It’s a joy to write about Stonepost Farms’ John and Becky Doherty. They are young, smart, game-changing Alberta farmers who understand the work that needs to be done to make family farming sustainable again. When I met them in June of 2021, they both had off-farm jobs to support the transition to their dream of one day being able to make their living solely from farming.
Currently, Becky works as a general manager for an Applied Agriculture Research Firm. She also helps John with their attendance at farmers’ markets and the husbandry of 30 cow calf pairs, 1500 meat birds, 300 laying hens, a few dozen hogs and four beehives. There’s also the care of their two children and the family horses, dogs and cats plus the vegetable garden. Farming is not a job.
Farming is a lifestyle and a vocation. And to be successful in today’s world, you’ve got to not only understand how to regenerate soil microbiology and increase biodiversity, you’ve also got to know how-to produce, process, market and distribute your products.
John and Becky Doherty have the stuff it takes to farm holistically. Almost everything they do on the farm is to maximize nutrients in their soil. Put simply, strong soil leads to strong plants and animals and therefore strong humans.
We know from the latest research in soil science that soil is an astonishing biome filled with more life than human’s can truly comprehend. A single teaspoon of healthy soil can contain up to one billion bacteria, several yards of fungal filaments, several thousand protozoa, and scores of nematodes. Those microorganisms are part of something called the plant-microbial bridge.
Carbon exists in three forms: gas, liquid and solid. Plants convert gaseous carbon to liquid. Microbes access that liquid carbon at the plant’s roots and feed on it. They then sequester that liquid carbon as solids in the soil giving it much needed structure. In return for access to liquid carbon, the microbes transfer vitamins and minerals from soil to the plants. Plants with access to lots of vitamins and minerals are strong plants that thrive over weeds. And, we as humans are stronger when we eat the strong plants. Sounds great right?
Well, sadly, since WWII, so much of the earth has been sprayed with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, the make up of soil has changed. Synthetic fertilizers primarily made with N, P and K (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) change the pH of soil. The change in pH essentially “freezes up” the soil. Microorganisms can no longer thrive. Then, there aren’t as many microorganisms to form the plant-microbial bridge. And, plants don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need. Plus, carbon is not sequestered in the land. Plants get weak. Soil does not retain water. Water runs off the land instead of being absorbed by it. There’s and increase in flooding and soil degradation.
The kind of farming the Doherty’s do works to repair or regenerate soil. Research has shown that land treated with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, what’s referred to as industrial farming, has resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in nutrients in food in the world. Weak soil means weak food. And, even though we are producing enough food in the world, and people generally have enough to eat, with the decrease in nutrients in our food, well, that weak food is making weak humans. We are sicker than ever. Many of us get more than enough calories. It’s nutrients we are lacking.
Watch this video to see exactly how the Doherty’s are turning this situation around.
Nutrient Dense food
John and Becky Doherty are Food Artisans of Alberta. They have a vision of how to heal the earth. And, therefore they have a vision of how to heal humans.
If you live in West Central Alberta, you’ll find Stonepost Farms at the St.Albert Farmers’ market every Saturday from 10am-3pm from June to October. You can become part of their CSA, you can shop online and they’ll deliver or arrange pickup. You can even visit their farm to shop for meat, vegetables and eggs by calling for an appointment. If you live anywhere else, you can follow them on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.
Stonepost Farms is about an hour west of Edmonton in Yellowhead County. It’s on the edge of the rolling hills and Parkland forests where Prairie starts to meet the foothills and boreal forest. Turning south off the Yellowhead, it’s only a 10 minute roll down a dirt road to find the green fields and ranch house. The Doherty’s will always be keen to share the care they take in their work.
When I left the farm in June, I left with free range eggs (Becky’s right, once you crack them, they’re like crack) and a tub of their beef lard. Later, Becky sent me their family recipe for pie crust and pumpkin filling and I’m going to share that with you in the next post. Here’s a little teaser photo. Promise, I’ll get it to you before Canadian Thanksgiving!
NOTE: This is not a sponsored post. I did receive the eggs and lard as gifts but otherwise, I am happy to write about these people who are my heroes. I truly believe in them and their power to heal the soil, food and people.