The mission of the Stoddart Family Farm is to produce food and fibre in ways that create a flourishing farm, environment and community today and long into the future. To this end our products are:
100% Grassfed (Beef and Lamb
All of our ruminant animals (animals with 4 stomachs) only eat hay and pasture. We use a rotational grazing system that moves our cattle and sheep to fresh pasture everyday. This maximizes the yield from our pastures while minimizing the environmental impact. Our goal is to graze at least 200 days a year – a goal we have achieved 3 out of the last 4 years. During the dead of winter our cattle and sheep are fed dry hay or fermented hay. They never receive grain. There currently isn’t a Canadian standard definition for grassfed meat and the American Grassfed Association doesn’t certify in Canada. However, our practices meet the AGA definition. True grassfed animals receive no grain, for any reason.
Pastured (Pork and Chicken)
Chickens and pigs are monogastrics (single stomach animals). As such they can’t live solely on grass like ruminants. All our chickens and pigs are out on pasture as much as possible and have access to pasture 365 days a year. Our broiler chickens are raised “Joel Salatin style” in movable pens out on pasture. We feed a grain-based ration to give them a complete, balanced diet.
Our animal husbandry practices are founded on fresh air and sunshine. All animals are predominantly raised outside on pasture. There are no cages or confinement crates or pens. We do not clip baby teeth on piglets, we do not castrate lambs, pigs or calves. All animals are nursed by their mothers and weaned by their mothers. The only routine surgery we do is docking the tails on our lambs. We use an elastic band to restrict circulation in the tail which leads to the tail dying and eventually falling off. We do this to prevent flystrike – a problem with longwool sheep in humid climates. Given the choice between flystrike and docking tails, the humane choice is docking tails. We have a animal handling system that minimizes animal stress during sorting and loading. We transport all of our animals in our own trailer. We use a local abattoir (less than 10 minutes away) that we are confident is as respectful as possible during handling and slaughter. We do our best to be as humane as possible in all aspects of our operation.
We use several practices that trap more carbon than we release. Our intensive rotational grazing system results in net carbon storage in the soil. Plus, we’ve planted over 6000 trees in the last few years. All of our heating is done using wood harvested from our own bush. Put all this together and we are confident that our farm is pulling more carbon out of the atmosphere than it is releasing. Thus, you can eat your steak without having to feel guilty about the cow farts contributing to climate disruption.
All of the topsoil on the planet has been created by life interacting with the minerals eroded from the surface of the earth by wind and water. Agriculture is gradually destroying that topsoil, primarily through tillage. We have switched to 100% perennials for hay and pasture. We haven’t tilled any soil since 2011 and some of our fields were last tilled in 2005. Our intensive rotational grazing methods mimic the natural ecosystem processes that originally created soils.
We actively look for ways to increase the biodiversity on our farm. Our perennial pastures are a diverse mix of plant species that support a diverse mix of all types of species. We have both bobolink and meadowlark (endangered bird species) nesting on our farm. Our pastures are filled with leopard frogs. We even found a painted turtle along a drainage ditch this spring. This summer we have seen numerous monarch, admiral and swallowtail butterflies. The trees we planted will create undisturbed wildlife corridors across the farm. Our farm also includes over 200 acres of forest/swamp/river habitat that we selectively harvest wood from.
Honey bees are in decline, along with the 100s of species of native pollinators. We have established a bee yard at our farm because we love honey and hope that our farm provides an excellent healthy environment for the bees. We use no insecticides on our farm (other than the odd can of wasp death – I have a serious allergy to wasp stings). The combination of the woodland and rotational grazing means there is always a food source available for pollinators – our honeybees and their wild cousins as well. Clean water, abundant nectar and pollen – it’s bee heaven.
We do virtually no tillage, – we have planted over 6000 trees, – we use renewable energy for our heating, – we have switched to solar for all our electric fencing systems, – we maintain habitat that encourages biodiversity, – our wool is processed using citrus-based soaps and solar heated water, and – our dyes are manufactured without the use of any heavy metals and are set using vinegar. In short, we are always looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint.
A New Phase of Life
After many hours of reflection and discussion, Silvia and I have decided that 2015 was our last year of meat production. The reasons are myriad. Primary among them is we feel we’ve lost our passion for it and we both have other things we’d like to attempt and experience in life.
We thank all of you for your support over the last decade. We have made many friends and many great memories – starting from the very first day at Wychwood Market on the church lawn when we were completely overwhelmed by customers as we were unloading the truck. I think we were sold out in about 45 minutes. There were the brave souls that tried our very first meat CSA program – it was one of only two meat CSAs in Canada at the time. Some of those first share members are still with us and would probably be better called “friends” than “customers”.
Without your encouragement, I wouldn’t have written “Real Dirt” and wouldn’t have met many like-minded individuals. I hope I have advanced the discussion of the future of agriculture a tiny bit. Hopefully each of you has a better understanding of, or appreciation for, the impacts your eating decisions have on the landscape and the planet.
As for what comes next, I’m heading back into the business world in some form – exactly how is still up in the air. I have a couple of opportunities I’m looking at but there’s no immediate rush – I have the time to wait for something that feels right. Silvia wants to settle in to a homesteader’s life – growing food for her family and returning to wool and fibre as a hobby rather than a business (ie something she does for enjoyment rather than income). I’m hoping that we can sneak off to somewhere warm for a week or two between getting the majority of the animals sold and starting something new – we’ve never taken a winter vacation.
While the moment is bittersweet, we are both excited by the possibilities that the future holds.
Harry and Silvia.
Michael Pollan’s Review of Real Dirt
I had the opportunity to give Michael Pollan a copy of Real Dirt at a conference. Here is the note he sent me after reading it (which he gave me permission to post):
Harry: I read your book on the way home and just wanted to tell you how fine I thought it was. You completely ignore every orthodoxy, which allows you to speak about both with unusual credibility. It’ll piss everybody off, I’m sure, but I found it very persuasive on many points. Also well written and clear and funny. Congratulations– it’s an important contribution to the conversation.
All [the] best,
If you’re in Canada, Real Dirt is available on the book website www.realdirt.ca Everywhere else in the world, it is available through most major online retailers or can be ordered through your local bookstore.
Harry Giving Michael Pollan a copy of Real Dirt