Posts Tagged With: future generations

Food Awareness in Our Children

This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting my son’s birthday party at the farm.  For the first time in our long and drawn out Winter we had a day with sunshine and warmth, just below 0 degrees Celsius.  A day to get outside and play.  In today’s society it seems as though our children are always tuned into technology and less with the open spaces of our own backyards…and barnyards.  My wife and I decided to have our son’s party unplugged at the farm.  No smart phones, personal gaming devices, or any other form of technology, just sleds, snow wear, our means of locomotion, and an adventurous spirit.

Hay Parkour!

Hay Parkour!

I thought we’d start the party off with a brief tour of our livestock barns and introduce the kids to our animal companions on the farm.  I knew I had a limited amount of time before the freedom of the farm drew them in different directions so I took them into the world of our heritage breed chickens.   Being an educator I thought I’d pile them into the coop that contains our Plymouth Barred Rock chickens and then fire a bunch of questions at them on chickens.  Although my son is fairly well-versed in poultry talk, I was unsure of what to expect from his friends.  I started with a basic reproductive anatomy question, who lays the eggs, hens or roosters?  It might sound like a simple question, but I can honestly tell you that I’ve had some people ask me if roosters lay eggs or if roosters are required for hens to lay eggs.  Adults say the darndest! My son and his friends unanimously exclaimed, “the hens!”  I continued on with a few more questions, awaiting the hand-raising reflex and the accompanying stares, and to my surprise they collectively knew the answer to nearly every question I posed to them.  (Farmer pauses to smile).  With the exception of knowing where they roosted during the night, my son and his friends were able to confidently give rational explanations and answers about where eggs come from, which birds were roosters/hens, where they laid their eggs, and where baby chickens are made.

After the chicken barn, we made our way into the beef/hay barn.  First, we talked about how to behave around cattle so that they didn’t scare them or put themselves in harms way.  They filed into the barn, one behind another, in to the rich organic smells of hay, dung, wood, and straw. I decided to change my interactive questions to something mathematical.  I asked, “Who can estimate or guess how many cattle are in the barn?”  Some minds started to count, others grouped, and some just scanned.  In the end, after a very close guess, they got hotter until they nailed it, 27!  Number sense is alive and well in this group of grade 1 friends.  After a little chat about calving season being just around the corner and what cows eat, the kids made their way back to the hay pile.  I found myself musing over the agricultural awareness that my son, daughter, and friends demonstrated.  What a wonderful blessing to grow up in a rural area, connected to our food through ways of life like hunting, fishing, gardening, and farming.  I would even argue that children today have a high measure of food awareness unlike what has been purported by Jamie Oliver in his food revolution in America.  In our region, with respect to the aspect of where food comes from, I am compelled to believe that they have a high food awareness in that aspect.  Understanding what not to put in their bodies, is another story.

Today’s society has been socially conditioned to accept the convenience of grocery stores and supermarkets, but this has broken the link between families and the true sources of food, farms.  I jumped at the opportunity to share our family passion for farming when my son’s friends arrived for his birthday party.  I didn’t take a didactic approach to highlight what they should know but rather we took time to celebrate what they did know and thereby make the farm a more inviting place to families who want to have a relationship with their family farmer.  It’s time to place farmer in the same relationship status as knowing your family doctor, dentist, and pharmacist.  Raising children who care for the lives of animals and the health of garden vegetables is the first step in changing the mentality about current food system and it’s degradation away from the once numerous small family farm into corporate monoculture.  Biodiversity opens the mind to endless possibilities for our future generations on small family farms.

Martin Luther King in his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement suggested consumer boycotts to force change through non-violence.  I think this idea can be embraced to a degree to perpetuate ways to support the struggles and labors of farmers in your local communities.  Buying a months supply of meat from a nearby farmer, for example, diverts the flow of money directly into the producers hands, allowing them to pay bills and to continue to grow and raise food with a high level of transparency and in a manner where a sense of community is promoted around something as simple and necessary as food.  Farm visits allow families to learn about the impacts of their decisions when buying locally.  Who better to learn from about how food is raised than the farmer down the road.  Grocery stores may have an assortment of conveniences and goods but nothing beats pulling a carrot from the ground or collecting eggs from nesting boxes.  It’s this type of work that teaches an appreciation for the small family farm at an early age.  I started spending time with my dad in the hayfield around the age of 3.  True story.

