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WESTERN EDITION

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March 18, 2014 $3.50

OUR TURN BRIAN HEADON AND THE NEW DIVERSIFICATION

+PLUS FINALLY, PRECISION FARMING TACKLES THE REAL OPPORTUNITY BLOW THE DUST OFF YOUR FARM’S BUSINESS PLAN THEY SOLD THE FARM, BUT DIDN’T GIVE UP FARMING

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CONTENTS

MARCH 18, 2014

BUSINESS 10

DRIVING A BARGAIN

12

TIME FOR A (RADICAL) CHANGE

18

TWO STEPS FORWARD

24

THE ORGANIC BOOM CONTINUES

28

FROM A MODEST START

32

FAMILY BRAND

Are you as good a negotiator as you think? Read how our three experts approach this fundamental farm skill. The Cotes didn’t need to change. Their Saskatchewan grain farm was on target. But somehow, the time for change had come. Brian and Rhonda Headon knew diversification would be key to their farm succession plans. So they diversified, times two. With official sales already reaching $3.5 billion from 2.3 million acres, organic retailers say they’re hungry for more. Surrounded by corn and soybeans, Tim Barrie has honed his passion for value-adding. And he’s not looking back. In Alberta, the Hole brothers discover that even in value-adding, it’s the family that counts.

37

EXECUTE THAT BUSINESS PLAN

40

THE HIDDEN FARM ILLNESS

46

THE BEST STRATEGY TO MARKET GRAINS?

48

WHAT A FARMER WANTS

64

GUIDE HR — “TELL ME HOW TO MOTIVATE”

66

GUIDE LIFE — THE PAPERLESS FARM

THE NEW DIVERSIFICATION On farms across Canada, there’s a new wave of diversification underway. As with past waves, it’s based on a foundation of shrewd economics. But today, it’s also based on farmers like Brian and Rhonda Headon finding new ways to flex their farming muscles.

Is your business plan sitting on a shelf gathering dust? Here’s how to put it to work producing measurable results. Even in good times, depression takes its toll on farmers. Recovery is possible, however. Here’s advice on how to start. Our Gerald Pilger wants every farmer to read this Ontario study. Equipment makers struggle to build the ideal tractor.

PRODUCTION 50

CONNECTING THE DOTS

54

OVERFED

56

GROWING MARKET

MACHINERY GUIDE

58

UNSILENT SPRING

68

GUIDE HEALTH

60

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY

70

HANSON ACRES

62

MAKE MORE MONEY FROM FERTILIZER

First, stop de-motivating your employees. Here’s how. These e-tools will help you make your office even more efficient.

EVERY ISSUE 6

Grain handling and storage equipment deserves a closer look. Forget those costly programs. Here’s how to build your memory. The snow seemed like it would never stop. Just like the knock on the door.

These next steps in precision ag are absolutely incredible.

It make sense that extra N should boost your soybean yields.

CPSR is winning new converts in a tough food market.

Agriculture is a new business since the Rachel Carson classic.

Roundup at over $300 per acre? Be glad times have changed.

Smart fertilizer use may be the secret to canola profits in 2014.

Our commitment to your privacy At Farm Business Communications we have a firm commitment to protecting your privacy and security as our customer. Farm Business Communications will only collect personal information if it is required for the proper functioning of our business. As part of our commitment to enhance customer service, we may share this personal information with other strategic business partners. For more information regarding our Customer Information Privacy Policy, write to: Information Protection Officer, Farm Business Communications, 1666 Dublin Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1. Occasionally we make our list of subscribers available to other reputable firms whose products and services might be of interest to you. If you would prefer not to receive such offers, please contact us at the address in the preceding paragraph, or call 1-800-665-1362.

MARCH 18, 2014

country-guide.ca 3


desk EDITORIAL STAFF Editor: Tom Button 12827 Klondyke Line, Ridgetown, ON N0P 2C0 (519) 674-1449 Fax (519) 674-5229 Email: tom.button@fbcpublishing.com Associate Editors: Gord Gilmour Cell: (204) 294-9195 (204) 453-7624 Fax (204) 942-8463 Email: gord.gilmour@fbcpublishing.com Maggie Van Camp (905) 986-5342 Fax (905) 986-9991 Email: bmvancamp@fbcpublishing.com Production Editor: Ralph Pearce (226) 448-4351 Email: ralph.pearce@fbcpublishing.com ADVERTISING SALES Andrew Winkels (204) 954-1414 Cell (204) 227-5274 Email: andrew.winkels@fbcpublishing.com Lillie Ann Morris (905) 838-2826 Email: lamorris@xplornet.com

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine

Where status really starts Every issue of Country Guide still surprises me. If you have read these columns in past, you’ll know that I often say the greatest difference between farmers and non-farmers in Canada is farmers’ ability to make decisions. I continue to believe this. Farmers make decisions every year that have financial implications on a scale that non-farmers grapple with only once or twice in their careers. Sourcing a new combine is like buying a house; adding some acreage is like setting up a retirement plan. Nor is it only the large decisions that are critical. It’s the ability to stack strategic decisions, from the smallest to the largest, that helps define the professionalism of farmers, who after all are productive not only because of the knowledge they have at their fingertips, but because they are incredibly effective at putting that knowledge to work. This skill is under-appreciated by the Canadian public, although perhaps that’s a phenomenon that should come as no surprise. Farm groups are so busy feeding into society’s image of the farmer as the friendly, drawling guy in the bib coveralls, there’s little chance for consumers to see the sheer capability of today’s farmers. It’s a missed opportunity, because this capability needs to be the foundation of agriculture’s future. It’s especially annoying too because there has never been a time when farmers have felt that their status has been so high. Frankly, I’m not sure they’re right. 4 country-guide.ca

Instead, I think the increased cash flow on farms over the last few years has helped farmers re-evaluate themselves compared to non-farmers, and to see that they’re doing as well or better than many of their city cousins who had perhaps been acting a bit superior before. (As I say, I’m not sure that the status of farmers has actually changed. Hardly anyone in Canada sees enough farmers in a year to have given the question any thought at all.) Getting back on track, though, I wanted to leave a thought with you about my ongoing fascination with the interviews that Country Guide brings to you. I’ve lately been thinking not only about how they demonstrate farmers’ decisionmaking capabilities, but also how they shine a light on farmers’ incredible ability to identify opportunities. Again, this is foreign to most nonfarmers. For them, opportunity means which college or university they enrol in, and what job they go after. After that, they have more opportunities, of course, such as whether to switch between employers, or to go after the big promotion. But the path has been laid. The feature stories in this issue of Country Guide, by contrast, portray a group of people — farmers, by name — who bet their careers and their resources on their ability to see and sieze opportunity, and I just wanted you to know, I’m impressed. Are we getting it right? Let me know at tom.button@fbcpublishing.com.

Head Office: 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1 (204) 944-5765 Fax (204) 944-5562 Advertising Services Co-ordinator: Sharon Komoski Fax (204) 944-5562 (204) 944-5758 Email: ads@fbcpublishing.com Designer: Jenelle Jensen Publisher: Lynda Tityk Email: lynda.tityk@fbcpublishing.com Associate Publisher/Editorial Director: John Morriss Email: john.morriss@fbcpublishing.com Production Director: Shawna Gibson Email: shawna@fbcpublishing.com Circulation Manager: Heather Anderson Email: heather@fbcpublishing.com President: Bob Willcox Glacier FarmMedia Email: bwillcox@farmmedia.com Contents of this publication are copyrighted and may be reproduced only with the permission of the editor. Country Guide, incorporating the Nor’West Farmer and Farm & Home, is published by Farm Business Communications. Head office: Winnipeg, Manitoba. Printed by Transcontinental LGMC. C o u n t ry G u i d e is published 13 times per year by Farm Business Communications. Subscription rates in Canada — Farmer $39 for one year, $58 for 2 years, $83 for 3 years. (Prices include GST) U.S. subscription rate — $35 (U.S. funds). Subscription rate outside Canada and U.S. — $50 per year. Single copies: $3.50. Publications Mail Agreement Number 40069240. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Canadian Postmaster: Return undeliverable Canadian addresses (covers only) to: Circulation Dept., PO Box 9800, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 3K7. U.S. Postmaster: Send address changes and undeliverable addresses (covers only) to: Circulation Dept., PO Box 9800, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 3K7. Subscription inquiries:

Call toll-free 1-800-665-1362 or email: subscription@fbcpublishing.com U.S. subscribers call 1-204-944-5766 Country Guide is printed with linseed oil-based inks PRINTED IN CANADA Vol. 133 No. 5 Internet address: www.agcanada.com

ISSN 0847-9178 The editors and journalists who write, contribute and provide opinions to Country Guide and Farm Business Communications attempt to provide accurate and useful opinions, information and analysis. However, the editors, journalists, Country Guide and Farm Business Communications, cannot and do not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this publication and the editors as well as Country Guide and Farm Business Communications assume no responsibility for any actions or decisions taken by any reader for this publication based on any and all information provided.

march 18, 2014


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* Source: Manitoba Pulse Grower Association 2012 field trials † http://www.seedgrowers.ca/pdfs/top_10.pdf Monsanto Company is a member of Excellence Through Stewardship® (ETS). Monsanto products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Monsanto’s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. This product has been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from this product can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. Excellence Through Stewardship® is a registered trademark of Excellence Through Stewardship. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready® crops contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides. Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Genuity and Design®, Genuity®, Roundup Ready 2 Yield®, Roundup Ready® and Roundup® are trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC, Monsanto Canada, Inc. licensee. ©2014 Monsanto Canada Inc.


Machinery

By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor

When it comes to different kinds of farm equipment, few sectors have as many manufacturers, as many choices or as much riding on your decision as in grain handling and storage. In many ways, that flexibility is a bonus, allowing you to assemble the system that’s exactly right for how you farm. Of course, the complexity is also a challenge. It takes energy and commitment to make the right choices on everything from galvanized bins and aeration systems to bucket elevators and conveyors. Here’s a start, with our look at augers and grain vacuums from from seven manufacturers. As always, we urge you to budget ample time for followup.

 Westfield MKX160 Series Auger Brand new from Westfield is the MKX160, billed as the highestcapacity auger on the market. Available in 85-, 105-, and 125-foot lengths, it can move more than 23,000 bushels per hour. Westfield says it has drawn on the expertise of its research and development team to design this auger to meet the requirements of today’s large farms as well as commercial operators. They’ve added strength and stability, from the engineered top truss to an extensive list of standard features, adding long-lasting durability. This low-profile design also boasts Westfield’s leading Wear Edge technology, for long-lasting and reliable performance.

www.grainaugers.com

Brandt Standard Transport 840 

REM 3700 GrainVac 

Speed is important but so is reliability. Brandt says it designed its Standard Transport 840 auger for both. Durability and reliability are brand objectives with Brandt, with auger diameters ranging from eight to 13 inches and lengths of 35 to 50 feet. Heavy-gauge flighting is thicker and stronger for extended life, and heavy-gauge tubing and a one-piece undercarriage with square tubing add to the toughness of this unit. There’s also a long list of attachments, including direct drive PTO, belt drive PTO, or a tube-mount electric belt drive, all to meet specific conditions and requirements on your farm.

High capacity and high speed are goals of the REM 3700 from GrainVac. This unit can move a lot of grain, and move it fast, with up to 10,000 bushels per hour at fullbin load-out, and 4,000 to 5,000 bushels per hour with 50 feet of hose at full-bin load-out. And with 35 feet of hose, it can push that capacity to 5,500. Those are big numbers for a commercial grain handler, but for the larger-scale farm operator, there’s also a 3700 Diesel GrainVac, perfect for moving a lot of grain around several storage locations.

www.brandt.ca

www.grainvac.com

6 country-guide.ca

M ar c h 1 8 , 2 0 1 4


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Farm King Grain Vac 

Walinga Agri-Vac

No matter what the grain moving job — from bin to truck, from bin to bin, or from storage shed to truck — Farm King’s Grain Vac says it can move your crop quickly and efficiently. Their grain vac even helps in cleaning out trash particles as the crop passes through. The heart of the system is the Grain Vac’s blower, the field-proven 5.3 positive displacement unit. Machined casings provide maximum efficiency, moving grain greater distances without using booster systems. The silencer reduces noise intensity by more than 50 per cent, yet doesn’t sacrifice the machine’s capacity. That means greater operator comfort for the life of the unit.

It’s billed as the only system a grower needs, offering one person total grain-handling capability that’s simpler, safer, and even healthier. The Walinga Agri-Vac dispenses with legs, augers, sweeps, and shovels, and can be coupled to a tractor for ease of operation. Such simplicity extends to maintaining the quality of the grain, thanks to the large Drop Thru/Blow Thru airlock system. Inlet and outlet ports employ special contours to maximize capacity and a rotor wiper levels pockets to reduce damage to the grain. The unit’s truck loading kit also rotates a full 360 degrees and can be raised or lowered to meet the height of your truck.

www.farm-king.com

www.walinga.com

Wheatheart R Series Grain Auger

Meridian Swing Away Auger

With six models to choose from, the Wheatheart R Series Auger adds versatility to its lineup of quality-built portable units. A straightline auger, the R Series is engineered for toughness and dependability, along with a long reach and wear-edge intake. Among the options, there’s a hydraulic winch, electric clutch, intake hoppers, and a hydrostatic bin sweep. You can also choose from gas engine, electric motor, or belt-drive PTO for the drives. Either way, it means you’re moving grain fast. As for standard features, the R Series augers also feature an easy-access frame and proven design.

Meridan’s new 14-inch Swing Away Auger is the company’s tallest and strongest on the market. With a high-capacity mechanical drive unit, this swing auger moves more grain with greater efficiency. Standard features on this auger include a PTO holder with a mechanical advantage for ease of lifting, a hopper drive system consisting of steelcut sprockets and a heavy-duty roller chain, There’s also a formed main frame and a formed A-frame, plus an axle design that greatly reduces sagging and allows for a narrow transport stance, yet a wider operational stance.

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www.meridianmfg.com

8 country-guide.ca

March 18, 2014


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BUSINESS

DRIVING A BARGAIN

Are you actually as good a negotiator as you think?

By Amy Petherick f you ask a non-farmer what skills you need as a farmer, the answer at the top of their list may be driving a tractor. Ask a farmer, and it’s more likely to be driving a hard bargain. Negotiating skills have been an essential part of farming for generations, so it’s no surprise that farmers in general are very good negotiators. But identifying the best negotiators is a little more complicated than simply pointing in the direction of the person always bragging about getting the better deal from their recent trades. Those with experience know there’s more to negotiating than simply racing to the bottom. Just ask Stephen Acres of Legacy Acres in Grand Forks, B.C. Acres worked as a research veterinarian and business manager for animal health companies for over 30 years, only becoming a grape grower five years ago. Now he has also added diversified business interests, including a partnership in an artisanal distillery in Mazatlan, Mexico.

“It’s a game of power, knowing how to use your power, knowing how to acquire more.” — Jim Murray As Acres approaches the launch of his own wine brands this year, he emphasizes that his continued success will rely as much as ever on mutually beneficial arrangements. “Going into a negotiation trying to make it a win-win situation for everyone involved is the only way it can work long-term,” says Acres. “I’ve been involved in many negotiations where one party tries to take advantage of the other for short-term gain, and those arrangements never last.” But on the whole, Acres says he’s seen farmers implement some remarkable negotiating tactics over the years. The one he feels all farmers seem particularly good at is playing the dim-wit. Or as Acres likes to call it, shuffling their feet. “They look at the ground and shuffle their boots and pretend they’re just off the turnip truck,” he says with a bit of a chuckle. But in his experience, the very same farm10 country-guide.ca

ers are much smarter than they’re letting on. “They understand their cost structure and their margins very well,” he says. The technical label for this particular tactic is “Catch-22,” according to Dr. Jim Murray, who has been profiling negotiators around the world for almost 45 years and now offers workshops on the art of negotiating. Though he doesn’t know how they came to be so good at it, even in Maxwell, Ont., where Murray owns 150 acres of farmland, he has seen farmers use the tactic effortlessly. Murray says the reason playing dumb works is because people generally have a desire to fill silences, and they also like to show off what they know. “Knowing when to shut up is actually a great skill and in a negotiation, information is the ultimate source of power,” says Murray. “Slowing down and letting the other person go first is very powerful.” Some would say this is a sign of maturity and Murray would agree that age does tend to improve negotiating skills. Career choice also improves a person’s chances of becoming a great negotiator, and farmers aren’t the only ones who negotiate for a living. Murray says lawyers are often excellent negotiators as well, with all the practice they get. Ethnicity is also a contributing factor. “I genuinely believe that North Americans in general are probably among the worst negotiators on the face of the planet,” says Murray. He remembers a time when price tags were a foreign concept in most of the world, since most retailers believed value couldn’t be assigned until a customer’s interest was gauged. Negotiating was expected and in these countries, it was a survival skill. “I think one of the reasons why North Americans are generally poor negotiators,” says Murray, “is because we tend to see negotiating as arena-specific as opposed to a generic life skill.” David Fuller, a chicken farmer from Canning, N.S., and a past chair of the Chicken Farmers of Canada, believes this explains why farmers are generally so good at negotiating. “Because we have to deal with so many different aspects of business and so many different clients, we do it on a regular basis, and we have that expertise,” Fuller says. He certainly believes it’s an essential skill that he needs to pass on to his daughters if they are going to succeed as the next generation operating Fuller Family Farms. As part of their family’s succession plan, MARCH 18, 2014


BUSINESS

he is ensuring the next generation gets ample opportunity to observe his business transactions and hone their own skills as active participants. “To learn from the outgoing generation about how things are done, about negotiations, about all these things is absolutely critical,” Fuller says. Nor does he worry that teaching his daughters to be the best negotiators they can be will threaten his interests when it comes time to finalize succession negotiations. There is no “us-versus-them” mentality there, Fuller says, and both generations absolutely must work together to be successful. “What I always found very helpful for me was to find the common ground,” Fuller says. “If you can’t get people on the same page at the start, it’s very difficult to bring them all to the same page.” Murray says negotiations are about power and between the participants of a farm succession, or in any healthy relationship, power is constantly shifting. Power also tends to be more complicated than people tend to think. In this case for example, Fuller and his wife may appear to have all the power and an advantage in succession negotiations because they currently own everything that their

daughters may want. But Murray says the parents’ desire for building a legacy and seeing their daughters succeed offers the second generation some measure of power too. Even a toddler has enough power of creativity and persistence to get what they desire from a parent who otherwise appears more powerful in every way. “It’s a game of power, knowing how to use your power, knowing how to acquire more power and knowing how to negotiate when you seemingly don’t have power,” Murray says. “Never assume who has the power.” Murray says power is often dimly understood, and in his workshops, he devotes more time to it than even listening, although this too is a critical skill that almost everyone, himself included he says, needs to work on. Most importantly, Murray says, power is selfbelief. Those who believe they’ve got a high-quality product in an international market, or those who believe their daughters can be trusted to reciprocate their good intentions through a succession plan, are most likely to achieve mutually beneficial agreements in the end. CG

If only you could bottle conf idence.

