The last time I left you, we were hoping to make hay if the rain held out. Well we had a glorious few days of making and baling hay. You may have seen our video of Brian’s view from his office . . . which is from the seat of the tractor. It is hard work, but when I am sitting in an office by day, I am jealous of his view. We were able to finish about half of our first crop which is always a relief. But of course, as Brian says, hay is always on the brain during the summer. So now we patiently await the next set of rain free days so we can finish our first crop. We are fortunate enough to have great neighbors within several miles of our farm that allow us to utilize their fields. We fertilize these fields with manure from the farm and reap the benefits of lush hay when the time comes to bale. This hay is what gets us through the long winters. Our cows, sheep, and even the pigs will be enjoying the fruits of labor around November.
Also since the last time I wrote, we have started back at the Bruce and Ladysmith Farmers Markets. The vendors that have their table at the markets, work night and day to bring fresh finds to you. We have vegetable farmers, dairy farmers, foraging experts, bakers, mushroom hunters, and the list keeps growing. It amazes us every time that this little county has such valuable resources. Proud to be part of a hard-working community. Make sure to support your local farmers’ markets wherever you may live. These small business owners are entrepreneurs in their own right and the quality of what they bring you is second to none.
We have also started the Maple Hill Farm Summer sessions. This last week, we had Gigi Stafne, Herbalist and Naturopath, teach a wild herb walk. What does that mean? Well, we were able to walk the perimeter of our yard and find at least 20 different “weeds” that have great medicinal properties. Now this isn’t walking our 40 acres of pasture. This was basically an average size yard and it was amazing the variety of common weeds that we could use to treat various conditions. How wonderful is that to be truly sustainable and learn to use what Mother Nature provides for us. We have quite a few more classes lined up with Gigi, we have a mushroom expert that will be teaching here as well, and then we always enjoy having families come out and visit to see how our farm operation works. During the summer, the babies aren’t as abundant as most would like but the gardens are beautiful, the pigs are lounging in the mud, the turkeys and chickens are in their tractors being moved each day, the cows are lazily sleeping in the shade, the layers are foraging, and the sheep make their way grazing by night. Our hope is that you see the value in visiting to see how we raise our animals and learn the value of small farm operations.
Speaking of raising animals, I know we told you about our Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) certification. This past week, we went through our random audit again and passed. This is always exciting to hear that we are up to the AWA standards. Below read about their philosohy when they are reviewing farms:
It’s now widely accepted that raising animals intensively – indoors or confined on dirt feedlots – is not only bad for animal welfare, but it’s also harming human health and the wider environment. You only have to look at the headlines about the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, environmental pollution from intensive farming systems, and animal welfare abuses to see that our food system is broken.
The AWA program operates on the simple understanding that the way we raise our animals, the nutritional quality of the meat, milk and eggs they produce, and the impact of farming systems on the environment, are all intrinsically linked. We know that if we manage our animals properly and according to their needs, we don’t have to rely on things like routine antibiotics and other chemical inputs to farm. We know that healthy, content animals produce better tasting, healthier meat, milk and eggs. And we know that pasture-based farming livestock systems can actually have a positive impact on the environment, too.
WHAT DO WE DO? AWA audits, certifies and supports independent family farmers raising their animals according to the highest animal welfare standards, outdoors on pasture or range. Called a “badge of honor for farmers” and the “gold standard,” AWA has come to be the most highly regarded food label when it comes to animal welfare, pasture-based farming, and sustainability.
INTEGRITY We set standards or rules that farmers must follow before they can sell their meat, eggs and dairy products using the AWA logo. Our standards have been developed in collaboration with scientists, veterinarians, researchers, and farmers across the globe to maximize practicable, high-welfare farm management.
Our standards ensure that every AWA-certified farm provides their animals with continual access to pasture or range, as well as the opportunity to perform natural and instinctive behaviors essential to their health and well-being. AWA is one of only two labels in the U.S. that require audited, high-welfare slaughter practices, and is the only label that requires pasture access for all animals. All AWA standards, policies and procedures are available on this website, making our program one of the most transparent certifications available.
Their philosophy fits so well with our own standards that we actually welcome their extensive audits. Proves to us and hopefully to you, that we are doing things the right way.
Until next time, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.