EP22 Farming Effectively

EP22 Farming Effectively

Have you ever had a philosophical moment where you’ve pondered what the difference is between farming efficiently and farming effectively? They are the same thing, right? Not quite. Ferintosh agricultural producer Takota Coen goes over why farm efficiency is important, but farming effectively is even better.

Takota and his parents have a 250-acre farm in central Alberta. Together they have converted their conventional farm into an award winning, holistically managed, permaculture farm. They share their knowledge (Takota is a farm consultant and a permaculture educator as well) and experiences with others through farm tours, workshops and public speaking . And on this podcast too!

Takota is a treasure trove of facts that make you stop and think about the current direction of the agriculture industry. Yes, farming produces food, but does it produce good, healthy, nutrient-dense food. While we know many current farming practices are efficient, but if they are not producing nutrient-dense food, are they effective farming or food production practices? What can we do so that the food we produce is more nutrient-dense and healthy for us, and better yet, is healthier for the environment it’s produced in.

You see. The questions just keep coming with this episode!

It may take a few listens to fully understand the difference between farming efficiently and farming effectively, but this episode is guaranteed to have supplied you with some nutrient-dense food for thought. Takota ends it with some great, insightful advice about how important it is for us to look after ourselves:

“If you don’t have enough time to look after yourself, there’s no way you can look after your farm, there’s no way you can look after your community, and there’s no way that your children are going to want to continue on that tradition.”


(11:51) Efficiency is using the least amount of resources possible and effectiveness is how well the resources you are using are achieving your goal or goals. Put another way, efficiency is doing things right and effectiveness is doing the right thing. Still isn’t clear? Listen to Takota’s wood stove analogy at this point in the interview. It should help.

(22:40) There is a 10:1 ratio in the processing of food in terms of energy used. For every 1 calorie of food produced, it requires 10 calories to process it. This doesn’t include energy used in the production of food.

(24:18) As we decrease soil organic carbon levels, the soils ability to hold water decreases. For every 1% organic matter you can increase, you can add 15, 000 gallons of water storage in the top 12 inches of soil per acre.

(27:37) According to Dr. David Lobb from the University of Manitoba, soil erosion costs Canadian agriculture $3 billion in lost revenue annually.

(34:06) The Omega 6 to omega 3 ratio in our food is important. Grass-fed beef has 3:1 while grain fed beef has 40:1. If omega 6’s are too high, it can lead to health issues like inflammation and potentially even heart disease, autoimmune disease and maybe even cancer.

(53:09) What is a swale? A ditch that intercepts spring run-off from snow melt. This helps, especially in areas like Alberta where up to 50% of our annual precipitation can come from snow.

(1:23:06) Takota says if you don’t have enough time to look after yourself, there’s no way you can look after your farm or your community. He also has an interesting theory why producers feel uncomfortable about charging more for their food.

Useful Links:

Coen Farm

What is a Swale?

Want to learn more? Listen to Episode 20: The Brown Revolution with soil microbiologist Dr. Kristine Nichols.