Mentoring: the hands-on way to learn about farming

A growing number of would-be farmers are looking to mentoring programs to learn about small-scale farming before taking the plunge


When Lindsay Higgins travelled to B.C. to learn to farm, she was looking for the kind of guidance that was scarce in her own farming neighbourhood. She wanted to know about small-scale vegetable farming with some lessons about poultry thrown in.

I beg to differ about the virtues of tillage before planting soys

The civil service view is that working the ground before planting produces only modest results, but the experience of many growers contradicts this


I have just finished a frustrating discussion with a civil servant about the benefits of tillage before soys. He said there was lots of information showing that the best you could expect if you work ground before planting soys was a couple of bushels per acre. He said he had seen numerous trials to prove that point. I replied that many growers told me that they were getting five to 10 bushels per acre by working the ground.

2011 – a rough year for meat packers

Several Ontario abattoirs ran into financial trouble last year after investing heavily to meet federal licensing requirements. But so far the loss has not affected the province’s cattle industry


If packers were pin-ups, then Holly Park Meat Packers Inc. at one time would have been as close to the farmer’s ideal as you could get.

Until recently, this operation, which specializes in beef, veal and lamb processing and is headquartered in Cookstown, paid on time, offered a good dollar and understood quality, according to Vince Stutzki, a Paisley area lamb producer. “Pioneering” is the word the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) uses on its website to describe the company’s traceability program.

Agriculture takes hard look at biomass opportunities

Nanticoke station must quit coal by 2014, leaving a gap farm organizations would love to fill


When Ontario’s government closed the door on the Nanticoke Generating Station’s use of coal it may have opened a window of opportunity for farmers.
And farmers along with their organizations have dived head first into efforts to figure out if biomass would work as a fuel source for the Nanticoke station, the largest coal-fired power plant in North America. It delivers up to 2,760 megawatts of power to the southern Ontario power grid.

Located on the north shore of Lake Erie in Haldimand County, the Nanticoke station must, according to an Environmental Protection Act regulation, stop using coal by 2014.

Making nutritious soup mix out of food waste for a hungry world

Last year, volunteers working for Ontario Christian Gleaners produced 2.2. million servings of soup from waste food that would otherwise have ended up in the dump or been plowed under


Five mornings a week, in a building at the south end of Cambridge, about 50 volunteers gather to trim and chop roughly 5,000 pounds of fresh produce.

“We get produce because there is a market glut,” says Dave Rochester, in charge of marketing and procurement with Ontario Christian Gleaners. The registered charity also gets “carrots that look like hockey sticks.”

A $3-million grant to kick-start research on sustainable food production

Guelph University’s Ralph Martin hopes to couple funding from Loblaw with government grants for research into areas such as food waste


Ralph Martin has something every researcher wants – money. This summer, he started his new job as Loblaw Chair in Sustainable Food Production at the University of Guelph, backed by a $3 million grant from the grocery giant. Now all he has to do is find research projects that fit the mandate and couple his industry money with government cash.

Ontario farmers are becoming an endangered species

Under constant pressure from rising costs and tighter regulations, Ontario farms are dwindling in number and struggling to survive


Where are Ontario’s agriculture, our farmers and our food supply headed?
Recent legislation has allowed for adding of more and more plants, animals and insects under endangered species laws. Included are bobolinks, wood turtles, loggerhead shrikes, certain snakes and most recently the possibility that others would be added, including meadowlarks.

While coyotes, deer, elk and bears, as well as Canada geese, play havoc with farm animals and farm crops, there is increasing pressure from environmentalists to protect these nuisances.

Traceability gets a boost with the launch of a secure network

The OnTrace Verified Network enables members to share information on tracking agricultural products. At the same time, the federal-provincial Traceability Foundation Initiative is offering $21.5 million in funding to support agri-food traceability


Traceability, the ability to follow food products through all stages of the Ontario agri-food chain, took two big steps forward over the summer.

In June, OnTrace Agri-food Traceability, the non-profit organization that maintains a provincial agricultural premises registry for animal health emergencies, announced that it had launched a secure network, OnTrace Verified Network. For a fee, members can share information for tracking.

Is Ontario’s Risk Management Program a good deal?

Farmers are divided, some saying that the potential claw-back by the federal AgriStability program negates its value


Western Ontario cash crop farmers Steve Thompson and Steve Twynstra both signed on to the province’s new Risk Management Program for grains and oilseeds before the mid-September deadline. There’s no downside, they agree, since the province is paying the tab on premiums for the first year of the program, announced on April 1.

Neither farmer expects a payout this year when crop prices are buoyant. But that’s where the two diverge.

Feature: The frustrating task of updating the Great Lakes water quality agreement

Updating this 30-year-old U.S.-Canada agreement is a slow and unwieldy process, but it’s important for agriculture to be involved


Alliston-area potato and cash crop farmer Chris Kowalski gets frustrated sometimes with the almost glacial pace of progress at government talks to update the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.