Friday, July 30, 2010 - Local meat producers tour Saturna abattoir - Local meat producers tour Saturna abattoir

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy cows come from British Columbia, too | barfblog

Happy cows come from British Columbia, too | barfblog

New Chair of BC Agricultural Land Commission - Western Producer Article by Ross Freake

From the Western Producer, July 16, 2010, page 61
Agricultural Land Commission | New Chair
Farming hardships good stepping stone to ALC post
By Ross Freake
Freelance writer
KELOWNA — Richard Bullock believes the mental toughness he grew as a farmer prepared him for one of his
biggest challenges.
The Kelowna orchardist has been appointed chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, an independent agency
responsible for preserving agricultural land in British Columbia.
“You have to be able to take disappointment; a lot of things you think should get done don’t, but you have to
keep on going. That’s where being a farmer really helps.
“There’s nothing worse than having a beautiful crop and a hailstorm comes along and, all of a sudden, there’s
nothing left. You have to grieve for a few days and you have to get on with it.
“The toughest part of farming is the mental issues. All the rest can be dealt with but, by God, there are some
awful, tough days.”
Bullock, his wife, Jacquie, daughter, Nicole, and son, John, run a 150-acre apple orchard, Raven Ridge Cidery,
Ridge Restaurant, farm store, petting zoo and tours.
After quitting university, where he studied economics, he got into the family farm business.
It led to the presidency of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, B.C. Tree Fruits and Sun-Rype; chair of the
Canadian Horticultural Association and the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board and director positions with
various other farm groups.
“It has been 24-7 for a long, long time. Certainly, it has been multi-tasking,” he said. “I didn’t have a formal
education and that was by choice. I wanted to work, but I probably got more than a Harvard education doing
what I’ve done.”
The ALC, which has 19 land commissioners and 20 staff, administers the Agricultural Land Reserve, which was
formed in 1973. At 4.76 million acres, it’s the largest it has ever been. While land has been removed in the south
as municipalities expanded and roads were built, it has been added in other areas, especially the Peace River
“Land is the key component to agriculture and without it we’re toast. We have so little of it in this province and
what we do with it is paramount. It’s something we have to pay a lot of attention to. There was a tremendous
amount of turmoil when it came in.
“But since then, society has made it abundantly clear to governments of every stripe that this is a piece of
legislation they feel is important to the province.”
Bullock said there are many things to do in the job. But there is one thing he wants to accomplish right off.
“I would like put to bed the argument that the ALC is up for sale.… The ALC is not sale; it’s here to stay.”
Kelowna orchardist Richard Bullock has been appointed chair of the B.C. Agricultural Land

Is it Organic? - Liberals destroy agriculture in B.C.-by Mischa Popoff - Opionion Piece

