking the chicken shelters in the background.  Nancy is due to farrow out just after Thanksgiving and since we recently sold all but two of Gail's piglets, we're excited to have some new babies around.  Here's hoping for a farrowing as smooth as Gail's was.

Here are the kids on a Tall Ship.  They LOVED it.

And I've been lucky enough to squeeze my way onto an awesome veggie CSA list for the past couple years and cannot imagine my summer without Jen Campbell's hard work filling my fridge and covering my table.  I just wanted to share this veggie tray made entirely from Jen's produce and gloat encourage you to find a veggie CSA next summer, if you aren't already a member of one.  It can feel like a lot of food sometimes, but it stays so fresh for so long that a week is actually a pretty perfect amount of time.  And knowing where my veggies come from means a lot to me (surprise, coming from the local CSA chicken farmer.) Jen's CSA is generally full with a waiting list, but there are getting to be more and more CSA's everywhere and as a farmer and member I would love to see everyone sourcing directly from the farmer and supporting our local economies, rather than California or Mexico. 

So sorry this pic is sideways (too tired to figure out how to turn it at this point), but it's a shot of Lucy stripping a chicken foot.  We get weekly orders for chicken feet and that's one of her jobs.  She takes it very seriously and is meticulous. I wanted to show her focus here, but I think the sideways throws it off a bit.  :)

Thanks so much for a great great season!  Only a couple pick ups left!


Friday, July 25, 2014

No Big Yellow Bus?!

Well, if going organic, raising chickens on pasture and getting a family milk cow didn't already plant us firmly in the 'crazy-hippie' category, our next move surely will. 
We've decided to give homeschooling a go. 

Let the adventure begin!

 Lucy attended kindergarten last year in the public school system and although I wasn't overly impressed or even remotely enthusiastic about most of the things she learned, this decision is not a criticism of 'regular school' by any means.  It's based almost entirely on the fact that we spent 9 months rushing around in the morning to get on the bus by 7:45 and then at 4 would prepare to deal with an exhausted child who wanted to play outside and get some energy out until supper at 5, help clean up, do the farm chores and off to bed 7- 7:30.  It basically gave me zero time with my own kid and the time that we did have was usually her in tired tears or quiet cuddles.  I missed the smiling, bouncing, laughing kid I used to know and I will admit that I missed knowing what she was up to all day.  She did learn some amazing french that impressed me a lot, but there was a lot that didn't impress me too, so as with all things, we take the good with the bad.

And so it will be with the homeschooling too, I am 100% certain.

I received the first of the curriculum books in the mail the other day and have been brooding on sharing this decision with our families for a long time.  In a family of many teachers and principals, I didn't/don't expect it to be welcome with open arms, but receiving the curriculum books and meeting so many friendly (and normal!) homeschoolers here on PEI, I'm standing tall, shoulders squared and telling you now. (And am so happy to report that behind a veil of tears-of-relief I read supportive messages from both my mom and my sister -who is an amazing teacher- which means the world to me!)

So we're taking it one year at a time.  Well, one term at a time.  If this is a complete disaster by Christmas, I will gladly admit that and throw the kids back on the bus and congratulate myself for having gave it a shot.
Surprisingly, Lucy is very onboard with the idea.  She grew pretty bored of school this year, after Christmas, asking to stay home many days because she thought the boys and I would have more fun.  Admittedly, she was probably really more ready for a grade 1 curriculum last year and it was my fault for holding her back due to her late-in-the-year birthday, but schools don't bump ahead or hold back kids anymore.  I've spoken to two moms just this summer about wanting their boys held back and the school refused.  They went to the district for help and again were refused.  Then in the news this week there was a whole piece about 'placing' in schools and the policies surrounding repeating grades (or lack thereof). 
Anyway, that's a different post.
I'm looking forward to working with Wilson to find out how it is he likes to learn best and the kinds of things that make him love learning.  (I will read this sentence over and over again when it's been months and I'm yet to find anything that he loves learning. haha!)  He seems to have relaxed a bit since we shared the decision with him regarding kindergarten at home and besides 'wanting to make new friends', he's happy too. 

