Newsletter #7 – June 2009

Newletter #7

18/06/2009 5:11:12 PM

Hello all! 

 

 First off, please allow us to apologize for how long it’s taken to get the first newsletter together – we have a new system being implemented that we are hoping will make us more cold, heat and drought resistant.  It has been very labor-intensive getting things set-up, and not much time for being on computer!

 

The year of course is late, by perhaps three weeks or so.  We are anticipating starting deliveries in July, and fulfilling the full 16 weeks by extending things into the fall.  Our new system of extensive covered-beds, to be augmented by more hoop-houses, should allow for production later than would normally be possible in this climate. We have started plenty of produce in the field at this stage, including beets, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, salad greens, onions, corn, potatoes, peas and cauliflower.  Pretty soon here the heat loving stuff started indoors will be going out – beans, squash, melons, tomatoes, etc.

 

The big challenge right now is water – there has been no significant rainfall yet this spring at the farm.  Thankfully we had plenty of snowmelt, and lots of water in the ground so far.  The animals have just gone out on grass, but the grazing is patchy – good grass is limited to those areas where snow drifted and melted, and on the native grass uplands the land is cracked open and the grass is scorched and crunchy.  We will likely be bringing in more hay, something we have never had to do before winter in previous years.  Things may turn around, however. We have seen many springs start very dry here on the plains with rains coming in June nonetheless.  In the meantime, we have purchased a gas-powered pump to augment our hand-pumps, and it is seeing daily duty getting water to the new transplants.  We are not of course “hydrocarbon-free” on the farm as some have dubbed us in good faith – no one is in our culture.  We are working towards sustainable alternatives with animal and human power wherever possible, however.  We have no tractor, choosing the horse instead.  We think ultimately the Amish may have the best attitude towards technology – accept that which enhances daily life short of running the risk of building dependency and/or causing fundamentally damaging cultural change.  We can do this on our little place.  Off-farm, however, we have less leeway than they do!  

 

We have a new pond dug, so now we have two.  The runoff here was tremendous this year – a river!  It partially destroyed the spillway on the new pond, but a “lip” remained and held back an appreciable amount of water, and there are springs in the bottom.  Ducks and geese are fond of it already, and muskrats have taken up residence.  We have stocked it with local lake chub, blunt-nosed minnow, white sucker and brook stickleback for mosquito control, and broadcast cattail seeds in the hopes of establishing this very useful plant – a veritable grocery store in and of itself and a purifier of water.  The spillway will be repaired this summer, ready for next year.  Our existing pond is well patronized by a number of duck species, swallows, eastern and western kingbirds, muskrats, tiger salamanders, chorus and wood frogs, and many other species.  Where there is water, there is life!

 

The horses are well, and Gwyn and Emma (Clydesdales) hitched three-abreast with Raven (Clydesdale/Percheron) did a lot of work on plow, disc harrow and spring-tooth harrow this spring, muscling up noticeably!  Sarah (Emma’s filly) watched from the sidelines – she will be ready for some work next season at three.

 

We have had one new yak born so far this year, a bull-calf.  He is now being bottle-fed, as his mother, Lillith, died due to complications despite treatments – something rare for yaks, which are usually fool-proof calvers.  We think she may have had genetic issues – last year she miscarried.  We will miss her.  At any rate, her calf – “Wild Bill” – is doing very well, a cute little devil full of life, and we may make him into a steer and use him for packing and winter work. 

 

We are looking forward to a good season, and hope to get you all involved here to the degree of your interest.  We see this enterprise as a community venture, and hope to find more ways to celebrate this fact this season.  We are open to suggestions and ideas, and look forward to meeting you all.   

 

 

Thank you!

 

–          Andrea and Jon

 

 

“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living

on a small piece of land…”   

 

 – Abraham Lincoln

Newsletter #6 – September 2008

Newletter #6

18/06/2009 5:09:48 PM

~ Thompson Small Farm ~ 

Newsletter #6 – September 2008

 

Hello all! 

