A Tale Of Two Farmers - A New Chapter
We finally did it!
When Chris and I started discussing farming as our career it was over 10 years ago in a small box of an apartment. We had no background in farming but both felt a calling to become students of nature and learn all that we could from her.
After eight years of gardening and three years of farming on rented land we have finally found our forever farm where we can begin to build the life that we have been envisioning for all these years.
The idea of ‘owning’ a piece of land doesn’t really sit well with us. This is a colonial mindset that we both struggle to understand. We can’t own the mountains, the river, the soil, or the wildlife. Believe me, after being a farmer for a few years you realize just how much those things are in control of our lives, not the other way around. However, after searching for both rental and purchase options something finally became available for us and we feel unbelievably grateful to now have the security of a home in our lives.
Our new home is in Gracefield, Québec – about an hour and a half north of Ottawa. This land is on the unceded Territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation. What this means (bluntly) is that we are building a business and earning our living on stolen land. Not an easy pill to swallow for us. To this end we have decided that what we can do is work within the confines of our colonial structure to use our privilege to give back. Our privilege in this context means that we had not only the financial capability but the lack of systemic barriers (i.e. access) to this land. These are things we fully recognize many people, no matter how big a drive to do what they love, don’t have. So how do we use our privilege to give back? One of the ways we are looking into is Land Back. Reparations to the Anishinaabe Peoples through the individual act of returning land to its original caretakers. For us, it’s important to know that after we are gone this land and everything on it will be respected and honoured. We plan to keep everyone up to date as we learn about this type of reparation and encourage you do the same if you have the means.
While we are stewards of this land we will also give back by helping to build a more resilient community by making sure that there is healthy food accessible to everyone.
Lastly, we are honoured to have the opportunity to take a piece of land that has been conventionally farmed and allow it to return to a more natural state. This is something that means a lot to us. Every decision we make about our business needs to be justified through the lens of its environmental impact. This often means avoiding the easy road (think plastics and fossil fuels) and doing things that might take a bit more time and energy. We have come to realize that even what is deemed ‘sustainable’ small-scale farming is a slippery slope of negative impacts. Looking from an outside perspective it can seem as in tune with nature as you can get but realistically it can easily become a place where profit is put over nature in order to get the greenhouse tomatoes out before May. Honestly, that’s just not the type of farm we want to be. But let’s take a look at what it is, what it was, and what we hope it can become.
Our little farmhouse sits on 200 acres of beautiful land with both cleared fields, mixed forest, rocky outcrops, and is skirted by the Gatineau River. Untouched mountains flank each side of the house where the mesmerizing sounds of howling coyotes can be heard echoing through the evening. About 40% of the land is cleared and has been used for the big three: corn, soy, and wheat. Certain areas are compacted from years of tractor use and most of the soil is relatively depleted. Sounds bleak. Well, any way you look at conventional farming, it is. Our plan is to leave much of the land for nature to take her course and regrow back to her original state. We plan to help by planting trees, hedgerows and filling the outline of the bare fields with nesting boxes for birds and owls. We plan to diversify what we grow even further and plant an orchard with fruit trees, vines, and berry brambles, have a perennial herb garden filled with medicinal plants (to be used for a future tea line), as well as our main growing area where cover crops (crops not harvested for sale but rather grown to increase soil fertility and biomass, prevent erosion, and capture carbon and water) will be a huge part of our farm game.
We will take a few years to build our dream greenhouse. One that doesn't run off of propane but is built as a passive solar greenhouse which harnesses and stores the sun's energy in such a way that it needs no other heat source. Our home, over the years, will eventually be taken 'off-grid' and will run solely off solar power as will as many aspects of the farm as possible.
A very new-to-us part of the farm will be the introduction of a few animals. We will be adopting some goats to help us with a wild parsnip problem. Wild parsnip can be very dangerous to humans but goats love to eat it and have absolutely no problem digesting it. They will be accompanied by some sheep who spend all day grazing and help us maintain the grass. We will also be inviting some hens to join the party and eventually offering eggs, as well as adding a small apiary to offer honey, and syrup from our maple trees.
While we are so excited to get started we know our vision will take years to build. So kick back, follow along, and watch as we build our little farm.