If there is one thing I have learned from growing up on an organic farm, it’s to appreciate that many small things have big beginnings. Having an egg for breakfast or a glass of wine at the end of the day may seem like a simple occurrence, but the journey that has been taken to reach your plate may have begun months, or even years, before. Though a thought like this often gets surpassed by our immediate concerns of consumption: Does this taste good? and/or Is consuming this going to negatively affect me in the future? Both these questions can be answered by looking to the product’s past. In a world that is growing more and more comfortable with immediate gratification, the mass production market seems more concerned with supplying demand with quantity rather than quality at an unnaturally sped up pace. But patience is still a virtue; and the difference it makes in the end is well worth the wait.
Hands-on involvement is one of the key differences that shows how organic farming is an improvement over mass production. Instead of relying on sprays, pesticides, and genetically modified feed, everything is personally looked after by, well, a person. From seeding and transplanting vegetables, pruning grapevines and orchards, fertilizing with what we know has come from a well-fed animal, even to the odd season we have to pick potato beetles off the plants. (Not the most glamorous of jobs, but we do find comfort in the fact the bugs feel safe enough to gobble down our hard work.)
Even the animals get their individual attention; from our bees getting checked on by their beekeeper, to a pig squealing for its’ daily back scratch, or a chicken getting a cuddle. It makes all the difference in the world when, instead of having to endure the stress of being kept in a dark, stuffy, cramped barn, a pig can lounge outside in the sun or a chicken can run around its’ yard chasing grasshoppers to their heart’s content. Meat is not so tasteless and fatty, and eggs are not so pale and yellowy when an animal is given a life suited to a living creature rather than a potential ingredient.
In the beginning of the year when winter still clings to the ground, plants are seeded into trays and kept in our greenhouses for warmth, as are the new chicks tucked up under their heating lamps. As spring arrives and passes through, seedlings grow and need to be transplanted, growing chicks start to lay eggs, and the honey bees start to pollinate. Summer can bring unexpected heat waves and in a moments notice the greenhouses will need their sides rolled up to avoid losing the plants. It can feel like an endless cycle of planting, feeding, watering, weeding, pruning, fertilizing, then harvesting, rinsing, transporting, and selling, but before we know it, the end of fall rolls around and we’re collecting seeds for next season again.
The long days and labour of organic farming requires dedication, but to see the excitement in our customers’ faces at the farmer’s market makes one remember why it’s so worth it. To hear people’s plans of starting their garden with our seedlings, or their vineyard with our grapevines, or that they’re taking tomatoes all the way back to Alberta because “no other tomato even compares” to ours reminds us that we’ve made the right choice.
That our little farm has branched out through our community and contributed to joy, health, and self-sufficiency because we have rooted down in our belief that it is we who are nurtured by nature (and shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds us), not the other way around. Though our farm may not make a national difference, we make a positive one. It is up to all of us to plant our own roots and support a more beneficial and sustaining way of life. Not just for ourselves, but for the world we live in.