Celebrating soils

By Patrick Beaujot

Did you know:
• 95 per cent of our food is directly or indirectly produced on our soils
• A shortage of any one of the 15 nutrients required for plant growth can limit crop yields
• By 2050, food production must increase by 60 per cent globally and almost 100 per cent in developing countries
• 33 per cent of soil is moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, and compaction
• It can take up to 1,000 years to form one centimeter of soil
• Sustainable soil management could produce up to 58 per cent more food
• Experts estimate that we only have 60 years of topsoil left

Source: United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization
The United Nations declared 2015 the International Year of the Soil. This is also National Soil Conversation Week so it’s fitting to consider what the soil and the earth provide.

Since 95% of our food comes from the soil, we should treat the soil with great respect.

To make sure our top soil is kept healthy and preserved for future generations, farmers have been changing their practices from using intensive tillage to conservation or no-till. Continue reading

Farmers: the original environmentalists

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day Love Copy

Soil or dirt? What’s the difference?

soil

Soil is a living environment and is ideal for growing crops.

Soil is a living environment and is ideal for growing crops.

Soil is alive; it contains small particles of sand and clay, decaying organic matter, earthworms, bacteria, insects and microorganisms.

Soil is a living environment and is ideal for growing crops. Dirt is basically dead soil, which can be revitalized by adding organic matter.

The texture and colour of the soil, how it looks, feels and even smells, depends on the amount of each component in the soil blend.

Sand – what you find on the beach
Clay – what you find at the bottom of a valley
Organic matter – decaying plants and earthworms, bacteria and other microorganisms
Loam – the perfect mixture of sand, clay, organic matter – ideal for growing crops.

Different types of soil? Really?

Farmers work with different soil types, depending on where they live. The type of soil found across Canada is directly dependent on glacier movement thousands of years ago. About 12,000 years ago, during ice age events, advancing glaciers slowly ground rocks into finer particles as they moved south. Then, centuries later, retreating glaciers deposited sand and gravel in a mixture with the soil they were travelling over. That, combined with the annual cycles of plant and animal growth and decay over millions of years, has built the soil in your region into what it is today.

(Farmer Profile:) Doug Chorney is a third-generation Manitoba fruit and vegetable farmer. His ancestors made a commitment to farming sustainably when they immigrated to Canada 100 years ago – and he plans on his descendants continuing that practice for at least another century. What’s his favourite part about farming? The smell of the soil! He explains, “For me it’s about living the great life that you can on a farm with fresh dirt and hard work….It’s the smell, the sound, the feeling you get when you’re out there. It’s very fulfilling.” Photo: Manitoba Canola Growers

Doug Chorney is a third-generation Manitoba fruit and vegetable farmer. His favourite part of farming is – the smell of the soil! 
Photo: Manitoba Canola Growers

What’s his favourite part about farming? The smell of the soil!

Soil by depth is broken into three groups: Topsoil (on the top) is rich in organic matter but lower in minerals. Subsoil, found below the topsoil layer has a higher clay and mineral content. Parent Material is made up of deeper rock, sand or clay with no organic content.

Scientists have created soil maps of Canada. On those, you’ll see local soil types like Brookstone Sand Loam or Staten peaty muck referencing types of soil found just in that area. The type of soil found on a farm will certainly influence a farmer’s crop choices and management systems.

Although you cannot change your basic soil type, there are many management techniques that can help maintain or improve soil structure.

Doug Chorney is a third-generation Manitoba fruit and vegetable farmer. His ancestors made a commitment to farming sustainably when they immigrated to Canada 100 years ago – and he plans on his descendants continuing that practice for at least another century.

What’s his favourite part about farming? The smell of the soil!

He explains, “For me it’s about living the great life that you can on a farm with fresh dirt and hard work….It’s the smell, the sound, the feeling you get when you’re out there. It’s very fulfilling.”

 

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

 

Day in the Life – ‘Kidding-around’ with a goat farmer

DayintheLifeHi! My name is Anna Haupt and together with my husband and three young children, we run Teal’s Meats – a provincially licensed butcher shop on our farm in Haldimand County, on the north shore of Lake Erie in Ontario. I also raise a small herd of registered Boer goats on our farm, Springvalley Boer Goats. I enjoy showing, sell breeding stock to other producers and process our market animals for sale through our butcher shop. Our summers are extremely busy serving our butcher shop customers, so I like to kid out (giving birth) my does (female goats) in the winter months when I have a little more time to spend in the barn.

