Category Archives: Our Farm

a look at the farm

Wildlife

The majority of these wildlife photos were taken on or close to the farm by Sam Kitt of Goodfare,  Alberta.

Trumpeter Swan

swans

River Otter

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Cedar Waxwing

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Robin

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Great Grey Owl

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Chickadee

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Beaver

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Bufflehead Duck

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Moose

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Elk

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Mule Deer

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Grizzly Bear

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Bald Eagle

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Canada Geese (fall)

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Weasel

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Predators

Predators can present major problems for livestock producers.  Although I have no statistics to prove it, predation must be the number one reason for summer cattle losses in the neighbourhood.

Coyotes, bears, wolves and wild dogs (not in that order) are often the ones that get the blame.

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On First Nature Farms, we not only have cows that can wander through miles of wilderness but we also raise bison, pigs (bears love pork), turkeys (coyote dinner) and chickens (raven treats).

Our next door neighbour lost 9 calves a couple summers back.  Losses of sheep and lambs in the area are common.  Even people who live close to town have had coyotes come and steal their dogs.

One can start to wonder how it is even possible for someone so far away from settlement, living right next to the vast wilderness of BC, to raise livestock on in the forests and open pasture.

I have often wondered the same thing.  I’ve raised livestock on pasture since the 1980’s but the number of predator kills and injuries have been minimal.  We’ve had the occasional turkey taken by coyotes but none for years.  For at least 2 years, all the calves that went out to pasture in the spring returned in the fall.

The ravens have it figured how to nab a chicken but lately, they don’t really seem to bother them.  I had a friend who had to get out of the pig business because of coyote predation. I can see tracks that coyotes have made, right by the pigs and turkeys.  Neighbours used to call “I saw a coyote in your pasture!”.

raven

For some reason, the predators seem to leave us alone.  In all the years I’ve been out there, I have never allowed the use of poison bait (Gov’t of Alberta), hunters or traps to kill any predators.  I myself have never had to kill a coyote or any other predator.

Why? I don’t know.  Maybe the coyotes remember Joe the donkey who has since retired to the yard.  Maybe “Jack” the dog who mostly patrols the front of the deck.  Maybe the “electric turkey” I hooked to the fence years ago.  Maybe there is a balance that still exists between predator and their natural prey.

If anyone is reading this who is having problems with predators, contact me. Maybe I can help.

 

Visitors

There are generally four ways of visiting First Nature Farms:

- the Sunday visit

- visitors through the WWOOF program

- Apprenticeship Training

- Annual Ranch Barbecue

Due to all the activities that take place on First Nature Farms, we require that visitors please contact us in advance.

The Sunday Visit

Sundays start at 9 AM.  This is usually a good time to come out to visit and take part in feeding the animals.  Sundays is also the day off for the people who stay on our farm so I get to do all the chores myself and enjoy spending time showing visitors what’s involved in the day to day operation.  Lots of fun for families (me too!).  Prior arrangements must be made.  Be sure to dress appropriately. The inside of your car may smell different on your way home

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WWOOF – Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms

WWOOFing is a good way to experience the farm and see what life on an organic animal farm is really like.  WWOOFers  tend to stay anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months.

Help is appreciated throughout the year with most jobs centered around caring for the animals (no shit shoveling as all animals are free range on pasture). Accomodation is either in our log house or in the two buildings separate from the family home. Volunteers should be kind, independent, innovative and ready for adventure. People wanting to learn skills about raising livestock organically will learn lots. Some have even gone on to start their own farms!

Meals include a lot of organics with all meat coming from the farm. Lots of opportunities for cooking or learning how to cook.  All living costs are covered with the exception of personal products, clothes and junk food. Aside from good times on the farm, we also try to provide our guests with a “cultural experience” unique to our area. This can be anything from hiking, canoeing, XC skiing, fishing, visiting waterfalls, concerts, auction sales, star gazing, workshops, protests, rodeos, etc. Lots of campfires and neighbourhood parties. Even the northern lights (aurora borealis) like to visit. Other visitors include moose, deer, coyotes, swans and the occasional bear. Musicians are most appreciated! We have a piano in the house along with other instruments. Internet is high speed.

Spring and summer are the times of major activity on First Nature Farms although we welcome guests all year round. There are always times when visits turn into adventures so it helps to be prepared for unexpected. Never a dull moment around here!

We have been a part of the WWOOF program (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) since 1995. We’ve had folks visit from Japan, Korea, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Holland, France, South Africa, the US and even Canada! (All visitors must be responsible for their own actions and carry their own medical insurance).

We request that anyone wishing to share in our farm experience sign up with WWOOF at the  web site.

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Apprenticeship Training

Certified organic for the past 24 years, First Nature Farms is considered an ecological reserve of over 3000 acres of mostly aspen forest, three creeks and several beaver ponds.  Organic since 1990, our diverse ranch includes grass finished Belted Galloway cattle, Plains bison, free range chickens and turkeys but our specialty are the Berkshire pigs. We raise heritage breeds in a gentle environment from farrow to finish, outside, year round. “Buttercup” the Jersey cow is a close member of our family, supplying all our dairy needs.

