Cover Story

Sidebar 4: Cathy McKay, 55, South of Port Perry (Durham Region)

McKay is the main operator of Nature’s Bounty, a farm which she owns with her husband, Marvin Stevenson. They have one son. An apple orchard is the 100-acre farm’s primary focus. She also grows pumpkins, squash, gourds, decorative corn and the operation includes 40 ewes, pasture and alfalfa. In the mid-1990s, the couple shifted the farm from exclusively wholesale apple sales to on-farm retail and wholesale. 

Greatest success. Implementing the transition from wholesale to retail and transforming the farm from a money loser to a profitable business.

Greatest challenge. “Being pulled in many directions. Sometimes people don’t understand that you are working. Yes, you’re home, yes you have some flexibility, but you are working.”

Sidebar 3: Trudy Reid, 29, District of Thunder Bay

Reid and her husband, Jason, have one daughter and run a 60-head beef cattle operation on 138 acres which they own and also rent 300 acres. They started by raising heifers, then explored pre-conditioned veal before getting involved in beef cattle. They try to market calves locally. The couple supplements farm earnings with off-farm work, such as custom farm work and relief milking. They are currently considering dairy goat production.

Greatest success. “I continue to persevere even through tough times, which makes me appreciate the small things in life.” 

Greatest challenge. Remaining optimistic while dealing with a tight cash flow.

Sidebar 2: Alice Uher, 52, north of Blenheim (Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Uher is a full partner with her husband, Steve, in a cash crop and lamb operation. They have three daughters and one son. Over the years, they have also been involved in hog production and are currently partnered in a 1,200-sow operation and conduct contract finishing. They own 200 acres, which includes farms formerly owned by their parents. Some of this they sharecrop, rent or operate themselves, depending on crop contract availability.

They also operate the Purina feed dealership for Chatham-Kent.

Greatest success. Her children.

Greatest challenge. As a woman, “trying to get the credibility that you think you’ve earned.”

Sidebar 1: Carmina Halstead, 25, Norfolk County

Halstead and her brother Bill are partners in Norfolk Organics and Nightingale Farms. Nightingale Farms grows more than 1,000 acres of conventional vegetables and contracts another 400 acres. Norfolk Organics grows 200 acres of organic vegetables and contracts another 100 acres. They raise all plants from seed and grade, pack and ship directly to chains such as Loblaws, Sobeys, A&P and Costco, as well as smaller chains and independents. Over the past year, they have also introduced value-added initiatives such as bagging different-coloured peppers.

Greatest success. Starting the organic company and adapting to consumer demand.

Greatest challenge. Becoming involved in farming and gaining recognition “that you know what’s going on.”

Cover Story - May 2009: WOMEN’S CHANGING ROLE ON THE FARM – from helpmate to full-time manager

Both on the farm and in industry organizations, women are increasingly taking an equal role and bringing their own set of skills to the task


If a male trucker picking up a shipment from Nightingale Farms ever makes the mistake of asking Carmina Halstead to fetch the boss, he’d better be prepared for a long stay. The diminutive 25-year-old has been known to make those who assume she’s an office “chick” wait up to three hours to load.

Sidebar 3: Removing the barriers to progress on green energy

The headline on the Premier’s website says: “Ontario Removing Barriers to Green Energy.” Ironically, some of those “barriers” appear to be existing provincial statutes.

“The proposed Green Energy Act would eliminate the barriers that have held up renewable energy projects in the past and make it easier to get new wind turbines, solar panels and biofuel plants online onto the grid while protecting the environment,” says a statement from Premier Dalton McGuinty posted on his website.

The Premier’s statement goes on to say that the bill would address local bylaws and regulations that are used to delay or stop proposed renewable energy.

Sidebar 2: OFA wants solar on buildings, not farmland

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is clear about where electricity-producing photovoltaic solar panels should go. They should be on top of urban buildings where the population using power is concentrated, not on prime farmland.

“I think the big concern with solar would be that you take the land out of production,” says OFA senior policy researcher Peter Jeffrey.

OFA researcher Ted Cowan, who is based in North York, argues that it would be very difficult to recover land which had been baked under solar panels for 20 to 40 years. “Below the panel, you get a tremendous buildup of heat,” he says. “It will dry out that area and it is going to get a different kind of weed growing there.”

Sidebar 1: How solar panels work

The process of converting small particles of light into electricity is called the photovoltaic effect. Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV cells are usually made of silicon. When sunlight hits the PV cell, the photons “knock” electrons loose from their atoms, creating a current.

Cover Story - SOLAR POWER: The growing debate about using prime agricultural land for power generation


Farmers worry about stray voltage and land values, councils are concerned about the lack of tax revenues from solar power development, but the provincial government seems determined to press ahead

Farmers concerned about whether a solar farm could end up their neighborhood should look up – way up. Developers wanting to locate solar farms don’t just need land, they need access to certain kinds of power lines which allow them to hook into the grid.

Sidebar 4

The VQA Act of 1999 Regulates Vintner Quality Alliance Wines:
Made from 100 per cent Ontario grown grapes of approved varieties with
85 per cent grown in a single vintage on the label and meeting a minimum sugar level.

Designated VQA:
100 per cent Ontario grown grapes, only from approved Vitis vinifera varieties and at least 85 per cent from a single designated area. Minimum 85 per cent grown from a single vintage indicated on the label.