The ELMER LAIRD PROJECT

The ELMER LAIRD PROJECT

Postby Oscar » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:30 am

The ELMER LAIRD PROJECT

[ http://saskorganic.com/sites/saskorgani ... ROJECT.pdf ]

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Elmer Laird, organic Elder passed away July 21, 2010

----- Original Message -----
From: Elaine Sukava
Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 10:22 AM
Subject: Elmer Laird, organic Elder passed away

Hello everyone

Some people may know already but SK's dear friend, organic pioneer and Elder, Elmer Laird, has passed away.

In 2008, he was inducted into Saskatchewan's Agricultural Hall of Fame for his tireless work on behalf of organic agriculture. He was a producer, an organizer and visionary.

WATCH: There a series of short films of Elmer, including one that records his induction, on Youtube, a film project of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate

Elmer Laird –leader of organic farming


I myself met Elmer several years ago, and came quickly to know him as my Elder. I learned a great deal from him and I will miss him.

Warm regards

Elaine Sukava
Food Secure Saskatchewan
http://www.foodsecuresaskatchewan.ca/
Oscar
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“GRANDFATHER” OF ORGANIC FARMING DIES

Postby Oscar » Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:41 pm

“GRANDFATHER” OF ORGANIC FARMING DIES

BY Jim Harding

Published in the United Newspapers of Saskatchewan October 8, 2010

When our great grandchildren look back they will be grateful that there were pioneers of sustainability looking to protect the future. One such pioneer was Elmer Laird who died in July at Davidson. Elmer was born in Neville Saskatchewan in 1924 and his meaningful life stands as an example to us all. Elmer’s formal education, in a one-room country school, went to grade 8, but he became a life-long learner. As Tara de Ryk said in the Davidson Leader, he “valued research, study and policy.” Through self-study he became a community educator and “avid correspondent”; for 20 years he wrote a column for Davidson’s paper.

He had vast experience to draw on. After leaving the family farm near Wymark he worked as a farmhand, then in logging camps and saw mills in British Columbia. In 1942 he joined the Canadian Air Force, and after returning from the war was employed as a switchman for the CPR. In 1947, still a young man, he bought land near Davidson with a small Veteran’s grant.

Elmer hit the land running. By 1952 he was the director of District 10 for the Saskatchewan Farmer’s Union (SFU) and in 1969, when the National Farmers Union (NFU) formed in Winnipeg, he was there. For Elmer life was about land and community. He pioneered affordable housing for seniors, in 1958 spearheading the Arm River Housing Corporation which he chaired for 15 years. This grew into the Davidson and District Health Centre, where Elmer lived his last years and died.

EMBRACING ORGANIC FARMING

Elmer‘s shift to organic farming came in 1969 when he wanted to reduce his input costs during the global market glut and decided to go without chemicals. Then he met Gladys McKay, the love of his life, who brought her skills as a provincial librarian to the Davidson farm. Gladys and Elmer began to make the links between chemical agriculture and ill-health. Elmer sold his sprayer and they never looked back.

The combination of farmer and librarian made a mighty team. In 1973 they formed Back to the Earth Foundation to encourage people to go back on the land to farm organically. Gladys acted as “research director”, Elmer as correspondent and publicist. Elmer worked the phone like my generation uses email; he was regularly on CBC radio’s noon phone-in show. In 1983 the Foundation sponsored the first certified organic co-op housed at Girvin, which milled and marketed grains and oilseeds for North America and Europe. Elmer once told me that had the Romanow government given them a small loan guarantee the co-op likely would have survived to help propel Saskatchewan into sustainable agriculture.

After 30 years together Gladys died in 1999 and Elmer struggled with his loneliness from then on. He retired in 2001, leasing his land to the Foundation. In 2008 Elmer became the first organic producer to be inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame.

HONOURING ELMER LAIRD

The memorial celebrating Elmer’s life was held at Davidson’s Town Hall on August 7th. Friends and colleagues attended and the local Legion came in full regalia. But many city people also came, for Elmer has a reputation far beyond his community. I’ve heard stories of Europeans driving to Davidson looking for Elmer’s highway sign “Welcome to the 1st Certified Organic Research and Demonstration Farm in Canada.” They’d drive in and Elmer would give them the tour of his beloved plots. Before they’d gone on their way they would have learned why organic farmers seed later, which companion cropping best controls certain weeds and what weeds could tell us about soil condition.

