I have been reading this blog for several months and am continually impressed by the depth of knowledge revealed, and inspired by the community of like-minded people that this blog provides us with access to–via the ether! So, I am both excited and flattered by the invitation to participate as a regular contributor.
A little about me:
I have always been interested in food. Over the years mild, hobby-like curiosity about cooking coupled with a deep sense of culinary adventure have evolved into passionate, profound concern about the treatment of agricultural animals and the origins of my food. The more I learned about the horrors of our corporate food production and distribution systems (with its over-use of chemical inputs, environmental non-accountability, and inhumane treatment of animals, to name but a few of its horrors), the more important it became for me to be in direct control of my food sources. I wanted to either grow, raise, hunt or fish for everything I needed. So last year I quit my job, returned to the farm and committed to this project: to provide all the food my husband and I would eat for a year. It is what I called achieving ‘Personal Food Sovereignty’.
I do not have a background in farming or agriculture, but I have been learning how to farm for several years. While living in New Zealand, I volunteered on farms to soak up as much knowledge and practical skills as I could, and learned about an Australian system of agriculture that made sense to me, called ‘Permaculture’. Its fundamental idea is that agricultural practices should foster the development of permanent systems that support humans, animals and plants, and maintain important resources such as soil vitality and water quality. In keeping with the permaculture philosophies, I am now developing a small farm here on the West Coast of British Columbia, Canada.
One of my great passions is developing my animal husbandry skills–I love working with my animals. I like learning about their requirements and peculiarities, providing them with a decent life, and knowing where my meat comes from. In order to address our protein requirements, I had to acquire practical skills like butchering, fishing and hunting for my meat. As well, I have been successfully breeding and raising meat birds (ducks, chickens and turkeys) for several years. In addition, I have kept goats for four years, although to date they have been solely for entertainment purposes. That is, until this month: presently, the does are being serviced by a borrowed buck. If pregnant, they should kid about mid-July. I plan to make cheese and other dairy products from their milk, as well as utilize them for meat.
All of this is part of my continuously evolving goal of achieving ‘personal food sovereignty’. I had to address questions like: How much food do we eat each year? In what quantities? How will I produce, acquire, or preserve it all? What can we live without? What are we not willing to give up? and so on. The answers to those questions guide the farm’s developments and my evolution as a farmer and serious food ‘provisioner’. For example, this year’s goal is to make the farm pay for itself; this means everyone has to pay their way. This required the sacrifice of my male muscovy ducks to the annual Rod and Gun Club Game Dinner and Dance (plucking them reminded me why they are not in full scale production!).
My journey continues to evolve daily, and along the way I have stored experiences, some serious and useful, but many surprisingly comical and completely anecdotal. This year I am breeding the goats and may raise meat rabbits; one day I would like to raise bees and cut loose from our dependency on store-bought sugar. Often my desires are ahead of the necessary resources to make them happen–it all takes time, energy, know-how, money, and sometimes structures and other kinds of capital expansions–so the plans get stored in the hedgerows of my mind until the requisite precious resources come available. In the meantime, the work continues, changes and evolves along with my passion and knowledge–and I realize that I have become a serious food provisioner.