It’s day 7 of Agriculture Month, and my fellow blogger, Angela Jones has written this excellent guest post. Angela is a kindred soul, as she loves talking about agriculture and food as much as I do. I love so much about this post – be sure to give it a read!!
After discussing how to promote the #OurFoodHasAStory campaign with Adrienne, I decided to send her a short write up of my involvement with food to celebrate agriculture month in Saskatchewan. We have connected with one another through our shared passion of talking to consumers and telling the story of AG and I loved her idea!
I live in North East Saskatchewan with my husband Michael and two children; Brayden age 15 and Crandall age 11. My family has been farming Canadian soil for 105 years and although I actively farm on my husband’s family farm, I still feel the century long commitment of caring for the land and protecting what generations before me have worked so hard to build.
The 80’s were a tough economic time in rural Saskatchewan and the future didn’t look all that bright. As my parents sustained the operation by driving over 20 miles to work, the narrative I continually heard from them was to ‘get off the farm and get a good job’. I heeded their advice and went away to school for a time but the gravel roads and freshly tilled dirt lured me back (the lure also may have been influenced by a handsome young man whom I would later call my husband). Now that I am here, I can’t imagine any place I would rather be.
My connection to food is two-fold. I not only love growing it, but I also have a robust fondness for cooking. Many rainy days are spent experimenting with new ingredients or preparing recipes of old that have traveled with my grandmothers from Sweden and Ukraine. When I was younger this interest in cooking exposed me to some very strong suggestions that farmers were not properly taking care of our environment or always selling a safe product. I was shocked, angry, and I couldn’t believe the hard-working people that I grew up around would put profit over people or safety. It didn’t make sense to me but I believed a lot of the fear surrounding food production anyway, especially as I became a mother and wanted the very best and safest options for my baby. As I spent more time on my husband’s farm learning, asking questions, and eventually actually being involved in the work, I realized how wrong many of the food bloggers and marketing campaigns were. Canada has one of the strictest regulatory systems in the world, we have the safest food supply in the world, marketing is usually just marketing and not based on fact, and farmers care. They really do care about the environment, the soil, their animals, and the product they sell.
On our operation we grow wheat, barley, oats, lentils, canola and raise bison. We grow these crops because they are well suited to our climate and short growing season. Canola tends to bring in one of the highest returns and often other cereals and pulse crops are grown to maintain a healthy rotation to best care for our soil. The varieties of canola we grow are genetically engineered and they have helped our farm lower its environmental footprint by reducing tillage which increases soil health, sequesters carbon, and decreases fuel usage. On average GE technology has reduced pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22% and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield and profit gain are larger in developing countries but we have noticed improvements here in Saskatchewan and that is why so many farmers choose to grow them and why canola has become one of Saskatchewan’s largest agri-food exports.
Bison have only been part of our operation for a few years and although they are a small part, we find that they are a good compliment to our grain farm because any grains that are inadequate for human consumption or to sell can be fed to the animals (often these crops would otherwise have no market and would be wasted). Also, land that can not be used to grow crops can be baled or grazed. Bison are more difficult to handle than cattle, they can be unpredictable and stress very easily. Because of this, veterinarians sometimes hesitate to work with them or to administer antibiotics and we do not treat our animals with growth promotants. Although this is the case on our farm we do not market our products as hormone or antibiotic free because we know that all Canadian meat is absent of added hormones or antibiotics and we also know that antibiotics are sometimes required in compassionate animal care. I prefer not be part of deceptive marketing even if it means increased profits.
Our farm is constantly working on improving its sustainability and I am very passionate about producing a quality product. Couple this with my affection for cooking and I am a true advocate for loving Saskatchewan food. I have all the faith that we really do have some of the best in the world.