2015 Faces of Farming calendar features Dunnville turkey farmer for July

By Resi Walt

Brian, Silken, Theo, and Eli Ricker’s Faces of Farming calendar page

Brian, Silken, Theo, and Eli Ricker’s Faces of Farming calendar page

(Dunnville) – If you ask Brian Ricker’s children what they want to be when they grow up, they will tell you without hesitation, “A farmer, just like my dad.” It’s easy to see how much they look up to their father, and that Brian Ricker is a farmer with a big heart.

In 2015, Brian and his three youngest children, Silken, Theo and Eli appear in the tenth anniversary edition of the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page (July) is sponsored by the Turkey Farmers of Ontario.

Although raised on a dairy farm, Brian credits his start in turkey farming to his friend and mentor – John Delane. The two met in the early 1990’s and Brian eventually bought John’s turkey farm from him. Continue reading

More than Farming: Capturing farmers and moments with Farm Boy Productions

MorethanFarmingI still remember the sideways look my dad launched across the barn back in high school when I told him I wanted to study media. It was during a morning milking that he had asked me what university programs I had applied to.

My family runs a dairy farm in Eastern Ontario. We milk 50 Jersey cows in a tie stall barn. Our land is entirely for feed crops (corn, barley, oats and alfalfa) for the cows and grass pastures. Being that I was the eldest boy in the family, there were many assumptions that I would go on to take over the farm. And while I do miss farming some days, I know I am exactly where I should be and I can always go back home to help my brothers down the road.

Bruce Sargent in his element - on farm with photography gear.

Bruce Sargent in his element – on farm with photography gear.

To my dad’s delight, I ended up at the University of Guelph studying Marketing Management and soon started Farm Boy Productions – a multi-media company focused on agricultural photography and videography. When many were skeptical of a business making videos and websites for farms and agri-business, my dad was my first and biggest supporter.

In my first year, I started by creating a horse farm video and a dairy farm website. Returning to Guelph in the fall for school, I started building a client base in western Ontario.

Very early on I knew I loved my job. Traveling to many types of farms and getting to meet farmers and their families from across Ontario is a very rewarding experience.

Now that Farm Boy Productions is my full time job, I have had five years of exposure to every part of the industry – livestock, machinery, cropping and all types of farms. I get to promote products and programs to farmers and I get to promote this amazing industry to our neighbours in the city. Continue reading

Cloudy skies? No worries. Farmers use technology to take bad weather in stride

By Matt McIntosh

Cloudy skies- No worries.Not so long ago, the beginning of the spring planting season was upon us, and many farmers in Southwestern Ontario were gearing up to plant corn as soon as they could. Weeks later and much to their disappointment, though, some farmers still don’t have any seeds in the ground.

Yes, it’s been one of those years for some farm families; although not particularly disastrous, cool and wet weather in various parts of the province this spring meant some grain farmers were not able to plant their corn crop at the most ideal time. That means a shorter growing season, or a smaller window of time for plants to grow and mature before the return of our famous –and infamous – Canadian winter.

Less-than-ideal weather is an age-old problem for farmers, however, and we’ve learned how to use modern technology to adapt to changing environments.

Corn, for example, comes in many varieties, each with different traits making it better at different things. Using our modern understanding of genetics, some farmers – when faced with the prospect of a shorter growing season due to cold, wet spring weather – trade the seeds they originally wanted to plant with other varieties that requires less time to grow.

It’s all about “Crop Heat Units” and “Growing Degree Days,” you see.

Crop Heat Units and Growing Degree Days, in a roundabout way, refer to the amount of time a plant needs at a specific temperature to grow and mature properly. Different crops, and different varieties of the same crop, can require different temperatures for a different number of days. In the case of this year’s corn crop, for example, a farmer planning on sowing a corn variety requiring lots of time at a higher temperature might have decided to trade his seeds for one needing less time at a lower temperature.

The trade-off, however, is that varieties requiring less time and heat to grow have a tendency to not produce as much grain. That is to say, if a variety requiring fewer hot days was compared in ideal growing conditions to one that required more hot days, the former would produce smaller corn cobs or fewer kernels.