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business

Time for a (radical) change You might call it flower power. Barb and John Cote call it an amazing shift from grain farming By Shirley Byers

Selling the family farm Getting out of big farming was a mutual decision, says Barb. “One day my husband came to me and said, ‘You know I really don’t like grain farming.’ And I said, ‘I know.’” Remembering that conversation, and why he had made that statement and why he felt that way, John says, “It was probably because I had done it long enough. There wasn’t as much of a challenge left. You know, when you first start out, when you’re young, you have to do all this learning and you have to be really into it. And that’s very enjoyable.” But he knew a time had come when he needed to take on new challenges and learn new things. At the same time, he and Barb both wanted their four children to have the opportunities a bigger centre could offer. They wanted to be closer to services such as 12 country-guide.ca

hospitals and an airport. And they wanted to get into direct marketing. In 2010, the Cotes made the decision to sell the family farm near Leask, an hour north of Saskatoon. The farm had been in John’s family for three generations. “A lot of people had an emotional stake in it, not financial but emotional,” says Barb. “There were questions. But we received everyone’s approval. Everyone understood our position. This made it far easier for us.”

A new beginning The Cotes bought the farm where they now live and work near Saskatoon in August of 2010. Once they’d acquired it, the question was — now, what do we do with it? MARCH 18, 2014

Photography: Dave Stobbe

t a time when other farmers lay awake wondering how they can manage to acquire more land, the husband and wife team of John Cote and Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote have downsized dramatically. They’ve gone from farming 5,000 acres to farming 80 acres. And they couldn’t be happier. The Cotes grow and sell flowers, adding up to some 80 varieties on five acres. They’ve got annuals. They’ve got perennials. They’ve got bulbs and corms and ornamental grains and grasses. Looking further down the road, they’ve also planted four acres to haskap and six to raspberries, and they’re about 18 months away from opening an on-farm distillery and a retail store. In other words, they’ve traded one version of earning their livelihood from the land to an utterly different version. But it still starts with the land.


business

“The potential for growth is much larger than in grain farming,” John finds

The first year, 2011, they cleaned and mowed and summer fallowed. The second year they installed drip irrigation on the entire farm and they seeded test plots with corn, melons, and other crops including flowers to see what would grow well. They found that their well-drained, somewhat sandy soil would grow lots of different plants without too many problems. The more important question became: What would they sell? Vegetables were a definite possibility. People like buying fresh, local vegetables. But there was something about flowers. Selling flowers just isn’t the same. People don’t apply as tough a mindset to the purchase of flowers as MARCH 18, 2014

they do to the purchase of vegetables, John explains. When buying vegetables, the niggling thought is always in the back of their mind that they could get this vegetable cheaper elsewhere. “With flowers, you don’t get that,” John says. “It seems to come out of a different budget.” In 2012, the Cotes grew vegetables and flowers. In 2013, they grew mostly flowers and a few vegetables. In 2014, they’ll grow only flowers, which works out well because farming flowers is what Barb really, really likes. “When we were grain farming, I was kind of the head grain farmer guy, and now that we’ve done this, Barb has defi-

nitely taken the lead and I’m in more of a supporting role,” John says. In spite of being absolutely in her element, it’s been a steep learning curve, Barb says. “In grain farming, if you have difficulties, if you have weeds or disease or questions, the answer can be found. The information is there. Everybody’s been growing wheat and barley and canola for years. There’s information on every possible weed or disease, and if there isn’t, somebody’s working on it. There’s a huge network to rely on.” Not so with the myriad of blooms on her farm. For more than 80 varieties she Continued on page 14 country-guide.ca 13


business Continued from page 13 needs to know: What type of soil do they like? What are the best nutritional recommendations? What’s the best cutting time? How long can they be stored? Mentors, ag extension departments, trialand-error — she has learned from them all, and she has discovered a wealth of home gardeners with tons of experience they’re happy to share. One of those contacts, a gardener from Prince Edward Island, recommended Barb take out a membership in the Association of Specialty Cut Flowers, based in the U.S. She did, and she also visits other gardens and learning events whenever she can. Last fall she want to a flower grower business school in Rhode Island. Some general farming skills have been transferable. Knowing about fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and being able to diagnose some of the diseases, all come in handy. The equipment, including a tractor, sprayer, and back-pack sprayer, is all smaller but still similar to the machinery they used on their grain farm. There’s a lot more walking, though. And it’s a lot more hands-on. Barb says she’s in better shape physically than she’s been in a long time. “Five acres doesn’t sound like much but when you’re on the end of a hoe, five acres is pretty big.” The new skills they’ve had to acquire are more in specifics, she says. They’ve never grown haskaps before; not many people in Canada have. “We planted it in a raised mulch bed. Was that good? We’ll know within a year and a half.”

Building on what they’ve learned Some of the skills the Cotes have developed in their transition to flowers will add to their success as they continue to diversify. Selling direct means developing relationships with their customers, John says. Relationships are about taking the time to talk to customers and answer their questions, keeping in mind that sometimes these people haven’t been on a farm for a very long time and may possess some outdated ideas about the way things happen. The Cotes have also developed the ability to better manage change, to always have a plan B in the background, including financing, so they know what they’re going to do if the original plan doesn’t work. One serendipitous discovery is the realization of what is possible. “The potential for growth is much larger than 14 country-guide.ca

“I was kind of the head grain farming guy,” John says. Now, roles have been re-examined in grain farming,” John says. “In this, if you can think of it and you have the energy to do it, you can make a very nice little business if you have good location.” Their location, on Saskatoon’s Valley Road alongside several greenhouses and a couple of berry farms, five minutes from the city, was no accident. Land prices there are considerably higher per acre than they were able to realize from their farm at Leask, but they knew that for smaller-scale farming, location was pivotal.

A year of flowers A typical year on Tierra Del Sol, as John and Barb have named their flower farm, looks both similar and different to a year on a more conventional Saskatchewan farm. In January, Barb shops for seed. The Cotes buy wholesale, but like any gardener Barb spends a lot of time poring over seed catalogues. Like any farmer, too, she keeps careful records. What’s selling? What’s not selling? Explains Barb: “The first go-round is based on very solid basis of, ‘Yes, we need more of this, no, we don’t need that.’ The second go-round is more based on whim.”

Also in January, they attended a bridal show to let people know about Tierra Del Sol for wedding flowers and yearround flower needs. It’s important to keep up with trends in the wedding industry, which is another factor to keep in mind when ordering seed and planning plots. Winter is a time to work on marketing strategies. They revamp the website and freshen up their social media presence. They visit florists, event planners and others who might need flowers on a large-scale basis. They redesign their farmers market booth. And, like conventional farmers, they do repairs, clean out storage areas, and get ready for the season ahead. As these tasks are completed, they move into the spring prep season, preparing the soil and laying out the seed beds in advance of the actual planting. Almost all of their plants are grown from seed, placed directly in the ground. Plastic mulch keeps moisture in and weeds out. Barb will grow some bedding plants to lengthen the season but the Continued on page 16 MARCH 18, 2014


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BUSINESS Continued from page 14 majority are placed one seed at a time, and the flowers will be ready on time. “It’s surprising what our long days do,” Barb says. “Zones four, five, and six may have nicer weather but they don’t have the growing days that we have.” Appropriately, Tierra Del Sol is Spanish for “Land of the Sun.” Saskatchewan receives 320 days of sunshine per year. When market season starts, the Cotes have their booth set up at the Saskatoon Farmers Market and are ready for business at 8 a.m. That means leaving the house no later than 6:30 a.m. Last year they attended the market four days a week.

Their two youngest teenage children help out at the market, and they employ five other workers on a seasonal basis. After the market day is done, usually between 2 and 4 p.m., they drop off unsold flowers at women’s shelters and nursing homes. It’s a way of giving back, and a nice way to end the day, Barb says. But the day isn’t really over. Flowers must be cut for the next day’s market. It takes two to three people two to three hours to pick and prepare the flowers for a day at the market. Flowers are sold by the stem, by the bundle or in arrangements. Volunteers come to the farm to pick flowers in exchange for bouquets to take home. “That one really blows grain

farmers away,” Barb says with a grin. “That comes down to being in direct contact with the customer. I’ve received more hugs from strangers at the farmers market than I ever did hauling grain!” The Cotes also sell to florists and from the farm gate. One of the things that sets Tierra Del Sol apart from other florists is that customers can choose to pick their own flowers, an option that’s proven popular with brides. As the growing season winds down, harvesting begins. They save seed from varieties they’ve been particularly impressed with, and they also save and store bulbs and corms. For now, they store their bulbs and corms in coolers

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but when the retail shop is completed it will have a space for this purpose. Their first ever pumpkin festival was a success last fall, attracting over 1,200 people over a two-day period. Events included a type of bowling using pumpkins as balls, a bale maze, and a game of angry pumpkins. In the fall Barb attended grower school and thought about a special Christmas event possibly in the future. Fall is also a time for reflection and evaluation and an opportunity to tackle some of the big projects around the farm including finishing their gate signage.

In the orchard, meanwhile, the raspberries will be going into production in 2014 and the haskaps in 2015. The building for the distillery and retail shop is up and work has begun on the interior. At the same time, the Cotes have begun making their way through the paperwork required to set up a distillery. When they’re up and running, they’ll produce whiskey, vodka, gin, and flavoured liqueurs. They’ll grow the majority of their inputs. “What we would like is to have people come out and help seed the wheat or plant the barley and later help harvest it, put it

in the still, and bottle it off,” says Barb. They plan to be in production within 18 months. For those who might be thinking it’s time for a change or to get smaller or to try a new way of farming, John Cote offers this advice: “People who are out there doing the same thing for 25 years always say, ‘You know, I wish I would have done whatever, but I’m 45, it’s no time to do it.’ And my only advice is that it’s easier to do it at 45 than it is at 65.” “Bring your loved ones along,” John adds. “You have to bring everybody along.” CG

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Two steps forward t’s the classic Western Canadian love story. Boy and girl meet at a hockey game. Years later, they meet again at Alberta’s Ukrainian Pysanka Festival in Vegreville. They fall in love, they marry, they move back to his family’s farm, and they start a family. Also, like so many farming couples, Brian Headon and Rhonda Zuk Headon have complementary skills that make them a farming powerhouse. Rhonda is a savvy direct-marketer with a passion for homegrown food. Brian has a financial shrewdness that serves them both well. Together they have diversified the farm, running separate businesses that tap into commodity and local food markets.

By Lisa Guenther, CG Field Editor

In 1972, Brian’s grandparents started a dairy near Kitscoty in Alberta, just west of Lloydminster. They soon expanded into cash crops. Two generations later, Brian still manages much of that land, but the Headon farm now looks very different than it did 40 years ago. Today Brian buys yearling cattle, grazes them through the summer, and then sells them in the fall through an online auction. He also runs a Flaman franchise, renting equipment such as skid steers and rollers. Running yearlings isn’t for the faint of heart, Brian concedes. “You’re basically playing the market as much as raising beef, whereas with cow-calf, you’ve got a little bit more cushion.” Brian can speak at length about farm finance. He clearly has a passion for the subject, and he is confident in his knowledge. Plus he has a plain-language approach that makes it easier for a listener to understand. Brian always knows the market value of his yearlings. Last fall, “the day I went to sell, they just weren’t where I thought they should be,” he says. So he called “no sale.” Shortly after, the cost of gain started dropping and Lloydminster’s Vee Tee Feeders had pen space available. Brian listed them again for a December 1 delivery. The wait made a difference. Only three weeks later, he got a “stellar price.” But Brian didn’t get those steel nerves overnight. He has invested time in learning about economics and financing, and he keeps an eye out for what works well for other producers. Brian was 17 in the late ’90s when the farm’s dairy quota was sold and the land was split. He earned a journeyman license in heavy-duty mechanics and worked in the local John Deere dealership while raising

Photography: anthony houle photography

Alberta’s Rhonda and and Brian Headon knew the farm needed diversification. Now, each heads their own very different farm enterprise

MARCH 18, 2014

High-stakes yearling business

Continued on page 20

country-guide.ca 19


business Continued from page 19 cattle and growing grain with his parents, Debbie and Brian Sr. Brian knew taking over the family farm wouldn’t be a stroll in the pasture. Markets were more bear than bull at the time, but he sought ideas to make the land more profitable. His neighbour practiced holistic management, and the idea of grass-based production started to appeal. “You’re not really dependent on the input suppliers,” Brian says. Focusing on grass meant changing his mindset because he wouldn’t have the cash flow that he would on a grain farm. But neither would he have the overhead, fixed expenses, or direct costs. To survive, Brian says, “You have to set it up so it’s a very low input system. So at the end of the day you’re going to net likely more money and not have the stress.” Brian also looked abroad for ideas he could apply at home. Visiting dairies in New Zealand revealed how much value a grass-based production system could generate. New Zealand dairy farmers exported powdered milk at that time, so production was seasonal. Although Canada’s winter is frigid, the growing season isn’t much shorter than New Zealand’s, Brian says. And cold, dry winters preserve swath and corn grazing, giving Canadian livestock producers an advantage. But Brian knew he had to bump up his business management skills. He convinced his father to take the Ranching for Profit course with him. At that time, the course cost them about $4,500 each, and government funding wasn’t available to offset the costs. The intense week-long course was worth the hefty price tag, Brian says. “We came out of that course after a week and it was just kind of like a new world.” Brian Sr. knew he didn’t want to manage the business, so he made a point of handing the reins to his son. Both Brian Sr. and Debbie have been slowly exiting the business since, although Debbie ended up being more involved in 2013, due to some unexpected labour issues. The course gave Brian and his dad the confidence to seed 2,400 acres of grain land to grass over three years. Brian then bought yearlings to feed out. Brian also picked up some specific approaches to financial management that have served him well. For example, when it comes to measuring his opera20 country-guide.ca

“It’s a tough startup business,” Rhonda says. But passion and perseverence are making The Cheesiry a success.