Farming, it's in our genes.

Farming, it’s in our genes.

In the days that followed my sons birthday party, I watched with a great deal of agape love as I considered the well-being of my two children.  In front of me, they jumped from hay bale to hay bale, imploring me to catch them or chase them or watch them.  My whole body smiled.  They were playing exactly as I had when I was their age.  I stand resolute in my convictions about doing the work I do on the family farm to make it something better for my children as they grow into adults.  Both of them have a fondness for animals that is apparent in the kindness they show to others including their animal companions.  My son is always trying feats of strength and my daughter has a magical way of showing love to the animals.  This is not something you can teach, but it is something that you can foster.  I know they’ll both be with me in the greenhouse in the next couple months as we prepare our transplants and i’m sure they’ll have something to teach me about agricultural awareness as time goes on.  Perhaps, some day they’ll even have a chance to become involved in our birch syrup production on our farm woodlot.

Hay: Fun for all ages.

Hay: Fun for all ages.

Should any of you wish to have a tour of the farm with your children,  you can contact us at the numbers provided on the website, 506-684-2297 or 506-685-7741.  The best time of year is from the part of Spring when the ground has mostly dried and all of our seasonal operations are underway until our last harvest in fall when we have our pumpkin pick.

Categories: Agricultural Awareness, Food Awareness, future generations, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Animal Therapy

Today, I’ve decided to take a different approach to blogging. I normally write my title first, after I’ve spent a significant amount of time ruminating over events in the weeks leading up to the deadline (self-imposed ofcourse). I like to have a loosely defined road to travel with the points of my narrative so that I can get a feel for fluency and voice in my writing. I don’t want my writing to sound staccato and disconnected. One way of overcoming this is to find the pieces of commonality (i.e., theme of your blog post) that exist between the points you want to cover in the blog. I do not write simply to write. I need to feel inspired, motivated, encouraged, or excited to put pen to paper or finger to key before I turn on the creative juices and delve into my opinion piece. So, I spend some time writing down key points I want to cover, researching applicable quotes, selecting suitable photo material, and usually finding a title that catches the eye and gives a preview of the content.

Everyday after teaching math (my other current passion) I drive 15 minutes from Campbellton to Point La Nim to feed, water, and give care to my laying hens and roosters. The avian class, in general, has always fascinated me and it still does, only on a more intimate level. Spending time with the chickens (and cattle for that matter) removes any lingering stresses from the school day. It is remarkably therapeutic. Many people ask how I go from an 8 hour work day to a 3 hour work evening at the farm? My response, “animal therapy.” I truly enjoy watching chickens be chickens. The Roosters posture, watch over the flock, and cock-a-doodle-doo.

Foghorn Legwho?

Foghorn Legwho?

The hens scratch for bits of hidden goodness in their deep litter, turn their eggs with their beaks, establish their pecking orders, and peer at you with a wary eye.
Casting a wary eye

Casting a wary eye


I always take my time around the chickens and cattle. I try not to rush through my chores. It’s my time to slowdown and unwind, if only for a minute. As those who farm know, there’s always something to do when it comes to farming but the only time stress arises, in my humble opinion, is in interactions with other humans, not animals. Animals do not talk back. If they could, I’d want mine to say, “Farmer Mac, you’ve done well, real swell lad.” That being said, there’s always room for improvement, which probably explains my continual renovations to housing, routine inspections of the animal’s health, and fine tuning routines around the animals.

