McDonald Farms is the winner of the 2021 Conservation Award.
The honour is presented every year by a Manitoba watershed district — in this case the Pembina Valley Watershed District (PVWD) — to recognize an individual, organization, family or business who actively promotes wise farm management and conservation practices.
Wayne and Maria McDonald own and operate the McDonald Farms, a fourth-generation family operation near Cartwright.
Beginning with Wayne’s father, Jim, the operation has been a longtime adherent to holistic management practices in its pasture-based system, said Troy Stozek, Long/Badger subdistrict chair.
“Wayne and Maria manage their diverse, multi-species livestock farm in ways that align with nature and ecological processes,” he said in a prepared release. “They have been diligently and purposefully rotating their 1000+ flock of sheep and beef cattle on their acres, sowing perennial grasses and legumes and raising hogs and poultry on their pastures for many years. This has no doubt had tremendous positive impacts on soil health, including water infiltration, water-holding capacity, mineral cycling and carbon sequestration.”
Grass farming also protects streams and groundwater from agricultural runoff because unlike conventional crops such as wheat and canola, grazing land consists of a continuous carpet of roots year-round that absorb soluble nutrients and protects the soil from water and wind erosion.
Raising animals on pasture alone has a variety of benefits ranging from the ecological to the economic, the McDonalds said.
“Like most farm families we have been eating our own meat for decades, but over the last 20 years we feel that we have begun to perfect our grass-fed meat,” Wayne said in the release. “We also feel that, since we are so pleased with our animals and our products, we should allow everyone the same opportunity to eat healthy, eat local, and eat ethical. Proudly from our farm to your plate.”
McDonald Farms was recognized at the Manitoba Association of Watersheds (MAW) Conference this past December, which was an online-only event.