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WWOOFing



Infiniment merci à tous nos WWOOFeurs Infinite thanks to all our WWOOFers

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All is grass!


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When people think of farming, they see an idyllic image of peace and quiet in the countryside, laced with some hard work. This is not not the reality. Nowadays, successful commercial farms are more like factories. Not us.

Farmers are not to blame. They are entrepreneurs, facing extremely tough legal, financial, labour and market conditions. To survive, successful farmers use the scientific method, that prescribes industrial farming.

Industrial farming is largely based on the availability of cheap (heavily subsidized) grain and corn. Since grain is much easier to transport than grass hay, farms specialized and grew. There are hardly any mixed-species farms anymore. Pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, GMO crops have also greatly increased corn and grain yields over the past 100 years.
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Pasturing animals is more expensive than feeding corn. Except for beef cattle in the first six months of their lives, commercial animals now live their entire lives packed closely together in barns. Vaccination, dewormers and routine antibiotics are essential under such conditions. Industrial farming has increased food production and decreased prices incredibly, but farmers income has been in steady decline since the nineties and food quality (taste) has deteriorated. To stay in business, commercial farmers must now use ionophores, chemical feed-additives, growth hormones and other contraptions.

Many reluctant farmers have gone out of business and many have become serfs to huge conglomerates that have vertically integrated. These conglomerates are on the edge of scientific progress and have capital to invest to increase scale, but they do not want to do the work or take the risk of farming. They own huge slaughterhouses that process thousands of carcasses per day and employ expendable minimum wage workers on an assembly line. These giant facilities are also hard to keep clean.

In animal production, most commercial organic farms are likewise based on corn and grain. Organic certification is based on a list of banned substances, not a different philosophy. With virtually no oversight, organic certification weeds out only the biggest excesses of industrial agriculture.

The philosophy of small organic producers has always been radically different.
Our farm also operates under this radically different assumption, much closer to idyllic idea of farming. With nature as a guide, grass is central to how we farm.

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The implications are enormous. Herbivores have evolved to eat grass and their meat is much leaner and richer in taste. They are healthier too, so we do not need any chemical crutches. Grass implies local (it is hard to transport) and this implies community, small scale and no exploitation. Obviously, we use only compost and manure for fertilizer and encourage species diversity in our pastures and hay fields. Yields may be lower, but quality is much higher.

In the summer, all our animals move to a clean, fresh, natural, diverse pasture every couple of days. They fertilize as they go. In the winter, they live on deep composting bedding and have ample space. Given ample, clean space, we do not need to dock tails or clip teeth. We treat our animals with respect.

Grazing however, requires appropriate genetics that are hard to find and long to (re)develop. It is now nearly impossible to find rabbits that perform well out-of-cages.

Our heritage Tamworth pigs, close descendants of the wild swine, still know how to forage. Tammies and Berks are now nearly extinct, because there is no use for these slower growing animals on industrial farms. The natural habitat of wild swine is the forest, so that is where we raise our pigs.

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Our salad bar beef eats only grass, haylage and vegetables. Spring calving is more natural. No more frozen ears and feet and chilled calves on our farm! We are now introducing Piemontese genetics.

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We noticed that our clients did not like the strong taste of pastured lamb. We now supplement with a little bit of grain, whereas industrial fare eats the least amount of fibre possible to make more room for high-energy grain
Worm resistance is very important for pastured sheep. We rarely need to deworm. Dewormers are cheap but really nasty.

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Not only is grass the natural diet for herbivores, it is also a very nice complement for other animals. Our beef cattle is exclusively grass-fed, our pigs forage in the woods supplemented with some grain. We even graze chickens! Our animals grow slower and this is key to a leaner, more complex tasting meat. Sunshine, fresh air and a healthy diet keeps our animals healthy and happy. Since we use much less grain, we do not need pesticides, chemical fertilizer and we use much less diesel fuel.

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While the average calf travels more than a 1000 miles in its lifetime, ours produce hardly any food miles, or pollution caused by transport. We work with a local, low-volume, certified abattoir and we deliver at drop-off points. Grass implies local.

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The taste of lean, naturally fed, slow growing meat has no comparison. We keep our products in their natural state as much as possible. We do not add cheap proteins and water to our meat to increase weight, we do not irradiate it. Our products are as healthy as it gets. Think about it: corn = fat animals = fat people.
Our honey is not pasteurized and not ultra-filtrated and contains local pollen. Some customers report that eating local honey regularly alleviates hay fever.

We do not burden or exploit people in our production process. Admittedly, without the helping hand of volunteers from all over the world and some really nice neighbours, we would not be able to get (almost) everything done.
We love the close contact with our customers in Montreal and in our community. We realize that for most of our customers, community supported agriculture is much more than buying healthy meat. It is their conscious choice for a better world, a beautiful countryside, a vibrant local community and a greener planet! You truly are what you eat.

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Many people do not realize how different and unique grass-based farming is. That we are all alone here, reinventing the wheel. Experts say that it cannot be done. Bureaucrats burden us with arcane laws and regulations that are made with industrial farms in mind. Meanwhile, our farm grows more productive every year and clients seem to appear magically when we need them. We know now that there are many great people out there that hunger for an honest product!