Posts Tagged ‘complex issues’

Growing up Organically

August 1, 2014

My family moved onto a small-ish farm in Southern Ontario the year I entered kindergarten. We are now certified Organic, and mainly produce spelt and grass-fed beef. At different points we’ve had pigs, chickens, sheep, and a small army of barn cats.

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Some of the animals in my family

On the one hand, I have always been proud of what we do. We don’t look or farm like our neighbours. We have more weeds–thistles as big as me, sometimes. Instead of pesticides and fertilizer, we practice forms of crop rotation I’ve always believed to be kinder to the earth. Our practices are more labour intensive, and a bit less dependent on fossil fuels. I know that some of our neighbours don’t even consider what we do ‘real farming.’ Usually, however, comments like that only reinforce that we are doing something different, and that we–and farms like ours–represent something more sustainable and just, a method I’ll call agro-ecological farming.

The face of grass fed beef.

The face of grass fed beef

On the other hand, aren’t these ‘real farmers’ making an important point? Couldn’t we be farming more efficiently? Shouldn’t we? It’s easy to pick on these neighbours: they are farming more conventionally and industrially, and thus responsible for so many environmental evils. Right? Unfortunately, it’s often hard to find room for nuance on my moral high-horse. In reality, my family makes a sort-of living–my parents both work off farm–by selling a niche product to upper-middle class consumers. From this perspective, our farm looks less like a real alternative to our factory farming neighbours, and more, perhaps, like an irresponsible use of resources in a hungry world. (more…)

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