Wednesday, April 13, 2011

odd jobs

Lately, since being laid off from my off-farm job I have had to look for work elsewhere. It has been an adventure to say the least. Not many people want to hire someone who needs to be able to leave work for days on end to seed, or mill flour, or haul grain or whatever else is occurring on the farm. I need a job with flexibility and part-time hours that pays well. I have taken a couple consulting jobs helping other companies to achieve their own safety program. I have also offered to help my brother-in-law Darel with his screw pile business. In the spare time, I have spent a few hours here and there trying to get the interior of the house finished. Cindy has taken a full-time job in the city for the first time since we've been together.

Of course, more important than all of the above has been the efforts to grow the flour business. That is where my passion lies...the farm. Last night I had a meeting to present my flour and grain products to The Old Strathcona Farmers Market jurors. That was interesting, but no indication whatsoever if I was successful in getting into the grand ole market. We'll see.

While none of this crap is terribly bad, we are not in danger of losing our home for instance, it has given me the opportunity to realize the importance of making the farm work financially or simply getting out of it altogether at some point in the future. Trust me, getting out of farming is the last thing I will contemplate. Still, it has crossed our minds that if our farm venture doesn't work it will mean downsizing to hobby farm status at best while I get permanent full-time work off-farm.

Of course, all of this thinking gets me thinking about food and prices and sustainable agriculture. Driving through St. Albert today I saw a sign in front of the McGavins Bakery that said in big bold lettering CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP BREAD 10 for $12. That sign is the exact reason that agriculture and especially family-farm type agriculture is in serious trouble in North America. I would venture a guess that nowhere in Europe would a sign like this exist...I could be wrong. If you haven't had a chance, watch the Movie "Broken Limbs". It is a documentary on apple farming in Washington state. Incredibly inspiring to watch, cleverly portrayed and completely insightful. I am embarrassed by that sign in St. Albert. I continue to feel badly that we live in a place where people in general look for the cheapest food as opposed to the best food. I am so glad for the customers that chose to support our little farm at City Market and Alberta Avenue Market and the bakeries that buy from us.

In the meantime, we happily struggle ahead with our plan to provide incredibly fresh flour at a reasonable price to as many people as possible. I hope that it is a win-win proposition.


  1. Chin up and keep at it John! I agree, it's sad that consumers look for cheap as opposed to quality, it's slowly destroying our environment, leading to over-consumerism, and destroying our health too! I have next week off, and am hoping to sneak down to the market and check it out as I haven't had a chance yet, maybe I'll see you there! :)

  2. Thanks. Yes, my chin is up. It has been a tough slog so far this year, but things look positive and we will keep at it.

  3. Agro business has promoted industrialized farming and has 'squeezed' out the safe alternative-family/small scale farms. I am surrounded by land that is farmed with chemicals. Although his father was an 'old fashioned' farmer. The son says he has to farm with chemicals. We get into good discussions about that. It will take time, until the consumers start demanding products like you have to offer John. It all starts with educating them. I sure hope you get to set up a booth at the Old Strathcona Farmer's market. That is a foot hold in the door.

  4. I have tasted that sad excuse for bread that you speak of, and believe me it is NOT food. There IS a change shifting/brewing in the minds of the people (I know this as it happened to us). It's gradual, but the movement IS growing.

    We appreciate your ethics, values & hard work! I feel strongly that supporting local producers is two fold. Buying from them is one thing, but actually *promoting* them is as important. Referring people, spreading the word and sharing samples with friends all help to support our local producers. Keeping farmers "producing" the food we love means taking the responsibility to go that one step further into "promotion mode". Let's help to keep local organic farmers growing one client at a time ~ spread the word!

    Thanks, John for a stellar product. We LOVE your grain!

    Sherri and Kelly

  5. Thank you all for the kinds words. They are inspiring and I especially love to hear that people are enjoying our products. I have had the chance to get to know Sherri a little and she is an amazing person. Great baker too!

  6. Its is sad that as a society we have chosen cheap to be our highest value. Strangely, it has caused us to be beholden to money rather than be liberating. We could choose quality, sustainable, local, or hand made - in my mind often all better values than cheap.

    Trying to work outside this "normal" mindset is difficult. I hope it will be rewarding in every sense of the word for your family and farm.

  7. Its sad to me also that we tend to "brag" about how much we spent on the latest TV or ATV attachments or boats, but then when it comes to food we cheap out and put our health at risk along with our farm economy. I get that buying toys is fun...but buying good quality local food is fun too! Supporting your family's health and wellbeing needs to be as fun as buying the latest Apple product!

  8. Yes, buying good quality local food IS fun! It's great fun to meet and get to know the farmers, and unlike a mindless unnecessary acquisition, it's deeply satisfying the long term. No buyers remorse! :)