Sally Bernard grew up on a mixed family farm in New Brunswick before going on to study Plant Science at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. She now owns and operates Barnyard Organics Ltd., a grain and chicken operation that emphasizes soil health as the foundation for healthy agriculture, along with her husband Mark. An active member of her community with a deep appreciation for the role that all farmers play in their communities, Bernard has served as President of the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network and as a member of the Organic Value Chain Roundtable. She is a frequent presenter at agricultural workshops and conferences, and writes for a variety of regional publications.
“It seems to me that PEI is perfectly poised to make the most of our size and physical border to truly differentiate ourselves, particularly in agriculture and fisheries. We can take chances and do things differently from the rest of the country, and put in place policies and infrastructure that encourage regenerative practices and sustainable markets. While export markets will undoubtedly remain an important part of the equation, the potential to feed ourselves better and more directly is an exciting opportunity that can be fostered under new policies and leadership. With such a rich heritage of diverse family farms and small-scale fishers and a history of overcoming challenges, PEI producers have the opportunity to lead the province into new territory when it comes to promoting healthy soil, and water - and thereby also healthy crops, livestock, people and communities.”
As I sat in the overflow room listening to the representatives of Northern Pulp defend themselves against the many questions of the MLAs from the Agriculture and Fisheries Standing Committee on Feb 16th, I watched the faces of the fishers sitting around me and felt their helpless frustration at the plans to pipe effluent from the mill out into the Northumberland Strait.
Potato farmers on PEI are often the scapegoats of an environmentally-minded public looking for a target on which to pin the ecological decline of this sandy province. The study of soil organic matter levels over 18 years that was recently released feels in many ways like more ammunition with which to pelt the potato industry. And certainly, given the extent of row-cropping on PEI, potatoes cannot be exempt from the discussion. But most assuredly there is not a single farmer, of any kind, on PEI who is happy to see their soil organic matter (SOM) levels declining. Every farmer knows that SOM is a major cornerstone to soil structure, pH buffering, soil biology and, perhaps most pertinent to recent public discussions, water holding capacity and water movement. So evidently SOM is not something that farmers, of any commodity, are content to see declining. Given the current uptake in having fall cover crops established before winter, the evidence is visibly out there in the fields of the efforts that farmers are taking to protect their soil.
'Tis the season on PEI, of hand-wringing and questioning and general unrest when it comes to considerations of the agricultural variety. There is much displeasure at the perceived, if not accurate, deforestation and ecological damage happening at the hands of what has come to be accepted as corporate farming operations or those operations under the 'guidance' of corporate entities.
It was with much curiosity that I read Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Allan MacIsaac’s Report on Agriculture in PEI for 2016 with the headline, “Banner Year for Agriculture on PEI”. Curiosity because the top headline in the same paper indicated that blueberry producers were struggling with overproduction issues. Having previously heard of these overproduction issues at a regional level and from individual growers and associated bee keepers, I was surprised to note a great hurrah-for-blueberries arising in the midst of Minister MacIsaac’s speech, for the not insignificant increase in yields that Island producers have seen recently.