March 18, 2014


business tion’s financial health, Brian leaves land equity out of the equation “so then you’re calculating your gross margins on your production. And your overhead’s away from your direct costs. You get a very clear picture of what your business is really doing.” A Bud Williams Stockmanship Course taught him to sell existing inventory before replacing it. “You have to sell your tractor first, know what you’ve really got for it from the market. And then you go back to the market and you try to purchase what’s undervalued.” The Ranching for Profit course also had an ongoing executive link. They created a board of directors that sat down with the Headons and provided feedback on the business. “It’s fairly intimidating at times. But yet it’s kind of reassuring because they’re looking at your financing, your economics,” Brian says. These days Brian buys yearlings in late February, feeds them for about 100 days, then grazes them in 20-acre paddocks, where they’re rotated frequently. He doesn’t worry too much about specific breeds or colours, but instead focuses on the potential price differential. He also tries to buy uniform bunches so they’ll gain at about the same rate. Brian also studies market reports and talks to Don Davies at Vee Tee Feeders. He punches prices into a customized spreadsheet for each weight class, plus fat cattle prices and cost of gain. He knows his cost of production and what kind of margin he needs. “That kind of determines what we run.” Brian initially thought about direct marketing grass-finished beef. “But when we ran the numbers, it’s just easier to run a bit more of a commodity mindset and have the economies of scale.” Although the markets have been kind to him recently, Brian doesn’t come across as smug. Despite all the preparation, Brian says it was a tough go when he first started buying yearlings. He made mistakes, and the price differentials were tight. “So it was probably the worst it could be, but yet sometimes it’s good, I think, to have those failures early on because then you’re a little bit more cautious,” Brian says. Brian has had near misses, too, and is considering the Cattle Price Insurance Program offered by Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC). The beef recall of 2012 could have hurt him. But Brian had pre-priced his yearlings in June, for a lateSeptember delivery, avoiding the price drop. He says 2013 was a wake-up call because after calling no sale, he had no price protection on his calves. “All it would have taken was another repeat of the year before, where all of a sudden some plants get shut down and this market crashes. Well then you’re left holding a big bag. And there isn’t that kind of margin in it.” Brian has no regrets about the changes he’s made over the last decade. The farm is more profitable, and even more family-friendly than its previous incarnation. “There isn’t too much that we do without our kids around,” he adds. March 18, 2014

Farm girl grows up in the city Although Rhonda grew up in Edmonton, both sets of her grandparents had mixed farms south of Vegreville. She set down roots in the prairie soil, becoming an agronomist for Sturgeon Valley Fertilizers. Much of Rhonda’s passion for her business is rooted in her love of making food, instilled in her by her maternal grandmother. But it wasn’t until she took a trip to Italy to mark her 30th birthday that she was inspired to learn the craft of cheese-making. She initially went for three months, but it wasn’t enough. Podere Il Casale, a Tuscan farm that made wine, olive oil, and cheese from its own raw ingredients, lured her back like a siren calling sailors to a reef. Rhonda returned home to rent out her condo, quit her job, and make other arrangements. “When I went over to make the cheese, it was never intended to become a career. It was just to be able to say, ‘I know how to make cheese,’” she says. Something about the farm, where the farmer owners interacted directly with customers, often over supper, inspired her. Rhonda started telling people she was thinking of starting a cheese-making business. They took her seriously, and so she felt obligated to do it, she says, laughing. But Rhonda and Brian were an item by this time. She wasn’t sure if his parents would embrace the idea of a cheese-making business on their family farm. It turns out they not only supported it, the family farm financed her plan when the banks wouldn’t. And so The Cheesiry was born. But being a cheese-maker isn’t all fun and glamour. “It’s a tough startup business. That’s for sure,” says Rhonda. Rhonda speaks quickly. I get the sense she has tons of energy, and a good thing, too. As she takes me through a day in the life of a cheese-maker, I realize just how labour-intensive it is. Rhonda and her staff bring in the milk sometime between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. to warm it up before adding the culture. What follows are hours of cutting, agitating, and reheating curds and whey before they’re poured into moulds to form cheese. The cheese is incubated at about 30 C to sweat out the whey. It’s also flipped every 15 minutes while it sweats. The Cheesiry’s biggest risk is bacteria in the cheese. Their feta, Camembert, fresco and yogurt are made from pasteurized sheep milk, but the hard cheeses are formed from raw milk and is aged for at least 60 days. Cleanliness is the first line of defence, so they spend two hours washing equipment after each batch. Each batch is also lab-tested before it’s released for sale. Rhonda had trouble securing dairy quota, as she only wanted to milk seasonally. So she turned to sheep, which ended up being a selling point for customers with dairy allergies. She now relies on 120 ewes for milk, and their health and productivity is another risk. “Every year we Continued on page 22 country-guide.ca 21


business Continued from page 21 ultrasound the sheep. And I just think, what if we don’t have sheep pregnant this year. What if half the flock’s not pregnant? That’s a big risk.” Rhonda also faced distribution problems “It’s fairly intimidating at when she started up. She wasn’t able to sell in times,” Brian says. “They’re the farmers markets because of the raw milk looking at your financing, cheeses. She had to rely on cheese shops and your economics.” restaurants to buy her cheese. And although she moved all the cheese, some of it didn’t sell immediately. “We had two-year-old cheese, which is great, but at the same time, you want that cash flowing a little bit sooner,” she says. The shops were a relatively stable market, but chefs were constantly leaving the restaurants, forcing Rhonda to continually re-market her products. Rhonda’s passion for the business has helped sustain her through the rocky first few years. And although it’s still a tough trek, things are improving. A regulation change allowed Rhonda to sell her cheese in Alberta’s farmers markets last year, giving her a more stable market. And she has good advisers, too. When it comes to cheese production questions, Rhonda turns to Margaret Morris at Glengarry Cheesemaking. And Brian helps her with business management questions, plus provides moral support. And although the farmers markets are timeconsuming, the customer interaction is inspirational. Rhonda likes introducing the cheese to reluctant customers, who think it’s going to taste like mutton (it Along with the university students from France, potential doesn’t). “That always makes me happy,” says Rhonda. “It’s nice employees contact Rhonda through her website, thecheesiry.com. to get that feedback right from people who are eating your product The Headons provide housing, a vehicle (which employees that you’ve actually spent the time to produce.” have to insure), and food, along with a wage. They also generRhonda’s business doesn’t see the same returns as Brian’s ally pay a bonus at the end of the season. yearlings do, and it’s more work. But Rhonda controls her Staff members handle much of the day-to-day production destiny, just as she controls the production, processing, and work, and to help them, the Headons have created procedure marketing. Local consumers also offer a stable market, which manuals, grazing maps, and contact phone lists. balances the more volatile commodity market Brian works in. But it’s not always easy. Last year, a family emergency forced The Cheesiry remains a tough business to run. The more an employee to quit partway through the season. The Headons cheese they produce, and the more markets they access, the hired more help to pick up the slack, but found retraining somemore labour that’s required. “I still don’t feel like we’ve hit the one for a short time inefficient. They learned they are probably mark in terms of (it being) smooth sailing.” better off adjusting their systems in such situations, Brian says. But Rhonda is optimistic about the future. She’s working They’ve also kept one of their seasonal interns employed this with a university in France to employ exchange students in the winter so she’ll be fully trained when the busy season hits. summers. She hopes to line up quota so she can start a new Despite the hitches around sharing labour, “I think the bencheese line blending cow and sheep milk. efits do far outweigh any negatives that we’ve had,” says Brian. And cheese-making allows her to indulge her creative side. In Employees often get more than a wage and boarding out Italy, she added lavender to her cheese, which won over the initially of the deal. One year a Vancouver woman apprenticed with skeptical Austrian cheese-maker and farm owner. Next summer she Rhonda to improve her cheese crafting. The cheese-maker also plans to introduce a Nutella-fresco blend to Alberta’s foodies. brought along her boyfriend, who worked with Brian. “He had no small-hand-tool experience whatsoever,” Brian Shared labour says. “Yet when he left we had him welding.” The Headon family farm is prospering these days, thanks to Brian and Rhonda’s businesses are separate entities, but they the diverse businesses Brian and Rhonda have brought in. But, have some synergies, especially when it comes to labour. like many farms, the focus is as much on people’s well-being as Rhonda’s business attracts labour, which is a big plus, espemuch as business because that, they seem to show, can be one of cially since the Headons now have toddler twins and Brian’s the great outcomes of diversification on the family farm. CG parents are moving towards retirement. 22 country-guide.ca

March 18, 2014


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c i n a g r o s e e h u T n i t n o c boom By Helen Lammers-Helps

ith sales reaching $3.5 billion in 2012, Canada is now the fourthlargest organic market in the world after the U.S., Germany and France, according to a comprehensive study by the Canada Organic Trade Association. Nor are sales showing any signs of slowing down, says Matthew Holmes, executive director of the nonprofit association that represents organic growers, retailers, processors and exporters. “The organic market is continuing to grow rapidly,” says Holmes. “It tripled in size since 2006, and that’s despite the 2008 recession and the introduction of stringent new regulations in Canada in 2009.” “The market is robust and we need more organic farmers in Canada,” Holmes says. “There is untapped demand.” According to the study, 20 million Canadians say they buy some organic every week, and 98 per cent of these shoppers expect to maintain or increase their spending on organic. Typical shoppers include parents with young children, and also urbanites and the university educated. Those factors are significant, Holmes says, because Canadians choose organic foods as part of their broader social, health and environmental values. 24 country-guide.ca

The sector says it desperately needs more farmers Holmes says the same is true of farmers who shift to organic. But they also look at economics, he says, where he says they find it’s easier to support a family farm with organic because prices are less volatile. However, demand for organic food isn’t equally spread across the country. British Columbians are most likely to buy organic food, with 66 per cent of consumers there saying they shop for organic (a number that jumps to 78 per cent in Vancouver). Alberta is the fastest growing market, says Holmes, but Ontario with its large population base, still has onethird of the overall organic market in Canada. The sales figures also vary for different products. Fruits and vegetables account for the largest share of the overall sales. Organic salad mixes have also been particularly successful, with organic accounting for 40 per cent of all salad mixes sold in Canada. Only one per cent of organic sales were meat or poultry, but sales are climbing at a faster rate than for other products. Even so, this sector faces specific challenges such as limited access to organic feed and a shortage of local abattoirs that can process organic meat, says Holmes. Continued on page 26 March 18, 2014


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business Continued from page 24 In past, consumers had to seek out organic food at farmers markets or at bulk food shops, but organic food is becoming increasingly available in the big chain stores. According to the COTA report, 45 per cent of the purchases were made in mainstream grocery stores. Major chains such as Sobey’s are also now carrying organic chicken and fish through the Blue Goose brand. Food service has been another growth area for organic food sales, with 12 per cent of the organic food sold through food service and institutional channels. This number may be in part due to the efforts of Local Food Plus (LFP), a non-profit organization that has been reaching out to restaurants and institutions, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), to encourage them to buy local sustainable food. LFP operates its own certification process for farmers, many of whom are also certified organic, says president Don Mills. Lawrence Andres, an organic dairy farmer and cofounder of Harmony Organic with his wife, Mathilde, says the organic dairy industry is alive and well. Harmony Organic sells fluid organic milk through 300 specialty stores across Ontario and through the food

The Organic

Market is Worth

$3.5

20

More than 

million

canadians buy

o rganic products weekly

billion

per year

There are

2.3

million acres

of organic

farmland

across canada

98%of

Canadians plan to

increase or maintain their current purchases of organic food this year

Source: The Canada Organic Trade Association

26 country-guide.ca

There are nearly

ertified 5,000corganic

farms, processors & handlers nationwide

service sector. More than half of this milk is sold in glass bottles which can be refilled up to 20 times. Harmony’s core customers are motivated by environmental concerns, says Andres. “They are extremely motivated to save the planet and are convinced they have to do something,” he says. Andres says his customers tell him the milk also tastes better because it’s packaged in glass instead of plastic or a carton. Starting with just two farmers in 2001, today Harmony Organic sells milk from 14 producers. Although overall sales did stagnate during the 2008 recession, sales of bottled milk have seen doubledigit growth in recent months. Currently, 65 per cent of Harmony’s market is in the GTA, with significant sales to the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and coffee shop chains, says Andres. In 2009 Canada launched regulations which require growers to meet stringent rules in order to call their products organic. One of the requirements is that produce must be certified by a third-party organization. Some small growers find the cost and work involved in certification to be prohibitive. These growers may sell their produce under alternative banners such as “low-spray,” “naturally raised,” “free range,” “chemical free,” or “grass fed.” The COTA study only considered certified organic but there may also be considerable consumer demand for produce sold under these other banners. A survey by the Organic Council of Ontario (OCO), a nonprofit association representing all members of the value chain, found that of the farmers market vendors who reported selling “organic” produce, only 33 per cent were actually certified. Similarly, only 42 per cent of farmers who reported selling “organic” produce directly through on-farm markets were actually certified. These farmers were using the other banners such as “chemical-free” or “natural.” There seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence that consumers are increasingly concerned about what’s going into their bodies, says Anna Contini, executive director at FoodLink Waterloo Region, a grass-roots organization that connects farmers and consumers. She says they are concerned about the effects of pesticides, GMOs and food safety. Still, there are challenges. Sometimes the production and markets are out of sync, says Waterloo, Ont. organic grower Theresa Schumilas. Schumilas runs a buying club for organic produce and often purchases organic produce from other farmers in her area. Schumilas says she knows several organic farmers in her area who are “crying out for markets.” These farmers have excess capacity and would like to expand their production but don’t have enough direct-to-consumer markets. She admits these farmers could sell their produce wholesale but that’s not the market they are interested in. “They want to develop their direct-to-consumer market, which is a slower-growing model,” Schumilas says. “They would scale up their production if they had the direct sale market.” CG March 18, 2014


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business

From a modest start In corn and soybean country, Tim Barrie scores a hit with value-added retailing

ou notice it as soon as you meet him. Tim Barrie takes the time to really listen. In fact, it’s this willingness to listen that may be the most important factor in the success of his Barrie’s Asparagus Farm and Country Market, where he sells value-added products made with the asparagus he grows. If it sounds simplistic — after all, we all try to listen — then you haven’t actually listened closely enough. Barrie operates the year-round store at his farm near Kitchener, Ont., where he sells tortilla chips, salsa, pasta, tomato sauce, preserves, and even tea made with his asparagus. All of these products are made for him by local food processors. “Local” is the common theme for all of the products sold in Barrie’s on-farm store. In addition to the products made from his asparagus, Barrie also sells cheese, meats, vegetables, maple syrup, baking, and honey from other local producers. Having a wide selection of foods available is a big draw for customers. People often bring their friends along too, he says. Barrie’s latest project is a new division called Lily Pure Naturals, starting with a natural soap made by a local manufacturer which will feature asparagus and rhubarb from his farm. Other natural products such as body lotion are in development as well. Barrie, 51, not only listens to the customers at his store but also to the owners of the hundreds of retail outlets across Ontario that now sell his products. For example, when he was considering launching the line of natural soaps, he checked with retailers, and went ahead when the response was “bring it when it’s ready” not “send us a sample and we’ll see.” It’s also essential to be passionate about such a 28 country-guide.ca

business. Clearly, from Barrie’s example, you can’t make it a success unless you’ve got built-in desire. Indeed, Barrie has even trademarked “for the love of asparagus,” and after meeting him, you wonder how it could be any other way. This is a farmer who wants to be known for all things asparagus. But he also wants to communicate that passion, so branding is a key focus. Barrie credits Angie Scott of Zest Idea Agency, a graphic design company in Alymer, with helping him develop a brand and image for his products. “She understands what it is I’m trying to accomplish,” says Barrie. Scott developed Gus, the farm’s mascot, as well as the dragonfly logo for the Lily Pure Naturals division and other advertising materials. “Her designs take into account the direction the farm is going in,” says Barrie. MARCH 18, 2014

Photography: david charlesworth

By Helen Lammers Helps


business

Social media plays a big part in Barrie’s customer outreach. He frequently posts specials on his main Facebook page to attract customers and last spring he ran a contest to guess the first day of asparagus harvest. The contest drew 120 entries, which isn’t a huge number, but if each is a customer, it makes a difference. Barrie also has additional Facebook pages for Lily Pure Naturals, Gusto tea, and Spud’s Finest Chips. He also has two Twitter accounts, @4loveofasparagus, @spudsfinest and two websites: his first one, www. barriesasparagus.com and a newer site, www.forthe loveofasparagus.com. “The second website is more interactive,” explains Barrie, “but we’ve been busy and the Facebook pages have been easier to operate.” The months leading up to Christmas are particuMARCH 18, 2014

larly busy at the Barrie farm. “People are looking for unique local products so our gift baskets sell very well,” he explains. Barrie’s passion for both farming and people has been a boon when it comes to successfully making the leap from asparagus grower to retailer and valueadded entrepreneur. Barrie and his family are the fourth generation on the farm which was first established by his greatgrandfather in 1892. His father David raised shorthorn cattle but switched to asparagus in 1981 when interest rates skyrocketed and there was a financial crisis in the beef industry. His grandfather on his mother’s side, Homer McMann, was the largest asparagus grower in Ontario at the time with 100 acres in the Alliston area and urged David to consider asparagus. They’ve never looked back. Today Barrie grows 30 acres of asparagus and one acre of rhubarb on the 124-acre farm on King’s road near the 401. He took over the farm 20 years ago, but until four years ago he always worked offfarm as well. “Selling fresh asparagus alone was not viable due to cheap imports,” he explains. With positive response to the first few valueadded products he tried, he has continued to expand from there. His goal is to sell all of the asparagus either fresh or in value-added products. Barrie’s relationships with the 12 food industry partners who make products for him are also very important. He enjoys product development and working with the innovative staff at the food processors. “Diversity is the key to my business,” explains

The key to valueadding is passion, Barrie believes. You must be excited by working with others.

Continued on page 30 country-guide.ca 29


business Continued from page 29

There’s no end to the opportunities to develop new products, Barrie says. But each involves teamwork.

