Help Stop GM Alfalfa!

 Farm Philosophies  Comments Off on Help Stop GM Alfalfa!
Sep 262013

Just 2 days left to send your letter to the Ontario Environment Minister.


Late this spring, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has recently approved one variety of genetically engineered alfalfa: a herbicide tolerant (Roundup Ready) alfalfa from Monsanto/Forage Genetics International. This means that one variety of GM alfalfa is now legal to sell in Canada – it is not yet on the market.

Since the Canadian approval process for genetically engineered plants and animals happens behind closed doors, farmers still have many unanswered concerns about the risk of GM alfalfa cross pollinating with non-GM alfalfa and contaminating our environment with rogue GM genes. As a result, two farmers have formally asked the Ontario government to carry out an environmental assessment of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa before the seed is sold in the province. They launched an application, on behalf of many farmers across the province, under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights.

Please help support family farms like Grazing Days and send a letter to the Ontario Environment Minister by September 29th to call on him to assess the environmental risks of GM Alfalfa .

Send your letter here:

 Posted by at 10:34 pm

Carbon Sequestration in Soil

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May 062013
Carbon Sequestration in land that is holistically managed

Carbon Sequestration in land that is holistically managed vs. land that is conventionally managed. Source: Holistic Resource Management by Allan Savory

I received an interesting E-mail over the weekend from someone in Sweden who had watched the Grazing Days video about intensive rotational grazing on Youtube and had the following question:

“Can intensive rotational grazing work as a carbon sink in cold and humid climates like Sweden and not “only” in dry climates like Allan Savory has proven without doubt?”

This was my response to the question:

Please note that I do not claim to be an expert on the subject matter. My understanding is based on things that I have read, heard, observed and reasoned, and I don’t know if any of it would stand up to scientific scrutiny. Having given you that disclaimer, my understanding of how carbon sequestration works using plants is that grasses play an important role – even in cold and humid climates.

There are three factors we need to consider in order to answer your question:
1) The part of the plant that will produce the carbon we are looking to sequester;
2) The role that humidity plays in the breaking down of carbon; and
3) The role that temperature plays in the breaking down of carbon.

I will walk through each of these factors below to come to my conclusion of why carbon sequestration in grasslands works even in cold and humid climates.

1) Which part of the plant will sequester carbon:
When grasses grow, they produce carbon-chains in two different places: in the foliage above the ground and in the roots below the soils surface. As far as I understand it, the carbon-chains in the foliage above the ground are quite unstable and break down (through digestion, or rotting) quite quickly, where the carbon-chains in the roots below the ground are very stable and take a long time to break down – and are a main source of energy to the microbiology in the soil that help with functions of water and nutrient transportation from the soil into the plants.

Many farmers I speak to believe that incorporating foliage organic matter into the soil helps build organic matter, but as far as I understand it this is a myth. Incorporating foliage into the soil, is like giving the soil a shot of white sugar, which releases a lot of energy very fast as it breaks down, as opposed to feeding the soil with root-based organic matter, which is acts like a complex carbohydrate like a piece of whole-grain bread and breaks down over longer periods of time.

What we learn from this is that the long-term build up of carbon in our soils is accomplished by continuous growth and re-growth of roots below the soil surface. Grasslands are an excellent environment for root growth and re-growth and thus are excellent at producing stable forms of carbon for our soil.

2) The role of humidity:
Carbon breaks down more readily in humid climates. Allan Savory has demonstrated this throughout his work and can be easily observed when we look at the decomposition of organic matter above the soil surface in humid climates (where it quickly rots- in a biological process) and compare it to the organic matter decomposition above the soil surface dry climates, (where it oxidizes slowly – in a chemical reaction). Organic matter breaks down much faster in humid climates in the presence of microbiology.

Healthy soils though, regardless of whether they are in dry or humid climates, break down organic matter biologically – in an environment where water present. Below the soil surface in a healthy pasture with very good soil cover, there is not a very large difference between a humid and a dry climate. Two factors that ensure that water is present in the soil for this biological decomposition are: good grass cover allows for rain water to infiltrate the soil slowly and good grass cover that protects the soil surface from direct sunlight. This ensures that the climate in the soil includes moisture to facilitate biological activity regardless of whether it is humid or dry above the soil.

