We strongly believe that we have to be stewards of the land and of the environment. We feel that by being certified organic and using holistic management, http://holisticmanagement.org/ we can be active stewards of the land. We also believe that we can be beyond organic. We have to look at all of our practices and be as sustainable as possible and be the best keepers of the earth as we can be.
We are Certified Local Sustainable by Local Food Plus. This organization’s mandate is to help “grow a local sustainable food system.” http://www.localfoodplus.ca/. This group looks at our sustainability by looking at our wildlife, wild areas and farming practices. They also look at our actions towards reducing our green house gas emissions.
There are many ways that we do this. We use time controlled grazing for our cattle. This is a method of grazing that prevents the overgrazing of the land which prevents erosion, allows the grass to naturally reseed itself and provides habitat for wildlife. We also let the grass grow in the fall. This allows for longer winter grazing which in turn allows the manure to be spread out over the land rather than being accumulated in one place.
We strive to continue to improve the land. Our goal is to grow the topsoil. We use our composted chicken manure on the land. The manure is composted in 2 large invessel composter units. http://nioex.com/biovator/ . This compost is then spread on our land and other neighboring farmers land. The composting breaks down the manure and makes it safe to spread onto the land. Rotational grazing also allows a lot of organic matter to be put back into the soil. We also feed our cattle in the winter on the poorest part of the land. This allows the leftover hay and the manure to improve the soil. Our moveable chicken shelters have no bottom and this allows the manure to be put directly onto the land and then be exposed to the sun. The grass thrives on this mix of organic matter and manure. The grass is often waist high and extremely thick. We see improvement in the soil every year. We also do not use any herbicides or pesticides on the land. This results in a wonderful soil ecosystem full of microbes, bugs and worms.
Water is an essential and important resource for animals and plants and we try and take care of this precious resource. We are part of the Battle River watershed. http://www.battleriverwatershed.ca/ We maintain and do not alter the natural watershed areas allowing the water to naturally flow towards the Battle River. We collect surface water in ponds (dugouts) allowing natural drinking water for our cattle and all of our livestock. The dugouts and natural wetlands are fenced off protecting them from the cattle and allowing wildlife (ducks, geese, deer, coyotes) to use and thrive in the clean water. No herbicides or pesticides are used on the land and have not been used since 1992. This prevents chemical runoff from collecting in the wetlands allowing frogs and reptiles to thrive. We love our frogs!
Biodiversity is essential and we believe that all wildlife is important to the ecosystem. Over the summer we only take one cut of hay so that the wildlife can have plenty to eat for the winter. This also allows for more snow to collect on the land in the winter providing more moisture to the land and to the wetlands in the spring. We have buffer zones around our land that allow natural untouched habitat for birds, this allows them to nest and raise their young undisturbed. Bird houses are put up to encourage birds to nest; blue birds and swallows are a common site.
We use electric netting around the perimeter of the outdoor chicken shelters to protect the chickens from the foxes, skunks and coyotes. This allows them to live on the land right beside the chickens. We also have planted trees and continue to plant trees. We have seen many different types of wildlife flourish here and have seen more and more diversity every year. Mice, shrews, moles, gophers, badgers, coyotes, porcupines, deer and moose live on our land and on one occasion we spotted a cougar. Owls, hawks, bluebirds, swallows, sparrows, starlings, robins, crows, magpies, grouse, ducks, geese, shore birds, frogs and salamanders make their homes here as well.
In the choices that we make we can affect the whole environment not just our own land. We try and reduce and reuse and we recycle through a local recycling company out of Camrose. All of our buildings are newer and were built with energy efficiency in mind and our house is an R2000 house. Solar powered watering systems are used for the cattle. We also personally purchase organic, local and environmentally friendly products. We are constantly looking for ways that we can reduce our environmental footprint on the earth.