It is day 16 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan, and today’s post is from a FarmHer friend of mine, Julie-Anne Howe. She is a dairy gal turned cattlewoman, grain farmer and a growing bee farmer to boot.
Follow Julia-Anne on Twitter @JulieAnneHowe and check out her farm blog, Fit to Farm, here (ps. Her latest on sexual harassment in agriculture is really, really good).
One thing that I love so much about farming and food production is the tie to nature, science and lifelong learning. Our farm is the ultimate classroom for my children. We farm South of Moose Jaw Saskatchewan; living and learning with nature. Our farm was established in 1950 by my husband’s grandparents and my children are the 4th generation of Howes living on the farm. We run 300 purebred Charolais and Red Angus Cows, about 2600 acres of grasslands, 1000 acres of grain land and a small-scale honeybee operation.
For all aspects of the farm to sustain itself, we need to care for the land and our creatures. We need to be constantly paying attention to the weather, soil, new technology and more. We are always learning: myself, my kids and my family business. I go to courses, field days and conferences to learn as much as I can to keep farming better for our future generations. Food production is complex. We strive improve our understanding of everything from how we can reduce stress in cattle to how to provide more cuts and types of beef products at the grocery store. For my bees, I attend at least one conference every year and take advantage of a mentorship program to learn about beekeeping techniques and food safety in honey production. There is so very much to learn.
My kids learn so much from our farm. Biology, math, responsibility, respect. We include them in the farm as much as possible and safe.
They have been privileged to see firsthand our crops grown from seed to harvest and onto food production. They have learned the hard lessons of the circle of life and how nature doesn’t always play nice. From sadly still born calves, to droughts parching our crops, there are lessons in all of these experiences. My kids also have their own chickens that they tend to and are saving their egg money. They also help me at the local farmers market to gain money sense and small business skills that will be invaluable throughout their life. They have their own cows and are now learning the ropes on animal production. My oldest is starting 4-H this year and it’s amazing to see the personal growth he is from having his own show calf and learning how to care for her.
From learning about the latest ways to manage invasive weeds species in my cow pastures to developing an orchard to provide more early spring nectar sources for my bees, we are always looking to learn and improve our farm. The different components of our farm are so deeply interconnected. My bees pollinate my crops and pasture land. My alfalfa fields fix nitrogen in the soil that will help the grain crops that are seeded after them. My cows use land that isn’t suitable to crop production. These lands provide key habitat refuges for wildlife. We have deer, moose, foxes, badger, hawks and owls and more all residing on our farm. And we see how if one species declines in number the rest of the ecosystem is affected. The wonder of the complexity of how nature and farming co exists astounds me. I’m always learning more about nature, farm production and how we can do better to co-exist.
The list on what lessons the farm gives back to us is unending. Our farm also is committed to giving back by providing farm education experiences to the public and mentoring younger people in our industry. We host international groups wanting to learn more about Canadian Agriculture. We contribute to the Moose Jaw Food Farm, a Sask Ag and Ag In the Classroom initiative to teach Grade 2-4 children about food production and have had hundreds of kids (young and old) pet our cows at Agribition.
We are the lucky ones. We get to live and learn in the wide-open spaces to see nature in all its glory daily. I was born into agriculture and am thankful for all the lessons I have been able to learn and for the chance to raise healthy food for Canadians. This is my food story.