It takes a village to raise a farm.

15 Nov

Happy Wednesday all! Today we have a guest contributor – our good friend Joel from Hanley Saskatchewan who is a brand new farmer and was willing to share his thoughts with us on home improvements farm-style …

“My partner, Heather, & i live out on a farm just south of Hanley, SK, which is south of Saskatoon. In the past two generations it has been a farm that has been the mixed grain & beef sort. We are the third generation to be farming this land. I think that it is important for me to be clear about what i mean when i say we are farming this land.

This summer we grew vegetables in a garden that is about 2000 sq ft, which in acres is not a very impressive number (0.05). What does sound impressive is that it is 185,806,080 square millimetres. Regardless, from those vegetables we have made countless meals, & put up close to 100 jars of preserved goods including pickled cucumbers, beets, & zucchini, pumpkin butter, tomato jam & sauce, & salsa.

We have been milking a goat for the past few months. This provides us with about 1.5 lbs (usually about 2.5 cups) of milk per day. This will go up in warmer months, but for now we are easily keeping our consumption on pace with Cecilia’s production. From the milk we make cheese. So far we’ve made chévre, feta, ricotta, paneer, & some less than successful mozzarella.

out for a walk

We recently acquired 15 chickens, from which we get on average 12 eggs per day. We have not developed the habit of eating six eggs per person per day, so we’ve shared this abundance with friends.

This is what i mean when i say we are farming on this land. Our ideas are heavily influenced by people like Wendell Berry, Joel Salatin, & more recently Rohan Anderson. Theirs are views of self-sufficiency & frugality, but also of community & abundance. I have recently taken up fermenting, from vegetables like cabbage, green tomatoes, & turninps, to making beer & mead.

I need to pause again & say that many of these endeavours are in the beginning stages. We returned from an MCC assignment in South Sudan in April of this year. We have really only been farming since the spring & then it was mostly the garden. The goats & chickens have come only in the last two months or so. I still go between describing myself as unemployed & self-employed; it just doesn’t seem real sometimes.

Sometimes i stop whatever chore i’m doing & say to myself, “This is the life i’ve been dreaming about; i’m living the dream.” It is not always coming from a sense of overwhelming joy & gratitude for life. Sometimes it feels more like be careful what you wish for.

I’d like to come back to our vision for what we do here on the farm. One of my biggest struggles is that i need to constantly remind myself that we will not be able to do any of this on our own. We need community. Community offers a diversity of skills, knowledge, personalities, & experiences that can all feed into what it means to be self-sufficient. Is that self me? us? our church community? Hanley? Saskatchewan? I can tell you from these past few months that when you take up learning a new skill, new communities of people also taking up that skill or a similar one will present themselves, opening up new ways to learn & new people to learn from. Let’s not forget all the advice & help—especially with all things tractor—we get from Heather’s family, who have farmed this land for the past two generations.

It takes a village to raise a farm.

I propose that we consider skills like animal husbandry, fermenting, gardening, bread-baking, & cheese-making to fall under the category of home improvement. We live in a time when people everywhere struggle to eat well—some because there is not enough healthy food available, others because there is too much unhealthy food available. These skills help us not only to eat more healthy, whole food, but to know where that food comes from & what its true value is—both in terms of nutrition & effort. I think this promotes healthy homes—& therefore improved homes—as much as any renovation of one’s physical shelter.”

Many thanks to Joel for his contribution to No Waste Wednesdays!


7 Responses to “It takes a village to raise a farm.”

  1. Ben November 16, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    thanks for this Joel, I just started reading Wendell Berry’s Home economics, your article is very in tune with this book.

    • nowastewednesdays November 19, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Ben, you are very welcome; glad you liked it. Home Economics is a great book & i’m honoured to be in tune with it. I would also suggest The Gift of Good Land, as well as the writings of Masanobu Fukuoka.

  2. robert November 19, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Thanks Joel–I met you recently at SCIC food conference ( I am friend of Kathy Peters) and I liked your thoughtful approach. I have a thought that maybe I or Permaculture Sask can be part of your larger community in some small way as your vision/application evolves

    • nowastewednesdays November 19, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Robert, it was great to meet you & to see so many people at the Harvest & Hunger conference. So many people caring about food! Of course you are welcome to be a part of “my” community (i feel a bit presumptuous attaching ownership to something like community). You can stop by the farm almost any time; i could give you directions & contact info somehow if you’re interested. I didn’t realize that Saskatchewan had a Permaculture Research Institute. This makes me excited! I’m checking out their website now. Thanks for the encouraging words.

      • robert November 19, 2012 at 11:55 am #

        When I had choice re keeping or giving up our family farm some years ago when estate was settled -due to my age and my wife’s health I let it go-one of the hardest things in my life. My wife has alzheimer’s so I stay pretty close to home here–but next summer I hope to get out of the city more so knowing where to find you would be great. I hope to visit Kathy as well. Robert

  3. louis vuitton outlet store in los angeles April 28, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Hello, your articles here It takes a village to raise a farm. | no waste wednesdays to write well, thanks for sharing!


  1. You Can Take Your Time Eating a Tangerine and Be Very Happy* « building bridges - November 21, 2012

    […] For a few more of my thoughts around food production, you can go here. […]

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