An Open Heart Farming collection, compiled by Mary Ellen Sullivan.

Select the author’s name to see other works by that author, when the poem first appeared, and a biography, if supplied.

Ed Belzer


Poem by Ed Belzer

Chaswood NS

I was in junior high when a white-haired man,
Renowned as a hunter of rabbits, squirrels,
and ring-necked pheasants,
Pointed at me and said,
“That one has the eye of an eagle!”
I was in senior high when blackboards
and street signs went out of focus.
Nothing eyeglasses couldn’t fix,
For about two weeks.
New specs worked for another fortnight,
After which I needed contact lenses to get good
Starting in my twenties, transplanted corneas,
topped off with powerful spectacles,
got me through a long stretch—
Until my sixties, when even the Hubble telescope
would do me little good.
By then I’d been farming with heavy horses
For more than half of my life,
Farming with horses so honest that even Mr. Magoo,
as I am sometimes called, could drive them safely.
Farming with horses so huge that even I could see them
and enjoy their beauty.
On a winter night, barn chores finished,
I stopped to listen to the horses chewing their hay,
And I realized that I would not miss the sight of them
as sorely as I would the sound.
So I resolved to take care of my ears.

Farming Is A Business

Poem by Mike McFetridge

Truro NS

Farming is a business,
And it’s always been so;
And like other business,
Farming’s about grow;
But there the similarity
With other business may end;
For farming’s about real life,
And upon life depends.

Life depends on farming
For me and for you;
Without local food
We risk going hungry my friend,
For if we can’t feed ourselves
On others we can’t depend.

So support local farming,
And local arts, too;
For it’s all about strengthening
The me’s and the you’s;
The smaller the world
May eventually become,
The more important the farming
For everyone

A Farmer’s Farewell

Poem by Audrey Currie Greenhalgh

The years begin to fade and dim,
Sorrows now long past.
’Tis only laughter that I hear
And your sweet voice at last.

As you call me to that far off land
Where days are filled with bliss,
I long to join you, hand in hand,
Yet, oh, what I shall miss.

The bursting sun upon the morn
Ah, the glory of that sight,
And glinting wheat fields stretching
Ever onward in their might.

The clacking of the thresher,
Faithful “Sport” not far behind,
The sudden screeching of the gulls
All race to fill my mind.

I’ve earned my rest at the end of the day,
Scrubbed the dust from my burning feet,
While the birds of the air and the cattle
Have long been fast asleep.

Now alone I sit in the fading light
Of wondrous days gone by
And think of you my darling
In the churchyard where you lie.

Farewell, farewell to those happy years,
To their memory I’ll be true,
In that far off land, hand in hand,
I’ll live them again with you.

Identity Lost

Poem by Aaron Eisses

Halifax, NS

The days were hard but the work was honest
There was always work, we survived
Spring was the dawn, autumn the evening
Harmony with the land, stewardship
Modern world, modern farming
Green Revolution

Security, progress
Nitrogen, bountiful
Chemicals, shortcuts
Soil, water negligence
Identity lost

Replenish life in the soil
Biology not chemistry
Reflection on the past, progress
Harmony with technology, stewardship
The days were hard but the work was honest

Oakum and Nails

Poem by Hughie MacDonald

Malagawatch, NS

He moved to a rest home, his last port o’ call
Spent his life on the water from springtime ’til fall
Sailed a boat that he built to withstand August gales
And the only things “store-bought” were oakum and nails

When the herring came in on an early spring dawn
He’d patiently wait and first let them spawn
Then take a harvest with the future in mind
Thinking less of himself and more of mankind

The mackerel and cod were in bounty as well
Salting some for the winter and a little to sell
These customs and methods were tested and true
Passed on from ancestors who practiced them too

His roommate’s a farmer and they get along well
Sharing land and sea stories that they like to tell
Although skin is wrinkled from time and tide
Recollections are plenty and lessons abide

The farmer advised when out in the field
Save the little potatoes as part of the yield
It’s food for the pig and the small ones will do
And late in the fall the pig will feed you

Now please listen in earnest as I tell to you
There is something I want each one to do
Reflect on elders who reminds you of these
And the first opportune, go visit them please

You won’t find a boardroom with figures and graphs
Or logistics reported on memos and drafts
Just old men in their glory sharing past tense
Translating life lessons into common sense

The knowledge and wisdom that they possess
Will teach you and I to get more from less
Now I can’t help but voice as I ponder today
Would resources survive if tethered their way?

