One of my farming mentors passed away last week. James Card was born in 1924, grew up on a mixed farm in Centre Burlington, Hants County Nova Scotia. For much of his life he worked very hard running a dairy farm just down the road from where I live. He made time to tell me stories about farming and life in this community. I recorded his thoughts, took pictures, and valued his input. He would wander through the barnyard, and without judgement, would ask “now why did you build the trellis this way?”, or “how did your potatoes grow this year?” James came over one day with a little booklet in his pocket that belonged to his father, Ralph. It recorded sales from the family farm to various customers in nearby Windsor. He said “I thought you would be interested in this.” He was right. The little book was like a window into a time when this Shore had many farms, and supplied most of the food for people in the area. It was an inspiration for what might be possible in the future. Local Food, Then and Now , an article inspired by the little book, was published in Rural Delivery, just last year. There is also a chapter about James in the Heliotrust book Twilight Meetings. One of the things he described was harvesting salt marsh hay for his livestock. The mineral and protein-rich hay was gathered on platforms to dry (above the high tides), and then brought in the barn with horses. The horses wore special wooden horse shoes so they wouldn’t sink in the muddy marsh. James showed me the horse shoes one day (check out the photo). I wonder if there will come a time soon when these kinds of details will be important again.
In coming weeks I will be posting more from our farmer-mentors. Farming would be so difficult without them.