A Wolseley women is on a five-month odyssey to visit more than 60 Manitoba farms, and she’s blogging as she goes.
Kalynn Spain, 25, says her eventual goal is to translate the first-hand information she gathers into an online database for consumers seeking local and sustainable food options.
"I’ve always wanted to be a farmer. I’ve tried to build connections with farmers and gain experience whenever possible," Spain said.
The idea to visit farms and food production facilities — which she began doing at the start of May — to create a directory for consumers came to her after the 100-Mile Diet Manitoba website went offline about two years ago.
"I was using that directory to find local food . . . I was missing it when it was taken down, so I wanted to recreate that," she said.
The Manitoba Alternative Food Research Alliance has given her a $1,500 grant, she said, which will cover gas for her "extremely fuel-efficient" car, as well as website creation.
Spain is working for her room and board at some farms, and will do day trips to others.
Some of the farmers she knew beforehand, others are new to her, and some stops will be on-the-fly additions recommended to her on the road.
"I’m focusing mostly on farmers that are looking to increase their direct market sales."
Her online blog had 14 entries as of the end of May, and could serve as a farm directory in and of itself.
She provides details of the farms she visits, complete with pictures and personal histories of the growers.
The writing style is journalistic in how she describes the farms and farming practises, but also like that of a columnist in the way she shares observations of the places and people.
"Having grown up on the quarter-section of property, Ian knows the land and its collection of old farm equipment like the back of his weathered hands," she wrote on May 19 of Ian Smith, an Argyle-area pig farmer.
Spain has a few breaks worked into her itinerary (about 20 days, total), but if all goes to plan she will visit her last farm at the end of September.
Then website creation will begin.
"Everyone is looking forward to seeing the final product," she said, adding she hopes to unveil it in January, 2014.
The province maintains some farm directories, but Spain believes they are too onerous to get included on, or are not reliable.
"When I go to the directories how do I know, as a consumer, that farmer is producing all their own vegetables?"
Her directory will "put a face on the food" and be transparent, she said.
"People need to see for themselves. It’s about building relationships."
Spain envisions her directory, which she plans to maintain for at least three years, as being an interactive provincial map of farms. A consumer could access contact and address information from the map, or click-through to profiles of the farms.
"The cool thing about the profile pages is that, if the farmers would like to, they would be able to edit their own profile page, so as information changes they will be able to update it."
In the meantime, she will keep blogging on the farms she visits, which she hopes will get people excited about the coming website.
Spain’s blog, which includes a project summary with video and itinerary, can be found at www.freelancefarmer.com.
She is also maintaining a Facebook page - Kalynn Spain (Freelance-farmer) - from which she will post links to her blog.
Reader comments are welcome on both, she said.