My parents Lyle and Grace, raised me (Janeen) and my 3 brothers
near Endeavour, SK on a small mixed farm and we actually grew a lot of
our own food. It wasn't always organic or pasture-raised, but it still
was farm-raised. There were cattle, pigs, chicken, eggs, milk goats,
veggies. Although it wasn't really good food that inspired me, I always
had a passion for animals, particularly riding horses and dreamed of
living a ranch lifestyle. (that's definilty how Sam and I got
together...we had very similar upbringings and dreams!)
I never questioned the conventional production methods we used at home, and later, what I was taught at college. It made you feel important to "care" for animals by bringing their feed to them in a pen or stall and be the administrator of drugs and veterinary assistance they "needed".
But halfway through my agriculture collage training at Lakeland College in Vermillion,
AB , I took a summer job on a large Alberta cow/calf ranch that
practiced Holistic Management and a tiny crack was wedged into my
current knowledge base, specifically, how much sense it made to time
calving in sync with nature like the deer and elk, so that the cows
nutritional needs where met at the right time with the least amount of
cost, and the planned rotational grazing of the cows to manage the
quality and quantity of grass. It was a summer hard work but lots of
practical conceptual learning!
After college and few month before Sam and I got married, I happened to pick up the Joel Salatin book Salad Bar Beef at a Saskatoon bookstore. I went home and read it cover to cover and knew, right then and there, that conventional agriculture as we grew up and as I had "officially" learned at Lakeland, could never be the direction we would take!
We got married in September 2000, and still,for short time, we took jobs at feedlots west of Saskatoon, because this is what we knew...riding horses, pulling sick cattle and giving antibiotics and hormone pellets. But it was not romantic anymore, it just seemed wrong... not to mention disgusting.
In this time, I also got quite sick with digestive issues as a result of bad diet and a history of heavy antibiotic use. My mom sent me to a naturopath who put me on a path of healthy eating and preventative health care - and it did turn my health right around... although there was more to learn!
Within a year, we moved back to my home area and bought a farm about 10 miles from my parents. We had 23 cows and few horses. Sam worked the summers cowboying at a large PRFA community pasture, and then in the winter he custom tub-grinding hay for farmers all around eastern Saskatchewan. I worked at the only place there was, the big factory pig barn about 9 miles away, something I loathed to do but had no other options. The life of those pigs is not anything you would want to see and some of the things I had to do to keep my job...well, it wasn't pretty. I couldn't wait to go on maternity leave and never go back!
Enter...Holistic Resource Management. About 2002 we had the opportunity to take an HM course from Don Cambell, an HM instructor from Meadow Lake, SK. and it turned out to be another life-changing experience! In a nutshell, it taught us to think about managing the farm as a "whole" ...you can not separate your people, from your animals, your landscape or your financial management. All decisions you make must be tested against the "Holistic Goal" or picture you see for your family, your community, and the environment. It gave us all the needed concepts and technical spreadsheets to actually make our farm and life what we want it to be! We soon made our personal holistic goal and set about to make a grazing plan and divide our pastures into smaller paddocks. If we managed the quality and quantity of our grass we could lengthen our gazing season and feed less hay in the winter...that was the start.
But nothing is ever as smooth as it could be on paper... The following May, BSE hit Canada and the prospect of making a living on cattle we had payed good money for... CRASHED! No matter how you cut it, there was no way a cow/calf enterprise was going to work for a long time.
But not willing to go back to the pig barns, we became an Approved Private Service Home to look after handicapped people. Shortly we had 2 extra people to feed as well as 2 of our own kids. They were drinking milk like it was on tap and I was getting tired of rationing everyone. We decided to get a milk cow. In a few weeks we owned 2! The family we bought them from mentioned that we should get the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, so we might have some ideas of what to do with raw milk products. Well it did help us out, and then some! The whole world of traditional REAL food was opened to us through the book, and the Weston A Price Foundation of which Sally Fallon is a founder. Grass-fed meats, raw and cultured dairy products, fermented grains and veggies, bone broths... non-toxic, nutrient-dense food became our passion!
So to finish the story...
Sam had grown up with a tiny butchershop on his farm and butcher days with extended family was always a great time! It was a memory we both wanted recreate. With the prospect of working together with my parents and directly selling pasture-raised livestock, we decided it might be worth it to build a Health Inspeccted abbatoir since the closest one was over an hour away. In 2009 my parents sold their farm, and with their help, we built a small butcher shop on our farm and a house for them. Dad went back to SIAST to take the Retail Meat Cutting course and by August 2010, he butchered our first pig in the meat shop. And here we are today! It hasn't been an easy road by any means - the learning curve has been very steep at times, the days long and hard, but it is deeply gratifying to be do what we believe in!
It's hard to say what actually led us to believe we could make a
living providing real food directly to real eaters. I think it would be
safe to say that Joel Salatin, and the Weston A Price Foundation
have been our biggest inspiration. (although the whole list is very
long) They have a "holistic" vision of how the world could nourish
itself properly again... farmstores instead of superstores, more transparency
instead of more inspection, pasture-raised animals instead of factory
confinement animals, diversity of life instead of monocultures and
chemicals...there's so much more! It just made complete sense to us and
now it would be impossible to ever go back to selling good food in to
the industrial food system!
But with out a doubt, there is one very significant thing that keeps us going, and that is the incredible support we get from all of you who want to see "restorative" agriculture succeed and traditional healthy food abound! Without you, this farm could not be! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!