Polycultures December 7th, 2022

Join Young Agrarians, Rural Routes to Climate Solutions, and Dr. Jillian Bainard of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to learn everything you need to know right now about polycultures.

Farming as though the Earth Matters – Brenlea Farms – Camrose, AB

Brenda Bohmer, a grain farmer at Brenlea Farm in central Alberta, realized she’d been draining sloughs for years in an attempt to farm more acres. She would seed around duck nests, but in order to deal with weeds, she’d farm right up to the edges of the wetland. “It’s a mindset you get locked into,” she admits. Bohmer’s goal? Create a year-round wetland and invite nature to help rehabilitate the natural wetland ecosystem and water cycle.

Several years ago, Bohmer partnered with Cows and Fish – Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society. Within a year, nature took over the wetland and Bohmer was amazed to see the transformation of the riparian habitat. “I can still grow crops between the wetlands,” explains Bohmer. “But now I have a buffer which provides a separation between farming operations and the natural habitat. Bohmer points out that 80 percent of all types of wildlife in Alberta spend all, or part of their lives in a riparian area. “We can co-exist,” she says. “I like to think of this as farming as though the earth really matters.”

EP 75 From Pastures to Cheese – SoR Part 7

For this very special French-language episode of the Rural Routes to Climate Solutions podcast, recorded in the late summer of 2023 during the Stories of Regeneration tour, Sara Maranda-Gauvin of Regeneration Canada talked with brothers Vincent and Simon-Pierre Bolduc of La Station: an organic farm and cheese factory in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

EP 74 Niitsitapi Agriculture Certificate

You never know what Mother Nature is going to dish out, whether it is going to be the good, the bad or the ugly, so being able to observe, learn and adapt can be just as handy as mechanical skills.
And now we have educational programs that blend Blackfoot ways of knowing and agriculture.

In this episode of Rural Routes to Climate Solutions, we are taking a look at the Red Crow Community College’s Niitsitapi Agriculture Certificate Program with JR Weasel Fat of Kainai, Alberta.

EP 73 Diversity is Resiliency – SoR Part Six

During the growing season of 2023 as summer turned into fall, the Rural Routes to Climate Solutions podcast and Regeneration Canada were on the final leg of the Stories of Regeneration tour. After covering most of the Prairies and most of central and eastern Canada in the summer, our months-long journey came to an end in Canada’s two most western provinces around harvest time.

This next phase of our journey brought us to Cawston, British Columbia, acclaimed as the Organic Farming Capital of Canada. At Snowy Mountain Farms, managed by Aaron Goddard and his family, you will find a 12-acre farm that boasts over 70 varieties of fruits such as cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, apples, and quince. Aaron employs regenerative agriculture practices to cultivate and sustain living soils, which are essential for producing fruit that is not only delicious but also rich in nutrients.

EP 72 Connecting People to Place – SoR Part Five

2023 was a challenging year for Canadian farmers and ranchers and for humanity in general. We had droughts, wildfires, floods, an affordability crisis and a number of armed conflicts. According to scientists working with the European Union, 2023 smashed temperature records globally.

And yet, someone like Nova Scotia agricultural producer Rachel Lightfoot still finds ways of being optimistic even after her farm got hit by a polar vortex, a dry spring and a very rainy summer all in the same year.

The Healing Power of Collaboration – Timber Ridge, Stavely, Alberta

Glen and Kelly Hall have been managing Timber Ridge Ranch, a 480-acre farmland situated an hour south of Calgary near Stavely, Alberta, for over 40 years. Their approach to agriculture involves regenerative practices and the conversion of their land back to perennial coverage, including the cultivation of multi or polyculture crops for swath grazing. Their operations primarily consist of a cow-calf program with approximately 200 mother cows, and they also custom graze calves from fall to spring.

Since 2018, the Halls have been on a mission to collaborate with local organizations to rejuvenate their land, which was previously subjected to conventional farming methods involving fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Over the last four decades, they have seeded an impressive 5,000 acres, aiming to enhance biodiversity both above and below the soil.

We spoke to the Halls about the challenges of ranching in Alberta’s drought-prone “banana belt” and how they’re adapting their practices to “drought proof” against increasingly warming temperatures and extreme conditions.

EP 70 Maximizing Soil Function – SoR Part Three

Soil is very much alive. And hungry too. Some estimates go as far as saying that there is more life in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on the planet. You just need a microscope to see the vast majority of it. Or you do what grain farmer Blake Vince did, and bury a pair of “tighty whities” (underwear) in the soil to produce proof of the existence of this vast and diverse soil microbial community.

In the soil, you’ve got well-known critters like earthworms, bacteria and fungi and lesser-known ones like protozoa and nematodes, who have this tendency to eat the bacteria and fungi.
In this bustling environment where a lot of things are eating each other, there is an exchange between soil organisms and plants so both sides of the equation get what they need to survive and thrive and produce food for the rest of us living above ground. This interaction between the soil and plants is something that fascinated Blake Vince, who farms mainly soya and corn in southwestern Ontario, it fascinated him at a young age.

Regenerating Humility

Will widespread adoption of regenerative agriculture automatically lead to the rejuvenation of rural communities? Derek, Director of Rural Route to Climate Solutions, shares the insights he’s gained while travelling Canada, interviewing agricultural producers about regenerative agriculture.

EP 69 Loyal to the Soil – SoR Part Two

During the growing season of 2023, Rural Routes to Climate Solutions teamed up with Regeneration Canada to connect with agricultural producers across Canada who are tackling the pressing social and environmental crises through the adoption of regenerative agriculture.

One such farm is Axten Farms, situated in Minton, Saskatchewan. With a steadfast commitment to growing healthy grains, Axten Farms takes a regenerative approach focused on enhancing their land’s soil biodiversity, creating a thriving environment for food production. Their unwavering dedication is captured in their motto, “Loyal to the Soil.”

EP 68 Bacteria

If you’re still wondering how best to incorporate regenerative technologies into your daily operations then you might need a crash course, or at least a motivating podcast episode, that speaks to the business of bacteria. In this kick-off episode of the Siksikaitsitapi Agriculture Project podcast series, we sit down with Joshua Day Chief to discuss how growing good bacteria can recharge your soil, plant and water health to make way for producing a better product.