 

We simply can’t believe how quickly the summer has gone.  Thank-you everyone so much again for your support.  We very much enjoyed being involved with you in this venture, and getting to know a little so many wonderful folks.  The summer was a great learning experience for us, not just in terms of CSA farming but in terms of giving us real perspective on how the CSA model fits, or might fit, into our culture and into Calgary specifically.

 

Here’s a summary of our thoughts based on the CSA experience in retrospect, a sort of “year end report” and then some.

 

Our Goal – Did We Achieve It?

 

Our primary goal this summer was to provide our members with a market share of fresh produce grown locally in a manner representing an alternative to industrial agriculture.  We had no illusions of sustaining ourselves solely on the proceeds, but we did hope to gain insight into whether this would be feasible in the future.

 

Certainly, we provided fresh produce to our customers, grown in a fashion that even the vast majority of organic farms don’t attempt[1], and that is largely without industrial machinery as a power source.  We believe we came up short, largely due to conditions this summer, in providing members with the volumes they’d have been getting from the market for the same money.  Does that mean our produce was therefore over-priced? 

 

The Real Value of Food

 

In the CSA model, the customer of course shares risk with the farmer.  One of the things this means is that in a year like this one, it is not really pertinent to say one was overcharged.  If you get less food in a given year, it simply means the price of local food from your supplier was higher that year.  You got less for more.  This may seem like a handy excuse for the farmer, but many times we reflected that we would rather, in a “bad” growing year, have brought what we did manage to a farmer’s market and simply get recompense for what we brought.  Fair market value for what we provided and no more.

 

Or is it?

 

CSA Farming and Calgary

 

We believe in the CSA model and believe it offers value for money for Calgarians, and is important culturally.  The value in our minds lies goes beyond the alternative produce provided.  We believe that CSA’s serving Calgary – especially ones using alternative power sources to hydrocarbons and electricity – would still be of great value to that community in keeping alive and running – not to mention relearning – the models we will need in the future when the realization is forced upon us by dwindling resources that we don’t really have the luxury of unsustainable living for more than the few generations it takes us to exhaust our natural endowments – this luxury is an illusion, or perhaps better a de-lusion.  Recognition of this need is why we would be CSA members were we not CSA farmers. 

 

  

Farming Must Sustain the Farmer As Well to be Truly “Sustainable”

 

For sustainable farming to work then it must also sustain the farm, it must pay the family unit to be there full-time, farming, no outside job. This may seem intuitive, and certainly was how things more often worked before consumerism, fueled by industrial money, kicked into high gear following WWII.  In fact, farming more often than not does not sustain the farm family today.  The fact that farming no longer sustains farmers (and fewer all the time, even, of the new breed of “agribusiness” industrialists) is a global crisis.  Ideally, deeded landowners immediately surrounding a city are the ones to be running CSA’s.  The problem is that these areas are viewed as future housing developments or acreage potential for industrial elites, not as land that could potentially sustain us, and it’s way too expensive for farmers to make “a go of it”. Nowhere is this more true right now than around Calgary.  This is why our little place was located a full hour from town[2].  “Nevermind, the interest is not there amongst these landowners anyway”, you could argue, but even if it was, it is doubtful they could support a place of such land-values running a sustainable, biodynamic CSA.  We certainly couldn’t, and believe me we’d have loved to have been close enough to have delivered to drop-off points under Clydesdale-power!

 

What Should be the Real Cost of Locally Grown Food in Calgary?

 

What then would a biodynamic CSA, horse or ox powered and with a mix of animals and crops, on the outskirts of Calgary need to charge to sustain itself?  Members would likely need to paythousands of dollars for their seasonal membership, in order to support the farm that feeds them.  This sounds outrageous, but it would actually then represent the true, unadulterated fair market-value of local food in Calgary.  But is this so outrageous taken in objective context?  Many Calgarians have few qualms, for instance, about paying a half million dollars and even far, far more than this for that other basic requirement – shelter.  Food, of course, should not and cannot cost that much.  But neither then should any basic need perhaps, and if we are willing to afford so much for one, perhaps we should be paying a commensurate amount for the other.  Perhaps the price of a CSA membership should be on a scale with the cost of living in general in the location in which it is based. We doubt that anyone in Calgary would be willing to pay so much for their food, today.  

