A Saskatchewan Farm(er)

By Laura Reiter

I am involved in one of the over 36,000 farms in Saskatchewan. Now if you are like most folks, a picture or two will have popped into your head when you hear “Saskatchewan farms”.
This …

Combining on the Canadian prairies

Combining on the Canadian prairies

Or maybe this …

Cowboys on their horses moving cattle in winter

Cowboys on their horses moving cattle in winter

You’d be right in thinking that grain and cattle operations make up the majority of the farms in Saskatchewan. But there is so much more!

First off, that combine could be harvesting any one of a large number of crops that are grown in the province.

Mature wheat nearly ready to harvest

Mature wheat nearly ready to harvest

A barley field almost ready to harvest

A barley field almost ready to harvest










Wheat, barley, canola, flax and pulse (lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, faba and soybeans) crops are just a few examples .

Canola in full bloom.

Canola in full bloom.


Flax fields in beautiful full bloom.

Flax fields in beautiful full bloom.






And did you know there are potato farms in Saskatchewan? Of all the potato farms in Canada, 4.6 per cent are located in Saskatchewan.

There are also other kinds of fruits and vegetables grown right here in Saskatchewan. Apples, cherries, pears, plums, grapes and all kinds of berries can be found in Saskatchewan. You can find u-pick and pick-your-own farms all over the province. If you check out a farmer’s market or possibly look in your grocery store you can find locally grown produce.

Saskatchewan boasts the second largest beef cattle herd in Canada.

Saskatchewan boasts the second largest beef cattle herd in Canada.

The livestock industry in Saskatchewan is an important part of our economy. In 2012, Saskatchewan was home to 30 per cent of Canada’s beef herd. That’s the second largest herd in Canada!

Saskatchewan also has a dairy industry. And not only do we produce milk but we also process it into products like sour cream, cheese and ice cream. Yum!

We are Canada’s fifth largest producer of hogs.

Poultry production is also a part of Saskatchewan’s agriculture industry. In the Wynyard area (approximately 190 km east of Saskatoon), up to 500 people are employed at a processing plant. That’s a big industry for that community!
In 2013, there were more than 26.7 million dozen eggs produced in Saskatchewan. How do you like your eggs?

Bison also make their home on Saskatchewan farms.

Bison also make their home on Saskatchewan farms.

Now these may be the first types of livestock that pop into your head when you think about farming. But did you know Saskatchewan is home to all sorts of other types of livestock? These include sheep bison and horse farming.

Saskatchewan is home to over 10 per cent of Canada’s apiculture (bee) farms.

Agriculture is an important part of Saskatchewan’s economy. It accounts for over one-third of the province’s total exports and we have over 40 per cent of Canada’s farmland!

Everyone has a different picture in their head when they think of farming. Now, knowing that I am a Saskatchewan farmer, you may be picturing me as a 60-something-year-old man in overalls and a hat. Perhaps I should have started by introducing myself. My name is Laura and I’m proud to be a Saskatchewan farmer too.

Laura Reiter, Saskatchewan Wheat Farmer

Laura Reiter, Saskatchewan Wheat Farmer

Laura Reiter graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a B.Sc. in Agriculture, majoring in Crop Science and is a Professional Agrologist (P.Ag.) with the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists. She operates the family grain farm in North West Saskatchewan with her husband, Jack, and brother, Bryan Clair. Laura sits is on the Boards of Directors with the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (SaskWheat) and Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan. Find Laura on Twitter @ReiterLJ

Cow tipping – Fact or Fiction?

FactFictonFICTION: A researcher at the University of British Columbia concluded it would take five people to push a cow over, and that’s if the cow was willing to be tipped. Most cows do not sleep standing up and are startled easily by noise and strangers.

Now you know!

For more interesting farm and food tidbits, check out www.realdirtonfarming.ca

Ontario dairy farmer grows business with on-farm dairy processing

By Lisa McLean

(Creemore) Fresh-from-the-farm milk in glass bottles is a thing of the past for many Ontario consumers. But for John and Marie Miller and their son Shawn of Creemore, Ontario, it is most definitely the future. The family, and dedicated team, at Jalon Farms and Miller’s Dairy work side-by-side at their new on-farm artisan dairy processing facility that produces milk and cream from their 120 Jersey cows they milk twice daily.

John and Shawn Miller of Creemore

John and Shawn Miller of Creemore

The Jersey difference

Jersey cows — which are smaller brown cows compared to their black and white Holstein counterparts — make up only four per cent of the dairy cow population in Canada. John says Jersey cows produce milk that is distinctly sweeter in taste and provides opportunities for differentiation in the marketplace.

