Planters Ridge Vineyard
The Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia is beautiful farming country. The soil on the Valley floor in towns like Wolfville and Canning, is deep and rich, and with few rocks. My family moved to the Valley when I was 15, buying an old farm lot which had orchards and fields and we were surrounded by other small family farms.
The family farm, though has changed in the last 50 years. When we first came to the Valley, most folks, like us, had apple trees, some parts of fields were turned into large family gardens, almost everyone had their own chickens and most had cattle, horses or pigs – which meant some other fields were used for growing hay or oats or other grain crops. True, mixed farming. We ate local – right from our own backyard, with some meals supplemented by the local butcher who used almost solely local meat, and by the small local grocery store. The large scale farming in those days was confined to chicken and egg producers who sold eggs to the larger stores, and sold poultry to the local producers who did the slaughter and the packaging, and to pork producers who followed the same routine.
In the late 1970’s and through the 1980’s, things began to change. Fields were grown in monoculture, dependent on the contracts the large frozen food companies wished to have for their products. Farmers would be loaned money to plant huge fields of crops like peas, and then paid off by trucking it all to the local frozen foods “pea plant”. There was a time when even tobacco was planted by many farmers in the Valley under contracts.
Nowadays the change is immense and all encompassing. The image this week is of a farm just down the road from my former farm home near Canning. What we see is hundreds of acres of fields which are now vineyards. There are now dozens of wineries and vineyards in Kings County, and over 1000 acres of land under grape production! Orchards have changed as well, as now many apples and pears are grown with the trees now lined to a vertical wire, held on top by a horizontal set of wires, making a very low, but easy to pick fruit “tree”.
From an environmental standpoint, this is not all a wonderful change, as this kind of farming uses a lot of fertilizer and water. I also question the change with farming now being a huge money business – and dairy farmers, for example, now selling almost all their product to central Canada where it is processed and then shipped back to us to purchase at large grocery stores. This is now common practice for pork and poultry as well. The environmental cost of that shipping back and forth is huge!
The Valley is still a gorgeous place to visit and to have a nice day relaxing, perhaps with a glass of very good Nova Scotian wine. But it’s a very different place then when I lived there years ago.