We think that farming is a prime leverage point for humans to not just survive, but to thrive. Large scale agriculture as it is currently practiced is highly destructive to the planet. If we humans can change the way we do agriculture, making it regenerative rather than degenerative, we can actually feed ourselves and make this planet a more enjoyable and beautiful place for us and all of life to live.
Our core guiding principles in this endeavor are:
We want the 154 acres that we work with to improve in health each year. Ways in which we measure success in this include: increasing organic matter and life in the soil, more abundant and diverse animal and plant life, and increasingly healthy forests that hold soil and purify the air.
Beyond this 154 acres, there is our home, planet Earth, and how what we do on this farm affects it. We want water leaving this land to be cleaner than when it entered. When possible, we want the inputs we bring into the farm – packaging, seeds, equipment, feed – to be produced in ways in line with our vision. And we want the things that this farm might produce – food, fibre, fodder, fuel, feedstock, fertilizer, “farmaceuticals”, and fun – to help people live in ways more in harmony with the ecosystems around them.
We believe that “local food” is not just about people reconnecting with their food and the land it comes from, but also with the people who grow it, and the people they share it with. Despite economic forces atomizing people into smaller and smaller social entities, food still has the power to bring people back together. A farm has the potential to be a local hub within a network of neighbours, where people connect over the growing, buying, cooking, and eating of food. A farm can become a venue – both literally and figuratively – upon which a community celebrates that which nourishes their health and sustains a life well worth living.
In addition to supporting the health of ecosystems and communities, we want this farm to support the health of the individuals who eat the food it produces. We do this by stocking our farm stand with:
1. varieties bred for flavour and nutritional density – often older, heirloom cultivars;
2. food picked at its optimum ripeness;
3. food so fresh it’s practically still alive!
In addition to domesticated foods, we also provide wild foods, which up the nutritional content to a whole new level. Wild plants haven’t had their natural defenses bred out of them through domestication; often the same phytonutrients that defend these superfoods also help the people who eat them keep disease in check – all while imparting wonderfully complex flavours.
In fact, nutrition and taste are two sides of the same coin, as the same compounds that produce interesting flavours also impart important nutrients, so bland tasting produce is actually less nutritious. Real flavour = health. Real flavour also = ecological health, according to Dan Barber in this interview.
For farms pursuing the above three principles to exist on more than just the margins, small farmers need a fair return for their work and investment. “Fair Trade” needs to be applied not just overseas, but in one’s home community. Farming is hard, skilled, and essential work, and in any kind of just economy, farming would be a well-paid profession.
Yet for over 50 years, governments have pursued a cheap food policy. Now, the average Canadian spends 14% of her income on food – one of the lowest amounts in the world at any time in human history. So the policy has been a great success – for consumers. Yet farmers have been beggared in the process. But even for consumers, cheap food is only cheap if you look at its shelf price. The costs of cheap food to communities, human health, and ecosystems have been piling up. Consumers have a choice: pay the doctor or pay the farmer. Pay the doctor and you get to eat hospital food; pay the farmer and you get to eat like a king.
We have a vision for a new agricultural reality, where farms that regenerate ecosystems, build social capital, and support individual well-being attract not just do-gooders, but also people who just want to make a decent living for themselves and their families. We want this kind of farming to become an attractive profession for a new generation of young people to revitalize both the land and our relationship with it.
Respect for All Life
None of the above principles would be meaningful if they were accomplished at the expense of other life forms. Humans don’t hold a monopoly on deserving respect. The livestock we care for provide us with wonderful gifts every day, and they deserve to live happy lives doing what they do best. We also share this land with many wild creatures, and they all deserve (even the ones who might want to eat our chickens!) to go about their lives with as little negative interference as possible from us humans.