Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Prairie Grassroots Activists

Last week we went to the two day Western Canadian Grazing Conference held in Vermilion, Alberta.  I am used to attending a conference or 5 a year and this was not much different in format:  name tags, keynote speakers, workshop sessions presented by experts equipped with slides, networking over lunch and in the coffee breaks, trade fair of the sponsors wanting to tell you more about their product or organisation.  What made this different was the topics and the slides - very little mention of the words "strategic" or "framework" or any other corporate/academic buzzwords.  And the slides were of big horizons, deep rooted grasses, healthy animals with the odd number thrown in.  And of course - each of them introduced us to their wives, husbands, children, family. 

These are the GRASSROOTS activists who are focussed on working with nature - the prairie ecosystems that they are a part of.  They are seeking ways to live sustainably - environmentally, economically, socially - and to repair the damage that has been done by the learning curve we have been going through in becoming part of this land.  I was impressed by the approach I heard multiple times: I don't listen to what people tell me can or can't do - I find out myself what will work for me, on my place.  That's the spirit of the independent scientist that we've lost in many parts of our lives.  Wisdom and motivation was passed on as we listened to talks about sheep and cow bonding; diversity of the grasses and health of the soil being the key to raising animals; and in questioning the profit-motive that assumes more production leads to more profit - flipping the thought and putting forth "What level should I produce to make a profit?" and finding that balance as the conditions change.  And these men and women were all here - living in the Canadian Prairies - they aren't coming in from other countries telling us what they do 'over there' - they are here, they are the activists that are taking care of OUR grassroots.

It was excellent to hear Dr. Sauchyn speak about the impacts of climate change on the Prairies; Wendy Holm addressing the crisis that farming is facing while bringing a sense of possibility and change; and Don Campbell who mixed perfectly the philosophic and the practical showing us the grass he's grown and the land he's restored on his own family farm.

As a backdrop to part of his presentation - Don projected this poem up behind him.  It summed up and spoke to the best of presentations and conversations from those two days.

I am the basis of all wealth, the heritage of the wise, the thrifty and the prudent.

I am the poor person's joy and comfort, the rich person's prize, the right hand of capital, the silent partner of thousands of successful people.

I am the solace of the widow, the comfort of old age, the cornerstone of security against misfortune and want. I am handed down through generations as a possession of great value.

I am the choicest fruit of labour, the safest collateral and yet I am humble. I stand before every person bidding them to know me for what I am and asking them to possess me.

I am quietly growing in value through countless days. Though I might seem dormant, my worth increases, never failing, never ceasing. Time is my aid and the ever increasing population adds to my gain. I defy fire and the elements, for they cannot destroy me.

My possessors learn to believe in me and invariably they become envied by those who have passed me by. While all other things wither and decay, I alone survive. The centuries find me younger, always increasing in strength.

All oil and minerals come from me. I am the producer of food, building materials and the home to every living thing. I serve as the foundation for homes, factories, banks and stores.

I have not been produced for millions of years, yet I am so common that thousands, unthinking and unknowingly, pass me by.

Who am I?

I am land

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