When the local food movement took root a couple of years ago, many critics thought it was a fad and predicted it would be short-lived. Who would have dreamed that the big food chains, including the granddaddy of all retailers, Wal-Mart Inc., would jump in and brand itself as local as well in order to get a piece of this potentially valuable market territory?
It’s happening and on-farm markets are having to dig harder into their local food niche in order to keep their position. Our writer Suzanne Deutsch writes about how to do that in this month’s cover story. Read about selling consumers more than just food, starting on page 16.
When we published a letter from a Mississauga high school student decrying the inhumanity of modern “factory farming” in our April issue, we sensed it would hit a nerve, and it did. Our readers wrote back. You can read those letters defending modern agriculture on page 6.
Look carefully at the footnote at the bottom of long-time contributor Keith Reid’s column over the past two months and you will read that he has changed jobs. He still writes about soil fertility for Better Farming, however, and this month he seeks to debunk some myths about the loss of phosphorus from agricultural soils. Keeping soil from eroding isn’t enough to prevent this essential nutrient from being washed away, Reid writes, beginning on page 54.
Our other regular crops writer, Pat Lynch, argues that, by leaving a forage crop in the ground for years at a time to save on seed costs, farmers are actually costing themselves money in terms of total yields. That story can be found on page 49.
No-till has been a growing trend on Ontario farmers for many years and cost-conscious farmers have mastered its use on many soil types. Irony of ironies, other technologies that have led to stronger corn stalks are driving farmers back to tillage in order to deal with crop residues. That story, on so-called “vertical tillage,” is the next instalment in our multi-part series by Mike Mulhern, which begins on page 60.
Finally, a political note. Last month, the federal Conservatives achieved a goal that had long eluded them, a majority government that allows them to govern. That means the door has now been closed on federal participation in a Business Risk Management program for Ontario’s farmers, argues our Ottawa correspondent Barry Wilson. That’s on page 56. BF
ROBERT IRWIN & DON STONEMAN