Another way of doing agriculture

by sarahjrjr
Sep 03, 2013

This summer I spent three weeks volunteering on a farm in Cape Breton, one that was trying to farm according to permaculture principles. I've spent a lot of time researching and reading and falling in love with this other way of doing agriculture, other than the machines and fertilizers and standardized production of modern agribusiness. What made me fall in love with it was the heart and soul of this approach to farming, its ethics of care, rather than an adherence to the logic of profit. Instead of looking to make as much money as possible, permaculture looks to do what is good for all beings on the farm, plants, animals, people. It looks for ways to ensure their flourishing, their well-being, in ways that support and enrich the well-being of the others around them. Building a farm like this takes time. The farmer I was working with told me that his farm was on a thirty-year start-up plan. It's most definitely a labour of love. Building a farm like this takes creativity. You have to think about the ways in which your land can work together with your animals and your plants. You have to think about the slope of the land, not as something which makes gardening more difficult, but as something which makes gravity-fed irrigation easier. (If you dig ditches winding around your garden beds, the water can flow down to the roots of the plants, making them grow stronger and tastier) Manure from livestock becomes plant food. Kitchen scraps of these plants becomes chicken food. Animals have names and are loved. Their death is talked about as a sacrifice. Seeds are wished good growing as they go into the ground. The work is hard, but it is also good for the body, and it quiets the mind. And the work is not neverending - it stops when you get tired, or hungry or sick. There isn't much money, but there is enough. And there is laughter in abundance. It is about growing food, but it is about so much more. It is a life-changing experience, seeing permaculture in practice. I have plans for starting my own farm with friends, building in elements of education and garden therapy. It will be a labour of love. --- If you are interested in volunteering on an organic farm, the organisation through which I volunteered is called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). You can register on a country-by-country basis in order to contact farmers where you are interested in volunteering. Volunteering is free, but there is a fee to register (50$ for a year's membership in Canada). Their website is

Lena Sep 05, 2013

Sarah I am so happy you had the opportunity to experience a stay with WWOOF and working on a permaculture farm. I believe the only way to grow our food efficiently is that way! Biodynamics is also interesting, and gardening with a bit of both philosophies is good.We need more people like you in Canada, keep spreading the word.