Given how many things factor into successfully growing crops, though, it’s still possible for varieties requiring a shorter growth period to produce more. Indeed, if the growing conditions are ideal, it’s very possible the more cold-hardy plant will out-produce its more warmth-inclined cousins.

However, it’s impossible for farmers to know exactly what will happen weather-wise. Every grower is a weatherman in some form or another, and as we all know, even the professionals on television make wrong predictions every now and again.

When it comes down to it, growing grains, vegetables, fruits and other crops really is a gamble with Mother Nature, but technology helps minimize risk in a number of ways. Take examples like climate controlled environments in greenhouses, the use of fungicide to control leaf blight, or the incorporation of giant orchard fans to help fruit farmers try to keep deadly spring frosts at bay. All these things, and so many more, help give farmers an edge in creating a more beneficial growing environment for their crops.

Regardless of what Southwestern Ontario grain farmers have thrown at them, though, something always grows. While some years are definitely better than others, technology helps us ensure there’s always a crop of some kind – and that’s an important thing to remember when planting prospects still look cloudy.

The old adage often repeated – so I’m told – by my great grandmother Isabelle might be a useful reminder here. Indeed, “there’s always a planting season.”

Now and Then – Beef ranching in Saskatchewan

By Tara Davidson

My family and I run a beef cow-calf ranch in southwestern Saskatchewan, raising cows with their calves. The things that I love about ranching are too numerous of course to list! I love working alongside my husband, our three children, and other family members. I like the challenges that come with raising cattle, and I enjoy working in nature daily.

An interesting thing about our ranch is that we try to implement new technologies in several capacities. Yet in many ways, we still run our cow herd the way ranchers did decades ago.

Figure 1 The author’s husband on horseback, gathering their cattle in the fall with the help of one of their trusty cattle dogs.

Tara’s husband on horseback, gathering their cattle in the fall with the help of one of their trusty cattle dogs.

One “old school” method that still applies to our ranch today is the use of horses to check our cattle, to move cattle from one pasture to another, and to treat sick animals. Our cattle graze in large, remote fields with rugged topography that isn’t always accessible by vehicle. Using horses allows us to get cattle where we need them to go in a quiet, albeit old-fashioned, way.

Cattle respond to our movements on horseback a bit differently than when we approach them on foot or with a vehicle. As they say, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and moving cattle is no different. We try to use our presence on horseback in relation to a cow’s “flight zone,” causing them to move in the direction we need them to go simply by moving ourselves (or our dog). It’s a subtle, yet effective way to achieve results. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to work as a team and have a horse’s additional set of eyes and another brain than solely relying on your own! Continue reading

Laplante Poultry implements award-winning product tracking system

A barcode scanning device used at Laplante Poultry (Photo courtesy of Laplante Poultry)

A barcode scanning device used at Laplante Poultry (Photo courtesy of Laplante Poultry)

By Treena Hein

(Sarsfield) – Food safety is something that the public takes very seriously – and so do farmers like Robert Laplante. Laplante is not just a broiler chicken farmer, he’s also the owner of a processing plant and it’s critically important that data input errors of all kinds are eliminated and that product recall times (if a recall was ever ordered) are as fast as possible. To do all this and more, the owner of Laplante Poultry and Feather Weight Farms implemented a completely automated product tracking system, one that won him a 2014 Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence. Continue reading

Fear of needles? Not on this farm.

LeighYes. That is a syringe in my hand. Yes. I am injecting every calf!!*$?!

Before you scream “EXACTLY! This is exactly what I am worried about!” just let me explain.

I hear your concerns about how medications are used in farm animals. You’ve read about ‘factory-farms’ and ‘intensive-livestock’ operations. These labels conjure up images of a johnny-appleseed-like farmer gleefully running around with a needle injecting animals so that they grow big, fast and well…. just unnatural. Am I right?

Some of you might be concerned about certain medications: steroids, hormones, or antibiotics. I hope to deal with those specifics in other blogs soon. But a lot of people are concerned about all pharmaceutical use in livestock.

So what on earth am I thinking injecting every calf?! I’m vaccinating. Continue reading

June is dairy month. Let’s celebrate!

