Canadian Agriculture: What it means to me and how it has helped shape who I am.
Updated: Feb 15, 2018
Our farm land came into our family in 1918. My great-great-grandfather, Leonard Graves, was the first to farm on this piece of land just southeast of Wetaskiwin. My sister and I are now the fifth generation to call the farm home. The land itself was quite different than the farm I know today. You can see a story in the way the river has lazily meandered and changed the landscape over the years. Trees were cut to make way for bigger fields, and even though some forests were brushed to accomplish this, now you can see new trees beginning to form their own green canopies together. Over the last 100 years, our fields have been pasture for pigs and cattle; the dirt has been a growing structure for canola, wheat, and the infamous self sowing oats that refuse to give up their hold. Where once stood massive piles of mined gravel now stand alfalfa feeding havens for deer and bees alike. The aftermath of a gravel pit resulted in beautiful ponds stocked with some of the biggest and happiest rainbow trout you will ever see! Our farm is beautiful. Our farm is home, and the land on which we cultivate rows upon rows is as much a part of me as my own being. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the absolute freedom within the natural world that I was given out on the farm.
I grew up knowing that yellow in storm clouds mean hail is coming, or that hoar frost means rain six months to the day. I appreciate what nature can teach me and I can’t even begin to count the amount of hours I have spent just watching animals to see how they interact with each other. The sound of the Battle River trickling past taught me that a slower pace can be exactly what you need sometimes. At an early age, I learned about death and the ultimate sacrifice that our farm animals made so that we could eat. I viewed what compassion was by watching how animals deserve to be treated. I am not afraid of hard work, endless hours of weeding often end up being some of the best conversations between my mom and I. My parents believed in us and let us run wild, knowing that the bond a child can form with the land is something not to be suppressed. I am in my element and happiest when I can be outside, and I can only manage to stay away from the farm for a few days, at which time my skin begins to itch and I need to ground myself with the portion of the earth that I hold most sacred. By planting each spring I believe in the hope of a bountiful future, and my heart is full of gratefulness each fall when my hard work comes to life. But most of all, I learned what it means to be a family and I can say with complete, unwavering doubt, that I will always have help and be supported to succeed.
Our farm is small compared to most. We aren’t competing with multi-family corporations, we simply can’t. For the most part, our grain is harvested with just a skeleton staff. My Dad is one of the hardest working men I have ever known. He sleeps when it is all done, and still somehow has time to help me in my pursuit of farming. What my dad knows about agriculture is what his father taught him. My knowledge of using the land to sustain us comes from those same customs. The Graves’ family farm is rich in history, one that is not even close to being finished.
In my opinion, we are beyond lucky to be a part of Canadian agriculture. Farming has been the backbone of Alberta for centuries. I aim to be an advocate for the local food movement that is sweeping across Alberta. With the freshest and most wholesome foods right within an arm’s reach, we have an incredible opportunity to keep our province’s food industry alive. Support local farmers! Support their hard work and dedication. Support them because by growing in Alberta, they are choosing to farm in some of the harshest conditions and ultimately in every kind of agriculture you are at the mercy of the elements. Farmers understand the importance of a relationship with the land and that we need to take care of the Earth to further our existence and sustainability on it. Like the trees that stand tall on our farm, my roots run deep and I am proud to be a part of such a large industry that supports Canadians!