30 country-guide.ca

Barrie. Working with only one food processor would make him vulnerable, he adds. Barrie is quick to point to his family as the base on which his business is built. “Family is the face of the business,” he says. His three daughters (twins Mallory and Emily, 21, and Hannah, 19) have all worked in the business and make deliveries for him. His wife Libby and his daughters are also a sounding board and help test new products. The daughters were very involved in the soap venture, trying out the different soaps and weighing in on the logo, and now 13-year-old son Will also helps around the farm and store. In 2012, Barrie also ventured into selling kettlestyle potato chips. Barrie knew a kettle chip manufacturer and initially was trying to figure out how to incorporate asparagus into the chips. Then he realized he was over-thinking it. He saw demand for a kettle-style chip made from only Ontario potatoes, unlike many potato chip brands made from potatoes from multiple regions. Getting pasta made for him by manufacturer Italpasta wasn’t as easy as the tea. Italpasta is a big company and the minimum run that they do was too large for him, explains Barrie. However, Barrie did his research and by appealing to their heartstrings, and convincing them that sales would grow, they agreed to do a half-sized run. Sales didn’t disappoint, and two years later the pasta continues to be a strong seller. Barrie is always looking to try new ideas. In 2012 he ventured into raising his own pastured pork, which has been very popular. Never one to miss an opportunity to use his asparagus, one of the flavours of his pork sausage is mushroom and asparagus. Not all of Barrie’s ventures have had a happy ending. In 2010, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food tests found potentially harmful bacteria in broccoli soup bearing the Barrie Brothers label, but produced in an independent food processing facility. Barrie erred on the side of caution and recalled all of his soups. There were no known cases of sickness, and Barrie was praised for his decisive action, but it was a costly experience, and he no longer produces any soups. That doesn’t mean he has given up on innovation, however. This year he also began offering a tea blended in Cambridge by Red Teapot Studio that contains his dehydrated asparagus. He was selling other tea blends from Red Teapot when he suggested to the owner that she try making one with asparagus for its medicinal properties. “She played around with it until she was satisfied she had a great-tasting tea,” explains Barrie. Since the tea is made locally in small batches, Barrie can let her know when he needs more and she blends it on demand so it is always fresh. The tea has sold better than expected, says Barrie. “People buy it out of curiosity but they come back for more because it tastes good.” CG MARCH 18, 2014


Vibrant roots form stronger defences. Crops thrive with Cruiser Maxx® Vibrance®. When the Vigor Trigger ® effect meets Rooting Power ™, you get enhanced crop establishment from stronger, faster-growing plants, above and below the ground. It also protects your wheat and barley crops against a broad range of insects and diseases and delivers best-in-class Rhizoctonia control.

Visit SyngentaFarm.ca or contact our Customer Resource Centre at 1-87-SYNGENTA (1-877-964-3682). Always read and follow label directions. Cruiser Maxx® Vibrance® Cereals, Rooting PowerTM, Vigor Trigger®, the Alliance Frame, the Purpose Icon and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. © 2014 Syngenta.


business

32 country-guide.ca

MARCH 18, 2014


business

Fa m i ly b r a n d In turbulent times, your family brand can be the foundation for business success… like when Jim Hole (l) and brother Bill decided to take the farm in directions no one had anticipated By Maggie Van Camp, CG Associate Editor Marketing experts say your farm already has

soned by multiple generations. The question is,

a brand, and regardless of whether you give it a

can you manage your brand to give a boost to

moment’s thought, and regardless of whether you

your farm business?

try to manage it, that brand is your farm’s identity. It’s how you are perceived.

their greenhouse business has been built on a

Indeed, the people who devote their careers to

brand of trust garnered by their much-loved mother.

thinking about these things have an even simpler

Today, the brothers’ challenge is to leverage

way of making their point: Your farm is your brand.

that brand in order to build sales among time-

For most farms, your brand is conveyed by your last name — a reputation shaped and sea-

Photography: anthony houle photography

In the case of Alberta brothers Jim and Bill Hole,

inter is disappearing in a swirl of warmth and sunshine in St. Albert, on the northwest edge of Edmonton. Airseeders are poised about the countryside, and calves are nuzzling their mothers. This is the kind of day when Canadians rediscover that their heritage rises from the soil, thanks to the sweat of farm families. Across the road, however, that heritage is taking a modern turn, and I find myself in the state-of-the-art, climate-controlled Enjoy Centre — a combination greenhouse, retail, and food outlet — where Jim Hole drinks coffee and shares the story of how his family came to build this new concept enterprise. All the while, Jim looks like he’d rather be on a tractor. Brothers Jim and Bill Hole have been operating Hole’s Greenhouses with their parents since they graduated from the University of Alberta’s agriculture degree program in the early ’80s. Bill’s wife Valerie is the lead buyer for the greenhouse, and together they have created a booming garden business on a small farm just outside of Edmonton. However, the brand behind their family’s success is their famous, now deceased mother, Lois.

MARCH 18, 2014

stretched, next-gen customers. Here’s how they plan to do just that. Lois was a lieutenant governor of Alberta, and the book she wrote on growing perennials is the most popular gardening book in Canada, selling over a million copies. She even has a provincial park named after her. That park abuts the site where three years ago her sons launched a new era in their business by building this not-so-normal greenhouse. On the edge of the frenzy of commercial building around Edmonton, the Holes’ 242,000 square feet of greenhouse and retail lease space is 5-1/2 acres of commitment to a vision. The downstairs is dominated by an organic food store, bakery and spa. A non-stair escalator goes upstairs where customers meander between stores carrying housewares and patio furniture. Inside, the Holes operate the trendy restaurant, event space rental and, of course, the greenhouses, and they rent out the other stores. Customers don’t actually go into the greenhouses. Instead, plants are on display in a large retail area, and hanging baskets slide by on a conveyor. “We’re trying to meet the needs of people who are looking for more of an experience than just a place to buy plants,” Jim explains. Continued on page 34 country-guide.ca 33


business

When the margins on field crops shrank, the Holes shifted focus. Continued from page 33 The place smells like coffee, plants and baked goods — an odd combination. In its own way, it’s an odour collision that goes right to the heart of perhaps the biggest challenge behind this very capital-intensive approach to greenhouse marketing. How do you explain a place where you’re going to encounter those three smells all at once? It’s a new concept that some people just don’t get — and not only customers. “The biggest challenge has been to explain the concept so folks get it and come to visit,” says Jim. “Another has been getting folks — even staff — to accept the change. If I did it again, I’d communicate to our staff, our banks, our customers better.” Jim describes the evolution from farm to greenhouse, and then from greenhouse to large retail as a punctuated equilibrium, with three major stages. When their father Ted bought their 185-acre mixed-farming operation, his wife Lois, a Saskatchewan girl, became an avid gardener. The story is that Lois left a basket 34 country-guide.ca

of cucumbers out in front of the farmyard and someone driving by stopped and asked to buy them. Spurred by this demand, Ted and Lois started into fresh vegetable production on a field scale and built a road-side stand. A few years later they diversified, and began growing their own transplants in a wooden-framed greenhouse, where they eventually also started growing flowers. Over the years, they slowly added more greenhouses, sold vegetables to big retail, and built up their successful retail garden centre. At one point the Holes supplied a large grocery retailer with over a million pounds of carrots. However, when the margins in field crops shrank, Jim and Bill decided to focus on their burgeoning plant and flower business. In that market, they could better control the environmental risks and leverage the amazing reputation and brand their mother had nurtured. Soon after coming home to the farm, the brothers switched to plastic inflatable tube greenhouses and they poured asphalt and concrete to make it nicer for their customers walking through their

greenhouses. They professionalized their business structure with Bill as CEO and Jim maximizing his passion for plants. The greenhouse business flourished. “When Bill and I started farming it was easier,” Jim now says. “There were lower expectations and lots of latitude to try new things, to learn.” The ’90s brought an onslaught of big box stores selling plants. Soon, home building centres and grocery stores also infiltrated the business. The new reality for younger customers became those temporary garden centres plonked down for a few months every year in some corner of a mall parking lot. More recently, there’s a trend toward pay-by-scan — technology that downloads the cost and labour of maintaining inventory to growers. “It’s a whoever-blinks-first business now,” says Jim. It isn’t the business that the Holes wanted to be in, or a business where their brand could easily help them rise to the top. Instead, the business was becoming all about competing for groContinued on page 36 MARCH 18, 2014


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business Continued from page 34 cery shelf space with farmers from around the world. “Today vegetables and plants are treated like commodities, with volume sales produced and sold as cheaply as possible,” says Jim. Their parents have been gone for quite a few years now, and the Hole brothers have moved the operation off of the home farm, but they still only sell plants they grow themselves, and they still stress service. Together, they also decided that their their plant quality and their focus on sharing their knowledge with customers can meaningfully differentiate them from the big box stores. The Holes have changed their operation to meet the demands of a changing demographic. The younger generation doesn’t garden as much and many think that buying plants in the chain store is the only way to get them, says Jim. Yards are smaller, and fewer are gardened. That raises an additional hurdle. One problem with being considered experts, Jim points out, is that the younger generation can be too intimidated to come to the Holes to buy plants. It’s sort of like just wanting to buy a bottle of wine. Would you really go to a store with hundreds of labels, and where you might get asked all kinds of questions you can’t

answer, or would you rather go someplace where you can simply pull a bottle with a cool-looking label off the shelf? So the challenge is, how do you get novice gardeners to overcome their resistance? For the Holes, the answer is to invite them for coffee, a trip to the spa, and shopping. “We’re changing that by making the experience less intimidating, even welcoming,” says Jim. The basic idea of the Enjoy Centre is to reflect, relax, and reconnect. The trick, however, is to convince the general public that relaxing and gardening go together. The other challenge is to have customers understand that this is a yearround facility with other stores, basically a mall with a greenhouse attached. The greenhouse retail area converts to a beautiful event space after the spring sales are done. Hosting events, such as an artisan craft show, increases traffic flow. Now, three years into this venture, they’ve already rotated retail displays and the spa ownership. Recently they’ve hired a consultant to help rework their restaurant. “We’re staying the course, with some constant tweaking,” says Jim. The part customers don’t see, even though it’s the backbone of their operation, is the high-tech Dutch-style greenhouse complex. The floor watering system uses rainwater and snow melt collected in pits below the building and

Being ultra-modern and ultra-efficient is simply a cost of business. To succeed, Jim Hole says, “people want the narrative.”

36 country-guide.ca

has an automated hanging basket watering system. Jim is the self-proclaimed new face of the business. He has his own products named “Jim Hole” garden tools. He’s a guest on local talk radio and a sought-after speaker on gardening and plant science. Today, Jim believes that learning to become a brand was something he managed to absorb from his mother simply by being around her. The science of branding seems to be behind them. In the 1990s, Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University, found this sharing of family stories not only creates a family brand but also often helps create successful individuals. Children who know a lot about their families, especially the ups and downs, tend to do better when the going gets tough. It turns out that one of the most important things you can do for your children may be to tell family stories. Self-confidence is linked to having a strong intergenerational self and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself. Then, when you face challenges, you are adding a new chapter to a story that already has other stories about how other family members overcame similar difficulties. These stories become traditions and what New York author and family business consultant Phyllis Weiss Haserot calls a family brand. Brand is the consistent experience suppliers and buyers expect when interacting with the family or company, she says. “Brand should be consistent with mission and vision statements but is much more. It’s a combination of reputation, personality, and first-hand experience.” With a strong family brand, successors should have a sense of what’s expected. However, that doesn’t necessarily make succession easy, says Weiss Haserot. Family dynamics and individual ideas can influence how well succession plays out and they may need outside neutral advisers to help them reach consensus on a plan. Jim continues to share the Hole family narrative on his radio show and in his many public presentations. He believes that this Hole brand will carry customers through the doors of the new facility, and that it will help the family create a new generation of loyal customers buying direct from greenhouse growers. “I learned from Mom that it’s not just about facts, people want the narrative,” says Jim. “Wrap it in a story, make it genuine and real.” CG MARCH 18, 2014


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SEED TREATMENT GUIDE

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Visit SyngentaFarm.ca or contact our Customer Resource Centre at 1-87-SYNGENTA (1-877-964-3682). Always read and follow label directions. Cruiser Maxx® Vibrance® Beans, Rooting PowerTM, Vigor Trigger ®, the Alliance Frame, the Purpose Icon and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. © 2013 Syngenta.

6110-2-B_SYN_CMVB_Soy_ShopVac_8.125x10.75.indd 1

13-09-11 4:03 PM


SEED TREATMENT GUIDE By Johanne van Rossum, Agronomist

T

he use of seed treatments has grown exponentially in recent years. They help to control various diseases and insects, all with a minimal amount of active ingredient. The number of brands and blends available on the market is so numerous that it has become difficult to make an informed choice. The guide presents the different seed treatments available on the market to control diseases and pests. In addition, in the case of corn, a table of genetic traits which play a protective role against insects has also been included. For each of the major crops, the treatments are described according to their active ingredient and according to their activity against one or other of the major diseases or insects. These tables are for reference purposes only. Always consult the label for rates to be applied on the farm and restrictions to be observed. Note that most of these treatments are only available at the seed dealer. It is therefore important to check with the seed supplier about which formulations have been used in their facility. There are several possibilities for mixtures amongst treatments, particularly between fungicides and insecticides. Several products are sometimes necessary to provide good protection to the crop or to reduce the risk of resistance. None of these mixtures, however, are detailed in this guide. To protect pollinators, it is important to take precautions when using these materials. Your provincial department of agriculture website is a good reference to ensure safe management of these products.

Pythium Seedling Blight

Bean Leaf Beetle

Rhizoctonia Seedling Blight

ACTIVE INGREDIENT

Soybean Aphid

Fusarium Seedling Blight

C O M M E R C I A L NAME

Seed Corn Maggot

Phytophthora Root Rot

DISEASES

Click Beetles (Wireworm)

INSECTS

Seed Mould (Phomopsis)

S OY B E A N

Acceleron for soybean

imidacloprid + fluxapyroxad + metalaxyl + pyraclostrobin

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

Cruiser Maxx Vibrance Beans

thiamethoxam + metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil + sedaxane

+

+

+

pc

+

+

+

+

+

Stress Shield for cereals & soybean

imidacloprid

+

+

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

Apron XL

metalaxyl-M

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

Apron Maxx

metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

Agrox B-2

diazinon + captan (DB)

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Agrox CD

diazinon + captan (DB) (PRE)

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

Vitaflo-280

carbathin + thiram

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

Anchor

carbathin + thiram (DB)

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

Maxim 480 FS

fludioxonil

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

EverGol Energy

penflufen + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

LEGEND

+: recommended pc: partial control -: not recommended DB: Drill Box Application PRE: This product can only be used on seed previously treated with captan or thiram.

SEED TREATMENT GUIDE 2014

3


COR N

Pythium Seedling Blight

Aspergillus Seed Rot

Blue Mould (Penicillium)

+

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Agrox B-2

diazinon + captan (DB)

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

-

-

+

+

Agrox CD

diazinon + captan (DB) (PRE)

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Acceleron for corn

clothianidin (0.50 mg Al/kernel) + ipconazole + trifloxystrobin + metalaxyl + Votivo

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

Gaucho 480 L

imidacloprid

-

-

+

-

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Cruiser 5 FS

thiamethoxam (0.125-0.250 mg Al/kernel)

-

+

+

+

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Cruiser 5 FS

thiamethoxam (1.250 mg Al/kernel)

+

+

+

+

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Dynasty 100 FS

azoxystrobin

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

-

-

Rancona 3.8 FS

ipconazole

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

-

+

+

Maxim Quattro

azoxystrobin + fludioxonil + metalaxyl-M + thiabendazole

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Vitaflo-280

carbathin + thiram

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

-

-

-

Maxim 480 FS PRO Seed

fludioxonil

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

-

+

+

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

Apron XL

metalaxyl-M

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

Votivo

Bacillus firmus (strain I-1582)

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

Oa t s

Nematodes

Corn Flea Beetle

+

+

Black Cutworm

+

clothianidin (1.25 mg Al/kernel)

Seed Corn Maggot

-

Poncho 600 FS (1250)

Wireworm

clothianidin (0.25 mg Al/kernel)

European Chafer Beetle

Ac ti ve Ingr edien t

Poncho 600 FS (250)

Corn Rootworm

C om m e rc i a l Name

Rhizoctonia Seedling Blight

Diseases

Fusarium Seedling Blight

Insects

C ommer c ial Name

Acti ve Ingr edie nt

Seedling Blight

Covered Smut

Loose Smut

Pythium Seedling Blight

Root Rot

Diseases

Wireworm

Insect

Cruiser Maxx Cereals

thiamethoxam + difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

pc1

+

+

+

+

pc

Cruiser Maxx Vibrance Cereals

thiamethoxam + difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

pc1

+

+

+

+

pc

Alias’ Stress Shield for cereals

imidacloprid

+

-

-

-

-

-

Dividend XL RTA

+

+

+

+

pc

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

-

Vibrance XL

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Apron XL RTA

metalaxyl-M

-

pc

-

-

+

pc

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

pc

-

-

+

pc

Raxil T

tebuconazole + thiram

-

+

+

+

-

pc

Raxil MD

tebuconazole + metalaxyl

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Raxil Pro MD

tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

+

+

+

+

pc

EverGol Energy

penflufen + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

+

+

+

+

pc

DB-RED L

maneb

-

+

+

-

-

-

Maxim 480 FS PRO Seed

fludioxonil

-

pc

-

-

-

pc

Note 1: Suppression only. To eliminate the pest, use a higher dose. Legend

4

S e e d t r e at m en t g u i d e 2 014

+: recommended pc: partial control -: not recommended DB: Drill Box Application PRE: This product can only be used on seed previously treated with captan or thiram.


