The Real Dirt

Opinion pieces written by the proprietor(s) of the Stoddart Family Farm. If they make your blood boil, don’t send us hate letters, stop reading them.

When did you stop beating the planet?

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When did you stop beating the planet?

We’re reaching that time when our parent’s health is starting to decline. At some point we’ll likely have to make some decisions around assisted living. It’s not a decision I will make easily – the scandals in Ontario facilities around elder abuse are occurring a little too often. If I ever found out something was happening to either of my parents, I would have a “chat” with the manager – after he/she regained consciousness. The conversation wouldn’t be centered on how we can reduce the severity or frequency of the abuse, it would be...

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What is “Good Enough”?

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Some of you know that I am a faculty member at Fleming College in the Sustainable Agriculture program. I also guest lecture at other institutions. Last spring a colleague from the Flourishing Business Innovation Toolkit project and I were guest lecturers in the Strategic Foresight and Innovation Master’s program at OCADU. We had two classes to help the students understand and apply the Flourishing Business Canvas – a tool for designing businesses and organizations that will support the health of people and the planet over the long term. Our tool is the first to explicitly put all...

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Why we’ve decided to drop organic certification

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We produced a certified organic crop for the first time 17 years ago in 1998 – organic food grade white hilum soybeans. A decade later, a partner and I were running 2000 acres of certified organic land. The land on our current farm was completely certified in 2009. However, we are now at an interesting cross-roads, our land is certified organic but none of our products are since we don’t certify our animals. When we started meat production, the home farm was in transition and we were growing hay and pasture as our transitional crop and therefore our cattle and sheep...

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What You Can’t Say in 140 Characters or Less.

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Yesterday I had an active day on Twitter and in reviewing some of the comments the threads attracted, I can see that the limitations of Twitter left out many of the nuances of my tweets. First off, Terry Daynard and I have known each other personally for almost 30 years. I’ve sat at his kitchen table discussing issues on more than one occasion. I’ve also known most of the staff at Farm and Food Care since our university days. Nothing I tweeted yesterday should have been interpreted as an ad hominem attack. What initiated my tweeting was Terry’s piece on neonicotinoids in the National...

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“Sustainable” Agriculture: Often Debated Rarely Understood

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“Sustainable” Agriculture: Often Debated Rarely Understood

This blog post was originally published January 25th, 2014 on FoodTank.org. This is the first in a series of posts that I will be writing for Food Tank over the coming months. Conventional and organic agriculture are currently arguing about which has the least ugly dog. Regardless of which one wins, they will still have an ugly dog. A less ugly dog is not equivalent to a beautiful dog. “Sustainable” in the agricultural context is a term that is often debated but rarely understood. Frequently, the debates are framed as a choice between “organic” and “conventional” agriculture. Proponents of...

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Sows and Soil: Building a Sustainable and Profitable Farm

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This post originally appeared on Ecoagriculture.org at http://blog.ecoagriculture.org/2013/09/30/stoddart_real-dirt/ How does the way we think about intensifying agricultural production change when not just focused at a farm level? It’s unfortunate that this question needs to be asked at all. Nothing in the biological world has the defined boundaries that we use to understand our world. Ecosystems are fractal structures that every time you zoom in closer look exactly the same – from the planet as a whole down to the organelles within a cell – the boundaries that we define don’t exist. There...

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Compost Pile: Look where you want to go!

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Compost Pile: Look where you want to go!

When I was in my late teens and about to start a co-op work term that had me driving all over Ontario, my parents gave me a two day training session at a skid control school for Christmas. The instructors went over some basics about car handling and then threw us out on the skid pad to see what we could do. I was confident I knew what I was doing – I threw the car in neutral, feet away from the pedals and proceeded to do a beautiful 360. After we were all humbled, they took us back in the classroom and explained why we had all failed to control the skid. None of us were focussing on...

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Can Industrial Agriculture Feed the World?

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Industrial agriculture opponents have been on the offensive of late, bolding asking the question: “Can organic agriculture feed the world?” Organic advocates have been taking the bait. There are innumerable articles outlining why organic agriculture can feed the world. However, no one seems to be tackling the statement implicit in the question. By asking the question, people are inferring that industrial/conventional agriculture CAN feed the world. I hate to break it to you, but the answer to the question “Can industrial agriculture feed the world?” is an emphatic “No.” Industrial...

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Where’s the real grassfed beef?

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Where’s the real grassfed beef?

Grass-fed beef is slowly seeping into the consciousness of the general public. At the same time, “me too” pretenders are claiming their beef is grassfed. The American Grassfed Association (AGA) will only certify operations that use NO GRAIN whatsoever and only animals born and raised on a certified farm can be called certified grassfed. We meet the AGA standards for certification but unfortunately they only certify farms in the US. The strict policy is easy to understand. If you look at the research, as soon as a beef animal starts eating grain, the fatty acid profile of the meat...

