#OurFoodHasAStory Post 16 Julie-Anne Howe: Farms = Lifelong Learning For Farm Kids

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). 

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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. 

The Canadian Beef Industry Conference had over 800 attendees this year.


My kids learn so much from our farm. Biology, math, responsibility, respect. We include them in the farm as much as possible and safe. 

Matthew and I tending to our beehives.


Elise and I collecting flea beetles to use as part of our I alive weed species program. Flea Beatles eat Leafy Spurge.


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.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 14 Sheri Pederson: What Food Means To Me

Sheri Pedersen is the guest author for day 14 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. Sheri is a friend of mine in so many levels of agriculture – being a farmer herself. Have a read of what food means to her. I am sure you will find many commonalities! 

Give Sheri a follow on Twitter @sheripeds and see more info on the annual Saskatchewan Cattlewomen’s Golf Tournament here. ……………………………………………………


Have you ever stop to consider how much time, energy and effort we put into our food? Think about it. We drive to the grocery store (for some this is a big deal), shop for groceries, prepare the meal, eat (always takes the least amount of time it seems), clean up and oh ya…the time it takes to think of what to prepare for the next meal (the thing that often takes me the most time). What if…..we didn’t need food?

Food is fuel for our body. In the last few years I have taken an intentional journey into selfcare and feeling good about my body. I have learned that when we consider food as fuel, we can focus on the science of food and what our body needs to be at its optimum health, through nutrition. While exercise helped me to increase strength and endurance, it was my food intake that drastically changed the number on my scale and how my clothes fit.

 Food is celebration. Life events all have a food story. Some events have been our daughter’s high school graduation, our dear friend’s funeral, and of course Thanksgiving weekend.

Food is fun. I was recently in Las Vegas where there are so many shows and events one may attend. Instead, I chose to eat!! The group I was with had a delicious meal at Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill at Ceasars Palace. We enjoyed the chef’s creativity on every serving. And man….was the meal delicious….and a lasting memory of the trip.

 Food is fundraising. Try to think of a fundraising event you have attended that has not had great food? Today, I am working in the canteen at my daughter’s volleyball tournament, serving homemade soup, and raising money for the Drake Elementary School. Next weekend, the Jansen & District Kinsmen is hosting their semi-annual Steak Fry, to raise money for community efforts of all kinds. Every spring, I host a charity golf tournament, raising money for the Jim Pattison’s Children’s Hospital Foundation to build a much needed Children’s Hospital in Saskatchewan. While I know not everyone has fun golfing (if this is the case, you must attend our golf tournament as it is the most fun on a golf course that I have) we have a delicious steak supper that non-golfers attend and enjoy the event too. Without food, these fundraising events would be pretty blah….

 Food is family. From Sunday morning breakfasts that my husband enjoys preparing for his family. To bbq’s at our campsite where we invite friends to share and enjoy each others food. To harvest suppers in the field (packing up everything for the meal….and please, don’t forget the forks) so we have a small amount of time in the busyness of harvest with the men that work so hard to take off the crop. For me, there is nothing better than the meal in the field as I can express my gratefulness to my hardworking team.

 So back to how much time, energy and effort we spend on food….lots. I am grateful for every reason food is in my life. More importantly I am grateful for the life I have been able to live because of food. I am raising my family on my 112 year old family farm. Think about this for a moment….how many hours has my family spent producing food over the last 112 years? Nearly 1,000,000. My husband is the happiest farming our land. My oldest daughter is following my foot steps in the College of Agriculture. My youngest daughter would skip school to be in the grain cart or combine. There is no other thing I would rather spend my time, energy and efforts on, than food.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 13 A Day In My Ranch Life (Adrienne Ivey)

One of the most frequent questions I am asked as a rancher is, “What do you do in an average day?”. This is also the hardest question I am ever asked. You see, every day is sooooooo different for me! And I don’t just mean seasonally. Of course a normal day is different for every farmer in seeding vs harvest, or in calving vs weaning. But because I am the secondary rancher here, some days I do ranch work. Some days I am more of a stay at home mom. Some days I feel like I am a professional organizer of randomness.  Any given day is a total spin of the roulette wheel. So today I decided to track my day, and give each of you a real glimpse into my life.

