COMMENT: Ecowarriors and Comrades in Farms
In my personal affairs these days there’s been a real Spring climax of amazing new life.
With luck, six of my eight does will have kids in a month or two. (The owner of the buck I borrowed this winter assured me of Bradley’s vital mojo, but we’ll see!) The chickens are laying again after a winter molt, the baby bunnies have started to poke their noses out of fur-lined nests, the sun beats down with soulful intensity, seedling trays are stirring somewhere under a pile of garden gear, sap’s flowing in the trees, and my lovely partner is having a baby any day now…
In sad news, the local agriculture and food community has lost one of its greats. Jeremy Lack passed on a couple weeks ago, leaving Nette and their youngest daughter, Elizabeth, with the prolific legacy of their many projects at Mad Dog Farm in Thrums.
Jeremy was a tireless supporter and enabler of farmers in the Kootenays, as well as an immensely creative, knowledgeable, and successful farmer himself. We will miss him at Rossland’s market and so many other places, and we wish Nette and Elizabeth good fortune this year as they scale back some operations, but also plow ahead with many others, including seed and seedling sales.
Perhaps some of you were at Seedy Sunday last spring when Jeremy gave “Potatoes 101.” We’d expected ‘dig a hole, drop a spud.’ What we got was genuinely a 101, university-level potato growing course condensed into an hour. A bit stunned—and knowing he could have stretched it to a semester, no problem—I came out at least with a strong sense of why the potatoes we grow from Mad Dog seed are so utterly delicious!
FIRST BIG PLUG: Seedy Sunday has rolled around again this Sunday, March 17, at RSS, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Organized by indefatigable Rossland REAL Foodie and seed saver, Sarah Flood, come on out and celebrate the new growing season, trade some of your own seeds, and buy locally bred and raised garden seeds on sale from four stellar local farmers. Nette won’t be able to attend, but Mad Dog will send up some of their quality seed as well. The Interact Club will have baking for sale.
Spring was also in the air a couple weeks ago when I attended the BC Farmers Markets conference in Kamloops where I ran into Hermann Bruns of Wildflight Farm in Mara, BC. Hermann and Louise taught me 13 years ago what it takes to be a hardcore market gardener, and they’re still at it, feeding hundreds of families with heaps of incredible vegetables from their 25 acre operation.
Hermann’s also older than I remember. He has the same sparkle in his eyes and there’s hardly a sign of any slowdown, but as I ponder Jeremy’s early passing, I’m reminded that it’s time for younger generations to get serious about the future of food and how it’s grown.
You know how it’s grown? Someone grows it.
Michael Ableman—a successful farmer of 40 years, now running a 120 acre mixed farm on Salt Spring Island and leading Vancouver’s largest urban farm on a parking lot beside BC Place—spoke at the conference with slides from around the world. He was emphatic: if more people, more young people, are to farm, then farming has to pay.
And making farming pay is exactly where world famous eco-farming legend Joel Salatin comes in, with his proven ability to farm in harmony with nature, regenerating soils and growing lots of food, while also generating white-collar wages for his family.
SECOND BIG PLUG: “You Can Farm” is a three day intensive livestream with Joel Salatin at the Rossland Art Gallery on March 20, 21, 22, from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day.
Salatin is an ecological innovator, libertarian activist, capitalist guru, and highly successful “lunatic farmer” on his 550 acre farm in Virginia. He is the author of several farming guides, including Pastured Poulty Profits, Salad Bar Beef, You Can Farm, and Everything I Want to Do is Illegal.
Below I’ve excerpted a couple minutes from a recent Salatin interview by Rob Avis of Verge Permaculture who organized and will host the three day workshop in Calgary.
Joel Salatin on Nook-and-Cranny Farming in the urban environment
“That’s one of the beauties of these systems: they’re scalable,” Salatin said, referring to ecological farming systems that use inexpensive, lightweight, portable infrastructure.
“What fascinates me, fifteen years ago when I was speaking it seemed liked 90 per cent of the questions were, ‘That’s all well and good, but how does it scale up?”
“Today, fifteen years later, 90 per cent of the questions are, ‘That’s all well and good, but how does it scale down?”
“I’m sure part of that is our farm has grown over time. When you’re running a thousand head of cattle, a thousand hogs, and four thousand layers and other things, that sounds pretty daunting for people starting into five or ten acres, I absolutely get that.”
“But I also definitely believe that what I call Nook-and-Cranny Farming is here to stay. It’s an extremely powerful and necessary force in farming.”
“The two most common questions I get around the world are, number one, ‘This is all dandy, but can it really feed the world?’ and number two, ‘What are we going to do about elitism and the price issue?'”
“The feed the world question is the funnest one because here in the US we have 35 million acres of lawn, and 36 million acres housing and feeding recreational horses. That’s 71 million acres, which is more than enough to feed every single person in the entire country without one single ‘farm’!”
“It’s unbelievable! When you go to the 1930s and the whole Victory Garden deal, and you realize in 1945 virtually 50 per cent of all the vegetables were grown in backyard gardens. That’s not that long ago.”
“When you add up all the nooks and crannies—just think of suburbia—it’s millions and millions of acres, and they’re right next to where people live. There’s no transportation cost.”
“Why can’t we get excited and passionate about tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers growing in the backyard? What is it about our culture that we’re so nonchalant and cavalier about a visceral participation with our ecological umbilical…”
To register for the Rossland Art Gallery live screening of Salatin’s three day course—March 20, 21, 22 from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day—text or phone me at 521-2500. There’s limited seating and it’s filling up, so call soon! The cost is $20 to drop in for one day, or $40 to attend the entire three day workshop.