There’s a new void to fill in science communication

By Dr. Maria Trainer, Managing director, science and regulatory affairs, chemistry, CropLife Canada

Maria-Trainer-768x1024As scientists we generally aren’t renowned for our communications prowess, particularly communications with the public. Many of us would rather work away in our laboratories and communicate with our peers than actively seek out opportunities to talk to the public about our work. Particularly when our work is in the field of, to use the vernacular, “genetic engineering”.

Dr. Kevin Folta ─ Professor and Chairman of the Horticultural Sciences department at the University of Florida ─ is different. A geneticist by trade, Kevin has dedicated a huge amount of his own time and energy to educating the public about the science of biotechnology and so-called “GMOs”. He’s good at it too, as you can see here in a recent address he gave to a public audience at McGill University during the 2015 Trottier Science Symposium.

The downside to being good ─ really good actually ─ at talking about the science of biotechnology is that it annoys people. Specifically it annoys those people whose cause is served by preserving and promoting widespread ignorance on the topic of GMOs. These people, and the groups they represent, depend on the public not really knowing what GMOs are but being “fairly sure they’re a bad thing”.

Since the scientific consensus on the safety of currently deployed biotechnology applications is solid, these groups have had to resort to personal attacks on the handful of scientists, like Kevin, who have been brave enough to speak up.

Read more here about how Kevin became a lightning rod for the anti-science community and the breaking point, which has left a big void to fill in science communication.

Re-posted with permission.

Some thoughts on the Food “Free” Frenzy

By Crystal Mackay, CEO Farm & Food Care Canada

Trends continue to snowball with labels about what’s in a food product being expanded to how that food was grown or processed. Gluten-free, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, cage-free, everything-else-free labels are multiplying. It seems almost every day I see a new announcement from a company or a grocery store ad or a label on something I go to buy that has a claim like this.

With so much noise, how does one cut through the clutter and make an informed decision about what to buy and eat? Here are a few principles I feel that need some attention:

1. Isn’t choice awesome?
Let’s start here. I think we are extremely fortunate in Canada with so much food that we can have all these choices. For example, the fact that the egg counter at the grocery store can be a 10 minute experience reading about all the options for types of eggs is awesome. Some people in other countries might be happy to have one egg. Continue reading

A Day in the Life – a Saskatchewan grain farmer at harvest

By Jean Clavelle Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan


I spoke to Rob Stone today from his grain truck in central Saskatchewan where it’s harvest time. See what he has to say about their family farm and being a grain farmer in Canada.

Tell me about your farm.

I’m part of a family grain farm in Davidson, Saskatchewan. I’ve been actively involved since graduating from the College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan in 1999. The first order of business when I came back was to expand the farm, and we’ve been able to triple our acreage base over the last 15 years to reach the 7,000-8,000 acres we farm now. Continue reading

The real dirt on hen housing

By Kristen Kelderman, Farm Animal Care Coordinator, Farm & Food Care

The Real Dirt on Hen HousingHaving recently become a new homeowner, it’s amazing how many different housing options there are are out there. You might be a high rise condo dweller living in one of the many buildings that populate the horizon or maybe in a single detached family home that is more your style.

Townhomes, executive penthouse lofts, cottage living – the options are endless with each choice presenting different benefits and amenities. If you’re anything like me, the only restriction is your bank account!

It’s not that different when it comes to housing options for farm animals. Modern barns today offer many benefits that the traditional red bank barn of our grandparents’ age would never be able to provide. New advancements in technology have allowed the reconstruction of modern barns to provide things like climate-controlled environments, enriched amenities, access to feed and water 24 hours a day, smart phone alerts if an issue arises in the barn and much more.

But how do we know what good and what bad environments for farm animals actually are? Science helps to tell us this. There has been a lot of research around the globe on housing of farm animals and on how different environments affect them. Many researchers have dedicated their entire careers to this area of science: studying animal behaviour, environmental impacts, natural behaviours and many more aspects of how housing influences an animal’s life.

Let’s talk about laying hen housing – housing for the birds that lay the eggs that you enjoy for breakfast. Continue reading

Broccoli grower and race car driver is face of “November” in 2015 Faces of Farming Calendar

By Resi Walt

Kenny Forth’s Faces of Farming calendar page

Kenny Forth’s Faces of Farming calendar page

What does a broccoli farmer do in his spare time? He races cars of course!

