Community-minded farm family striving to make a difference
Jonathan and Katie MacLennan, who run a fourth-generation family farm in West Cape, have seen big changes on their land since first participating in the Alternative Land Use Services program (ALUS).
The MacLennan farm produces potatoes, grain and hay alongside the Big Pierre Jacques River, immediately upstream from Glenwood Pond. Each spring, locals gather at this popular angling spot for brook trout.
As an active community member and co-chair of the West Point and Area Watersheds Association, Jonathan is well aware of the environmental issues affecting water quality in the area.
“As a farmer, I want to do what I can to support my community and the environment we all share. The big challenge right across PEI is soil erosion—our soil is highly erodible, so we need to pay a lot of attention to soil conservation,” he said.
With help from ALUS, the MacLennans maintain permanent soil-conservation projects in many of their cultivated fields, such as six acres (2.5 hectares) of diversion terraces, two acres (0.85 ha) of farmable berms, and almost eight acres (3 ha) of grassed waterways. They also maintain permanent grass in five acres (2 ha) of steeply sloped land formerly in production.
Without interventions, heavy rains will cause soil to run off a sloped field and into local waterways. Each of these ALUS projects has the same goal - to produce cleaner water by preventing erosion. The projects slow, direct and filter the flow of rainwater and capture the soil before it washes away.
In future, the MacLennans plan to do more soil-conservation work through ALUS, along with other improvements, such as sowing fall cover crops on more potato fields to tie up remaining nutrients and reduce soil erosion over the winter months.
The MacLennan family commitment to innovation might be, in fact, a family trait—Jonathan’s father, the late Laurids MacLennan, was a respected leader in the local agricultural industry. Today, Jonathan and Katie are always looking for new opportunities to improve sustainability on their farm—even renting out land for sustainable wind-generated energy.
"It's very much a work in progress," added Jonathan. "As a farmer I always think 'I can do better.' We must do better and we will do better, especially with ALUS giving us a hand."
The MacLennan family, along with other ALUS participants, is committed to do their best to produce cleaner water, cleaner air, more biodiversity, and other ecosystem services for the benefit of their watershed communities.