He lives in a rest home, his last port o’ call
Spent his life on the water from springtime ‘til fall
Sailed a boat that he built to withstand August gales
And the only things “store-bought “were oakum and nails…

Sweet Salt High Summer

Poem by Joanne Light

Halifax, NS

From the back of my home I tumble
to the mouth of the bay’s spilling over
near the gapped teeth of land’s lip ends.

I suck the tender alfalfa from its casing
and share clover nectar with the bees.

My sneakers itch with harvest silt
tramping through beach pea; vetch;
a waft of wild rose intoxicates.

Fresh from the fields,
hay bale worn,
straw shafts sting skin.

I heave hot; groan;
try to keep up with the boys
while yearning for receptive wetness

Leave the panting, take the plunge
and float:
I am water and salt in salt water.


Happy Hollow Road

Poem by Karen Raynard

Halifax, NS

rode bike on weekends 3 miles to grandparents
farm on happy hollow road
my excitement grew as a grove of spruce
opened into deep blue river snaking meadow
150 year old barn on stone foundation
greeted at the milk house
by old hound dog jed chickens cows wild barn cats
pine hedge between driveway and garage leads to
100 year old farm house
gramp’ s supplement income orange school bus
80 some acres of fences fields woods stone walls
when i handed freshly picked raspberries
grade school teacher gram
giggled like a school girl, “thank you ever so much”
june fields mowed sun baked grass to dried yellow
hay baled gramp on old ’62
tractor 5 of us hung on carts as we rolled
over rocks and muddy ruts bales thrown
and stacked hot sticky up in hay mow
jed’ s bark echoed in the barn
gram with lemonade and cake before next round
we ran in our bathing suits through drumlin hills
into the river after a long day
dad and uncle ken shared childhood moments
away from chores to go swimming and fishing
gramp lit up the living room when he told
his jaw dropping roll on the floor
 splitting stories passed down to him born in 1910.

The Farm Kitchen

Poem by Edith Croft

Halifax, NS

Baking day on the farm was hard work.
Hunger doesn’t take a holiday.
The damn flies droned and sang their delight.
Mosquitoes struck like viper.
Heat in the kitchen was like
a dragon’s breath.
I remember sweat careening
down the body in sticky rivulets.
The ceaseless toil detracted from
the otherwise unique smells
unique to breads baking, and
bubbling beans flavoured with
mustard, molasses and onion combinations.
Stewed apple sauce pungent
with hint of nutmeg spice.
Cursed be the damn flies
and the merciless heat
as the wood stove demanded
cords of split wood.

An Old-Time Farmer

Poem by Mike McFetridge

Middle Musquodoboit, NS

His walk was slow and rough;
He looked like he may fall;
He remembered that day long ago,
The bull and he in the stall;
Both younger then, and stronger,
But the bull soon had him down;
Crushed against him as he fell,
Now his legs, no longer sound.

He wondered as he worked
Alone on the family farm;
Why did he bother to carry on?
As he stood there in the barn
He thought about his children;
They no longer lived at home;
Their jobs were in the city,
Leaving his wife and he alone.

Maybe the time was over
For the once-common family farm;
Who’ll grow the food, he thought
As he painfully left the barn;
His wife was waiting for him;
He loved her, wouldn’t harm her,
So thoughts he had, kept to himself,
Just a tired, sad, old time farmer.

