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Food processing in next group for vaccination

January 15, 2021 - 9:24am
The Ontario government announced the plan for the next stage of COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the province in a statement on Jan. 13. Phase Two of the plan will include frontline workers, including those working in the food processing industry. Representatives from the agriculture industry expressed gratitude that these workers are deemed critical essential workers and included in this phase of vaccination. “We recognize first responders, healthcare workers, and those in long-term care must be prioritized in terms of first access to vaccines. However, we are thankful meat processing essential workers have been identified as a priority for phase two of the vaccination rollout,” Rob Lipsett, president of Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO), said in a Jan. 14 joint statement from BFO and the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association (OCFA). Mike Conlin, president of the OCFA, agreed. “Prioritizing workers in meat production and inspection to receive early immunization of the COVID-19 vaccine will help reduce and/or mitigate further disruptions in the meat supply chain, reduce implications for farmers, and protect the welfare of animals and security of our food supply,” he said in the statement. Phase Two individuals could receive doses as early as March 2021, and expected to be completed by the end of July 2021, followed by Phase Three (general population) vaccines beginning in August 2021, said the release from the provincial government. Other groups that will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase Two are older adults (beginning with age 80+), individuals living and working in high-rosk congregate settings, individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers, and other frontline workers including teachers and first responders, according to the Jan. 13 release.

Ont. students discuss unique school year

January 15, 2021 - 8:39am
Ontario students are some of the most affected by the pandemic. On top of the general lockdown restrictions, some students are trying to figure out how to learn in a new environment. “The school year started out very new with a lot of different protocols and trying to figure out how the day-to-day in-class learning would work” Maryn Hunter, a Grade 10 student from Smiths Falls, Ont., told Hunter, who lives on her family’s dairy farm, is now attending school remotely from home. “It’s a whole new routine to figure out the different platforms teachers are using, scheduling your time and even having the motivation to do the work,” she said. Not only is she learning from home, but so are her three younger brothers. The commotion around the house as four people try to attend class, plus simply being at home, creates several distractions. “Finding the motivation to be engaged is challenging when I know I could be doing something else,” she said. “It helps having people in my classes that work together, but it’s still tough sometimes.” When she feels like her attention may be slipping, Hunter takes time for herself. A short walk or even a quick glance at her phone helps her recalibrate throughout the day. “If I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, I feel like the best thing for my brain is to take my mind off of what I’m doing for five minutes,” she said. “Getting outside for fresh air always helps me when I need a break.” In addition, the pandemic means Hunter is missing out on extracurricular activities. She’s on the school’s rugby team, involved in 4-H, participates in dance and enjoys hanging out with her friends. All of that has been taken away, and it has taken a toll on her mental health, she said. “I was doing rugby four days a week in the nicer months,” she said. “I don’t have the social life I used to have, it’s more isolating and I’m not doing anything anymore. I keep in touch with my friends over text and Snapchat about what’s going on in our home lives but there are friends I haven’t seen in over a year. “I’m very lucky that I can still work and see my animals, but it’s hard to look on the bright side when all you hear about is the negatives about what’s going on.” Mason Lunn is receiving his ninth-grade education in Elgin County through a hybrid approach. Some days he’s in class and some days he’s learning remotely. “It can be complicated because you’re having to stick to two completely different routines,” he told Lunn notices differences in his attention depending on how he’s learning on a specific day. “Sometimes being at home isn’t great for me because I feel like I should go do something,” he said. Lunn works on his family's cash crop farm to keep himself busy and stays in touch with

New tree fruit specialist at OMAFRA

January 15, 2021 - 5:25am
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) recently welcomed Erika DeBrouwer to their Simcoe office as the new tree fruit specialist. She has production, business and research experience with crops such as pears, peaches and apples. “I have been fortunate enough to have grown up on a fruit tree farm, which provided me with hands on experience as to how a fruit tree farm operates,” DeBrouwer told This breadth of experience includes understanding “equipment needs, maintenance procedures, weather mitigation strategies, production requirements, storage solutions, packing and processing systems, and marketing plans.” DeBrouwer also completed a Master of Science degree in the crop science department at the University of Guelph. Her research focused on “the postharvest physiology of ‘Honeycrisp’ apples, where I was further exposed to fruit tree production, research setup, data collection, project planning and more technical skill development,” she explained. In her new role she plans “to focus on both research and extension work,” she added. “I want to continue to provide Ontario growers with new strategies and implementations to drive industry success.” DeBrouwer looks forward to continual learning at OMAFRA “but most of all - working directly with growers. I really want to help them succeed and hope that I can provide consistent advancement of information and expansion in knowledge transfer,” she added. Labour efficiency is one of the most prominent challenges facing tree fruit growers in the province today, DeBrouwer said. “We have come a long way to develop practices and technologies that continue to improve labour efficiency within the apple sector,” she explained. “At OMAFRA we will continue to develop approaches, materials and technologies to further advance the sectors resilience and adaptability regarding labour.”

