In the quietness of the afternoon sun, we shut the quad off and waited. Slowly but surely the calves drifted in towards our two little grandsons and me. I had promised them something special, an opportunity to meet some calves – up close! While one little 3-year-old wanted to talk to every calf, our other little 4-year-old sternly motioned for us to be quiet. Gradually, one by one, the calves gathered around the quad to examine the three of us. They pushed their curious multi-colored faces and pink noses forward breathing heavily on the boys outstretched hands until an abrupt squeal from our littlest one sent them careening away. Great but simple fun!!!
Our farm planning team has done an incredible job in laying out the foundation for a community farm that will balance a regenerative farm ecosystem with family health, and our diverse riparian habitat. Historic farm records of crop and field management, original details of the farm’s extensive gravity irrigation system, printed records of production, and conversations with past farm workers and managers who have worked on the farm contributed to the storehouse of information used in the planning process. Extensive soil analysis and local climate data were added to the design mix along with consultation with knowledgeable agricultural experts, an agricultural economist, and our urban planning team.
⦁ An intensive, mixed use, farm comprised of market gardens, flower gardens, orchards, vineyards, and pasture for a mix of grazing animals,
⦁ A professionally managed commercial farming operation carefully designed to be both a viable farming operation and a vital amenity to the new community. One which would offer family health and wellness through fresh produce sales, value added farm foods, hands on educational opportunities for all ages, farm festivals, and agritourism adventures.
Heritage Weekend Festival at Tranquille
The consensus reached was that soil health is the most critical aspect of rebuilding the historic Tranquille Farm. While the farm is blessed with terrific inherent growing conditions including good soil abundant water, and a remarkable growing climate, years of neglect have resulted in the invasion of noxious weeds and diminished key micro-nutrients in the fields. It was determined by our farm planning team that consistent applications of manure through a long term, rotational grazing program consisting of a variety of animals and birds would provide an excellent foundation to combat invasive weeds and rejuvenate the farm’s quality soils while building up productivity of some of the farm’s less productive, stony, soils on the northern edge of the farm.
The first step towards increasing soil health at Tranquille occurred in the spring of 2020. Fencing was built, mainlines on the irrigation system were repaired and irrigation wheel lines reassembled. Many trips were made up to the Lac du Bois diversion dam approximately one mile to the north of the farm where water control gates at the historic dam were repaired, adjusted as required, screens pulled & cleaned, and debris removed so water could flow freely. The spring freshet got our heartbeats up with its raging torrent, but the dam engineers of yesteryear proved they knew how rivers worked and the dam escaped unscathed.
Spring flooding at the Tranquille diversion dam..
This temporary fix got us through the summer. Thankfully, the Farm Plan includes plans to bring the entire irrigation system to current standards as the development moves forward.
Once the pasture was ready a cow calf herd owned by Joanne and Gord Nicklas, was put out to graze on the east end of the property. The goal was to have the cattle work the field by grazing and spreading their life-giving manure across it. Using an electric fencing management system, the cattle were moved throughout the pasture over the spring, summer, and fall.
This summer the herd is returning with a twist. Many of the new calves are part of a Climate Change triggered research breeding program supervised by Dr John Church, Cattle Research Chair at Thompson Rivers University (TRU). As heat waves and summer temperatures are projected to increase dramatically in Western Canada, there is a growing need to develop and select new heat-tolerant breeds of cattle for beef production in temperate environments. Calves participating in this program are due to be born sometime in the first week of March. In the meantime Jack, whose mom is not part of the study arrived this past week and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his buddies in a few days.
Credit: Joanne Niklas First calf of the 2021 herd..
In a future installment to this blog, we will provide more information about this program and our plans for the Tranquille farm. Stay tuned.
If you would like to learn more about what it would be like to live beside the Tranquille Farm and participate in its farm adventures, we would love to hear from you. Join us in the weekly Living Tranquille community engagement conversation at www.tranquille.ca or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/liveattranquille . Let us know what you think and ask any question you may have. If you are part of a user group and we have not yet contacted your organization to share our development vision, contact us. We will set up an online meeting with your membership to facilitate discussion together.