Should severing surplus farmhouses from the land be permitted?

by Mary Baxter

Like many farmers in Ontario, brothers Randy and Tim De Block have assembled the land base for their mixed farm operation by buying smaller farms. They own half of the 4,000 acres between Mitchell and Monkton in Perth County where they grow cash crops. But the acquisitions have meant acquiring houses they don’t need.

Randy has two. Right now, they’re rented to his son and a friend of his son’s. The landlord tenant relationship is good, but that hasn’t always been the case. He’s had to deal with heating bills “that don’t get paid and the tenants are gone” and one tenant who sued.

Coming soon: disability access rules for agritourism

by Mary Baxter

A provincial strategy to improve accessibility for people with disabilities is taking its first  steps into the private sector with the introduction of mandatory customer service standards in 2012.

But there won’t be any scrambling at Don and Julie Budd’s farm to meet these new requirements – or others as they come into force.

The Budds own Leaping Deere Legends Corn Maze and Museum east of Ingersoll in Oxford County. The 370-acre farm combines cash crops with an agritourism business that includes a farm store, event facility, corn maze and a collection of vintage farm implements.

Ontario lags other provinces – and particularly Quebec – in support for beginning farmers

Why, for example, say young Ontario farmers, can their Quebec counterparts get a $30,000 grant to attend the Campus d’Alfred in eastern Ontario when they cannot?


The Campus d’Alfred is the only Ontario agriculture college to offer diploma and certificate programs taught exclusively in French, and just under half of the 130 students that attend it come from Quebec. 

“The dropout rate, however, is much higher among Ontario students,” says vice-principal Gabriel Gauthier. “They don’t have that financial incentive that Quebecers have to complete their diploma.”

Poultry - Vets optimistic that yolk sac infections will continue to decrease

Quality control, temperature testing, culling of weak chicks and use of antibiotics are among the measures that can give chicks a better chance of survival


While cases of yolk sac infections went up in 2009 – an increase attributed to the wet year we had, which aids in bacteria growth – Dr. Lloyd Weber, a poultry veterinarian and poultry farmer from Guelph, says this year the infections seem to have decreased by 50 per cent.

“I believe there have been advancements. There are quality control factors, like breeders can’t sell floor eggs or dirty eggs,” says Weber.

Feature - PIGEON KING INTERNATIONAL: ‘Why is nothing being done about Arlan Galbraith?’ ask breeders two years after the collaps

After hundreds of farmers and contract breeders lost close to $40 million in a failed Ontario pigeon breeding scheme, some are asking why it is taking so long for police inquiries and bankruptcy proceedings to bear fruit

by Mary Baxter

It’s been more than two years since Pigeon King International collapsed, owing nearly $40 million to hundreds of contract breeders on both sides of the border. Since then, the Waterloo pigeon breeding business’ failure has triggered two bankruptcies – those of the business and its founder­, Arlan Galbraith – and a joint criminal investigation by the Waterloo Regional Police Service’s fraud squad and the RCMP.

Feature - OPA backlog threatens to slow down solar applications

With 15,000 applications received by June, the Ontario Power Authority is struggling to process approvals for solar power generation. That, in turn is slowing down credit approvals and equipment sales


In April, Joe Botscheller was pouring a concrete foundation on his 50-acre Simcoe-area farm for adual axis tracking solar system. Two months later, the former tobacco grower was confident his system would soon obtain final approval from the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to sell green power to the province’s electricity grid.

Sheep: Empty swine barns have potential for sheep

Experts say that a conversion can be simple and cost-effective, but producers need to do their homework first


Market prices for sheep suggest that demand is not being met, but industry expansion could happen through converting empty hog finishing barns to sheep barns.

According to swine and sheep housing and equipment engineer, Robert Chambers at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the conversion from a hog finishing barn to a feeder lamb or dry ewe barn can be simple and cost-effective, but interested producers have to do their research first. 

“I certainly see it as an opportunity for some producers – and I stress some – to utilize facilities already built,” says Chambers.

Pork: Are trichinosis regulations too stringent?

With this parasitic disease practically non-existent in Canada, the pork industry believes that current food safety regulations and cooking temperature recommendations are unnecessarily restrictive


Trichinosis, a parasitic disease, has been virtually wiped out by the nearly universal use of confinement feeding and by stringent regulation of garbage feeding of pigs. Is it still causing grief for the pork industry because of overly tough restaurant and food service cooking regulations?

Energy: Ways to take advantage of time-of-use billing

By adjusting your milking times or using a timer on your aeration fans, you can save substantially on your electricity costs


In a column in the May issue, entitled: What decision should you make about time-of-use billing?, I discussed a new method of charging for electricity using an electric meter that all homes and farms will be living with in the near future. Essentially, every hour, the meter records how much energy you used. This will be matched against the rate pricing that is in force for that hour of use.

For many farmers, this will be an opportunity to save money on their power bill. And for some, it will mean an increase. To better understand the pros and cons of this, I will use some examples.

Feature: AMMONIA - Can it become the next ‘green’ fuel source?

Experts say it is a potential energy ‘gold mine’ and one Ontario entrepreneur thinks he has the equipment to develop it. Others say it is capital-intensive and the technology still has some way to go


Roger Gordon has opened the driver’s door on the cab of his Ford F-350 and is pointing to a small, rectangular box on the dashboard. The truck’s gas-fueled engine chugs and gurgles.

Gordon, a tall, thin man in his late 50s who sports a grease-stained outdoors jacket as if it were a Bay Street suit, leans in and presses one of the box’s buttons. “Notice it just changed a little bit?” He grins. He claims he has just switched the engine’s fuel source. “That’s as simple as it is.”