C a nol a

C o m m e rc i a l Name

Ac ti ve In gredie n t

Seed Rot & Aspergillus Seedling Blight

Seed Rot & Fusarium Seedling Blight

Seed Rot & Rhizoctonia Seedling Blight

Seed Rot & Alternaria Seedling Blight

Pythium & Seedling Blight

Blackleg

Diseases

Beetles

Insect

Poncho 600 FS

clothianidin

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Vault

acetamiprid

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Gaucho 480 L

imidacloprid

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Gaucho CS FL

imidacloprid + carbathin + thiram

+

-

-

+

+

+

+

Helix XTRA

thiamethoxam + metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil + difenoconazole

+

-

+

+

+

+

+

Helix Vibrance Co-Pack

thiamethoxam + metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil + difenoconazole + sedaxane

+

-

+

+

+

+

+

Prosper EverGol

clothianidin + penflufen + metalaxyl + trifloxystrobin

+

-

+

+

+

+

+

Apron XL

metalaxyl-M

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

Rancona Apex

ipconazole

-

-

+

+

-

-

-

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

Dynasty 100FS

azoxystrobin

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Integral

Bacillus subtilis

-

-

pc

pc

-

-

-

Maxim 480 FS

fludioxonil

-

+

+

+

-

-

-

Nisso Foundation Lite

iprodione + thiram

-

-

-

+

+

-

+

Barley

C o m m e rc i a l Name

Ac ti ve In gredie n t

Seed Rot & Seedling Blight

Covered Smut

Loose Smut

False Loose Smut

Root Rot

Diseases

Wireworm

Insect

Cruiser Maxx Vibrance Cereals

thiamethoxam + difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

pc

+

+

+

+

pc

Cruiser Maxx Cereals

thiamethoxam + difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

pc

+

+

-

+

pc

Alias’ Stress Shield for cereals

imidacloprid

+

-

-

-

-

-

Vibrance XL

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Dividend XL RTA

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

-

+

+

-

+

pc

Rancona Apex

ipconazole

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Vitaflo-280

carbathin + thiram

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Maxim 480 FS PRO Seed

fludioxonil

-

+

-

-

-

pc

Raxil T

tebuconazole + thiram

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Raxil MD

tebuconazole + metalaxyl

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Raxil Pro MD

tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

+

+

+

+

+

DB-RED L

maneb

-

+

+

-

+

-

EverGol Energy

penflufen + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

pc

-

-

-

pc

Seed treatme nt guide 2014

5


Protecting Pollinators on the Farm Bees are vitally important to the sustainability of agriculture. At least one third of the human food supply from crops and plants depends on insect pollination, most of which is performed by bees. The estimated value of their contribution to Canadian agriculture alone is as much as $2 billion. Farmers are well known to be excellent stewards of the land. Following Best Management Practices will help maximize the benefits of seed treatments while also protecting bees around farm operations. As always, when handling any crop protection product, it is important to start by reading and following all label directions.

6686_4_Bee Health BMP advertorial.indd All Pages

Best Management Practices* (BMPs) are approaches based on known science that, when followed, support healthy crops, healthy bees and a healthy environment. * BMPs developed in conjunction with CropLife Canada and its member companies.


Best Management Practices Prior to planting

During planting

After planting

• Learn about bees that may forage on your land. Know how to contact neighbouring beekeepers.

• Avoid transfer of dust from the seed bag into the planter.

• Vacuum treated seed from the seed box and return it to the bag from which it came.

• Talk to neighbouring beekeepers about protecting bees during planting; discuss alternative locations for hives or ways to shield bees during planting. • Store treated seed under appropriate conditions, protected from the elements and pests. • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling treated seed. • Do not reuse empty seed bags for any purpose other than storing the original treated seed. • Always clean and maintain planting equipment. • Always use high-quality seed that is free of excessive dust.

• Manage lubricants: Lubricants ease seed singulation, improve drop and reduce wear and tear on equipment and seed. A new Fluency Agent from Bayer CropScience is the only seed flow lubricant permitted for use with treated corn and soybean seed. Carefully follow use directions for this product. • Plant at the recommended seeding rate. • Check headlands, rough areas and the main body of the field for exposed seed. Spilled or exposed seeds and dust must be incorporated into the soil or cleaned up from the soil surface. • Be aware of wind direction when planting near a source of pollen or nectar for bees (i.e. nearby flowering crops or weeds).

• Collect empty seed bags and Fluency Agent containers and dispose of them according to provincial regulations. • Do not leave empty bags or left over treated seed in fields.

For more information about these Best Management Practices and bee health, visit www.beehealth.ca.

SCAN THIS PAGE WITH LAYAR APP

• Do not load or clean planting equipment near bee colonies and avoid places where bees may be foraging, such as flowering crops or weeds. • Check that the planter is set up correctly and calibrated for correct depth and seed placement. • When turning on the planter, avoid engaging the system where emitted dust may come in contact with honey bee colonies and foraging bees. • Manage dandelions and other flowering weeds in the field prior to planting to reduce exposure of bees to seed dust. Always read and follow label directions. The Syngenta logo is a registered trademark of a Syngenta Group Company. © 2014 Syngenta.

1/29/14 9:48 AM


Wheat

Diseases transmitted by seeds

C o m m e r ci a l Nam e

Acti ve in gredient

European Chafer Beetle

Wireworm

Loose Smut

Septoria

Fusarium

Dwarf Bunt

Dwarf Bunt

Common Bunt

Common Root Rot

Take-all

Pythium Seedling Blight

Fusarium

Powdery Mildew

Septoria

Insects

Diseases at the beginning of the season

Diseases transmitted through the soil

Cruiser Maxx Cereals

thiamethoxam + difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

+

pc1

+

+

+

+

+

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

+2

Cruiser Maxx Vibrance Cereals

thiamethoxam + difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

+

pc

+

+

+

+

+

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

+2

Alias’ Stress Shield for cereals

imidacloprid

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Dividend XL RTA

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

+2

Vibrance XL

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

+2

Rancona Apex

ipconazole

-

-

+

-

+

-

-

+

pc

-

-

+

-

-

Vitaflo-280

carbathin + thiram

-

-

+

-

+

+

-

+

+

-

-

+

-

-

Raxil T

tebuconazole + thiram

-

-

+

+

+

-

-

+

pc

-

+

+

-

-

Raxil MD

tebuconazole + metalaxyl

-

-

+

+

+

-

-

+

pc

-

+

+

-

-

Raxil Pro MD

tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

-

+

+

+

-

-

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

-

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Apron XL RTA

metalaxyl-M

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Maxim 480 FS PRO Seed

fludioxonil

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

DB-RED L

maneb

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

-

-

EverGol Energy

penflufen + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

-

+

-

+

-

-

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

-

1

Rye

8

Commer c ial Name

Ac tive Ing redient

Seedling Blight

Septoria transmitted by seeds

Common Bunt

Dwarf Bunt

Pythium Seedling Blight

Root Rot

Diseases

Wireworm

Insect

Cruiser Maxx Cereals

thiamethoxam + difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

pc1

+

+

+

+

+

pc

Cruiser Maxx Vibrance Cereals

thiamethoxam + difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

pc1

+

+

+

+

+

pc

Vibrance XL

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

-

+

+

+

+

+

pc

Dividend XL RTA

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

-

+

+

+

+

+

pc

Apron XL RTA

metalaxyl-M

-

pc

-

-

-

+

pc

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

pc

-

-

-

+

pc

Maxim 480 FS, Proseed

fludioxonil

-

+

-

-

-

-

pc

Rancona Apex

ipconazole

-

+

-

-

-

-

pc

Vitaflo 280

carbathin + thiram

-

+

-

-

-

+

pc

DB-RED L

maneb

-

+

-

+

-

-

-

EverGol Energy

penflufen + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

+

-

+

-

+

pc

S e e d t r e at m e n t g ui d e 2 014

Note 1: Suppression only. To eliminate the pest, use a higher dose.

Note 2: Autumn wheat only.

Legend

-: not recommended

+: recommended

pc: partial control


The Value of Seed Applied Insecticides: Advanced Seed Protection Technology Seed Applied Insecticides (SAIs) are one of the most advanced forms of crop protection technology, offering growers a targeted, environmentally sustainable means of pest management. SAI technology protects seeds and emerging plants from insect damage during the critical first weeks of development.

Seed Applied Insecticides enhance crop quality and yield

• Reduced impact on non-target organisms, including beneficial insects

SAIs protect the seed and seedlings from pests, ensuring that the plants get off to a healthy, vigorous start, which ultimately translates into quality and yield improvements. This protection is key to agricultural production in Canada, as damaging insect pests have been documented in all growing regions of the country for each major agricultural crop.

• Protection from increased pest pressure associated with a range of agronomic practices including reduced/no-till field conditions

SAI protection is particularly important in instances where there is no curative option for salvaging plant health after insect damage has occurred.

Seed Applied Insecticides offer numerous environmental advantages These benefits include: • A significantly lower amount of active ingredient per acre compared to foliar and soil-applied pesticides • Direct application to the seed, which minimizes off-target drift

Seed Applied Insecticides also deliver agronomic and production benefits The value of SAIs extends beyond pest control by: • Optimizing seeding rates due to improved plant stand

Seed Applied Insecticides deliver benefits even in situations of low-to-moderate insect pressure Insect pests can cause damage to crop growth, quality and yield, even at low-to-moderate pressures. Small populations of certain pests may have a detrimental effect, with the result that the seedling may never emerge or the health of the plant may be compromised. If untreated seed is put into the ground where pests exist, there is no way to protect the seed retroactively. In either of these scenarios, the crop may have to be replanted at significant cost.

Prior to planting During planting After planting • Minimizing the need for replants Additionally, even in the absence of • Learn about bees that may forage • Avoid transfer of dust from • Vacuum treated seed from the seed strong • Extending the application forbag into thepest on your land. Know how to contact window the seed planter.pressure, SAIs box andprovide return it to the bag from neighbouring beekeepers. which it came. in-season, foliar pesticide applications • Manage lubricants: plant establishment, health and vigour • Talk to neighbouring beekeepers Lubricants ease seed • Collect empty seed bags and Fluency bysingulation, protecting and strengthening the (when needed) about protecting bees during planting; improve drop and reduce wear and Agent containers and dispose of them plant atnew crucial times development discuss alternative locations for tear on equipment and seed. A accordingof to provincial regulations. • Supporting planting practices, hives or waysearlier to shield bees Fluency Agent from Bayer CropScience (i.e. germination and root growth). • Do not leave empty bags or left over during planting.to maximize labourisand the only seed flow lubricant permitted which helps treated seed in fields. allows for use with treated This corn and soybean plants to better compete • Store treatedeffi seedciency under appropriate production seed. Carefully follow use directions with weeds and diseases and deal conditions, protected from the for this product. For more information elements and pests. • Complementing trait technology to with abiotic stresses such cool soil about these Bestas Management • Plant at the recommended • Wear appropriate personal protective Practices and bee health, seeding rate. manage insect pests (where there are temperatures or dry conditions at planting. equipment (PPE) when handling visit www.beehealth.ca. treated seed. • Check headlands, rough areas and no traits available to control insect pests the main body of the field for exposed • Do notto reuse empty seed for For product specific information, and/or provide a bags different mode of seed. Spilled or exposed seeds and any purpose other than storing the dust must be incorporated into the soil please visit SyngentaFarm.ca action for resistance management) original treated seed. or cleaned up from the soil surface.

• Always clean and maintain planting equipment.

• Be aware of wind direction when a source of pollen or Always read and follow label directions. The Syngenta logo is a registered trademark of a Syngenta Group Company. planting © 2014 near Syngenta. nectar for bees (i.e. nearby flowering • Always use high-quality seed that crops or weeds). is free of excessive dust.

ollinators on the Farm

bility of agriculture. At least one third d plants depends on insect pollination, estimated value of their contribution as $2 billion.

Best Management Practices* (BMPs) are approaches based on known science that, when ewards of the land. Following Best followed, support healthy e the benefits of seed treatments while crops, healthy bees and a 6686-3_Value of SAIs Advertorial.indd 1

JOB

Best Management Practices

SCAN THIS PAGE WITH LAYAR APP

• Do not load or clean planting equipment near bee colonies and avoid places where bees may be foraging, such as flowering crops or weeds. • Check that the planter is set up correctly and calibrated for correct depth and seed placement. • When turning on the planter, avoid engaging the system where emitted dust may come in contact with honey bee colonies and foraging bees. • Manage dandelions and other

1/28/14 5:20 PM

DAT MAR

CLIENT: SYNGENTA CANA

PROJECT: BEE HEALTH BM

PUBLICATION: COUNTRY GUIDE DESIGNER: CHRISTINE MECHANICAL

FINAL SIZE: 16. UCR: 240%

CLIENT SERVICE

PROOFREADING

ART DIRECTION PRODUCTION


Making an informed choice

S

eed treatments are outer armour that protects seeds against invaders. To this, seed companies add another protection built into the genetic code of the plant. These genes, commonly known as “technological traits,� are the result of biotechnology breakthroughs. They play an important role in pest control. These two technologies combine to protect crops like never before. However, it is still important that you find out which combination is best adapted to meet your needs. For corn, there is a multitude of technological traits. The following chart lists the different technological traits offered by the industry and their proprieties. By combining the information from this chart with the one on page 4, it is possible to better understand their different roles in order to make an informed decision.

C OR N

Western Bean Cutworm

Corn Earworm

Fall Armyworm

-

-

-

-

+

-

pc

pc

+ (larvae)

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Agrisure CB/LL/RW

+

-

-

-

-

+

-

pc

pc

Agrisure 3000GT

+

-

-

-

-

+

-

pc

pc

Agrisure 3122

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

pc

+

Agrisure Viptera 3110

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Agrisure Viptera 3111

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Agrisure Viptera 3220

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Agrisure Duracade 5222

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Herculex 1

-

-

-

-

+ (larvae)

+

+

-

+

Herculex RW

+ (larvae)

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Herculex XTRA

+

-

-

-

+ (larvae)

+

+

-

+

YieldGard CB & YieldGard CB/RR2

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

pc

pc

YieldGard Plus/RR2

+ (larvae)

-

-

-

-

+

-

pc

pc

YieldGard VT/Rootworm/RR2

+ (larvae)

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

YieldGard VT/Triple (VT3)

+ (larvae)

-

-

-

-

+

-

pc

pc

Genuity SmartStax

+

-

-

-

+ (larvae)

+

+

+

+

Genuity VT Double PRO

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

+

+

Genuity VT Triple PRO

+

-

-

-

-

+

-

+

+

Optimum AcreMax

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

+

Optimum AcreMax Xtreme

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

+

Legend

10

S e e d tre at m ent g u i d e 2 014

+: recommended

pc: partial control

Black Cutworm

European Corn Borer

-

Agrisure RW & Agrisure GT/RW

Co mmerc ial Name

Seedcorn Maggot

European Chafer Beetle

Agrisure CB/LL & Agrisure GT/CB/LL

Transg e nic corn agai ns t i nse cts

Wireworm

Corn Rootworm

Insects

-: not recommended


Bred in Canada to feed the world. Cereal seed from Syngenta helps you harvest opportunities wherever they are. We’ve been breeding wheat in Canada for four decades, setting unprecedented standards for yield, quality and sustainability. The world depends on Canadian grain, and Canadian growers count on Syngenta.

Visit SyngentaFarm.ca or contact our Customer Resource Centre at 1-87-SYNGENTA (1-877-964-3682). Always read and follow label directions. The Alliance Frame, the Purpose Icon and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. CASE IH is a registered trademark of CNH America LLC. Š 2013 Syngenta.


Vibrant roots fuel better performance. Crops thrive with Cruiser Maxx® Vibrance®. When the Vigor Trigger ® effect meets Rooting Power ™, you get enhanced crop establishment from stronger, faster-growing plants, above and below the ground. It also protects your wheat and barley crops against a broad range of insects and diseases and delivers best-in-class Rhizoctonia control.

Visit SyngentaFarm.ca or contact our Customer Resource Centre at 1-87-SYNGENTA (1-877-964-3682). Always read and follow label directions. Cruiser Maxx® Vibrance® Cereals, Rooting PowerTM, Vigor Trigger®, the Alliance Frame, the Purpose Icon and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. © 2014 Syngenta.

6527_1F_SP-CruiserMaxxVibranceAd_YieldManitoba.indd 1

1/13/14 1:58 PM


business

Execute on that business plan If your business plan is gathering dust, here’s how to put it into action By Angela Lovell e’ve all been there. You’ve just come back from an amazing course that has guided you through the arduous process of developing a business plan for your farm business. You have identified your core values, you have articulated a vision, and you have chosen the strategies to get you to where you want to go. You’ve written it all down. You’re pumped, you’re primed, and you’re going to start firing on all cylinders the minute you get back to the farm. BUT… Implementation is often the stumbling block with farm plans. Too often it leaves us blaming the plan, or blaming the process, saying, “It just isn’t me.” In truth, it isn’t just you. Instead, you may have stopped the planning process just before the last, crucial step. It’s essential to build the tools and processes for implementation into the plan itself.