Recently, I had a little sit down and chat with my beloved grandmother, Betty MacCurdy. She is a driven, animal loving, get up at dawn and work all day, lovable, beautiful person. She has, and continues to be our source of family history. I was drawn to farming because of my father’s work ethic and love for animals, my mother’s love of fruits and vegetables, and my grandmother’s ability to bring farm histories to life. As youngsters, we knew we were in for a treat when we heard our grandmother say, “I remember the time when…” I sat with my grandmother, listening to her stories about how the MacCurdys stored their eggs in the milk house on a large tray before the time of refridgeration, cooked chickens in brown paper bags to keep them moist, and how my grandfather had purchased a dozen meat chickens when he was near my age to raise for the family. I hadn’t heard the story before but my grandmother cracked a smile of reminiscence that I’m sure held a memory of my grandfather and his time on our farm when he was with us. Thank the Lord for the positive memories we carry with us through our lives. Taking the time to sit down with my grandmother and listen to the stories of our farm history makes me want to soldier on to write my own chapter of farm history with my family members.

With Spring only a couple months away, now is the time to act on our farm goals. That means purchasing an incubator to hatch our own eggs, building an eggmobile for our pastured hens, purchasing a solar energizer and poultry netting for protection against predation, and increasing our fleet size of triple-ps to 6. Every week i’m emailing and telephoning companies for prices and trying to find the best deal possible. At this point, we have a price on our solar electric fencing set up and a new Hovabator incubator. the ball is rolling and we can begin to chip away at necessary costs to improve our farm outputs. Our farm’s transition towards sustainability will take time and unfortunately a fair amount of money in the beginning while we add infrastructure and technology to the farm. However, it’s an exciting endeavour. We fund it as a sideline and grow it slowly taking care of it for future generations.

Brain Fodder

Brain Fodder


My brother and I are both looking forward to the Spring time. We’ll hatch our own heritage breed chicks, along with 20 Easter Egger chicks. Easter Eggers carry a gene that allows them to produce blue and green eggs. I’m excited to provide green and blue eggs as a novelty item at the Farmer’s market to get young children excited about eating healthy food. Green eggs and ham anyone?
Our little egg eater helping dad take care of the hens.

Our little egg eater helping dad take care of the hens.

Winter provides a time to enjoy the company of family. We can share stories, make plans, and look forward to the upcoming growing season. While the fields lay dormant our active imaginations and creative spirits come alive as we plan for further diversification on the farm. I’m praying for the continued opportunity to make history on our small family farm. Finally, our new business cards will be arriving in two weeks so you can pick one up at the Farmer’s market. Come see us at the Restigouche Farmer’s Market in Dalhousie.

Categories: farming, future generations, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The Importance of Children

In the past two years I have spent an increasing amount of time on our farmland.  After the regular work day as a math teacher I hurry to the farm to get the animals fed and other ongoing projects completed.  The 2 or 3 hours that I spend on the farm each night affords me a great deal of mental therapy through physicality.  My worries lift, my tense shoulders subside, and I am invigorated by the sights and sounds of the farm.  In essence, I savor a taste of my childhood on each occasion that I am at the farm.

As youngsters, my siblings and I roamed every square foot of the acreage.  No hayfield, brook, wood lot, road, garden, pasture, or hill was left untrodden.  In many senses of the word, it was our classroom.  We were free to explore the expanse of the farm with little worry.  We felt empowered by our freedom to explore the natural world and thankfully we did not regress to the savagery of the children depicted in the Lord of the Flies.  The wood lot helped us learn the difference between a rotten and a sturdy tree when we ran through the woods kicking down potentially decayed windfalls.  The fibrous decay brought about by fungi gave us a visual lesson in forest pathology.  We learned that the decaying log housed a myriad of insects.  These insects inspired great curiosity about life below the soil.  The hayfield offered us the opportunity to fall, roll, and hide amongst the perennial grasses.  As we lay, in silence, chests heaving heavily from a high-stepping run, we would watch the field sparrows and other types of birds jump from timothy to orchard grass and then fly away while the breezes softly teased the hayfield’s mane.  A love for wildlife was born.  The brook teemed with life and sound.  Amphibious salamanders caught our eye and were a chore to catch for closer inspection.  But, we always returned them to the safety of their home in the brook after satisfying our piqued curiosity.  Somehow, each of us knew, in our child like innocence, that to remove something from its home without due cause was wrong.  No parental lesson needed.  Such is the treasure of the natural world, we learn a great deal outside of the regimented classroom without any intention of acquiring knowledge.  The pasture, as we came to know it, was one big playpen for the mainstay of the farm, cattle.  We learned through oral history at an early age the names of the breeds that made up our line of cattle and through this process we became cattle lovers.  We’re not afraid to say it either.  Cattle are amazing social creatures.  In walking the fenceline or through the pasture we would observe, firsthand, the pieces of vegetation that cattle preferred.  Thistles and wild rose bushes were left untouched while wild apples provided a sweet treat.  The mothering instincts of cattle are unparalleled in my opinion and, as we learned, the cows made their presence known by placing themselves between the calves and the bi-pedal onlookers while the bull nonchalantly chewed his cud in the background.  We learned the safety of distance from animals in close proximity and how to jump fences, if need be.  Every day we played our experiential knowledge grew significantly.  We could often be found skipping along the farm roads, stopping to browse something colorful that caught our eye like a purple trillium or a plump wild raspberry.  Interspersed with our scientific pursuits we talked sports, food, games, etc., always making sure that no one was left straggling behind.  We knew their was safety in numbers and we cared about each others well-being.  Something else, I suppose, that did not necessitate instruction.