I think, especially in these early grades, that I can achieve in a couple hours what school manages to do in a day, so am taking comfort in that.  (Plus no lunches to pack!!!)  I'm working on a music teacher and have made contact with a co-op of other homeschool moms who take turns sharing various subjects of interest.  And if the specific co-op doesn't work, they get together often for social time at parks or field trips or whatever, so there will be no shortage of 'socializing'.

This sounds pretty rosy so far, but don't be fooled. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and have zero guidelines from the province to follow in terms of expectations for the grades, so am trying to plan curriculum based on what I think the kids will enjoy and will still achieve what seem like reasonable standards.  I expect it will change nearly constantly as we go, but I've committed myself to being open to deviation from the "plan".
Anyway, I've thrown it out to the world now, so we'll see what happens! 

My next post, which will hopefully follow in the next few days, will be one of great pride for me.  Lucy, on her own, has started her own business called "Lucy's Offal Good Business", selling pet food and people food from chicken organ meats.  The videos are PRECIOUS!  And she's learning all kinds of great life skills. 
So keep your eyes peeled for that.  (Our internet is turning out to be too painfully slow to upload them, so we're heading somewhere with highspeed to get her marketing plan underway.)

In farm news- things are growing and growing and growing.  Weeds included.  But the crops are looking really good, the pigs are doubling in size nearly daily, the chickens are finally putting on some good weight and the hens are starting to lay in more numbers.  The birds are singing, the sun is shining and the spiders are working hard to catch as many mosquitos as they can.  Life is good.

Hope this finds you pulling food from the ground (or at least buying it from someone who does)!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Keeping multiple blogs going can be tricky, so I'm kind of cheating this time.  I just updated my Chicken CSA blog with some pictures from the farm, so I'm just going to post it here and you can click on the link to see them. 
At least I'm down to two blogs this summer, rather than the three from last year.  (And admittedly I'm not very active on any of them!)
So here ya go:

Chicken CSA Blog

Babies, eggs, piglets, oh my!


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 2014 Farm Tour

Get yer boots and yer helmet, it's time for a farm tour!
Finally made a point of taking the camera with me to chores the other night so you could all see the goings on around Barnyard Organics these days.
 We start in the brooder where Sol is happy that the sides are just the right height for him to have a good vantage point (and easy for the bigger caretakers to step over without too much stumbling around).  Mark's sister, Sarah was kind enough to hatch a few eggs from our layers and we got a few cute and fast little brownies in amongst the fat yellow fuzzballs.  They are getting a bit more attention than their monocolour counterparts, but I think they're going to survive the mauling and 'loving'. 
 Next we head out to the cattle where we feed Rosie and Duffy, who are both nearing a milestone of sorts.  At some point soonish, Duffy is going to be heading to the Happy Hunting Ground in the sky (ie. our freezer) (Mark thinks we should sell tickets on Parliament Hill to an organic meal featuring grilled Duffy).  And Rosie is to be dried off in a week or so to prepare for her next calf, due in August.  We're not looking forward to buying milk and drinking a lot less of it, but this is pretty decent timing for having one less chore (milking) to do.  And then fresh ice cream in August will be pretty great too! Here's to hoping I have enough butter in the freezer!

 Next onto the pigs, who are happily rooting around in last year's pig pasture, but needing some expansion.  They seem to be a lot more interested in grass than last year's pigs, so we're opening their pasture up a bit this week to give them more grazing opportunities.  Nancy is a particularly good forager, although that may be out of necessity since we think Miss Pig Gail Shea is greedy at the feed trough and eats more than her fair share.  Nancy is the least photogenic pig we've ever had and makes snapping a picture nearly impossible.  I refused to indulge Gail's narcissistic tendencies by posting a picture of her on here. Just trust me that she's huge, happy and healthy (well, as healthy as overweight pigs can be anyway).
 Here is one of the roosters-Mr. Johnny Cash if I'm not mistaken(-who looks all black when he's inside).  He nearly always stands on one foot and Thayne enjoys the trick of telling everyone the rooster only has one leg, so he wanted me to get a picture while we were going by.  Both our roosters this year are especially friendly (or at least NOT aggressive) and are gentle enough with the hens that none of them are showing signs of missing feathers or scratches, so they are on the  'keep' list for now.
 Next we head out into the pasture where we've finally gotten the chicken shelters out!  The big one, "the Palace", is for the layer hens and is designed to be more stationary- only moved once a week or so, while we let the hens out of the house during the day. 
The other houses each have about 45 chickens in them and are so far working well again this year.  The kids and I are mostly in charge of moving them twice a day and keeping them in feed and water.  To be honest, I've become a bit redundant, as Lucy can drive the 4-wheeler, Thayne pulls the cable out, Wilson runs the winch and they can all run the water hose and pump.  I guess I'm just the muscles who lifts the feed.
Finally, last stop is the egg washer.  Right now we only wash every other night, because it's only the eggs from our 40ish hens, but once the hens out on the pasture start laying sometime in July, it'll likely be a daily operation.  We're setting up the empty room in the Dead End as the egg washing room where the eggs can have their own fridge, etc.  Keep your eyes peeled for info on the egg CSA to come soon!