Measuring results Heather Watson, executive director of Farm Management Canada, says once a farm or business gets over the hurdle of identifying the strategies it will use, it’s vitally important to measure the outcome of them to ensure they align with the actual business. “Your business plan is where strategy and operations meet. In fact, they hold hands,” says Watson. “Strategy only works if you set practical, measurable activities against them, enforced by concrete deliverables and timelines.” Remember, though, that you have to be realistic, Watson adds. “You don’t have to tackle the whole elephant at once. Try to do one thing at a time. You will approach the next activity having gained that experience.” Part of making sure things get done is to figure out who has the knowledge and skills needed to accomplish the various activities or figure out how or where they can be found. “Your strategy may tell you to improve your market share to stand out against the competition,” Watson cites as an example. “Do you know what your market is? When was the last time you truly engaged with this market? Should you do a survey? Attend an industry meeting? Do an Internet search? Ask fellow farmers? Many farmers have joined farm management groups for the opportunity to delve into one another’s operations to identify areas for improvement by sharing beneficial management practices. By working together, the groups simultaneously raise the bar.” MARCH 18, 2014

The rubber hits the road Implementation of the business plan was foremost in the mind of Larry Martin, the founder of Agri-Food Management Excellence Inc (AME), when he developed his agricultural management training programs. AME offers two executive management programs. One is CTEAM (Canadian Total Excellence in Agricultural Management) aimed at producers and ranchers, and the other is CFAME (Canadian Food and Agri-Business Management Excellence) aimed primarily at senior managers and executives in the agri-food sector. Those programs get scored for helping managers achieve change, so it can be useful to look at how they encourage participants to cross the gap between planning and implementation. “We try to put together programs that help spe-

“You don’t have to tackle the whole elephant at once. Try to do one thing at a time.” — Heather Watson, FMC cialists be generalists,” says Martin. “Once you become a CEO or general manager or whatever, you need to look at what are the big functions that you have to worry about if you’re going to be the person in charge of implementing strategies for your business in the most logical way. We are going to help you incorporate whatever you are learning into a strategic operating plan for whatever you are responsible for in your business.” Each program has four intensive, week-long modules that are held in different cities across Canada and include tours for participants to various farm and business operations, along with the opportunity to speak to managers across different agricultural and agri-food sectors and in different provinces. CTEAM and CFAME expect participants to come up with a complete business plan for the farm or the area of the business that they are responsible for, but they also provide tangible tools to implement it. “The most significant thing that we have as part of the planning process is what we call our strategic Continued on page 38 country-guide.ca 37


business Continued from page 37

Working as a team

review document,” says Martin. “It says you are going to have three or four major strategic intents. Then it asks how you are going to implement those strategic intents. Let’s look forward to quarter one — what are the actions against strategic intent No. 1? Who is responsible? What is the timeline? What are the resources that are going to have to be used to make sure it gets done? How do you measure that you did it and what the impact of it was on your outcome? You do this for every strategic intent for each quarter going forward. So you’ve now got your operating or action plan.” That action plan can form the foundation for daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly planning and review meetings, depending on the business, to make sure things stay on track and are getting done. “This is harder for farms where one person is the management team, but it also gives you the opportunity to develop a balance score card, which at a corporate level the board can hold the general manager responsible for, from strategy down to what are we going to do next week,” says Martin. CTEAM’s modules encompass the themes of setting a vision and mission, strategic business planning, financial management and analysis, human resource management and succession planning including development of contracts and agreements and an examination of public policy, how it affects agriculture and how that trickles down to them at farm level. CFAME has much the same curriculum but has a greater emphasis on marketing and doesn’t discuss succession, since it’s designed for senior management employees of farms or other agricultural businesses. There’s even some psychology thrown into both programs with a session that uses the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment tool aimed at teaching participants how to work as a team and communicate effectively with people to solve problems that may arise from personality conflicts. Martin knows that networking with peers and other experts can encourage and prompt implementation, and he incorporates this important element into the AME training programs. “For the most part in agriculture, you’re working alone a lot, particularly if you’re the manager at the business or the farm owner,” agrees Trish Fournier, who took AME training in 2005 in preparation for assuming the role of CEO for Lake Erie Farms at Tillsonburg, Ont., where she has worked since 1999, originally as financial manager. “You may have employees but you often don’t have a lot of colleagues at your same level that you bounce ideas off,” Fournier says. “What was great about this course was that as a group we were all talking about our businesses and working through the strategic planning process together. We were all learning from each other and seeing what others were doing that was working and what didn’t work, which was very valuable.”

The AME training programs have been in existence in some form since the mid-1990s and were formerly run out of the George Morris Centre at the University of Guelph until Martin and business partner Heather Broughton established AME in 2012 and took over delivery of the programs that Martin developed. An emerging trend over the past few years has been for more members of a farm family or couples to take the training together. “Many times we are getting more couples, because, from my experience, if both are integral partners in the operation and only one takes the course, it’s hard to take the knowledge home and say this is what I want to do, because if the other partner doesn’t have a basis of understanding of why, it’s really hard to implement it,” says Broughton, who was a past participant herself. “It’s advantageous if all the integral partners in the business can take it, and we are seeing a lot more couples or fathers and their sons and/or daughters.” Fournier says that being able to step back from the day-to-day operations and see the bigger picture is essential to make sure that you are implementing the right strategies that are going to help you achieve your own targets. The people you are relying on to help you do that need to see that bigger picture too, Fournier adds. After visiting some Calgary-area businesses during her training and seeing how they were implementing employee engagement strategies because of stiff competition for workers from the oil patch, Fournier has implemented some employee incentives that offer simple rewards, like a pizza party, for employees who come up with some great ideas to help the business in some way. Fournier also has regular meetings with her greenhouse manager, who in turn meets with his employees to make sure everyone in the company feels more engaged. “We’re constantly sitting down in informal meetings, and once a month we’re looking at the internal financials,” Fournier says. “We’ve got a budget that we put together month by month and we’re comparing what we actually did to that budget and comparing it with the prior year. We’re discussing where there are differences, the reasons why, and what we might do to improve it. I think it’s important that your manager sees the bigger picture because he or she is the one that’s out there working with the employees and making purchases.” Farmers who take advanced training tend to be serious about wanting to build and grow their business, says Broughton, and it doesn’t matter what size it is. “It’s all about what do you want to do, where do you want to go and how do you want to get there,” Broughton says. “Even if you only have a 1,000-acre farm and want to grow bigger, the course will help you develop a plan to get there. Because it’s your plan and it’s developing the skills you need and learning how to use them.” CG

38 country-guide.ca

MARCH 18, 2014


Speak up. Speak positively.

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BUSINESS

The hidden farm illness Even in good times, depression takes its toll on the farm too By Shirley Byers nly a decade ago, Gerry Friesen was a successful farmer, a commodity board director, and a member of the Manitoba Farm Mediation Board. Outwardly, he was doing just fine. Inwardly, he was battling severe depression. “I fooled a lot of people,” Friesen says. There has long been a stigma around depression on the farm. Now that’s changing, and Friesen is doing his part to change it. He speaks at seminars and workshops about farm depression, he’s open to talking to the media about his depression, and he writes a blog on recovering from depression.

He knows what depression feels like. He knows how difficult it was to seek help. And he wants to make that first step a little easier for other farmers.

STRESS IS A TRIGGER “We know job stress can be a huge contributor to depression, particularly in farmers and individuals who work in agricultural occupations,” says Greg Gibson, a registered clinical psychologist for Community Health Services at Brandon, Man. “In 2006, the World Health Organization cited farming as one of the most stressful occupations, and they also highlighted that job stress is a precursor to mental health problems.” Farming is rife with risks and with dangers that are beyond the farmer’s control, starting with uncertain weather, fluctuations in markets, disease outbreaks, input costs, machinery breakdowns, and changes in government policy. “All of these are things that farmers have little control over, but they’re kind of make-or-break factors,” says Gibson. “And they can all have a financial effect and a psychological effect, and the financial effect can affect the psychology. A lot of these factors can impact and certainly are a risk factor for burnout and depression.” Friesen knows what stress feels like and the physical symptoms it can trigger. Some 10 years ago at a meeting, he began to experience heart palpitations. “There was a lot of stress in my life at that time,” he says, “issues with Manitoba Pork, my own farm issues — we had to restructure due to financial issues. It was in early 2004 that I finally did go to see a doctor.”

“It’s ingrained in us that if we just work harder, we’ll get rid of these problems.” — Gerry Friesen

40 country-guide.ca

MARCH 18, 2014


BUSINESS

The doctor put him on antidepressants and an antianxiety medication. “I came to understand the mental health issue better than I used to,” Friesen now says.

MORE WORK ISN’T THE ANSWER “Looking back, I now recognize — it’s ingrained in us that if we just work harder we will get rid of all these problems,” Friesen says. “So instead of seeking the right kind of help, we tend to try to work harder and work our way through the issues, whether it’s financial stress, whether it’s depression, whether it’s other stresses. That’s just the way men are wired to handle things.” Friesen was able to hide his depression from the wider community, but his family knew that something was wrong. “I thought at the time I was doing a really good job of hiding it from them,” Friesen says. “In 2010, I facilitated a project called Men and Depression, and at the time I actually interviewed my wife and kids to see if my depression had had an effect on them. To say it was traumatic is overstating it perhaps, but I was shocked at the response. I thought I had been hiding things from them and then realized that they had understood all too well there was something wrong with me, and the different ways they tried to cope with that.” For his wife, Friesen discovered, it was a struggle to be married to “that depressed farmer who was trying to cope, was trying to do way more than he should have, and wasn’t dealing with the depression in the right way.”

HELP AND HOPE For Friesen, the right way to deal with his depression has been a combination of strategies. Initially, he was on antidepressants and an anti-anxiety medication for about a year and a half. After completing that regime, and after a traumatic event in his life, he tried talk therapy but didn’t find the relief he needed. He went back on medication. It was at that time that the farm was sold. He now works in conflict resolution and stress management. Selling the farm gave him temporary relief from a lot of stress, he says. Self-knowledge has helped as well, Friesen says. “Through the work I’ve been doing in the stress management area I’ve recognized who I am and what my trigger points are, and the fact that there are things that will drag me down.”

MARCH 18, 2014

“I get depressed when I’m asked to give and I have nothing left to give,” he says. “When I’m very busy with my work, with my mediation stuff and stress management, I get to the point where I am tired and when I become tired, my defenses go down and I feel myself slipping over the edge. And then I have to be very proactive in dealing with that.” Cognitive behavioural aids such as David Burns’s book FEELING GOOD have also proved extremely helpful. Burns’s book refers to the thesis of Dr. Aaron T. Beck, one of the world’s foremost authorities on mood disorders. Beck is globally recognized as the father of the cognitive therapy paraphrased below: 1. When you are depressed or anxious, you are thinking in an illogical, negative manner and you inadvertently act in a self-defeating way. 2. With a little effort you can train yourself to change your thought patterns. 3. As your painful symptoms are eliminated, you will become productive and happy again. These aims can usually be accomplished in a relatively brief period of time, using straightforward methods.

BREAKING THE WALL OF SILENCE After facilitating a seminar with the Manitoba Farm Stress Line, Friesen was asked if he would talk about his own depression issues. “Never realizing the impact it would have, never realizing how difficult it would be, particularly at the beginning, but really the benefit out of all that is that people, some I’ve known for years and didn’t realize they were having mental health issues, came to me and said, ‘You know this is what I’m experiencing,’ and together we find new ways of coping and making life better for ourselves.” These days when he talks at seminars, he often says that the number one thing that helped him was actually starting to verbalize about his depression. He tells a story from the fall of 2005. “There was a fairly traumatic incident in my life and I remember my neighbour dropping by and he asked, ‘Are you doing OK?’ Of course my normal response in the past would have been, ‘Absolutely. I’m fine.’ But I took advantage of that question that day and I talked for probably half an hour and I spilled the beans,” Friesen says. Continued on page 45

country-guide.ca 41


business

What to do… … If you, or someone you know, is having thoughts of self-harm If someone has thoughts of harming themselves, the most important thing they can do is to seek out support, says Greg Gibson, registered clinical psychologist at Community Health Services for the Prairie Mountain Health Region based in Brandon, Man. This can be extremely difficult, particularly for someone struggling with depressive symptoms, since they may be plagued with negative thoughts, including: “What’s the use? Nothing will work anyway,” or “I don’t want to bother anyone. I’m not worth it.” Having people you can talk to and a good support network is vital protection against both self-harm and suicidal thinking. Talking about the inner feelings that fuel your selfharm is potentially useful whoever you talk to, but counsellors are professionally trained to work with self-harm and will support you in finding constructive alternatives.  When someone says he or she is thinking about suicide, ask questions. Be sensitive, but ask direct questions, such as: How are

you coping with what’s been happening in your life? Do you ever feel like just giving up? Are you thinking about hurting yourself? Are you thinking about suicide? Have you thought about how you would do it? Do you know when you would do it? Do you have the means to do it? Asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings won’t push someone into doing something self-destructive and may reduce the risk of the person acting on suicidal feelings. Look for warning signs, such as: the person talking about death or suicide (such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead,” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”) and being preoccupied with death, dying or violence; getting the means to commit suicide, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills; withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone; having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next; feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation; increasing use of alco-

hol, drugs, or other risky behaviours; giving away belongings or getting affairs in order; saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again; and behavioural changes, such as increased anxiety or agitation. Then get help. If a friend or family member talks or behaves in a way that makes you believe he or she might commit suicide, don’t try to handle the situation without help — get help from a trained professional as quickly as possible. The person may need to be hospitalized until the suicidal crisis has passed. If possible, tell a family member or friend right away what’s going on. If suicidal risk is imminent, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room yourself. If you believe that risk is imminent, it is important to not leave the person alone. It is also important for the friend or family member to practice self-care and get support themselves, Gibson says. Loved ones and friends who are managing and supporting someone with depression and suicidal urges can fall into burnout and depression themselves. It is important that these supporters also find support and assistance themselves.

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BUSINESS

Resources in your community Farm Stress lines or equivalent: Ontario: Distress Centres Ontario 416-486-2242 Alberta 877-303-2642 Saskatchewan Farm Stress Line 1-800-667-4442 Manitoba Farm & Rural Support Services 1-866-367-3276 Saskatchewan Healthline 811 HealthLine is a confidential, 24-hour health information and support telephone line, staffed by nurses and social workers. Manitoba Health Links Similar to Saskatchewan 1-888-315-9257 Health Link Alberta Toll-free: 1-866-408-5465 (LINK) Edmonton 780-408-5465 (LINK) Calgary 403-943-5465 (LINK) HealthLink B.C. 811

Online Therapy (only in Saskatchewan) www.onlinetherapyuser.ca/wellbeing/welcome/ Long-time farmer, Gerry Friesen’s blog: www.therecoveringfarmer.blogspot.ca/

Online treatment for anxiety and depression in Saskatchewan Although online therapy is very popular in other countries, so far Saskatchewan is the only province offering that service in Canada. Online counselling for depression and anxiety is available free of charge to Saskatchewan residents aged 18 and over who have access to and are comfortable using computers. “We’re currently offering a well-being course basically designed for people who have anxiety or depression,” says Heather Hadjistavropoulos, professor of psychology at the University of Regina. “The course consists of five lessons, and with each lesson the person goes onto the computer and learns different information on how to improve well-being and cope with anxiety and depression.” It usually takes one or two weeks to complete each lesson, which comes with online reading material and suggestions, activities, and homework. Lessons include basic information about depression and anxiety, how common these symptoms are, identifying and challenging

thoughts that might be contributing to the condition, coping with the physical symptoms that go along with depression and anxiety, identifying and working on behaviours that may be contributing to challenges, putting it all together, and continuing to work on long-term well-being. As well as working on their own, course takers have a therapist they can email during the week. Once a week, that therapist goes online and reads the client’s emails and responds to questions and concerns and offers encouragement. “It’s great for people who live in rural and remote areas or have mobility issues or just have other barriers such as family or farming responsibilities,” says Hadjistavropoulos. “People can work on this on their own time. Sometimes people feel reluctant or embarrassed about seeking help. Sometimes we find after people work on this they feel more comfortable if they need to go in to see a counsellor in person.” Learn more about this program at: www. onlinetherapyuser.ca/wellbeing/welcome/.

