Behind the Lines - August/September 2010

Over more than 10 years we’ve published many articles in Better Farming about the economical sustainability of family run farm­s, often looking at farm policies. In this issue, writer Mary Baxter looks at the effect that farm size has on its economic sustainability focusing on big and small farms. She found, to no one’s surprise, that the middle isn’t a good place to be. Big seems to be the best place to be. Small farms have their place as well but it is a struggle to make a reasonable income. How farmers feel about the way governments make policies and who gets support may be a bit surprising. You can decide. That story starts on page 16.

In our June issue we explored the rural frenzy to bring small solar power generators (microFIT) on line by the Dec. 31 deadline in order to take advantage of relatively low domestic content rules and obtain potentially lucrative rates for the electricity produced. By the time we were in mailboxes the backlog was­­­­ immense. Mary Baxter delved into the issue again and found that even lenders were becoming leery, threatening to slow down the process even further. That story begins on page 34. As this issue was going to press the Ontario Power Authority had just announced that it’s proposing to reduce payment for ground mounted microFIT systems from 80.2 cents/kilowatt hour to 58.8 cents. It’s too soon to know what impact this will have.

To our small operation readers, here is a chance to have your say.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council is researching the
labour needs on farms with less than $100,000 in gross receipts. Responses will be used to better understand employment needs of smaller farms and will ensure that operations from Ontario are represented in the research. Go to or call CAHRC at 1-866-430-7457 ext. 228 to complete the survey by phone. Here’s an incentive: all respondents can enter for a chance to win $100.

Back in December 2007 we published the results of our investigation of Pigeon King International, the ill-fated Ontario pigeon breeding scheme that many farmers in Ontario and elsewhere lost millions of dollars on. On page 42 Mary Baxter has put together a PKI update as bankruptcy proceedings and police involvement both mark their second anniversaries.

Are there any alfalfa experts out there? Back in the May issue of Better Farming we posed a problem in our CSI series. We didn’t think the challenge was that tough for anyone who is serious about growing alfalfa yet for the first time in the three and half year history of this popular feature no one has come forward with the correct answer for three months. It’s time to dig out your back issues of Better Farming. If you know what’s ailing Art’s alfalfa the odds of winning have never been better. The first person with the correct answer wins a wireless weather station. CSI will resume in the fall with some easier challenges. BF

Robert Irwin & Don Stoneman

Better Farming - August/September 2010