Introduction

 Thompson Small Farm ~ 

 

Welcome!  Here first on the table are the nuts-and bolts details about membership to our farm, followed by some background and philosophy should you wish to learn a little more.

 

We grow with natural inputs only – no poisons.  You can join anytime during the season, however, and we will simply subtract the percentage amount from the fee based on how much of the season has elapsed. 

 

The cost is $460 for a 16-week full share this year or $230 for a 16-week half-share, both commencing in mid June.  You can pay this all up-front or in installments.  This season, general examples of what we plan to grow would include beets, radishes, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, garlic, various salad greens, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, peas, beans, chard, squash, cantaloupe and heirloom wheat…  

 

An additional $36 gives you the “egg-option” – ½ dozen eggs weekly.  Egg-option shares are sold on a first-come basis, however we have expanded our hen flock due to past demand for eggs, so we’re hoping there will be enough eggs should everyone wish this additional share…

 

We will include a newsletter with information about what’s happening here and other odds & sods.

 

Delivery

 

Last year we delivered to Edworthy Park (lower lot) and Southland Park on Wednesday evenings, and this seemed to work for more members than not.  We are open to suggestions, however, and we are looking into additional options.  This may include household delivery within a core area.  We look forward to discussing options with our members.

 

Tell us About You

 

Thompson Small Farm aims to grow an interesting and healthy variety of the kinds of produce suited to our local climate here in southern Alberta.  We are very interested in developing a rapport-based partnership with our members.  We’d like to know what your personal likes and dislikes are, and if you have any recommendations.  What are your favorite and least favorite varieties of produce?  Would you like to visit the farm?  Join in the work?  Learn about the farm animals? About training animals for work?  Do you spin fibre?  Would you prefer delivery to the pick-up points on weekends or weekdays? 

 

Yak Meat etc…

If you’re a carnivore looking for healthy alternative meat-options, we are likely to be in the position again this year of supplying our members with yak-meat, as well as other meat products.  Yak meat is low in fat and cholesterol and high in omega-three’s, and in our experience is a very fresh and light tasting alternative to beef.  We don’t eat much meat here, but we have certainly enjoyed Yak when we’ve had it!  Let us know if you’re interested…

This year we are working in co-operation with Oxyoke Farms of Linden, Alberta.  Through them, we may also be offering Omega 3 eggs (as well as our own true free-range eggs), as well as organic-raised lamb, pork, goose and duck to those interested.  Please feel free to put in a request!

 

 

 

  ~ Thompson Small Farm ~ 

 

“Only in the last moment of history has the delusion arisen that people can flourish

apart from the rest of the living world.”

– Edward O. Wilson

 

Welcome to Year Two!

 

 

            Background

 

Thompson Small Farm was launched in 2008 out of the belief that a return to a healthy, localized system of mixed farming using natural inputs and conducted on a human scale is one of the fundamental steps we must take if we are to restore the health of human and natural communities on this planet and live sustainably.

Modern Agribusiness took off in the years following World War II. Driven and soon controlled by the banks and the chemical and implement industries, the new agriculture spelled the doom of a system of sustenance that had nurtured and enabled the best of mankind for millennia. The consequences have been severe not just for the traditional farmer and the rest of the human community, but for the entire biosphere, with loss of topsoil, decrease in soil fertility, surface and ground water contamination, and enormous loss of genetic diversity in both the natural and the domestic animal communities being the hallmarks of postwar agriculture.  Safeguarded by big money, this is still predominantly the way of the present.  There is, however, no future in this for any of us.

We are attempting nothing new here on our small farm.  We don’t believe there is wisdom in embarking upon another risky and prohibitively expensive technological fix to solve the mistakes of previous ones.  Alternatively, we believe there were moments on this planet when humankind had reached the ideal equations for comfortable sustainability of our species and others, but that we passed through these moments of endeavor mostly without notice.  We now have the knowledge gained by hindsight, and with this knowledge lies the power re-adopt the abandoned elements that worked.  To re-embrace and to put back into practice the simple yet elegant systems with their track records of centuries.  In essence, Thompson Small Farm is an attempt to return to the days when farming was conducted for the benefit of the immediate community and the farmer himself, with as little reliance as possible on financial or industrial institutions.  

Our goal is not to “get big”.  Rather, we wish to grow only large enough to do something positive for others and for the planet while sustaining ourselves in autonomous, modest comfort.  In other words, to engage in “right livelihood,” and – very important to us – to hopefully be able to one day serve as an example to others of an alternative way to live, a way that sustains the global community as well as it does the family unit.

The Land…

Well, so much for the lofty ideals!  Now it’s time for some details.

Our land base is twenty acres, with another twenty or so rented for additional pasture.  The land is at the head of a coulee system that channels runoff down to Kneehills Creek, and then to the Red Deer River.  Because of this situation, the place is undulating, a mosaic of little uplands and lowlands, quite varied for a small patch.  The uplands are clad in the now rare native grasses typical of such Northern Fescue Prairie remnants, while the low areas have been taken over by invasive Smooth Brome grass. 

This layout works well for us so far.  We have reserved the native grasses – the most nutritious of all – for rotational grazing by our livestock – yaks, working horses, and a team of water buffalo (more on them to follow!)  The rotational grazing allows some of the grass to go to seed before it is eaten.  Selected plots in the low areas (about 4 acres) have been cultivated for the growing of human food.  Not only is the virgin soil richer down low, we are not destroying native growth this way.  Crops are planted in rows of different, complimentary varieties, not as mono-crop stands.  This provides a natural form of pest control.  Crop rotation and enrichment of resting plots with composted manures from our own animals nurtures existing soil structure and builds fertility.

