Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/2/2015 (843 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Kalynn Spain grew up in Winnipeg’s Wolseley area but she sees a future in the countryside.
Last summer she raised six pigs and 150 chickens on rented land near Camp Assiniboia in the RM of Cartier. And the summer before that, Spain travelled across Manitoba, visiting 80 family farms in four months. She spent time with families who directly market the livestock, grain, vegetables, eggs and other products they raise, grow and manufacture.
The 26-year-old said her strong connection to agriculture might be in her genes as her grandparents came from an agricultural background.
"My grandma talked a lot about growing up on a farm," Spain said.
Her mother, Vi Stoesz, has always gardened, Spain said. Her parents also helped make her aware of where their food comes from when, about five years ago, the family tried the 100-mile diet, which involved them eating and drinking only food products grown within a 100-mile radius of Winnipeg.
Spain said her mother also signed up for a Community Supported Agriculture membership with a local farm. As well as getting regular deliveries of fresh produce, Spain and Stoesz were able to work on the farm.
"I just loved it," Spain said.
While travelling from farm to farm in the summer of 2013, Spain posted her photos and wrote a blog. She then spent the following winter working with a computer programmer to turn the information into an online directory, which she launched in January of last year.
The directory is available at www.smallfarmsmanitoba.com and features profiles on 119 family farms, including directions using Google Maps.
She established Small Farms Manitoba, described as a social enterprise, offering an annual conference and potluck dinners as well as the directory to members.
Spain said 35 farms were added to the directory over the past year. The farmers who are listed pay a small membership fee to be included and are able to update their information.
The directory is linked to a Facebook page — Small Farms Manitoba — that Spain is also using to help the Small Farm members promote their products.
"I would like it to become more of a public resource," she said.
Spain organized the first Small Farms Manitoba conference in Oak Bluff on Jan. 10. She was pleased with the turnout of about 130 — a mix of farmers and what she describes as aspiring farmers. The agenda included 12 short presentations on a variety of agricultural topics.
Spain views herself as one of those aspiring farmers, and is glad that she was able to gain practical experience last summer.
"The opportunity was there to farm," she said. "Learning first-hand was what I wanted to do."
She said her livestock enterprise was a pilot project for Camp Assiniboia and might result in more agricultural activities for its campers.
She also credited Andreas and Monika Zinn, of Zinn Farms near Springstein, with helping her to successfully raise and market her pigs and chickens.
Spain’s next project is organizing five screenings of Rotating Planet’s film, The Family Farm, which features interviews with farmers across Canada who are facing challenges. Two of the screenings are planned for Winnipeg and Brandon, with three in rural communities, beginning in April.
"I think the most important audience is urban consumers," she said.