Renovating the family farm business

By Matt McIntosh for Farm & Food Care

Scott Douglas stands next to his combine.

Scott Douglas stands next to his combine.

(Leamington) – It was in the midst of the Great Depression in 1935 that Scott Douglas’ grandparents first purchased 50 acres of farmland on a small concession road just north of Leamington, Ontario. Now, after 80 years, two generations and several major farm changes, the Douglas family farm is going stronger than ever.

The now 1,800 acre farm, known as Cloverview Farms, produces corn, soybeans and wheat, and features a small hobby operation usually containing a couple of beef cows, a few pigs and some chickens. Scott farms alongside Jennifer and parents, Harold and Linda. Scott and Jennifer also have three children – nine year old Graydon, seven year old Shannon and five year old Cameron – who help with the small number of animals. Continue reading

Crop farmers showcase December in Faces of Farming calendar

By Resi Walt

Annette MacKellar Faces of Farming calendar page

Annette MacKellar Faces of Farming calendar page

(Alvinston) – When chatting to Annette MacKellar about her family and their farm, you can see her eyes shine with pride and happiness.

In 2015, Annette appears in the tenth anniversary edition of the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Her page is sponsored by SeCan and she is featured for the month of December.

Annette grew up on a crop farm and remembers, “I was always with my dad, working right by his side.” She then met her husband Dave in high school. Dave was raised on a century farm dating back to 1875 that his parents still call home today. Annette, Dave and their children all live within a few kilometres of this farm today.

After high school, Annette went to nursing school in Chatham, while Dave studied agriculture at Ridgetown College. Dave was already farming with his father when he and Annette were married in 1982. When asked if they ever considered pursuing different careers, Annette replied emphatically,

“We’ve just always wanted to farm and raise our family on the farm. There’s never been anything else.”

Today, Annette and her family have a crop farm and own a registered seed processing plant in Alvinston, Ontario. Annette and Dave farm with two of their three boys – Adam, the oldest, and Jacob, the youngest. Their third son Paul works off the farm. The crops grown on the MacKellar farm include soybeans, corn, wheat – and more recently – edamame beans. Continue reading

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.

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

By Jean Clavelle Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan

DayintheLife

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

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 www.farmfoodcare.org. A list of retailers selling the calendar is also located on that website.

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

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

Local pickled bean makers snap up Premier’s Award

Product shot Extreme BeanBy Lilian Schaer

The new pickle is a bean, says pickled bean aficionado Steve McVicker.

He’s one half of Matt & Steve’s, a Mississauga-based company that just won a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation for their popular “Extreme Bean” Caesar garnish.

McVicker and business partner Matt Larochelle used to tend bar together and felt that the many Caesars they were mixing needed a better garnish than the traditional, bland celery stick that everyone was using.

Their search for a vegetable long enough to stick out the top of a 12-inch glass led them to the Kentucky Flat Bean, which is longer, sweeter, and crunchier than the average green bean. The two were also roommates at the time, and they cooked up their first batches of pickled beans in their 600 sq. ft. rented Mississauga condo using instructions provided by Larochelle’s mother.

“We were a bit like mad scientists with hand me down pots and adding various spices to jars,” laughs McVicker. “We weren’t very good at it in the beginning, but when we took some to work to try, they were pretty good so we scraped together some money to get started.” 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.”

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