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Ecological Theology

by Troy Beretta

53 Glenavy Ave. Toronto M4P 2T9

It was a glorious Sunday afternoon during the Canada Day weekend, as we stood together on the shores of Lake Erie at Port Burwell and brought the annual Colloquium sponsored by the Holy Cross Centre for Ecology and Spirituality to a close. With us was Thomas Berry, one of today's foremost theological thinkers on ecology and cosmology. As he sprinkled each one of us with water from the lake, he blessed us, saying, "May the heavens, the earth and all living creatures, bless you with imagination, understanding and creativity." We felt renewed in our commitment to continue struggling for the well-being of the earth and its threatened biosystems, and for significant change in our understanding of ourselves as human beings in relationship with all the other life forms and species of our planet.

The focus this year was on the Great Lakes region ("Great Lakes, Great Dreams, Great Deeds: Practical Dreams for a Greener Future"). In addition to Thomas Berry, who is an annual presence at these colloquia, guest presenters were: David Crombie, former mayor of Toronto and currently Chair of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust of Toronto and member of the Board of Directors for Pollution Probe; Paula Gonzalez, Director of EarthConnection, an environmentally conscious Cincinnati educational centre offering programmes in environmental education, eco-spirituality, eco-justice and solar technology; and Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, global education consultant working from a feminist perspective with governmental agencies and Non Govermental Organizations (NGOs) toward equality, social and ecological justice, peace and disarmament, safe energy policy, and the health of the planet and its species.

The dialogue, discussion and reflection among the 80 participants and the guest-presenters were rich and creative. Facts and experiences were shared, ideas exchanged, visions held up, and proposals and strategies discussed. The overall objective or goal was to deepen our sensitivity and understanding of what is taking place within the environment which surrounds us, and our place and effect in it all as a human species. We honestly faced and lamented our negative and destructive impact upon the environment and the whole biosystem. We also celebrated the positive steps which have been, and are being taken, by growing numbers of people and organized groups and movements which seek a new, responsible and constructive relationship with the earth community of which we all are a part.

In an interview last year with Thomas Berry, he was quoted as saying: "It is the greatest failure in their history that Christians seem not to have any sense of what is happening on planet Earth. Our tradition has placed great emphasis on divine-human relations and interhuman relations, but has little concern for relation to the natural world. We don't understand how the inner life of the soul depends on the outer world of nature. St Paul says in Romans that in the things that are made we come to a knowledge of the Maker. So if we have a distorted sense of the natural world, we will have a distorted sense of the divine. If we disintegrate the world, we not only ruin the sources of physical nourishment but we also lose spiritual nourishment." (from "God Dreamed the Earth", Maryknoll magazine, Sept. 1994)

Remembering these words, I was moved by what Father Berry said near the conclusion of the Colloquium: "The future of the church and of all religions will depend upon their willingness to take their responsibility for the fate of the earth. This is where the greatest failure is to be seen presently. Life is granted to us under certain conditions. We, as humans, haven't wanted to accept these conditions. If we want to survive and flourish - both we and the rest of the created order - we must accept living under and within these conditions" (paraphrased from my notes).

I look forward to next year's event. In the meantime, join me in a reading or re-reading of The Dream of the Earth by Thomas Berry, published by Sierra Club Books, 1988. Really great stuff!

Central Ontario Farm Tour

by Joan Smith

Warsaw, Ont.

What a stimulating two days! On March 10 and 11th thirty curious farmers gathered in Millbrook (S.E. of Peterborough, Ont.) to contribute to, and learn from, a workshop sponsored by the Ecological Farmers Association, OATI and OMAFRA. We were most honoured to have Ted Zettel and Gerry Poechman as our intrepid leaders. Of course, time was short so each topic just touched on the basics. However, judging by the lively participation of the farmers, I'd guess that many minds are now spinning with new ideas.