Today on our farm… Continue reading

Growing hops for local beer garners farmer an innovation award

By Lilian Schaer for Farm & Food Care

(St. Thomas) One of Remi Van De Slyke’s favourite beers is produced by a small craft brewery in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Remi Van De Slyke receives a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence from MPP Kathryn McGarry (Photo courtesy of OMAFRA)

Remi Van De Slyke receives a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence from MPP Kathryn McGarry (Photo courtesy of OMAFRA)

Not only does he enjoy the taste of Railway City Brewery’s Dead Elephant Ale, but it also happens to be made from the hops he grows on his farm near Straffordville.

Van De Slyke of Kinglake Farms Inc. got into the hops business more than a decade ago when his family was looking for alternatives to growing tobacco.

His efforts at building markets and helping other farmers start growing hops have just been recognized with a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence, and he credits the local food movement with helping spur interest in the crop.

“It was tough in the first few years I was growing to get brewers’ attention, but demand is increasing every year for craft beer,” he says. “The local food movement has really helped with opening markets for Ontario hops.”

Hops are a perennial crop that grows up to 20 feet tall on a trellis system. The hops come up every spring and climb up strings that Van De Slyke attaches between the ground and the top trellis. Around mid-June they start bushing out and producing the hop cones, which are harvested in late August or early September. Continue reading

A different kind of hen house

By Lisa McLean, Farm & Food Care

(Elora) It takes a few minutes for the hens at Elora-based Swan Creek Layer Farms Ltd. to adjust to visitors. They move quickly out of the way when the gate opens, fly across the aisles to new levels, and move out of reach. Eventually, their curiosity gets the best of them and they return to fill the empty spaces they abandoned just moments ago. The birds settle on their perches that are close to the visitors. A few hens walk along the ladders that connect one level to the next.

Bob (left) and Dave Ottens in their aviary-style layer barn.

Bob (left) and Dave Ottens in their aviary-style layer barn.

The hens – egg-laying “layer” birds – live in an aviary-style egg barn, which allows them free access to move through various levels of their space. Lighting helps guide them to private nesting boxes in the back of each level where they lay eggs in sheltered areas and access food and water on demand.

For Ontario egg farmers, this is a different kind of egg barn. Conventional layer barns house several hens in cages, or in newer “enriched” facilities that have built-in perches and nesting boxes. The aviary barn is designed to allow the hens to move freely in a large space.

And the new barn provides a benefit for farmers too – Dave and Bob Ottens, brothers who own the operation, can sell eggs from this barn into a certified “free run” market, which fetches them a premium on the eggs produced here.

“For us, this is a way of adding choice for consumers – the aviary gives us the opportunity to diversify by producing free-run eggs,” says Dave Ottens. “I don’t have a problem eating eggs from conventionally-raised hens, but some consumers want the option of free-run eggs, and they are willing to pay more for that choice.” Continue reading

Fournier-area egg farmers featured as “April” in 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

Lynn, Jessica, Veronique and Valerie Longtin’s Faces of Farming calendar page

Lynn, Jessica, Veronique and Valerie Longtin’s Faces of Farming calendar page

When city girl Lynn first met her husband Daniel, everything in her life changed. She fell quickly in love with the farmer – and his farm life. Decades later, Lynn and Daniel Longtin are now third generation egg farmers with daughters Jessica, Veronique, and Valerie making up the fourth generation of egg farming on the same home farm.

In 2015, Lynn and her daughters appear in the tenth anniversary Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by Egg Farmers of Ontario and they are featured for the month of April.

Lynn and Daniel met at a youth retreat in 1984. In the earlier stages of their relationship, they both worked off the farm. Daniel started working on the farm with his father in 1992. Eight years later, Lynn and Daniel bought the farm.

Today, Lynn, Jessica, Veronique and Valerie all play an active role in the family business. Currently, the farm is home to 17,000 laying hens, which lay about 120,000 eggs per week. Continue reading

Drawing parallels: farm methods and human health

By Brent Royce, Guest blogger

For those who have followed me on Twitter (@brfarms09) you might have heard me complain over the last few years about my neck issues. This problem has given me the ability to draw many comparisons between our two different approaches to medicine in Ontario, that being the conventional system and the naturopathic one, and how we care for our livestock and land.

The first time I was convinced to try alternative medicine I said “yeah right” but went because of the ‘yes dear’ syndrome. I came home with a different perspective about it because their approach is basically the same as I farm…

Whether in the field or the barn, I look at the big picture of what is going on and if something doesn’t seem quite right I fix the issue and then figure out why it happened. I guess you could also call this a proactive approach. This starts long before I place a flock of birds in my barn or put a seed in the ground. Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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