What we learn from this is that the decomposition of carbon in our soils is not that different between humid and dry climates – as long as the soils being compared are protected by healthy grass-growth. Since carbon sequestration can happen in healthy soils in dry climates as Allan Savory has demonstrated, then we can reason it can also happen in humid climates.

3) The role of temperature:
Temperature would plays a role in determining the speed at which reactions take place. The same is true for the decomposition of carbon in the soil. The warmer the temperature, the faster the carbon will get broken down (either biologically or chemically). The colder the temperature, the slower the carbon will get broken down. From this we can reason that colder soils are more effective at storing carbon than soils in warmer climates.

Especially in places like Canada and Sweden where due to frost, all biological activity in our soils goes dormant for large parts of the year, we are able to build on and maintain soil carbon levels that are much higher than in soils that do not fall below 0 degrees Celsius at any point in the year. This is also demonstrated by the lower levels of carbon found in soils around the tropics when compared to the carbon levels in soils found in more temperate climates.

What we learn from this is that colder climates are in a better position to store carbon than warmer climates are.


To answer your question – it is definitely possible to use intensive rotational grazing as a technique to sequester carbon in soils in more humid and cooler climates.

 Posted by at 11:24 am

Greening Deserts and Reversing Climate Change

 Farm Philosophies  Comments Off on Greening Deserts and Reversing Climate Change
Mar 202013
Allan Savory Ted Talk

Allan Savory in this hope-filled TEDtalk precisely articulates the thinking behind the grazing practices at Grazing Days. He is the genius responsible for developing the concepts of intensive rotational grazing that Grazing Days is putting into practice on our farm. This TEDtalk about Allan’s lifework greening world deserts, storing carbon in the soil and reversing climate change. Many thanks to Allan and his team for all of their work and for delivering this great talk for all of us to learn from and enjoy.

 Posted by at 12:24 pm

Intensive Rotational Grazing

 Farm Philosophies  Comments Off on Intensive Rotational Grazing
Feb 282013
Beef Cattle


Hello everyone;

Last week, I delivered a presentation about the way we graze cattle on our farm called intensive rotational grazing at Eco Farm Day in Cornwall. The video touches on many of the reasons why we do what we do at Grazing Days and I thought I would record the presentation and share it with you all.


Please enjoy!

 Posted by at 4:23 pm

Metro News Article: Saving the planet, one steak at a time

 Farm Philosophies, In the News  Comments Off on Metro News Article: Saving the planet, one steak at a time
Jun 152012

On Thursday 14 June 2012, Metro News (on page 8) published a very succinct article about Grazing Days and some of the overall benefits of eating local grass-fed beef. Thanks for the great article Graham Lanktree! Also, thanks to Avi Caplan for this great photo.


Please check out to read the whole article.

 Posted by at 1:05 pm

EMC News Article: Farmer grazes surface of sustainable beef

 Farm Philosophies, Human Health, In the News  Comments Off on EMC News Article: Farmer grazes surface of sustainable beef
Jun 152012

On Thursday 14 June 2012, the Ottawa West edition of the EMC featured this article about Grazing Days with a special focus on the health benefits of Grass-Fed Beef. Thanks Emma Jackson for a great article!

You can find an easier to read version of the article here:

 Posted by at 12:42 pm

Grazing Philosophies

 Farm Philosophies  Comments Off on Grazing Philosophies
Nov 042011

This video is about the Grazing Philosophies that are practiced on a farm called Maplewood Farm in Highgate, Vermont. The types of things that Eric Noel, the farmer, is talking about in this video are very similar to the philosophies behind Grazing Days as well. Enjoy the video.


Thanks so much Jacqueline Jolliffe from Stone Soup Foodworks for sending me this video!

 Posted by at 10:46 am

Grazing Days at the Great Glebe Garage Sale

 Farm Philosophies, Farm Updates  Comments Off on Grazing Days at the Great Glebe Garage Sale
Jun 152011

Every year on the last Saturday of May, the entire Glebe neighbourhood turns into a garage sale. This year Grazing Days was there and managed to speak to about 200 people about Grazing Days and how people can sign up to start receiving deliveries of delicious Ottawa grass-fed Beef!