 

So here we may gain some insight into how unrealistic our food (and housing) prices are now, how unrealistic our current living model is for the future of human beings, and why farms have mostly all failed or are failing.  It is also why running a CSA serving Calgary devoid of the large-scale industrial inputs and cheap (exploited) farm labor – the very things CSA customers are trying to avoid supporting – will, until things change entirely, be on a significant level an act of self-sacrifice for the farmer.

 

An Unfortunate Situation

 

This situation is unfortunate – there is nothing Alberta needs more than alternative models.  At the time we were doing our CSA this summer, there was one other such initiative in the entire province that we knew of.  

 
If unsustainable living is a delusion, so then, really, is the city of Calgary
[3], and others like it or that aspire to being like it.  And of course, the influence of Calgary is not limited to the city “limits”.  The same issues we became so clearly aware of this summer are now rearing their heads throughout the entire landbase of Canada where conditions are best for farming – and well beyond.  “Calgary” now includes to a significant degree almost all of southern B.C., and increasingly Saskatchewan.  We have a very serious crisis here (or more aptly a symptom of an even larger one) that few seem to acknowledge as such.  As a result of this situation, and for as long as we can continue to string this current goal of bigger-is-better and more-is-more out, one of the tasks of sustainable farming will be to learn how to grow food on the marginal areas that farmers (as opposed to industrial agri-producers) can actually afford to purchase, live on, and farm. 

 

Epilogue

 

Our twenty acres is an oasis of native grass, bottom swale and the virgin garden plots where we grew your food in a vast landscape of inert planting medium that was once rich prairie soil.  Right now it is harvest time for the agri-industrialists.  Living right next to our normally very quiet road, this is an awful time of the year for us.  Battalions of combines whine all day and well into the night as we try to sleep.  Convoys of eighteen-wheelers pass our place at intervals of about every half-hour, sometimes until almost midnight.  Everything is dust – our house, our pasture, our animals, our sky even.  The atmosphere looks as though we are experiencing a south-eastern level of humidity, but it is not moisture, it is dust, as far as the eye can see, and that’s a long, long way out here.  Dust kicked up day and night by this army of machines waging war on the land, huge piglets on the petroleum sow roaring “let’s see how much diesel we can burn this year!!!”

 

There is nothing about this situation that resembles “farming” as we understand it.  This is because it is not.  It is agribusiness.  Whenever the agribusiness has business in our neighborhood, quality of life plummets.  The onslaught is relentless while it lasts, the pace frantic, panicked even, the environment dangerous.  I daren’t let the dogs out, and I worry our horses will get the heaves from breathing so much of the pulverized earth into their lungs.  I occasionally prevail upon the owner of this particular empire – “Would you please water the road down?”…  “Would you mind not running your convoys for all of our long weekend?”…  “Would you please not spread your strychnine along my fenceline where my animals are liable to get at it and die a hideous death”… “Tell your men to slow down before I hurt them!” …  After speaking to me briefly in the tone of a used car salesman trying to give me the business, this ‘farmer’, one of the largest operators in an area of large operators, always has the same answer – “We’ll see what we can do, Jon.”  And we see that what he can do never amounts to much, although his drivers have become more respectful, insofar as respect can have anything to do with the operation of eighteen-wheeler convoys on a quiet rural road.  What he has proven he can do repeatedly, if not intentionally, is step all over our toes in a fashion I would never dream of doing to him nor anyone else.  But this is the problem not just with today’s agribusiness, it is the problem inherent in being “BIG”.  Show me a “big man”, show me a big concern, show me a big business, show me a big city and I will show you people and environments being disrespected.  It cannot be helped.  It’s the law of critical mass beyond which everything goes downhill.