Those who spoke at the memorial had met Elmer through the NFU, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES), and the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC). There were some who knew him from the Canadian Organic Growers (COG), the Saskatchewan Organic Directory, and even the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Board. It was my first experience where environmentalists and veterans attended the same event. And it was my first time participating in a Legion ceremony honouring a fallen comrade. Even after his death Elmer was challenging me to expand my horizons.

Elmer was always on a learning curve. He once invited me to participate in a water-witching event. We gathered in his kitchen on a late October Saturday. After introductions we headed out to where Elmer wanted to start an orchard. One man with wire, one with a willow branch and another with a crow-bar wandered around the field in strange patterns. It started snowing, and they seemed to speed up, and move closer together. Then, after some negotiation, they announced where water was, just below the surface. The snow thickened and temperature dropped so we rushed back to Elmer’s kitchen for “de-briefing”, with a bottle of rum. In the spring I phoned Elmer to see what had happened and he matter-of-factly said “There was no water there.” Later I realized that finding water was not the important thing that day; the witching had brought together a new mix of people and we’d had great conversation.

LOVE OF THE LAND

Elmer came to oppose chemical farming and fought for chemical-free food. He challenged the Crop Insurance Board for a decade until it finally gave organic farmers equitable coverage. He helped build organizations that made knowledge of organic farming more available. There are now 1200 organic farmers in Saskatchewan, 40% of the Canadian Organic Producers, working 1.2 million acres. And what some now call “natural systems farming” is becoming a path to sustainable agriculture.

Elmer’s legacy runs wide and deep. He advised my father how to transform a chemically-farmed field into organic alfalfa without weeds; it worked. He imagined a buffer of such chemical-free fields along the top of the Qu’Appelle Valley, where we live, protecting the lakes below, and this is starting to catch on. His love of putting learning into practice touched thousands. He was a welcoming host, always ready to sit down, visit and talk, as can sometimes best happen in a farm kitchen.

But what made this modest, influential man tick? As he aged he became more concerned about getting young people to learn about the land. He was concerned about food security and envisaged a resurgence of community gardens. He talked of pre-fabricated root cellars and straw-bale greenhouses so that more people could grow and store better food. Elmer once even proposed harvesting grass-hoppers for insect protein. I once helped him haul his “chicken coop on sleds” to another location so that the chickens had fresh land to feed on. “The eggs are better and the chickens are happier” he said, his round face beaming.

Elmer was a practical man, wanting to find simple ways to improve the health of all. But above all Elmer loved the land. The farm where he had lived most of his life had been degraded by erosion during the dirty thirties and by poor practices. As the Davidson Leader said, “Laird spent decades tending this land, returning the soil’s health, making it suitable to grow crops”, which is something we all have to contemplate if we are going to move towards a sustainable society. We often talk of all the agricultural resources that are produced in Saskatchewan. But Saskatchewan also produces people like Elmer Laird, who are our greatest resource. We’re going to need a lot of “Elmer’s” in the coming years.

Contact the Back to the Farm Research Foundation at Box 69, Davidson, SK, SOG 1AO.
Some of Elmer’s writings are at: www.saskorganic.com

A compilation of Elmer's writings at:
http://www.saskorganic.com/pdf/ELMER-LAIRD-PROJECT.pdf
Oscar
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LAIRD: Back to the Farm Research Foundation (Inc. 1973)

Postby Oscar » Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:04 pm

Back To The Farm Research Foundation (Inc. 1973)
Box 69, Davidson, Saskatchewan, CANADA S0G 1A0
President and Farm Manager: Elmer Laird
Telephone: (306) 567-4260

Elmer Laird, President and Farm Manager of Back To The Farm Research Foundation, grew up on a farm at Swift Current, SK. He is an Air Force Veteran of World War II and has farmed ever since the war.

