Earth Day is Every Day on Canadian Farms

Since 1970, we’ve been celebrating Earth Day (the largest environmental event in the world) annually on April 22. But on Canadian farms, farmers celebrate Earth Day each and every day.

Farmers understand the importance of healthy soil, water and air. They live on farms with their families and they depend on the environment to create a healthy place to live, as well as the right conditions to grow crops and raise livestock. Farmers want to leave their farms in better shape for their kids than when they started farming.

Urban growth also continues at a staggering pace – with housing developments being constructed on once productive farm land near urban centres – which is another reason that farmers must protect, preserve and nurture their valuable farmland.

Here’s some of the ways that farmers strive towards protecting their farmland and creating a cleaner environment for generations to come.  

ED - Soil HealthSoil health – sustainability

  • Our very existence on this planet is dependent on a few inches of topsoil. Over two thirds of farmers use conservation tilling practices to help preserve that precious resource.
  • When people talk about ‘bringing soils to life,’ they literally mean increasing the amount of living creatures in the soil. You can measure this by counting earthworm holes in a square foot. Another way is to bury a piece of 100% cotton in the top layer of the soil to measure levels of decomposition after a few weeks or months. You can actually see how the microbiological activity turns last year’s plant stalks into smaller organic partials that build soil and bind carbon, reducing the impacts of climate change.
  • Greenhouse gases are a concern to agriculture as they are to society as a whole but farmers can actually sequester carbon in the soil as they build organic matter through good soil management. This is good for the soil and good for the planet because it reduces atmospheric CO2.  Farmers can help reduce emissions and transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into soil organic matter – and ensuring a sustainable food supply despite a changing climate. The carbon sequestered (saved in the soil) due to conservation tillage in Ontario alone equals 600 kilotons/year. That’s equivalent to taking 125,000 cars off the road each year.

Environmental training for farmers

  • In all provinces across Canada, an educational initiative called the Environmental Farm Plan is helping farmers assess their farms for environmental concerns and set goals and timetables for improvements. In Prince Edward Island, for example, 90 percent of farmers have completed an Environmental Farm Plan and in Ontario, about 70 percent of farmers have participated and invested over $600 million into on-farm environmental improvements over the last 20 years.

Did you know Conservation TillageTillage

  • Tillage is an age-old practice and refers to plowing or working up the soil, something that’s done mostly to control weeds. Many farmers in Canada have adopted “conservation or minimal tillage” or “no-till” practices. This means that crops are grown with minimal or no cultivation of the soil. Any plant materials remaining from the previous year’s crop, like corn stubble, is left on the soil building up its organic matter.  Minimal or no-till practices also help maintain populations of beneficial insects and soil and nutrients are less likely to be lost from the field.
  • Farmers also strive to prevent soil erosion caused by wind or water. One of the ways they do this is by planting cover crops to prevent soil erosion. Cover crops can do exactly what their name implies; cover the soil during the rest of the season before or after the main crop has been grown. Cover crops may be planted over a whole field for erosion protection, or they may be selectively planted in the most erosion prone areas. Cover crops are not harvested and cost money to plant, but their benefit comes from improving the soil quality and preventing erosion.

 

Water

  • Farmers rely on water for their crops and livestock to flourish. Most, 91.5 per cent to be exact – rely solely on precipitation for watering crops. Irrigation is used on higher quality crops like berries, fruits and vegetables that are for direct human consumption.
  • In Canada, only 8.5 per cent of farms use any form of irrigation. The remaining 91.5 per cent of farms rely solely on precipitation for crop watering. Irrigation is used on higher quality crops like berries, apples, tender fruits and vegetables that are for direct human consumption.

 

Natural environment

  • Work is ongoing across Canada preserving hundreds of thousands of acres of land that are inhabited by wildlife – whether that be forests, swamps and other natural spaces that are also part of a farmer’s property. Many farmers have also created, improved or expanded farm forests, ponds and river edges.

 

These are just a few of the environmental initiatives taking place on farms across this country. Today, farmers across Canada are pleased to join with their fellow Canadians to celebrate this special day.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

 

Using shellfish to clean wastewater

By Blair Andrews, Farm & Food Care

University of Windsor chemist Bulent Mutus holds samples of chitosan that were tested in his lab to filter phosphorus and micronutrients from wastewater. Encouraged by promising results, the method will be tested this growing season in the field.

