What if our farm is the antonym of sustainable? WHAT IF WE FAIL?

I admit it. I’m a geek. To those of you who’ve been following me for a while, that admission isn’t much of a shocker. You’ve already figured out that I was the kid who liked school, got straight A’s, and reveled in the opportunity to take an exam. (Ok – ok – I didn’t revel them but rarely dreaded them either). As an adult I still look for courses to take, spend unjustifiable amounts of time reading and learning, and like to demonstrate our achievements through programs like Verified Beef Production.

When I heard that McDonald’s Canada had launched a pilot for their Verified Sustainable Beef program I was intrigued. Participating in the program seemed like the perfect fit. I’ve been contemplating the sustainability of livestock production in general, an my  operation specifically, all winter.  Is our carbon footprint too high? Are we truly managing the grassland and waterways in the best way possible? Could we find ways to contribute more to our community? Participating in the McDonald’s pilot might help me answer those questions and see new opportunities that I haven’t considered.

Initially, intrigue didn’t translate into action. But after hearing about the program from Annemarie Petersen (@VSB_Pilot) and the Ippolito’s (@oldipp and @KitsKeeper) at the Zone 2 SSGA meeting I was convinced I wanted to participate. Canada’s pilot is unique globally. It’s the first test of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef principles in a real-world application. It is a testament to the Canadian producers that McDonald’s picked us as the guinea pigs.

hands with multiple gestures (open palm, closed fist, thumbs up

But it wasn’t Canadian pride that motivated me. When Annemarie pointed out that pilot participants collectively tell a powerful story that illustrates the uniqueness and sustainability of Canada’s Beef Industry, well, I knew I wanted a part. And I was hooked when Darren and Kylie Ippolito stood up and did just that. They shared highlights of their operation and explained that they chose to participate to show that their operation is no different from anyone else’s. They can now claim that Moose Creek Red Angus is just like many farms across Canada, sustainable.

Yet there I left it. Intrigued, motivated and ready to act but doing nothing. At least until I got the email yesterday morning saying we’d been invited to participate in the self-assessment pilot. Now remember… I’m a geek… I LIKE tests. But suddenly I felt like I was 14 years old again, tone deaf and rhythmically challenged, trying to survive a Royal Conservatory of Music exam in a locked room with an intimidating adjudicator and immense piano.


OSTRICHWhat if our farm is the antonym of sustainable? WHAT IF WE FAIL? Maybe I should just ostrich and be “too busy”.

Apparently McDonald’s knows me….. They gave me 72 hours to participate. I spent yesterday ignoring the email, and most of today wavering between convincing myself I have to do it and convincing myself I forgot to get it done. Now, I’m procrastinating by spending more time on this post than the assessment requires. Why? Because there is nothing like the power of public shaming to force me to action. So I am committing to:

  1. Take the assessment
  2. Share our operation’s greatest strength and worst weakness
  3. Bring you along on the process of investigating options and implementing changes to improve our worst weakness in the next 12 months

Ultimately, I am choosing to participate because I must ensure my farm is sustainable. True sustainability will mean I can continue to provide for my family while ensuring my children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to do the same. At the same time, I see value in this pilot for our Industry. If this tool helps us to find practices that are socially palatable while ensuring that our Industry is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable – that will be an epic story.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lynn Johnstone says:

    That sounds Awesome, Leigh. I know you will do a bang up job and I look forward with the outcome and news along your journey. Have you got all your babies on the ground yet? Onward and Upward!! lj


    1. Not done yet. About 3/4 of the way. The weather has been absolutely fantastic which makes things so much easier.


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