One of our core values here is transparency. If you have questions, I want to have answers. . . Even if it has to be, “I don’t know. Let me find out.”
Transparency when it comes to how the homestead operates is critical – we want to encourage community and relationships and that can only be done if we’re willing to be open to the conversation. . . terrifying, some days. There are real barriers to transparency – fear of being called out or shamed for some husbandry practice you didn’t realize was controversial (there are whole worlds of discussion on banding ram lambs and docking tails, for instance), fear of attracting the wrong kind of attention, fear of getting it unintentionally wrong and disappointing people. I use this blog and my social media to put myself and the homestead out in public view and occasionally, the public is not kind. In a former life, I was a journalist – a columnist – and some of my writing put me in the crosshair which proved to be a pretty effective training ground for growing a thick skin. The fact that I don’t tend to back down from a fight and an Irish temper means that sober second thought is often a goal rather than a practice.
Going off online is almost never a good idea. Alas.
There’s a lot of chatter out there about authenticity and accountability – being true to your values and your vision. Practically speaking though, what does that even mean? In my world, it’s pretty simple.
When I put my head on the pillow at night, I need to be able to close my eyes and although the day may have been ugly or hard or sad, I need to be confident that to the best of my knowledge and ability, I have nothing to be ashamed of.
In real-world, homestead terms, it means that I’ve represented our fleeces accurately. It means that I’ve answered every query honestly. It means that if someone was to show up here unannounced, I wouldn’t be uneasy about what they might see – there’s no reason to fear a camera here. If someone buys an animal from us, they’re getting a full picture about just what they’re taking home with them. If someone is looking for advice on land management, to learn from our experience, they’re seeing the good (our grazing pod system) and the ugly (our eroded, bare-dirt horse drylot). It means that at no point, and in no capacity, have I said “I have all the answers. You should take what I say as gospel.”
There are things in place here – or coming into focus – that help me stay transparent and between the two lines of values and vision. One is our Animal Welfare Certification process with A Greener World. The highest standards of animal care is a core value – foundational. Having an objective third party do the work of auditing us gives us the feedback we need to continue to operate so I can sleep at night. Another is our relationship with the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary – building community with the nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy is a tremendous privilege and we take it seriously. Having these organizations in our lives with access to the kind of behind-the-scenes day-to-day activity here keeps me focused, balanced and moving forward. I am transparent with them so I can be transparent with you.
And there’s you. If you’re reading this, you’re in the homestead’s community. In order for conversations to happen – real conversations that spark real change and bring real progress – I can’t be standing in a pulpit (speaking as a three-times-a-week Baptist kid, I know a thing or two about pulpits) preaching to empty air. I want you to feel like you have a chance to engage – to ask questions and feel confident that you’re going to get an answer. Maybe not the answer you were expecting but a full, complete and comprehensive answer from me, personally.
Our values are the place that we stand – everything starts with our values. Our vision is the place we’re headed. Transparency is the path we walk to get there. As the homestead continues to grow and evolve, I hope you’ll be part of the trip. Let’s keep the conversations going.
Welcome to my frontier.