by Emily Wiebe
Agricultural cooperatives, organic and sustainable farming methods, and farmer’s markets have been around in some variation or other since nearly the dawning of the agricultural age. For example, in medieval England, peasant farmers would band together and share their oxen since no one farmer owned the pair of oxen needed to plow a field. Communities helped one another farm in order to get the most out of their labour. All early farming up until the invention of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers was organic, relying on the natural nutrients in the soil, crop rotation, and manure to keep their land from becoming nutrient deficient. By the 1700’s, most farming in England had reached a state of sustainability. New farming systems were introduced, such as the four-field crop rotation which worked to sustain nitrogen levels in the soil by the introduction of turnips and clover for animal fodder and other legumes. This allowed the land to remain in use instead of the traditional fallow year. Around the same time, chemical fertilization was invented and began to replace a previously organic farming system.
The agricultural revolution saw many advances in farming techniques, including mechanization, fertilization, pesticide and herbicide invention, erosion prevention, GMOs and many more. All of these methods have increased crop yields and intensified the productivity of arable land. These improvements have allowed for many positive benefits, including the ability to feed more people than ever before.
Recently, interest has once again returned to methods of organic and sustainable farming as well as agricultural co-ops and farmer’s marketing. This has been in response to various negative effects of industrial agriculture. These forms of farming seek to be environmentally conscious and create a distinct community. Supporting your local organic and sustainable farming initiatives is a great way to build community, decrease your environmental impact, and eat delicious, natural, healthy seasonal vegetables and fruits. Check out the 2016 Manitoba Local Produce Guide either online at www.manitoba.ca/agriculture/local-food or pick up your copy at the Dufferin Historical Museum to learn more about what your area has to offer.