Focus on mental health this Blue Monday

January 14, 2021 - 10:39am
The upcoming Monday, Jan. 18 is ‘Blue Monday’. This name is given to the third Monday in January, when the post-holiday financial pressure and blues combine with dark and gloomy weather and fading optimism of the new year to create a particularly depressing day. For farmers in Ontario, this year’s Blue Monday will also fall during a second State of Emergency and stay-at-home order to address rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across the province. There has perhaps never been a better time to focus on mental health. “The pandemic has all of a sudden exponentially increased whatever pre-existing mental health conditions were already there,” Chad Bouma, a clinical therapist from Waterloo region, told “For people who have been able to manage their mental health for the majority of their lives, the pandemic has, for a lot of individuals, been the fire starter in a lot of ways.” The past ten months have “been a really unpredictable time for the entire population,” he said. For farmers in particular, there might be increased pressure from caring for ill family members, volatile commodity markets, and trying to continue doing business through processing and manufacturing plant shutdowns. “There’s just so many complexities for a farmer that I think the general public doesn’t have a good understanding of,” Bouma said. The pandemic has heightened the uncertainty in an already risky and stressful industry. “It’s hard to quantify what (the impact of the pandemic) looks like as far as increase of stress in one particular area of their life,” he explained. “I think for farmers the blanket effect of (stress) being higher across all aspects of their working and personal lives is probably pretty significant.” Managing that stress will be key to staying mentally resilient. “It’s probably unrealistic for us to assume that we’re going to be able to manage all the things at once,” Bouma said. “Farmers (typically) manage all their problems at the same time very well. So there might be a bit of a disillusionment from their perspective.” For a demographic that is used to juggling multiple stressors and finding innovative solutions, the inability to do so may be extra challenging. “I think the biggest thing is just the self-awareness piece … becoming self-aware of what we can and can’t control,” he explained. “That doesn’t make us feel better, but it’s a big start to the battle of being able to understand what strategies that are going to help us most effectively.” Farmers “lives revolve around so much uncertainty, the weather being the best example of that,” he added. “It’s important to recognize that feeling like you don’t have control does not mean that you’re failing.” Farmers should be aware of some signs to look out for that indicate personal strategies are no longer enough to maintain mental health, and professional help might be advisable. Early warning signs might include

Optimize your farm by using ALL the data

January 14, 2021 - 10:22am
As technology and precision ag practices continue to advance agriculture, the modern farmer not only has to juggle growing crops and/or raising livestock on their operation, they now must also add farming the data to their repertoire. Agriculture has come a long way when it comes to the amount of data collected but managing this data can still prove to be a daunting task for farmers, explained Krista Klompstra to attendees of the Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase. “The struggle we run into is how do we make use of all [the data],” explains Klompstra. “Can it help us run our operation better? Smoother? More profitable? I think that’s what excites me about Granular Business – it helps us simplify the way we plan and communicate, allows us to make real-time decisions and make use of all the data that is available to us.” Klompstra is the Digital Business Manager at Granular, a leading farm management software owned by Corteva Agriscience. Granular Business’ software enables farmers to get better control over their operations by performing several tasks throughout the season and in real-time including: analyzing profits, identifying efficiencies and cost-savings, measuring yield variability, as well as forecasting revenues and profits, to name a few. “Granular Business is big and has many ways that it can help growers,” says Klompstra. “There are four [areas] where we usually find the biggest impact for farmers.” To be more efficient and communicate better; To track your input and crop inventory levels in real-time; To know your cost of production, down to a specific field; To make use of all the data on the farm. Communication is key on any farming operation, especially during planting and harvesting. “In the heat of the season when it’s all chaotic and everyone is running around, how can we really communicate well? Not only what has to be done, but what has been done by hour and by equipment so that we have a real-time view of what’s happening,” states Klompstra. As an operation manager within Granular Business, farmers can assign workers to specific tasks, at specific times, on specific fields, and with specific equipment. Another major benefit of using the software is knowing your cost of production, right down to the field. Using the Profit Analyzer, farmers can review year-over-year revenue, costs, and overall profitability of specific fields. Granular Business also helps farmers track their inputs and crop inventory levels in real-time, allowing farmers

Using satellite data on the farm

January 13, 2021 - 7:52am
EOS Data Analytics is developing crop simulation technologies to be used at the field level for farmers By Ryan Ridley The goal of yield forecasting is to make reasonable management and financial decisions and to minimize risks. Attendees of the Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase tuned in to Lina Yarysh’s presentation on ‘Yield Forecasting as a Key to Sustainable Use of Fertilizers’. Yarysh is a Satellite Solution Consultant for Agriculture and Forestry at EOS Data Analytics, an automated cloud-based geographic information system (GIS) analysis service. “Companies nowadays have been working on putting yield prediction into action, in a practical way,” says Yarysh. Yield prediction can answer the following questions for growers and seed producers: What crops are more efficient to produce considering climate shift? Especially applicable for multi-year crops. What is the reasonable amount of fertilizers to use to gain the highest productivity? How to predict the performances of new hybrids in various environments to breed for better varieties? “Currently, we are trying to apply crop simulation technologies for building various scenarios to make it possible for farmers to use this technology at the field level,” she explains. EOS Data Analytics (EOS) can easily forecast yield in a province or region with over 80 percent accuracy, the more difficult challenge is meeting that same accuracy at the farm and field level. The accuracy of forecasting is lower at the field level due to lack of historical data and low spatial variability of weather data. Another major goal for the company is to provide fertilizer recommendations for 2021, reaching the highest possible yield using yield modeling. While creating field forecasts for Canada, the team discovered that some fields include lakes and woodlots, which created a challenge for EOS. “It’s not very easy to understand the vegetation of crops from space when you have a lot of other objects there in the field,” adds Yarysh. So, how is EOS tackling these challenges? Using the EOS Crop Engine, which includes analysis of soil type, weather and crop phenology, the company can predict yield scenarios by adding satellite data at every stage of crop development. This allows EOS to narrow down the possible crop scenarios to the one that is most likely. To get a better idea of the different vegetation on a specific field, EOS divides the fields into several productivity zones, allowing the company to capture all the vegetation in a field rather than the average. By understanding the heterogeneity of vegetation in a field, EOS can include it into the modelling to increase yield forecast accuracy. The company found that accuracy and variability increased with LAI assimilation. “We include the values for the different zones in the field into prediction

