The farm we live on and steward is located north and west of Red Deer, Alberta in the Blindman River Valley near the western edge of the great Canadian Prairie.
The first English language writings about “The Blindman” come from Anthony Henday. In early 1755 he described crossing a “branch of the Waskesew River (Red Deer River)” very near to our farm and that there were moose and elk and buffalo in great numbers, and that wolves and grizzly bears were common.
For thousands of years, people have lived on this land and served an integral role in the ecosystem. The result of thousands of years of integrated stewardship was deep and rich top soil, clean running streams, and abundant healthy animals - an impressive record. Human beings are of the land, we are not separate from it. The First Nations knew this and managed competently. We strive in our farming pursuits to have a role on the land that learns from and honours the impressive Indigenous land stewardship legacy as well as regenerative land practices from around the world.
Although this valley was largely unoccupied at the time of first European settlement, the lack of people had more to do with smallpox finding the valley before settlers did. Treaty number 6 was signed between the crown and indigenous peoples of this land in 1876 and allowed farmers to settle this area.
From “Pas-ka-poo*: an early history of Rimbey and the upper Blindman Valley”, published by The Rimbey Record, December 1962:
“The earliest settlers in the Blindman Valley came right on the heels of the buffalo. The bones of the wild cattle were everywhere, and their trails well-defined. (...) This was a time of great hardship for the Indians and Metis. Smallpox had taken a heavy toll and the buffalo were gone forever from the plains. (...) Today, both the Indian and the buffalo are but a thin shadow of their former greatness, and neither are seen very often in the Blindman Valley, where there is plenty of evidence of the former abundance of both.”
Canada’s history of Indigenous/settler relations is challenging to talk about. We continue to struggle together on this land but aim at reconciliation. The goal of this page is to properly frame the context of our farm: to characterize what our farm is and where it is located, but also how it came to be and that includes the Indigenous/settler relationship through history.
Our farm was given to the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1900 by the Crown as part of their 25 million acre land grant for completing their railway to the Pacific. To the best of our knowledge it was settled in the 1930’s and has been farmed continually since then.
For the early settlers it was tough going. Cash was scarce and homesteading was a matter of survival more than seeking fortune. The fertile land provided for the early residents of this farm but 90 years later, by the time we first set foot on it, extractive farming techniques, continuous tillage, and overgrazing had left our farm rather depleted.
Since 2006, we have employed regenerative farming techniques on rented land, a leased ranch, and finally our own place. We are fortunate to have this piece of land under our care where we can employ agricultural systems that deepen our top soil, increase resiliency of the land, foster biodiversity, and grow healthy food for our community.
*Pas-ka-poo means Blind River or River of the Blind in the Cree language.