Fact or Fiction: You can save 1,300 gallons of water by skipping your lunch burger

FactFictonThere’s an infographic floating around on social media. Perhaps you’ve seen it.

It claims you can save 1,300 gallons of water if you:
– don’t flush your toilet for six months, OR
– don’t take a shower for three months, OR
– for lunch today, don’t eat one burger.

Turns out, this is FICTION.

Let’s look at how the cow (behind that burger) really measures up.

Continue reading

Day in the Life – of a Saskatchewan Grain Farmer

By Jean Clavelle Farm & Food Care SaskatchewanDayintheLife

I spoke to Trevor Scherman today from the tractor on his farm near Battleford in northwest Saskatchewan where he’s in the middle of seeding. See what he has to say about their family farm and being a grain farmer in Canada. 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

 

Taking initiative to protect the environment and build the soil

By Treena Hein

John and Grace Kinghorn are shown with two of their environmental initiatives – a double walled fuel tank and some of the trees they’ve planted on their farm.

John and Grace Kinghorn are shown with two of their environmental initiatives – a double walled fuel tank and some of the trees they’ve planted on their farm.

(Woodville) – John Kinghorn grew up with a strong love of the land, and it was that love which called him back to make concrete improvements to his farm and the surrounding area after a very successful career off-farm.

Kinghorn’s ancestral beef and crop operation is located near Woodville, Ontario. He farms about 250 acres with his wife Grace of 52 years. John’s great-grandfather settled the land, and his father continued the tradition. When John was ready to enter the workforce however, he was attracted to an education/work program at General Motors in Oshawa. “Over the years, I was able to be involved in many innovative new ideas and had the opportunity to travel extensively in North America and Europe to explore these ideas and be involved in implementation of some of them,” he recalls. “It was 35 years of a fairy-tale ride in the industrial world for a farm boy.” Kinghorn retired early at the executive level, as Operations Manager of the Oshawa Truck Plant. Continue reading

Taking a farm sustainably into its second century

By Treena Hein for Farm & Food Care (Battersea)

It’s coming up on an exciting time for the Sleeth family farm in Battersea, Ontario. In a few

The Sleeth family includes (from left) Jeff, Ron, Eileen, Connor and Brody (Paul and Catherine’s sons), Paul and wife Catherine (Submitted photo)

The Sleeth family includes (from left) Jeff, Ron, Eileen, Connor and Brody (Paul and Catherine’s sons), Paul and wife Catherine (Submitted photo)

short years, Ron and Eileen and their family will celebrate the 200th anniversary of their ancestors’ arrival to Frontenac County from Ireland in 1820’s. They will also soon celebrate a century on the present farm, purchased by Ronald’s grandparents in 1921.

Ronald took over the dairy and cash cropping operation from his grandfather and father in 1962 when he married Eileen, who also comes from long-standing farm family in the area. In 1986, after their son Paul graduated from Kempville College, they established Eilevale Farm in partnership with him. Paul works off-farm, but plays a major role in the farm with repairs and cropping. Ron and Eileen’s other son Jeff is a veterinarian who looks after the health of the farm’s 75 Holsteins (30 milked daily). Ronald is the principal operator of the farm, with Eileen in charge of records and accounts in addition to maintenance of farm’s beautiful grounds and gardens. Eileen was recently recognized for 36 years of school bus driving as well. Two of Paul’s four sons are old enough now to feed the calves and heifers, and do the most of the field work and raise 100 meat chickens each year. Paul and Jeff recently purchased a neighbouring farm, increasing the family’s land ownership to 250 acres. Continue reading

Diversity, innovation and teamwork are the keys to long-term success

By Treena Hein

Brothers (from left) Steve, Glenn and Tom Barrie receive an honour from the Clarington Board of Trade

Brothers (from left) Steve, Glenn and Tom Barrie receive an honour from the Clarington Board of Trade

(Bowmanville) – Brothers Tom, Stephen and Glenn Barrie work well as a team, and like any successful team, they share a similar outlook. They’ve always worked to have their family farm (called Terwidlen Farms, located between Bowmanville, Orono and Newcastle) stay sustainable – both in terms of looking after the land and in terms of long-term profitability. Continue reading

Manure application – new technology from the old world

by Matt McIntosh, Farm & Food Care

The European-style dribble bar applies manure in a wide pattern low to the ground

The European-style dribble bar applies manure in a wide pattern low to the ground

Manure plays a vital role in maintaining soil health, but getting the right amount of manure to the right places at the right times can be challenging, time consuming and expensive. Growers in parts of Europe have been under intense pressure to develop equipment that strikes the right balance between environmentally responsible placement and maintaining application rates that allow the farmer to get the manure onto their fields economically. Continue reading

New irrigation system protects local watershed, reduces water and fertilizer use

By: Lilian Schaer for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

A new automated irrigation system is yielding some big savings for an Elgin County nursery – and paying off with environmental benefits too.

