Cover Story


Glyphosate-resistant weeds like giant ragweed are becoming increasingly common in Ontario, and farmers are trying a variety of strategies to deal with them. 
The experts agree on one thing: blaming bad management is too simple an answer


In the 1990s television series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” recurrent villains called the Borg were fond of telling the main protagonists that “resistance is futile.” The Borg, members of an inter-species collective who communicated telepathically, flew through space in a giant cube and looked like they bathed in buckets of silver paint, delivered this pronouncement with such assurance that it never failed to make the show’s central characters doubt their own resources.

Cover Story - BIG or small: Which farm model is most economically sustainable?

While small farms have been declining in number and those with $500,000-plus revenues growing, the biggest drop has been in mid-range operations. Agricultural policy must take account of these trends and not lump small and large together

by Mary Baxter

Blake Vince describes himself as a small farmer within a large farm operation. The 38-year-old partners with his father Elwin and his uncle, Tom, to grow 1,400 acres of corn, soybeans and winter wheat near Merlin in Chatham-Kent.

Cover Story - PROPERTY TAX: Does The Assessment System Treat Farmers Fairly?

After a major investigation by the provincial ombudsman, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation went through a major overhaul. But, say some farmers, it still inflates or miscalculates land values and it still lacks transparency


When Ontario Ombudsman André Marin investigated the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) four years ago, he received an avalanche of complaints.   

In fact, never in the Ombudsman office’s 30-year history had it received so many complaints in such a short time about any agency as it did about MPAC, a non-profit corporation that’s responsible for assessing and classifying properties in Ontario. (See sidebar on page 16.)

COVER STORY - PARENTAL BENEFITS: windfall for foreign workers?

The number of claims for maternity and paternity benefits from seasonal workers is rising. And, some say, the program is open to fraud. What’s more, it puts Canada at a disadvantage with its U.S. competitor


Adrian de Boer employs two foreign farm workers on his 110-acre wholesale tree nursery north of Markham and Stouffville, and in 2009 both applied for Canadian parental benefits.

While it is unusual for 100 per cent of a producer’s foreign workforce to apply for these benefits, the program has become tremendously popular.

A mixed response to rural distress lines

The future of a peer-to-peer crisis support telephone line that serves Ontario’s farm community is in question. Debra Pretty-Straathof says that, despite crises within
several of the province’s agricultural sectors in recent years, calls to the toll-free Farm Line have dwindled to roughly 60 over the past six months.

“We’re not really sure why; we don’t know if it’s a resignation or – I don’t have any way of analyzing why that would be,” she says.

Spending money for a service not being used is a point of frustration. “We’re discussing with the agriculture ministry what the options would be and how to better serve the rural farm community,” says Pretty-Straathof. No decisions have been made, but closing down the service is not an option, she adds.

Cover Story: The scourge and stigma of mental illness on the farm

Farm life is often more than usually stressful. 

And for those who suffer from depression or other forms of mental illness, help is not always available and attitudes not always sympathetic. Here are the stories of some who have been struggling with this affliction


In the 1990s, Tom Greensides held life by the tail. As chair of the Grape Growers of Ontario, president of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and one of the pioneers of the Agricultural Adaptation Council, he was a recognized leader in Ontario’s farm community.


Unproven biodynamics, animal communications and distance healing have a place on the farm

For a small number of advocates, these alternative practices are providing solutions where others have failed. But to the debunking experts, they are just scientific nonsense


Bill Redelmeier first encountered biodynamics at the 85-acre Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma County, Calif. He still remembers the line Chris Benziger, one of the vineyard’s owners, opened the tour with: “What we’re going to talk about sounds like California woo-woo – but it works.”

Cover Story: Diversification - A way out of the worst crisis in the hog industry's history?

Some producers are choosing this as the way ahead, but they caution that it is not for the faint of heart and that success depends on factors that may not be in the farmer’s control


For the past decade, the Aarts, who are hog producers near St. Marys, have been developing a fresh vegetable, direct marketing business. So far, selling sweet corn and other vegetables at the farm gate and at a local farmers’ market generates about one sixth of their business. Selling at the farm gate also presents a potential outlet for pork generated at their 150-sow farrow-to-finish operation near St. Marys.