(6:30am) Alarm goes off. I immediately grumble – no morning person here! I wake the kids and chat with hubby. Once they are fed and clean and off to school, I feel like my real day has begun. (9:00am) I spend some time on email and social media, concentrating on #OurFoodHasAStory posts.

(10:00am) Phone call with a reporter from the Tisdale Recorder. We chat about Ag Month, being an agvocate, and how Tisdale’s old slogan Land of Rape and Honey started me down the path of talking about agriculture.

 

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10:30am – I bundle up because we are moving one of the herds of cattle a few miles onto some rented stubble land (land that has been combined, but we send cattle out to graze the slough grass and fencelines. This is like upcycling, because it would otherwise be wasted.). As I head out, I peek at the weather. -3C. That is freaking cold with a bare face, going full speed down a road on a quad with no windshield.
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10:40 – I fill up my ranch pony with fuel. I’ve learned to never trust a fuel gauge on the farm… the hard way

 

 

 

 

11:00am – We head out down the back roads. It. Is. Freaking. Cold. Unlike the other guys on the ranch, who work outside everyday, I have not developed my winter skin yet. Ok, who am I kidding, I never do. -3 bombing down the road, I can only imagine what the wind chill is. Too much for a big wimp like me, this early in the year.

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11:10am – We stop and formulate a plan. “We” is a loose term. More accurately, I wait patiently to be told what the plan is. My memory (or lack thereof) for gate placement and paddock shape means I am more of a point and shoot type of helper. I’m the digital camera of ranch help.

 

 

​We move cattle a lot. A normal cattle move is like a well oiled machine… and then there are “Those” days. This was one of those days. After an hour of trying to get the cows and calves moving, we needed to stop, regroup, and start all over again. These experienced girls were convinced that they needed to go east. They were adamant. 600 head of stubborn bovines can be frustratingly hard to convince they are wrong. “The Plan” was to go west.

​Eventually those stubborn ladies got on board with the boys plan. In the end, I kind of thought they were right – we should have gone out the other gate, but shhhhh… don’t tell the guys!

(2:00pm) I got back into the house (even colder due to the fact I dropped a glove somewhere on the move. The throttle hand glove, of course), just in time to take another call from a reporter. This one from the Estevan Mercury. Again, we chatted Ag Month, agvocacy and blogging. I love taking the chance to brag that we are the only province that doesn’t just have a day dedicated to agriculture, not just a week, but an entire month to show just how much Ag means to Saskatchewan. (2:30pm) I then spent some time planning a minor hockey overnight weekend. Complete with the all important parent hospitality room, of course.

I spent some time digging in the fridge planning what to feed child #2 in between school and hockey, as I was going to be busy driving child #1 to her daily riding lesson (4:00pm). When we finally got home from the barn (6:30pm), I fed child #1, and finished planning the hockey weekend for child #2’s hockey team.

And now, as I sit here writing this post (9:30pm), with a GIANT glass of wine, I am realizing exactly why I find it so hard to explain to people just what it is I do. Am I a rancher? Am I a stay at home mom? Am I a blogger? A communicator? I am all of these things. In the same day.

I guess when it comes down to it, that IS my food story. Balance. My food story is cool and eccentric. It is varied and full. My food story includes raising beef, feeding it to my family, and speaking to the masses about it. My food story is so fulfilling. Thank you for sharing in it with me.

 

 

 

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 12 Jean Clavelle: Conversations with Consumers

Day 12 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan brings us a guest post from Jean Clavelle. Jean is a friend of mine from University, she is a fellow Agro. I have had the opportunity to reconnected with her in the past few years with our work of communicating with consumers. I love her take on being mindful of the fact that we are indeed all consumers, whether we are farmers or not. Enjoy!!

Follow Jean on Twitter @ClavelleJean or check out her newly launched communications company, Magpie Marketing, here

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Our Food Has a Story.There is a profound truth in that statement. Behind every bite is a business, an individual, a family, a history, a farm. Likewise, the food choices we make, tell their own narrative. Our decisions make an account of our economic status, our ideologies, our understanding of science and exposure to outside influences. Yes that’s right, the story includes not just the people who grow the food but also those who eat it. We mustn’t forget that it is not ‘us’ versus ‘them’, it is ‘we’. We are all consumers.

