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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.

 

About Our Website

Many of the photos (especially the really good ones) were contributed by Sam Kitt of Goodfare, Alberta.  Other photos were taken by myself, Jerry Kitt, with several contributions from the many WWOOFers who visited the farm.

This website was put together by my good friend Richard Welykochy whose friendship dates back to junior high, during a working holiday we had in Mexico.  The cost of this site was one jar of organic lard rendered from our Berkshire pigs.

You can revisit our animated splash page if you wish.

Free Range Chicken

Why Raise Chickens?

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The Jasper Park Lodge was a regular customer for our wild turkeys and one time phoned to ask “can you raise chickens?”

It just so happened that the previous year I had tried the outdoor method of raising chickens on pasture and produced some very tasty birds.  “Of course!” I answered using my small bit of experience to qualify my answer.

That spring I built 10 small 12 foot x 12 foot chicken shelters.  I customized the construction so that the daily chore of moving the chickens would become part of my teenage son’s summer job.  The resulting chickens were a hit with the Lodge but they wanted a specific size and the variety of sizes sent me looking for other markets.  That’s when First Nature Farms established itself at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market.

Free Range

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When the chickens would occasionally escape from their 12 x 12 foot chicken shelters I noticed their behavior would change.  Rather than being relatively laid back, they would start scratching at the ground and foraging, the behavior I was hoping to achieve by raising them out on pasture.  That’s when we decided to expand their freedom and move them to the big 4600 square foot pens.

Chicken Food

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Chickens require a high protein diet along with the shelter of warm, dry, draft-free housing to get a good start in life.  The birds get their good start dining on a diet of wheat, peas, soy and flax oil, (organic of course). Their first day also includes a treat of melon or apples which encourage them to start pecking to search for food.  A bit of apple cider vinegar in their water also helps them out.  At 3 to 4 weeks when the days are sunny and warm, they move outside where they supplement their diet with the many greens and grubs the pasture offers.

Antibiotics? GMOs? Animals by-products? Etc?

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Never!  Our First Nature Farms chickens are provided with a totally plant based diet made from organic grains and seeds and balanced with vitamins and minerals.  We always try to buy our grains as locally as possible and small organic farms are given preference. Organic certificates are required for every purchase

The combination of good food, fresh air, clean water, free range and sunshine keeps our birds health – naturally.

Where to Buy?

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First Nature Farms chicken is available only in the province of Alberta and can be found at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market in Edmonton and Homesteader Health
in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Bulk orders of 10 or more are possible in each location.
Contact us for more information.

Update!     Kari Kitt has now become the master chicken grower. “I love my chickens!”  Her birds are available by contacting Kari directly: 780 402-0566 or via email  kittkari@gmail.com
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Free Range Turkey

Story: minus 52.5 C

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About 20 some years ago we used to record temperature data for Agriculture Canada.  Every morning we would check to previous days high and low temperature.  One winter morning I witnessed the lowest temperature recorded since 1914.  It was -52.5 C.

At that time we had one turkey “Miss Turkey”.  When I saw her I was shocked.  Rather than seeking shelter on such a cold night, she had perched out in the open, on top of a fence post.  Her head was tucked under her wing and there she froze.  Or so I thought.  After a few moments of fond memories I went to touch her and her head poked up.  The temperature hadn’t bothered her at all.  I remember thinking “if a turkey can survive so well outside, I should consider raising them!”  Next year I raised 192.  The year after that 1400.  That was the year I was introduced to the Turkey Marketing Board but that’s another story.  We kept “Miss Turkey” as a pet for another 10 years.

Turkey Pens

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Around the same time as I decided I would become a professional turkey rancher I had to decide how I would raise them.  The result was a mobile shelter that measured 46 feet x 96 feet.  I was pretty proud of my engineering feat.   The shelters contained their turkey food feeders, numerous sources of water along with a covered building for protection and a place to perch and roost for the night.  The 4600 square foot structures along with their occupants could move onto fresh pasture in as little as 3 minutes.

The birds loved the move to their new pastures and would make a special “cluckle” sound that was very pleasant to listen to.  I recorded the sound and would play it back them just before Christmas.

Wild or Domestic Turkeys ?

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I started raising the Merriams wild turkey, a native to southern Alberta, B.C. and areas south.  I kept my own breeding stock and from the end of March until June I would be busy washing, weighing and incubating eggs.  Although very interesting it was quite time consuming.  The process resulted in a turkey that weighed an average of 9 pounds by Christmas.  The common question was “do you have anything larger?”

