GFM Network News


The Coen family has strategically placed ditches that were excavated to create swales for capturing snowmelt, that either slowly soaks into the land or is captured in a series of small dams.

Innovative farmers ‘harvest’ water to boost production

Coen Farm created shallow ditches called swales to capture millions of gallons of snowmelt each spring

Reading Time: 3 minutes This winter, you might want to harvest something a little different on your farm — water. “Our farm harvests 40 years of water in two weeks just from snowmelt,” said Takota Coen, who farms near Ferintosh with his parents. “We live in one of the only places in the world where you can actually increase […] Read more

Nancy Hewlett takes less than 10 minutes to move her chicken pens every day.

Permaculture operation provides food for thought

Couple raised on conventional farms took a very different path when they started their livestock operation

Reading Time: 4 minutes Nancy and Chad Hewlett wanted to do things a little differently when they decided to start farming four years ago. So they moved away from the conventional farming of their childhoods and took a more holistic approach instead. “Shifting to permaculture was a huge learning curve. Some days, it feels like I’m starting all over […] Read more


Sowing gardens — and hope for a brighter future

A school garden may seem like a small thing 
but it can make a powerful difference

Reading Time: 3 minutes This is the story of Jimboy. He is my friend from the Philippines — one of the 100 million people who live on the nation’s 300,000 square kilometres of islands. And he is making a difference. Jimboy lives in the Tagoloan region which is 19 kilometres from the capital. It is largely an agricultural area […] Read more

Fall yard care pays dividends next year

Reading Time: < 1 minute Autumn yard care can pay big dividends next year. Topping or cutting back herbaceous perennials can help prevent the overwintering of diseases and insects. Mulching will help to prevent plants from being forced from the ground (but apply mulch after the ground is frozen). Watering lightly after applying the mulch will help hold it in […] Read more


Takota Coen has planted fruit and nut trees between his pasture land and a 1.5-kilometre swale that collects run-off from his annual crop field and feeds his farm’s drip irrigation system — creating a sustainable system that balances water management, perennial crops, and annual crops.  Photo: Jennifer Blair

Permaculture advocate says work with nature, not against it

Ferintosh producer Takota Coen says carefully designed mixed farms are the way of the future

Reading Time: 4 minutes The first thing you’ll notice as you drive by Grass Roots Family Farm is the orchard — an unlikely sight in rural Alberta, but somehow it seems right at home beside the sprawling vegetable garden. In a paddock near the house, a sow nurses a handful of nearly newborn piglets, and just down the lane […] Read more