So, how do we bridge this seemingly insurmountable divide between the beliefs’s of non farming consumers and the truth about, and the science behind, what happens on a farm? I think that the farming community is beginning to find its voice by sharing their farm stories with video and images. But, just like our mama’s told us – it isn’t what you say, but how you say it. Sometimes the message can get lost because of how it is presented.

Before engaging in a discussion about food and farming we must step back and shift perspective. How can we expect non farming consumers to understand the complexities of food production anymore than we can expect society to understand medicine without being a medical doctor? Is it any wonder consumers are in a near state of panic between the rush to keep up with the latest miracle ingredient, anxiety about chemicals and demonization of gluten, dairy or sugar? Scary headlines, ‘free-from’ labels and judgemental hashtags hardly help. Not to mention the food snobbery – is it actually okay to consider cheap and affordable food healthy too?

Consumers are exposed to an inordinate amount of information (some factual, a lot of it not) during the decision making process of buying food. We in agriculture must shed the indignant anger to recognize the genuine confusion and uncertainty that many consumers experience. Only then can we talk to non farming consumers about what we do, how we farm and why we make the decisions that we make.

Analysis by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity tells us that consumers, and specifically millennia’s, are looking for more information and to engage in this discussion. So, let’s invite the conversation to happen, in an open, frank and friendly manner. Let’s be like those doctors with a really great bedside manner leaving the consumer feeling encouraged, safe, and confident in what we do. Even though they may not understand the science they trust us to make the right decisions and they know we’ll be here to answer questions.

So yes. Choices abound. Misinformation is a reality, but what an opportunity this presents! I look forward to more of these conversations as all sides find common ground with #ourfoodhasastory and hopefully come to realize there are actually no sides at all.

Have a great Ag Month everyone!

 

 

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 11 Stuart Smyth: Communicating the Benefits of Agriculture Innovations

Day 11 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan is exciting for me. Today’s author is Stuart Smyth, a researcher, educator and communicator – all about agricultural science. The reason that farmers and ranchers are able to do what we do, and raise what we raise, is due to those in research and education. 

Follow Stuart on Twitter @stuartsmyth66 or check out his University of Saskatchewan profile here: http://www.usask.ca/research-groups/stuartsmyth/About%20Dr.%20Smyth/Profile.php

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As a professor in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, there are two things that make my job one of the best in the world, sharing the results of farmer surveys and teaching farm kids.

I receive several invitations, national and international, each year to attend conferences or other events and give a presentation based on my research. Yet, the presentations I enjoy the most are the ones I give to Saskatchewan farmers. Farmers are incredibly savvy businesswomen and businessmen, who know very well just how economical a new innovation is or is not for their operation. This is often the case regardless of the innovation, whether it is in a new piece of equipment, chemical or crop variety. That’s because they take the time to find out. Farmers also know how well a particular innovation is succeeding in their general area, but they may have less exposure to impacts at the larger, provincial level. This is often where I’m able to share some of the findings of my research with them, to give them a broader sense of the provincial impacts.

 These opportunities to speak with the farm community are valued ones, as the exchange of information is two-way. While I am able to share some of my research findings, I’m also able to have the results validated by those in attendance, allowing me to know what results are pretty accurate and which ones might require further research. Luckily for me, farmers are relatively forthcoming about sharing insights about farming that they are interested in, expanding my knowledge and understanding. A lot has changed on farms since I left my family’s farm in the mid-1980s, so being able to expand my awareness regarding current issues, topics and concerns is incredibly valuable for me.

Being able to teach classes of predominantly farm kids is truly a rewarding experience. Their passion and enthusiasm for agriculture is certainly infectious. Getting a chance to know these students a bit over the course of their education makes teaching classes exciting as the students are curious about changes and innovations in agriculture and the resulting impacts. As I get to know the students, I’m reassured about how capable they are and know that as the future leaders of our province, we are in good hands. One of the most dramatic changes I’ve seen in agriculture at the U of S is the high number of female students today, compared to the class photos that adorn the hallways. Class photos from the late 1970s and well into the 1980s show a handful of female students at most, definitely less than 10% of the total class size. For the past few years, the graduating classes from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources have been over 50% female.

Growing up on a farm in the 1970s and 80s, but not actually farming myself, has never been something that I’ve easily accepted. However, being able to report on the farm level benefits of agricultural innovations and to teach farm kids is pretty good compensation for not being able to farm. Every day that I drive onto the U of S campus, I’m so very thankful that I have the opportunity to work in agriculture.  

