Having the greatest impact on the most vital natural areas means DUC needs to be working with farmers, ranchers and landowners – the people who steward the land best.
Cameron Hodgins is a third generation farmer in the Lenore, Man., area and his partnership with DUC started with his dad Ed. The Hodgins established forages and set up solar watering systems with help from DUC and their local conservation district.
“With DUC programs like forage establishment, it lets you try something you wouldn’t have done if you would have to all on your own,” the young southwest Manitoba farmer says, adding it’s too much risk to go at it alone. Having the seed costs supported or incentives provided helps mitigate the risk to their farm, and gives farmers an option that they may not have had in the first place, he notes.
Running mainly cattle on their operation, Hodgins and his family also have chickens, sheep and pigs on the farm. He is also starting to dabble in beekeeping. The Hodgins run 500 yearlings and intensively manage their grazing by moving them daily, a practice they’ve learned a lot about through their active involvement in Manitoba grazing clubs.
Supported by DUC, Manitoba grazing clubs bring a community of livestock producers together to discuss proper pasture management. Their focus is on areas of sustainable agricultural production, biology, environment and financial planning. The goal is to support the livestock industry in order to maintain and increase pasture as a land-use practice. There are currently 30 grazing clubs in the province.
“Because of the support of Ducks Unlimited Canada, you don’t have to travel far to access good information on grazing principles – there’s good landowners all around,” Hodgins says. “If it wasn’t for Ducks, these grazing club events wouldn’t be happening.”
As organic farmers, the Hodgins have embraced holistic management practices on their farm. Holistic management is an approach that guides farmers towards becoming better land stewards and sustainable agricultural managers, leading to environmental, economic and social benefits for both farmers and their communities. The Hodgins use holistic management as a decision-making tool because it helps them focus on doing what’s right for their family, their land and their business as a whole.
For three generations, the Hodgins have kept the natural sloughs and potholes on their land by simply leaving them as is. “The more you can work with nature, the better it is I think,” says Hodgins. “We’re not trying to fight it. We have to do something for the next generation and Ducks Unlimited Canada’s programs and holistic management has taught us that. We need to put something back.”
“We really appreciate the support of Ducks and its staff,” he continues. “They have helped with our goal of trying to improve our soil health and in turn making the grass that we feed our cattle that much better.”