Thanks to the B.C. Liberals, this province is now the only jurisdiction in North America that squeezes local meat production right out of business. We now import almost all our meat in B.C.  With no evidence whatsoever that meat from provincial facilities was unsafe, Don Davidson, the point man on the Liberal’s Meat Industry “Enhancement” Strategy, accused B.C. farmers of hauling sick and dead animals to local abattoirs to be processed for human consumption. Instead of sending out inspectors on surprise inspections to see whether this was true, an expensive provincial inspection regime was forced onto the backs of B.C. meat-processors. It mirrors the top-heavy system used in huge, federally inspected facilities. You know… the same system that let the 2008 listeriosis outbreak at Maple Leaf slip by that resulted in 23 deaths. Yeah, that one!
  The Liberals picked a few winners and gave them grants and low-interest loans so they could purchase new computers, renovate their facilities by adding offices and showers for their new federal-provincial inspectors, and hire staff to keep up with all the new “safety” bureaucracy. Feel better yet?
  In spite of this generosity with your tax money, the Minister of Agriculture at the time, Pat Bell, and Premier Campbell still found they faced a backlash as provincial meat processors closed down in droves. So they decided to launch workshops through the Ministry of Health to promote local food!
  This was a brilliant political move since Health had nothing to do with the destruction of local food production that was being carried out simultaneously over in the Ministry of Agriculture. Ironically though, local meat production used to be the jurisdiction of provincial health authorities. But, citing cost-overruns, health authorities claimed they could no longer inspect the handful of meat processors in this province, even though they manage to keep a MUCH larger number of restaurants safe, along with daycares, swimming pools and drinking water systems. No matter. To save money, meat production was shifted from Health to Agriculture. And yet, miraculously, Health bureaucrats somehow managed to find money in their budgets to run the local food workshops that Bell and Campbell ordered.
  If you’re wondering how Health authorities know the food they’re promoting is actually local, safe and (the big money-maker) certified organic, well… it turns out there would be no surprise inspections, no tests, just piles of paperwork! While the Liberals cracked down on local meat, they were completely lackadaisical on all other forms of local food production. Gross negligence or fraud, it’s all perfectly acceptable as long as the appearance of “local food security” is upheld.
  Restaurants are inspected on a surprise basis with routine testing; why not farms? Didn’t this all start because local farmers were allegedly feeding carrion to the public? No matter…just fill out the paperwork, pay your damn fees and everything will be fine! Imagine if daycares, swimming pools and drinking water systems were overseen so carelessly.
  After a couple years of this duplicity the NDP finally decided local food was something they should get behind and launched a private member’s bill which, instead of challenging any of the Liberals’ bureaucratic stratagem, proposes to work within it. Great…
  Steve Thomson, Bell’s replacement as Minister of Agriculture, responds to such lighthearted criticism from the NDP on local food by pointing to all the money his party has thrown into B.C. AgriTourism! Right… like tourism is going to save farming in this province. What a crock…
  Thomson runs a ministry that’s supposed to help farmers, and yet he can’t bring himself to do the one thing that would actually help farmers in this province: repeal his party’s punitive Meat Industry “Enhancement” Strategy. And apparently the NDP can’t be bothered to suggest this either.
  We’re left with one gang of bureaucrats bashing local farmers while another pretends to prop them up. After thousands of farmers stopped raising livestock in this province because there’s nowhere to process it, the Opposition decided to support what remains of local food production because it makes them look good. And the deception is being carried out to the tune of hundreds of millions of your tax dollars.
  I hope you’re not eating while you read this because no matter how this plays out you can rest assured the only winner in the end will be the government. It’s enough to make you puke.

Portions of this column are republished with permission from Field to Plate magazine, Spring/Summer Edition.
Mischa Popoff
is a freelance political writer with a degree in history. He can be heard on Kelowna’s AM 1150 on Friday mornings between 9 and 10.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Deer in the Gulf Islands

Due to a long history of isolation along the Pacific Slope, the blacktail has differentiated
from Mule Deer to the extent that it has been called “a species in the making”.
In Mule and Black-tailed Deer in British Columbia, 2000.

