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MCHS Visits Gold Forest Grains Leanne

Sarah Chevalier is a grade 12 student at Morinville Community High School.  This article is part of a series written by students enrolled in the Urban Agriculture course.

Sustainability. The word of the century. It is a noun that comes to mind when we think of our planet, at least now it is within our day and age. Someone who happens to have proven that it is completely possible to live off the land in a total eco-friendly and green way, is John Schneider and his family at Gold Forest Grains. He works hard to be completely self reliant and self sustainable. He has also financially sustained himself and has not taken out a single bank loan in years. Before he figured out a way to live this unique, and earth healthy sort of life, he and his family used to live in big houses with gas-guzzling vehicles, nothing extraordinary or different like the life he has built for himself now. John moved out of his old typically suburban large home, and created himself a straw bale house just a few minutes South West of Morinville. No wolf can come blow this house down though, because the straw is in between thick layers of cement to act as a natural form of insulation. This house is 1200 square feet with no framing, wood or natural gas anywhere in the home. The house is heated with a wood stove, as well as passive solar energy because of how heat absorbent the straw happens to be when the sun hits it. Heating bills are basically reduced to nothing because of these changes.

John raises certified organic grain, if the name of his farm did not give that away already. His ‘Golden Grains” bring in most of the income for the farm. John sells directly to the consumers unlike many of the larger more conventional farms in the area. The Schneiders only have 3 small stone mills in order to make flour. They sell their flour in small batches, usually 1kg at a time, but with their direct-to-consumer approach they garner approximately $113 per bushel rather than the $6-$7 for every day non-organic wheat. The small farm only has 3 hired employeess because that happens to be all they need. They have stock for sale in Morinville Sobeys, Old Strathcona farmers market on Whyte ave, and at the St. Albert farmers market.

John Schneider works more to farm the earth rather to farm for food. He works to replenish the soil that surrounds his house in order for the ground to be perfect, healthy and prosperous condition for his children to take over one day. He uses compost and other naturally available sources like wood chips to give the ground the nitrogen it needs. As well he rotates crops like buckwheat to help release phosphorous in the soil. No one but organic farmers use buckwheat anymore. There is just no need with the non-natural chemicals that are so much easier to use, and so much more readily available. Schneider also uses a technique called 'intercropping' where he plants lentils amongst his wheat.  The lentils provide the wheat with nitrogen and the wheat helps protect the lentils. In addition to using organic or natural means of fertilizing, Schneider also refrains from using any pesticides.  He explains that sprays leave residue behind, which is one of the reasons that farmers don't spray malt barley or wheat that they'll be using for seed the following year. 

Aside from being pesticide free, John also explains that many of his gluten intolerant customers have reported being able to consume his heritage or ancient grains without any adverse side effects. Interesting I know. What else is interesting is the fact that if everyone bought organic, all farms would slowly convert, leaving everyone forced to buy this whole and more healthy option, and everyone would soon be living in a that much cleaner and healthier world. The people would be healthier, the animals would be healthier and so would the planet.


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Sturgeon County Bounty is a Sturgeon County Economic Development initiative, aimed at providing local producers, chefs and processors with an opportunity to promote and expand value-added agriculture in the region. more

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