The day started with a brief study of soil ecology (where it naturally all has to start). We then moved on, by means of short talks alternating with slide presentations, to other related topics such as weed control, economics, ecology, livestock, cover crops, manure management, rotations and marketing. Not bad for two days eh?

I was most impressed by the gentle and non-preachy manner of Ted and Gerry. When they referred to their philosophy of a holistic approach during the two days, it was not just to the farm organism, but to all of life.

Many thanks to Peter Leahy for bringing the course to Millbrook and to Ted and Gerry for their devotion to the cause.

Directors Retreat Plans for the Coming Year

by Tony McQuail

The EFAO Board of Directors spent two evenings camped at the farm of Director Peter Leahy to hold a two day retreat to examine EFAO's activities and make plans for the coming year. In looking at our current activities we realized that to do more we will need to involve more members. The Board members are doing as much as they can and still look after their own farms and families. The work we do for EFAO is very satisfying and educational and we want to share these opportunities with other members.

We are looking for members who would work with the named directors on the following committees.

Ted Zettel, Outreach and Publicity. We feel we could do a better job of publicizing our courses, tours, workshops and annual meeting as well as organizing and running displays at appropriate events. To do so we need help in writing the occasional press release or mailing some out, or following up with a reporter or helping set up the EFAO display. Call Ted Zettel if you would like to work with him on this committee.

Mike Beretta, Newsletter. We need to provide more support to our editor, Shelly Paulocik. Members' submissions for the newsletter and suggestions for topics (and possible authors) are always required. We also need members to help with the nitty gritty of putting the address labels on the newsletters and sorting them into mail bags. If you could come to the Bluevale area a couple times a year to help with the newsletter mail out party, call Mike Beretta.

Mike Beretta and Rita Stoller, Slide Show. Mike and Rita will be developing a Slide Show which can be used to talk about EFAO as an organization. It is also hoped that at the same time slide shows can be developed which will illustrate ecological crop production and another on Community Shared Agriculture. If you have experience writing scripts or if you have slides please let Mike or Rita know. Slides used in the shows will be copied and the originals returned to you.

Harold Saunders, South Western Ontario Farm Tour.

Peter Leahy, Central Ontario Farm Tour and Courses.

Hubert Earl and Rita Stoller, Eastern Ontario Farm Tour.

Harold Saunders, On Farm Research. Harold is interested in working with other farmers who are conducting on farm research.

We came up with a tentative list of Workshops and Courses for the coming year. They are listed with the director responsible. If you have suggestions or would like to help with the organization please contact the director.

Winter Dairy Barn Tour - Ted Zettel

Intensive rotational grazing for Ontario - Hubert Earl

Organic Crop Production - Ted Zettel

Small-Scale Animal Husbandry (poultry, rabbits, sheep, goats) -Mike Beretta, Hubert Earl, and Harold Saunders

Draft Horse Workshop - Tony McQuail

Restoring Natural Areas on the Farm - Chris Hoskins

CSA tour and workshop - Bob Budd and Harold Saunders

The list of directors with addresses and phone numbers is inside the back cover.

Eastern Ontario Farm Tour

by Michael and Heidi Krol

On July 22, Peter and Marja Biemond of Iroquois were hosts of an EFAO farm tour. Several dozen people came as the weather cooperated perfectly. Interestingly enough, the day started with a tour of their farm house. This was a real treat. Peter and Marja built the house themselves over a period of 22 months. The main level is an open concept style with a large cathedral ceiling and natural air flow. This level has two bedrooms including the master bedroom, the kitchen and living areas, the office and a bake room with an oven capable of baking 24 loaves of bread at a time. The lower level has 8 bedrooms around a large central recreational area. There are also separate washrooms for "heifers" and "bulls". An outside wood furnace warms the home by floor heat.

After lunch, we boarded a wagon to go see the crops. The crop rotation starting with ploughing down a hay field is one year each of corn, rye, barley, then oats underseeded to return to hay. Despite the dry summer, the cereal crops were good to excellent, with plump grain and lots of straw.

