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

A history of environmental responsibility

Effective use of resources at Kaiser Lake Farms

By Treena Hein

Eric and Max Kaiser

At Kaiser Lake Farms in the Bay of Quinte peninsula near Napanee Ontario, care for the land goes back many decades. Father and son Eric and Max (vice president and president of the farm) are building on a long history of environmental stewardship as they work the farm today – and look to the future.

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Changing the way we approach cover crops

By Micah Shearer-Kudel

Mapleton, Ontario – Sam Bradshaw, Environmental Specialist with Ontario Pork is working with Jake Kraayenbrink, an Arthur area farmer to determine if planting cover crop seeds into growing corn and wheat will improve the establishment of cover crops and protect soil from erosion and nutrient loss during winter months. Greg Stewart, OMAFRA Corn Specialist and Anne Verhallen, OMAFRA Soil Specialist are also involved in the new project.

Ontario’s late fall leaves little or no growing season to establish a cover crop post-harvest. The objective of the Ontario Pork project is to explore cover crop planting techniques into growing crops before they are harvested, so the cover crop is firmly established before winter.

This project is one of 28 Water Adaptation Management and Quality Initiative (WAMQI) projects improving water use of agricultural water resources and to improve management of nutrients.

The project consists of planting cover crops seeds (clover, alfalfa, rye) into growing crops (wheat and corn). The project compares three different seeding patterns using a small air-seeder mounted on a modified manure applicator. Seed is planted as manure is being applied and is broadcast, ahead of a manure tanker, behind it, or directly into the manure application trench. The project will determine the success of these methods in establishing a cover crop. It is expected that by combining cover crop planting with nutrient application to the host crop, that cover crop adoption may become more widespread in corn production as a practical strategy to control erosion and build soil structure.

Cover crops protect soil from winter erosion by wind and water and reduce the potential for runoff of nutrients such as phosphorous. Erosion and nutrient runoff cost farmers money, and farmers are continually working to reduce the potential for these issues to occur.

“We are trying to establish three crops in wheat and four in corn‎ – clover, crimson, red clover, alfalfa, plus rye in corn. We believe planting them with manure will help get them established,” explains Sam Bradshaw. Sam adds, “Cover crops historically have been difficult to establish. We are trying to get them started earlier in the season by planting them in living crops along with manure.” More cover crops on the soil surface will reduce the potential for runoff events to carry nutrients from the field and for the soil to be eroded by water and wind. The approach is unique, but if successful, it may change the way farmers look at cover crops.

The technology available to farmers allows them to do things that previous generations were unable to do. “We are using two pieces of equipment, a German designed disk applicator in wheat and a Nuhn injector in corn” Sam explains of the technology used for the project. Kraayenbrink has been on the forefront of emerging manure application and soil compaction reduction technologies and hopes that the practical use of cover crops will assist him with his objectives of improved soil health and fertility.

WAMQI is administered by Farm & Food Care with funding provided under Growing Forward 2.

For more information on any of the 28 WAMQI projects visit: www.farmfoodcare.org and click on the Environment button.

Planting time is here!

After a long winter, Ontario’s farmers are in their fields, or will be as soon as the land dries.  Spring planting is a busy time on the farm, with a lot of work to be done but no knowledge of how long the good weather will last.  Here is an infographic to show what farmers are doing right now in the fields.

If you would like more information on tillage, click here. Continue reading

It’s a fishy business for Northern Ontario rainbow trout farmers

By Kelly Daynard

Standing on the dock of the North Wind Fisheries’ rainbow trout farm, farm manager Rob Pennie is happy to give a tour to a group of visitors. The farm, located on Great Lacloche Island, on the North Channel of Lake Huron, is unarguably located in one of Ontario’s most picturesque settings, in an area that is both sheltered but still has good cold water flow.

It’s an isolated setting. To even get to the farm requires a drive down nine kilometers of gravel laneways.  Traffic during Pennie’s morning commute can consist of deer, bear, wolves, turtles, or even Scottish Highland Cattle grazing by the side of the lane.

Farm manager Rob Pennie stands on the dock of North Wind Fisheries in the Wabuno Channel north of Manitoulin Island

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Soil is key to farm success

Farmers rely on good, fertile soil to be successful. Without it, they simply cannot produce enough food to ensure our grocery store shelves are fully stocked.

“Soil is the well spring of future income for the grower, and if we did not have modern tools we would have to revert to more tillage and other practices that are unsustainable,” says agronomist Mark Goodwin.

Before farmers had access to crop protection products to control weeds, Goodwin says, they used to till, or plough, their fields to get rid of the weeds. This was hard on the soil, however. It would break down organic matter and make the soil more susceptible to being swept away by water or wind. Continue reading

Making room for diversity

By Nancy Tilt for Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

Rudy Zubler is a dairy farmer. He is also an avid naturalist and a wildlife photographer. His appreciation of natural areas comes as no surprise then, either within his neighbourhood or on his own property.

Zubler and his wife, Barbara, came to Canada from Switzerland twenty years ago. Their 170 ha certified organic farm lies just east of Ridgetown in Kent County. The realities of economic survival in the field of agriculture are only too well known to any farmer making a living from the land. However, as Zubler puts it, “The world is all one. It takes both cropland and natural habitat to make a landscape.”

Rudy Zubler on his farm near Ridgetown

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Green in a glass: how one Ontario winery goes green in principle and on paper

Marilyn and Bill Redelmeier are shown in their winery – Southbrook Vineyards.

By Lisa McLean

When Southbrook Vineyards opened for business in its new Niagara-on-the-Lake facility in 2008, owners Bill and Marilyn Redelmeier had something to prove: that biodynamic and organic viticulture practices and other green initiatives can work in Ontario vineyards. Now, five years after the new location opened for business, Bill Redelmeier has one request: just don’t call them “sustainable.”

“I don’t like that word because there’s no definition for it,” says Redelmeier. “A winery in Chile can claim to be ‘sustainable’ because they use lightweight bottles to save fuel on shipping. But if sustainability was truly a core commitment, then they might not ship to Ontario at all.” Continue reading

What is green manure?

Green manure.  It’s one of those terms that can lead to inaccurate mental images!  So what exactly is it? Green manure is s a term used to describe a crop which is grown without the intention of being harvested.

Instead, it is incorporated back into the soil to release the stored nutrients it holds.  These crops also help improve soil structure by preventing erosion while they grow and adding organic matter after they are incorporated into the soil.

Crops such as clover, alfalfa, oats or barley can be used for green manure.  All will trap nitrogen and hold it as long as the plant grows, then release it back into the soil once the crop is worked into the ground with tillage.

These “green manure” crops will help the crops planted in the following year, and help improve soil structure for a long time.

A green Christmas begins with the tree

By Lisa McLean
Everett, Ontario – This month, when Fred Somerville harvests Christmas trees on his farm, he’ll be harvesting a crop that was 14 Christmases in the making. That’s because it takes an average of 12 to 15 years to grow a Christmas tree from seed to its average height of six or seven feet.

John and Fred Somerville

Somerville grows pine, spruce and fir trees near Everett, Ontario, through a business his father started in 1950. At that time, most trees harvested in Canada were grown in forest settings. Today, 98 per cent of real trees sold are grown on Christmas tree farms, often on agricultural land which is not ideal for food crops.
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