Having my first feed of asparagus tonight for supper, which is the sure sign that a new season is here.  After a winter of eating almost exclusively pork and a small bit of chicken, along with mostly root vegetables, quinoa and rice, I am so ready for some fresh chlorophyll and things picked within the last few days.  For all the complaining I did about seasonal eating, this long winter, the anticipation and arrival of these summer flavours is what makes it so good!
Well, I must be off to help finish up some sunny day projects around the farm and house.  Right after I help build a road in the sandbox for the 'manure spreader' to get through to the 'gravel pit tunnel', whatever that important piece of infrastructure is.

I hope this finds you enjoying some summer flavours of your own!


Monday, May 12, 2014


It looks like "condensation" eh?  But this post is not about the temp inside the chicken barn (although it is admittedly not as fresh as we had hoped at this point in the year, when we had anticipated having at least the first batch of chickens out on pasture.  As it stands, they will hopefully get out tomorrow and then we can start moving everyone around and spreading them out as they should be, according to The Plan.  The Plan is bound to fail at some point, as plans often do, but so far it is a carefully orchestrated illustration using Excel and colour coding to figure out which batches go where, when.  And with my CSA full (YAY!) it will be important to stick as close to The Plan as possible to ensure harmony at all stages.  I'll keep you abreast of how The Plan works out as the summer goes along.

But, no, this post is about science. Again.  I know one of my last posts was about my distaste for science and how I have an increasingly hard time trusting it, when it used to maintain a very intentional pillar of integrity.  That post was me struggling with the statements from scientists who dismiss anti-GMO commentary as baseless and stupid and lacking in scientific proof.
This post is me identifying exactly what it is about that that really pisses me off.
And it's condescension.

It was while listening to a scientist on CBC last week discussing vaccines. The scientist was, as they all are, frustrated about the lack of vaccination that is happening these days.  I am not anti-vaccine by any means, but the way with which he presented his case, made me want to be contrary to anything he said.  He spoke with an air of being above the rest of the common people, stupid enough to not know better.  He was so patronizing and all-knowing that the host had a difficult time providing a foundation for a decent discussion. 
I've heard a similar rhetoric in scientists on the pro-fracking side of the debate.  It's as if those who are opposed are just too stupid to know how to think critically and are not even worth considering.  It's so frustrating to not be heard, but even more frustrating to be talked down to and then dismissed.

I went to a really interesting talk last week about Genetic Engineering that was touring the country.  The main speaker was a retired Ag Canada scientist who was a genetic engineer and now spends his time spreading his concerns about GMOs.  Well, actually, he's not necessarily anti-GMO, but anti the pesticides that make them work.  Specifically, glyphosate or Round Up as it's known.  It was a fascinating talk and I learned new things that make me even more concerned than ever before.  Mark asked me on the way home what I thought and besides being energized about my convictions, I was kind of saddened by how brow-beaten the scientist seemed. He wasn't the jerky, over-confident scientist I've gotten used to expecting. He presented his information factually and in a way that we could all understand but lacked the enthusiasm and excitement that a well-styled, PR'd, script-reading, shiny, fresh-faced and convincing young lip-service chemical/seed company rep would bring to an ag conference.

