RD December Leters 2016

Advocating for agriculture
RD: I am a fairly new subscriber to Rural Delivery, and just wanted to write to tell you how much I enjoy it. I pass it on to the rest of my family when I am done with the current issue, and good conversation (sometimes heated debate!) always arises. 
    I am a small-scale homesteader (pigs, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, ducks, and horses) and 4-H general leader in the Barrington, N.S., area, and we struggle with agriculture here. I am originally from Shelburne (Welshtown), where my family has farmed for 200 years. As an advocate for agriculture in whatever shape or form it takes for you, I am grateful for the agriculture resource you provide. 
    My 13-year-old daughter bought me your Small Scale Pig Raising book at Uncle Sid’s farm market in Shelburne for my birthday, and I was so pleased to see the Corbett family contributions in the book. I distinctly remember them and their piggery in our neighbouring community of Ohio when I was young. 
    Areas such as ours, and all of Nova Scotia, need more support like your magazine for agriculture, as our land, youth, and resources are highly underutilized, to take advantage of all we have to offer. I would love to see more beginning and returning farmers profiled, and their “hard lessons learned” (borrowed phrase from one of my favourite podcasts, “The Beginning Farmer”). Take care, and thank you.
Jennifer Spencer
Barrington, N.S.

(Thanks, Jennifer. It is always gratifying to hear that Rural Delivery is a helpful resource, in the broadest sense, to the family farm community, especially the small and part-time farm community, that has a pulse despite attempts to smother it with regulation and general disregard. DvL)

Biogas skeptic
RD: I am a long-time subscriber to Rural Delivery. As an Ontario farmer, it is the only agricultural magazine I find meaningful out of the many I receive. But I was deeply disturbed by the recent article on biogas from manure (“Manure power,” pg. 16, RD Oct.). Given the realities around climate change, ecological collapse, and resource depletion globally today, I think this topic needs to be examined much more carefully. 
    Biogas from manure is being touted as an abundantly available energy source that is clean, renewable, sustainable, carbon-neutral, environmentally friendly, and, through a variety of spin-offs, beneficial to our agricultural system. The starting point of this rosy portrayal is that the vast quantities of manure in the Canadian food production system are a given, are simply “there.” Since this manure is producing huge amounts of methane – a highly potent greenhouse gas – the thinking goes, we might as well burn it. All this manure isn’t just “there,” though. Its presence in the amounts and concentrations needed to produce biogas is the result of specific agricultural techniques. 
    Biogas cannot be produced, for example, from cattle engaging in their natural behaviour – grazing grasses on a land base large enough to sustain their population – or from free-ranging chickens, or from pigs allowed to move around freely in fresh air and sunshine, and so on. It’s not feasible to collect manure in small, mixed-farming systems, where animal populations are low and their primary purpose is to cycle soil nutrients, not to be the centrepiece of the North American diet. The efficiency and profitability of manure-based biogas implies large populations, animal confinement, and concentration of animal population, on a massive scale. 
    In the Canadian agricultural system, 70 percent of our arable land is devoted to animal feed-crop production (manure’s precursor). Before we decide this makes manure an endlessly renewable energy resource, we might want to ask if the agro-industrial processes that produce all this manure are sustainable – particularly since they displace other forms of agriculture that have the potential to feed people without producing any net increase in greenhouse gases at all. 
    When we take into account the ecological cost of intensive livestock farming, looking at biogas from manure as a source of sustainable renewable energy is both delusional and unconscionable. We urgently need to look at the inherent unsustainability of Canadian agriculture. Even more, though, we need to look at Canadian agriculture’s truly awesome, life-enhancing potential to contribute to global carbon level rehabilitation and food system sustainability.
Rosalind Adams
Milford, Ont.

Recipes first
RD: I thoroughly enjoy the entire magazine, and particularly the recipes. Thank you very much.
Margaret Hutchinson
Bridgewater, N.S.

Back home to RD
RD: Last week while sitting in the Aberdeen Hospital, waiting for my husband, I found a Rural Delivery magazine. I read an article about raising chickens and I went back in my memory to Halifax, when I would read my mom’s Rural Delivery magazine. Mr. Dirk van Loon’s name was very familiar. It brought back good memories of hard working folks and family farms home in Pictou County. 
    Mom, Margaret MacDonald of Bridges Street, was from Thorburn, and Dad, Colin MacDonald, was from Watervale. Both from farming backgrounds, also of mining coal…I used to have the Rural Delivery myself, and when we retired to Pictou County it ran out. 
    Now I would like to ask for my Rural Delivery to be renewed please. I am happy to see that it is still going strong. I know I will enjoy reading it as I look out my window at my cousin’s cows and calves. I feel like I am finally home. Congratulations on your 40th Anniversary.
Irma (MacDonald) Isnor
Jack Isnor
Salt Springs, Pictou County, N.S.

(Welcome home, Irma and Jack. Good to have you aboard. DvL)

Food for thought and food
RD: You’ve been a favourite magazine for years and I read them all! 
    We own a restaurant and café (Coy Wolf Bistro and Black Duck Café) serving all local food in Sackville, N.B., so we especially love the articles about small rural businesses making it work. Several of our food suppliers have been profiled, which is awesome to read (Springbrook, Armadale, etc.). Thanks for the information and inspiration!
Sarah Evans
Alan Barbour
Sackville, N.B.

Holiday Treats
RD: Very interesting magazine. Hope to see some Christmas stories and recipes in the next issue. Keep up the good work.
Lois Smith
Windsor, N.S.

Nothing like ’em
RD: I enjoyed this month’s Rural Delivery with the story about the heritage apples (“Heritage Orchard,” pg. 14, RD Nov.). I have a lot of very old heritage apple trees on my farm property in Gavelton. Many years ago the Dept. of Agriculture had a service where you could send apples via refrigerated car to Kentville where Bill Craig, a tree fruit specialist, would identify the varieties to the best of his knowledge. He, with the help of two very old volumes of books entitled, The Apples of New York, identified all the varieties I sent.
    He told me that the books were very old and hard to come by, but I might find them in a bookstore handling antique books. It so happened that I plugged the title in on Google and it directed me to eBay where these books were being sold. My husband bought them for me. They are in wonderful condition, and I refer to them often. 
    I want to learn how to graft so I can keep these old varieties on the place. Even though the heritage varieties are fraught with diseases like apple scab, fungal diseases, etc., there is nothing like biting into one of these old varieties. Your magazine is wonderful, as usual. Thanks. 
Veralyn Bonnar
Hebron, N.S.

(Veralyn, good for Google. You could have been a lifetime browsing through bookstores without coming up with a copy of The Apples of New York. DvL)

“Great ideas”
RD: We get great ideas from your “Household Notes.” In addition to recipes we learned how to make sauerkraut from “Sauerkraut is bully,” (Household Notes, pg. 24, RD Sept. 2012).
    From “Colorful window quilts,” (Native Genius, pg. 31, RD March 2014), we made a hanging to keep the draft out of a long window beside a door.
    The article about fiddlers accompanying paddlers on a lake (“Thousands of paddlers, hundreds of fiddles,” pg. 22, RD June 2013), gave us the idea to include fiddlers with organized canoe trips on our river system. Many thanks.
George and Dorothy Jackson
Renfrew, Ont.