Trading Post Blog

Putting Farming and Food Into the Same Sentence

As we delve further and further into the rabbit hole that is direct marketing, I am constantly reminded of the disconnect between the products sold in the grocery store and the places those products began. My husband, Steve and I, spend a lot of time throughout the winter attending agricultural conferences, schools and seminars. I absolutely love all of the information that we gather at these events. There is nothing like learning all about new farming methods, the huge push for sustainability in agriculture, all of the cool dung beetles out there, the crazy ecosystem that is the soil beneath our feet and how we can combat climate change with our farming systems.

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We also spend a lot of time eating (I’m betting that could be said for most of us). One of our favourite things to do on a date night is to visit interesting and unique restaurants. We love the realization that more and more restaurants are focusing on grass fed, pasture raised meat. That there is a lot of demand for products being sourced from local farmers. Above all we love to try the delicious foods that so many hands have played a role in producing.

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I am the type of person who is constantly seeing connections between ideas and people in my life. The connection between farming and food could not be more apparent to me, and I feel that I might not be the only one thinking this way. How can we start putting food and farming into the same sentence? Let’s push to have more restaurants advertise which farms helped to produce the food that they are serving. I would love to see more agricultural conferences inviting food bloggers as speakers. And today, let’s start with you and I talking about where our food comes from. The next time that you post a picture of your delicious bacon wrapped tenderloin on Instagram feel free to tag your farmer in it!

And What Does That Mean?

If you are anything like me, you walk into a grocery store with a general idea of what you want to buy. I normally walk into the produce section first. I like produce, it’s incredibly straight forward. If I want to buy organic or regular apples, I look for the colour that I like and I pick my apples. If I want to buy organic or regular lettuce, I walk up to the type of lettuce that I like and I pick my lettuce. Dairy is only a little bit more complicated. While I still have the option of organic or not, I now have different fat percentages to choose from. Another choice, but still pretty straight forward.

Have you ever noticed that the more you venture into the depths of the grocery store, the more intense your choices become? Whenever my chickens go on a laying strike and I have to shop for eggs, I am always hit by my first roadblock in my grocery shopping undertaking. The number of labels on the egg cartons in this section are astounding. And I say this as a farmer who is pretty well versed in what each label means. Let’s take a look at what some of these designations mean.

One of the most common egg labels is ‘Free Run’. This usually means that the hens were not caged within the barn that they were raised. They are usually in fairly crowded conditions, but they are not contained. They are not however given access to the outdoors.

Another very common label found on egg cartons is ‘Free Range’, much like ‘Free Run’ eggs, these chickens are not caged. In addition to not being caged, these hens have access to an outdoor run in warm weather. This does not necessarily mean that the hens will use this door, but the option is there.

The next label that we’ll have a look at is ‘Organic’. This is one of the most regulated labels, as farms with the organic label are required to be audited on a yearly basis. To be qualified as an organic egg farmer in Canada, your hens must have substantial access to the outdoors, eat organic certified feed, be provided nesting boxes, dust bathing areas and adhere to the minimum space requirement set by the Canadian Organic governing body.

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The last label that we will look at is ‘Pastured’. Pastured chickens tend to be raised on smaller farms. These eggs might be more expensive, but the nutritional value will be higher than most conventional eggs. This is due to both the sunlight and the nutrition that the chickens receive from eating green grass and bugs as they spend the majority of their days outside on lush pastures.

While I know that the egg section of the grocery store is just one small part of the whole, this is by far one of the most difficult sections to navigate when it comes to labels. In the end I definitely recommend finding a local farmer that truly ‘free ranges’ their chickens. I hope though that I have shed some light on this difficult subject for when that farmer is more like a unicorn and difficult to find.

The Unity in Community

As some of you might have noticed, the Greener Pastures Trading Post website is in the process of transitioning into a place where farmers, ranchers and the end consumer can come together. A place where local producers with traditional, wholesome, big picture environmental goals can sell their products to people that really do care where their food comes from, what went into producing it, and the faces behind their food. One word sums up the entire reasoning behind this transition. Community. You cannot however have community without the word unity.

Community is something that Greener Pastures Ranching is incredibly passionate about. In a good environment, the ecosystem works in perfect community. When one process gets out of balance, nature works incredibly hard to get back to that state of perfect united community. This same pattern operates on many levels. We see this need for perfect unity and community in our relationships, our food system, and even in our bodies.

While we may only be one small farm, we believe that working in unity with both our farming community and our suburban community, we can all come together to make our environment, our relationships, our food systems and even our bodies much better places to live in.

It’s time that we all start to look at the big picture in order to become better stewards of these vital systems. Let’s start this together in perfect unity with our communities.