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If you ate today...

Posted 2/24/2019 7:23am by samantha klinck.

So, I got nominated for this ‘farming challenge’ on facebook. No, it wasn’t about how many bales you can carry, or about how quick you can milk out a cow, it was about posting pictures. 

Even if you aren’t a farmer, you’ve probably seen something similar to it on Facebook or Instagram: For 10 days, post a picture of something from your life with no explanations, and nominate someone else to do the same. 

It looks a bit like this:

Day 1: I was nominated for the 10-day farming family challenge. Every day I select an image from a day in the life of farming that has had an impact on me and post it without a single explanation and nominate somebody to take the challenge. That’s 10 days, 10 farming photos, 10 nominations and 0 explanations.
Todays nomination: Farmer Bob

Now, me being me and knowing farmers, I added this on at the end because I know we are a busy people, and for many, spring lambing has started with means trips to the barn every two hours for two weeks straight:

If you are nominated and don't do this, that's fine; it's a nomination not a command. If you do accept the nomination, you can start when it suits you. Just have fun!

Well, it’s pretty fun strolling down memory lane and looking at pictures. I think the most challenging part of the ‘challenge’ was posting a picture without explanation. I know a great deal of us caved and posted some pictures with explanations. 

My first 9 days, I posted some pictures that I thought were either interesting, or that were a glimpse into my day to day life. 

 

Day 1: Picture of the cows that got out, because this is a regular occurrence no matter how good our fences are. Happens to us, to the neighbours, to any farmer. 

 

Day 2: Livestock Guardian Dog being silly, because these dogs play such a serious roll on our farms. They will put their lives on the line without a second of hesitation, and they prevent catastrophic loss of our livestock 365 days of the year. 

 

Day 3: A whole lotta baby Livestock Guardian Dogs because who doesn’t love baby animals? Farming is hard and sometimes heartbreaking, so you have to really soak up the joy every moment you can, especially with puppies. 

 

Day 4: A crazy flow chart made by one of my farming kids about getting chores done and the consequences if you don’t. Made me chuckle, and again, with so many tough days, you gotta find the joy. 

 

Day 5: A double yolked egg that almost hatched out. Those two amazing little embryos made it right up to the day of hatch out. Perfectly developed, but not enough space in the egg to hatch their way out properly. 

 

Day 6: A selection of hogs teeth and tusks, because by golly, they are cool! Hogs teeth are much like ours in composition, but the tusks are true tusk! Solid and razor sharp at the ends, but hollow on the end where they come out of the gums and skull.

 

Day 7: A chicken anus. Yes, you read that right. We had just butchered our oldest birds and had them cooling in our fridge before they went into our own personal freezer. I pull one out to serve for supper, and discover a chicken anus was still attached! We have an ongoing joke on the farm about chicken anuses. Years ago, a little old Polish lady taught me how to process chickens, with only two English words: yes & no, but even then she was VERY good at making sure I knew the importance of removing the anus. Since she taught me this incredible gift of processing poultry, I try to share it with others, and we have many people new to farming ask us to teach them how to process their birds each year and of course we help them. A commonly overlooked thing is lung removal, but it’s not nearly as common as forgetting to remove the anus, no matter how many times we tell them or show them. Now lungs I get, they are hard to see and hard to remove. But the anus? Come on, people, how do you miss that?!

 

Day 8: My busted milk wagon. This speaks to the fact that nothing is built the way it should be anymore, those wheels have had maybe 6 months of easy use before they broke. It speaks of the daily frustrations we farmers all feel when we bust our humps so hard 365 days of the year to grow the best food possible, and everything we buy is overpriced garbage that fails us.

 

Day 9: Two pigs making more pigs, and one of them doesn’t even stop to miss her meal. Pigs are super serious about procreation. Without procreation, farms wouldn’t exist. Some folks might be offended, but it’s a totally normal part of farm life, and I took a picture of it in all its glory. You’re welcome.

 

So, that brings us to Day 10. Do I pick a funny photograph? A beautiful landscape? Something thought provoking? So many choices when we see beauty, humour, and grief almost every single day without exception. But, I didn’t go with funny or beauty. I went with something I saw this very morning. It’s a very real picture that I imagine you could capture in a very similar way in farmhouses all over Canada. 