We also saw a fourth year alfalfa field which we all agreed would be a sin to plough down, but alas, that is the rotation.

The loft space in the barn is reserved almost exclusively for straw storage. The hay crops are harvested as haylage with a self loading wagon and stored in bunk silos made of treated lumber. The forages are retrieved with the use of a block cutter on the back of a tractor. Peter believes very much in working with a simple system and keeping costs down.

Another point of interest was a lagoon to accumulate runoff from manure as well as milkhouse waste water, etc. A small windmill is continually pumping air into the lagoon to help decomposition. The fluid in the lagoon is absolutely odourless and even supports fish life. Peter pumped the liquid onto dry pastures in the summer.

The cattle, which are mainly a mix of Holstein, Jersey, and Brown Swiss, are rotationally grazed. The pastures all receive 2 pounds per acre of Dutch white clover seed annually by frost seeding. This summer, the cows continued to produce well with only 2 pounds per day of grain and very little supplemental hay.

The Biemond's have their farm operating very efficiently. It was a pleasure to spend a day with them.

The Eastern Connection

by Hubert Earl

Fall is now officially upon us and once again Nature has provided us with a potpourri of autumn splendour. Here in Eastern Ontario growing and harvesting conditions were next to ideal for cropping, pasturing, and gardening resulting in bountiful harvests. We were truly blessed and subsequently have much for which to be thankful.

Our summer tour to the Biemond farm was well attended and from all the reports was very worthwhile. A video documentary of the farm has been prepared for television and a copy of the tape is available for other EFAO members. Perhaps the Annual Meeting will provide us with the opportunity for viewing.

Pastures stock-piled for late fall and early spring are looking tremendous. Presently at our farm we are stressing those paddocks which have higher than acceptable levels of grasses in preparation for frost seeding. Most of these paddocks will be frost seeded to several varieties of clovers, while several others will be over-seeded in early spring to annual rye-grass. Because of its prolific growth habits, annual rye-grass has been reported to yield exceptionally high levels of forage for grazing. Regrowth is reported to be rapid following grazing, or cutting. We intend to use it on several paddocks which will require complete renovation in the near future. Yields and costs in comparison to frost seeding will be carefully monitored.

This year we continued to include birdsfoot trefoil in the grain mixture fed to the dairy cows. Results from previous years have been gratifying. The seeds are unaffected by digestion and have been randomly deposited throughout the assigned paddocks. The cow patties provide the fertilizer; moisture is of course available in the manure and is further added by rainfall and decomposition. Sunlight is the final ingredient for germination and growth.

A recent trip to visit dairy farms in Wisconsin and a hog operation in Iowa certainly provided me with added enthusiasm about rotational grazing. Each of the farms has been filmed and edited for television and copies of these tapes have been made available for our viewing at the EFAO library. Perhaps a future grazing workshop this spring would provide an opportunity for a viewing and subsequent discussion.

Farmers interested in different grazing systems for dairy, beef, sheep, or goats can obtain a new publication entitled: "Pasture-Recognizing the Potential." The booklet profiles a number of farmers and explains how and why they utilize their grazing system. Copies are available Free at local OMAFRA offices.

Value-Added Marketing: Stewing Hens with a Difference

by Hubert Earl.

Once your yearling laying birds are to be replaced by pullets, pen them separately, and feed them ground barley mixed into a mash with either cow, goat, or farm separated skim milk. (Powdered whole or skim milk mixed with water will produce the same results, but may be rather expensive) Feed to appetite twice daily for six or seven weeks. Once most of the birds have completed their moult they may be butchered (fewer pin feathers).

Stewing hens fed in this manner will be quite tender and have a superb taste. Try a few for your own household along with a few extras to distribute as samples along with your favourite recipe for chicken and dumplings. Marketing your yearling hens in this manner will in all likelihood generate the necessary funds required to purchase or raise your ready-to-lay-pullets. We charge $6.00 per bird/dressed.

Copyright 1995 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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