I mean, I think I get it.  The scientists I often hear on the radio or read online have been picked as spokespeople for a reason and have been dealing with stupid questions from journalists and the public and are tired of uninformed people making inaccurate assumptions about something they've dedicated their life to.  It's irritating as a farmer to have non-farmers make negative assumptions about how we handle ________(insert farm-related item here), so I kind of get it.
But, I also recognized that people are concerned for a reason, and if I'm going to convince them of my way, I'd better figure out a way to reach them.  If that means spending time on a blog (hahaha!), then so be it.  If it means having time-consuming tours, so be it.  If it means spending more one-on-one time with my customers, so be it.  If it means not talking to people like they're stupid and a waste of my time, that's a pretty simple way to handle it.

I've removed myself from FB because I was noticing a bit of an addiction happening, but I've kept the farm Twitter feed going.  I follow a lot of pro-GMO profiles because it keeps me informed (and keeps my blood pressure alive) and today they were all touting a graphic from the magazine The Economist, in an article criticizing Vermont for taking a stand on requiring labeling of GE foods.
The title "Odd priorities".  Did it need a title?  Would it be less effective without the title?  It would be less negative and annoying to those of us who find it a very misleading factoid.  Without the condescending title, it would just be another lame graphic showing a very narrow and shortsighted view of the whole picture.  But the title gives it a sense of superiority over the people stupid enough, and maybe evil enough to get worked up over what is clearly a miracle for all those malnourished children.

I won't spend any of this post addressing the actual content of that graphic, although that would be good fodder for a separate post.  I just wanted to let it be known that if the scientific community was truly interested in furthering its agenda, it would be better off losing the annoyed, condescending tone and actually listening to the concerns of it's doubters, addressing the questions and talking TO people, not DOWN to people. 

The best conversation I've ever had with a scientist was at a side table at a drunken wedding dance in which we talked for 45 minutes about the Rotavirus vaccine.  Neither one of us convinced the other one that we were right, but we heard each other, shared each other's concerns, presented our opinions and had a great time. 

Maybe I should just have some drinks when I talk about GMO's, glyphosate and labeling laws.  Or at least have some drinks when I am listening to scientists talk about them. 

May this find you perhaps having one as you read this, enjoying the greening up of the grass as spring slowly, slowly creeps her way into our world for another year.



Monday, May 5, 2014

Farm Update- May 2014

In an attempt to get myself back in the habit of posting at least weekly, this one is just a farm update, rather than a rant on any particular topic.
Firstly, my favorite new farm toy finally arrived the other day and has met all the expectations I had for it.  Out of Ohio, from Gibson Ridge Farm, we bought a 'portable egg washer'.  (Note this is not our video- there are far too many tiny hands involved at our place to ever get a video.)

Currently it sits on top of the double sink in the Dead End, although we're tossing around the idea of setting up it's own sink in the extra storage room of the Dead End that was plumbed for a sink.  Once we have all the new layers in production, it won't be so easy to take over the front room of the packing area.  Anyway, as with all new things, it's fun and it's a fight every night over who gets to do what.  The best work team is Lucy as egg-putter-inner, Mommy taker-outer/inspector, passer-to-Wilson who is the basket man and handles putting the eggs into the basket, to be taken home to get carton-ed up.  Thayne is a keen observer who is not happy unless he is the MIDDLE of the action.  So far, Sol is content to watch from his wagon, but I'm sure that's to be short-lived very soon.
Anyway, our previous washing method was that I would sort through the eggs and pack up the ones that didn't need washing right away, give the dirty ones a short soak and scrub.  Eggs have a protective coating that gets washed off with water, so that's why I've made the effort to not wash any unless we have to.  But with the washer, it's so easy and quick to just put them all through that I can't justify handling them an extra time to decide who needs washing and who doesn't.  Also, the water stream is negligible.  It's more of a drip than anything, but enough to help clean the ones that need it.

Mark is taking advantage of yet another miserable, cold, rain day to work on the moveable pen for the layer hens this summer.  We've tossed around so many ideas for the structure that I'm not even sure what we're going to end up with, but at least he's taking care of the basic frame for now. 
The meat chickens are growing well (as they do) and CSA shares are selling steadily.  I haven't sold quite as many as I hoped to so we're looking at possibly going to a Wednesday Farmer's Market this summer.  It's so hard to tell how much we might sell at a market, so I'm nervous to commit, stop selling shares to ensure we'll have enough, and then not sell enough at the market.  So for now I'm still pushing CSA shares and hoping to get a few more before we have to make a decision about the market.
The big benefit of attending a market this year though, is that it would likely help me increase my shares next year.  