Groundhog Hole

Poem by Mary Ellen Sullivan

Halifax, NS

Six of us dripping from the pool lesson How
Not to Drown poking shoving joking
tumbling in the back seat of the station
wagon Mom yelling KEEP IT DOWN!
driving down our rollercoaster hill HEY LOOK
THERE’S DAD on the other side driving
the tractor across the hill

brakes scream head hits window arm hurts

the tractor is… tipping… over …and

always saying keep away from the auger
it will pull you in and take your arm
and maybe all of you be careful
on the bales don’t walk
across the rafters

he… is… jumping….clear… he… is… flying
………………….towards… our…. house

Dad lying on the kitchen cot smiling crying
It was just a groundhog hole,
he says.


by Jack Myra

Halifax, NS

Harvesting some crops.
Feeding all the animals.
Working in the fields.


Poem by Adam Webster

Port Williams, NS

The first break in the earth
After long winter’s chill
Like letting go a held breath
Like a sigh of relief
This is the beginning
This first solitary dark mark
From this, the season’s bounty
Unfolds gradually in time
The engine brings me forward
Pulling it out across the land
An empty furrow waiting
An open promise of possibilities
Now multiplied over the field
A pattern that has long sustained us
I look back on it
And feel it in my bones, my flesh, my blood
For what will sprout there
Will soon become me.

The Farm

Haiku by Zoe Murgatroyd

Halifax, NS

What a nice landscape.
The sheep, the big red barn, and
Cow poop on the grass.

May in the Valley

Poem by Victor Andrews

Halifax, NS

Apple blossoms. White novas.
Springtime ping: you’re in the clouds.
For Arthur, 82, another day with chores.
Pails of water for cows from dawn.
Hauling hay. Straight from ancient mythology.
Mount Olympus, North and South.
Spotless Goddesses.
Here, stables to clean.
Shovel manure. Liquid manure.
A calf just born. Arthur loves those animals
He sometimes has to kill
Barely making ends meet.
Calves. Heifers. Simmenthals. Charolais.
Last Fall as we drove to the Fair
We hit New Grafton.
Charolais there.
Grafton, New Germany, Caledonia.
Grafton in Maine. Many more I’m sure. Borders?
Land of old Loyalist stock, land of US Rebels:
Same land, same cows, same hay, same manure.
Maybe farmers in the other Graftons
Also end sentences with “Yum, yum” and a guffaw.
Holstein calf all wobbly. Steady one hoof.
Wobble, stumble, sway, and teeter. Wet, lost.
Chatting about colostrum.
Lurch, stumble, totter, wiggle. Up
And coming. Mother restless, voice unknown.
We’re here. Birth, life, center of the world.
No borders to life or land.
Manure and apple blossoms.
May in the Valley.

Cow Eyed Summer

Poem by Anna Horsnell Wade

Cow Bay, NS

The weight of August
exhausts both farm and farmer.
Tarnished gold fields and well-worn meadow
shimmer into mirage,
thirsty for rain.

Farmer Friend

Poem by Rosemary LeFresne

Bedford, NS

Weather, land, soil, and toil
has etched the Farmer’s soul.

Through battles fought with Pests and Blights,
his harvest will be gold.

Growing Season now ends,
and comfort foods begin – to nourish and enjoy.

Rest awhile dear Farmer Friend,
and have a slice of Pie.

The Swiss Misses

Poem by Aaron Eisses

Halifax NS

Husbandry a list forum of art
Animals, people work as one
Sheep, cows, ducks, pigs all used to be grazed
Hot sunny days, green pastures, summer fun
Hail efficiency, modern industry, machine
Husbandry has been lost

High in the mountains the grass grows
On the hill meadows lie in wait
Out of a long barn little droplets walk
Cows, stocky, shiny, adorned with big bells
The able shepherds play symphonies angels enjoy
Husbandry has been found

For Sale

Poem by Ron Gillis

North Sydney, NS

I woke up one morning,
Tired, hungry, and broke.
With pen in hand, paper in place,
Following words, I wrote.