(Windsor) – Ontario researchers are testing a new way of removing phosphorus and micronutrients from wastewater. Dr. Bulent Mutus, a chemist at the University of Windsor, has developed a bio-filter made from chitosan, the hard material from shellfish.

The filters, which have produced promising results in the lab, are going to be tested this year at three agricultural sites.

“It’s very heartening that we can do this in a laboratory scale,” says Mutus. “This agricultural scale will tell us whether our lab results can be extrapolated to the real situation.”

Dr. Mutus’ project was one of 17 that were funded partially through the Water Resource Adaptation and Management Initiative (WRAMI) administered by Farm & Food Care. The WRAMI project supported research into improved agricultural water management. Continue reading

Happy Earth Day!

Our farmers are working hard year-round to protect the environment for future generations.  Here is an infographic showing just some of the ways they do this. Continue reading

It is Earth Day every day on Ontario's farms

by Kim Waalderbos

Share some Earth Day Love!  Here are ten things that Ontario farmers doing on their farms today and every day to improve the environment around them:

  1. Preserving Soil – Our very existence on this planet is dependent on a few inches of topsoil.  Over 2/3 of farmers use conservation tilling practices to help preserve that precious resource.
  2.  Reducing Greenhouse Gases – The carbon sequestered (saved in the soil) due to conservation tillage in Ontario equals 600 kilotonnes/year. That’s equivalent to taking 125,000 cars off the road each year. 
  3.  Environmental Farm Plans – Over 70% of Ontario farmers have taken a course, evaluated their farms’ environmental footprint and made improvements.
  4. Earth to Satellite – Our grandfathers couldn’t have dreamed that GPS satellites could map a field to show exactly what fertilizer or chemicals are needed in precise and reduced amounts, or sometimes none at all. Continue reading

Every day is Earth Day on Ontario’s farms

by Kim Waalderbos

Share some Earth Day Love! Here are ten things that Ontario farmers are doing on their farms today and every day to improve the environment around them:

  1.  Preserving Soil – Our very existence on this planet is dependent on a few inches of topsoil.  Over 2/3 of farmers use conservation tilling practices to help preserve that precious resource.
  2.  Reducing Greenhouse Gases – The carbon sequestered (saved in the soil) due to conservation tillage in Ontario equals 600 kilotonnes/year. That’s equivalent to taking 125,000 cars off the road each year.
  3.  Environmental Farm Plans – Over 70% of Ontario farmers have taken a course, evaluated their farms’ environmental footprint and made improvements.  Continue reading

Every day is Earth Day on the farms of these 4-H members

4-H leader Jeanine Moyer asked her 4-H members this summer, how their families make every day Earth Day on their farm. All are members of the Eramosa 4-H Beef Club in Ontario. Here are the responses she received from these young environmentalists:

Fergus 4-H Beef Club

Luke, age 14
We make every day Earth Day on our family farm by registering for an Environmental Farm Plan and by recycling all materials that are recyclable. There are just a few examples of ways we make our farm environmentally friendly.
Continue reading

How we make Earth Day every day on our farms

4-H leader Jeanine Moyer asked her 4-H members this summer, how their families make every day Earth Day on their farm. All are members of the Eramosa 4-H Beef Club in Ontario. Here are the responses she received from these young environmentalists:

How we make Earth Day every day on our farms:

Members of the Eramosa 4-H beef club

Luke, age 14

We make every day Earth Day on our family farm by registering for an Environmental Farm Plan and by recycling all materials that are recyclable. There are just a few examples of ways we make our farm environmentally friendly.

Edward, age 19

A lot of our feed supplies come in plastic or cardboard containers and we recycle these each day.

Valerie, age 18

We make our own feed for our 4-H calves every two weeks. To transport the feed from the mixer to our barn we put it into 40 kg feed bags. Since we don’t buy a lot of feed in 40 kg bags we reuse these bags for as long as possible, year after year. Not only do we use these bags for feed, but we also use them to collect garbage in the barn. Reusing these bags is something that we do on our farm to make everyday Earth Day. Continue reading

Earth Day on the Farm

Food From Greener Pastures
Beef Producers: Stewards of the land, for now and for the future

Kim Sytsma and her husband Charlie of Eighth Line Farm in Ontario, like many Canadian beef producers, work every day to ensure both the land they manage and the business they built are not only sustained, but improved for future generations of Canadians. “It’s my job to leave the land better than I found it,” says Kim.

Continue reading