Processing remains Ont. beef priority

January 8, 2021 - 9:21am
Cargill’s beef processing plant on Dunlop Drive in Guelph was back operational again on Dec. 29, after idling as of Dec. 17 to address an outbreak of COVID-19 among employees. Processing capacity remains a critical issue for the beef industry in Ontario. “I think our biggest concern always was the plant closing because we were experiencing backlog before COVID hit, so we’ve seen it be amplified a bit at the end of December,” Rob Lipsett, president of Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO), told “The silver lining I can find is that the timing of it was as good as it could be, considering the plant was going to be shut down for several days over the holidays,” he said. “Some of our producers were expecting that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of cattle movement at that time anyways – but there were a few that were affected.” The government was able to provide some financial support for producers. “The set-aside program was triggered very quickly,” Lipsett explained. “We’ve got quite a few cattle that have been put on (the program) through two intakes. And I think that reassured some of the producers that there is a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel that government understood they needed to come forward, step up and help us through.” BFO estimates that the shutdown resulted in a backlog of about 10,000 cattle that should have gone for processing that are now in the set-aside program. “We’ll have to find a home for in the march-April timeframe,” Lipsett added. Moving forward “processing capacity is our number one priority,” he said. “It has been for close to two years now. The pandemic has just given us a great example of what happens when you don’t have that proper capacity.” BFO is continuing to lobby the government to address the lack of processing capacity. “The pandemic has actually gotten the government’s attention to what the processing problem in Eastern Canada is, and so we’ve started down the road on some short-term and long-term solutions,” Lipsett explained. “The announcement from the federal and provincial government about a new stream of the CAP funding program to allow processors to do some health and safety and good safety upgrades and technology upgrades were a really welcome announcement but I think they’ve also acknowledged that more needs to be done.” BFO is pushing for the adoption of their framework, dubbed the Processor Infrastructure Support Fund, he added. “That would include no-interest, low-interest cost sharing and some kind of repayable loans for processors and abattoirs to undergo some costly expansion projects.” The other main priority of the beef industry is the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) status. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association “submitted our application to change our BSE risk status from controlled to negligible,” Lipsett said. “A decision will be made on that this spring … getting that negligible risk status changes our trade vision with South Korea and t

SHO confirms PDCoV in Ont. barn

January 7, 2021 - 8:03am
Swine health officials have identified another member of the coronavirus family that can impact piglets, sows, weaners, growers and finishing pigs in Ontario. “On December 24th 2020, a positive PDCoV case had been confirmed in a finishing barn in Huron County,” Swine Health Ontario (SHO) officials said in an e-mail statement to PDCoV is porcine deltacoronavirus and belongs “to the same viral family as porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) and transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE). The symptoms of PDCoV are indistinguishable from those of PED or TGE, although tend to be less severe than PED.” The virus can impact pigs differently depending on sex and age, though most can experience gastrointestinal distress. “PDCoV damages the lining of the gut in swine, causing diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. It can cause piglet mortality in severe cases, but not to the same extent as that of PED,” according to the statement from SHO. Affected nursing piglets may appear skinny and experience high mortality, and sows may go off feed. Weaners and growers may also reduce feed intake along with “acute, watery diarrhea with no blood or mucus.” The virus “can cause very mild clinical signs in finisher pigs. Any level of abnormal diarrhea, that may only last a few days. Do not expect any increase in mortality,” said SHO. “As long as animals have free access to water, fluid support and in some cases electrolytes clinical signs will typically subside in 7-10 days.” For the case detected in Huron county “containment measures are in place and an elimination protocol has been designed,” said the SHO statement. “The veterinarian and producer are working closely.” As of “March 2020, SHO took over monitoring activities for PED/PDCoV/TGE in the province in collaboration with the Ontario veterinarians and the Animal Health Lab. SHO will be reporting all cases on our website,” they added. To protect their herds from PDCoV, producers should review biosecurity protocols and the importance of monitoring for clinical signs with farm employees, SHO officials said. Farmers should reiterate biosecurity protocols with all suppliers and contractors that visit their site, “ensure all trucks that are allowed on their farm are washed, disinfected and dried before arrival (and minimize) the need to pick up pigs from multiple locations.” Veterinarians should be notified immediately of any abnormal clinicals signs. When dealing with PDCoV “eradication will always be the goal,” said the statement from SHO. “There is no specific treatment to improve because it is a virus. Focus has to be placed on equal exposure across all animals on a farm and adequate closure of herd ensuring no new susceptible animals enter the herd.”

