Water woes and turkey wattles
Next month, in the March issue, we want to follow up on a comment heard at a recent farm meeting. It was advice to new farmers planning to grow vegetables for the local market. “Make sure you have enough water.”
No doubt that is good advice. Here, we rely on a hand-dug well that can run perilously low in late summer. No stream. No farm pond. Something would need to be done to improve this situation were we to consider growing more than vegetables to feed family and friends.
What have others in this predicament done to avoid water woes? Dug a farm pond, drilled deep to a subterranean aquifer? Perhaps there has been a stream or natural body of fresh water near by to tap for irrigation. If so, what, if any, permits were required?
In the community of Chester, N.S., which has no municipal water supply, I understand it is not unusual to build a cistern to store rainwater. If for a farm, how big would that cistern want to be? How many gallons per square foot or hectare should a farm plan to have available come a dry spell?
These questions are run up the Rural Delivery flag pole in the hope that readers will kick in on this topic either from their own experience or that of others about which they are familiar. For email replies please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a note to Rural Delivery at Box 1509, Liverpool, NS B0T 1K0. Thank you.
In Nova Scotia, the actions of the Turkey Marketing Board continue to inspire disbelief that a body representing so few farmers could strike fear in the hearts of the majority. Farmers are fearful whether they defend or condemn the Board’s actions curtailing the work of small unlicensed abattoirs. There are implications for rural residents across the country.
On one side are farmers expressing fear that a bird butchered at an unlicensed plant might make someone ill resulting in the entire market taking a hit. Too, dairy, egg, and poultry producers may consider any change to the rules for turkeys a threat to supply management generally.
On the other side are farmers, largely small scale, fearing that if the Turkey Board succeeds, next will be chickens, pigs, cattle, and any other commodity sheltered by the province’s Natural Products Marketing Act and governing Council.
Neither side is crazy, with nothing to fear. Nor can one side have it all its way. Reason and compromise are needed else supply management and other beneficial aspects of the Marketing Act will be undercut; else there will be no room for traditional smaller-scale farming whether practiced by new entrants or those of us who have been on the land for decades.
Thousands of small farmers are scattered across Atlantic Canada’s countryside. Some aim to make a dollar. Others aim to feed their families and might sell or give away any extra. There may be as many as 10 times the number of consumer friends of these small producers buying at the farm gate or local farmers’ markets.
In Pictou County, where the Turkey Board shut Gordon Fraser’s turkey butchering business down only days before Thanksgiving, more than 3,500 signed a petition objecting strenuously to the move.
At the Pictou County Federation of Agriculture’s meeting, held prior to the annual general meeting of the provincial body in November, more than 50 area farmers voted unanimously in favor of two resolutions for consideration at the AGM. One called for a tiered meat licensing system “that will ensure health and safe to all consumers.” The second, for “a complete revision of the Natural Products Marketing Act.”
Both were voted down by two-to-one margins at the provincial gathering.
The Turkey Board, the provincial Federation of Agriculture, and the Department of Agriculture want Gordon Fraser to get licensed. If he’ll just put up another building to kill turkeys there are ways to help cover the cost.
“It’s not just a building,” says Fraser, now in his 60s and seeing no reason to be licensed to do what he’s done for more than 30 years without a problem. It would be a new building, possibly two, for which there is no business case. It would mean having an inspector on hand, ruling out serving his customers at their convenience, often on weekends and holidays.
Does the Turkey Board’s disease argument hold up? As reported in our last issue, Bob Kingston, president of the Agricultural Union and a health and safety inspector with Canadian Food Inspection Agency, calls that BS.
It’s the law, says the Turkey Board, pointing to regulations under the act. So was South Africa’s apartheid, school segregation in the U.S. South, and our own residential schools program.
When a law is doing harm to innocent people it deserves another hard look. In this case we have a law that is harming small farmers, their suppliers, small processors, and consumers who like roasting a turkey raised on a nearby farm and very possibly butchered at the shop down the road. In short, it is harming the rural economy and rural fabric given so much lip service by comfortably ensconced urban leaders and academics.
A dedicated committee of volunteers met in Pictou County the second week in January determined to continue fighting for change. One of the group, Robert Parker, owner of West River Greenhouses, says they will be going back to the Federation of Agriculture arguing the case for another level of inspection for small custom slaughter houses.
“In no way are we about wiping out marketing boards or supply management,” he says. They are, however, about understanding the reason behind the Turkey Board’s move against Fraser and others – and coming up with a system that nurtures rather than throttles small farming.
That position is supported by a report, “Making Food Matter,” published this past fall by Mount St. Vincent University Prof. Patty Williams, calling for “scale-appropriate food regulations.” The report notes that many current regulations designed to address large-scale production, processing, and distribution, “impede small-scale operations.”
Without better explanation than offered thus far Parker and others suspect the worst: that it’s greed and a move to gobble up the five or 10 percent of the fresh turkey market now thought to be going to small, unregistered growers.
Meanwhile the controversy and the Federation’s apparent dug-heels position has attracted National Farmers Union attention. Without satisfactory resolution, that organization, outspoken in defense of small farmers and accredited in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, could well gain strength in Nova Scotia these many years since the late Alfred Nieforth of Milford Station sheltered its flickering flame. DvL
And the winner is. . .
Our thanks to John Earl of Maple View Farm in Huntsville, Ont., winner of a copy of “Getting Rid of Alders,” gleanings from Rural Delivery’s first quarter century. “Five miles from the nearest shopping centre or stores,” qualifies as rural, writes Earl, whose mixed farming practices include market gardening and commercial maple syrup.
For a chance to win the next draw complete and send us the survey found on page 22.
In our December seed directory, Salt Spring Seeds phone number should have been 250-537-5269. We regret the mistake.