Evidently, given the weather, we don't have anything in the ground yet (nor does anyone else in the country).  Calgary is under snow and in talking to Ontario friends today, they don't have anything planted yet either.  Misery loves company, right?
I guess Mother Nature is showing her might and given what we've all thrown at her over the last couple decades, I'd say she has the right to.  I've recently learned a bit more about hydrolic fracturing and also attended a talk about GE Foods and Round Up so can't blame ol' Mama Nature for being a bit pissed off.

In other farm news, there's not much.  The pigs are outside and the cattle are in their corral, although not out in the pasture yet.  The chicken barn is starting to get a little crowded, since normally we'd hope to be putting some outside soon, but that obviously won't be happening, so we're brainstorming ways of spreading everyone out a bit more while still being able to get water and feed where it needs to go. 
The boys and I build a little sandbox for the birds the other day and it was such a big success we're in the works for another, bigger one.  The hardest part was, and will be, finding nice dry soil to put in it.  ha!

Well, it's good to be back.  I'll be sure to include photos next time and start building a rant for you. :)

May this find you clinging to the sounds of the spring peepers as a sure sign that spring is indeed coming!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Food Security Network AGM

So, remember me?  It's been so long since I've posted on here that I feel a bit intimidated looking at this empty white space I'm expected to fill.  But I have great intentions of getting my blogger groove back on.  I've gotten myself off Facebook so have lots of grand plans for all the freetime I'll be enjoying that was previously eaten up by whatever it is that Facebook saw fit to feed me all day.
But to ease my transition back into this, I'm going to cheat a little bit.  I'm going to copy and paste my notes from my recent keynote address at the PEI Food Security Network AGM.  It was a great group of concerned individuals from a variety of backgrounds, across the PEI, coming together in the name of food security, locally.  If you haven't already heard, 2014 is the year of the Family Farm, so I was asked to incorporate that into the theme of my talk. 
I started out with a little visual tour of the farm, using photos and sharing details of what we do, how we do it, etc.  I am going to leave that part of out of this post, since it's not news to you, and because it's kind of the foundation for nearly all the talks both Mark and I do, so you can find out nearly all of it by reading this blog, or checking our website.  So the notes below, start after I've done the first 13 slides of farm description stuff.  I'll toss in some pictures now and then so you can really pretend you were there. :)

So that’s my farm.  What kind of farmer am I?  I guess I usually say we’re organic grain farmers.  But we could also be called chicken farmers. Or egg farmers.  Even cash crop farmers.  We’re also a family farm.
 It’s easy to get caught up in the imagery of ‘family farms” and “small, local agriculture”, but we all know those are subjective terms. What is a family farm?  I’m sure the McCains and the Irvings consider themselves a family, and they have a farm, right?  And small farms here are a lot different than small farms even in Quebec, let alone on the prairies.  So let’s forget about trying to label certain operations as small, or local or family operated, and let’s focus instead on what we are producing.

What does an egg farmer produce? What does a potato farmer produce?  What does a dairy farmer produce?

Now what does a family farmer produce?

The kids and I spend a fair bit of time on the farm.  We don’t accomplish much of substance. In fact, from a managers perspective, we probably make it worse most of the time.  But I still consider myself a farmer.  And if you were to ask me what is that I’m farming I’d probably say…”chickens”.  But in my head I’d be thinking “farmers”.
Like any crop, you give it a good start, feed it well, work hard, pray a lot and hope for the best. But you don’t know the results until they’re grown up.  Maybe my yield will be terrible.   Maybe my crop will look good all along and then be a crop failure.  Maybe I’m not actually a very good farmer farmer after all.  That remains to be seen.

All farms produce some important, usable product.  There is perhaps no more important product than farmers.  To produce and grow farmers is an art that has been lost. The exodus we’ve stood by and watched as farms have gotten bigger and more ‘innovative’ and ‘efficient’, as farm kids move to urban centers and get secure jobs, with regular paycheques, proves that we’re losing the ability to grow farmers. 

