Cover Story

Do crown patents protect you against government incursions on your property rights?

The Ontario Landowners Association thinks they do and a growing number of Ontario property owners are checking out their patents as a consequence


This year, Shawn McRae bought a high-hoe to do drainage work around his farm. You might think it was a routine acquisition for a routine task. But looks can be deceiving.
Among other things, the Glengarry cash crop farmer plans to use the equipment to do ditch work and landfill on provincially significant coastal wetland. The land is located on 800 acres near Bainsville that has been in the McRae family since 1904.

2011: A tough year for organic farmers

Premiums are lower and competing eco labels cloud the marketplace. But the Organic Council of Ontario is still seeing good though not spectacular growth


Dan Konzelmann’s farm looks like any other. The house is modern, the tractors are big, the rows are straight and his crops are clean. The difference between Konzelmann and the majority of farmers in Ontario is that he doesn’t plant GMO crops or use pesticides and herbicides and his farm has to pass a certification every year. Konzelmann farms organically.

Winners and losers in the dietary wars

Challenges to long-established dietary notions may be good news for dairy and red meat producers, not so good for grain, fruit and potato growers


On a Friday afternoon in late May, after days of rain, the sun is finally shining on Joe Lach’s potato farm, just north of the town of Simcoe. His planter is parked in the yard while workers scramble to replace a broken U-joint on a drive shaft.

Weather and machinery problems don’t get to Lach. They are a familiar part of farming. Mention the Atkins diet, though, and Lach bristles.

FARM MARKETS: Selling the experience as well as the product

With big chains like Wal-Mart starting to sell local produce in earnest, farm markets have to offer more than just a quality product at a fair price. Providing an enjoyable experience and appealing to all generations is one recipe for success


Buying local is the hottest trend in grocery marketing. Author Jeff Rubin in his best-selling book, “Why your world is about to get a whole lot smaller,” says carbon-conscious, energy-conscious food consumers are clamouring for more homegrown food.    His neighbouring park in Toronto hosts a farmer’s market covered with stalls where local farmers sell family farm produce to urban consumers.

Lyme disease: The painful and hard-to-diagnose infection

Some farm victims are finding that it takes years to diagnose and that the medical community is not unanimous about how to treat it. But when it strikes and treatment is delayed, the results can be catastrophic


Ron Coutts smiles modestly into the camera during a television interview about his family’s maple syrup and beef farm near Perth in Lanark County. The curved peak of his ball cap rides low, just shy of the seemingly hardy farmer’s eyes. He’s talking about making maple syrup: He and his wife Diana tap 6,000 maples and sell the syrup along with freezer beef and many other products from local farmers at their on-farm store. It’s April 2008.

Goat milk: Dairy’s fastest growing sub-sector

Production of goat milk is increasing at double-digit rates each year and, say insiders, the demand is being driven more by health reasons than ethnic preferences


February was scrambling time for Ed Donkers. His goat herd was birthing at up to 94 babies a day and it was all going to happen in about a week. He had extra staff and the barn was humming.

Donkers had compressed his breeding season and knew he was in for a busy time, but he had no regrets.  “If you asked me if I would do this again, kid out in a week instead of going for a month,” he says, “yes I would. One very busy week and I’m done.”

ALUS and EG&S: The tangled world of ecological services

Everyone agrees that alternative land use services and ecological goods and services are promising projects to pursue. But Ontario farmers are not alone in finding them difficult to get off the ground



In 2008, Steve and Anita Buehner grew their last tobacco crop. Like other growers wrestling with the decline in the province’s tobacco industry, the Norfolk County couple had been searching for a replacement. They found their answer in diversifying their 180 acres near Waterford into cash crops, apple production and agritourism with a focus on lavender and wine.

SMART PHONES: The farmer's new best friend

Estimates are that upwards of a quarter of Ontario’s farmers are using these devices – and finding that they are making information sharing and decision-making a great deal more efficient


Mark Brock, a member of the board of directors of Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), doesn’t know what he would do without his BlackBerry. Quite simply, it’s changed the way he farms. “I don’t know how we could do the stuff for GFO plus the work at home if we didn’t have BlackBerrys,” says Brock, who cash crops 1,500 acres near Staffa in West Perth.


A recent study puts the cost at $41 million, and this may be significantly understated. Meanwhile, farmers are concerned that provincial compensation will not go far enough.


Murray Gingrich put his newly purchased sheep flock onto a pasture north of Durham in Grey County in September. In the weeks to follow, he learned more than he cared to about predators.

It’s not as if Gingrich, who started farming north of Durham last year, went into the business with his eyes closed. Before he put nearly 600 mature ewes and spring born ewe lambs out, he fenced a 15-acre field with eight strands of high tensile wire, five of them electrified, including two strands at the bottom.

The obstacle-strewn road to success in agritourism

Roughly 2,000 Ontario farms practice some form of agritourism. 
But many are finding that provincial policies and local approval 
processes are lagging far behind. 
‘Somebody has to make judgment calls on these things,’ says one regional official

by Mary Baxter

Agritourism hadn’t been their first choice. But by the early 2000s, even with two jobs each, Lynne Ellis and Mark Henry were finding it difficult to meet the costs of their 80-acre farm and small herd of sheep in Prince Edward County near Picton.

“It was getting to the point that we actually thought we may have to sell and leave here,” says Henry.