In 1947, he bought the farm at Davidson and started chemical farming in 1949. He married Gladys McKay in 1969, and started organic farming that same year. Gladys never went to the field but she was very helpful doing research, particularly on organic farming. Over the ensuing 30 years, she also cooked numerous lunches and dinners, and baked cookies for the large number of visitors who came to talk about organic farming. Gladys passed away on November 15, 1999.

In 1973, under the Societies Act and sponsored by the National Farmers Union, they established The Back To The Farm Research Foundation, of which Mr. Laird is President. In 2001, Elmer retired as a farmer and donated the use of his land (640 acres) to the Foundation for taxes. The Board of Directors also made him the Farm Manager – at no salary.

And the work continues.

In 2005, the Foundation had ten research plots for the purpose of demonstrating that it is possible to farm without pesticides, choosing crops that are compatible and able to overcome any potential weed problems. The Foundation also offers, without charge, consultations and advice on all aspects of organic agriculture.

On October 10, 2005, with the help of Jack Chardonnens and his wife, Bridget, they proudly erected the Foundation’s sign – something they wish they had done five years ago.

Vice-President: Don Robertson, Liberty, SK S0G 3A0

Directors:

•Dellene Church, B.A., LL.B. Box 246, Davidson, SK S0G 1A0
•Lorne Dean, Box 67, Davidson, SK S0G 1A0
•Blair Edwards, Box 62, Bladworth, SK S0G 0J0
•Charles Moore, Box 33, Davidson, SK S0G 1A0
•Wayne Morrison, Box 752, Davidson, SK S0G 1A0
•John Sperling, Box 509, Davidson, SK S0G 1A0

Consultants:


•Victor Althouse, B.A., Box 87, Kelvington, SK S0A 1W0
•O.W. Grussendorf, Ph.D., Woodlands, MB R0C 3H0
•Henry Lorenzen, SAA, MRAIC, 160 Leopold Crescent, Regina, SK S4T 6N6
•Robert Stirling, B.A., M.Sc., Ph.D., 45 Haultain Crescent, Regina, SK S4S 4B4
•Joan Harrison, B.Ed., 515 Albert Avenue, Saskatoon, SK S7N 1G4
•Janine Gibson, Intercropping Consultant, Box 689, Steinbach, MB R0A 2A0

Back To The Farm Research Foundation
Box 69, Davidson, Saskatchewan S0G 1A0
CANADA
Telephone: (306) 567-4260

January 12, 2006

OPEN LETTER TO:

Ken Whyte, Editor, Maclean’s
1 Mount Pleasant Road, 11th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2Y5

Dear Mr. Whyte:

Enclosures: Article from Sept. 17, 1990 edition of Maclean’s, aerial photo of our research foundation, photo of our sign – Welcome to the First Certified Organic Research and Demonstration Farm in Canada.

I am writing to thank you for your excellent article in the Sept. 17, 1990 edition of Maclean’s. The article was entitled Field of a Dream and written by journalist Dale Eisler from Regina (at that time.) Your article is very complimentary to me and the work I am still doing. I had never seen the article until a few days before Christmas 2005 when I received it with a Christmas greeting from the daughter of a longtime friend of mine, Murray Carrey of Regina. You will note that I was 66 years old then. Well, I have advanced to 81 years now.

Our Back To The Farm Research Foundation was sponsored by Local 614 of the National Farmers Union in 1973 under the Societies Act of the province of Saskatchewan which makes us a charitable organization. We set it up because the few organic farmers at the time couldn’t get any organic policy on the main floor of NFU national conventions. Now their president, Stewart Wells, is a certified organic farmer. Our Research Foundation did policy research until 2001. I retired as a farmer then and donated the use of my 640-acre farm to the Research Foundation. We are doing crop research and have demonstration plots; we offer consultations or advice on all aspects of organic farming at no charge. I was appointed manager at no salary.

We demonstrate the growing of “safe” crops which means that if you were a long-time chemical farmer and are afraid the weeds will choke out your crop, we grow what we consider are safe crops that will resist or compete with weeds. Last year we grew ten 10-acre plots of spelt, hemp, spring wheat, flax, radish seed for sprouting, intercrops of oats and peas, flax and lentils, mustard, rye and barley. Intercropping means growing two or more crops in the same field at the same time to control weeds and/or bugs.

