Inside Farming: View from an Iowa Farm

By: Brendan Louwagie, CanACT Member, University of Guelph

Misconceptions in agriculture in choosing seeds, ‘I’m no pawn of Monsanto’

Farm & Food Care Ontario photo

Winter allows a bit of downtime for most farmers. We use it to look back on the prior year and to make plans for the next. We learn from mistakes, failures, and successes, and attempt to make sense of it all. Personally, I think of each growing season as a clean slate to test out theories and debunk some popular myths about how a corn or soybean plant creates maximum yield. It’s also a time when we get to make choices about what to plant, where to plant it, and what seed to use in each situation. It’s often a very personal and private decision. Continue reading

Ontario farm meeting rising demand for locally grown edamame

By Lilian Schaer

(Alvinston) – Demand for edamame, a type of soybean popular in Asia as a snack and vegetable dish, is growing in North America. Most edamame sold here, however, is imported – something that a local Ontario farm family is working hard to change.

MacKellar Farms, near the southwestern Ontario town of Alvinston, is Canada’s only commercial supplier of edamame using a locally grown crop. Edamame, although a soybean, is considered a vegetable crop and is harvested in the pod when its sugars are at their peak. And it’s high in iron, protein, fibre and all of the essential amino acids, making it a very healthy meal choice.

MacKellar farms is Canada’s only locally grown commercial supplier of edamame

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Award-winning labelling innovation makes local soybutter spread safe solution for peanut-free schools

Editor’s Note: Periodically, we’ll focus new and innovative research in Ontario agriculture. Here’s one such story.

by Lilian Schaer

A new approach to labelling a locally produced soybutter is making it easier to use in Ontario’s peanut-free schools. The toasted soy spread looks and tastes so much like peanut butter that some schools weren’t allowing it, says Scott Mahon, President of WOWBUTTER Foods, a family-owned business in the Stratford area.

To address this challenge, the company has introduced a new peel-off label with individual “Made with WOWBUTTER” stickers underneath that can be applied to school lunch containers identifying their peanut-free status.  It’s a unique system that has just won WOWBUTTER Foods a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.


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Animal agriculture and our environment

“Is it wasteful to use grain to feed animals?

The notion that farm animals in Canada use food needed by people in developing countries is false. Livestock don’t compete with people for food grains. For example, currently only about 10 per cent of corn grown ends up in consumer foods.

Beef cattle grazing on marginal lands

In countries without excess grain supplies, animal feed tends to consist mostly of grasses and forages or other suitable feeds. Farm animals generally receive feed corn or barley while humans eat mainly wheat and rice. Animals can consume grass, pest or weather-damaged grains, crop residues like corn stalks, leaves and straw, and by-products from food processing such as unusable grains (or parts of grains) left over from the production of things like breakfast cereal. And of course, Mother Nature can be tough, so even some grains intended for humans are sometimes damaged by insects or weather and can only be eaten by animals.

About 30 per cent of Canada’s agricultural land is too hilly, rocky, cold or wet to grow crops. But it can support grazing livestock. Livestock don’t compete with people for food grains. In all, about 80 percent of the feed consumed by cattle, sheep, goats and horses could not be eaten or digested by humans. Animals convert low-energy and otherwise indigestible plant matter into nutrient and protein rich food, while returning organic matter (manure) to the soil. It’s the original recycling program.

Canada typically produces approximately 50 million tons of grain (wheat, barley, corn, oats, rye) annually, and exports about half of it. High quality grains used in pasta, bread and other baked goods are not used in livestock feed or in ethanol production.

Hunger today is generally the result of political, economic, and distribution problems, not the lack of productive capacity. Globally, more food per person is available than ever before. ( )

Did you know…animal feed manufacturing plays a key role in recycling? For example, the ethanol industry uses corn as its main ingredient. During the ethanol production process, starch is removed from corn, leaving behind a left over product called dried distillers’ grain that has increased concentrations of other nutrients, such as fiber, protein, fat and minerals. It has been found to be an excellent feed ingredient, and feed manufacturers are now using it in pig and cattle diets.

Many soybeans are grown primarily for their oils – but once the beans are crushed, the empty shells left behind (an excellent source of protein) are ground into soybean meal and fed to livestock.

A house made of soybeans – and other byproducts of farming

Reprinted from The Real Dirt on Farming

Most people think of farming for food. But the by-products of plants and animals are used far and wide.

The House that Soy built

Believe it or not – it’s possible to live in a house built from soy. Ok, so it’s not a house built from actual soybeans, but many soy-based products were used to construct and decorate a 1200 sq ft house displayed at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto in 2009. Everything from paints and varnishes, adhesives, household insulation, kitchen cabinets, carpet backing, bathroom fixtures, sofas, mattresses, bedding, clothing, food, candles, soaps, and cosmetics, featured soy.

Soy oil can be used as an environmentally-friendly, sustainable replacement to petroleum oil in many household products. After the show was over, the house became a Habitat for Humanity home.

Check out our list of weird stuff from the farm – as you can see, it’s in all aspects of our daily lives.

In the home: Bone china, Cellophane, Matches, Soy crayons, Violin, Printer ink cartridge, Glass cleaner, Soy candles
At work: Dynamite, Biodegradable plastics, Corn-based travel mug, Corn-based ruler, compostable bags
While driving: Performance tires, Spark plugs, Anti-freeze, Brake fluid, Armor-All wipes, Asphalt sealant, Lubricants and engine oils
In our diets: Gummy bears, Canadian Club whiskey, Licorice, Chewing gum
At the pharmacy: Intravenous solution, Wound dressings, Skin Conditioner, Eye drops, Gelatin pill casings
In the bathroom cabinet: Toothpaste, Cosmetics, Lip balm, Mouthwash, Hand sanitizer, Shaving cream, Shampoo
While we’re having fun: Paintballs, Fireworks, Sport equipment (Pig skin football)
For more info, see