Organic ??

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We want to explain to you why we do not call ourselves organic, and strong disagree with the notion that all farming should be organic. We would like to share our point of view and why we have chosen to use modern farming practices like: chemical weed control.

We live right next to Canada’s only desert. Our ranch is on a 14% grade side hill. We have limited surface water for irrigation. In order to ranch and stay viable we use a very small supply of labour. Every decision must make sense financially. In order to survive, we have to be wise in our use of everything on our farm.

The basics of planting a crop is that you have to kill the old plants and weeds in order for the new seeds to get established and compete. In conventional tillage, which we do not do, a farmer might first plow, then disc one or two times, then cultivate, then seed, then pack in order to get a crop. This is all done on the same piece of land. In other words, the tractor is running over the same field up to 6 or 7 times. This type of tillage uses high amounts of fuel because you are physically breaking up the soil structure. It is similar to how most people work their garden with a rototiller. Conventional tillage looks pretty when the soil is all black and fluffy and the crop peeks through. Although by digging deep and working up the soil, researchers have shown that you loose between 9 to 25 centimetres of water over the land. On our ranch, that would be one pass with the sprinklers. For a person like me who does not like moving ‘irritation’, thats a huge savings right there! Did we mention how much we dislike picking rocks? That is another huge savings for us.

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Do you know why they called it the ‘Dirty Thirties’? All farmers conventional tilled, worked their land, lost their moisture and then the whole country blew away and everyone went broke. Here some pictures of some small scale conventional tillage dust storms.

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We plant and reseed our crops using a practice called ZeroTill or Minimum Till. This involves killing the old crop or weeds by using chemical, yes: RoundUp. To seed our field we make one pass with the sprayer, putting on between 1/2 to 1 litre per acre of actual chemical. Then we make one pass with our ZeroTill Seed Drill to seed and fertilize the field. One of the biggest advantages to this type of seeding is that we are leaving the organic matter on the surface of the soil and year after year are building healthier soil rather than making it into dirt. This layer of organic matter is what saves the moisture in the soil. Because we are more productive with the acres we do farm, we are able leave more land for grazing.

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By our estimations, 1 litre of RoundUp is being directly traded for 58.4 litres of Diesel fuel not burned plus the savings on labour, equipment and moisture. If you are at all concerned about the environment, how can you say that burning 58 litres of Diesel into the atmosphere (picture 3 – 5 gallon jerry cans) is better for the environment than using 1 litre of RoundUp?

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To summarize, our ZeroTill seeding reduces the use of Diesel, saves moisture, prevents soil erosion both from wind and water on our side hill, prevents us from picking rocks and is one of the major elements that has kept us in business over the years. Oh, did we mention that we get better production, use less seed and fertilizer and have fewer weeds? If you drove across the Prairie’s (Alberta and Saskatchewan) where the large scale farms are, you would notice that there is not a lot of dust in the air and that everyone ZeroTills.

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We totally agree that people overuse chemical. All we want you to understand is that modern farming uses many different tools. It is not as simple as doing it the way Grandpa use to. If you want to know why a farmer does a certain practice, there is probably a legitimate reason. We put a lot of thought and heart into our decisions. 4th and 5th Generation Farms got there by making wise decisions for their land, their family and their business.

~Erika Fossen~

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Reflections

As we finish the 2015 calving season and welcome the warmer weather, we realize that one challenging job merges with another. Spring brings forth new jobs like setting up irrigation (irritation as we like to call it), and then actually doing irrigation (moving the irrigation every day to get water across the entire field on all of our fields), re-seeding a field, and turning bulls out. As calving is coming to a close it is interesting to reflect on the past season; maybe it is more at the forefront of my mind this year because any day now my husband and I will be expecting our first child. The process of procreation is amazing and humbling; every little detail has to go right and has to happen at the exact right time. It is truly amazing how many times Mother Nature gets this right. That is the interesting part of ranching we have to deal with life and death. I think at times people think the job of a rancher is a very romantic, riding off into the sunset moving cows and camping under the stars. While it is a great job and there are times when we are moving cows on horse back in the mountains in reality we do way more than that. There are times when this job is emotionally difficult. It is hard to have a sick calf and do all you can do to try and nurse that calf back to health, but still lose it. As ranchers we obviously try and minimize these things as much as we possibly can, but we are at odds with a greater force Mother Nature. While most of the time She is miraculous there are times she reminds us to be humble and the process of life is truly a gift, one that us as ranchers get to be part of so intimately.
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