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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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

Nutrient Dilemma: The challenge of keeping nutrients where they belong

Reduced tillage and a winter soil cover can both help to reduce erosion.

By Bruce Kelly, Environmental Program Coordinator, Farm & Food Care Ontario

Dry fertilizer, manure or compost must be added to land, annually, to replace nutrients removed by the previous year’s crop demands. This is a fact for any sustainable cropping system. Farmers understand that sunlight and water alone cannot provide what crops need, and the land must be replenished with nutrients.

The challenge is to apply fertilizers (liquid, dry, manure or compost) to the land following the 4R principles (Right fertilizer source at the Right rate, at the Right time and in the Right place) in such a way that the nutrients are used by the plant or bound to the soil and aren’t able to leave the field. Continue reading

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

Today’s farmer relies heavily on science

Farming isn’t what is used to be.  In fact, Saskatchewan farmer, Cherilyn Nagel, says farming may be one of the most technologically advanced sectors of the economy.

“Farmers use technology all the time. We use GPS to make sure that when we’re seeding, spraying or harvesting, we’re doing it as efficiently as possible by reducing overlap,” she says. “In the last couple of decades, we’ve also seen dramatic improvements to the quality of seed available to us, as well as to inputs, like pesticides, that we use to ensure our harvests are robust.”

A GPS system in a farm tractor helps map a field.

Dr. Stephen Yarrow, vice-president of plant biotechnology at CropLife Canada, agrees that there is a lot of innovation available to help farmers improve their yields and farm in ways that are better for the environment.

“One example of how science has improved things on a whole range of levels is conservation tillage. When a farmer plants a herbicide-tolerant canola, for instance, the ability to control weeds without tilling the soil helps to improve overall soil quality.

“When soil is not tilled it is better able to resist wind, so the soil doesn’t blow away, it’s better able to absorb moisture, which helps plants to grow,” he explained.

“Plus, because the stubble from the harvested plant is left to decompose in place, additional nutrients are added to the soil as the plant materials decomposes.”

Over 70 per cent of Canadian farmers currently use conservation tillage practices.

Returning land to its original state builds habitat, improves water quality

Daryl Hutton and his family are shown in front of their restored wetland

By Lilian Schaer for Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

They say you can’t turn back time. Yet Wellington County landowner Daryl Hutton has done just that by turning an old pasture on his farm near Harriston back into a wetland. And in doing so, he is helping improve water quality and increase wildlife habitat in his community.

Wetlands are abundant in the area, which is the headwater for both the Maitland Valley and Saugeen watersheds. An abandoned Grand Trunk Railway rail line runs along the east side of the Hutton farm. Drainage tiles and culverts to handle water were placed under the rail bed when it was built in the 1800s, but many no longer function properly, causing spring runoff water to back up in the field. Continue reading

Changing tillage methods can help the environment

Stubble from corn stalks

by Patricia Grotenhuis

Farming practices have changed a lot over the years. Lately, some of the changes being brought into place are helping improve the environment. Some changes have been made as a response to shifts in the climate, while others have been made following the development of new equipment or the publication of new research. Continue reading

The foundation of farming

Soil is the beginning of life on a farm. Without healthy soil, we can’t grow a productive crop and without crops, we can’t feed livestock.

Planting corn into a field using minimal tillage

Farmers used to work their soil every spring and fall in order to control weeds and prepare the fields for planting crops. This was called “tilling” the land. Now many farmers are tilling less, or not at all, in an effort to reduce soil erosion and soil compaction, preserve organic matter and promote the growth of earth worms and other soil-dwelling creatures. As referred to by farmers, “no tilling” also means farmers use less fuel, therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading