Awakening to the spirit and beauty of the northern Great Plains
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
More on the PCES Conference: Good news amid the bad
photo of Dylan and Colleen Biggs from TK Ranch website
While the general tenor of the Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference in Winnipeg was “things are bad and we’ve got to do better,” there were plenty of stories about people finding ways to “do better” by the prairie. There were the farmers and ranchers who are sustaining grassland habitat while growing food for the rest of us—people like Alberta’s Dylan and Colleen Biggs, who received an award at the banquet for their conservation efforts as ranchers (here they are receiving another award from Wildlife Habitat Canada.
moving the chicken pens on Sunrise Farm (photo from Sunrisefarm.ca)
Don Ruzicka of Sunrise Farm near Killam, Alberta, was a keynote speaker at the conference. Like the Biggs, Don and his wife Marie follow Holistic Management to provide organic animal products (poultry, beef, eggs, and pork) to a local market. Don is involved in his local watershed group and told a wonderful story about one of his management goals. When they started farming there were no meadowlarks on the land. Working with proper grazing practices for his particular land, it took eleven years, but the meadowlarks came back. “Demonstrating to consumers the importance of taking care of the land has become our priority.” He spoke of “romancing the consumer” and said that “biodiversity gives spirit to the land.”
The example of these producers is invaluable in seeding the land with successful and sustainable ways of growing food. What the rest of us need to do is support them and others like them by purchasing their produce. If there is hope for the prairie, it is in transforming the marketplace and consumer-producer relationship so that it rewards this kind of agriculture and discourages the extractive, short-sighted model that has been making the land unfit for meadowlarks and many other birds.