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 10 Shayla Hertz: Celebrating Our Connection Through Food

It is day 10 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. I have only had the pleasure of meeting today’s author, Shayla Hertz, once, but I have been awed and inspired by her mother, Alanna Koch for years. Like Shayla, I have also travelled the world, and also like her, I am proud of the amazing (and safe!) ways Saskatchewan raises and grows food. Enjoy!!! 

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October is Agriculture Month, a time to celebrate something we are all connected to and by. Food.

Ag Month is about celebrating how food grown on farms gets to our tables, how this food is healthy and nutritious, how it’s affordable, how this food is safe, and how truly sustainable this food is. These are values everyone shares in Saskatchewan. These are values we are united by across the globe, people simply prioritize them differently. 
This weekend is Thanksgiving. I’ll be with my family. Many are grain farmers. We’ll eat turkey, cranberries, stuffing, cabbage rolls, potatoes and gravy, seasonal veggies, and some kind of pie. Food that’s associated with love and happiness. Thanksgiving has always been an extra special time of year for us. It signifies the end of harvest (usually!), a time where farmers work extremely hard to get their crops off. These crops will be the food you and I eat. 


Agriculture is synonymous with home for me. I’ve traveled to other parts of the world and what I love most about Saskatchewan and Canada is knowing whole-heartedly that we have access to safe, healthy, and affordable food, always. Not only that, but that we contribute significantly to feeding other parts of the world where people can’t grow enough food for themselves, doing so in an environmentally-conscious way. 


This Thanksgiving and this #AgMonth17, I’m celebrating being able to enjoy food produced with the use of modern technology and production methods. The food of today. Food that is just plain GOOD. 

That’s a chapter in my food story. Can you tell me about yours?

#CelebrateFood #Thankful #OurFoodHasAStory

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 9 Adele Buettner: If My Kitchen Table Could Talk

Day 9 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan brings us a guest post from a good friend of mine, Adele Buettner. Adele is more than a friend, she is also an inspiration to me. She is a force to be reckoned with in an industry which hasn’t always embraced women in leadership roles. Through her company, Agribiz Communications, (see them here), she works with awesome organizations like Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan, helping farmers share their stories with the public.  Read Adele’s food story, and I am sure you will be inspired as well. 

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Growing up on a family farm minutes from Saskatoon, I had the best of both worlds. While it was relatively effortless to make the five-minute drive to the city to take part in extracurricular activities, meet up with friends or go shopping, I was also very fortunate to live, learn, work and play on a family farm. I grew up fully integrated in the two worlds.
At the farm, the pivotal gathering point was our kitchen table. Since my grandparents farmed with us and lived in the same yard site, it was never a sure thing where our evening meal would be.

Regardless of which of the two kitchen tables we ate at or which meal of the day it was, we were fortunate to always enjoy an abundance of beautifully prepared homemade foods. We were taught that mealtime was family time. We all ate at the table together. Conversations, debates, storytelling, sibling rivalry, laughter and sometimes tears, all took place around the kitchen table.

Family gathered at my Grandparents table.


As farmers, much of what we ate came from the labour of our own hands. Going out for supper was a rare treat and we hardly ever ate food from a can or a package. Rather, the bulk of our vegetables came from our garden and our meat came from our barn or pasture. As with the foods grown on our farm today, the food on our table when I was growing up was produced with care and respect for both the land and animals.

Washing cattle for the regional 4H show.


The kitchen table also served as a focal point when neighbours would stop by. They would sit around the table visiting, drinking coffee and enjoying an endless selection of open-faced egg salad sandwiches on Mom’s freshly baked buns and an infinite selection of homemade sweets, which I always found delicious fresh or frozen! The kitchen table also provided untold hours of enjoyment for all the card games and board games we played with family and friends. And every evening, the kitchen transformed to a library, as after a day of hard work, my parents would have a coffee and read the daily paper while sitting around the kitchen table.

Our table was also the office. As computers were not yet a household must-have, a notebook and pencil were essential to planning for the next growing season. It was at the same table where we enjoyed the goodness of homegrown food that my parents would discuss what they were going to seed for the next year, what genetics they are going to introduce into their cattle herd, what equipment they should look at upgrading or what horse show we would attend the following weekend. The very place where the food was shared with family and friends is the same table where the cycle of what to grow was decided.