Scholars join forces on dairy genomics

January 6, 2021 - 3:11am
Researchers at the University of Guelph are working with scientists from across the country, industry partners, and international collaborators on a $12 million dairy genomics project. Dr. Christine Baes, a professor of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph, is the project lead. “The overall aim of this project is to develop genomic tools to enable implementation of selection to increase dairy cow resilience, defined as the capacity of the animal to adapt rapidly to changing environmental conditions, without compromising its productivity, health or fertility, while becoming more resource-efficient and reducing its environmental burden,” Baes told “We’ve been thinking a lot about how we measure fertility,” she explained. “Management practices have such a large role in what we record today, that we’re not giving the animals a fair chance to show their own true fertility.” Additionally, calf health is another area of focus. “In the industry we’ve had a history of not looking at the animals that closely from birth to breeding age,” Baes said. “In Canada we’re really fortunate because we have a really nice system and infrastructure in place already. … But we can do better, we can always do better.” The four-year project is targeting three resiliency factors, including cow fertility, health, and environmental efficiency, she explained. The researchers will “develop new tools to enhance cow resilience by increasing the rate of genetic progress for traits that directly affect it. An integrated genomic approach (genomics, epigenomics) will be developed to harness key genetic and genomic features of resilience traits and facilitate selection for resilience components through development of a resiliency index.” The project is highly collaborative. “There are 5 Canadian Universities directly involved – University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, Guelph, Université Laval, and University of Prince Edward Island- as well as both university and industry institutions in the USA, Brazil, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia,” Baes said. “This project aims to coordinate our research efforts so we all benefit from the expertise of other fields, without losing the granularity of the individual studies being conducted,” she explained. That process is “complicated, but necessary, because the dairy industry has become very complicated, and we need to work together now more than ever. Scientists began their work at the beginning of 2020, and the research is ongoing. “The fertility disorder evaluations came out in December. The feed efficiency evaluations are coming out in April (of 2021). The calf health stuff is going to take a little bit longer, but I would expect sometime in 2022,” Baes said. “And the resiliency index, the actual overall goal of the entire project where we combine those three phenotyping pillars, that should be 2023 (or) 2024.” Overall, the project hopes to deliver five main outcomes. First, “new data management

Connecting agriculture in a brand new way

January 5, 2021 - 8:30am
AGvisorPRO seamlessly connects farmers with specialized ag experts in real time By Ryan Ridley In today’s digital age of farming, it’s more important than ever for farmers to be able to access the information and resources they need to increase farm productivity and sustainability, in real-time and in a practically effortless manner. This concept may seem far-fetched, but as technology continues to advance precision agriculture practices, the need for farmers to connect with ag experts has also grown. That was a key message Rob Saik delivered to Virtual Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase attendees. Saik is CEO and Founder of a new connectivity platform called AGvisorPRO, which was a Gold Sponsor of the Conference. The AGvisorPRO platform provides farmers, ranchers, and agri-businesses with a way to connect with fellow agriculturalists and industry experts in real-time, and remotely. “Until we have Star Trek transporters, we’re going to have to find a new way to shrink time and space, to stretch brains and not bodies, and to be on the farm without being on the farm,” explains Saik. “AGvisorPRO connects agriculture in a brand new way.” AGvisorPRO’s connectivity matrix pairs information seekers – say a farmer wondering how to upload maps into a monitor – with advice providers, whether they are a farmer, agronomist or industry expert. “Every one of these intersection points on this connectivity matrix [above] is a value proposition connecting the seeker to the advisor,” said Saik. So, how does AGvisorPRO work? It all starts with a question. After creating a free account, a farmer seeking information inputs a question/topic into the system. A matching algorithm provides the number of experts that are available to answer the question. When an expert is selected, AGvisorPRO connects the seeker with the provider via audio. Once connected, users can toggle between audio and video, as well as share high resolution pictures. A key feature of this platform is that the entire session is archived. Farmers can go back into the system to review the video or share with others within the operation. If advice given is being monetized, a transaction will take place within the application. After each session, the information seeker will rate the advice provider, much like how you would rate an Uber driver. To learn the ins and outs of the AGvisorPRO platform, watch Saik walk through the application in the video below.

