Dean and Catherine Manning were awarded the 2021 Environmental Stewardship Award for excellence in conservation practices on their farm in Falmouth, Nova Scotia. © Courtesy of Canada Beef
For Catherine, “environmental stewardship is looking at every single aspect of what we do and making sure it is working together to produce a healthy product. At the end of the day, we must be morally satisfied that what we have done, we did it to the best of our ability. It’s important that what we do is not just benefitting us, but also our neighbours or the land or the cattle.”
This focus on stewardship is immediately apparent on the Manning Family Farm in
Falmouth, Nova Scotia. Nature doesn’t just survive on the outskirts; it thrives in abundance. While the farm produces greenhouse fruits and vegetables, grows row crops and raises beef cattle, protecting natural spaces, wildlife habitat, and clean waterways is paramount to every decision made.
It’s why Dean and Catherine were chosen as the national recipients of the Environmental Stewardship Award in 2021. For the past 25 years, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association has presented the award to beef farmers and ranchers who go above and beyond in their conservation practices. Ducks Unlimited Canada, Birds Canada, and the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef are also partners in the award.
All aspects of the Manning farm are designed to work symbiotically. For instance, the cattle graze on areas that aren’t suitable for growing crops, and their manure provides a valuable source of natural fertilizer and nutrients for everything from potatoes and corn to the soil that the greenhouse vegetables are grown in. They are also able to easily share those pastures with wildlife. Cattle ranching and farming play a vital role in preserving native grasslands and supporting wildlife habitats.
Research shows that raising cattle in Canada has one of the lowest greenhouse gas footprints in the world—a startling 0.04 percent that is a far cry from the percentage of emissions produced in 1981. It’s a testament to the improved fuel efficiency and conservation practices put in place by Canada’s farmers.
On top of that, conservation efforts have led to a 20 percent decrease in the amount of ground and surface water used to raise beef cattle in 2011 compared to 1981. Raising cattle also means that land is not drained for growing crops, which is good for wildlife who rely on wetlands, like frogs and ducks.
In Dean’s opinion, “the amount of wildlife on the farm is one of those metre sticks to measure how successful you are in what you do for the environment. We feel that the cattle and wildlife compliment one another because they are living cohesively in the same environment. To us, that means you’ve got your farm as close to nature as you can get it.”
Working in conjunction with the environment has also made the farm more profitable through enhanced productivity, but that remains a secondary benefit and not the main consideration.
“The biggest motivation we’ve always had is to leave the land in better shape than we found it for the next generation. And we’re not thinking about the next generations as being just our children, but also the community and society in general.”
Cattle on the Land, Beef on Your Plate
Pastures and grasslands used for beef cattle provide many ecosystem benefits. Stewardship of the land is essential to the families that raise beef cattle.