This year, we intend to do things a little differently than last.  We are going to make use of more passive solar hoop-houses, raised beds and biodegradable plastic mulches to help warm the soil and ensure a better and more consistent crop.  We also have a better understanding of microclimates on the farm and how to better take advantage of these with the right varieties in the right places.  We are incorporating a spread-sheet developed on a CSA in Ontario to help us better plan our plantings.  All of this is in response to the challenging growing conditions of our first year.  We are also hoping to produce some heirloom wheat – Red Fife – for those members who may wish to make their own bread, and some table corn.

Our pond, fenced off from the animals, provides water for irrigation when needed and important habitat for wildlife.  Last year several clutches of three different species of duck were successfully produced on our pond.  There are other water-birds such as rails breeding around our pond as well.  It is a breeding area for chorus frogs and tiger salamanders, producing hundreds, if not thousands of these amphibians annually.  We stock it with local minnows for mosquito control, and these in turn attract and support certain predatory birds and animals.  It’s a great place to cool off on a hot day, too!  We are likely to be digging a second pond this year.

Our Solar Powered “Tractors”…

We use animal power for as many tasks as possible here.  This is not an attempt to “turn back the clock” or a vote of non-confidence in technology.  It is rather a reflection of a basic truth: the horse and the ox are, to date, the only “solar-powered tractors” we have.  Their fuel comes from the land, from the sun.  Their wastes go back into nurturing that land.  In this way, they are a “technology” that not only can be entirely supported on-farm, they return this support on a biological, as well as on an economic level.  They enable the farm to function as it once did and as we believe it was meant to: as a largely self-contained ecosystem. This concept of farm-as-ecosystem is the foundation of what is popularly known as “Biodynamic Agriculture”.

There are other advantages of using animal power, too:

§  Draft animals tread lightly on the land. Compared to machinery used for farming and woodlot management, they do minuscule damage;

§  They cost vastly less than mechanized equipment (both to purchase and to maintain), they don’t depreciate as rapidly, and they don’t break down as often, and are often “self-repairing” when they do;

§  The machinery used with draft animals is also far less expensive than mechanized machinery, and in many cases you don’t need to be a technician to fix it;

§  They can work soil that’s wet enough to bog down machinery;

§  Their slower pace gives you plenty of time to think while you work, making you less likely to get hurt in an accident compared to operating fast, noisy, powerful equipment;

§  They offer companionship. No one develops the rapport with a rototiller or a tractor that a teamster inevitably has with a team;

§  They don’t create global environmental and social turmoil as does the burning of hydrocarbons. (It is common for an agribusiness operation in Alberta today to burn $50,000 or more worth of diesel fuel in a single growing season at last year’s prices.  In fact, it has been estimated that if all the world’s farmers conducted agriculture like we do in North America, we would run out of oil in about another 15 years.)

 

We train our own draft animals here using primarily natural, gentle, gradual methods.  In supporting our farm, you are thus helping preserve not only rare breeds, but “endangered skills” as well!  Skills we are eager to pass on to others.

 

More on the Animals…

Animals are essential on a healthy farm. One of the many advantages of traditional mixed-farming is that the farmer can afford to focus some energy on raising breeds of livestock that have become rare in the race to create animals where the only requirement is maximum productivity.  Ancestral breeds are generally healthier in many aspects than their modern counterparts, and somewhat like wildlife, have adapted over many generations to differing conditions.  They need our support. 

Ameraucana and Danish Brown Leghorn chickens are rare breeds here that lay colourful, nutritious eggs and are closely linked to ancestral jungle-fowl stock.  We also choose to cross-breed some chickens, which results in hybrid vigor.

Clydesdale horses are under global observation as a rare breed.  They are considered the most graceful and elegant of the draft-horses – the “best movers”.  We currently have two purebred Clydesdale mares (“Emma” and “Gwyneth”) and one purebred filly (“Sarah”), as well as a massive Clydesdale/Percheron cross mare (“Raven”).  Raven, Emma and Gwyneth are our current working horses and Sarah is coming along in training.

Yaks are a species (not a breed) of cattle from high-elevation Asia.  They have wild and very similar domestic counterparts.  They are excellent for our climate, and have many advantages over cows.  They are much hardier and healthier, eat about 1/3 as much as an equivalent cow, provide healthier meat and milk, and grow a fine fiber for spinning like a sheep.  They can also be used as a pack-animal. We currently have ten yaks (one of them a bull) and intend to continue building a small herd of these amazing and aesthetic beasts, of which there are only a few hundred at most in Canada.

Water buffalo are another species of cattle that are even rarer than yaks in Canada.  They too do well on marginal forage and eat less than cows.  We are one of two farms we know of in Canada to have them, and we have two, “Brock” and “King”.  Ours are bottle-raised “bullocks” (castrated males).   They are native to the warmer areas of Asia, where they are the favored beast of burden that still powers many farms. (In fact, the leading power source for farms on a global scale today is still the ox!).  They are not ideal for the Canadian climate, but do very well given the right husbandry, and are much hardier in the climate than one might think.  We see them as the Thompson Farm  “pet project”.  They are not necessarily practical in all senses here, but they are extremely interesting and enjoyable, and we are training them to work in a neck-harness system used mostly in Europe for oxen (trained cattle of any type over four years of age). 

Again, welcome, and…

Thank-you for your interest!

 

We can be reached by mail at:  Box 451, Carbon, Alberta.  T0M 0L0

 

 

 

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