Touring Ontario’s Hills of the Headwaters region

collage one Landman farmGuest blog by Carol Harrison, Registered Dietitian

Pigs. They are as cute as a button then smack, that Eau De Pig Cologne hits you. It’s a linger on your nostril hair smell that should do anything but conjure up fond childhood memories.

Here I was on a sunny day in May at Landman Gardens and Bakery in Grand Valley just one hour north of Toronto with a media tour in the Hills of the Headwaters region and I had completely forgotten until this stinky pig poop moment that an older cousin of mine once had a pig farm in this very region, Orangeville to be exact.

While others marched on towards the chicken coop tweeting away, I stood still, my mind miles and years away smelling the hay we played in, remembering how cool it was to see vegetables still on the plants, gorging from a table crowded blue and white Corningware casserole dishes while listening to the Irish brogue of my aunts and uncles tell stories.

chicken coop shot - headwatersOne smell and it all came back. And as corny as this sounds, the tourism campaign slogan, The Headwaters, where Ontario gets real, rang true. This was for me where I got real rural experiences as a kid and I had completely forgotten I had any connection to this part of the province.

If you have an on-farm market or agri-tourism business you likely offer people similar unexpected joyful experiences. It’s offering experiences that connect people to where and how their food is produced that drove 25 year old Rebecca Landman to start Landman Gardens and Bakery. She also wanted to be close to home to support her mom during cancer treatments. Continue reading

Enjoying local food in Eastern Ontario

By Resi Walt, Farm & Food Care Ontario

A taste of local food in eastern OntarioLike most people, I enjoy day trips and exploring new places – especially when those places specialize in food! Over the course of Ontario’s Local Food Week from June 1-7, I had many opportunities to celebrate the food that is grown and produce in Ontario. One highlight from the week was the trip I took to Eastern Ontario.

Farm & Food Care Ontario partnered with Foodland Ontario to offer a local food experience for food enthusiasts from the Ottawa-area. Farm & Food Care Ontario has been organizing these farm tours since 2006, and each year they grow in popularity. The goal is to showcase different commodities and types of farming every year, and the tour participants include chefs, recipe developers, food writers, culinary instructors, and professional home economists. The tour is always such a great learning experience and good fun too. Continue reading

Napanee dairy farmer in 2014 Faces of Farming calendar

By Kelly Daynard

Dairy farmers Kevin and Adrianna MacLean enjoy interacting with the public and answering their questions about farming.

Dairy farmers Kevin and Adrianna MacLean enjoy interacting with the public and answering their questions about farming.

Napanee – You may not have thought of celebrating Christmas with a herd of dairy cows but that’s just what residents of Napanee did last year when they were invited to a special holiday open house event at Ripplebrook Farm.

Ripplebrook Farm is a third generation family farm operated by Kevin MacLean, his parents Barton and Barbara and his step-son Taylor. The family milk 130 cows and crop 750 acres.

The family always embraces opportunities to showcase the farm and often host tours throughout the year. Last year, they decided to host a “Christmas with the Cows” event for their community. They had no idea how many people might attend and were both surprised and pleased when 200 showed up to watch their evening milking and spend the evening in the barn.

That’s just one example of Kevin’s work as an agricultural advocate – or agvocate. Youth groups, service groups and school trips all enjoy feeding the young calves and “helping” to milk the cows. A friendly member of their herd, nicknamed “Carrie the Curious Cow” is always a special hit with the visitors. Continue reading

When the farm is no longer on the farm

By Carolyn MacLaren, General Manager, BC Farm Animal Care Council (BCFACC).

When I became involved in speaking about and explaining farm animal care a few years ago I had some ideas of what the issues were, where good things were happening and improvements were demonstrated, and where there were still gaps. I also had some familiarity of the “urban” issues from my university days in large Canadian centres where both schools I attended during my academic career had their share of “greenies” or “vegan” types as they were known. All of this I could deal with and I could reconcile, it was pretty easy for the most part so either I was good at it or I had the luck to not encounter too many disagreeable or militant types. Probably a combination of both, really.

I regularly meet very nice people who know absolutely nothing about farming and food production but have clearly been influenced by people and groups who aren’t telling our story as it really is, such as the PETAs (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) of the world. I have learned to take time to listen to those questions and understand what they are asking and what the issue or concern really is and then try to answer in the most direct and simplest way possible, citing examples and drawing on analogies, as I have been taught. For the most part this does the trick and people are appreciative that I took the time to discuss the issues and did not laugh at their lack of knowledge.

The computer game Hay Day may be fun but is a poor depiction of how farms really work.

The computer game Hay Day may be fun but is a poor depiction of how farms really work.

