valley days

Hi readers! I’m in the West Kootenays! Said goodbye to the coast just over a week ago, and trucked (bused, actually) out here for the rest of the season. It was tough to leave the ocean behind, let me tell you, although the Slocan river is a good consolation prize – cool and close by.

My last days at the blueberry farm were relaxed and lovely. I picked Logan berries with the grandchildren, took the dogs on walks in the woods, picked mummy berries off the blueberry plants, and generally enjoyed where I was. On my last evening there I was treated to a trip to Cathedral Grove, which is home to some very old trees. The oldest one was about 800 years old! Incredible.

Inside a very old cedar tree. Amazing. I hope southern Ontario sees trees this size one day

I also cared for 7 wee turkey poults during my last week at the blueberry farm. I always enjoy spending time with animals even though in this case the turkeys were destined for a dinner plate. It was cool to observe them and interact with them – turkeys are very gregarious birds and after a few days they were trying to fly out of their enclosure and some would climb onto my arms. Spending time with them was also affirming to me with respect to being vegan. At the hatchery where the turkeys were born, their beaks had been microwaved, meaning the tips will slowly die and fall off, and their toes got the same treatment. Knowing that removing parts of the beak is akin to removing our fingertips when it comes to sensitivity, I felt for those little guys. One of the poults also had an injured leg and couldn’t stand, and she passed away during the first night. I was left asking myself if people are really still resorting to cutting off the body parts of animals to solve the problems they’ve created by housing or feeding them improperly. Why is that? It’s outrageous that this hasn’t changed.  This is one of many examples I use when people ask why I don’t just eat animals from local/organic/whatever farms, although I know that my hosts try to do their best for the animals they keep, as do many others. These situations are a reminder to me of the assumption that things like debeaking/detoeing aren’t a concern on such farms.

One of the poults. You can see the discolouration where the beak tissue is dying and will soon fall off. How sweet is s/he?!

Despite the sad and frustrating turkey situation, I really enjoyed my time at that farm. Once again I was taken out to see the sights on afternoons off (there were many and they were amazing!) and I met wonderful people there, and I’m grateful for it.

On a related note, this time last year I was at Farm Sanctuary for their annual hoe down. This year I couldn’t go, for obvious reasons, but hope to attend another one in future. It was such an energizing and encouraging weekend.  You can see photos from it here. (Incidentally, there are photos of adult turkeys who’ve had the same procedures done as the poults I was talking about, so you can see what that looks like down the road).

Anyway, back to the present! I’m currently at a vegetable and mushroom farm run by two young folks who are vegan. Life’s pretty good here. Being surrounded by mountains from all sides is nothing to complain about! I’m happy to be on a farm again, and happy to be working with veggies again too. I’ve been excitedly picking the brains of Ange & Gord, who patiently talk to me about what it’s been like for them to start up the farm. (Also, they are really, really good chefs! I’m coming home with many new recipes.)

Shiitake mushrooms at the market

Lots of people have asked me if during my travels it’s been tough to eat vegan. Luckily BC is super veg-friendly (at least, where I’ve been) and fortunately veg diets are so common now that I haven’t had any issue finding hosts who could do vegan food, or at least vegetarian. Cool things about being on a farm run by vegans (aside from the awesome meals) include the jokes and sharing stories and discussions. As well, they try to avoid using animal-sourced inputs on the farm (blood meal, bone meal, manure, etc), ie. they farm veganically. This, obviously, is of interest to me, and until now, veganic farming was just a concept I’d learned about from the internet. Instead of using animal inputs, the soil is nourished via crop rotation, undersowing vegetables with cover crops like clover (also keeps weeds down, as it’s a living mulch), using compost made up of kitchen scraps and straw, and trying out vermi-composting to add worm castings to the soil. (Some may not count that last one as a vegan practice, but it’s a good alternative to using manure from farms that use animals for dairy, meat or eggs, in my mind.) It’s great to share this point of view with other farmers as it’s so rare back home.

Pretty awesome view from the bus window, on the 12-hour bus ride from Vancouver to Nelson. Who can gripe about the long trip when this is what you have to look at?!

Here’s the view from one of the fields. (yes, that is organic sweet corn you see in the bottom right – it can be done!)

Speaking of home, the drought in Ontario (and the USA) continues. Sadly, I’ve been told crops are faring very poorly on last year’s awesome farm. Apparently there hasn’t been more than an inch of rain in weeks, and since things have been so dry for so long, the soil’s capacity to absorb and benefit from that little bit of rain has diminished. If there was ever a time to support local farmers, now is it – after a season like this, some might be out of business.

Speaking of the drought, and veganism, there are alot of interesting infographics floating around the web about animal agriculture’s role in climate change – and it’s a big one. The United Nations published a report on the subject a few years ago, looking at everything from greenhouse gases, to the destruction of rainforests, to loss of biodiversity, to the amount of fossil fuels used to transport feed to farms. You can read it here – but it’s pretty long, so I’ll give you a relevant tidbit:

The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from global to local…The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency…the environmental impact per unit of livestock production must be cut by half, just to avoid increasing the level of damage beyond its present level.” (This was published in 2006, by the way).

The report goes on to discuss the “livestock” industry’s contribution to greenhouse gases (the industry emits more CO2 than the entire world’s transportation combined!), water quality and availability, land use and deforestation, and much more. It also predicts natural disasters as a result of climate change (such as droughts), and foresees rising food prices as a consequence. Looking at this, I’d say that if someone was concerned about the changing climate (maybe especially after seeing the current conditions in southern Ontario and in parts of the USA), they’d take a pretty big bite out of the problem by taking a big bite of vegan food.

Here’s one of those infographics which depicts the same information, and also illustrates the differences in environmental impact between eating vegan food and eating animals. References can be found at the bottom. It also takes into account water use and fossil fuel consumption. As well, I like that this one includes fishes, since many don’t. (Click on the image to see a larger version). Thanks to Rasha, through whom I discovered the graphic!

If you want recipe ideas, may I suggest the Post Punk Kitchen, and Jae Steele‘s books about eating vegan, supporting local organic farms, and staying happy and healthy!

In the meantime, here’s a suggested playlist for folks back home who want to invite some rain:


About tino

I'm an aspiring organic farmer living in canada. I talk about farm life, things I'm learning, other relevant topics like feminism, social & environmental justice, nature, animals, vegan food, and fun.

Posted on August 9, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I really like that poster. I sometimes forget about the huge environmental benefits of being vegan. Things like this will keep me motivated.

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