Husky Farm Equipment Celebrates Staff

December 24, 2020 - 4:35am
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a challenging year. But as we all know, people in the agriculture community are not afraid to take on a little challenge. Walter Grose at Husky Farm Equipment was not about to let Covid-19 completely cancel his annual Christmas party. “Sometimes you have to get a little creative to bring Christmas cheer,” he said. He knew he could not have a large gathering with restrictions in place, but he was determined to treat his staff to a nice meal. Instead, he provided each of his staff with the elements of a meal they could enjoy at home with their family. A new item for the special dinner was delivered to team member over the course of six days. Each item was produced by Husky Farm Equipment’s own customers from across Ontario. Outlined below are Husky Equipment’s Six Days of Christmas. Day 1 featured a 50-pound bag of potatoes. The potatoes were supplied by Sunrise Potatoes of Alliston, Ontario. A family farm run by Ruth VanderZagg and Nick Ploeg,” the Husky Equipment media release says. “The VanderZaag’s are long time customers of Husky Farm Equipment --proud owners of several Husky Manure Tanks.” Day 2featured delicious and creamy Jersey chocolate milk and ice cream supplied by Miller’s Dairy. As the release explains, “John & Marie Miller operate Jalon Farms a 700 acres dairy farm near Creemore, ON. They operate Miller’s Dairy right on their farm with their son Shawn, so it’s a multi- generational family business just like Husky. The Girls at Miller’s Dairy are happy that all the manure is put on the fields with Husky Manure Spreaders.” Day 3 featured artic char and rainbow trout supplied by Spring Hills of Hanover, ON. How you ask, could this item possibly be connected to Husky? The answer show’s Husky’s dedication to working with clients to find solutions. “Husky developed a nozzle to clean the tanks and not the fish. This method has saved time and water over the years. Many fish are transported in truck tanks to be used for restocking. The waste material from fish processing plants is also transported from the factories to the farms for fertilizer,” the release says. Day 4 featured smoked pork chops and sausages (grass fed organic pork) supplied by 3Gen Organics, located in Mapleton township. Husky says they worked with the Isreal family of 3Gen Organics to make a dribble bar for their manure spreader. “This unit inserts the manure between the crop rows with GPS auto steer, placing the manure at the required rate where the yield maps say the nutrient is needed.” Day 5 featured smoked duck supplied by King Cole Duck. “Husky has been supplying King Colewith Husky Bionic Vacuum Tanks for many years. The water is hauled to the fields and the dry manure is turned to compost,” says the media release. Day 6 featured a dozen eggs supplied by Donkers/ Grayridge Farms. As the release explain

Ont. farmers reflect on the year

December 23, 2020 - 4:55am
Throughout what has truly been a year like no other, farmers across Ontario have worked hard to continue to produce food, while dealing with the many challenges a global pandemic threw their way. checked in with producers to get their thoughts on 2020 and hopes for the year ahead. “I think reflecting back on the past year the biggest thing we’ve learnt is that the world can live without celebrities and sports stars, but we can’t function without people like farmers,” Esther Kelly told She’s a sheep farmer in Grey County and has also been working as a frontline healthcare worker throughout the pandemic, as a nurse in long-term care. Her and her husband also raise a few cattle and chickens for meat and eggs. “In our line of work there is never a break, the work is always there regardless of what is going on in the world.” “As a sheep farmer I’ve learnt that our industry needs to start working together … the sheep industry has done very well throughout the global pandemic and we are seeing record prices for lambs, but we struggle to work together as a team to advance our industry further,” Kelly said. Having an off-farm job also provides challenges, as Kelly explains, “As a nurse there is a lot of balance that has to go into our lives on the farm. Shift work requires a flexible schedule at home.” For some farmers, the year revealed both the strengths and weaknesses of agriculture. “I learned how resilient ag is but also how vulnerable it is,” Ian McKillop told He grows corn, soybeans and wheat, as well as raising pullets, cattle, sheep and producing eggs in Dutton. “Resilient because farmers always find a way to persevere and find solutions. Vulnerable because the pandemic forced changes in markets.” Though the industry faced many challenges, producers were able to adapt and respond. McKillop “also learned how giving ag is. Most farm organizations and many individual farmers gave food or money to help those in need,” he added. For Henry Reinders, who grows wheat, barley, soybeans and hay on his farm just south of Meaford, the pandemic reminded him how grateful he is to be a farmer. “Self isolation comes naturally to most farmers as we get on the land in our tractors and equipment and work at putting in the crops. For me. and many farmers I talked to, there was no real change to our daily routines,” he said. “I have found the ag community to always be well grounded - pun intended - and resilient … Farmers have adjusted to this as being another challenge to deal with.” To keep each other safe this year, many farmers had to make small adjustments to how they work or interact with others. The situation provided some practical reminders, such as the benefit of having extra spare parts on the farm, using online resources to find information, and increasing your capacity to be self-sufficient for repairs, Jeannette Mongeon told Her and her partner’s operation in Embrun has gone through many changes over the years, from dairy cows to berries to rabbits. They now operate a cash crop far

Ont. agronomy challenges for 2021

December 17, 2020 - 8:45am
With 2020 coming to an end, the 2021 planting season will be here sooner than later. With that at top of mind, connected with Jerry Winnicki, a Niagara-based agronomy manager at Clark Agri Service, to discuss the kinds of challenges Niagara cash crop growers may face next year. “A few things are becoming more and more of a problem in our area,” he told One item is soybean cyst nematode. Farmers in other communities have had to manage the pest, and growers in Niagara may have to do the same soon, he said. “We’ve been hearing about this pest for 20 years and I’m surprised it’s taken this long for it to be a problem in our fields,” he said. “We were warned not to grow continuous soybeans, but we still do. Pest levels aren’t at an epidemic level, but they are a problem in some areas.” As soybean cyst nematode populations continue to increase, it wouldn’t be surprising if some farmers transport the pest when they travel, Winnicki added. Farmers should be careful not to accidently transport nematode to other farms by not bringing their tools to another farm and changing boots before travelling to other farms. Another challenge growers will have is identifying a new crop to grow. Growing corn on heavy soils isn’t profitable during most years, Winnicki said. But crops like canola are being looked at as a suitable alternative. “We’re stuck in a rotation of corn, soybeans and wheat,” he said. “Canola would be a nice option as it would fill in some of the quieter times in the growing season. If you’re concentrating on soybeans, you’re taking the nutrients out of the soil year after year, and a lack of rotation is really starting to show.” Growers in the region have planted about 800 acres of winter canola and the crop is looking “fantastic,” he said. A transition to cash crop production in the Niagara region has led to soil condition issues. In 1976, Niagara had 350 dairy farms, no soybean acres and about 80,000 acres of hay. Today, Niagara has about 35 dairy farms, 80,000 acres of soybeans and 20,000 acres of hay, Winnicki said. Removing livestock from the land has led to the loss of organic matter in soils. “We’ve lost about 25 per cent of our organic matter on these soils that aren’t livestock-based anymore,” he said. “We have new fertility problems that we’re not used to and we’re running into boron deficiency.”