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MARCH 18, 2014


BUSINESS

Continued from page 41 People don’t want to talk about their mental health because there is a pride issue, he says. “I have no problem telling someone my knee is very sore because I sprained it, but I hate telling people that I have a mental health issue. But when I did start talking about it, my neighbour said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I get that.’ And he didn’t look at me as if I had lost my marbles; it was just like, ‘Yeah, I get that. I sometimes feel that way. Can I help with anything?’” “That kind of conversation was really freeing for me,” Friesen says. Professional health care workers are also helpful, he says, and he warns farmers not to get discouraged if that first attempt to get help doesn’t quite work. “My message is don’t give up. Go see another counsellor. I talk a lot about finding your support system. As much as I was hiding stuff from my wife, I now realize if I had been open and up front with her that would have been way more helpful than I could ever have imagined,” Friesen says. “There are neighbours, professionals, community mental health workers. The list just goes on and on.” (Friesen has been blogging since 2010 at www.therecoveringfarmer.blogspot.ca/ and says that for him, blogging and journaling are awesome tools to deal with stress.) CG

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What does depression look like? Depression is not simply feeling down for a short time. It is a medical condition. Symptoms of depression can include: • Sleeping too much or too little • Fatigue, lack of energy • Sadness all day, nearly every day • Withdrawal from family and friends • Loss of interest, lack of enjoyment in things that used to be enjoyable • Trouble concentrating • Trouble making decisions • Headaches, stomach pain, joint or other pains • Change in appetite or weight, gaining or losing weight without intent • Feelings of irritability • Feelings of restless or feelings of being slowed down • Feelings of worthlessness • Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt • Thoughts of death or suicide To be diagnosed as depression, these symptoms must be present for most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks. Some of these symptoms can also indicate other psychological and physical conditions. Diabetes can cause tiredness, low mood and sleep difficulties. People who have a low thyroid may have some of these symptoms, while people with an anxiety disorder may have trouble concentrating, thinking about things, and making decisions. In short, get it checked out, by a professional. MARCH 18, 2014

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business

The best strategy to market grains? Here is an eye-opening study that all farmers should read and consider By Gerald Pilger offee shops abound with the stories of farmers who have topped the markets by using a specific grain marketing strategy. Market advisers boast of the high prices that producers have earned by following their advice. But rarely do we hear of marketing mistakes or of the prices received by those who have sold in the bottom third of the price range. The result is that our perception is skewed. A marketing strategy may not be nearly as effective as it seems, simply because producers rarely hear about losses when a marketing strategy is followed. We only hear of the positive outcomes. Dr. Richard Vyn, economist at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus has produced one of the most complete Canadian evaluations of corn and soybean marketing strategies. It is also unique because it uses real grain prices instead of simulations to compare marketing tools. It isn’t a brand new study. It’s basically two years old, and as a result I thought I would only read it for my own use and not to write about. But the more I look at it, the more fascinated I am by it. Vyn was able to accurately compare the effectiveness of each marketing strategy over an 18-year period from 1992 to 2009. In his introduction Vyn writes,

Average price by strategy 1992-2009

Strategy

Description

“the purpose of this paper is twofold: first to determine the marketing strategies that have been most effective for corn and soybean producers in Ontario by comparing the returns and risk of alternative strategies — in particular, pre-harvest strategies — relative to cash sales at harvest; and second, to determine whether pre-harvest market conditions have an impact on the strategies that are most effective.” Vyn compared 17 marketing strategies. It takes some patience to appreciate the strategies, but it is worth your while to get them straight. The first was a baseline strategy in which the entire crop was sold at harvest time. Strategies two to four were also cash sales but with sales staggered throughout the year. Strategies five to seven called for the sale of a percentage at harvest with the remainder sold on forward contracts for spring-summer delivery. Strategies eight to 10 called for cash sales at harvest but replacing the sold grain with spring and summer futures contracts. Strategies 11 to 13 were strategies that included the purchase of options, 14 used a basis contract, 15 used both forward contracting and futures contracts, and 16 used forward contracts and options. Finally, 17 was a very dynamic strategy which used a variety of marketing tools depending upon prices at seven decision points throughout the year. These pre-

When pre-harvest prices below COP

When pre-harvest prices above COP

Corn

Soybeans

Corn

Soybeans

Corn

Soybeans

Average price ($/bu.)

Average price ($/bu.)

Average price ($/bu.)

Average price ($/bu.)

Average price ($/bu.)

Average price ($/bu.)

1

Baseline

3.303

7.787

3.392

8.026

3.191

7.489

2

January cash sale

3.389

8.370

3.413

8.653

3.359

8.017

3

3 cash sales

3.356

8.268

3.442

8.562

3.248

7.901

4

5 cash sales

3.358

8.374

3.530

8.690

3.144

7.979

5

Forward contract 1

3.417

8.022

3.614

8.553

3.171

7.357

6

Forward contract 2

3.380

8.035

3.586

8.518

3.124

7.431

7

Forward contract 3

3.415

8.069

3.637

8.626

3.137

7.372

8

Futures contract 1

3.598

8.095

3.885

8.762

3.240

7.262

9

Futures contract 2

3.554

8.247

3.837

8.798

3.201

7.558

10

Futures contract 3

3.590

8.188

3.881

8.814

3.226

7.405

11

Put option 1

3.447

7.867

3.647

8.308

3.196

7.315

12

Put option 2

3.510

8.024

3.720

8.433

3.249

7.514

13

Put option 3

3.482

7.946

3.688

8.376

3.226

7.409

14

Basic contract

3.443

8.320

3.529

8.563

3.336

8.016

15

Forward & futures

3.567

8.295

3.880

9.010

3.176

7.401

16

Forward & put option

3.540

8.163

3.810

8.795

3.202

7.372

17

Dynamic

3.532

8.553

3.699

9.076

3.323

7.898

46 country-guide.ca

March 18, 2014


BUSINESS determined factors were the new-crop price in the spring before harvest, the new-crop price in early summer, the new-crop price in late summer, the harvest price, the price early in the new year, the price in the spring following harvest, and the price in early summer following harvest. The marketing strategy used depended upon price at each point in time and the strategy could change for the percentage of grain not yet sold. Storage costs, hedging and options costs, and interest costs were all considered and included in calculations of the final price per bushel a farmer would have received by using each strategy. It is important to know that Vyn used commercial storage rates which may be higher than on-farm storage costs for farmers. Higher storage rates would have had a negative effect on cash sale strategies. The results of his study were eye-opening. Strategies that priced corn pre-harvest tended to outperform other strategies. Yet some of the best prices for soybeans did not use any alternative market tools but were the result of simply holding the crop until spring and then making cash sales. When only the years where the pre-harvest price was above the cost of production were considered, the results were very similar to the all-year study for both corn and soybeans. However, when pre-harvest prices were below the cost of production, the price received for cash sale of corn at harvest was as good as or even better in some cases than the prices that were achieved by using marketing tools. The best soybean prices were again achieved through cash sales made later in the year. The basis contract and the dynamic marketing contract were the only soybean pricing strategies other than late-season cash selling which resulted in gains over the baseline selling at harvest time. While crops and marketing opportunities differ a lot between Ontario and Western Canada, and the information provided in this study cannot be directly applied to prairie farmers, there are some lessons that all farmers can and should consider. The most important lesson is summarized in the paper’s conclusion when Vyn wrote: “Rather than attempting to find and use one optimal strategy across all years, producers should adjust their strategy based on market conditions in the pre-harvest period.” In other words, the marketing tools you used last year may not work this year, and you really need to start looking at marketing options before you harvest, not after. Vyn summed up his finding to me by stating, “It is important to understand all marketing tools since the best marketing strategies will vary from year to year. You have to be comfortable with forward contracting, futures, and options.” The one observation arising from this study, which all farmers need to think about this year given our current low prices, is Vyn’s comment: “It is hard to make a case for selling when the price is below your cost of production. It is often better to wait and see.” Without question, all farmers know what grain prices are, but do you know your cost of production and storage costs? Those figures are as important to the success of your business as the price of grain you are growing. Vyn’s study “The Effectiveness of Alternative Marketing Strategies for Ontario Corn and Soybean Producers” was published in 2012 in the CANADIAN JOURNAL OF AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS; 60, 4; 427-449. This study was in fact an update of his 2009 research “Comparing Returns for Grain Corn Production under Various Marketing Strategies” which only looked at corn marketing strategies. The full 2009 paper is available at: www.ridgetownc.uoguelph.ca/research/documents/ vyn_Report_-_Richard_Vyn.pdf. CG MARCH 18, 2014

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What a farmer wants Your ideal tractor is getting more and more unlike the one your neighbour would like to buy By Scott Garvey, CG Machinery Editor nderstanding what your customers want is one of the basic musts for staying in business — any business. Now, it’s also something equipment manufacturers need to keep in mind more than ever, because a new study shows a widening gap between what different producer groups want and expect from their machinery. A 2014 survey conducted for Case IH revealed that a machinery company with just one marketing strategy isn’t going to cut it anymore. Simply put, the split in what really matters to different producers is growing too big, especially between farmers growing cash crops and those who raise livestock. Case IH’s marketing group released the findings of their survey in a press release early in February. In the survey, 15 statements were put to farmers in both the livestock and cash crops sectors, and they were asked to rate each one’s importance. Some 800 producer interviews were conducted and the results are considered to be representative of the producers that Case IH will have to target with their future marketing efforts. They include Canadian and U.S. producers from sizeable operations who have a final say or share in decision making regarding equipment selection and purchasing. The survey presented the 15 statements to producers this way: “Below is a list of attributes you may associate with equipment manufacturers and dealers. Please indicate how important each attribute is when seeking a service or choosing a piece of equipment.” The responses from that sample of farmers pro-

What’s important in selecting equipment Low maintenance Easy to work on

Livestock

Manufacturer is innovative Reliability Good dealership Low maintenance High resale value

crops

Manufacturer is innovative Reliability Good dealership 0

48 country-guide.ca

20

40

60

80

100

vide some interesting insights into which factors influence the machinery purchasing decisions of those two groups. What appeals most to a crop farmer in North America, according to the survey, doesn’t have similar importance to a livestock producer, and vice versa. That’s the challenge for marketing staff at the major brands, and it arises mainly from how those two producer groups use their machines. Livestock producers use their equipment almost daily to grow feed in the summer and deliver it to herds all the way through the snow and cold of winter. Crop farmers, on the other hand, use their machines for relatively short but intensive bursts through the growing season. “A big difference between livestock and crop producers when it comes to equipment is usage,” says Ryan Drollette, farm management specialist from Iowa State University extension and outreach, who commented in the Case IH press release. “Livestock producers run their equipment every single day,” he adds, “while crop producers are running them for longer periods of time during select seasons.” But how does that fundamental difference in usage change expectations and priorities? When Case IH conducted their survey, they wanted to know what influenced farmers’ decisions in the dealership showroom. What is it that farmers look for and expect to get that convinces them to write a cheque for new equipment? That is where things really look different. The survey showed that livestock and crop producers keep their equipment for much different lengths of time. While livestock producers will likely hold onto machines for five to 10 years, crop farmers tend to trade theirs back to the dealer much more frequently. “The longevity of the equipment matters to the more value-oriented livestock producer,” says Brett DeVries, hay and forage product specialist at Case IH. Some of that demand for “value” from stockmen may arise from the fact it’s been a business with slim margins over the past decade — at least in Canada. So, pricing and discounts are higher on the stockmen’s list of priorities. But, surprisingly, even though spending hard-earned money is part of this equation, the research showed it wasn’t as important as one might expect for either group. It was only of medium importance to livestock producers, while it factored right at the bottom of the crop growers’ list. In fact, it’s really not on that group’s radar at all. Not a single person in that category even acknowledged it as important. MARCH 18, 2014


business What topped the charts in importance for livestock farmers was low maintenance. In contrast, equipment reliability is what crop producers cited as most important. Next up for stockmen was having equipment that is easy to work on and maintain. But even though it looks like this group expects to keep their equipment longer and do a fair chunk of their own maintenance, they don’t seem bothered by the prospect of having machines down for a day or two waiting for parts. They placed the importance of having a local dealer who stocks a good parts inventory two positions lower than those in the cash crop segment. It’s easy to see why the latter group finds that of higher importance. Their machines need to run hard and fast through short, seasonal windows of opportunity to get crops in, sprayed and harvested. So they can’t live with downtime. And because cash crop producers trade their machines in much sooner, having equipment that is easy to work on and maintain didn’t rate very highly in their responses. Instead, having a good resale value replaced that at the number two spot on their list. You have to look down the survey to the number three spot to find the first sign of agreement between the two groups. While each may intend to keep their machines for different lengths of time, they both expect to get some reasonably modern technology

for their money. All farmers, it seems, expect the manufacturer who wins their loyalty to offer innovative and progressive features in their equipment. The next point of agreement is at the number five spot. That’s where “having a responsive dealer” shows up on both lists. It isn’t too surprising that one rates relatively highly, but given the emphasis many individual producers and all the major brands currently put on having high-quality dealer networks, finding this statement rated at a spot that low was a bit unexpected. “Having access to a supportive, responsive dealership is critical for all producers,” Drollette says. “An operation’s success is dependent on its ability to stay up and running, and equipment plays a crucial role in that.” Hence my surprise that this didn’t figure more prominently. But when it comes to what farmers expect out of their local retailer — other than the size of the local parts inventory, which I mentioned earlier — stockmen said they don’t care if the local dealer has any knowledge of how their operation functions or what it needs. That consideration was way down the list in fourteenth spot — second last in the survey question group — making for another small surprise. Their grain grower cousins, on the other hand, thought that factor was much more important. They rated it number seven. CG

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country-guide.ca 49


Production

Connecting the dots

Farmers like Mossbank, Sask.’s David Nagel are linking equipment technology and agronomy

By Anne Lazurko, CG Contributing Editor

ot too many of us consider the particular skills we’re using as we navigate a smart phone, or tablet, or gaming device. We figure them out by simply playing around on them. The platforms today are user friendly, easy to navigate, and chock full of data and applications that may or may not be helpful to our everyday functioning as human beings. But the ability to use similar data and applications on new farm equipment and in agronomic practices is becoming vital to the future of our farms, which can sound like a doomsday prophesy, not only for farmers who are older but also for anyone who is less interested, or just plain scared of it. Take heart. There are programs and systems designed to help farmers use that expensive combine, seeder or sprayer technology to its potential without having to be a member of the Geek Squad. Considered a service by dealerships, it will cost you money, but according to many, the precision and profit it allows are well worth the fee. Drew Watson is clearly excited about what his new Integrated Solutions (IS) department is able to 50 country-guide.ca

offer customers at South Country Equipment. Incorporated 10 years ago, South Country is a collection of eight John Deere dealerships in southern Saskatchewan, largely family-owned and with generations of experience. Watson Distributors was part of the Weyburn, Sask. landscape for decades before it became part of the larger entity. Watson is now both owner and human resource manager with South Country. With a customer base whose farms are growing both in size and complexity, Watson says his IS department is able to match science with what the equipment technology can do and ensure farmers are maximizing their use. “It’s a value-added service that’s demanded by the technology and the cost of the equipment,” Watson says. “Expectations have been ramped up, so the services need to ramp up with it.” The new department at South Country is part of a larger alliance formed in 2011 between John Deere and Agri-Trend to help farmers adopt precisionagriculture practices like variable-rate application, field mapping and GPS technologies. Since then the idea has ballooned, along with the new technologies available on today’s equipment. March 18, 2014


production “The amount of integrated technology in the new John Deere equipment compared to five years ago is phenomenal,” says Ryan Hutchison, manager of IS at South Country. For the past year Hutchison has been building his department to ensure that sales, service, parts, and customer training are indeed integrated. It’s been a time of learning. In fact, last fall the company hand-picked farmers to use the new services with the intention of determining which had value. And they didn’t charge for any service for which they could not define a measurable outcome. Actually, the technology is a little mind-blowing. It focuses on two areas: agronomic practices and equipment performance and efficiency. In the first instance, an in-house, independent agronomist might make recommendations about variable-rate settings, and data about the actual seeding application will be transmitted through wireless data to myJD.com where the farmer can assess it and go back if there’s been a miss. Another system, JD Field Connect, provides an in-field, site-specific weather station which allows farmers to know conditions and react accordingly. So, for example, a farmer can know moisture conditions at time of spraying and avoid applications done at the plant’s wilting point, which aren’t as effective and might have an impact on maturity date. “Our team gets involved from an agronomic perspective,” Hutchison says. “The cost of inputs has really driven this. The only variable costs today are inputs, so people want to do it right the first time and are very willing to pay for the service.” The performance and efficiency aspects of integrated solutions are found in the technology on the equipment itself. “The reality is that the cost of the equipment doesn’t allow for much down time,” says Hutchison. “So we have to ensure it’s working to capacity without sacrificing quality.” Gone are the days when a producer set the combine at the beginning of the day, said “good enough” and chugged through a field until evening. There are too many dollars at stake to throw grain out the back, so settings are imperative. A program called JDLink connects a customer’s combine to the service department at the dealership. If a producer doesn’t like the sample quality, a technician can go online and look at the settings live, onscreen and make recommendations based on actual machine performance. As well, monitors at the dealership provide an up-to-the-minute view of the combine’s operations, so that if a hydraulic hose is blown, a machinery alert is sent to a technician who can be on the road with the right part before the operator might even be aware there’s a problem. While it might sound a little Orwellian, it certainly creates efficiencies never before imagined. And the dealership only has access as allowed by the customer. David Nagel has first-hand experience with the technology. Just as the Mossbank-area farm family changed the structure of their farm business to creMarch 18, 2014

ate efficiencies, so too have they opted for some of the new John Deere technologies, particularly those designed around equipment performance. Three companies owned by Nagel and his wife, his brother’s family, and their parents, farm 9,000 acres under a partnership known as Hunter’s Paradise. The land is farmed as one unit, growing chickpeas, large green lentils, canola and durum, and profits are split at a predetermined percentage each year. Each of the partners brings his own skill to the operation, Nagel’s being in finances, his brother in operations and his dad as mechanic. In the same way, he says South Country provides specialized people through the integrated solutions department. Nagel bought two S680 combines and accepted the Integrated Solutions package as part of the purchase.