For sale sixty acres, readied for the plough,
Laying in my barn next to haymow.
For sale wee brook running through my land,
Waking seed sowed by my hand.

For sale my old work boots,
Will throw in rocking chair,
My old lunch pail, and ragged coat,
Hanging on porch nail.

For sale bankers promise,
Broken and bent,
For sale broken spirit,
For sale body spent.

The Earth Says

Poem by Jaywant Patil

Eastern Passage, NS

You trampling me now.
Surely the day will come,
I will trample you.


Poem by Chad Norman

Truro, NS

During many moments when midmorning
wasn’t about dusting, meals, or others,
Gladys left the kitchen to slip into rubber boots
she wore when it came time to visit the barn,
tiny rubbers part of each slow step
on ice spread across the glaring yard
taken to happily refill the big milk jar
helpful grandsons stop chores to carry
in one hand as she agrees to hold his other
stepping up out of the steaming milkhouse
quick to chuckle about accepting a safety
getting easier to offer, quick to blame winter,
quick to insist he hand over the raw frosty milk
and return to the herd’s more important needs.


Poem by Ron Gillis

North Sydney, NS

As spring slips to summer, summer to fall,

Apprehensively waiting cold winter’s call.

First frost of autumn warning indeed,

North wind so frigid pouring in from the sea.

Season of challenge, ice, sleet and snow,

Test of survival, twenty below.

Survive we shall like forefather before,

Till warm breeze of spring, caress seedlings below

Till warm breeze of spring, caress seedlings below

A Pinch of Pig Shit

Poem by Roger Davies

Halifax NS

will become the symbol
of an agricultural reformation:
some little bit of the denigrated —
they had called it the discarded and
archetype of the worthless,
an amount so small
as to be meaningless
lying outside the industrial food

And they had denigrated too the pig,
who never chose
to be concentration camp penned,
nor industrially processed —
pig shit in tailing ponds
of production is terminal for human
and pig–
pig shit carefully
contemplated and rejoined
to life’s cycle, a beginning:

pinch some shit, pinch some seeds,
pray for rain.

Garden of Earthly Light

Poem by Victor Andrews

Halifax NS

The garden should be
The last redoubt
The place to be
With simple creatures

Rabbit cages were changed
For cabinets
Now there’s a dining room
Where he stored hay

The garden should have been
The last redoubt
A Noah’s Ark of sanity
In a world gone mad
So hard to
Figure out

In the garden
It all seemed so

Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

Poem by Jane Marshall

Wolfville, NS

In this valley,
 we are bounded
 by kind-hearted giants.
 The North Mountain
 nudges southward
 with his huge shoulders,
 arms outstretched
 toward the South Mountain,
 the Gaspereau,
 whom he loves.
 And she reaches back,
 her vast arms
 open to him,
 her heart
 an open valley.
 She knows
 she is loved.
 And down below,
 the slow river,
 in its muddy bed,
 flows calmly eastward,
 secure as a newborn
 in its parents’ arms.

Rooted in the Earth

Poem by Leslie Anne Bateman

New Glasgow, NS

As he looked down at the damp spring soil
It felt cold in his hands on that early April morning,
The first square foot of the 2 acres
That would be planted by early summer.

One of six, now with six of his own
There would soon be shouts and laughs and music
Coming from the house as another day broke,
The old milk cow now lowing in the cowshed
Ready for his morning visit.

The garden, the pasture, the hay field, the barn
And wild meat from the nearby woods
Would nourish his family in days to come,
Blueberries along the railway tracks—the only sign of
The industry that drew him and his neighbors in,
For the next shift.

Standing with one foot in his agrarian past,
And the other in tradesman’s boots,
He took the cool, smoky dawn deep into his lungs
Not knowing that as the harvest came to an end,
He would be facing a strike that would last
Through the long cold winter.

But the land did not let him down
The Christmas table still overflowed
With treats from the root cellar:
Red tomatoes, squash pies, and sweet mustard beans
With some left over to share. Life’s patchwork landscape,
Transcending from, but rooted in, the Earth.