The picture shows a beautiful little chicken pot pie, sat on top of a bag. The pie was lovingly crafted by a local farmer, the bag is issue to Paramedics who work in Leeds & Grenville. Why is this picture significant? What does it have to do with farming?

Over 60% of farms in Canada need off-farm income to survive. This year, our farm is no exception. The last three growing years have been brutal, a terrible mix of droughts and floods. It’s hard on the crops, it’s hard on the pastures, and it’s hard on the animals. It’s even harder on profits when there is so much loss. Add in a few extra hurdles thanks to the Ford government, and we are really feeling the pinch. 

A large number of farmers I know have taken full time jobs this winter to try to deal with the financial losses of the past few years that have piled up. Over the Christmas break, many of us sat together at gatherings across the area and shared how tight things were; farmers spoke of how they weren’t sure how they could continue on without something changing. Many farmers said they were at the ‘do or die’ point, deciding if they would even plant anything this year, if 2018 had been their last farming year. 

That’s in real life. Online, on all the Ontario farmer pages I take part in, and the pages that are more wide reaching, the conversation is the same. Can we keep going if the weather keeps tossing us around like this? 

It means for us this winter, my husband works 40 hours on the farm each week, and jammed in between all of that, he works another 42 hours in shifts as a Paramedic. Other farmers all over Canada are doing the same. Working off farm to break even until a good year comes. 

So what about the pie? Well, that represents community, the farming community. I think of how many conversations I took part in this winter, the same ones where farmers tried to sort out if they should continue on, the conversations where they talked about the jobs they would have to get. Those were also the conversations where farmers talked about the food they bought or traded from other farmers. About how the other famers were there when things got really bad and they needed help. 

That pie makes me think of how some days, my husband is too tired to pack a lunch, and I’m too tried to pack it for him. So that beautiful pie, created by a fellow farmer will be what feeds him today. That fellow farmer (like so many others I know) who understands what it is to have her husband gone to work for days while she holds things down on the farm.

That pie makes me think of a young growing family that has been working on local farms for years, preparing to have their very own homestead. Then they finally get their dream! They have land, they get some livestock. They share the progress with friends and family, those same friends and family say who great it will be to be able to buy that lovingly raised food. Then, when it comes down to it, those friends and family don’t want to pay more than what the grocery store charges. So, who buys up all their food? Other farmers. Other farmers will support them until they find customers who will. 

That little pie sat on that work bag is what many mornings on farms all across the country look like. Even the farmers growing food that has been priced incredibly low for the grocery stores (at the farmers loss) probably have a spouse getting ready to go to work off-farm most days of the week. The system is so broken and has been for so long. 

The bushel prices and hanging weight prices that farmers get have stayed pretty darn low for decades. The farmer gets paid the same, but the cost of inputs have doubled in that time.

In 2011, a tonne of hog feed was $607.64, after a drought in 2012, the price jumped to $824.54. At the end of 2018 of hog feed was over $1200 per tonne. 

It’s doubled in less than 10 years. Don’t get why that side of organic pastured pork from that little local farm is so expensive? Well, the cost of the feed that’s why. I guarantee you those farmers aren’t charging for their time or labour either.

Our farm is incredibly blessed to have customers that do get it. They know that their food dollar needs to be spent responsibly. They know that their food dollar is a vote for something better. It’s a vote for the environment, and a vote for the health of their family. There are people all over Canada that are doing the same; they are carefully deciding where to spend their food dollars and it’s having an impact. 

There is this whole farming community that is supporting each other, and, we all have these amazing customers that feel like family, not customers. 

So support your local farming community any way you can, the big farms and the little farms. If you can’t support them by purchasing something, then send them a message or email to tell them how much you appreciate them. Share their posts when they have something to sell, or tell a friend or neighbour about them. Skip your fancy coffee one week, and go spend that $10 at a table at farmers market. These little things will make a difference. 

We’re all in it together, and none of us can do it on our own. 

If you ate today, thank a farmer, because I promise that farmer is very thankful for you.