Community Agriculture and Nature

By Janet Thony, President, Coombs Farmers’ Institute

At first glance, it may appear that there are few opportunities that would inspire a conversation that could link the topics of agriculture and wildlife as mutually beneficial symbiotic elements, at least as this applies to North American culture. In certain circles, one is more likely to hear stories of agriculture/wildlife conflicts, and how these impact our food supply and the livelihoods of the food producer and the wild animal. Exceptions make rules, however, so we must also acknowledge those in our communities who strive to create food growing environments in which producer and wild creature may co-exist and prosper.

As our global population increases, the interactions between wildlife and agriculturalist become more numerous. There is no question that we must endeavour to live in harmony with nature and wildlife.  There may be a particular sector of agriculture in which one might witness this symbiosis in action.

There have always been food producers who define themselves as backyard gardeners, hobby farmers or small holders.

The label “Community Agriculture” is a term that might define these similar models. It is in the gardens and fields of these folks that one is most likely to encounter those who are in tune with all aspects of our natural world, and use this empathetic sense to create mutually beneficial environments for humans and wildlife.

Some examples of these strategies might include;

  • planting pollinator friendly crops and leaving plants such as dandelions to flower to benefit butterflies, bees and hummingbirds,
  • judicious or non use of pesticides and herbicides to minimize harm to all species, learning to embrace and/or providing shelters for non-crop damaging wildlife such as pest-eating garter snakes and ground beetles,
  • providing crop residue or bird feed, artificial homes and/or suitable canopy vegetation for nesting birds whilst at the same time ensuring that domestic cats are not enabled to hunt the birds you feed and provide homes for,
  • keeping a tidy garden to minimize danger to wildlife, for example, avoiding open deep water containers in which beneficial insects and birds might drown,
  • managing your garden in such a way as to limit attraction to rodent populations,
  • and, on a larger scale, being aware that farm features, such as pastures, crop residues, fence rows, manure piles and farm ponds are wildlife friendly.

Those who practice agriculture can, with eyes, ears and minds in tune to all aspects of our natural surroundings, create harmonious environments for all.