Behind the Lines - February 2009

In early January, Farm and Dairy, a publication based in Salem, Ohio, listed nine people farmers should watch for in 2009. President-elect Barack Obama and his first choice as Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, are no surprise.

But one of the nine is a Canadian. His name is Arlan Galbraith.

The magazine describes Galbraith as “on the hot seat during 2009 as creditors from his now defunct Pigeon King International come calling for their share” of the millions owed to them “for pigeon breeding contracts, barn rentals and trade contracts.”

Ohio is the home to many former Pigeon King investors. Galbraith’s business was based in Waterloo and Moorefield in western Ontario and he ran a pigeon-raising scheme which collapsed last June.

Readers of this magazine will recall that Better Farming published its first article on the Pigeon King in December, 2007. We’ve been following the Pigeon King-Arlan Galbraith saga ever since, reporting ongoing developments on our website ( along with other breaking agricultural stories.

On Jan. 6, 2009, we were the first to report that the Waterloo Regional Police fraud squad and the RCMP had committed four officers and other resources to an investigation of the Pigeon King. One officer described this as the largest fraud investigation in Waterloo history. Days later, other media picked up our story. One of the reasons we bring this up now is to encourage you to look to our website for Ontario farm news when it happens. Yes, other media depend on our site to keep on top of events in Ontario agriculture, but our real purpose is to help farmers in Ontario stay on top of breaking farm stories which affect their businesses. Even readers with slow Internet connections can get breaking farm news because we’ve designed things with dial-up Internet connections in mind.

When we initially wrote about the Pigeon King, a clear warning was sounded. “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

That warning comes through loud and clear again in this issue with regards to a more common farm commodity – beef.

In early January, we got word that a heavily-publicized local beef-raising scheme in Grey County, which initially promised farmers returns well above market prices, had collapsed, leaving farmers owed tens of thousands of dollars. Police and government officials won’t say if they suspect wrongdoing in the case. This cautionary tale begins on page 26. 

Another important topic much in the news is locally-produced food. This month, writer Mary Baxter looks at the possibility for something else that is local – beer, and the possibility of growing hops and barley to make it. She found out that, because of the weather, it’s a risky business. This story starts on page 14. BF

Robert Irwin & Don Stoneman


Better Farming - February 2009