Pesticides are obsolete. They were developed in World Wars I and II for biological warfare and never should have been used for farming. Weeds have built up a resistance to herbicides which forces farmers to use more and stronger chemicals. This is polluting our food, air and water and will eventually destroy the productivity of the soil.

Dr. Allan Cessna of the National Hydrology Water Institute in Saskatoon says that all of our surface water in Saskatchewan and one-third of our deep wells are polluted with pesticides. Most of the larger towns and cities rely on surface water for a potable water supply. Here in Saskatchewan we have the highest rate of breast cancer and cervical cancer and the second highest rate of prostate cancer in Canada. We use one-third of the pesticides used in Canada, and I know that chemicals are causing cancer (Alive magazine research).

Three years ago, I was on an organic farming tour of Cuba. There was a German scientist on board. He said that certified organic food was more nutritious than chemically raised food. In fact, the world is hungry for certified organic food but our politicians won’t tell us about the demand for organic food. In fact, all provinces and the federal government with the exception of Prince Edward Island, promote chemical agriculture only. The transnational drug and chemical companies have a very powerful lobby and all politicians are afraid of the lobby. In the meantime farmers here on the prairies are going broke because of the low prices of chemically raised grain. Some are selling their farms while they have a little equity left. They can’t pay their chemical and fertilizer bills, and if we continue this route, we are headed into the first great Depression of the 21st century. We had one in the 1930s. This federal election has been going on for five weeks and not one politician to date has mentioned the prairie farm environment and financial crisis. Federal politicians and the national media have been enjoying some certified organic food in the five restaurants of the House of Commons, but no one has told us yet!

We have about 32 million people in Canada and most of them eat if they get a chance. However, food banks are one of our major growth industries. In fact, after five weeks of campaigning not one politician to date has mentioned the food, food pollution, or water pollution crisis or the necessity of producing healthy food. It is obvious that the leaders of our four major political parties (not the Green) think dollars will save our national Medicare program. Well, dollars won’t, only the most healthy, nutritious food, pure water and a clean environment will. In the year of 2000, the Standing committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development recommended on Page 184 of their report that farmers should be subsidized to switch to organic farming. No action on the report to date.

The Christian churches in Canada have not expressed any concern about pesticide pollution of our air, food and water or the farm crisis to date. I thought a long time ago the churches would have decided that polluting Mother Nature’s (or God’s whichever term you choose to use) resources was a sin. However, no response yet, but it may be coming.

In the meantime, my Chicago contact tells me that the transnational drug and chemical corporations are holding meetings now to decide how to take over Canada’s family farms. Presently, they are exerting a great influence and robbing family farms of their profit. National and provincial politicians are quite prepared to let them do it. They are afraid of the chemical lobby.

I thank you again for the Sept. 17, 1990 article. The question I have for you is: Do you think that you can depend on the transnational drug and chemical corporations to produce a healthy, nutritious food supply in perpetuity after they take over the family farm?

Sincerely,

Elmer Laird, President
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Re: Elmer Laird, organic Elder passed away July 21, 2010

Postby Oscar » Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:13 pm

Elmer and Gladys (McKay) Laird

[ http://econet.ca/sk_enviro_champions/laird.html ]

Elmer Laird was an outspoken champion of organic and family farming since the 1960s. He received national attention for his media-savvy campaigns to draw Canadian's attention to chemical-free farming, including a well-publicized contest to design a grasshopper harvester that would turn a farm pest into a cash crop!

Born in Swift Current in 1924, Laird served in the air force in WWII. After the war, he began farming near Davidson. He was active in the National Farmers Union and traveled to Africa on an agricultural study in 1964.

It was the low grain prices of 1969 that launched Laird in organic farming. His goal was to reduce input costs by eliminating farm chemicals. Also in 1969, he married Gladys McKay. With Gladys support, Elmer became a leader and frequent spokesman for the emerging organic farm movement in Saskatchewan.

Chemical farming is like painting by numbers. Organic farming is striving to be a real artist and accept challenges. - Elmer Laird

In 1973, they established The Back To The Farm Research Foundation (BFRF) under the Societies Act and with the sponsorship of the National Farmers Union. Laird became President. The BFRF became well known for its letters and briefs to political leaders and the media, on farm chemicals and alternatives, as well as other environmental issues.