Making these videos was pretty fun – I hope you enjoy:

This video provides a brief overview of Grazing Days, how we deliver beef and some of the reasons behind why we do what we do:

This second video is an average day in the life of a Grazing Days farmer:

 Posted by at 12:54 pm

Article Why Canada Needs a National Food Strategy

 Farm Philosophies, Resources  Comments Off on Article Why Canada Needs a National Food Strategy
May 042011


Why Canada needs a national food strategy

Jessica Leeder – Global Food Reporter

From Saturday’s Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Apr. 29, 2011 12:33PM EDT
Last updated Sunday, May. 01, 2011 9:54AM EDT


Contrary to what it says on the stock ticker, food is not just any old commodity. As its more holistic advocates say, it’s the subject of humankind’s most intimate relationship: Food can give life and, through absence or extreme overindulgence, it can take life away.

Those who can afford to fill their bodies with it three-plus times a day use it to sustain families and friendships. We turn to it in times of depletion (nutritional or emotional) and celebration. Many of us spend untold hours watching shows or reading about and cooking up its endless manifestations.

The paradox of this love affair is that Canadians have lost touch with the value of food. In 1931, more than 30 per cent of the people in this country lived on farms. That number has whittled to just over 2 per cent.

Few of us understand what really goes into our food or how our choices send ripples to the fields. Most of us live in cities and gobble down cheap food from big-box stores or wherever else low-cost grub can be had, without questioning why prices are so low.

We’re skeptical of the premiums on local, free-range and organic – why pay higher prices if there’s a cheaper option? – and lean on takeout, restaurants and convenience meals to get us through busy work weeks.

Without realizing it, we raise kids who can’t cook and won’t swallow a vegetable. We have become the fattest generation in Canadian history, addicted to eating and riddled with cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

A national food policy is the only way to bring symbiosis back into the system. Cathleen Kneen, a long-time activist with the People’s Food Policy Project, argues that it’s even a matter of Canada’s security. “If you’re at all interested in sovereignty, start with food,” she says.

“Any jurisdiction that doesn’t feed its people is at the mercy of whoever does.”

For Monday’s federal vote, for the first time, all five parties included food-specific policies in their electoral platforms. However, the Liberals were the only ones to promise a national strategy.

England, Scotland, Norway and even Sudan have all implemented long-term food strategies, but Canada has for decades shied away from the idea as overly complex. Any good policy will require sacrifices from virtually everyone at the table, most of whom have conflicting interests.

While agribusiness and prairie grain farmers want better access to export markets, locavores, environmentalists and fruit-and-vegetable growers want Canadians to eat fewer imports and more of what can be grown at home.

Consumers generally want the best price regardless of where the food comes from. The retail sector wants to sell it any way it can, from bulk warehouses to drive-throughs. The health-care system needs people to make better food choices.

The process of hashing out the elusive balance in all of this is so politically fraught that four separate organizations, representing farmers, foodies, agribusiness, academics and industry, have set out to draw up their own blueprints for policy-makers.

They’ve taken it on themselves to map out ways to foster healthier national diets and contribute to long-term global food security; to promote local, sustainable food systems while competing in international markets.

The People’s Food Policy Project, the largest civil-society effort, released its version of a national food strategy this month, based on more than 3,000 interviews. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is at work on the final draft of its plan, and the Conference Board of Canada is slated to release the first findings of a three-year project in May.

While no one is foolhardy enough to assume that any of the strategies will be snapped up verbatim by the next government, the widespread recognition of the need is a sign that a global movement is cresting in Canada.

“It might be argued that we don’t really need food sovereignty because there is so much food available. [But] we don’t know what will happen with climate change,” said Ralph Martin, the recently appointed Loblaw Chair of Sustainable Food Production at the University of Guelph.

“It’s during this time that food is readily available and relatively cheap that we’re going to have to design a system for more food sovereignty and more food security for Canadians.”

That doesn’t mean Canada should slam its borders to imports and prepare to grow all of its own food. But it does mean revamping our narrow view of the value of food and agriculture.

“There are some people who think that farming is about people with strong backs and weak minds. It’s the opposite now. They need to be extremely educated, adaptable and entrepreneurial people,” said Peter Phillips, an agriculture economist and trade expert with the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.

“I don’t think that mindset has totally captured the imagination of our political leaders or even our bureaucratic leaders. We don’t have … a long-term vision of where we could be.”

Jessica Leeder is The Globe and Mail’s global food reporter.

 Posted by at 5:37 pm