COVID-19 outbreak at Guelph Cargill plant

December 17, 2020 - 4:13am
Public health officials, workers union representatives, and Cargill leadership are dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 among the staff at a Cargill meat processing facility on Dunlop Drive in Guelph, Ont. “As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of Cargill employees, we have decided to temporarily idle our Guelph protein facility,” John Nash, North American leader of Cargill Protein, said in a Dec. 17 statement. “This was a difficult decision for our team who are operating an essential service and are committed to delivering food for local families and access to markets for farmers and ranchers. We care deeply about our employees and their safety. They are everyday heroes on the frontlines of our food system. Our focus now is on continuing to keep our employees safe and getting our facility back to normal operations,” Nash said in the statement. “To prevent food waste, we will process the nearly 1.55 million meals-worth of protein currently in our facility. We greatly appreciate our employees who are working to complete this effort.” During the closure “our employees will be paid the 36 hours per week as outlined in our collective agreement,” April Nelson, a spokesperson for Cargill, said in an e-mail statement to “Cargill is encouraging employees to be tested. We have also stressed the importance of social distancing for those across the community who have been impacted by the virus. We have encouraged any employees who are sick or have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days to stay home.” A total of 57 employees at the facility have tested positive, with 37 cases still active as of Dec. 16, Danny Williamson, a spokesperson for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, told One other worker also tested positive from a second Cargill facility in Guelph on Watson Parkway, CBC reported on Dec. 13. However, “the current outbreak is limited to one section of the plant at the Dunlop facility. Any other cases wouldn’t be associated with the outbreak unless an epidemiological link was established,” Williamson explained. 51 additional, non-positive staff from the Dunlop location are self-isolating, he said. Approximately “200 staff in the affected section of the plant have been tested.” Public health officials are working with the company to provide additional measures to address the outbreak. This includes the testing of employees in the impacted area, which health officials completed Dec. 14 and 15. “A complete infection prevention and control (IPAC) inspection of the plant was completed late last week,” explained Williamson. Officials are handling “case management and contact tracing of all positive cases.” Cargill is “working closely with local health officials to ensure appropriate prevention, testing, cleaning and quarantine protocols are followed within our facilities,” Nelson explained. “Safety measures like temperature testing, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing, face coverings, screening between employee stations, prohibiting visitors, adopting social distancing practices where possible, offering staggered breaks and reducing carpooling have been in place for months and will remain

Ont. supports stranded migrant workers

December 16, 2020 - 8:05am
More than 300 farm workers from Trinidad and Tobago are stranded away from home this holiday season. The federal and provincial government and community members are showing support through logistics, funding, and holiday cheer. As reported by Dec. 14, the government of Trinidad and Tobago is refusing to let most of the workers travel back home. Immigration status for workers was set to end on Dec. 15, however the federal government advised farmers to apply for work permit extensions, Brett Schuyler, farmer at Schuyler Farms Ltd., told The farm employed about 100 workers from Trinidad and Tobago this past season. “It was very last minute, we actually got a notification Sunday on what to do,” he explained. “So, we got everybody’s applications in. … That should keep everybody active for employment insurance (EI) and OHIP.” Producers are still waiting on details and confirmation from the federal government, however “we’re pretty confident everybody will continue to get EI and be supported that way,” he added. Today, Ernie Hardeman, provincial minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, announced the intention to provide funding support for farmers with stranded workers. “Our hearts go out to these stranded workers who may not be able to get home for the holidays,” Hardeman said in a Dec. 16 statement. “While the federal government is working with consular officials to resolve the issue as soon as possible, farmers continue to be responsible for supporting workers and providing housing until they leave to return to their home country.” The federal and provincial governments “are working to add a targeted, special category of funding under the federal-provincial Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program that will help farmers cover incremental costs incurred to ensure the health and safety of stranded temporary foreign workers from Trinidad and Tobago. Eligible expenses would include accommodations, meals, winter clothing, heaters, equipment, PPE, cleaning supplies, communications, and transportation costs,” he explained in the statement. “If we can make use of (that funding) we will,” Schuyler said. “We’re the largest employer of Trinidadian workers, housing 100 people for the winter. it would be nice to get some help with that.” Other Ontarians have showed up to support the stranded workers. “There’s been a ton of food donations, a lot of people in the local community contributing and Trinidadian-Canadians, people that immigrated over the last 40 years, bringing in specialty groceries,” Schuyler explained. The farmers are also planning a decorating contest and light show, to try to bring cheer to an unfortunate situation. “Through community support I think our whole farm is going to be lit up,” Schuyler said. “I think it’s going to look pret

