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.
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.
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.
The Stories of Regeneration podcast series is a 10-episode, in-depth look into the practices, motivations and lives of a dozen agricultural producers who are determined to remain profitable and regenerate the land, communities and ecosystems through their agricultural and agribusiness practices.
Have you ever found yourself scratching your head trying to make sense of all those terms like polycultures, cocktail crops, intercropping, cover crops, companion cropping, and relay crops? It’s understandable! They all seem to be part of the vast landscape of good land stewardship practices, like sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture, agroecology, permaculture, and regenerative agriculture. Oh, and let’s not forget our personal favorite—agricultural climate solutions. But here’s the thing: are these different systems truly distinct, or are they more closely related than we think?
With fertilizer prices hitting $1,000 a ton, it’s no surprise that cover crops are a hot topic. It makes sense that non-synthetic inputs like cover crops are becoming more and more appealing to producers. There’s many benefits to cover crops – including feeding livestock and pollinators, improving water filtration, suppressing weeds, building soil carbon and improving soil biology. In this episode, we’re joined by Kevin Elmy, of Cover Crops Canada, to discuss the ins and outs of cover crops.
The Gelowitz’s kept a garden on their farm where they grew several saskatoon bushes. Rick, who grew up in Calgary, but spent quite a few summer vacations on his uncle’s farms in Saskatchewan, has had a lifelong love for the native prairie berry. “It was my wife’s suggestion that we try to grow Saskatoon berries,” he recalls. “And that’s how it started.”
Join Young Agrarians, Rural Routes to Climate Solutions, and Kevin Elmy to learn all about the steps and thought processes when designing cover crop blend creations for your farm.