ALUS in Wonderland
Down the Rabbit Hole
What moved Alice to fall down that rabbit hole? She was seeking an Alternative Land where biodiversity lies at the heart of it all. She not only learned to coexist among the many species in Wonderland, but to appreciate and empower each and every one for the unique value they give to the land.
We started working with ALUS during the spring season this year.
“ALUS Canada’s mission is to enable Canadians to provide direct support to a national network of farmers and ranchers delivering ecosystem services in their communities, including clean air, clean water, carbon sequestration, erosion control, flood mitigation, pollinator support and wildlife habitat.”
Our modus operandi at Charlotteville Brewing Co is to tread as lightly on the Earth as we can. If possible, we’d actually like to leave it in better shape than we found it. Joining forces with ALUS has come as a no brainer and we are excited to grow this synergistic relationship in Ontario’s Garden. We not only live and work here; we coexist with many wonderful species throughout the Carolinian forests. We want to enrich their lives as much as they do ours. “ALUS Canada makes it possible to offset your environmental footprint through agricultural stewardship.”
Applying an agroecological approach to our farm has allowed us to explore more effective ways of applying traditional knowledge and techniques to our crops and land (i.e. soil). Through this environmental stewardship we believe we’re creating a rich habitat and dynamic ecosystem that from the soil, to the seed, to the plate, is enabling us to move towards a better, more responsible, agricultural model. Agroecology seeks to create a farming system that is diverse, productive, resilient, and efficient.
Norfolk County has the oldest continuously running ALUS program in Canada. Their vision upholds a “Community-developed and farmer-delivered” plan for ALUS that sustains “agriculture, wildlife and natural spaces for all Canadians, one acre at a time.”
With over 160 farm families already engaged and more than 1,300 acres enrolled in the program, ALUS-Norfolk is helping to rebuild the natural environment via healthy and sustainable farmlands.
At the Charlotteville family farm, we are well on our way in planting our organic garden just beyond the brewery and tap house. We spoke with ALUS about setting up a pollinator hedgerow to border our growing garden. This is where one of our lovely regulars and now a good friend, Steph Drayer, coordinator at ALUS Norfolk, came in and set this up.
Steph and her assistant, Cynthia, spent an afternoon on sight at the farm to plant a variety of species in the hedgerow. They planted the following grasses: Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, Switch Grass and Canada Wild Rye, all purchased from Norview Gardens. The prairie grasses are native to Southern Ontario, in particular, Norfolk County, but through land use changes in agriculture, they have been marginalized down to only one percent of their original population. ALUS is working to restore these numbers throughout their Norfolk sites. The grasses provide refuge for many animals such as snakes and mice. We are happy to create a safe space and help to restore wildlife habitat. Some will grow to be up to seven feet tall and develop eighteen-foot roots. The roots help to prevent ground erosion and provide flood mitigation.
Organic gardening is not only a commitment to keeping it natural as well as the principal of clean and healthy eating, but also one of time and energy to sustain the garden through alternative means. Alternative to harmful pesticides for the earth and those who live on it. Weed control is a challenge that comes with organic gardening, and the prairie grasses will begin to join forces on these front lines during their second year. Steph predicts that their height will create shade which will help to prevent the weeds from having optimal conditions to take over the space. And since the grasses are native to this area, there is minimal care needed from us. They will naturally thrive in their home environment!
Along with the prairie grasses, they planted two wildflower seed mixes to make a pollinator strip – which were combined to have a higher biodiversity of species. The seeds came from Native Scapes at the St Williams Nursery.
The wildflower mix includes:
Butterfly milkweed, Sky-blue Aster, Lancelet Coreopsis, Tall Coreopsis, Pale Purple Cornflower, Sweet Oz Eye, Round-headed Bush clover, Rough Blazingstar, Wild Bergamont, Hairy Beardtongue, Black-eyed Susan, Compass Plant, and Ohio Spiderwort. These flowers will start to make their appearance next spring; we are looking forward to welcoming them into the garden. They will make for a beautiful splash of colour amongst the grasses.
ALUS will be coming back in the fall to plant some flowering shrubs that will add more colour and depth to the hedgerow. We look forward to what else they have in store for our shared space.
We want to create a fun and educational experience for our guests at the farm and brewery to get involved in the growing of biodiversity. Each one can teach one in how we can all take part in restoring our beautiful earth that ALUS envisioned when she found Wonderland.
STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
The ALUS Canada program rests firmly on eight core principles:
- ALUS is farmer-delivered: As the largest single group of landowners in Canada, agricultural producers are in a unique position to provide important solutions to some of the most pressing conservation challenges of our time, including climate change and biodiversity loss.
- ALUS is community-developed: The ALUS program is flexible, designed to be customized by local communities to respect local agricultural and environmental priorities. From Red Deer, Alberta, to Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, each ALUS program is managed by a local ALUS Coordinator and a Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC), which is made up of agricultural producers and such local stakeholders as municipalities, conservation groups, farm associations and government agencies. In every ALUS community, it is the local PAC that determines how the local ALUS program will be run—within the tried, tested and true framework of ALUS Canada’s principles, guidelines and materials.
- ALUS is integrated: The delivery of the ALUS program is intended to complement existing conservation programs, including federal and provincial government policy frameworks. ALUS programs across the country have developed many community partnerships with conservation organizations, agricultural groups and different levels of government.
- ALUS is targeted: The program focuses on marginal and ecologically sensitive parcels of land that can be managed in a different manner to produce ecosystem services that benefit all Canadians.
- ALUS is accountable: ALUS projects are independently monitored, verified and audited.
- ALUS is science-based: Based on sound scientific principles and verification guidelines, ALUS provides valuable support and technical expertise for the design and implementation of each green infrastructure project.
- ALUS is voluntary: Farmers and ranchers who choose to participate in the ALUS program have flexible agreements that suit their particular operation.
- ALUS is market-driven: The ecosystem services produced by ALUS projects have economic value on the marketplace, one that ALUS Canada is actively developing. Through ALUS Canada, citizens, corporations and philanthropists can invest directly in Canadian environmental stewardship, one acre at a time.
ALUS turns marginal farmland into healthy ecosystems, linking Canada’s natural heritage across agricultural lands.
At its root, the ALUS program supports synergies between farmers, communities and the environment, with many benefits for all stakeholders.