I read about it everywhere. Avenue Homesteader just wrote a post about it this weekend, Kevin Kossowan has a series of short films about local farms, the permaculture group and the Eat Alberta group have all talked about it. The disapearance of the family farm (or the difficulty in surviving on one) and the city paving over the best agricultural land.
Being the cheap person I am, I didn't want to buy manure this year or cart in loads of compost, yet I know that my soil can use annual ammendments if I plan to ever eat all of our veggies off of our own city plot of land. This year I followed the advice of a friend and drove to the country and knocked on a door asking for free manure (or in exchange for small amounts of cash or the equivalent value in Girl Guide cookies).
The first two farms didn't look approachable. The first one was just sort of "closed" looking. The next looked like they'd already upgraded the homestead to be able to sell at urban prices. It was landscaped beautifully and had a lovely (closed) gate at the end of their long driveway. It looked unwelcoming and for sale.
The next had a big old barn, an old typical farmhouse, cows near the house and looked like a working family farm should. We knocked. He didn't seem to think it was a weird request, didn't want cookies or money and just pointed to his aged manure pile. "Just don't let the cows out and don't chase them", he said.
We dug right in (pun intended).
When I had first suggested this little field trip to the kids, I'd said we were going to scoop poop on Saturday. That met with three groans and three "do we have to?"s. However, when we got there they seemed happy enough to help.
Once I'd filled my first bag and dug down to the older, more composted stuff, I didn't get to use a shovel again. The kids took over.
Triumphant! We filled all the bags we had (6 doubled bags) and considered coming back for more, but I can't do it on my own. The ground was soft and uneven, the bags very heavy and I was worried that my knees would give out.
At one point the farmer came out to see how we were doing and chatted about the farm. It was his grandparent's farm initially. The cows who wandered up to us out of curiousity and a scratch from the farmer all had names and are shown at local fairs, probably to make a point that his good productive land was soon to be lost. With the city developments within sight of his quarter section, he would initially have a choice to sell. If he doesn't sell voluntarily though, the city would soon start taxing his land at a residential rate and force him out that way. He mentioned the paving of agricultural land and it's going on all around our city. He wasn't a big talker, but he'd said what was in his mind at the moment.
I can't go back on my own and I really need to start seeding things this week, so I'll wait until next year to visit him again. I hope the developments in that area move slowly.