It started as an idea. Two people wishing to change their lives, find themselves, find balance, security, something tangible. A renewal of sorts and what better place than the great island of Hawaii. It was there, under the watch of the smoking volcano, red lava dripping into the ocean, new land being created, that our relationship was forged, a coming together based on a premise of discovery, truth and working with the land. As Pele’s volcano cooled and black terrain formed new ground, our vision of life was one of finding our own ground on which to settle.
Our travels took us from the Equator to the Laotian jungle, 15 countries in total on an almost two year voyage. After searching far and wide for that place to call home, it was Mélanie’s birthplace, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in which we decided to reside.
Living in the city, especially a predominately french speaking one, was as exotic for me as any other place I had visited in my travels. But I always felt the calling for a country setting, for nature, for the sounds of the birds singing, not ambulances chasing. I longed for the hum of the wind through the trees, rather than the buzz of electric lines. The realization that this land, foreign to me, was going to be home, prompted the search for our small farm in rural Quebec.
We wanted to stay close, no more than 2 hours away from Montreal, so that friends and family could make the visit without too much trouble. We traveled through the regions of Estrie, Monteregie, Mauricie, Lanuadiere, Laurentides and La Petite Nation (Outouais), as well as the municipalities surrounding Montreal, searching for the perfect place. We wanted a place big enough to have an acre of gardens and some small animals, away from busy roads. Our dream was to look out the windows of our home and see the countryside, trees, nature.
After almost 18 months of searching, we found our 6 acre paradise in the little “ville” of Boileau, located about thirty minutes south of the popular Mont-Tremblant, in the region of La Petite-Nation. On the property sits a country-style house in the middle of a country setting bordered by forest and a small creek, and most importantly, with just about 1 acre of south sloping farmland.
Why is south sloping important? South sloping land for farming means that the slope will receive the maximum amount of sunlight during the day, which almost all garden fruits and vegetables want. It will be quick to warm up in the spring and stay warm for a large part of the day. And that is how we got to here from there.
Our search for our farm brought about a huge transformation for us both. We became vegan! Our idea for a small organic farm, raising a few chickens for eggs, has manifested into a small stockfree farm (without using any animal inputs) and small farm sanctuary, free of exploitation, free of cruelty.
This is as close to sustainable farming as one can get in this world, save from gathering all we eat.
As an organic farmer for 10 years, I studied vigorously the standards for raising fruits and vegetables in said method. Organic farmers do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. They do not use genetically modified seeds. However, organic farmers do rely quite heavily on animal manure (which can be conventional feed-lot manure), pelleted dried chicken manure (also from conventional farms), and blood and/or bone meal, mostly from conventionally farmed pig carcasses. Even before I became vegan I did not like these practices, despite their being approved by the organic certifying bodies. I decided I wanted my next farm to be different, free from many, if not all of these inputs.
Stockfree Organic Farming:
As a stockfree organic farmer, I use no animal products at all. This is completely plant-based farming, veganic farming, as it were. This type of farming uses plants, and only plants, to feed plants, exactly like nature. When leaves fall, when plants die, they become nourishment for all the living plants and trees. The process is quite amazing and I will get more into soil in a minute, but if you think about a healthy forest you know that it has layers and layers of composting plant material. Sure there is some deer and raccoon poo, but nowhere in a healthy ecosystem will you see piles of manure with a diversity of plants growing out of it. Quite the contrary, sewage lagoons and manure piles are almost completely devoid of all life. They are, in essence, dead.
Stockfree farming works to create healthy soil by building it with plant-based organic matter with as much of it coming from the on-site property as possible. Our focus is the soil. In actuality we are not gardeners of vegetables and fruits, we are gardeners of dirt, a living breathing organism.
The Dirt on Dirt:
A single teaspoon (1 gram) of rich garden soil can hold up to one billion bacteria, several yards of fungal filaments, several thousand protozoa, and scores of nematodes. That’s right, just one teaspoon! It is said that in 3 teaspoons of soil (3 grams) there are more living beings than in the entire human population!! The healthier the soil, the more the living beings, all working together to grow plants. Gives you something to think about every time you take a step on this abundantly rich earth, huh?
1) Bacteria are constantly living and dying in soil thus creating nutrients. When there is too much of one, another comes in to balance it out.
2) Mycchorizae (fungi, mushrooms), live in the soil in great abundance. These filaments, like the veins and arteries in our body, move the nutrients to where they are needed. If one plant needs more phosphorous, the mushrooms move it there and if another needs potassium, the fungi is there to help it along.
3) Nematodes (worms, earthworms) are the soils cleaners. They eat excess plant material and then poop out worm castings, a clay like substance that both holds moisture and allows it to drain. Sometimes after a good rain, in a soil full of earthworms you will see little round piles of pellets on the surface. Yep, that is worm poo!
When we use plant-based materials to grow plants, all of these organisms work to strike a balance necessary for their growth. When we flood the soil with manure, a toxicity of the soil is created, to which the soil will need time to adjust. It is akin to flooding our systems with too many toxins such as processed oils and sugars or (more directly) too many animal products. The bacteria and fungi have to work doubly hard to put our bodies back in balance. The harder they work, the greater are our chances of being sick. It is the same for the soil. The harder these organisms have to work to restore natural balance, the greater chance the soil has of being sick. Understand?
Soil is the building block of all plant and animal life, without which we do not eat and we do not breathe. And it is here that our journey on the brand new stockfree-veganic farm begins. I hope you will accompany us on this, the most amazing voyage of our lives.
What’s Growing On?
This year we have roughly 5000 sq feet of fields, 90% of which are planted.
All of our “gardens” are 50′ by 50′, or (12) 3′ x 50′ beds with 1′ paths.
We also have created a perennial and annual herb garden, and some perennial patches for other herbs and fruits.
What’s Coming In?
Potatoes, Asparagus, Blueberries, Kamut (a type of wheat), Sugar snap peas, Comfrey, Echinacea, Parsley,
Beans (both fresh and dry), over 15 different varieties, Carrots, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Peppers, Tomatoes and Corn (both sweet and milling), Mint, Sunflower, Basil
What’s Up and Coming?
Cabbage, Corn, Broccoli, Tomatoes
What was Left Behind? (Lost due to cold weather or farmer error)
Garlic, all early greens (Mesclun, Roquette), Radish and Turnip
Trying to grow over 40 different types of fruits and vegetables, plus an additional 25+ different culinary and medicinal herbs and flowers reminds me of how small we are in relationship to the whole. Our place in this world is part of the natural order, not a dominating one.
When planting something as small as a carrot seed and nurturing it into a full grown carrot 75 days later, we thank all the natural forces that helped us along. For we only plant the seed, weed it, water it when dry and monitor it for fungal disease and insects. It is nature that ultimately decides to bring that carrot to fruition.
When we lose a crop, like this year’s garlic, we humbly remember that all life is fragile and that we must live in this moment. In a blink of a dragonfly’s eye, life goes from thriving to dying. Thriving is a time to relish all existence.
And sometimes after a rain, when the clouds pass and the sun returns, nature smiles upon us in a multi-colored array, telling us that we are on the correct path and that she will help us where she can.
We are truly in balance when we are in harmony: in body, mind and spirit, and when work to create a place of equality for all living beings to be free. It started as an idea. Just two people wishing to change their lives, find themselves, find balance, security, something tangible. It is a renewal of sorts and what better place for its genesis than the great island of Hawaii?
…Author: Jimmy Videle
Annie’s Vegan View
We have much to learn from Jimmy and Mélanie and I am both delighted and humbled to follow their journey to authentic living through their veganism and veganic farming.
May all beings be happy and free.