Cover Story



Cheaper land is the drawing card for those who move their operations to Timiskaming, New Liskeard, Earlton and other points north. A shorter growing  season and far-away markets pose challenges


Dave Schill and his busy farm family in Wellington County were looking for more space to farm and found it, nearly 570 kilometres to the north.

He grew up near Drayton, and his father and brothers still farm there.

His father Larry, a former wheat board director, bought 1,500 acres in Timiskaming District in 2001 and Dave, his wife Stephanie and two-year-old Emma moved to a farm near Earlton in 2004.

Cover Story: Ten years down the GMO road

In November 1999, Better Farming’s first cover story documented the controversy over labelling foods derived from GMO products amid concerns about the closing of markets in consumer sensitive Europe. A decade later, growers here are enthusiastic and industry experts feel anti-GM opposition is weakening. In Europe the jury is still out but the anti-GMO wall is showing deep cracks


When Bt corn seed first came to the Ontario market, a skeptical Lloyd Crowe doubted farmers would buy it.


Concerns are growing that the introduction of time-of-use charges and smart meters will raise farm electricity bills.
But fixed rate contracts with electrical marketers have proved no panacea and cost savings are proving elusive


In 2006, when Wellington County farmer David Parker signed an electrical contract with Universal Power, there wasn’t much doubt the cost of electricity would sky-rocket. The 2003 blackout along the continent’s northeastern seaboard demonstrated that Ontario’s aging electrical infrastructure couldn’t meet the province’s growing power needs.

SIDEBAR: How to tell when salt is really hurting your fields

What are the warning signs that salt contamination might be at work?
Keith Reid, the Ontario agriculture ministry’s soil fertility specialist, says the sodium portion of salt can stick to clay and therefore can build in soil and hurt its structure. An indication of buildup would be the soil falling apart and turning to mud when it rains, making it susceptible to crusting.

High concentrations of salts will reduce a plant’s growth because they affect the process it uses to draw water and nutrients. “In serious situations, you’ll get roots that actually look like they’re burned. They’ll be darkened and look like somebody has held a lit match to them,” he says.

Cover Story: ROAD SALTS – the silent enemy that can stunt your crops

Under environmental law, road authorities are exempt from investigation and from penalties for damage related to salt. Yet road salt leaching into fields can cause havoc with crops, as a Dunnville strawberry farmer found to his cost


Salt is a key ingredient in the recipe for making sauerkraut. It’s packed around cabbage to draw out water. That same pickling principle, at work in Ray and Laurie Korten’s strawberry field near Dunnville, is a recipe for disaster.

Sidebar 3: Doing the maintenance is important

Fergus dairy farmer Keith Burns, featured in the March 2006 issue of Better Farming, had a used Lagerwey turbine installed on his farm by John Hogg in 2004 and says that it is working well. He heard about the problems Rob Krijnen has had with turbines. His advice: Don’t try to do it on the cheap.

Waterloo-based Free Breeze Energy Systems Ltd. has been picking up a lot of Green Breeze’s customers, says owner John Hogg. “We have the expertise; we have the manpower.”

Hogg recommends that farmers find out how many installations a company has done and get references. Hogg says he will share the names of clients with the client’s permission.

“There is a lot of good equipment out there. If it is not maintained, it will fall apart on you.”

Sidebar 2: Standardized turbine testing on the way

There is no standardized testing for small wind turbines, says Sean Whittaker, vice-president of policy for the Canadian Wind Energy Association. But there soon will be.

Starting in 2010, buyers of “small” turbines, under 300 kW in capacity, are likely to see new labels on the devices. They will be tested for sound, performance and durability by the Small Wind Certification Council. Whittaker says that standards are being approved now and testing will begin soon. Labels with a rating on them, just like the energy rating on a dishwasher or refrigerator, will be on machines starting in 2010. The program will be voluntary.

Sidebar 1: Wind energy – ‘a work in progress’

Wind energy production is “a work in progress,” says former pork producer and cash cropper Richard Ross, who installed a five-kW, Chinese-made turbine on his Fergus-area farm. No one offers a turnkey operation that “doesn’t have to be babysat,” he asserts. “Some day we are going to be there. We aren’t there yet.”

 Before he imported a turbine from China, he spoke to several turbine dealers in Ontario.

They all said that they had sold “a lot” but were unwilling to produce a list of names of customers so that Ross could check and see if they were satisfied. “I was never able to get a name and address of a customer,” he says. “That’s why I bought mine directly from China.”

Sidebar 6: Carolynne Griffith, 66, Lambton County

Griffith, who has one son and one daughter, established a laying hen and cash crop operation with her late husband, Arthur, in the 1960s. Today, the family has 23,000 laying hens on the home farm, 25,000 broilers on her son John’s farm and 2,000 acres of wheat, corn and soybeans.

Greatest success. Becoming chair of Egg Farmers of Ontario. “It gave me an opportunity to give back to the egg industry and the organization for all the great things we were able to accomplish in my lifetime.” She says she’s also “humbled and honoured” to be chair of FarmGate5, a provincial coalition promoting supply management.

Sidebar 5: Laura Kivits, 32, Dalkeith (Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry)

Laura milks 30 cows with her husband, Doug, on the family farm she acquired from her father in 2005. They have one son, Liam, born in December.

Greatest success. “Keeping it (the farm) running and doing it with Liam around.”

Greatest challenge. Preparing for and learning to cope with a new son at home.

Words of advice. If you can put your mind to it, you can do it.
 “There’s no gender difference.”