Today, as a father of two, I find myself looking to provide these same experiences to my children.  I want to foster an appreciation for the natural world in them that will hopefully inspire them, if their hearts desire it, to find joy in pursuits that involve the great outdoors.  My son, Cameron, is the best helper.  He rolls hay bales over, he carries wood, he helps measure boards to be cut, he collects eggs, he tends to the chickens, he runs errands, and most importantly he asks questions, which I answer to the best of my abilities.  Sometimes he asks the question, “Can we go now?”, other times he inquires, “What does that mean daddy?” or “Can I do it?” or “Can we go for a walk to the woods/brook/hayfield?”  Having my son with me (my daughter is only two so her chance will come soon) is a learning experience in itself.  I have to learn to trust him and be mindful of his whereabouts at all times, I have to learn to give him freedom to explore the animal life on the farm and not place demands on him to stay continually by my side, and use opportunities to share my knowledge with him even if it means stopping the task that I am working on.  He takes priority.  I want him to know that when an important event takes place in his life that I will be there when he wants or needs me to be.  Society can wait, work can wait, and leisure activities can wait.

Recently, I came across a quote by Margaret Mead, which reads, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”  Although I agree with the distinction between what and how, we can’t treat children as tabula rasa and just fill their blank slates with what we think and how we think, I do not think children necessarily must be taught everything.  Although our experience in the natural world with others does not happen in a vacuum, it can happen free from parental or adult instruction where we learn a great deal through our curiosity without being taught how to ascertain those pieces of knowledge.  I endorse those parents who see the importance of connecting their children to the real and natural world.  There is permanence and retention of knowledge in self-discovery.  It’s as though the mind says, “Aha! Now I get it!”  Then we can begin to formulate our thought processes (how we learn) to assess the truth of the matter and formulate opinions on issues.  I see this very process take place in my daughter as she learns how to use words.  She is constantly receiving feedback from her environment, listening to us use words, correct her brother’s pronunciation, and suggest alternate descriptive words to him.  It then appears as though suddenly she learned a new word when in fact her brain is processing how and when to employ the use of the word.  You should see the smile on her face when she discovered how to propel herself on one of her little vehicles.  It was nothing we ever taught her, it was self-discovery, it was priceless.

I feel very fortunate to have been raised on a rural small farm around animals, wildlife, and the natural landscape.  The experience still permeates my thought processes to this day.  It has given me a passion to share the experience with my wife and children.  Most importantly, it has helped me realize that this is something to be shared with and protected for future generations.  Everything I do on the farm is done so that one day my son or daughter, or neice or nephew, can do the same, if that is what speaks to their heart.  Hopefully, it will.   It’s the reason why the multi-generational representation of MacCurdy Farmers wears a shirt with the logo, “Faith.  Family.  Farming.”

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

Categories: farming, future generations, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: | Leave a comment

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