“Jersey cows produce milk with higher butterfat, higher protein and more calcium,” says Shawn. “When people sample our milk during in-store tastings, they can’t believe how good it tastes. I like to think our Jersey milk, in a glass bottle, tastes how milk is supposed to taste.”

Jerseys are easier on the environment too. The cows are small in size and require less feed, making them the dairy breed with the smallest carbon footprint.

The journey to on-farm processing

The Millers broke ground on Miller’s Dairy in August 2011, after John and Marie researched similar setups in the New England states. John says his mother’s family had processed milk, and he was keen to return to those roots.

“We met a dairy farmer, Paul Kokoski, in 2010 who has a similar-sized Jersey herd in a region with similar demographics to Creemore,” Miller says. “Later that year Paul told us about some pasteurizing equipment that was available from a dairy that was shutting down in South Carolina, so Shawn and I went down to check it out.”

The Miller’s Dairy facility is located directly beside the family’s milking barn, known as Jalon Farms. Once milk is tested, it passes through an underground pipe into the next building, where it is pasteurized using a high temperature short time (HTST) pasteurizer and sold in custom-branded glass bottles in a large (1.89 l) and smaller (946 ml) format. They produce cream and milk in a variety of fat contents, ranging from skim milk to 35 per cent cream, but they report each week it’s anyone’s guess whether chocolate milk or 2% will reign supreme. Continue reading

Day in the Life – A ‘Heart’ for dairy farming

DayintheLifeMy name is Tim May and I am a third-generation dairy farmer in Rockwood, Ontario. Along with my family, I milk a herd of 40 Holstein cows on 250 acres of land. I didn’t always want to be a dairy farmer, but the magic of farm life has a way of drawing you back to your roots. Each day on the farm holds new adventures that are just waiting to unfold. Take this one summer day for instance…

Continue reading

The Jamaican-Canadian farm connection

Donald (Rocky) Deyer has helped bring in the vegetable harvest on this Canadian farm for almost three decades.

Jamaican native Donald (Rocky) Dyer has helped bring in the harvest on this Canadian vegetable farm for almost three decades.

Farmer profile : Jamaican native Donald (Rocky) Dyer started working on a southwestern Ontario vegetable farm when he was just 29 years old. Now 58, he has spent most of his adult life helping with harvest in Canada. Like many seasonal workers, Dyer arrives on the farm in late spring and remains throughout the growing season — about six to seven months each year. Continue reading

Blogger Spotlight: Sarah Schultz of Nurse Loves Farmer

We’re putting the spotlight on Canadian farmer bloggers. Each month, we’ll feature a different farmer blogger to uncover a bit about life behind the blog, on their family farm. 


Blogger Sarah Schultz

Blogger Sarah Schultz

Meet Sarah Schultz of Wheatland County, Alberta. She blogs at: www.nurselovesfarmer.com and is also active on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Here’s what Sarah had to say about blogging and her family’s farm in our Q and A. Continue reading

Woodstock-area farmers pose for “March” in 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

Jan and Evert Veldhuizen’s Faces of Farming calendar page

Jan and Evert Veldhuizen’s Faces of Farming calendar page

Sixty years ago, the Veldhuizens immigrated to Canada from Holland in search of new opportunities for their farming family. Evert Sr. and Dina Veldhuizen both emigrated with their respective families and didn’t meet until they arrived in their new country. After marrying, they lived first in eastern Ontario before moving west and settling on a farm near Oxford Centre in 1966 where they raised six children.

Today, two of those six children – brothers Jan and Evert – are partners in a family farm that’s grown and changed a lot since their parents first started it. It now includes crops, a dairy cow herd, a seed business and custom farming operation where they provide planting, harvesting and tillage services for other farmers in the area.

In 2015, Evert and Jan are featured for the month of March in the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by DeKalb Canada.

Farming wasn’t a clear career choice for Jan. After school, he worked in construction, apprenticing as a farm equipment mechanic before deciding to return home to the family farm in 2000. Evert, on the other hand, knew there was no other career path for him. He studied at Ridgetown Agricultural College, graduating in 1996 before becoming a full time farmer. Continue reading

Dishing the #RealDirt on Canadian food and farming

Have you wondered where your food actually comes from, what is in it, and who produces it?RealDirtBlog

If you’ve said “yes,” you’re in the right spot! This Real Dirt on Farming blog aims to provide credible information and connect you, the consumer, with the Canadian farmers that grow your food.