This spring the provincial Ministry of Environment released “British Columbia Urban Ungulate Conflict Analysis” for municipalities because of a rise in human-deer conflicts in BC. The deer population has been increasing in many BC residential areas, causing damage to gardens, vehicle accidents, aggressive behaviour and serving as potential vectors for disease to livestock and people. One scooter rider was knocked off his ride by a deer last year on Salt Spring. Deer can be a challenge to manage, because their biology makes them very adaptable to suburban situations. There is the social aspect also, especially for the Bambi generation who may not want to see lethal controls take place. The goal of the study was to find ways that communities can be involved in the decisions to reduce conflict to a manageable level.
How do we determine if we have too many deer? It's not enough to say we need to maintain a number that doesn't exceed the carrying capacity of the land. If we are talking about the biological carrying capacity, that would be the number that can maintain good health. That number may exceed the ecological carrying capacity, which would be the number that doesn't cause permanent damage to the ecology of the island. It's important to remember that deer are a vital part of the ecology, and there is some evidence that deer are important to the Garry Oak ecosystem, yet too many can damage it and the replenishment of Arbutus. The number which is in balance for the ecosystem, may still exceed the cultural carrying capacity, which is the number that humans can co-exist with. Even then, the number for “wildlife acceptance” may differ for farmers, or gardeners, or tourists and seasonal residents. For myself, in the rural part of the island where I live, I don't think we have too many deer. Someone down the road may have a different opinion. It is for that reason that the government report included a template of a survey that can be used by local governments to determine how the community is impacted and what type of management they would prefer.
To long-time rural residents of the Gulf Islands, for many years the Black -tailed deer that call our islands home have been easily controlled by hunting in the fall, a ritual that would fill the freezer for the winter, and keep the ones who come within the home boundaries in check. A lack of predators and a favourable habitat have allowed deer populations to rise, making the management of deer numbers through hunting acceptable to most. Deer who kept their distance, stayed away from the garden, and seemingly minded their own business, were spared. It made much more sense to sell domestic livestock for much needed cash, and use the plentiful deer to provide venison for home consumption. After all, man has a long history of hunting and gathering and both were regular activities in days past. Even now, some people still have a regular cycle of hunting and gathering in the fall, whether it be for deer, geese, oysters or mushrooms.
Regulations restrict when and where people can discharge firearms in the Gulf Islands, and laws may differ from island to island. For example, Mayne Island does not allow for the hunting or the discharge of firearms, except that permits may be issued to farmers who are shooting the fallow deer that are there. Sidney Island has a large non-native European fallow deer population which were introduced early in the last century. There was a major cull of over 800 animals two years ago, enlisting the help of the community who built a corral for them, and a mobile abattoir that came to the island to process them. The venison from the healthy deer was sold to restaurants in Vancouver, but there were many deer who were thin or in poor health and had to be disposed of. Their numbers had swelled into the thousands and they threatened the ecosystem and their own health. For 28 years, 11,000 deer on Sidney Island alone were hunted or removed to deer farms.
For subdivisions such as Magic Lake Estates on Pender Island, it is a different situation altogether. No guns may be discharged there at all, and to many, especially those who are visitors or seasonal residents, the deer are encouraged to visit through feeding. As a result, deer will congregate where treats are offered, just like children. This results in reduced health for the deer, and increased conflict with the community.
Reducing conflict through fencing, or the use of landscape plants that deer don't like, are good ways to live peacefully with our deer. The local lumberyard on Pender has offered a good selection of plants for many years. Allowing hunting and the discharge of firearms is also an important component to control of the deer population in rural areas since we lack large predators on most of the Gulf Islands. Public education to discourage feeding of deer is especially important, perhaps followed by bylaws prohibiting that practice. More ideas to consider are in the report.
The Ministry of Environment report “BC Urban Ungulate Conflict Analysis” is available online at

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Land Conservancy of BC, working forests and working farms