When the Turkey Marketing Board shut me down and told me I could raise no more than 299 birds, I switched from wild to domestic.

Turkey Feed

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Around the beginning of June is the time I like to start my turkey poults (chicks).  They require a high protein diet to get them off to a good start so I use a combination of wheat, peas, soy and flax oil along with a balance of vitamins and minerals for the first few weeks.  At around 4 weeks of age they are old enough to move to their outdoor pens where they can feast on all the greens and grubs they like.  Every few days the pens get moved to fresh pasture leaving behind the droppings as an organic fertilizer.

Twice a year the turkeys go to town.  For them it is a “once in a lifetime experience”, once at Thanksgiving or once at Christmas.

SPCA Certified

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Sales

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First Nature Farms organic, free range turkeys are available on order for the holiday seasons in Edmonton at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market and for pickup in Grande Prairie and Beaverlodge.

Sales

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Grande Prairie

Vancouver – Pork

Queensdale Market
3030 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver,     ph (604) 987-6644

Choices Market Kitsilano
2627 W 16th Ave, Vancouver          ph (604) 736-0009

Choices Market Kerrisdale
1888 57th Ave W, Vancouver          ph (604) 263-4600

Choices Market Cambie                   ph (604) 875-0099

Choices Market North Van              ph (604) 770-2868

Choices Market South Surrey        ph (604) 541-3902

Choices Market Burnaby Crest      ph (604) 522-0936

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.

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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.

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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.

Galloway Beef

Home of Happy Cows

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Around 1977 when we first moved to Goodfare, we did not bring with us a whole lot of cattle experience.  “Greenhorns from the city” the neighbours thought we were but it didn’t slow us down from trying out some new ideas at raising cattle.  It did not take long for word to spread through the neighbourhood and soon we became known by the locals as “The Home of Happy Cows”!

We were honoured by the title and thought the cows would be too.  It wasn’t until much later the source of the rumor surfaced. The reason the neighbours thought our cows were so happy is that we’re  “probably feeding them bales of marijuana”!

Why Galloway?

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We’ve raised Angus cattle since the 1980’s and as I became interested in beef raised strictly on grass, the interest in Galloways increased.  Galloway is considered to be a very ancient breed originating in the Province of Galloway in Scotland.  The climate was harsh and the breed excelled at producing sweet, tender beef foraging only on grass.

Galloways come in many colors: Black, Speckled, Dun, Red, etc.  I started with the Black Galloway and have recently changed my bull to a Belted Galloway.  He is black at both ends with a white belt in the middle.  The neighbour kids suggested I call him “Oreo” and that has been his name ever since.  One advantage of the Belted Galloway that I never anticipated is that they are so unique in the area that all the neighbours know who they belong to, hence, no need to brand!

Why grass fed?

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Cattle raised on grass pastures spend their time in open fields rather than crowded feedlots.  Grass based diets involve less machinery than grain diets and have a much smaller environmental footprint.  Green pastures also are rich in biodiversity providing feed and homes for a wide diversity of species.

Munching on grass is also a natural thing to do.  The reduction of stress, the open ranges and nourishment provided by the pastures help the animal remain naturally healthy and content.

Healthy for us too!  Beef from grass-fed animals has lower levels of unhealthy fats and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are better for cardiovascular health. Grass-fed beef also has lower levels of dietary cholesterol and offers more vitamins A and E as well as antioxidants. Studies [PDF] found that meat from animals raised entirely on grass also had about twice the levels of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, isomers, which may have cancer fighting properties and lower the risk of diabetes and other health problems.

Natural Pasture, Organic of Course

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Summer grazing on First Nature Farms is about as natural as it can get.  Our 13 quarters (2080 acres) of grazing lease is mostly aspen forest with Beavertail Creek running diagonally through, providing all kinds of open meadows where the cattle like to spend their time.  Winter brings the animals closer to home and “bale season” begins.  All the hay we produce comes either from our own farm or the farms of our organic neighbours.

SPCA Certified

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Since 2006 we have been supporters of the BC SPCA program promoting the welfare of farm animals.

Availability?

Our beef is currently available by the cut at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market at the First Nature Farms booth in Edmonton.  Sides are also available but presently the waiting list is almost one year.

Contact us for details.