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Sustainability and Working the Landscape

By Kelsey Beasley, Microbiologist and Rancher, Youngstown, Alberta

Originally posted at:
World Food Day USA

My husband John and I have always been drawn to the land. He is a third generation rancher here in Canada; I grew up on my parent?s small mixed farm. I am a microbiologist by trade and a rancher by inclination. What you are about to read is a ranch women?s perspective on sustainability and working the landscape for Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth. I hope it entails a certain insight and understanding into why family farming is so important.

John and I posses a strong land ethic as well as a keen ecological awareness, as stewards of the land we manage our business to ensure a viable livelihood for future generations. It is a model of thinking we follow that influences our daily decisions working with our family. We value long term sustainability within our industry and approach our livelihood with a balance between preserving tradition, maintaining a pioneering spirit, recognizing innovation and embracing change.

Sheep at Dawn

Family farming is a way of life and for us.? As a family that invests their life?s energy into the raising of livestock for food; we understand the fundamentals of livestock ecology: the science of the interrelation between the animal and its total environment.? Wearing many hats, we are the shepherds, the stockmen, the ranchers, the land owners, who tend these animals and the land we sustain on. We realize the utmost importance in maintaining a sustainable system where optimum production is achieved while maintaining long term ecological management of the land.? In a single given day we can experience the raw beauty as well as the tragic power of nature just as the weather changes. It is a living where our very existence is so deeply intertwined with our surroundings. We are also parents with small children, making a home, providing for our dependent little ones. We want to cultivate the passion in our kids. We want to nurture their talents and share the joys that our way of life brings. It is more than just performance and economics; it is creating and sustaining that environment that will ensure a lasting legacy.

To be sustainable we look at the triple bottom line, the people, the land and the profitability of the business. ?We approach our livelihood with a sense of passion and respect, with goals to produce safe food sources for people, livestock and wildlife.? Our vision strives with emphasis of key principles; innovation, integrity, respect, collaboration, doing our best and always learning. Sustainable grazing systems start with ecological soil management practices which replenish and maintain soil fertility, the foundation of agriculture on the prairies. We approach land stewardship by applying principles of grazing management and ecology that result in healthy ecosystems as well as a profitable business.

A good indication of sustainable rangeland management is the biodiversity or range of natural organisms the ranch has. Biodiversity is essential to healthy ecosystems. ?As families that have a vested interest in their way of life, and a deep love and respect for the land that we live on, we realize the responsibility we carry to ensure biodiversity is maintained. ?Increased biodiversity in rangelands increases many essential functions such as drought mitigation, improving water quality and quantity, and ensuring critical habitat for sensitive species.? It is right for us when we can preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of our natural environment.

Realizing there are more unknowns, than known?s in science and agriculture and that simple observations on the family farm, at most times, teach us more about ecological relationships than the most sophisticated research yet developed, it is key to realize that family farms are always in a state of continuous action, interaction and reaction between the animals, the people and the landscape. We dance with Mother Nature every day, starting from a young age, learning how to tend the land and animals and by adulthood have developed the skills and mindset to ensure the legacy lives on.

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