 

For all of this frenzy, I have heard that Mr. Big’s concern is not doing well these days.  The cows that stand around in their own ordure for weeks on end as they’re “finished” for slaughter are not paying the bills.  This was inevitable, of course.  Unsustainable is unsustainable, and as scores of American business concerns are finding out, being BIG – nay – being GI-BLOODY-GANTIC doesn’t change this natural law.  I wish my neighbors well, of course, and sincerely hope their operation goes straight down the toilet.  Good riddance, as this would be best for all humanity.  When all the massive agribusiness concerns of the world finally hit the wall of their own disgusting reality, perhaps then, and perhaps only then, we can move on to a better way.

 

Thanks again everyone, we very much appreciated your support and are buoyed by knowing there are concerned, kindred people out here with us in these interesting times.

 

“Farmers Jon and Andrea”


[1] …although we believe biodynamic methods should  required for organic certification, they are not.  It is one of the problems we have with the label “organic”.

[2] And the fact that we were an hour from town is one reason our particular CSA is not ultimately sustainable.

[3] Not to pick on Calgary, which in all fairness is actually considered exceptionally lucky these days by other jealous municipalities – it is simply an example of our urban model doing a superb job of working as it was intended to do under today’s model.

Newsletter #4 – June 2008

Newsletter #4 – 2008

18/06/2009 5:03:03 PM

~ Thompson Small Farm ~

Newsletter #4 – June 2008

 

Hello all! 

 

April conditions continued until about mid-June this year… and then it got hot.

 

It is interesting to watch how the different vegetables respond to the given year.  With the sudden heat, peas and some mustard greens and some lettuces simply began to grow again out of the stunted state the cool weather had left them in.  Others – certain other lettuces, spinaches and radishes for example, instead of resuming normal growth, went immediately to seed.  So we ended up with tiny plants too small to be harvested and yet more-or-less finished their growth cycle.  We probably lost a good half of our early production to this phenomenon.

 

On the other hand, the hoop houses we built from tubing, rebar and builder’s plastic are working very well, as are the raised beds.  As for the hoop-houses, (relatively sustainable greenhouses without environmentally and monetarily costly supplementary heating), I would not have expected plants to withstand the sort of heat built up in there during the day (50° Celsius!), yet they not only survive it, they thrive.  This gives some insight into why things are so slow in the fields, where some vegetables can take an entire season and not reach the size their brethren reach in the houses in a matter of weeks! 

 

Raised-beds and hoop-houses are perhaps the answer for production in Alberta.  Both are intended primarily to extend the season – to allow early spring and later fall planting, and even over-wintering, but not for height of season production.  But in a year like this, they are clearly the answer to getting healthy growth from produce.  If you keep the water on them, and so far this year, there has been no shortage of that!  Next year, there will be more use of these structures.  Of course, next year could be an entirely different year.  Comes with the territory.

 

Natural inhabitants of the farm are having mixed success this year as well.  It’s a great year for frogs and salamanders, with the aquatic young of both abounding in our pond and potholes.  Ducks have not done so well, with very small numbers of young.  We have two blue-winged teal youngsters on the big pond where last year there were numbers of them.  And no mallards.  We do have a sora rail nesting somewhere in the verges of the pond – interesting, skulking little “now you see me, now you don’t!” birds.  The barn swallows did not fare well this year.  Arriving late May and early June to the cool conditions, they found very few flying bugs to eat. (We didn’t start noticing mosquitoes until the middle of June!)  I found one adult dead under a nest, starved I expect, and I imagine this was the fate of numbers of them.

 

Our three oldest female yaks are decidedly pregnant!  This was an unexpected surprise, as we didn’t think the little herd of eight would be old enough to produce young until next year.  But they are decidedly barrel-like compared to their normal selves and their compatriots.  We’d better get to work soon on milking-chutes!

 

We thought you’d enjoy the quote below, as it echoes an understanding that is implicit in your support. 

 

Thanks you!

 

          Andrea and Jon

 

 

“…there are too few actual farmers left to reform anything… reform is going to have to come from the consumers.  Industrial agriculture is an urban invention, and if agriculture is going to be reinvented, it’s going to have to be reinvented by urban people.”   

 


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

 

 

 

Hello world!

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