About 12 or 13 years ago, a group of Farmers Institute members went by boat to Yellow Point to visit Wildwood, the sustainable forest owned by Merve Wilkinson. Merve, recognized nationally for his sustainable logging practices, received an Order of Canada for his work and was highlighted on David Suzuki's The Nature of Things. In 1938, when Merve Wilkinson established Wildwood, his philosophy of forest management was based on principles dramatically different from common practices of the day. He has lived in his forest and has used science, observation and experience to shape his practices. The result is a forest that achieves all measures of sustainability – ecologically, economically and socially. Merve has been very generous in sharing his knowledge and experiences with others and over the years he has taken thousands of people through his forest. Merve himself gave the tour to us that day, and described the principles of sustainable forestry, also known as ecoforestry. The forest we saw was magnificent and inspirational for all who attended. Since that visit, Merve has sold Wildwood to the Land Conservancy of BC (TLC) with the understanding that the forest would continue to be operated in a sustainable manner and remain a working forest in perpetuity, a model for future forestry methods. However, in the past ten years since the TLC has taken the helm Merve and his family have watched what was once a working forest become a park. According to Merve and his family, Wildwood is not being used to its full potential as a working forest. After ten years a management plan is not yet in place. TLC seems hesitant to put a covenant on the land, something Merve wants to ensure the forest will remain a working sustainable forest. This has distressed Merve and his family to the point that they requested TLC to sell Wildwood back to them, something that TLC claims they are not willing or able to do.
This is not the only trouble brewing at The Land Conservancy. Just last year, the founder and Executive Director, Bill Turner, was demoted in the organization by the Board of Directors. It was felt by the board that Turner's strengths were in acquiring land, not the fiscal workings of the organization, which was carrying a lot of debt and had a high overhead. Turner resigned and the members ousted the Board and reinstated Turner as Executive Director. Now some of the same problems have resurfaced, and three of the new board members, including the Treasurer, have resigned over many of the same issues that troubled the old Board. This instability has concerned some groups who are using the charitable status of TLC to help them fund raise for land acquisitions, especially if TLC will ultimately be holding the title of these lands bought with community funds.
One such group at Horse Lake was raising funds to purchase a farm that they had been leasing for some time. The owner was ready to sell to them, and the TLC was going to help with fund-raising by allowing them to use TLC's charitable status (for a percentage of the funds raised). TLC was also going to hold the title for the community once the property was ready to change hands. However, based on the instability last year, the group was going to work into their agreement that if TLC tries to sell Horse Lake Community Farm in the future, the Horse Lake group wants first right of refusal in repurchasing the farm for $1.00. The re-sale of donated or acquired lands by conservancy groups has happened before, and had been discussed by TLC regarding other properties.
The Wildwood/Merve Wilkinson situation raises other issues: will the working farms that TLC hold in their portfolio be farmed in the future, or will they become parks too? This question was raised a few months ago by farmers in Saanich. Madrona Farm was part of a successful community fund-raising effort to “save”their farm, but to farmers in the Blenkinsop Valley watching from the sidelines it wasn't really threatened because it was in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). It was family owned, with a family member wanting to farm it. A good succession plan was needed, or if TLC was to buy it there needed to be assurances that it would indeed be farmed “in perpetuity” with a management plan available to the public. Why doesn't TLC appear to support the ALR? Some claim it is because the ALR does not protect the land enough.
But there are other issues that makes TLC stop short of supporting the ALR – in 2002 the Agricultural Land Commission changed the way conservation covenants were dealt with on ALR land, much to the dismay of TLC. After consultation on the legislation, TLC felt that the only way to protect ecological attributes of farmland would require ownership of the land. It was at this time that TLC started its drive to acquire farmland throughout the province.
Perhaps The Land Conservancy's role in acquiring lands needs more public scrutiny when it extends to our forest resource and farmlands. Some of the farms acquired by TLC have been struggling financially, adding further challenges to TLC. Ramona Scott, the champion for the TLC Community Farm program, has left TLC. The question that has now been raised is, should the TLC do any more than acquire and hold lands for their natural attributes? Should they be in the business of forestry or farming?


The Land Conservancy has sold some of its properties because of its fiscal irresponsibility.  Some of these are farms, to private owners.  Perhaps we can now focus on strengthening the ALR.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Future of the Jersey Cow in the Gulf Islands

Rich and silky, an organic cheese to make you anything but blue” Globe and Mail, January, 2010
Sin on a cracker” Macleans Magazine – on Moonstruck organic cheese