To counter the use of toxic pesticides used to control grasshoppers, Elmer and the BFRF proposed that grasshoppers be harvested and sold as food in countries where they are considered a delicacy. The media was attracted to the grasshopper harvester design competition and Laird became a repeat media guest, including on Peter Gzowski's radio and television programs.

Gladys Laird never worked in the field but supported the BFRF effort doing research, particularly on organic farming. Until she passed away in 1999, she cooked numerous lunches and dinners and baked cookies for the large number of visitors who came to talk about organic farming at the Laird farm.

In 1983, the Lairds were instrumental in founding the Canadian Organic Producer's Marketing Coop in Girvin, near Davidson. It was the first certified organic farmers cooperative that milled flour and marketed grains and oilseeds in North America and abroad.

In 2001, Elmer retired as a farmer and donated the use of his land (640 acres) to the BFRF. It was established as an organic research and demonstration farm, the first of its kind in Canada. The BFRF Board of Directors also made him Farm Manager.

In 2005, the BFRF had ten research plots underway for the purpose of demonstrating the benefits of farming without pesticides and other aspects of organic farming. The Foundation also offers, without charge, consultations and advice on all aspects of organic agriculture.

In 2006, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Saskatchewan Eco-Network and an Organic Visionary Award at the Organic Connections Conference. That year the Saskatchewan government also presented him with a Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan. The medal recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the province.

Elmer Laird was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2008. He continued to produce letters and reports designed to stimulate action on a variety of farming and environmental issues until his death in 2010.


Elmer Laird and the Back to the Farm Research Foundation operated the first certified organic research farm in Canada near Davidson, SK.
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Re: Elmer Laird, organic Elder passed away July 21, 2010

Postby Oscar » Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:27 pm

Organic farming leader Elmer Laird dies at 86

[ http://saskorganic.com/article/organic- ... rd-dies-86 ]

Elmer Laird, one of Saskatchewan's leaders in organic farming, has died at the age of 86. Elmer Laird was an outspoken champion of organic farming. Born on a farm near Swift Current in 1924, he began farming organically in 1969, and is considered the grandfather of organic farming in Saskatchewan. His commitment played an important role in building a strong organic community in the province. Elmer served in the air force in World War II and then began farming near Davidson. He was elected Director of the Saskatchewan Farmer’s Union for his area in 1952 and was re-elected annually until 1964. Elmer was a founding member of the National Farmer’s Union in 1969, the same year he married Gladys McKay. In 1964, Elmer was a key participant in an agricultural study in Ghana and Nigeria, which helped to solidify trade, educational and agricultural ties between these nations and Canada. Through the 50s and 60s, he was involved with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Local Committee and was also a member of the local Credit Union and local Cooperative Boards. In 1966, Elmer served as President of the Arm River Housing Corporation, and was influential in establishing a nursing home in Davidson. In 1973, Elmer and his wife Gladys established the Back to the Farm Research Foundation, under the sponsorship of the NFU. The foundation is dedicated to researching organic farming methods. In 1983, Elmer and Gladys were instrumental in founding the Canadian Organic Producers Marketing Co-operative in Girvin. It was the first certified organic farmers’ cooperative that milled flour and marketed grains and oilseeds in North America and abroad. When Elmer retired from active farming in 2001, he donated the use of his land (640 acres) to the Back to the Farm Research Foundation. This became the first certified organic research and demonstration farm in Canada. In 2005, Elmer's contributions to agriculture in Saskatchewan were published in The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan: A Living Legacy. In 2006, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Saskatchewan Eco-Network and an Organic Visionary Award at the Organic Connections Conference. That year the Saskatchewan government also presented him with a Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan. The medal recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the province.

• 8 short films about Elmer Laird (Page not available)
•Elmer Laird - Environmental Champion
[ http://econet.ca/sk_enviro_champions/laird.html ]

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The ELMER LAIRD PROJECT:

[ http://saskorganic.com/sites/saskorgani ... ROJECT.pdf ]
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