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

Young couple excited by the challenge of farming

By Melanie Epp

Sarah Biancucci and Vince Tkaczuk

Sarah Biancucci and Vince Tkaczuk

Vince Tkaczuk and Sarah Biancucci are the proud new owners of a small, seven-acre farm south of Mount Forest. They bought the property in June of 2013, and in the process moved one step closer to realizing their dream of becoming farmers. The two have big plans for the property they’re now calling Bell’s Edge Farm.

As their slogan, ‘Innovation and Cultivation,’ says, the goal is to farm intensively, but as sustainably as possible. Starting a new farm from nothing comes with its challenges but as the couple’s story shows, determination and drive prevails. Continue reading

Conventional versus Organic Milk Production – Do you know the difference?

Organic Milk PIC

In the 2011/12 dairy year 1.19% of total Canadian dairy production was organic

Jean L Clavelle

This weekend an interesting conversation came up about organic milk production.  And it’s shameful to admit but I realized just how little I know about it!  So this started me on a quest to learn more about the differences between organic and conventional milk and thought I would share some of my findings with you.

As previously mentioned I am in support of organic food production even though I do not purchase organic products for myself or my family.  There is obviously a desire on the part of the consumer for organics and so it is important for Canadian producers to meet those needs.  I think there are pros and cons to both production streams and a fit for both in our society.  This post is not written to encourage you to support one or the other only to share information on both types.

For a little background on organic milk in Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada estimated that as of 2012 dairy made up 11% of all organic sales in Canada.  And in the 2011/12 dairy year 218 farms produced 937,137 hectolitres of organic milk which represents 1.19% of total Canadian dairy production.  Significant numbers for sure and one can only assume they will increase.

The first basic difference between organic and conventional production is that all organic dairies must meet the requirements of the Canadian Organic Standards.  Just as in conventional production organic dairies require a balanced feed ration which include substances that are necessary and essential for maintaining the cows’ health, including large amounts of high-quality roughage.  In organic production however all ingredients must also be certified as organic and approved for use by an accredited certifying body. Organic dairy rations can not include GMO feed sources, and must be free of any synthetic herbicides, pesticides fungicides or fertilizers.

No dairy is legally allowed to use artificial hormones to increase milk production in Canada regardless of whether it is organic or conventional.  Bovine somatotropin (bST) is a hormone that occurs naturally in cattle which regulates growth and lactation.  BST has no effect on humans.  Recombinant bST (rbST) is a commercially produced version of the natural hormone and it can increase milk production by 10% to 15% but it has also been related to an increase in the risk of mastitis and infertility and cause lameness in cows, which is why Health Canada has not approved it’s use.  It is important to note that rbST has not been shown to have a negative effect on human health and its use is permitted in other countries (such as the United States), where it is considered safe.

Antibiotics can be used only when a cow is sick. When a cow receives antibiotics, she must be clearly identified and her milk properly discarded for a mandatory withdrawal period (based on veterinary label instructions) until the medication has cleared the cow’s system.  In organic production cows given antibiotics are required to have a longer withdrawal time above that required in conventional production.  Its important to note that each load of milk is tested for the presence of antibiotics prior to it being added to the milk supply regardless of its production method and any violation to this would result in severe fines for both conventional and organic producers.  I would like to note that using antibiotics is important for the welfare of dairy cows regardless of whether it is a conventional or organic operation.  No matter how good the care, some animals will get sick and it is imperative they be treated.

Nutritionally, dieticians say organic milk is not significantly different than conventional milk.  Interestingly enough the nutritional profile of dairy products for both organic and conventional can vary with season, genetics and feed source however all Canadian milk will meet the minimum nutritional profile guaranteed on each carton.

So! I hope this info helps you to understand some of the differences in how organic milk is produced compared to conventional milk.  But whatever you decide to purchase just know that our Canadian milk supply is healthy safe and tasty.

Innovation is sweet for Ontario maple syrup producer

By Jeanine Moyer

Doug Thompson shows the wireless Tap Track monitoring system designed to identify problems in his maple sap lines.

(Hilton Beach) – What do you get when you combine the centuries old tradition of making maple syrup with today’s modern farmer? Innovation and savvy marketing. That’s the approach Doug Thompson of Thompson’s Maple Syrup in Hilton Beach, ON has taken throughout his more than thirty years of tapping trees and making maple syrup. Continue reading

Building a healthier community through food

By Melanie Epp

(Ottawa) – When Mark Howard first canvassed Ottawa’s Leslie Park Community to see if there was interest in a shared garden space, he had no idea just how much it would benefit local residents. The park, which has always been home to parents, their young children, and sports enthusiasts, has brought a new social group to the forefront, bringing the community even closer together.

Gardeners work in their plots at the Leslie Park Community Garden

Overwhelming interest led to the creation of the Leslie Park Community Garden, a space where for just $15 per season, gardeners can rent one (or more) of the 76 plots. This year there are some 55 gardeners participating in the program, sharing the park with recreational facilities, including a play structure, a hockey rink in winter and soccer fields.

“It’s cool,” says Howard. “What we’ve tapped into is a different social group. It’s much more diverse. We have 60-70 year old people – and we also have a grandfather who’s there with his grandchild who’s 12, all meeting and gardening.” 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

Continue reading

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

Sustainability and stewardship at the heart of fifth generation family farm

By Lilian Schaer

(Haliburton Highlands) – If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you. That’s the philosophy of Godfrey and Jean Tyler who farm their family’s fifth generation century farm in the rocky Haliburton Highlands.

With no off-farm income, the Tylers use all four seasons to grow and sustain their small farming business.

The Tyler farm family includes (from left) Sam, Jean, Joanie and Godfrey Tyler

Continue reading

Farmers Must Take the Lead on Sustainable Agricultural Development

Guest blog by Terry Daynard

I have seriously underestimated the sustainability of the term “sustainable development,” especially as it pertains to agriculture. I’ll make that mistake no more. This column explains why Ontario/Canadian farmers should not make that mistake either.
The column is quite lengthy. To reduce the time required for reading, casual readers can skip the last half which is largely about “what next?”, in contrast to the “what?” and “why?” in the first half.

Continue reading

A Letter to Oprah

By Tim Burrack: Arlington, Iowa
This blog posting originally appeared on the www.truthabouttrade.org website

Dear Oprah,
Come to my farm. Visit the land that I’ve worked since I was a boy. See this place so that you’ll never again let bad articles on agriculture tarnish the pages of your magazine or the pixels on your website.

If you accept this invitation to have a firsthand look at how an Iowa farmer produces healthy food in an economically and environmentally sustainable way, you’ll perform an important service to your readers and viewers–because right now, they’re receiving a very mistaken impression about what we grow and what everyone eats. Continue reading