Kenny Forth is a fourth-generation vegetable farmer near Lynden, Ontario. Kenny takes pride in knowing that all of his produce is staying in Ontario and feeding people locally.

And, when he’s not working on his farm, he is recognizable as #86 when he is driving his race car at Flamboro Speedway near Hamilton.

In 2015, he appears in the tenth anniversary edition of the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. His page is sponsored by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association and he is featured for the month of November. An insert photo in the calendar features a four generation image of Kenny, his dad Ken, grandpa Elgin, son Riley and step brother Matthew. With the exception of Riley who is yet too young to help, the rest are all active in the family farm.

Kenny’s ancestors have a long history in the area. The family farm was once located in Waterdown with them making a move to Lynden in the mid 1970’s due to changing industry conditions. Kenny’s grandfather Elgin recalls that time in the farm’s history. “It was a big decision,” Elgin recollects.

Elgin describes the family farm as being “evolutionary”. While the family has been growing vegetables for decades, the types of vegetables have changed over the years. The family grew field tomatoes and cucumbers for 90 years. At one point, they’ve grown cabbage, cauliflower, strawberries and raised livestock.

About ten years ago, the family decided to focus their business on broccoli and now farm 200 acres of the crop as well as a crop of lettuce in the spring. Broccoli harvest starts in late June and continues until mid November each year. The broccoli plant allows for one cutting, per plant.

On average, Forthdale Farms produces and ships 1,000 cases of broccoli every day during harvest, selling the broccoli to a wholesale company in both bunches and crowns. The fresh broccoli is then sold to grocery stores throughout Ontario.

Summer’s a busy season on the farm and a good team of employees is crucial to getting the crop harvested in time. Helping Kenny and Ken on the farm are 16 seasonal workers who come to the farm from Jamaica each year. Many of them have been coming to the Forth farm annually for decades, returning home to their families in the fall.

Kenny has a need for speed. He loves that aspect of racing – getting up to 140 km/h in close door-to-door racing. Kenny loves the racing community, spending every weekend of the summer at the Flamboro race track.

Kenny started racing when he was twelve years old – first with go karts in Hamilton at a local club. In 1996 he began racing formula 1600 cars. In 1998, he went to full-body stock cars, racing on oval tracks all over Canada in the CASCAR league. Since 2000, Kenny has been racing cars of the late model series, and twice he has won the Flamboro Memorial Cup. Kenny is also proud to have once won the Grisdale Triple Crown Series. The race track is also where he met his wife Marsha. The two are now proud parents to their year-old son Riley.

Racing is truly a family affair. Kenny’s father Ken acts as a spotter while he’s racing, letting Kenny know what is going on with the other drivers around him.

Kenny’s life is made busier through his volunteer work as an OPP Brant County Auxiliary Office, a role he’s served in since 2012. As an auxiliary officer, Kenny volunteers his time to help with community policing initiatives and projects. That can include working at large community events to help with crowd and traffic control, offering assistance at crime or disaster scenes or traffic accidents, or accompanying regular officers on patrol.

Although his schedule is a busy one, Kenny enjoys the lifestyle that being a broccoli farmer allows for.

He has the freedom to set his own schedule, and time to spend on activities outside the farm, such as racing and enjoying time with his young family.

To see an interview with Ken and his family, check out this YouTube video.

The tenth annual “Faces of Farming” calendar, featuring the theme of Home Grown and Hand Made, is designed to introduce the public to a few of Ontario’s passionate and hardworking farmers – the people who produce food in this province. Copies can be ordered online at A list of retailers selling the calendar is also located on that website.

What You Really Need to Know About the IARC Report on Red Meat and Processed Meat

Jean L Clavelle

Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan

By now you’ve likely heard the news that red meats and processed meats are considered carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC – the cancer agency of the World Health Organization – released its findings yesterday after evaluating the carcinogenicity of consuming red meat and processed meat.

I think many of us, on occasion, have enjoyed products in those two categories so if the news reports are true, this is quite disturbing. Scary stuff indeed. Perhaps though, we need to investigate a little further into what these classifications really mean to see how concerned we actually need to be.