Susan and Julia Grace own Moonstruck Dairy on Salt Spring Island, one of the first certified organic dairy and cheese producers in BC. At first, their farm was like most in the Gulf Islands. Part of island farming heritage, it was the former 1890's homestead of the Beddis family. Susan and Julia grew vegetables, had some chickens, and direct marketed their farm products. They had ventured into a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture program, that involved providing a weekly box of seasonal organic farm products to customers. But one day in 1998 Susan came home with a Jersey cow, and everything changed.
The rich organic Jersey milk became butter and cheese, which was shared with their friends.. Soon, everyone wanted to try the cheeses that Julia created. More cows were added and a milking parlour, cheese processing area and farm shop were built. A cottage industry license from the Milk Marketing Board was acquired. This allowed Moonstruck Dairy to hit the big time – cheese shops and quality restaurants. The awards soon followed, including two awards in 2008 from the World Jersey Cheese Festival on the Isle of Jersey, part of the International Jersey Conference. That year also saw their homebred cow, Printemps, classified as Excellent. Printemps is a product of both good food, good care and good breeding. (She is the daughter of the well known award winning bull Rock Ella Perimeter.)
All that fame has not changed things on the farm too much. A quaint farm shop has a self-serve cheese fridge and honour box. On a recent tour of the farm, my 8 yr old son Isaac selected Beddis Blue from their farm shop, which was almost completely devoured by both of us before the ferry loaded up to go home. Absolutely incredible flavour, colour and feel in your mouth – it is worth hunting down. Their cheeses are highly valued at the local farmer's market, where the feedback from customers is an important mix of quality assurance and social life for the busy farmers.
Until last week, Susan and Julia's biggest challenge was to ensure that they have the best organic feed for their cows, which comes at a premium price. The cows are fed a custom organic mix of lentils, peas and grains with alfalfa pellets. Their forage is a fine haylage, with a premium quality grass hay. All the cows and young stock are known by their names, incredibly well cared for and obviously serene and happy. They are raised according to organic principles that provide the cows with living conditions that allow them natural behaviours while promoting good health and low stress. The cost of living on the island is another challenge, both for the cost of feed and transportation, and also to pay fair wages for their milkers. The economic downturn has hurt many organic producers as consumers shift their preferences back to cheaper food. Organic dairy products are no exception to this. As belts tighten, the cows remain well cared for.
Then a single wheel of their award-winning Camembert cheese was found to test positive for Listeria through routine testing. No illnesses have been reported to date. This was alarming to Susan and Julia, who had installed a state of the art UV water purification system to ensure high product quality and safety. They quickly responded with a public statement of their regret for this happening, and an assurance that an extra layer of independent testing would be added to their cheese making protocol. The public have been very supportive and concerned for Susan and Julia, a reassuring sign that an educated and appreciative public can be a farmer's greatest ally.
Many people are exposed to Listeria but do not become ill. The federal government has a policy recognizing that Listeria is essentially everywhere, and it may not be feasible to eradicate every trace of it. Foods are ranked according to relative risk, and Listeria threshold is allowed according to the riskiness of the food product. It is also recognized that a proportion of the population could carry Listeria without even being sick, and the very young, very old, immunocompromised and pregnant are most at risk and it would be practical for that part of the population to refrain from high risk foods. This policy is to provide guidance for health agencies. Last year the BC Medical Journal reported on a recent survey of leading public health nurses, obstetricians, midwives and family doctors who admitted their own knowledge about listeriosis is lacking, so they often do not advise high risk patients on food safety issues that could affect them.
Susan and Julia Grace are fortunate to be on a Gulf Island with residents and visitors that value their farm and their products. The Jersey cows are efficient and bred for a forage diet, so have been dubbed “green cows” for their minimal impact on the environment. Another advantage to them is excellent veterinary care by Dr. Malcolm Bond, who's dad Jesse raised Jerseys many years ago on Salt Spring. Susan and Julia's hard work and attention to detail have given them a position in the dairy and cheese community that is well deserved. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in family and shared cows, and the size and sweet temperament of the Jersey is well suited to this.
Susan and Julia Grace are the new pioneers of Gulf Island agriculture, and it is so appropriate that the Jersey cow is again central to the success of a Gulf Island farm.

I am lucky to live with animals and create delicious food. I like working with the cows, and combining creativity and a connection to nature” Julie Grace, Moonstruck Dairy cheesemaker and farmer