By Kristen Kelderman

Did you know that June is dairy month? Canadian dairy farmers like my family, want to encourage you to show your dairy love all month long.

Kristen with her dairy heifers

Kristen with her dairy heifers

Here are 10 fun ways to celebrate this June.

1. Do you love local? Join locavores and farmers in celebrating Local Food Week in Ontario from June 1 to 7, 2015. Visit www.loveONTfood.ca for more details on events, interactive Twitter parties and show your local love.

2. Look for the little blue cow symbol as you pick up your weekly shop from the grocery store, find it on restaurant menus and at the local ice cream shop. Every time you buy a product with the little blue cow symbol on it, you can be sure it was made with 100 per cent Canadian milk.

3. Warmer weather = ice cream! Continue reading

Buis Beef: A whole-farm approach to beef and the environment

By Blair Andrews, Farm and Food Care

(Chatham ) – Mike and Joanne Buis knew they had to make some big changes if their family’s beef farm near Chatham was going to survive. Thanks to an innovative management approach and leading-edge technology, they have grown beyond their feedlot business to include a retail store that sells their own brand of Buis Beef.

Mike and Joanne Buis hold a few examples of the frozen beef products that they sell from their on-farm store.

Mike and Joanne Buis hold a few examples of the frozen beef products that they sell from their on-farm store.

The days of running a feedlot that finished calves from western Canada were numbered when cattle prices plummeted in 2003 because of the BSE crisis.

“We started out as finding a way to stay in the beef business in general, and we needed to figure out how we are going to make it sustainable,” says Mike.

In a move aimed at becoming more vertically integrated, they decided to get into the cow-calf business and raise their own calves to be finished in their feed yard. Following some trial and error, they worked out a system in which the cows spend the summer in the barn and graze in the fields during winter.

In essence, it runs opposite to the way most cow-calf businesses are managed in Ontario.
“We flipped the whole thing on its ear,” says Mike. Continue reading

Day in the Life – Planting P.E.I. Potatoes

DayintheLifeMy name is Keisha Rose and I’m a 6th generation potato farmer working on my family’s farm in North Lake, Prince Edward Island.

I’ve worked on the farm on a part-time basis since I graduated high school nine years ago. The planting season lined up well with the end of the winter university semester, so it was the obvious job to go to at that time. It wasn’t until I moved away for a while that I realized I didn’t want to be away from North Lake and the farm.

Keisha Rose is a 6th generation potato farmer  in Prince Edward Island

Keisha Rose is a 6th generation potato farmer in Prince Edward Island

After graduating university with a Business degree, I was encouraged to go and get a job away from the family farm so I could make sure I had experience working outside of our family business. I worked for the past few years as a crop insurance representative. This job was a great learning experience and I got to see other farms and meet other farmers, and it gave me an even greater appreciation for the agricultural industry.

However, the pull to farm always seemed to be something that was present in my mind. Even as a young girl I loved visits to the field or the warehouse, so I felt it was something I couldn’t ignore. Although I have been working on and off the farm in the past, this year I decided to take more of a full-time, year-round role.

What I love is that every day is something new. You are usually outside, driving something, or trying to figure out the next problem. It comes with a lot hard work, a large time commitment, and a need to be constantly willing to learn, but in the end you get to see the “fruits of your labour” – quite literally!

Monday, May 18th, The first day we planted. My view from inside the box of the planter where I was working.

Monday, May 18th, The first day we planted. My view from inside the box of the planter where I was working.

Continue reading

Josée Séguin is passionate about her cows

By Resi Walt

Josée Séguin's favourite place in the whole world is when she’s milking her herd of Holstein cows.

Josée Séguin’s favourite place in the whole world is when she’s milking her herd of Holstein cows.

Josée Séguin doesn’t have to think hard when she’s asked where her favourite place is in the whole world. For her, it’s when she’s milking her herd of Holstein cows. She loves the rural life; the quiet and the peacefulness of being home on the farm. And she’s passionate about her cows.

Josée is a fifth generation farmer in Noëlville, Ontario, an hour southeast of Sudbury in the French River area. In 2015, she appears in the tenth anniversary edition of the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Her page is sponsored by Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited and she is featured for the month of June. Continue reading