Cameron and Lisa Hodgins of Lenore will be next to represent Manitoba when the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association hands out its national TESA award later this year.
The couple claimed the provincial TESA award in early February, handed out by the Manitoba Beef Producers every year to a farm that demonstrates exemplary environmental stewardship in its management.
Why it matters: The southwestern Manitoba couple will be going up against fellow TESA winners from across Canada later this year in a bid for the national TESA award.
Cameron and Lisa Hodgins are over a decade into their holistic management practices, a concept that has, more and more, entered the industry’s conversations around public trust.
“My dad was farming organic for 20-plus years,” Cameron Hodgins said. “We just let that go a couple of years ago. It kind of all tied together.”
The farm has since left behind its organic label, but much of that low-input management has followed into the farm’s new system.
The couple integrates polycrops to extend their feeding season into the fall, a grazing system that is then extended further with the addition of bale grazing.
Biodiversity, one of the underpinning tenants of holistic management, is out in force, and the couple fills their livestock roster not only with cattle, but also with sheep, pigs, chickens and bees, housed on both tame and wild pastures.
“It’s good, not only for the farm, but also for the array of wildlife that live there… the Hodgins value their community, with the understanding that a vibrant rural community requires healthy ecosystems, growing healthy food, to feed healthy people,” the farm’s TESA nomination stated.
The farm’s public outreach featured highly as the Manitoba Beef Producers introduced the award winners to the MBP’s annual conference in Brandon.
“They direct market most of their products to consumers and retail outlets, and are working to address the disconnected relationship between farmers and their end consumers,” Manitoba Beef Producers president Tom Teichroeb said.
The farm’s direct-marketing model has worked both for business and as a vehicle for the couple to talk about their farm. Lisa Hodgins says she has attended fewer farmers’ markets in the recent past, but that they have previously used such events to pitch the story behind their beef.
“Lots of people like to stop and chit-chat,” she said. “You can get into some good conversations there… one of the things we’ve looked at is trying to get more involved with the schools and having more opportunities for people to be able to come out and to have that farm experience.”
The third-generation farm in southwestern Manitoba has also appeared during Manitoba’s Open Farm Day, with participating farms opening to the public for farm tours. For the Hodgins, that has also been a means to highlight their chosen production model and sustainability.
“As producers, we don’t realize the disconnect there,” Cameron Hodgins said. “I think, when I was a kid, everyone’s grandma or grandpa or aunt and uncle or parents had a direct link to the farm, and I think that’s disconnected. There’s not that same connection to the farm. Through our direct marketing, I think we’ve noticed that and people are interested in learning where their food comes from and how animals are farmed.”
The farm’s social media presence, likewise, champions their chosen modes of production, and helped earn them their nod from the Manitoba Beef Producers.
The couple is active on both Facebook and Instagram and, according to Lisa Hodgins, has a mix of followers both from rural and urban areas. The farm is currently experimenting with ways to get the best public traction.
The Manitoba winners will meet their fellow TESA winners from across the country in August at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in Calgary.