Friday, July 2, 2010

History of Jersey Cows in the Gulf Islands of BC

My favourite cow is the Jersey, a small, brown dairy cow known for their beautiful brown eyes, gentle disposition and colouring that looks like someone stood in front of her with black paint in hand and wind from behind. But they are especially known for the cream. Many people have memories of Jersey cream, home churned butter, rich ice cream, and whipped cream on graham crackers.
Historically their traits have been carefully protected – no imports of cattle were allowed to the Isle of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands between England and France. If cattle were brought to the island there were hefty fines, confiscation of boats, and the prompt slaughter of the offending animal. The traits were too precious to be lost to random cross breeding. As people with British roots moved to North America, so did the Jersey cows. Still, their bloodlines were carefully protected and tracked. Breeders all knew each other, either personally through correspondence or by reputation.
The Gulf Islands were world renowned for the quality and size of their Jersey herd. Robert Grubbe from Galiano Island brought the first Jerseys to the Gulf Islands in 1904 from Oregon. He contacted other farmers about buying some of the cows, and Albert Menzies of Pender Island bought two bred cows for $125 each. Menzies then imported from Wisconsin the son of the Champion bull at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Washington Grimmer of Pender Island started a Jersey herd in 1906. He had bloodlines from Ontario, the US, and the Isle of Jersey. John Bellhouse bought the farm and Jersey herd of Grubbe, and as a fan of Dickens named his cows for characters from Dickens books. His daughter Winifred married Herbert A Spalding of South Pender, and they also had a Jersey herd. In just a few years, 20% of the BC Jersey herd was in the Gulf Islands. Other names like Bullock, Price, Smith, Gibson, Evans of Salt Spring, Dalziel of Denman, and Harris of Moresby Island all raised purebred Jerseys. Pedigrees were carefully tracked, with bloodlines stretching all the way back to the Isle of Jersey itself.
Besides excellent genetics and careful breeding programs, the Jersey cows were also well cared for. Feed was homegrown, with grains,forage crops and pasture. Cows were milked twice daily. They were brushed clean before each milking, and after grooming would have their udders washed clean. The milk was filtered and chilled in a milkhouse that had a cold running stream. Butter was produced on the farm and shipped to Victoria and Vancouver. After the Salt Spring Creamery was established (where Embe Bakery is now) the cream would be shipped by boat to Salt Spring. The regular visits by the Steamer Iroquois made export of all agricultural products easily achieved.
The Jersey cows of the Menzies and Grimmer herds set many production records that were recognized both provincially and nationally. Menzies' cow, Lilac of Pender, was the first Jersey in Canada to qualify for the ROP, or Record of Performance. She was champion Jersey female at the Victoria and New Westminster Fairs. His cow Buffs Lassie held ROP records, and was awarded the silver cup by BC Dairymen Association for her production. Grimmer had cows that held many production records as well.
The quality of the Gulf Island Jerseys was so exceptional that cows were taken by boat to Victoria and Vancouver for agricultural competitions. Washington Grimmer's sons, Neptune and Percy, travelled to the fairs with Albert Menzies' sons Victor and Morris. The cattle were walked from the docks to the fairgrounds. Many championships were won for the Gulf Island Jersey cattle over the years. The young men participated in judging competitions along with showing their cattle, and at the PNE Nep, Percy and Victor took 3 of 4 prizes offered for their judging skills.
The Jerseys from the Gulf Islands soon brought fame and fortune, and were sought out for breeding stock throughout North America. Professor MacLean from the University of British Columbia travelled throughout BC in 1917 looking for exceptional Jerseys to start a herd. He selected five cows – two from Pender Island. Grimmer's Lily's Forget-Me-Not was purchased for $500, and Menzies' Lady Jane Champion was purchased for $300, hefty sums for their day. Both cows established several production records for pounds of milk and butterfat. In 1922 Lady Jane Champion held the highest record for a mature Jersey in Canada, and a student judging trophy for all round excellence was named the Lady Jane Trophy. In 1931, fifty Jersey breeders came to Pender Island to visit the Grimmer and Menzies farms.
All things weren't easy, though. Transport by boat can be tricky. In 1927 a bull jumped off the Island Princess and swam ashore at Clam Bay. Returning from the PNE during a labour strike left cows and handlers stranded in Victoria until a boat could be dispatched to help everyone get home. The biggest setback was the consolidation of the dairy industry in Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley, as processing facilities were modernized and enlarged. The smaller creameries, including the Salt Spring Creamery, closed down in the 1950's. Soon after the Jersey cows in the Gulf Islands were sold, and except for the occasional family cow, Jerseys disappeared from the Gulf Islands. But in 1998, two enterprising women revived the Gulf Island Jersey tradition by establishing Moonstruck Dairy on Salt Spring Island. To be continued.....