Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Glacial government: CFIA still implementing recommendations from 2008 listeria outbreak | barfblog

Glacial government: CFIA still implementing recommendations from 2008 listeria outbreak | barfblog

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Biodiversity and Environmental Farm Planning in the Gulf Islands

The real substance of conservation lies not in the physical projects of government, but in the mental processes of its citizens.” Aldo Leopold. A Sand County Almanac.

The Islands Trust Fund Regional Conservation Plan for 2011-2015 is currently under review, with a deadline of October 31 for public input , something most farmers may not be aware of. The draft document mentions “working landscapes”, or farms, as part of the Trust plan to enhance biodiversity – through the mapping of farms having environmental farm plans, or even acquiring farms. The draft document recommends habitat conservation through voluntary land acquisition and conservation covenants where properties are large, and private land stewardship education in higher density neighbourhoods. But what about stewardship education for large properties, especially farms? And how about using an existing successful program, that wouldn't cost the Trust or the taxpayer a nickel?
In fact, the Trust may be further ahead by encouraging good stewardship through the encouragement of farmers to complete Environmental Farm Plans (EFP), and Biodiversity Plans. These plans are administered by the BC Agricultural Research and Development Corporation (ARDCorp), a subsidiary of the BC Agriculture Council. ARDCorp's purpose and mandate is to cost-effectively deliver programs and services to BC's primary agriculture industry. Environmental Farm Plans are no charge to the producer.
Two years ago, a new component of the Environmental Farm Plan – a Biodiversity Plan - was available to 70 producers in BC. The publication, Planning for Biodiversity: A Guide for BC Farmers and Ranchers was the first initiative to provide an on-farm assessment and planning tool for biodiversity in North America and the manual was revised this spring. The EFP provides farmers and ranchers with an understanding of agriculturally related environmental regulations and farm management practices that enhance environmental values. It is one step to responsible stewardship of the natural resources essential to a sustainable and economically viable agriculture.
Recognizing and enhancing the biodiversity of the farm is a second step. Whereas some people might believe that conserving biodiversity in working landscapes comes at a cost to the individual landowner, biologically diverse ecosystems provide a number of important free goods and services to farmers, reducing the need for pesticides and fertilizers, reducing production risks like flooding, and increasing the productive capacity of the land.
Fir Hill Farm was one of the first to undertake a biodiversity assessment and plan. In our farm’s case, most opportunities to manage biodiversity were achieved. Our uncultivated natural areas well exceed the desired minimum of 20%. Perennial cover and mixed hay crop provide habitat for birds, fence lines are treed and have shrubs for cover. We have an old growth raptor nesting tree, although the osprey have been chased off by the eagles the last few years. We have some heritage livestock, contributing to genetic diversity of domesticated species. Our black Spanish Turkeys live wild on the farm and are able to reproduce and raise their young naturally.
Our farm links habitat areas, as both of the forested ridges in our valley are connected, aiding as a wildlife corridor. Washington Grimmer cleared the land in the 1800's and kept the connecting forested strip in the valley as a windbreak, and it also provides valuable habitat. The watercourses are also well connected throughout the farm.
Our biggest challenge is invasive species – scotch broom, thistles, giant bullfrogs, raccoons (not natural for Pender) are just some examples of invasive species that create conflicts with farming and reduce our biodiversity. In addition to that, as we enhance our natural areas and protect wildlife, there can also be negative effects on agriculture that we need to manage. For example, deer (and geese, especially resident geese) can have negative impacts on growing field crops, grass and fruit.
To implement the improvements to stewardship desired, the provincial and federal governments provide funding to farmers for specific projects.
To encourage farmer and rancher participation in the environmental and biodiversity planning available, local conservation organizations and the Islands Trust may look for ways to encourage and work with farmers, since we all benefit in the long run.
Producers interested in completing an EFP or biodiversity plan can contact David Tattam, EFP Planning Adviser, Duncan. (Phone: 250-746-7666, Cell: 250-732-4665, E-mail : or download “Planning for Biodiversity – A Guide for BC Farmers and Ranchers” at

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lamb meat safety Farmers on Saltspring Island say slaughtering their lambs off-island does not make their meat any safer, the CBC's Justine Ma reports

The smaller building on right is the abattoir. Inspector's office & washroom in building on left.
CBC visited Margaret Thomson and Sandy Robley on Salt Spring Island, to learn about the impact of the meat regulations on communities without their own slaughter facilities.  CBC also visited Campbell Farm on the particular day that I took my lambs to be slaughtered on Saturna Island.  The audio, from The Early Edition, has a longer interview with Sandy, Jacques and Margaret.  Click on the link above to see the video and hear the audio, as well as read the comments on the piece.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Celebrations of Thanksgiving and Food

