On the Farm: Research into holistic nutrition convinced the Poburans that they wanted to grow their own food
SPRUCE VIEW, Alta. — Stephen and Nicole Poburan have made a deliberate decision to raise their family on the farm so that they can give their two young sons, Hayes, 5, and Kett, 19 months, a lifestyle the city just can’t provide.
On their home at 4Acres Farm they raise Nigerian dwarf goats and kunekune pigs. A couple dozen chickens scratch about. A few ducks waddle in the barnyard. They have a garden. Stephen has bees.
The couple both have careers in law enforcement, but became more interested in raising their own food when Hayes reacted adversely to traditional dairy products as an infant. His symptoms included a variety of digestive issues and eczema.
When they weren’t satisfied with answers from the medical field, Nicole studied holistic nutrition.
“I began to realize the importance of knowing where your food comes from and the power that it has on our bodies.”
She also researched goats’ milk while she was nursing Hayes, knowing it is more easily digestible than cows’ milk.
While Nicole was working toward her holistic nutrition diploma, the knowledge she gained strengthened her and her husband’s desire to raise their own meat, grow their own vegetables and produce their own eggs, milk and honey.
“I have the land. I have the knowledge,” Nicole says. “I need to know where my food comes from.”
Last year, the family tried the 30-day challenge, in which they did not go to a grocery store. They ate primarily what was produced on the farm.
“It was pretty easy for the most part as we eat more of a paleo diet, so meat and vegetables.”
This summer, they plan to up the challenge to 60 days.
The Poburans got into goats and bought two Nigerian dwarf does even before they got possession of their acreage five years ago. Initially they had no intention of buying more.
“We were told, ‘you’ll never just have two.’ ”
That prediction was accurate. The goats’ engaging personalities, abundance of milk, efficient feed conversion and manageable size have captivated the family.
They now have 27 registered Nigerian dwarf goats: 17 does and 10 bucks and bucklings. They plan to sell down to 10 does once a judge from the Canadian Goat Society classifies the animals and provides advice.
“We want to improve the milk standards and animal hardiness, but we don’t need to push the envelope,” says Nicole. “If we can get a litre a day off a nanny that’s still feeding babies, that’s good. It’s better for the kid if they self-wean.”
The Poburans run a closed herd and for biosecurity reasons do not allow farm visits. They sell via their 4Acres Farm Facebook page and website and communicate with buyers to help select the best pet, milking goat, or meat animal.
The seven kunekune pigs are a small domestic breed from New Zealand relatively new to Canada. In New Zealand’s native Maori language, kunekune means “fat and round,” an apt description. The pigs are docile, easy to care for, and can be raised on pasture with just a small amount of supplementation.
“We like them because they’re grass eaters. They graze and they don’t root,” says Nicole.
The Poburans moved to the farm in 2014. Stephen and Nicole wanted a change of lifestyle from the noise and rush of life in Red Deer. They were new parents and wanted to raise their family in less harried surroundings.
Nicole was raised on a mixed farm at Rocky Lane in northern Alberta.
“When I was little, we had sheep and later it was cow-calf and some grain. I always liked the farm lifestyle.”
Stephen grew up in Melville, Sask. “I knew nothing about animals other than cats and dogs”.
When shopping around for properties in the country, both of them knew right away when they found the farm they wanted.
The shady tree-lined lane, the big yard with giant willow, and sturdy white barn hooked the couple.
“I liked it right away,” says Nicole.
The existing 1930s farmhouse was just 800 sq. feet, but the couple planned to make it home for a few years while they started upgrades.
“We discovered it had asbestos, lots of asbestos,” says Stephen.
The cost of abatement was in the tens of thousands of dollars, so that plan was torched, literally. The fire department at nearby Spruce View burned the structure in a training exercise.
“We knew we were going to build at some point so a five year timeline turned out to be three,” says Stephen.
The 1,600 sq. foot new house is energy efficient. The 14-inch walls keep the house warm in winter and cool in summer. Rooftop solar panels are hooked into the grid. Stephen did most of the trade work himself.
The Poburans have numerous projects on the go to get the yard and the garden up to the point they want, but the chores offer a sort of therapy.
“The simple jobs of physical labour are such a stress reliever,” says Stephen.
The Poburans like the self-sufficiency of raising their own food and they plan to home-school the boys.
“They’ll have some chores. They’ll have a good work ethic,” says Stephen.