Now that I have children of my own, I make sure their perspective is imbued with a healthy dose of realism – “ … yes, calves do have their horns removed, it’s safer for them and the other calves, yes trimming a chicken’s beak is safer for them and the other chickens …”. We speak openly about what is on our dinner table and where it came from. It’s not unusual to hear my 8-year-old ask “So, Mommy, is this chicken or pig we are eating tonight?” before she happily and heartily digs in. When we drive out to the family dairy farm on a particularly aromatic day (usually when the spreading of manure is allowed again in the spring) our girls will tell their friends, who are loudly protesting the smell, that “that smell is actually very good because without it, there would be no cheese, no milk, no ice cream, no yogurt.” I have brought them to my side and it really wasn’t that hard. Or so I thought. Continue reading

Pigs in the city

 

Ron and Sharon Douglas of Clifford are shown with their Ontario Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

Ron and Sharon Douglas of Clifford are shown with their Ontario Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

By Jeanine Moyer

One Ontario farm couple is so passionate about farming that several times each year they take their farm on the road. Ron and Sharon Douglas of Whispering Brook Yorkshires, Clifford, ON, spend nearly 100 days travelling to schools, fairs, festivals and exhibitions across Ontario each year, educating the urban public about agriculture.

And with them come their own pigs – in the comfort of the Pig Mobile  – a converted livestock trailer with the sides replaced with windows to allow people to see the pigs as they would live on the farm.

The Pig Mobile is as close as you can get to an Ontario hog farm without actually stepping foot in a barn. The animals are carefully chosen to represent hogs at various growth stages including a sow and baby piglets, weaner, grower and finishing hogs. Ron designed the unit himself, modeling the trailer as close to a real pig barn as possible. The unit is complete with ventilation, a farrowing unit, slatted floors and feeders similar to those found in any Ontario hog barn. Continue reading

Let’s Talk Farm Animals – indeed!

They came. They ate. They met cows and calves, pigs, hens and chicks. They checked out tractors and milk trucks, met farmers, veterinarians and nutritionists and, throughout the day, learned a little bit more about farming in Canada.

Last Saturday, 2,000 visitors dropped by Heritage Hill Farms, near New Dundee, in Waterloo Region, Ontario for Ontario’s first Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF). It’s an initiative copied from colleagues at Michigan State University Extension who hosted the first BOTF event in 2009. Since then, more than 40,500 children and adults have attended Breakfast on the Farm events throughout Michigan to learn about where their food comes from.

The host farm family is shown with Ministers John Milloy, Elizabeth Sandals and Premier Kathleen Wynne. The farmers include, from left, James Johnston; Mary Anne, Nadine and Joe Doré; Claire, Frances, Amanda and Graham Johnston.

The host farm family is shown with Ministers John Milloy, Elizabeth Sandals and Premier Kathleen Wynne. The farmers include, from left, James Johnston; Mary Anne, Nadine and Joe Doré; Claire, Frances, Amanda and Graham Johnston.

Ontario’s first event, organized by Farm & Food Care Ontario, and presented in partnership with Egg Farmers of Ontario and Foodland Ontario, was an overwhelming success. Also attended by the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, and several of her Queen’s Park colleagues, the day offered visitors the chance to see what happens on a working dairy farm.  The Johnston and Doré family, whose ancestors have been farming in Ontario for seven generations, provided complete access to their farm with visitors wandering through their barns, milking parlour, milk house and more. Continue reading

Connecting with consumers is the greatest reward for local beef initiative

By Kelly Daynard

Sarnia – It started six years ago as a conversation between friends. Today, that idea tossed around a kitchen table has become Bluewater Beef, an initiative of the Eyre and Shaw farm families of Lambton County.

Murray Shaw recalls that early conversation. “We wanted to expand our farms but the economics at the time, for small farmers, didn’t make sense.”

While most of their beef produced at the time was sold directly to larger processors, he and partner Ralph Eyre already sold a small amount of beef locally, taking orders from friends and family for beef from their farms. From sales of that “freezer beef”, they had learned that people liked knowing exactly where their meat came from.

The Eyre and Shaw farm families of Lambton County are the owners of Bluewater Beef

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Breakfast on the Farm – a Michigan Road Trip

by Kristen Kelderman

As a little girl, I can remember one of the biggest events we held on our farm was the annual Holstein barbecue. I remember this specifically because of all the extra work I was assigned to do that summer, cleaning the window sills, brushing the cows and painting just about anything you could slap a coat of paint on.  And on that warm July night, some 400 neighboring farmers and friends gathered to enjoy a night of fantastic food, great people and to celebrate dairy farming. This distant memory crossed my mind this summer as my colleagues and I travelled to Michigan State to visit the Judges’ dairy farm in Isabella County for a program called Breakfast on the Farm.

Volunteers work to feed 2,000 visitors to the farm

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There are always two sides to the story

Guest blog:  Jacquie Maynard, Fairview Post (Alberta)

After I wrote my article on vegetarianism a few months ago, I received several letters from upset farmers, ranchers and veterinarians, reprimanding me for one single paragraph out of the entire story. Continue reading

A lifelong passion for farming educates thousands

 By Patricia Grotenhuis

What happens when you mix a farmer and former school teacher with an urban area?  You get a Learning Barn which provides thousands of people the opportunity each year to learn about where their food comes from.

Mary Ann Found and spokesrobot Owen talk to a young fan about farming

Mary Ann Found always loved teaching children about agriculture.  While her children were young, she would invite their classes to come visit the farm for a tour.  While teaching at a nearby school, she would often bring farming into her lesson plans, and even brought live animals to school from time to time.

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