Virtually visiting an Ontario chicken farm

December 15, 2020 - 7:08am
A family farm in south-central Ontario is one of the latest additions to a library of virtual industry tours. Barry and Donna's (full name withheld by request) chicken farm, which includes between 26,000 and 28,000 broilers, is one of three operations added to Farm & Food Care Ontario’s FarmFood360° website. The other new farms include a turkey and beef operation. In total, the site has 18 Ontario farm and food processing tours available. The tour of the Jebb family farm includes videos on caring for chickens, how farmers give back to their communities and how the couple got into chicken farming after raising cattle. Farmers are the only ones who can tell the truth about what happens on a farm. They should view opportunities like participating in virtual tours as a way to communicate with consumers, Donna said. “It’s important for people to get the right story and the right facts,” she told “There’s so much out there being said and assumed that’s just simply not correct.” Consumers today want to know where their food comes from and the COVID-19 pandemic heightened that desire for knowledge. But consumers see or hear about food production practices that may take place elsewhere and believe Canadian farmers operate the same way. That’s not the case, she said. “People believe the broiler chickens are all in cages, kept in the dark or that we force feed them,” she said. “These are all things that are incorrect, but receive a lot of attention.” In Canada, chicken farmers must adhere to Chicken Farmers of Canada’s Animal Care Program. This program uses one national standard to ensure consistency for all 2,800 chicken farms across the country. “We know the regulations we have to follow,” she said. “Farmers know about the protocols and programs that are in place, but consumers generally don’t.” And it can be tough for consumers to sort through the available information, she added. “Social media is a good thing and a bad thing,” she said. “Misinformation can explode and that’s what people pick up on. I also think we need some of our national media organizations to not only cover more agriculture, but to highlight the things that are going right, not just what’s gone wrong.”

Farm workers stranded in Ontario

December 14, 2020 - 10:13am
Farmers and ag industry representatives are scrambling to work out logistics to support farm workers from Trinidad and Tobago that are stranded in Canada. Approximately 385 workers are in Ontario from that country, which is refusing to let most of them travel home, Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), told “I think 12 (workers) went home the other day, so there are about 360 that we know of but there may be a few more than that,” he said. They are basically “exiled in Canada.” Some workers have been ready to go home since mid-summer, however the government of Trinidad and Tobago has only made a few exceptions to allow travel back home. “We’ve been on the phone with the Canadian government since September,” Forth explained. “We called everybody. I think the Canadian government thought this would get ironed out, but it didn’t. And now these guys are out of status on Tuesday.” FARMS has been attempting to work with government officials to negotiate travel conditions, as well as extend the work permits of the foreign workers. The Canadian government is telling farmers to go through the process for that extension online, Forth said. Ag industry reps have been asking for clarity on this process for more than a week, and “now we’re finally finding out the terms of this today, tomorrow’s the 15th and they’re out of status,” he added. If the work permits are not extended, healthcare will no longer be covered for the stranded workers, Forth explained. “Some of them do have auxiliary health insurance,” but the details of that coverage are unclear. Many of these workers are unprepared for Canadian winter conditions and have no guaranteed source of income. “We’re running out of time here. I can’t imagine what those men and women are going through, who were expecting to go home for Christmas, and aren’t going,” Forth said. “We have the capacity at FARMS to rent airplanes to send them home. Trinidad owns Caribbean Airlines and they will not let anyone rent any of their airplanes. We could rent two or three airplanes and get everybody home. But they said no.” The government of Trinidad and Tobago is “charging the farmers almost 50 per cent more than the normal cost to send (workers), not to mention that they’re not taking enough of them home,” he added. One farmer had 20 workers, and the government issued an exemption form for only one worker, pending a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to departure, Forth explained. “He was told by his health department that he could get the test and it would be back in 24 hours. It took 71 hours to get back, so he didn’t qualify for the flight,” he said. “It’s almost unconscionable that the Trinidad government is telling the healthcare system in Canada ‘you will do a test 72 hours out.’” Even so, “the COVID test isn’t the issue, because they’re only giving that exemption test to the odd (worker),&r

Ont. producers invite visitors for virtual tours

December 10, 2020 - 11:13am
An industry organization has included new family farms to its virtual tour library. Farm & Food Care Ontario’s FarmFood360° website added three new operations for anyone to visit virtually. The additions mean there are now 18 Ontario farm and food processing tours available on the site. One of the new tours takes place on an 1,100-head beef feedlot farm in Kawartha Lakes. Allison Brown, a seventh-generation producer, and her father, Paul, act as the tour guides as they discuss cattle nutrition, caring for cattle and other aspects of the family farm. Another tour is on Kathryn and Clair Doan’s turkey farm in Oxford County. The husband and wife team talk about how turkeys grow and the life of a turkey farm family, which includes the couple’s four daughters. And the third takes place on a broiler chicken farm. connected with Allison and Kathryn to discuss the tours and the importance of participating in these kinds of educational opportunities. Why was it important for your family to be involved in these virtual tours? Allison Brown (AB): We thought it was important because it’s always great to educate the public about what happens on farms. There’s a big disconnect between people in rural and urban areas, but I think people are generally interested in where their food comes from. Kathryn Doan (KD): We are proud to be part of Canadian agriculture and it’s important to speak up and break up any misconceptions of turkey farming in Canada. We are a family farm, like most farms in Canada, so it’s important to relate to consumers and show that we are proud of what we produce on our farm. What are you hoping people learn from the tour? AB: I want people to learn how we raise our cattle, how they’re cared for, how they’re fed, and also that it’s okay to ask questions. We talked about antibiotics and growth promotants, which we use on our farm. We talked about why we use them and why they are a positive resource for us. KD: We want to show that we care greatly about the welfare or our animals, just like consumers do. We also want to minimize stereotypes of farmers. We are a business and we use technology and science to help operate our farm. What is the benefit of being so transparent about what you do on the farm? AB: I just don’t think beating around the bush accomplishes anything in the long run. KD: Transparency builds trust. Consumers are looking for a connection to their food and we are happy to help provide that link. It’s better to tell our story rather than somebody else tell it for us, especially those that have different views on animal agriculture. How important is it for the ag industry to continue to educate people about what happens on a

