Dogs Run Farm – Clearwater, MB

Dogs Run is a first generation farm located outside Clearwater, Manitoba on Treaty One Territory. The farm encompasses just under twelve acres on a beautiful valley, with a small unnamed creek, or run, at the bottom, plus 37 acres of rented pasture. 

Colin and Katie McInnes have been farming since they moved from Winnipeg in March of 2013. They raise Dorper sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, laying hens, geese, miniature donkeys, a horse, as well as a few cats and their dogs. They sell free-range pork, lamb, poultry and eggs, as well as handmade soap, and spray-free garlic. They grow a large garden for flowers and vegetables for their own consumption. 

What drew Colin and Katie to farming was the quality of life. They both wanted to be farmers that were on the land in the fresh air and working with animals. Even though some days are more challenging than others, they are both living out their dreams to farm. Colin explained that he also became more involved with agriculture for environmental reasons. 

“We’re on this earth to do good. I see a lot of environmental and social injustices happening with agriculture. And I want to be a part of the solution,” says Colin.

When Colin and Katie purchased their farm back in 2013 the yard was run down, there were old feed lots with piles of manure all mixed with twine. Lots of garbage and piles of rubble littered all around. The land had been in and out of hay and cropland and was in rough shape. They immediately started cleaning up and sowed the land to pastures. 

From the beginning their plan was to manage the land by rotational grazing animals. For the past 8 years they have been implementing regenerative practices on their farm to help amend the soil, and produce high quality forage for their animals. 

Colin and Katie first heard about Holistic Management in 2018 when they went to a conference in Russell, Manitoba. They soon after enrolled in a HM course that was held in Cypress River. Colin and Katie still keep in touch with their group from the course. Building those relationships has created a support system for them to bounce ideas off each other.  With so much information out there on managed grazing, they found the course helped them analyze their business plan and financials, and make decisions based on their desired quality of life. By taking the time to review all the areas of their life, they were able to create their holistic context. 

Holistic Context vs. Holistic Goal

A goal is something that you set out to achieve and then move on. A context is something that we operate within. A holistic context will help determine appropriate objectives and goals, making decisions, or planning actions.

“Objectives need a context to be judged wise or unwise, suitable or unsuitable, good or bad. Objectives without context are like loose cannons on the deck” writes Savory (2012).

Dogs Run Farm aims to be viable for the long run. Colin said their number one objective is to be financially and emotionally secure. They want to start something that will last a long time, and avoid burn out. Of course producing delicious food is apart of the plan, but Colin says their other main objective is,  

“To be a part of making things better. Making the world better and being an example, and having a viable farm business, shows that it is possible, as first generation farmers to do it,” Colin explains.

In 2021, Holistic Management Canada received funding from the Manitoba Heritage Habitat Corporation Conservation Trust for a project called the Regenerative Accelerator. The project set out to work alongside 5 farms in Manitoba, to provide expertise and financial support to implement regenerative practices.  

Dogs Run Farm was one of the 5 farms involved in this project. 

Colin and Katie did not have intergenerational wealth or the capacity to take out loans to be able to grow their business. This project was a great opportunity for them to expand and do what they wanted to do, and better their business without breaking the bank. 

For their project they chose to improve their multi-species grazing practices. They added a broiler chicken enterprise and set up water lines, fencing and shelter to move the birds around the pastures. Multi-species grazing is a practice that improves grazing and soil health by having one or more species of grazing animals on the same land unit, within the same grazing season.

“Because different animal species have different grazing habits and select various forages, pastures that are grazed with multiple species have more-uniform defoliation.  This uniformity of grazing contributes greatly to forage quality and resiliency by keeping forage growth constant; resetting the plants to the same stage of growth with each grazing event and preventing unpalatable plants from taking over” writes Rinehart (2019).

Additionally, adding this enterprise to their farm allowed them to secure an income for years to come, and helped them grow other areas of the farm. It’s a great example of how regenerative practices support regenerative business. With the additional income coming from their broiler chicken operation they were also able to afford hiring an apprentice last season through the Young Agrarian Apprenticeship Program.  

“The thing I was most looking forward to was having the capital to implement a project in the way that I thought it should be done rather than just trying to scrap together enough materials to build something that doesn’t work well, and just trying to get by.  We were able to do it the best way we thought to do it. And with doing that, getting the birds out on pasture and moving them around and fertilizing the land,” Colin explains.

Being able to invest in more efficient systems to help manage their animals has given them a competitive advantage in today’s market. Dog’s Run Farm direct markets to their customers, so being able to show on social media that they are raising their animals the best way that they know how, is a huge gain. 

Colin felt like this project was a game changer for them. To be given ten thousand dollars was huge for a small farm like theirs. 

“It was very simple, and allowed us to be creative. We really appreciated it. It’s gonna make our farm better and more ecological and efficient. And those efficiency will allow us to do other things. It was very good,” says Colin.

What’s next for Colin and Katie? They will be focusing on growing their sheep flock next spring. They are also hoping to collaborate with some neighbouring Holistic Management practitioners to further their multi-species grazing, by fencing off some land and having their sheep follow someone else’s cattle. They are excited to open up more opportunities for them and other farmers.


This project has been made possible through funding from the Manitoba Heritage Habitat Corporation Conservation Trust.

References:

Lee Rinehart, “Add Diversity to Your Pastures with Multispecies Grazing”, smallfarms.cornell.edu, January 14, 2019, smallfarms.cornell.edu/2019/01/add-diversity-to-your-pastures-with-multispecies-grazing/

Allan Savory, “A New Conntext, A New Framework”, Savory Institute, 2012, savory.global/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/new-context.pdf

2 Responses to “Dogs Run Farm – Clearwater, MB

  • Paul Sharpe
    6 months ago

    This is such an encouraging story, partly because I grew up in southern Manitoba and have been reading about similar pioneers since I discovered The Stockman Grass Farmer magazine around 1989. I also read OnPasture.com for weekly online stories. I use some Holistic Management examples in my Sustainable Practices in Agriculture course at Algonquin College. After teaching a variety of agriculture and equine management courses at New Liskeard and Kemptville Colleges of agriculture (now both closed) in Ontario, I edited and co-wrote at textbook, Horse Pasture Management, and am now working on the second edition. Congratulations Katie and Colin.
    Paul Sharpe

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