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Frequently asked questions

What do you mean when you say you're Organic? What do you mean by Regenerative?


Our farm is certified organic with Quebec Vrai. We follow (and exceed) the organic standards for our sheep, turkeys, ducks, and chickens. We keep a lot of records about how we do EVERYTHING. We submit these records to Quebec Vrai and once a year they send an inspector to our farm who reviews these records, views our operations, asks questions for clarification, and suggests areas for improvement. Our cattle and pork are not yet certified organic, but we manage them in accordance with the organic standards. We use the term regenerative agriculture to refer to practices that seek to actively restore and enhance the soil life, and monitoring to understand the impact that these practices are having. For example, we are measuring the organic matter content (amount of carbon) in the soil in order to understand how our grazing management is influencing soil life. If you go back, deep into the roots of organic agriculture philosophy, you will find there is not a lot of difference between its underlying principles and those of regenerative agriculture. But, the principles of organic agriculture are much deeper and broader than the organic standard (the "rules"). As a certified organic farmer, I find it very troubling to see how some of the big industrial agri-businesses have been able to diminish the principles of organic agriculture, selling greenwashed products after only barely adhering to the minimum standards (and exerting a lot of pressure on bodies like the USDA to make the organic standard easier to attain). For me, the organic certification process is a rigourous one, but it is just the beginning of our environmental and animal welfare practices. That's why we also use the term regenerative, which is a term that we use to signify just how important carbon sequestration and an abundant and diverse soil life are to the management of our farm.




Why isn't your pork Certified Organic?


Our pork is organically managed and fed but not Certified Organic. This is for two reasons. One, because we do not keep any pigs as breeding stock. This means that we buy weaned piglets from another small family farm. The source farm for our piglets is not certified organic and indeed, it is very difficult (impossible?) to find certified organic weaned piglets to purchase. Another reason is because we have a longstanding relationship with the Green Door, an organic, vegetarian restaurant near Ryan's workplace in Ottawa. We pick up kitchen waste and buffet leftovers from them (peelings, stems, etc. and food that has expired its time in the buffet but has never been served to customers) to serve to our pigs. What lucky pigs! However, because restaurants do not have an organic certification regime the way that farms do, these foods are not certified organic and therefore our pigs cannot be certified organic either. We are quite confident in the quality of the food, and we feel good knowing that we are helping to divert thousands of pounds of waste each year. Plus, it makes for some AMAZING pork!




Why isn't your beef Certified Organic?


It will be soon! For the past several years, we farmed on 40 acres of rented land. We simply did not have enough land to produce hay for the sheep AND our few cows, so we instead bought hay from another farm to feed the cows. This means that the cows were not certified organic. Now that we have many MANY more acres of hayfield on our new farm, we will soon be able to certify our cows as organic. YAY! We look forward to that day. In the meantime, know that while the beef is not certified organic, we have done our best to follow the organic standard for our cows in every other way.




Can we come visit? Can we come help?


YES! One of the driving forces for us is to share our connection to the land with others. Please come. Please bring your kids. Please bring the folks and the grands, as well. We would be happy to give you a tour and talk with you about our farm, give us a call and we will set up a time! If you would like to come and help, be in touch! There are lots of times when we can use an extra set of hands. If you would like to get a great workout during the hay harvest, bury your hands in a freshly shorn fleece, or learn how to build a fence, there are opportunities for a willing helper to give it a try. A couple things to note: This is a working farm. Some times just won't work for you to visit, so please contact us and we will work out a good arrangement. Your dog is not welcome. They might chase the sheep, eat a freely-ranging hen, or get eaten by the bigger dog that lives here. None of us want any of that. Your visit is at your own risk. We welcome you to our farm with the expectation that you accept responsibility for your own (and your children's) safety and well-being. Thanks for understanding!




Why does it cost more to buy from local organic farms?


I've got a whole blog post on that. Please read on. The short answer is, because you're paying for a lot more than calories. You're paying for a good life for an animal. You're paying for a vibrant community. You're paying for clean water, and clean air. You're paying for carbon sequestration. You're contributing to a living wage for many in your local community. It is more expensive, but we think it's worth it.




What about climate change? Isn't meat supposed to be bad for that?