Ont. ag organization centres anti-racism

December 10, 2020 - 3:08am
“This is such an important conversation, and one that is new to EFAO. We want to apologize for being late to begin this work,” Ali English, executive director of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) said to attendees of a session titled Working for Racial Justice in Farming. The panel was part of EFAO’s virtual annual conference, and featured Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) individuals working for justice in the food system in Ontario, and beyond. EFAO representatives began sessions throughout the conference with a land acknowledgement, and encouraged attendees to learn more about the people who first inhabited the land where they live and work. “How do we live and farm as good treaty people?” the opening slide asked. In addition to sessions about ecological agronomic and livestock husbandry practices, EFAO featured BIPOC farmers and educators leading several sessions about the intersection of race, farming and food. The organization also hosted a BIPOC farmer consultation, asking how they could better serve underrepresented people in the ecological farming community. Cheyenne Sundance, a young Black farmer, gave a talk about Innovation and Community in Urban Agriculture. She runs Sundance Harvest, a 1/3 acre, year round farm in Downsview Park in Toronto, with two propane heated greenhouses and 10,000 square feet of outdoor growing space. “I was told that I should always have at least one acre or two acres to be a profitable farm, but Sundance Harvest is profitable by itself with 1/3 of an acre, and it pays me a fair salary, and also I pay my employees a living wage,” Sundance said. She markets her produce through a weekly CSA subscription box, an online farm store with additional products from BIPOC producers, and farmers markets, and uses a diversified social media strategy for brand recognition. “There’s such a lack of diversity in agriculture and a lack of opportunities for us, I really wanted to centre our products in my store. And I’ve done a really good job I think of trying to support as many BIPOC producers as I can,” she explained. “I always say that my farm is rooted in food justice because I do grow really great produce year-round, but I also grow new farmers,” Sundance said. She runs programming to address food injustices in the current system, including Growing in the Margins. Growing in the Margins “is the pride and joy of Sundance Harvest,” she said. The program is “a free urban agriculture education program for youth who are marginalized within the food system.” Many graduates of the program successfully go on to start careers in agriculture. To inspire BIPOC youth to pursue agriculture “representation is obviously very very important,” Sundance said. “Being very visible on social media has helped, not just me, but other youth of colour who don’t see themselves represented in agriculture and in farming.” Representation “matters a lot to a lot of BIPOC youth. If I wanted to start my own farm, I know that I would face issues and adversity starting it because I’m

On the farm, micromanagement is a good thing

December 9, 2020 - 9:13am
Are you making data-driven decisions on your farming operation? This is easier said than done, but the results of implementing a precision agriculture strategy will not only be beneficial today, but for years, and even generations, to come. We had the privilege of receiving advice from two John Deere experts at the recent 2020 Virtual Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase. Their presentation highlighted John Deere’s precision ag strategy, diving into what is expected in the future and what this means for farmers. John Deere has been a key player in the precision agriculture landscape for many years – going back to 1996 and its first GPS receiver, which was nicknamed ‘green eggs and ham’. “Simply put, our precision ag vision is that our customers will be the world’s most profitable and sustainable farmers,” explained Doug Dickman, Project Manager – Precision Ag Technology at John Deere. “When I talk about profitability, that means that customers with our equipment and precision ag technology experience higher yields, lower cost and lower risk, year-after-year.” “When we talk sustainability, that means that our technology will help farmers be even better stewards of the land, reducing waste and helping them do more with less – and as it speaks to financial sustainability, being able to have a profitable farm to pass along to the next generation.” John Deere’s Smarter Equipment and Better Decisions precision ag strategy is comprised of three main areas: plant level management, simplified farm management, and enabling data-driven decisions. The focus when it comes to plant level management is helping farmers become better micromanagers through the use of sensors, machine learning, robotics and automation. “When you think about micromanagement, you generally think that it isn’t a good thing – but in agriculture, it really is. We want to be able to monitor and control millions of seeds that are planted on the farm in a way to optimize things for the farmer to increase productivity and precision,” said Dickman. Simplified farm management refers to a farmer’s ability to access the right information, at the right time, and from anywhere – including and especially in the cab of a tractor. “We know that most farmers aren’t sitting behind a desk in a command center watching a large monitor all day – in reality, they’re probably in the cab or out in a pickup truck. For us, we need to simplify that farm management process, which means a mobile experience that allows them to manage his or her farm from their phone,” stated Dickman. “We’re investing heavily in this technology today, and you’re going to see significant changes in the future.” The third pillar in John Deere’s precision ag strategy i