The IARC classified processed meats as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans. This means that “there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer”. I’m not sure this is new information. If processed meats make up the bulk of the nutrients in your diet you might suffer some health issues. But you may notice that processed meats were included in the same category as tobacco smoke. This begs the question – are processed meats as carcinogenic as smoking?? The answer is absolutely not. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence a compound or “agent” has of being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of the risk. Based on the estimates found in the report about 66 in every 1000 people who eat a lot of processed meat will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime. By comparison, 56 of every 1000 who eat very little meat will also develop colorectal cancer.

Continue reading

Middlesex grain farmer is “October” in 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

By Resi Walt

Krista Patterson, October Faces of Farming calendar page

Krista Patterson, October Faces of Farming calendar page

(Newbury) – When you compare her to the age of the average farmer in Ontario, Krista Patterson is decades younger, but she already has a wealth of experience under her belt.

Krista is a fourth generation farmer who, along with her mother Lenore, is carrying on the family business built by her father and grandfather. The farm itself is comprised of approximately 1,050 acres of owned and rented land, which are used to produce corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Krista, Lenore, as well as Krista’s Grandmother Evelyn and Uncle Dave work as “one family unit,” Krista explains, helping each other with all aspects of the farm. Dave manages the seed drying processor on their farm, while Lenore aids in shipping grain and is responsible for spreading fertilizer on the fields each year. Krista’s grandmother Evelyn helps with a multitude of tasks – including ensuring that the family takes time to eat when they’re busy on the farm. Krista’s cousin Matt and family friend John help out in the spring with the planting. Continue reading

A chance ad brings this calendar-model couple back to farming

2010 calendarBy Resi Walt

(Thamesville) – It was a chance sighting of an advertisement in a local newspaper that gave Clarence Nywening and his wife Pat the opportunity to return to their farming roots.

Clarence was raised on a beef farm and Pat on a dairy farm. But, after marrying, they had moved away from the farm and on to a different business ventures. However, Clarence said, “It was always my dream to go back to farming.”

In the early days of their marriage they owned a cleaning business, cleaning churches, houses and offices. One day, while cleaning at an office building, they noticed an ad in a newspaper for a farm that was for sale. They knew instantly it was where they wanted to be. Continue reading

A large animal veterinarian – and Herd health calls

Each summer veterinary students from the Ontario Veterinary College delve into that practical experience at veterinary clinics across Ontario and additional locales. These blog posts are an opportunity to tag along with nine of them this summer.

By Sarah Pechmann

Sarah_herdHealthAs my time at Port Perry Veterinary Services continues, I am starting to develop a routine for myself. Each morning one of the first things I am sure to do is scan the daily appointment schedule. The calendar is always packed with a wide array of interesting calls which each present a unique and exciting learning opportunity for me.

A common appointment that I find on the schedule almost each and every day is known as a herd health call. I remember being a little puzzled by this term when I first heard it. I have quickly come to realize that these herd health visits are some of the most important responsibilities a large animal veterinarian has and a great chance for me to grow as a veterinarian in the making.

Most dairy and meat producers will actively participate in a herd health program. This means that these producers will have a veterinarian visit their farm on a regular basis to evaluate how the herd is doing, and help make suggestions on ways to improve and maintain the health of the animals within that herd. Rather than focusing on sick animals, the entire herd is examined and the focus is on healthy animals and preventive measures that can maintain their health and well being. Continue reading

Bringing better beef to local buyers

By Matt McIntosh 

Brian Hyland (2)With the welfare of his animals and customer demands in mind, Brian Hyland, a beef farmer from Essex Ontario, has built a business around selling quality, home-grown beef directly to the consumer.

Brian owns and operates Father Wants Beef, a farm and marketing business where he raises 40 beef cattle and red veal (slightly younger beef cattle that go to market at 700 to 800 pounds, or about 300 pounds below regular market weight). Though not a large farm, Brian has found that there is a demand for meat straight from the farm, and he prides himself on filing that demand from his on-site shop and cold storage facility.

“The majority of our meat is sold by pre-order and custom cut, but we do have some people that stop in for individual steaks,” says Brian. “Most are appointment sales; I can get phone calls at all times of the day.” Continue reading