When Tim Mock was growing up in farm country in rural Ontario, he loved the farming lifestyle and working with nature to produce the best crops and livestock possible.
But when he left for B.C. as a young man to study environmental sciences at the University of Victoria and returned to his home years later, he was dismayed to see that many of the farms had turned to industrial and chemical practices to maximize their output.
“It was sad to see the polluted waters in the agricultural run-off, and other results from this way of farming,” said Mock, who now owns Glenora’s Windhorse Farm.
“I was not pleased with these new farming practices.”
After more than two decades working in the technology sector, Mock and his family bought the 15-acre Windhorse Farm in 2007 and began raising cattle.
He said he decided to run the operation as organically as possible and began moving the cattle to different parts of the farm to graze every day to reduce the pressure on the fields, composting up to 100 tonnes of manure every year that was used on the fields for organic fertilizer, and using other natural strategies.
Mock said he decided to retire from raising cattle and sold the last of his herd in 2018, and switched to grass farming and selling hay to other farms.
He said he is also using the most organic and natural practices raising hay in order to build a good soil base for his crops.
“I never use inorganic fertilizer on my fields,” Mock said.
“If they need a boost, I spray the fields with a fish-based or feather meal organic fertilizer which supports plants and soil organisms that can draw nitrogen out of the air down to the roots of the plants, which is very beneficial to them. It doesn’t work as well right away as chemical fertilizers, but over time, the constant use of inorganic fertilizer kills the biology of the soil, and also finds its way into air and water.”
Mock said the use of inorganic fertilizers probably sees short-term profits for the farmers that use them, but they are sacrificing their soil base in the long-term, and the food they grow will not be as rich in nutrients as those from organic farmers.
He said he has joined with a group of other similarly minded Canadian farmers who believe the nation’s soil is under threat from inorganic and chemical processes, called Regeneration Canada.
With planting season on the way, members of the non-profit Montreal-based group have launched a national initiative to tell Canadians that when it comes to ensuring the health and sustainability of the country’s food supply, there’s a better way in regenerative farming.
A holistic approach rooted in Indigenous knowledge and backed by science, regenerative farming is focused on reviving soil; what the farmers call the country’s “foundation of life” which studies show is degrading, due in good part to industrial agriculture.
“This reality is something all Canadians should be concerned about, as soil is integral to our ecosystem and the source of most of our food,” said Gabrielle Bastien, founder of Regeneration Canada.
She explained that degraded soils hold fewer nutrients, lose their ability to absorb water and grow plants, and lose their carbon content, which is emitted into the atmosphere as CO2, worsening climate change.
To support the growth and raise awareness of this farming trend, Regeneration Canada has unveiled a first-of-its-kind interactive map of regenerative farms across the country.
Accessed free of charge, the map showcases farmers practicing regenerative agriculture in Canada and how the public can buy their products.
The initiative also serves as a platform for peer-to-peer learning between farmers.
Regeneration Canada invites the public to learn more about soil regeneration by joining its upcoming Living Soils Symposium, which takes place virtually from Feb. 22 -26.
More information can be found at https://regenerationcanada.org/.