Feature Article

Down on the Farm: Women Farmers in the Peace Country

“From the time that I was a little girl, I knew that I wanted to be a farmer,” recalls Mary Lundgard from her family’s home, just outside Grimshaw, Alberta. As she talks, she minces a clove of garlic – locally grown by her daughter, Lisa – and adds it to the mushroom soup simmering on the stovetop.

Born and raised in the eastern Maritimes of Canada, Lundgard was a town girl with the dream to grow and raise her own food. “My mom grew up on a farm in Nova Scotia,” Mary remembers, “She always said, ‘Oh no, you don’t want to do that!’ My family used to tease me about this childhood dream. But later in life, I moved to Alberta, met my husband, Peter, and we began to farm. Finally, I could write home to my family and tell them, well, I’m now a farmer.”

Over the past several decades, Mary and Peter have managed small seed and livestock operations in northern Alberta. In 2005, they moved their family from Fairview to 600-acres of land southwest of Grimshaw, where they started Nature’s Way Farm, a certified organic farm, producing pasture-fed beef, sheep, lamb, and pork. “We’re trying to farm a sustainable way,” says Mary, explaining that they don’t use any chemicals for pest-control, or fertilizers for field production.

Mary_Lisa

Nature’s Way’s holistic approach to growing and raising food is well-known in the Peace Country. Every year, the farm receives dozens of aspiring farmers from all over the world who come to intern and learn, hands-on, about organic agriculture. But what also makes Nature’s Way unique – and what many people might not realize – is that many aspects of the farm are managed with a woman’s touch. “I’m not just the wife, I’m not just the worker,” says Mary, smiling. “I’m actually a farmer.”

[Read more]

Feature Article

Growing Roots in Northern Alberta: Musings on Community, Creative Process & Book Publishing

The signs of spring in northern Alberta happen slowly, then all at once: the wild crocuses silently arriving when the ground is still half-frozen, the geese honking, loudly announcing their return from the south, and finally, the aspen opening their tender green buds, flooding the brown valley with the softest shade of green you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Yesterday afternoon, the May sun poured into my trailer, warming my rectangular home with such intensity that I finally turned off my fussy diesel furnace and I didn’t bother lighting a fire in the wood stove. It felt somewhat ceremonious turning off the furnace: a little flicker of pride stirred in my chest. Winter was over. I had survived my first winter alone on the land in northern Alberta. I had managed to hang onto even just a shred of sanity despite a series of unfortunate events: frozen pipes, busted furnaces, the very un-romantic task of splitting wood, everyday, and contending with faulty water pumps by hand scooping water from my cistern. What a season.

IMGP4123

I didn’t expect to make a home in this tiny northern town over the winter. I never anticipated staying. Last year, I came home with only one thing on my mind: writing and re-writing my book. I lived in my parents’ basement for four months and breathed all things Women Who Dig. That was it. That was my sole purpose. Then the fire tower called. Then I learned that the book would actually become a published book. Then the most important relationship in my life unraveled and all the plans that went along with that were no longer. Then everything changed and I didn’t know where else to go.

[Read more]