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May/June 2004 – Thanks Darcy, Ruth… Hello Readers

Late last summer the three founders of this magazine—Peter Chettle-burgh, Violaine Mitchell and I—were hashing over story ideas at Vio’s sturdy kitchen table when two strangers joined us. They weren’t real but they could have been. He was a garlicy character, with field-tanned skin and callused hands; she was more studied, with wire rimmed glasses, a high forehead, and a handknit vest that was both beautiful and political. They folded themselves onto the bench seat, pulled two Epicure apples from a wooden bowl, and munched while we talked. Call them Darcy and Ruth.

Darcy and Ruth had strong ideas about this magazine. They nodded approvingly when we mentioned page-wire fences, hay rakes and compost, and they snorted when we proposed something flighty—like an illustrated feature on porch swings. They had the sensibilities of committed small farmers.

Darcy and Ruth were Small Farm Canada’s version of United Press International’s Kansas City Milkman. In the 1920s UPI reporters were told to write for the average newspaper reader, as represented by a tame fellow delivering cream in middle America. If the Kansas City Milkman liked a story, fine; if not, it was to be re-crafted or ditched.

That became Darcy’s and Ruth’s role, and they leaned into it like chicken pluckers on piecework. When it occurred to us to include building plans in the magazine, Darcy smiled so wide you could see the white skin in the creases around his eyes. Small farmers need structures and feeders of all sizes and varieties; you’ll find four pages of building plans in this issue. These include truly do-able projects, not monstrosities that require a Hitachi excavator and $10,000 worth of concrete. Check out our article on the four steps to pasture rejuvenation based on time and money. For the cost of a bag of grass seed you can start.

Yet when early drafts of this magazine lurched toward the over-practical, Ruth sighed. If Small Farm Canada is to capture any of the breadth and depth of small farming, she seemed to be saying, it has to be wide open to ideas and voices. With her quiet guidance, we vowed to create an independent-minded journal that didn’t bootlick to any agenda—industrial, organic or institutional—and was free of orthodoxies. We’re fans of free speech as well as small farming.

Now, with the publication of Small Farm Canada, it is time to say so-long to Ruth and Darcy. You, reader, take their seat at the table. Don?t like what David Cruise and Alison Griffiths have to say about the uselessness of farm wisdom? Let us know. Want to see an article on the pros and cons of commercial fertilizer versus manure? Ask and it?ll get done. We need you to bring life to the magazine—to be the blood in its new veins—and to tell us what?s going on in small farming in Canada. We?ve worked hard to create the magazine you have in your hands. What Small Farm Canada becomes in the future depends on the quality of response we get from readers. Call us.

Write letters. Send stories, photos, art. Think what you’d like to see in this magazine. Then bring it to the table.