Research is paramount to the development and operation of an off-grid, organic small farm. So says Jenna Butler who, along with her partner, Thomas, in 2006 established Larch Grove Farm near Barrhead in northern Alberta. Butler, author of three books of poetry and teacher of creative writing and eco-criticism at Red Deer College, points to the utility of blogs and the “stacks of great videos and magazines and books on modern homesteading” as resources. Indeed, plugging the term “homesteading” into a search engine is a revelatory act: modern homesteading, in all its sundry forms, embraces ideals of sustainable living, good stewardship, and community, all of which lie at the heart of this book.
Butler digs deeply into her relationship with the land: “my intent is both to acknowledge the beauty, power, and meaning-making of the natural world and to explore my place as an organic small farmer in a much larger non-organic framework.” The discussion of ecosemiotics and the roles teaching and the humanities play in this context are clearly delineated in the text.
Butler’s concise examination of her relationship with Larch Grove Farm, and the unusual extremes to which she and her partner must go to approximate their ideals for living, provide the epitome of hope. “Our approach looks at leaving this land in a better state than we found it for the people who will come after us – we think in terms of generations,” Butler writes. This significant book shows that the author has the tools to follow through on her ideas, and the capacity to seed these necessary notions in others.