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.”

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Organic, Biodynamic & Biodiverse Farming – Sand Springs Ranch – Lac La Biche, AB

Janice and her husband, Ty Shelton, have been running Sand Springs Ranch, a certified organic operation, with a philosophy for biodiversity for over 35 years. They raise grass-finished beef, pasture-raised pork, and grow organic vegetables, and both table and seed potatoes in northeastern Alberta. “We are a small family farm. We consider ourselves small compared to the big guys.”

Biodiversity and diversification are at the heart of what the Sheltons do at Sand Springs Ranch, from relying on the unique skillsets of every family member to feeding their cattle a blend of hay from a variety of fields – all with different soil biology and nutrients – to diversifying their products and marketing strategies, to cultivating lesser known varieties of potatoes.

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Low-Carbon Market Gardening – Northern Lights Fruits & Vegetable Co. – Manning, AB

Part of Dan and Louise’s vision for Northern Lights was minimizing their impact on the environment and producing good, nutritious food as sustainably as possible. “We wanted to minimize our carbon footprint to the greatest extent possible,” says Dan. “Solar was a very natural path, or direction to move in.”

Before leaving Edmonton, the couple took a course in Solar Energy to learn some of the basics in order to familiarize themselves with considerations and different technologies. When designing their farm, they identified different energy needs on the land. Dan says he spent a great deal of time researching different solar technologies for specific tasks, say, running water pumps, or running electric fences, when he had an important realization.

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In Conversation with Rachel Herbert – Trail’s End Beef – Nanton, AB

‘Sustainability’ is what drives the Herbert family, owners of Trail’s End Beef, a grass-fed and finished beef ranch, nestled outside of the town of Nanton, in the Porcupine Hills of southern Alberta. Rachel and Tyler, with the help of their two children, practice rotational grazing management and steward the native grasslands, rolling hills, abundant springs, and sheltering poplar and willow groves. They raise calves entirely on pasture (and stored forage through the winter) until they’re 26 to 29 months-old, and direct market the beef to a diverse customer-base in southern Alberta.

The Herbert family ranches with an ethic for animal care, and environmental stewardship and regeneration, protecting watersheds, planting cover crops, and allowing the land to rest between grazing. They share the native grassland with a variety of wild ‘neighbours’, including geese, songbirds, coyotes, muskrat, cougars and grizzly bears.

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