Friday, September 23, 2011

Farmers Feed Cities (and make music?)

I volunteered for Sustain Ontario's City to Country tour yesterday.

I had the privilege of being taken to three different farms and learning quite a lot about supply management issues in the farming industry (pdf link) here in Ontario, Canada.  I also got quite a bit of fresh air and lots of wonderful conversation.

There were fourteen of us on the bus and on our way back to the starting point people remarked on the fact that they had never been to a dairy or egg farm before.  I myself have been to a number of farms from my days living in Waterloo and involvement in the food movement there but never had I been to an egg farm.  In fact, the only reason any of us were allowed to go to the egg farm was because the farm was converting from a 50,000 battery caged hen operation to a 8000 cage free hen research centre.  The public is not allowed to visit working egg farms due to ministry regulations.

The cage free egg research farm was not yet up and running because it was in the midst of conversion so we got to poke around in all the areas and see the old set up (six layers of tiny cages that held seven hens each) and the work in progress of the new set up (large indoor areas where @ 1000 hens will roam free and have access to large outdoor protected areas).

I don't think the images and smells of the defunct battery cage operation will leave me anytime soon.  Nor the thought that the egg production and supply management system in Ontario is flawed and unless  consumers demand cage free operations (from their politicians!) it will not change anytime soon.

After visiting the 'haunted' battery cages we then  luckily got to see free range hens at Coopers CSA.  As we approached the outside mobile hen pen I was struck by the musicality of the birds.  The sounds were so soothing....I tried to capture it with a short video:

Raising chickens in my backyard has been my dream for awhile (much to the amusement of my friends and the dismay of my teenager).  Legally.

Yesterday's excursion reminded me how fulfilling it is to be close to our food and how I long to immerse myself full time in this and be able to pay my bills at the same time.

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