More than Farming: What’s a crop science regulatory consultant?

By Matt McIntosh

MorethanFarmingWhat career possibilities were you indoctrinated with as a child? Did your parents or others suggest you become a lawyer? A tradesman? Perhaps even an engineer of trains or mechanical design? What about a crop science regulatory consultant?

To that last one, I suspect your answer is no.

I know that, for my own part, I never heard such a title in my younger days. Considering I grew up a farm kid and have been working in agricultural communications for years now, I’m willing to bet very few of my less-agricultural peers have heard of it either.

What is a crop science regulatory consultant you ask? In short, it’s an individual that assists companies in registering new products – insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides for instance – with the government. Governments, as we know, need to regulate things, and registering agricultural products for sale and use within a given political jurisdiction involves long, rigid certification processes – this is particularly true in Canada, which has some of the strictest food safety regulations in the world.

Someone has to know the process, after all, and be willing to complete the associated paperwork.

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Greenhouse technology could see Ontario strawberry farmers plug in for year-round production

By Lisa McLean for Farm & Food Care

strawberries(Thamesville) – Ontario strawberry farmers have a new way to grow strawberries, thanks to an innovative production method from a Southwestern Ontario nursery. The good news? If the system takes root, it could help lead to a year-round growing season for local Ontario strawberries.

Sandra Carther, owner of Thamesville-based Carther Plants began developing a new nursery system for strawberry plants in 2009. The system produces “plug plants” or plants that are grown in cell packs that are ready for transplant into the ground or a greenhouse.

Traditional strawberry nurseries produce “bare root” plants, which are grown outside. These plants are grown in the field and harvested in the fall, and then stored through the winter. Strawberry farmers in Ontario have traditionally planted dormant, frozen bare root plants each spring. Continue reading

Different areas, same challenges

By Matt McIntosh

In September, I had a chance to visit Alberta for the first time since I was a child, and while there, I visited a few farms in conjunction with the annual conference of the Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation.

I come from farm country in Southwestern Ontario, and the diversity between farms in my own province is staggering; the level of diversity between farms at home and out west is even more intriguing. The funny thing is, farmers all seem to encounter similar problems and find similar solutions despite what they produce, where they produce it and on what scale. 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

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

Coded eggs stand out from most others produced in Ontario

Eggs stamped with an alphanumeric code

Eggs stamped with an alphanumeric code

By Treena Hein for Farm & Food Care

(St-Isidore) It’s easy to tell a Ferme Avicole Laviolette egg from others being sold in Ontario. Each one has an alphanumeric code that signifies the date of packaging, batch date and producer. Every time their customers see the stamp, they are reminded that Laviolettes take quality and accountability very seriously. The code is also an important food safety measure, helping make any product recall both fast and accurate. For being the first in the province to implement traceability that goes beyond the carton, Marcel Laviolette recently won a 2014 Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

By 2012, the year Marcel implemented the automated egg stamping system, his business’s sales territory was quite large, including dozens of grocery stores, restaurants and food wholesalers in eastern Ontario and southwest Quebec. At that time, food safety and traceability were all over the media, and being discussed at dinner tables across the nation, within the government and within the food and agriculture industry. Marcel knew that his many customers would feel that much more comfortable if each egg was stamped, something that was being done in other jurisdictions. And for the local egg producers that use Laviolette’s grading station (and make up two thirds of his egg volume), stamping would provide added peace of mind. Lastly, having coded eggs should help increase sales, being a preferred product in terms of traceability and food safety concerns. “We wanted to stand out,” Marcel explained. Continue reading

From Pasture to Pond

by Matt McIntosh, Farm & Food Care

(Mooretown) – Chad Anderson might not be an avid outdoorsman, but he has a definite appreciation for natural spaces and the wildlife they support. On his cow-calf farm near Mooretown in Lambton County, Chad has invested in both new pasture and a new pond in an effort to improve the environment for wild birds as well as his beef herd.

The view of the Anderson farm from the duck pond

The view of the Anderson farm from the duck pond

Last year, Chad’s farm was in the middle of a transition. A section of cropland was being converted to permanent pasture for his animals. However, his pasturing plans hit a roadblock when they encountered a stubbornly wet section of ground just behind his barn.

“Part of the area we were seeding down to pasture was always a really wet and low lying area,” says Chad. “Leaving it like that and making it into pasture would have been an issue. I didn’t want my cows to get in it because they could get stuck in the mud, or get sick from drinking the water.”

In the interests of his herd’s health, says Chad, the area was going to have to be drained before it could be used. Continue reading

Local company develops high tech, welfare-friendly pig feeding system

By Lilian Schaer, Farm & Food Care

(Brockville) – An Ontario-based company has developed a leading-edge electronic sow feeding system that it’s now selling across Canada – and it took just a little over a year to get from concept to market.

Curtiss Littlejohn is shown with Canarm’s new electronic sow feeding system

Curtiss Littlejohn is shown with Canarm’s new electronic sow feeding system

Curtiss Littlejohn, Swine Products Manager with Canarm, a privately owned company headquartered in Brockville, Ontario that produces ventilation and lighting systems, as well as livestock handling and management equipment, says the feeding system was inspired by information gathered from hog farmers across North America as part of a survey conducted last year.

“The survey showed that farmers in North America are looking for sow feeders that are built here, with durable components and integrated software, and by a company that has the depth to service them when something goes wrong,” explains Littlejohn. “Canarm had the ability to start to develop this and a year later, we had a functional unit on the show floor.”

More and more farmers are moving to loose housing for their sows – adult female breeding pigs – as the industry evolves to respond to consumer and food company demands.

This means farmers need new equipment to help them manage their animals in the barn. 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

State of the art barn designed for cow comfort

By Melanie Epp

Sixth generation siblings and dairy farmers Graham Johnston and Mary Ann
Doré’s ancestors have been farming in Brampton since 1842. Like each generation before them, Graham (married to Amanda), and Mary Ann and her husband, Joe, are working on a succession plan with their parents, James and Frances. The five are now in a full joint-partnership, working together as a team.

The Heritage Hill farm family includes (back row from left) Amanda, Graham, James and Frances Johnston; (front row from left) Claire Johnston; Mary Ann, Joe and Nadine Doré.

The Heritage Hill farm family includes (back row from left) Amanda, Graham, James and Frances Johnston; (front row from left) Claire Johnston; Mary Ann, Joe and Nadine Doré.

Graham joined when he finished school, and Mary Ann and Joe joined in 2010 when plans for the new farm began. Although Claire, their sister, was not interested in joining the partnership, she was involved in creating the building plans. She also helps out on weekends.

Both Graham and Mary Ann worked on the family farm in their youth. After studying at the University of Guelph, Mary Ann and Joe took jobs to gain off-farm experience.

Since the area around the family farm has changed and grown, there was no room around the original Brampton farm to expand, so the young couples moved to New Dundee where they are surrounded by farmland. The move meant a new facility, and with cow comfort being their main concern, they decided to make the transition from tie stalls to a free stall system.

“My parents are very much active on the farm and custom cash crop,” says Mary Ann. “They are raising our heifers in Brampton while we wait for our new heifer shed to be built.” Continue reading