Since the system became fully functional this spring, Canadale Nurseries’ water consumption has dropped by 40 per cent, their fertilizer use is down 25 per cent, and they’re using less electricity because their water pumps don’t have to run as many hours each day.

“We are surrounded by residential areas and we wanted to minimize our environmental footprint and maximize irrigation efficiency,” explains nursery manager Robb Parmeter. “We want the water that crosses our property to be the same quality or better when it leaves our property.”

Canadale Nurseries Ltd. is a family-owned business on 110 acres in St. Thomas. They grow and supply a wide variety of plants including ornamental trees, flowering shrubs, evergreens, and perennials to retail customers, independent retail garden centers, and wholesale nurseries across southwestern Ontario.

To improve watering efficiency, they needed to increase their system’s capacity and capability. At the same time, says Robb, they also wanted to reduce production costs, improve the health of their irrigation pond, and better manage their nutrients so they could contribute to the protection of the local Kettle Creek watershed and the surrounding environment.

The solution was the installation of a new automated pumping system that can be controlled electronically – and even remotely via smartphone. That means if it rains during non-work hours, for example, the irrigation system can be turned off without staff having to go to the nursery.

Canadale now has the ability to direct its irrigation to a single zone or multiple zones in the nursery depending on the requirements of each crop. This flexibility in watering, something that wasn’t possible with the previous system, has greatly increased water conservation and efficient water use.

The system can track the amount of rain, sunshine, and outside temperature and adjust irrigation levels accordingly. It is now also possible to water using a method called pulse or cyclical irrigation.

“We have more capacity now so we’re watering faster. The leaf wetness period is shorter, so there is less risk for fungal disease, which equates to a reduction in fungicide use” explains Robb. “And because we now have the ability to pulse water, the growing media absorbs and holds more moisture. This reduces the amount of water running out of the pot, so we have little to no fertilizer leachate, which is another environmental benefit.”

They have also seen improvements in their irrigation pond and their plants are healthier, showing better rooting and better growth than before.

To help make the project a reality, Canadale turned to the Implementation funding assistance program under Growing Forward 2 (GF2), which Robb says was a tremendous help to the nursery.

To prepare for the application process, senior Canadale staff attended numerous seminars on environmental stewardship for nurseries and Great Lakes water quality, completed an Environmental Farm Plan and attended a workshop where they learned about GF2 funding assistance.

“We have wanted to do this for a long time and we’ve been going to seminars about water for four to five years,” explains Robb. “It’s a huge expense from a business standpoint, so we wanted to make sure it was well-researched.”

Doing the necessary research and planning homework is Robb’s key tip for other farm businesses thinking about applying for GF2 cost-share funding through the Implementation program.

Knowing what you’re eligible to apply for will help ensure you can take full advantage of available opportunities and creating a plan with detailed timelines will help make sure a project stays on track, he adds.

“It takes a bit of time to learn the process, but it is definitely worth it,” he says. “This is a great program, so we’ll be applying for other projects as they come up.”

Growing Forward 2 cost-share of up to 35 per cent is available for farm businesses under the Implementation program in six key areas: Environment and Climate Change, Assurance Systems, Market Development, Animal and Plant Health, Labour Productivity Enhancement, and Business and Leadership Development. Implementation uses a merit-based competitive application process.

Cost-share opportunities are also available under the Capacity Building program of GF2 to help off-set expenses related to audits, plans, work shop participation, training costs or consulting work.

Much of the research and preparatory work needed for successful Implementation applications can come out of this step. Capacity Building cost-share is available at 50 per cent and is determined based on set eligibility criteria; there is no merit component to this level of funding.

GF2 is a federal-provincial-territorial initiative aimed at encouraging innovation, competitiveness, market development, adaptability and industry capacity in Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sector. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association delivers educational workshops and funding assistance supported by GF2 to producers.