When big farms are so mechanized that the farmers themselves never actually come in direct contact with the animal or the crop and rely instead on technology and the knowledge of those ‘experts’ outside the farm itself, it is no longer growing farmers. It is growing a business.  Perhaps a very successful one.  Perhaps one that grosses a lot of money and maybe there will be a young person who is excited by the possibility of making a lot of money, but it is not growing farmers. 

And, from experience, it takes a lot of work and resources to grow farmers. Thinking of the effort my parents made to grow farmers, I now recognize that it is not something that happens by itself.  It takes great patience to help a little girl train a big steer to want to be led around the farm yard by a rope.  It takes hopefulness to give your best ewe to your daughter for Christmas so that her next batch of lambs can be registered under her name, to start her own flock.  It requires nerves of steel to let teenagers run tools and machines. 

From personal experience, there is little more frustrating than being under pressure to get a job done, and watching tiny fingers try to figure out the intricacies of opening a bag. Or being eager to get home after a long day, but taking the time to sit in with the pigs and figure out personality-appropriate names. Two weeks ago we had 300 chicks arriving the next day and were working hard to get the brooder room built and insulated after a winter of letting it fall to the bottom of the priority list.  And it was patience-testing to watch three kids under 6 take turns running the drill, stripping screws, reversing the bits and dropping the heavy drill, but were they ever proud of the job once it was (finally) done. It probably took nearly an extra hour from what their father could have done by himself, but for an hour that was forgotten by us by the end of the day, it was an hour they may never forget. 

The lesson of life and death is one that family farmers in particular, appreciate with a depth not found on other farms.  With kids, it is a necessity of life, filtering and understanding the connection between birthing something, growing something, killing something and eating something.  It’s not an easy lesson and some are harder than others, but it’s one that isn’t found on non-family farms.  Having the appreciation for life, and the solidarity of hurting over an unexpected death or particularly difficult end-of-life decision creates a bond between the farmers in the family.  
And I’m not talking only about kids.  I recently ran a workshop at our on-farm poultry processing facility for individuals interested in learning how to process their own chickens.  In the pre-amble we talked of our experiences with various poultry and as happens with farmers, the chat grew and expanded and everyone ended up spending far beyond the allotted time, just sharing in the challenges and successes that come with family farming.  There was an unspoken, shared mood in the killing room as we came to terms with our role in the circle of life and one that I think can only be found on a truly family farm. 

The gift of mentoring and apprenticing on farms is a beautifully visible sign of growing farmers.  As an apprentice gains confidence over the season and begins to notice, for themselves, subtle changes in the plants or better yet, the soil, a farmer is grown.  And in turn, as the mentor begins to feel they can, with confidence, hand over significant responsibilities to the apprentice, their own load is lightened and they know they have begun to grow a farmer.

It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, growing a farmer.   Have I gotten away from my main point? Family farming?  But no.  For we all know that is nigh impossible to farm by oneself.  Farmers are by nature, team players.  They want partners in crime and sometimes those partners in crime, lead to more tiny partners.  Thus, we have farm families. 

Given that this is the Food Security Network AGM,  I would suggest true food security relies not on increased food production, technology and efficiency, but on an increase in true family farmers.  We are increasingly fed by businesses and managers, but our food sovereignty will rely on farmers who will in turn grow more farmers and families.

And there is no one in particular to blame for the lost art of growing farmers.  Smaller and smaller margins have resulted in farmers having less time, fewer resources and shorter patience for the time-consuming task of teaching and sharing the love of agriculture.  I strongly believe the low cost of industrial food and a disconnect to the eater has had a direct impact on farmers’ ability to grow farmers.  So let’s vote with our food choices and support farming family farmers so that we can ensure truly sustainable food production for the future.

So that's that.  I would like to acknowledge that last photo which is a still from Mille Clarke's film Island Green, which coincidentally played after the AGM I spoke at.  And no matter how many times I see it, it makes me cry with its sheer beauty everytime.  And at the same time invigorates my sometimes tired spirit.

May this find you enjoying the smell of drying, spring earth and anticipating the first chirp of spring peepers.