For people who are serious about learning to raise livestock organically, I am prepared to dedicate my time to teach you.  Successful applicants will have the opportunity to learn skills necessary for the pasture raising of pigs, cattle, buffalo, chickens and turkeys. Other opportunities include honey bees, shelter and feeder construction, fencing, equipment operation/safety, animal nutrition, marketing of products, Farmers Markets, and the costs & returns of organic production.

During your stay, housing is provided in either a private dwelling or shared accommodation in our log house.  Both are heated with wood. The private dwelling has no plumbing but an outhouse with a good view.  Water is carried from the well.

Breakfast is on your own. We supply all food except for junk food and personal habits. Lunch and supper are shared. We try to eat as much organic and local as possible. Most vegetables are from the garden or neighbourhood.  All meat is from the farm.

I would like to see young farmers returning to the land to create mixed farms, which are rich in biodiversity. I would like those farms to be profitable and have a symbiotic relationship with their community. My goal is to assist people to make their dream a reality by sharing my knowledge, experiences, animals and farm.

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Annual Ranch Barbecue

Since 1916 the annual ranch BBQ has been a good reason to get together with neighbours and friends.  For many years it was a rodeo which became so popular that eventually it moved to its own site and became the Rio Grande Rodeo.

Times have changed but the tradition continues.  Every 3rd weekend of August we gather for a weekend of music and good times.  Farm tours, nature walks, canoeing, campfires, pig roast, organic beer (Crannough Ales), live music, fireworks, Heavy Metal Friday,  open mike Saturday spilling over into Sunday with an organic pancake brunch.

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Accommodation is on your own with lots of camping spots available.  For those who have any distance to drive, especially coming from the city, plan a 3 day weekend. It takes a couple of days just to get “countryfied”.  Guests are asked to confirm their plans in advance.

 

Holistic Goals

Quality of Life

  • To be involved in work and leisure that is meaningful and rewarding.
  • To feel financially, physically and emotionally secure.
  • To recognize that we all have individual goals and support each other as we work towards them.
  • To help our children to be healthy, happy and productive, even through adulthood.
  • To determine our purchases based on our values and principals.
  • To have and enjoy good health.
  • To farm in harmony with our natural surroundings in order to sustain and enhance its natural biodiversity.
  • To maintain and/or develop relationships with our family, friends, neighbors and community.

Forms of Production

  • Achieve profit from livestock and meaningful work.
  • Obtain much of our food, fuel and feed from our local community.
  • Create opportunities to enhance our knowledge, talents and skills.
  • Balance time for work and leisure and set aside time for communication and exercise.

Future Resource Base

  • As people we want to be honest, caring, respectful and reliable. As farmers we want to produce in a manner that sustains our natural environment and our customers.

 

Certification and Support

PACS (Pacific Agricultural Certification)

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1990 was the first year that the farm became certified organic.  We started with the “Peace River Organic Producers Association” which later became a part of the “Pacific Agricultural Certification Service”.  You can view the complete document at “Canadian Organic Standards and Permitted Substances List”.

BCSPCA (British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)

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The BCSPCA was one of the first organizations in Canada to develop standards for raising farm animals.  First Nature Farms first joined in 2006 and have been supporters ever since.

Global Animal Partnership (GAP)

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When “Whole Foods” in Vancouver and West Vancouver approached us with the possibility of purchasing pork we were introduced to the “Global Animal Partnership” (GAP).  This organization has a similar function to the SPCA in that they verify and certify that the animals are raised according to specific standards. In 2011 we attained a level 4 status which according to them, was the highest they had certified for pig farms in Canada.

Other Organizations We Support

 

Location and History

Location

Surrounded by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited, organic neighbours and crown land, First Nature Farms are producers of certified organic meats. Glad you dropped by!  This website is here to share information about our farm, what we produce and to provide opportunities for further education.

First Nature Farms is located in the western part of Canada in the province of Alberta.  We are one hour west of Grande Prairie with the border of British Columbia 4 1/2 miles to the west.

Goodfare is our closest centre, 12 miles away, consisting of around 8 homes, a community hall, an outdoor hockey rink and a mail box.

History

The Beaver Tribe or Dane-zaa with their ancestors called this area “home” for the past 10,500 years.  Alexander Mackenzie was the first European to explore the area in 1793.  Towards the late 1800’s settlement of the area began with pioneers moving in from areas east, United States and Europe.

beaver tribe

The farm was settled in 1918.  For decades it operated as a large cattle ranch and has been referred to as “The Ranch” ever since.

In 1977 in my hitch hiking days I was on my way to Alaska.

hitching

Originally from Edmonton, I was starting a journey that unknowingly, would change my life.  I made it to Grande Prairie but from there had a hard time finding a ride.  Finally a 60’s green Volkswagon van came to a slow stop (bad brakes I thought).  The hairy driver got out and started walking towards me.  That seemed a bit unusual and I grabbed my pack and started walking towards the driver.  When we met he stared at me and said “Jerry?”  I realized that he was my cousin who I hadn’t seen in years.  Just that day he had signed the papers for a new piece of land.  I diverted my plans, hopped into the van and discovered a place called “Goodfare”.  Later that year, I too would become a landowner.

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In 1980 I became a partner on the ranch that would eventually evolve into First Nature Farms. One by one my partners left to pursue other interests that left me and my new family as the farmers. Conventional farming was tough and it was a course in Holistic Management that change our way of thinking.  With a set of holistic goals, our path was guided to the present.