More information about GF2 funding opportunities for farmers is available at http://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/programs/growing_forward_2.htm or by contacting the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s regional program leads at http://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/programs/workshop_leaders.htm.

Tips for cost-share funding success:

  • Read the program guide carefully. The Focus Area Project Information Form must also be completed and submitted with the application for Implementation funding assistance. It provides an understanding of risks with the farm operation and the proposed project and supports the evaluation of merit for each project based on set criteria for each BMP.
  • Take time to complete your application; projects are not evaluated on a first come, first serve basis. It can be helpful to fill out an application first in writing before submitting it online.
  • Do the capacity building work to have plans and assessments in place and make sure you submit the relevant documentation with your project application as required.
  • Get the quotes you need or collect invoices – you can still apply for funding for a project that has already been completed as long as the work has been done in the current program year. Each program year ends on March 31.
  • Summarize expected expenses and milestones for the project and provide a concise, clearly written project description that outlines what you’d like to do and how the project will benefit your operation and address identified risk areas.

Riparian Project Funded by SARFIP aims to help erosion control and clean water

By Lilian Schaer for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

Susan Chan and Bob Irvine at the pond.

A partnership with a local stewardship organization helped Bob and Gail Irvine leverage habitat development funding from the SARFIP program into a significant wetland development and habitat creation project on their Peterborough-area farm last year.

The story has its beginnings in a project the year before when Irvine, who raises purebred Dorset sheep breeding stock on his 90-acre farm together with his wife Gail, needed a solution for a field that had been wet for many years. With the help of some grant programs, he was able to excavate a pond that improved his field by draining much of the water out of it.

“The eyesore after all these projects in 2012 was the berm around the pond. It was being under-utilized and that’s when we decided we would undertake a pollinator project with plants, shrubs and trees, which develops habitats through creation of a riparian buffer strip,” he explains.

He turned to Sue Chan with Farms at Work, a not for profit project that promotes healthy and active farmland in east central Ontario. She played a key role in bringing the Irvine project to fruition, helping him access additional funds and resources through the members of the Kawartha Farm Stewardship Collaborative, a group of organizations working together to help farmers access technical assistance and stewardship funding.

She also helped secure private donors for some of the plant materials used in the project, as well as growing some herself, and it was Chan who designed the layout for the riparian area around the pond with all the pollinator plants. The total site is approximately three acres in size, which includes the pond in the middle and the buffer strips around it; all the plantings both in and around the pond were chosen for their benefit to pollinators, fish, birds and insects. Blueberries, for example, are great sources of pollen and nectar for bumble bees in early spring, and the fruit can be harvested later in the season.

“We always try to work with models for others to follow so the idea is that this project will become a prototype for other projects in the area in the future,” says Chan, a firm believer in the power of collaboratives to help advance stewardship initiatives.

Irvine is hopeful about the positive impact the project will have, including erosion control and cleaner water as a result of the creation of new habitats in and around the pond, and Chan says the riparian area will definitely benefit the local pollinator population.

“Most of Bob’s property is in pasture and we’ve put in a lot of flowering plants that aren’t typically found in pasture. We’re hoping that we are creating a reservoir of pollinators that can expand their range,” she explains. “Some plants in there, for example, are specialist plants for the specialist pollinators, like Pickerel Weed and a bee that only survives on Pickerel Weed. Others are generalists for all kinds of pollinators.”

“It has become a happy place for our family and grandkids. It has given new life to a marginal area that was just being ignored previously and it has certainly improved the appearance of the berms around the pond. There’s no direct dollar value return to the farmer for doing this but there are other things than dollar signs at the end of the day, like community, health and happiness. Those are all part of being able to sustain a profitable enterprise,” he adds.

SARFIP is a cost-share program delivered by OSCIA and funded by Environment Canada and the Ministry of Natural Resources. The program aims to help farmers adopt Best Management Practices (BMPs) to enhance the farm operation, while supporting local species at risk, improving forests, grasslands, wetlands and wildlife.

SARFIP has been renewed for the 2014-2015 cropping season. To be eligible to participate in SARFIP, Ontario farm businesses must have a completed Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and an FBRN or equivalent (see program guide). Candidates can then select eligible BMP categories from the SARFIP list that relate to an action identified in their farm’s EFP Action Plan, including improved stream crossings, erosion control work,
and fencing livestock from sensitive areas.

More information about Farms at Work and the Kawartha Farm Stewardship Collective is available here.