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Pondering Pandemic Plusses

Oh how the months go by!  Can you believe that the first third of 2021 is already “in the books”?  We are into our second year of Covid restrictions, and no end in sight.  If at the start we were trying to just survive the unprecedented measures that have turned things upside down, we now should be asking ourselves how we can take advantage of new opportunities that emerge in this altered world.  Personally, I could launch a considerable rant against the inconsistent, downright inexplicable and arbitrary rules.  But to what avail?  There are positive attributes to the whole...

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Grazing Management – the Science of Grass

One of the foundations of a pasture -based organic farm is rotational grazing.  We adopted this management strategy back in the 1980’s when we were still milking cows, and like everyone else were feeding them in confinement.  What that means is that you harvest the feed with machinery and bring it to the animals who are confined in the barn or yard....

What is a cover crop?

When we learned about organic farming in the 1980’s, the term “cover crop” was brand new in the language of farming here in Canada.  Pioneered by organic farmers the use of cover crops is now catching on with conventional agriculture as a means to enrich the soil and prevent erosion.  Cover crops are plantings that are intended primarily for soil improvement.  Usually they are incorporated into the soil while the crop is green and growing.  The tilling in of lush, green vegetation feeds the soil biology.  Just like the livestock in our barns thrive on good feed, the livestock...

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More on “Beyond Meat”

February 26th, just a few weeks ago, was “Ash Wednesday”, the day when many Christians around the world observe a day of fasting, the beginning of a 40 day preparation for Easter.  On this day they abstain from eating meat. Coincidentally, I turned on the radio while driving to catch an interview with Mark Bittman, the celebrated food writer, on the topic of plant based meat substitutes.  It’s worth a listen if you have time;   As you know, the introduction of plant-based burgers and sausage at fast food outlets like Tim’s and Burger King drew a lot...

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These Healing Plants we call Weeds

I can still hear the voice of my good friend and mentor, Bernhard Hack, in his thick German accent saying “These healing plants… we call weeds.” For a young conventional farmer, which I was back in 1982 when I first met Bernhard, this was a revolutionary concept. Weeds were simply a nuisance, something to get rid of with sprays. He introduced me to the notion that weeds had a purpose – a role in the agricultural ecosystem. As I stopped spraying and started observing weeds my thinking changed and I began to see the truth in his statement. Today,...

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Life in the Soil – A Thumbnail Sketch

What many of us don’t know, or don’t think about, is that all of this diverse life that we see, and some, like farm animals that we have to manage, is entirely dependent on a community of living things that we don’t see – the life in the soil. A single tablespoon of healthy soil is home to millions of living organisms; bacteria, fungi, microscopic insects and larger species like the earthworm. Together they form an intricate and fascinating web of life that is indivisible from plant life. In fact, scientists who study in detail the interchange of nutrients...

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A Brief History of Organic Farming at ZFF

A Brief History of Organic Farming (at Zettel Family Farms) By Ted Zettel Part One: Beginnings In 1982, on the day of my first contact with a real organic farmer,  I was a progressive young dairy farmer working in partnership with my Dad, who had taken over the family farm from his Dad. I got into farming for what are now called “lifestyle aspirations”.  When my girlfriend Christine and I were planning our post-secondary studies, my Dad announced that he would be getting out of cows when I left to go to the city. That threw a monkey wrench...

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Why Ted Loves Potatoes

Why I Love Potatoes By Ted Zettel Sr. The potato is perhaps the best plant on the planet!  I may be slightly biased toward love of the “pomme de terre”, having grown up on a farm in Southwestern Ontario, within a community descended from German and Irish immigrants.  Throughout my childhood, we ate potatoes every day.  Twice a day!  We had them boiled for supper and fried the next day for lunch.  Potatoes for us were like rice to the Chinese or pasta to the Italians. I never thought there could be any other way to eat them until...

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