Today, less than two per cent of Canadians are farmers – this has led to a huge disconnect between the farm and our dinner plates. Our goal is to help you make informed food choices, whatever they may be.

Each week, our blog posts will tackle issues that matter, both to you and to Canadian farmers – including hot topics like pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and GMOs. We’ll also sort fact from fiction, and dish up the #RealDirt on what it takes to produce safe food, while being mindful of animal welfare and the environment.

We’ll feature real experts on food and farming, and profile the stories of real Canadian farmers and others that work in food and farming. Along the way, you may even be impressed by stories about some of the cool and funky things happening in agriculture today.

We welcome you to dig in to the #RealDirt and explore our blog!

While you’re browsing, be sure to check out the popular The Real Dirt on Farming booklet, now in its third edition, which answers even more questions from Canadians about food and farming.

Yours in food and farming,

Jean and Kim


Ontario mink farmer featured in 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

Tillsonburg – Sandra Aspden is a grandma of six, a golfer and a motorcycle enthusiast. And now together with her husband Clarence, she’s added the title of “farmer” to her resume of interests and achievements.

Sandra Aspden’s Faces of Farming calendar page

Sandra Aspden’s Faces of Farming calendar page

The path to becoming a mink farmer in Norfolk County was anything but direct. Raised in Kitchener, she and Clarence met at a bowling alley in Woodstock more than 40 years ago. After marrying, they raised three sons – Wayne, Philip and Paul – while Clarence worked as a welder and Sandi as a factory supervisor.

In 2009, the two decided to take a great leap of faith and purchase a farm near Tillsonburg that they turned into a mink ranch. Clarence’s aunt and uncle had raised mink and he had helped them when he was growing up. They started with 1,000 females and have now almost doubled that with a goal of reaching 2,400 breeding females in their herd. On average, there are 8,500 kits (baby mink) born on their ranch annually. Continue reading

How to find out what a typical Canadian farm looks like

It is surprising to me that there is still such a massive divide between what society thinks and what actually happens on the farm. I recently spent some time trying to pin down a definition of “factory farms” with various individuals. I wasn’t trying to change anyone’s opinion about agriculture or livestock farming I just wanted to understand what their definition was.  It turns out many think a typical Canadian farm would be considered a “factory”.

Female pigs in group housing on straw bedding.  Not what many people to be typical.

Female pigs in group housing. Not what many people to be typical.

I was surprised to learn that many have a perception that the majority of beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, and poultry birds in Canada live in dark dirty cages, without adequate food and water, individual attention, and are treated more like machines than animals.

Even though I didn’t set out to change anyone’s opinion I ended up sharing some StatsCan numbers about the average farm size (average beef herd size is 61 and an average dairy herd size is 70) and the fact that 97% of farms  are family owned and operated and shared pictures of actual living conditions as an alternative pictures commonly depicted by those not in favour of livestock use.  Other farmers also shared pictures of their farms and animals as well as personal philosophy and practices. I was again surprised to hear the response: “well sure, YOU guys aren’t a factory farm and obviously care about your animals but you are not typical”.   To this I mentally sputtered… but this IS what a typical livestock farm in Canada is like!  Is this belief system in place because we are programmed to believe the worst about agriculture (as perpetuated by nasty memes of suffering animals or pictures taken out of context like a cute little calf with a numbered ear tag) or is it simply that society has an image of farming based on idealic pictures of yesteryear?

To clarify, I do not think animal farming has it all right. Perhaps we need to acknowledge that not every practice is perfect or defensible and that some do need to change. There are also individuals that own animals that should not (even one of these people involved with livestock is too many) and they are the ones highlighted in sensational news stories. But does this mean that every farm in Canada is a factory farm? No. That any farm over a certain size is inherently inhumane?  No!

Do you want to know what a typical Canadian farms really look like? Head over to virtualfarmtours.ca to see what really happens.  Think this is just too biased to be true? Contact producer groups to get some real information and maybe even the chance for a farm tour to see for yourself.  If you don’t trust that those organizations are giving you the real answer, contact an elected government official. They can put you in contact with other government employees who work in the ag community and with producers as agriculture specialists (they give management advice and assistance to farmers).  Still don’t believe the source?  Go to the University of Saskatchewan and talk to researchers, scientists and veterinarians who study animal welfare (there are also researchers in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and the maritimes).  They can give you answers to your questions about farming and animal welfare and animal care.  Or feel free to contact me at Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan and I will try and answer any questions you might have.

Thanks for taking the time.


Email me at jean@farmfoodcare.org