Adele and her daughter at Canadian Quarter Horse Nationals.


Growing up, I was expected to help with chores like cleaning barns (chicken and horse), gathering eggs, and feeding horses. My mom also taught me how to process cucumbers, make homemade soup and how to cook without relying on a can opener. My parents taught me the how to grow good food and to celebrate family and the blessings of good friends.

My mother pickling cucumbers.


Today when friends and family gather at my home, the kitchen table is also the gathering spot. I cook with good ingredients that come from farms in Saskatchewan, across the country and around the world. I was fortunate to learn my way around the kitchen from a mother and grandmother that could have given the Top Chef Canada winners a run for their title. Card games, board games, visiting, counseling, laughing, crying, storytelling and memory building—these are all regular occurrences around my kitchen table.


Saskatchewan is Canada’s only province that dedicates a whole month to agriculture, which is fitting because farming and ranching are so important to our economy, our people and our culture. I certainly relate to the tag line “Our Food Has a Story”. For me, the centre of my food story is the kitchen table where good food is shared, stories are told and memories are made.


 
Adele Buettner owns AgriBiz Communications, which for 25 years has helped ag related organizations, including Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan, with management, marketing and communications services. Adele is a passionate foodie, family supporter and volunteer. While she lives and works in Saskatoon, she maintains involvement in the family farm and remains to this day a farm girl at heart.
 
 

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 8 Donna Stone: Why I Love Gardens

Donna Stone is our guest author for day 8 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. Donna and her family grain farm near Davidson. I love her story of the garden and the peace it brings her. I completely understand…. every part except the weeds! Ha! 

Stay tuned later in the month to hear from her husband Rob and his food story. 

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Hauling weeds


From as far back as I can remember, I have loved gardening. The smell of the freshly tilled soil, watching those tine seeds grow into beautiful plants and reaping the delicious rewards the garden produces. I even find pulling weeds relaxing and therapeutic. I love it all!

Canning Tomatoes


​I have learned a lot through gardening. Family stories and history were shared while I shelled peas with grandma or picked raspberries with grandpa. Plenty of “life lesson lectures” happened while my brother and I pulled weeds with mom. Through watching and helping, I also learned how to preserve and store the wonderful fruits and vegetables our gardens provided.  

Hauling potatoes farm kid style


​I have tried to pass my love of gardening on to my kids, and I think it’s working. They love helping from planting to harvest. Like I did, they are also making fond memories of gardening with their parents and grandparents. They’re learning that the best tasting food is the food you grow yourself and I hope someday the traditions and knowledge are passed on to their kids.

#OurFoodHasAStory Angela Jones:

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!! 

Give Angela a follow on FaceBook or give her blog, Agriculture Today, a read here

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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. 

My great grandfather Nycolai Stasiek who came from Ukraine and founded the family farm in 1912


 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.

#OurFoodHasAStory Post 6 Avery Ens: Farmer from Scratch

I first met Avery where I have met many of my friends – at a horse show. She was the photographer taking awesome shots of my daughter and her horse. I know how hard it is to make a start at farming. I couldn’t even imagine how much harder it would be without farming with family. Have a read of Avery’s food story! 

Check out her Take Aim Photography on her FaceBook page here

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My husband and I have a small mixed farm in the Nipawin area. We started seriously farming about three years ago by baling hay and straw, and raising pigs. As the years have progressed, we have added both forage acres and animals – beef cattle, turkeys, butcher chickens, and laying hens. What originally started as a way to feed our own family has grown into feeding other people’s families as well.

Our goal from the beginning has been to raise quality products. We want clients to feel comfortable knowing that they are purchasing healthy animals and fresh forages. If we wouldn’t put it on our own table (or feed it to our own animals), then we won’t sell it! 

While starting a farm from scratch has had its share of challenges, it has most definitely been rewarding. We have had the opportunity to cultivate relationships with clients, and meet many new people. Connecting with fellow farmers has allowed us to exchange ideas and discuss the challenges facing the agriculture industry. But the best part of farming has been the lifestyle – being able to farm together, and having a great place to raise our family!

Avery Ens

JAE Farms

Codette, SK