My parents Lyle and Grace raised me (Janeen) and my 3 brothers near Endeavour, SK on a small mixed farm. We grew a lot of our own food which included cattle, pigs, chickens, eggs, milk goats, and veggies. Although it wasn't always organic or pasture-raised, it was still farm-raised.
Even though 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. This is how Sam and I got together as 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. However, halfway through my agriculture college training at Lakeland College in Vermillion, AB, I took a summer job on a large Alberta cow/calf ranch that practiced Holistic Management. This experience brought a change in perspective, specifically about how much sense it made to time calving in sync with nature like the deer and elk.
After college and a few months before Sam and I got married, I picked up the Joel Salatin book Salad Bar Beef at a Saskatoon bookstore. Reading it cover to cover made me realize that conventional agriculture could never be the direction we would take. Also, during this time, I got quite sick with digestive issues, and it led me to a naturopath who put me on a path of healthy eating and preventative health care.
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 a few horses. While Sam worked the summers cowboying at a large PRFA community pasture, I worked at the big factory pig barn about 9 miles away. It was not a job I enjoyed, but I 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!
In 2002, we had the opportunity to take an HM course from Don Cambell, an HM instructor from Meadow Lake, SK. The course introduced us to managing the farm as a "whole," where people, animals, landscape, and financial management are interconnected. All decisions we make must be tested against the "Holistic Goal" or picture we see for our family, community, and environment. The course gave us all the concepts and technical spreadsheets to make our farm and life what we want it to be! We made our personal holistic goal and set about making a grazing plan and dividing our pastures into smaller paddocks.
In May, following the Holistic Resource Management course, BSE hit Canada, and the prospect of making a living on cattle we had invested in crashed! A cow/calf enterprise was not going to work for a long time. However, we were not willing to go back to pig barns. We became an Approved Private Service Home to look after handicapped people. Soon, we had two extra people to feed as well as two of our own kids. They were drinking milk like it was on tap, and we decided to get a milk cow. In a few weeks, we owned two!
The family we bought our cows from mentioned that we should get the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This book opened up the world of traditional REAL food through 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!
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 Inspected 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.
Joel Salatin and the Weston A Price Foundation have been our biggest inspiration for believing that we can make a living providing real food directly to real eaters. They have a holistic vision of how the world could nourish itself properly again, including farm stores 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. It made complete sense to us, and now it would be impossible to ever go back to selling good food into the industrial food system!
One very significant thing that keeps us going is the incredible support we get from all of you who want to see "restorative" agriculture succeed and traditional healthy food abound! Without your support, this farm could not be! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!