Pender Island Fall Fair Barbeque

      In the past few months there have been several celebrations that are based on food. In the summer, along with July 1st barbeques, family get-togethers and fall fairs, there is Food Day on the Saturday of the first long weekend in August in Canada. Food Day was started in 2003 to help Canadian beef producers who were struggling with the impact of BSE, and ironically is not well known among many farmers (who are too busy at that time of year anyway) but is used to promote beef, and by restaurants to promote Canadian food.
Morning Bay Winery, Pender Island
      In the midst of the controversy in the US over the burning of the Quran and the building of a mosque at the site of the 911 tragedy, we enjoyed the Ramadan holiday with the Muslims. No, I am not Muslim or even personally know anyone who is, at least to my knowledge. But we do raise lamb, and this year we had a very nice group of ram lambs that were in high demand. Ramadan, which lasts one month and this year took place in August, is a time for self-reflection, sharing with others, and thanks-giving. Ramadan is also marked by fasting from sunup to sundown, and meals that include sheep and goat meat, preferably from male animals that are in the form God created them. That is, intact rams. Ours had the added bonus of long tails and they were very clean from being on pasture all spring and summer, and they were organic.
August is also the time of garlic harvesting, and on Pender Island there is a Garlic Festival at Charman Farms the day after the Pender Island Fair.  On Saturna Island on October 2nd, 31Square held a community food and food gathering project called the One Square Dinner. All the food and wine was produced on Saturna. Galiano Community Food Program held an island-wide picnic in September.
Charman Farms Garlic
     Just this October 3rd, Harry and Debbie Burton and other Salt Spring Island orchardists and volunteers put on the 12th annual Salt Spring Island Apple Festival, a major success in celebrating the under-rated apple. Last month Harry gave an enthusiastic presentation on apples to an equally enthusiastic Pender Island audience. He gave us a quick overview of grafting and the selection of different apple varieties. I especially enjoyed the slide show which gave us a glimpse into Harry and Debbie's world and their joy and passion for their piece of heaven. The theme of the festival was Kids and Apples, because Harry knows from his own experience how important it is for children to connect with the land.
     It is exciting to see this connection in action with a school garden growing at Pender Island School, with students recently enjoying their first harvest lunch from their garden, and we can hope for many more. There are plans for apple trees to be planted at the school as the garden grows in size.
As it becomes harder for BC producers of apples to compete in a global market, with major competition from China, New Zealand and the US, there is some relief as consumers become more aware of supporting our BC apple producers. BC produces 3.5 million boxes of apples, while Washington State produces 105 million boxes, and 230 million boxes are grown in North America. Last year several farmers' markets saw apples sold at 12 cents per pound to show the consumer what most apple producers receive for their apples. Many orchards with the standard Macintosh and Delicious apples we all know have been dug up and replanted. One of the new varieties that have excited growers is The Ambrosia, a new apple accidentally discovered in a Similkameen orchard (the pickers would eat all the apples on this favourite volunteer tree!).
Besides Thanksgiving, one day this month that acknowledges the food that is produced is World Food Day, observed each October 16th in recognition of the founding to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945 in Quebec City. The purpose of World Food Day is to increase awareness and understanding and informed action to alleviate hunger in the world. This year we have over one billion people who go to bed hungry, which is hard to understand when you live where food is so cheap and available. A few years ago Stewart Wells, President of the National Farmer's Union in Canada wrote to the UN to enquire if it was true that the world was drawing down its food supplies. As the world's cropland area remains static or declining, we experience the equivalent of a North American population added to our numbers every six years. What happens to per capita cropland area? It's more than a math problem. The UN tracks global food production, supplies, usage and prices. The global economic slowdown, following on the heels of the food crisis in 2006–08, has deprived an additional 100 million people of access to adequate food. There have been marked increases in hunger in all of the world’s major regions.
Closer to home, as Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and the harvest bounty this month, hopefully a few celebrants will give thanks to the people that produce the food we need and enjoy. The BC apple producers and beef producers, who have had some tough times, are like other producers of food who have experienced tough times. They all keep going because they have pride in what they do, in producing food for the tables of others. Because food is a key element of life.

Monday, October 4, 2010

NEW: Cowshare College Canada course outline now posted on the Events page « The Bovine

NEW: Cowshare College Canada course outline now posted on the Events page « The Bovine

Jack Knox: Slaughterhouse benefit is a meaty issue on Saltspring

Jack Knox: Slaughterhouse benefit is a meaty issue on Saltspring

Unfortunately, the link to the Times Colonist column by Jack Knox on the fundraising done by Salt Spring farmers is gone.  But the fundraising is still ongoing, as they march towards their goal to raise enough for a local mobile slaughter facility that will take care of beef, lamb, pork and poultry needs for the island.  As a fellow Gulf Islander, I am cheering them on.  I am also hoping that my smaller island of Pender can also use this facility on wheels for our own use.  As ferry costs go up - and we recently heard they are going up again - it will be more and more important for each island to be more resilient and self supporting.