This is a good question to ask! Organic, regenerative farming with animals is an expression of our environmentalism. Ryan is a Professor of Environmental Politics at the University of Ottawa, and so our conversations are always ensconced in (too much) scientific data and socio-political analysis (Find out more about Ryan's work here). Here's our answer. It's not MEAT that's bad for climate change, it is the processes used to produce meat that can be bad. Or good. The same goes for any food product. You have your GMO soy , water-intensive almonds, sun-cultivated coffee, the ubiquitous palm oil... Name a food and you can find the good and the bad. It is our responsibility as consumers to not stop at "this category of food is bad" - but rather to learn about the production practices in context of all of the different types of food we eat, and to support the practices that are in balance with nature, when and where we can. Industrial, conventionally-managed meat is very bad for climate change. Let's take beef for example. When you feed high quantities of industrially farmed grains to an animal that is not meant to eat grain, you get a lot of GHGs. They come from the system of production of grains, transportation of feed, transportation of cattle, manure management in feedlot systems, and then the transportation of processed beef. Industrialized systems remove animals from natural environments, and this causes a break with all the natural cycles and symbiotic relationships that would typically exist in nature (for instance, healthy grasslands are teeming with methanotrophic bacteria that remove methane from the atmosphere - put there through natural processes of digestion). Another problem with this system is that cattle struggle to metabolize a high-concentrate diet; it changes the quality of the meat. Sheep are similar in that they are evolved to eat grass primarily, not grain. Feeding high quantities of grains to sheep raised in confinement yield many similar problems, though it tends to be less studied than the issues that arise in conventional beef production. But ANIMALS are not the problem. In fact, in a climate like ours, animals are a solution. And this is one of the things that makes us really EXCITED as farmer-environmentalists. When animal pastures are grazed using regenerative grazing techniques (some examples include holistic managed grazing, mob grazing, rotational grazing management-intensive grazing), they can in fact play a role in reversing climate change. Grasslands and grazing animals evolved together. They keep eachother healthy. Without herds of grazing animals, grasslands (whether big like on the prairies, or small like our pockets of meadow in the Gatineau Hills) go dormant. Less growth = less photosynthesis. Less photosynthesis = less carbon being taken up. But, regenerative grazing can lead to higher rates of photosynthesis. Why? Because the plant wants to survive -- when an animal clips off the top portion of its leaves, it responds by sending out more leaves, it becomes thicker and more vigourous. Regenerative farmers are out there looking at the pastures, assessing the growth of the plants, balancing the needs of the animals with the needs of the soil. We move our grazing animals frequently, as soon as they've taken the top bite or two, when they have trampled some grass back down (this is mulch!) and when they've fertilized the land with their manure and urine. We move them, so the plants can take off again. A few days later, we cycle through with poultry; they scratch up the manure and benefit from all of the insect larvae that are attracted to the decomposition process that has begun. It is a beautiful system. If you'd like to learn more about this beautiful process of grasslands, herbivores, and predator species, I suggest you look at the Savoury Institute or Regeneration Canada. Here's another reason why animals are part of the climate change solution: ruminants (like cows and sheep) can convert the energy from the Sun into something that we can eat - we can't eat grass or weeds, because we don't have 4 stomachs! (Well, we can eat it, but we won't get much nourishment from it). The animals convert solar energy into high quality, high nutrient fats and proteins. On our farm, our pigs also convert food waste (restaurant kitchen scraps) and regionally produced organic grains that didn't make the grade for human-consumption into food for us. In fact, I would argue that we don't really have a better way of producing fats or proteins - especially not in this region. Our soils and geography here in the Gatineau Hills are simply not that well suited to produce the equivalent quantity, or quality, of many of the alternatives that a diet without meat would require (things like nuts, legumes, plant-based fats, and beans). The fossil fuels used to transport, process, and package meat from a regenerative local farm to your kitchen is less than those required to produce, process and transport meat-alternatives that are not grown on regenerative local farms. It is our opinion, based on the scientific evidence, and our experience as farmers and researchers, that meat produced on regenerative local farms in this region is one of the best ways to source these components of a healthy diet - plus they are local, bringing economic and social benefits to those of us that work in local food and agriculture-related businesses.




How do I order? When do I get my meat?


You can order at any time, by filling out the Order Form. By placing an order, you are committing to purchase the meat ordered. Because we rely on the grass to grow most of our animals, our meat is available only seasonally. The good news for you is that this guarantees the freshest and healthiest product possible. Here's a general guideline for when our different products are ready and available: Chickens and Ducks: beginning late summer through December Turkeys: beginning at Thanksgiving through December Lamb by the Half or Whole: beginning late October through December Lamb Sausages: beginning late summer while quantities last Pork: beginning late October through December Beef: beginning late September while quantities last Wool and Sheepskins: throughout the year In the fall, your order will be available to pick up from the farm on specified dates, or by alternate arrangement (delivery, or pickup at the Wakefield Farmers' Market). Because we use off-site freezer space, we need to know in advance of when you plan to come and pick up your order.




Where else can I find you?


We are at the Wakefield Farmers' Market, Saturdays from 9am -1pm from July through to October. We also sell at the TWIST Fibre Festival, in August in St. Andre-Avellin, and the Almonte Fibrefest in Almonte ON in early September.





Rock's End Farm

88 ch. Echo Dale

Farrellton, QC  J0X 1T0

819.775.8132

erin AT rocksendfarm DOT ca