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Eat Steak, Save the World

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Yes, beef cattle, properly managed, can save the world. Rotationally grazed cattle can reclaim deserts, reverse climate change and rebuild lost soil. In this video, one of our mentors – Alan Savory – describes his approaches. He was talking about and teaching a triple bottom line to farmers 25 years before it became fashionable in the business world. This video will help you understand why we are doing what we’re doing....

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Nuance – Ag and Food issues are never as simple as you might want to believe.

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The internet has increased the velocity of information flow incredibly – information can spread across the globe before anyone really stops to consider whether it makes sense. I got caught in one of those last night. I tweeted a link to a CBC news article on the impact of rising quinoa prices on Bolivian farmers. The article was partially based on a piece NPR did a couple of months ago. Those seemed like reliable sources to me so, even though the economist in me was triggering my “spidey sense,” I tweeted the link.

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PETA| Cows Dying on Organic Dairy Farm: A response

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There’s been a story circulating through social media regarding cows dying on an organic dairy farm. The story originated with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). I’m going to accept the facts as presented in the PETA article: Cows were found starving on a financially troubled organic dairy farm that could no longer afford to feed its cattle. What I take issue with in the article is the sloppy inductive reasoning, specifically the fallacy of faulty generalization. The primary conclusion of the article is that because the cows on this particular organic dairy farm...

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Harry’s Interview on Food Integrity Now

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I was interviewed on another blog radio show. We cover a lot of ground from GMOs to my personal journey to the contents and whys of the book.  

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I can double the food output of Africa in the next 10 years … without Monsanto

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That’s a bold statement to make. But it is entirely doable. We don’t need Monsanto. We don’t need gobs of fertilizer brought in. We don’t need heaps of fossil fuels to run machines or manufacture nitrogen fertilizer. We don’t need huge investment in irrigation projects. We need three things: Peasant farmers educated with a combination of indigenous knowledge of food crops plus a sprinkling of additional organic and sustainable farming knowledge. Co-operation among villagers to run their livestock herds together in one unit and rotate them across sufficient land...

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Harry and others speaking at LifeStock

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Harry and others speaking at LifeStock

This video is a montage of the various speakers at LifeStock. I start at approx 6:47.

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Harry’s Humorous Toastmasters Speech – The topic was sheep.

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Harry explains the impact of sheep on a number of historical events. Many of you will be surprised by the role that the secret sheep society “The Brotherhood” has had in world events. Harry reveals that the innocuous, cute and cuddly sheep is in fact the most cunning and devious animal in the barnyard. Harry placed at the club level and went on to compete at the area level – this video is from the area contest.

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Coffee, Beer & The F*** You Economy | Hypenotic

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Yes the title is a little salty but you have to know my colleague Barry Martin. He has very succinctly and rather directly summed up what you’re losing when you choose cheap over your values. But I’m not a snob. I’m discerning. The difference is that I’m conscious of the value of what I’m paying for. And while chain coffee and commercial beer might boast a lower price tag, they’re still ripping me off. It’s like a mandate. They’re in the business of figuring out how to create margins anywhere they can, as long as the customers will still buy it and their risk assessments say they can...

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Text and Pictures from August Newsletter

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Text and Pictures from August Newsletter

We FINALLY Imported the White Parks I committed to purchase two Ancient White Park bred cows and a bull back in May. They finally arrived in Ontario on August 7th (technically it was the 8th by the time they were safely in our yard but we did cross the bridge before midnight). Silvia and I spent three days on the road covering over 2500km. Our truck passed the 300,000km mark just south of Pittsburg on the way home. I have learned an incredble amount about all the minutiae of importing livestock into Canada. The first stumbling block was a test to prove freedom from Brucellosis that is...

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We’re tracking ahead of what we projected 30 years ago

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A retrospective on what we knew about anthropogenic climate change 30 years ago. The projections made then have turned out to be conservative. We’re warming faster than projected and ice is melting faster than projected. A little sobering. OK a LOT sobering. <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/OmpiuuBy-4s” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

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First Multi-coloured Lamb!

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First Multi-coloured Lamb!

We’ve been working for a number of years to eliminate the environmentally damaging aspects of dyeing wool. We think we’ve almost succeeded. The lamb pictured at right is the first GMO lamb successfully expressing a gene for multi-colourism in it’s wool. We isolated the gene from a bird of paradise and inserted it in the embryo of this lamb. We need to work some more on getting solid colours but this is a good start. It will be interesting to see what we get when we cross this ram with our white ewes.

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