There is a Native American proverb which states “we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” The desire to work in harmony with the planet and secure a legacy for future generations is a common goal of B.C. farmers and ranchers. Young farmers like Rene and Jessica Miedema are putting sustainability first by diversifying their business and investing in renewable technologies. We have profiled the Miedemas before - and just in time for Earth Day, we checked in with them about how they are caring for the environment.
We Heart Local BC: Can you tell us about your family farm?
Rene: The farm started out with my parents in 1976 as a dairy farm called Bomi Farms Ltd. Today, we milk about 110 dairy cows, we farm approximately 92 hectares (or 228 acres) of land and my wife Jessica has just recently started her side of the business - I’ll let her describe it.
Jessica: I’ve created my own niche in our farm focusing on vegetables and flowers. It’s called Little Flora Gem and it’s really blossomed! (laughs). Four years ago we converted an old horse pasture into cut flowers, and this coming year it will be about an acre and a half of cut flowers. Last year we also started a small-scale high-intensity vegetable operation on the farm - so, this coming year we will have two acres in vegetables. We’re trying to move from being a single-commodity farm (dairy) to being more diverse.
We Heart Local BC: We understand that you have a plan to convert your farm to renewable energy. Can you describe that journey and how it is going?
Rene: We have covered the south-facing roof of our entire dairy barn with solar panels. It’s a 151-kilowatt system. It has been a full year with the system and we have covered off more than 90% of our energy usage. The experience has been amazing. We have an energy metre in between our barns, and every time you walk by on a sunny day you see it racing backwards, putting power back on to the grid. It’s a really neat thing to see. One of the unexpected benefits of solar panels is that they absorb a lot of the energy from the sun and reflect it. The barn has stayed a little bit cooler in the summer. That was something I didn’t think about as a potential impact, but is a very nice bonus.
We Heart Local BC: Can you tell us about why taking care of the environment is important to you as farmers?
Rene: That’s an easy one. We have kids, and they’re going to have kids: this is not for us, it’s for future generations. You think: where are we going to be in 20 years - and what can we do now to make it better for them?
Jessica: We have a son who is nine, a son who is almost seven, and a daughter who is three. The boys are so passionate about farming - and they’re asking us questions that make us reflect on our goals and what we are doing. We took the farm over from Rene’s parents and I believe we are just the caretakers of the farm before it passes to the next generation. That’s made us think about how we want it to move forward and how we can leave it in the best possible position for our kids to be able to farm sustainably.