“The only variable costs today are inputs, so people want to do it right the first time and are very willing to pay for the service.” — Ryan Hutchison, South Country Equipment “They got to know our farm, our crops, our fields,” he says. Through the harvest the farm received help with combine settings for sample quality through to service calls generated by the codes and sensors monitored back at the dealership. “We found a huge jump in efficiency in terms of grain loss and quality of sample,” Nagel says. “We couldn’t have come to those settings on our own because they came out and did a running drop screen test (to determine) throw over so it was very accurate.” It all adds up to operator peace of mind, and the importance of that is evidenced in Nagel’s voice. But peace of mind is one thing. All that tech is expensive. “I don’t know if we can calculate exactly the cost/ benefit ratio of the tech costs after one year, but I know we (harvested) way more acres than we ever thought possible in a day, especially in a year with such huge yields,” he says. He admits the partnership has invested in some technologies in the past that didn’t pay off, and even those that do will arrive at economies of scale eventually. But he argues the most important element is to know your financial and production numbers in order to measure accurately. While Hunter’s Paradise is a large farm, both Nagel and South Country’s Hutchison believe the technology is useful to any size of operation, that those economies of scale apply whether you’re runContinued on page 52 country-guide.ca 51


Production Continued from page 51 ning one combine on a 3,000-acre farm, or three on 9,000 acres. For any farm, the ability to put inexperienced operators in a piece of equipment and have good results is always a plus. According to Hutchison, on one farm a young, inexperienced woman actually ran the combine with greater efficiency than an older, seasoned farmer because she did what the monitors were telling her to do. Now that’s peace of mind in an environment where labour is scarce. Even so, Nagel believes technology has to prove itself before farmers will completely trust it. He sees it as a process where new ideas are funneled through those who are early adapters and then others take and use those things that work. And perhaps the most necessary ingredient to a farmer embracing any kind of integrated technology is that he understands the theory behind it. “There has to be a connection to the theory of why we’re doing something,” Nagel says. He says that next year he will have all of his employees included in the process so they understand exactly how a combine works and thus why individual settings are important.

For his part, Hutchison says, “We help the grower to understand what he really wants to accomplish and the reasons why he wants it. Then we can train on the specifics of how it works and how to get there. He has to understand the theory of combine fan speed to know why he needs to set it as such, why we make a setting change and the impact that has on sample quality. He needs to understand why it matters.” Hutchison believes tech skills are important but so too is an openness to adapt to technology, and an openness as well to working with equipment technicians in the same way you might work with your accountant or marketing agent. What’s on the horizon? Integrated Solutions is a service that fills a connectivity gap in the centre of the production end of things, says Rob Saik, founder and CEO of the AgriTrend group. With crop prices low and land prices high, the drive for efficiency will continue and he believes its success will come down to the collection, quality and use of data. “The whole idea of precision farming is tracking data,” he says. And while the first generation of precision agriculture

was “preposterously complex,” it is now in its third iteration and farmers have adapted. “All technology gets simpler… It is a metamorphosis over time. I see it coming that we will put ourselves out of business because the farmers can do it all themselves.” Which means Saik is on the hunt for the next big thing. He sees an eventual shift to “variable-rate everything,” including fertilizer, seeding, fungicide, crop protection products and foliar nutrition. “We will eventually couple all opportunities to do variable rate with the equipment… and it will be based on what the world of sensor technology has coming down the pipe,” he says. Another trend is the increased calculating power of the computer. The next generation of laptops will be calculating at the same speed as the human mind, he says, and he anticipates the eventual emergence of artificial intelligence. Sensors equipped with AI will make better use of the information, making data even more critical. If it all sounds like something from science fiction, consider how quickly the existing technologies have been developed and how quickly farmers have adapted to their use.

“We found a huge jump in efficiency in terms of grain loss and quality of sample.” — David Nagel, Mossbank, Sask. It seems no one can put their finger on exactly the skill sets required in this brave new world. Perhaps farmers will continue to be jacks of all trades: mechanic, techno wizard, financial analyst, agronomist, human resource manager and marketer. But it’s also true that successful farm operations have embraced the use of professionals in those areas where they may lack the necessary interest or skill. Integrated solutions that match crop science with what the equipment technology is capable of are another step on that continuum. CG 52 country-guide.ca

march 18, 2014


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Production

Overfed

Can more N guarantee you a record-breaking soybean yield? By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor

ike farmers everywhere, soybean growers are big fans of big yield numbers. The more bushels, the better, and now, with yields commonly into the 70s, some even talk of reaching the century mark in just a few years’ time. That quest is leading growers down a few unexpected roads, such as applying nitrogen to soybeans. It seems counterintuitive. After all, one of the great competitive advantages of soybeans is their ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. But N fertilization is also an idea with a lot of sticking power. Horst Bohner, the Ontario agriculture ministry’s soybean specialist, has seen N research in soybeans back to the 1980s and 1990s, and he has conducted dozens of his own trials and test plots since 2004.

“It’s ridiculous how the plant refuses to respond to nitrogen fertilizer.” — Horst Bohner, OMAFRA His experience seems clear. Under normal growing conditions, Bohner says, he has yet to see extra N pay for itself, let alone elevate yields closer to that 100 bu./ac. level. The only cases where he’s seen a significant impact have been in soils where N levels were extremely low, or in crops with damaged roots. Even so, Bohner still believes it’s worth discussing the idea, particularly with the emphasis now on driving soybean yields into the 80s and 90s. The problem comes in comparing growing conditions in Ontario with those in the U.S. where much of the research has been done, and where irrigation is more common and soil profiles are enviously deep. “In those fields, there is a lot of available nitrogen in the soil, so it all comes together typically in the soil,” says Bohner, who, with Dave Hooker at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, has 54 country-guide.ca

looked closely at the results. “Anything that can be done to improve soil health, including crop rotation, is a positive thing for soybean yields. But nitrogen specifically… there’s not much of a link.”

Nature’s way As with other legumes, a soybean plant derives nitrogen from a symbiotic relationship with rhizobial bacteria, which “fix” atmospheric N2 (nitrogen gas) into NH4 (ammonium). In that form, it’s more readily available for uptake into the plant. But fixation doesn’t account for all the nitrogen in a mature plan. Instead, some 40 to 70 per cent comes from the soil. It’s a number that might make you think that a nitrogen application would boost yields, yet in a series of research studies — from South Dakota and Iowa to Minnesota and Ontario — there has been little or no yield response to straight nitrogen applications. One study that Bohner uses to emphasize this point is from 2012 at Ridgetown. In a project that sought to define timing and seeding rates for doublecropping soybeans, one of the results confirmed that high seeding rates outperformed lower seeding rates, but that in a low seed-rate environment, 50 lbs. of N per acre applied at planting outyielded the zeronitrogen plots. Yet at higher application rates, even up to 100 lbs. of N per acre, there was no significant yield compared to the 50-lb. rate (Figure 1).

The physiological cost “The soybean plant will use the nitrogen that’s the cheapest in terms of physiological cost,” says Bohner. “Fixing nitrogen from the air is quite costly to the plant because it has to feed those bacteria and the nodules, so when it has what I’ll call free nitrogen available in the soil, readily available to the plant, it’s not going to fix nitrogen.” If there was a way to get the soybean plant to do both at the same time — fix nitrogen and use the March 18, 2014


production nitrogen fertilizer — then 100 bu./ac. yields would be much easier to attain. And, in fact, attempts are being made through the use of slow-release nitrogen or other growth promoters, but thus far, the yields haven’t grown substantially, Bohner says. The bottom line is, in the presence of high N-rate applications, nodulation is inhibited because the soybean plant will nodulate only when it needs N. “With respect to nitrogen, not only can we not show an economic response, we can’t even show a yield response,” Bohner says. “It’s ridiculous how the plant refuses to respond to nitrogen fertilizer.” “We’ve tested various sources, we’ve tested various placements and we’ve tested different timings under every different scenario,” adds Bohner, noting that he started the N trials in 2004 and has kept them going through 2013. “So far, it’s been a complete failure in every case to make money for producers.”

Why keep trying?

March 18, 2014

Double-Crop Yield Response to Nitrogen and Seeding Rate (planting date, July 10, 2012) 45 40

38.5a

35

20

38.6a

37.4a

38.6a

32.7bc

32.6bc

300K

225K

150K

300K

225K

150K

300K

25

37.3a

30.4c

225K

30

34b

150K

Yield (bu./ac.)

Eric Richter, agronomic sales representative for Syngenta Canada, agrees with Bohner’s assessment of N-applications on soybeans. On one hand, he has seen results over the years where growers apply higher amounts of nitrogen with little or no response. On the other hand, he’s also seen growers with 35-bu./ac. yields on good loamy soils, relatively new to soybeans, jump to 50 or 60 bu./ac. with the simple addition of an inoculant. From Richter’s perspective, phosphorus and calcium are also important in driving soybean yields. But the real key to improved soybean yields comes in a root system that will help push podfill later in the season. “It’s the period in which the most significant amount of nitrogen and phosphorus — and potassium, for that matter — is taken up,” says Richter, adding that corn, by contrast, builds its yield in the front half of its life cycle. “In soybeans, as we move towards these 60- and 70- and 80- and 100-bushel yields, we’re asking more of these plants at a time when the root systems are actually getting tired. To go beyond 60 to 80 bu./ac., we have to figure out how to get enough nutrients into the plant at the back end… I’m not saying I have the answer.” Another similar strategy that he’s noticed is that growers with poultry manure tend to have better yields. In fact, those producers usually have pretty impressive corn yields as well. “I’m assuming those growers have the same management skills and roughly the same soil types, but if you compare apples to apples, the one set of growers that really come up above the rest are the ones who have access to poultry manure,” says Richter. “There’s something that really lines up with the nutrient-uptake pattern for soybeans.” In the U.S., growers can borrow from the pages of elite growers such as Kip Cullers, who advocates multiple nutrient treatments, or Marion Chalmers, who has worked with reduced plant populations. Richter acknowledges that U.S. growers manage their farms and crops under a different set of con-

0 50 100 Plant pop (’000/ac.) within Fertilizer N Applied (lbs./ac.) n=10, mean separation Protected LSD p=0 05

ditions, including irrigation and a soil profile that most Canadian growers can only dream of. Yet somewhere in those approaches, there’s a guideline for growers on this side of the border. And it’s a tricky balancing act, according to Richter. “My belief is that as we increase fertility in healthy soils, we have to decrease populations, but we still have to have an optimum stand,” Richter says. “If we get too high population and too much fertilizer up front, then we generate no response. I’m a big fan of the approach that as we increase fertility and increase soil health, there’s a huge opportunity to lower seeding rates and increase yield. That’s why I’m so excited about variable-rate technology in soybeans.” CG country-guide.ca 55


Production

Growing market CPSR wheat is a class that’s attracting a lot of attention abroad for possible food uses By Ellen Goodman, Cigi anada Prairie Spring Red wheat is considered a great livestock feed wheat here in Canada, but it’s also ideal for a variety of human food applications, especially in other countries, says Ashok Sarkar, head of milling technology at the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi). The quality characteristics of CPSR — exceptional milling performance, medium protein levels and good protein strength — make it suitable for blending with other wheat flours, or for use on its own, Sarkar says. “CPSR flour has good protein quality and enormous blending potential, where you could use it with another wheat flour to increase or decrease

56 country-guide.ca

protein as required,” Sarkar explains. “For example, you might blend it with a high-protein wheat like CWRS, where you don’t want to affect the protein quality too much, but you want to lower it for certain food applications. You can easily use CPSR for this because it’s quite strong with slightly lower protein than CWRS, so it can bring the protein down without affecting the functional qualities too much.” CPSR is used in products such as hearth breads, flatbreads, crackers, noodles and pasta in countries around the world, particularly in South America and Asia. “There are many food products made from medium-protein, medium-strength wheat,” Sarkar says. “CPSR can be used 100 per cent for bread that doesn’t require a very high volume, but still needs

March 18, 2014


production good dough strength like for French bread. And it can be used for a variety of noodle products.” Sarkar says that international demand for CPSR in food applications changed in the mid-1990s with the new variety AC Crystal. “Before that, CPSR was more of a filler type of wheat and had no real identity of its own,” he says. “With the introduction of AC Crystal — which improved the milling quality, functional properties and overall benefits of using this type of wheat — people started looking at it as more of a wheat that could be used on its own.” However, one issue for international markets is availability since much of the CPSR grown is sold domestically for feed and ethanol production. An advantage for farmers growing CPSR is high yields, significantly more than premium wheats such as CWRS, Sarkar says. “If we continue to grow CPSR in large quantities and countries know it is available every year in sufficient quantities so they can plan their wheat blends accordingly, then it will start to develop its own value in the marketplace.” One advantage to millers using CPSR, instead of a medium-protein wheat from another country, is that Canadian quality standards provide cleanliness, consistency and uniformity without wide fluctuations in quality seen in other wheats. CPSR has a very good and consistent quality profile overall that can deliver benefits in multiple prod-

“There are many food products made from medium-protein, medium-strength wheat.” — Ashok Sarkar, Cigi ucts, Sarkar says. “The flour quality includes good extraction, colour, dough strength for breads, and dough elasticity for noodle processing.” Esey Assefaw, head of Asian products technology at Cigi, says the group has produced and evaluated various types of noodles made out of CPSR. “Out of all Canadian wheat classes, CPSR has a special quality suitable for white salted noodles,” Assefaw says. “What you’re looking for is good colour and good elastic texture that consumers in Asia prefer. CPSR, specifically the 5700 and 5701 PR varieties, for the first time came close to achieving the elasticity we’re looking for.” Assefaw and other Cigi technical staff have recently met interested customers from countries such as Japan to discuss CPSR quality. “It has more than potential,” Assefaw says. “It’s a matter of supply. That’s the challenge. It’s a perfect wheat that complements a premium wheat like CWRS.” CG

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country-guide.ca 57


Production

F a CT C H E C K

Unsilent spring The funny thing about farm chemicals is they’re a lot less scary when you learn a bit about them — and some of the cautionary tales from the past have actually shown us how to use them more safely and effectively By Gord Leathers

ack in the early ’80s, when I was a science student, I took a pollution geography course and wrote a term paper on pesticides. I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the book credited with birthing the modern environmental movement, and dug through the library for all available references. I wound up getting a pretty good mark for what the prof called a very informative paper. I knew everything an urban college kid should know about pesticides and figured if we imposed a worldwide ban, then everything would be beautiful.

“A lot has changed since we started spraying.” For the last 10 years I’ve been a science journalist producing articles for the farm press and that means I’ve been writing about pesticides. I’ve talked to agronomists, chemists and farmers, as well as academics and regulators — in short, a whole lot of people I didn’t know about when I wrote that paper. Now I know about half of what I need to know about pesticides and figure that if we impose a worldwide ban, then everything will be beautiful. Except for the mass starvation and malaria. Agriculture is a much more complicated trade than I realized back in the ’80s and there are a couple of things today’s science journalist would explain to yesterday’s science student. One is that there are no simple solutions to the complex problems attached to growing plants and animals in a profit-based business model. The second is that we know a lot more about pesticide toxicology than we did before DDT was banned and, in a perverse way, DDT may be the reason why. The first rule of toxicology states that a poison will only kill you if you get a sufficient amount of 58 country-guide.ca

it; the dose makes the poison. For example, I was at a conference where McGill University chemist Joe Schwarcz slapped up a transparency with a long list of the chemicals that you’ll find in an apple. He pointed to a nasty little poison called arsenic but he said it was perfectly natural to find it in the same fruit that keeps the doctor away. He explained that there’s always a certain amount of arsenic in the environment, it’s in your food, but the amount is so small that it’s of no concern. Your body can handle tiny measures of it. But we know arsenic is poisonous and we fear chemicals, and just knowing they are there scares some people. Psychologist Paul Slovic calls this “intuitive toxicology,” when we recoil from something that we feel is contaminated. If it can do harm, then it must do harm. Our modern fear of chemicals probably goes back to Silent Spring and DDT. DDT, or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, was first synthesized in 1874 but its insect-killing ability was first described in 1939 by Swiss scientist Peter Hermann Muller. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine as a result. What a find it was too. DDT was used widely to eliminate the malaria-carrying anopheles mosquito and as a powder treatment for lice. In terms of public health, DDT was responsible for saving countless lives that might have been lost to insectborne disease. When it was applied to farming, it created a revolution in pest control and those farmers reaped the bonanza. We learned the promise of chemical agriculture. We also got our first taste of the consequences of chemical agriculture. DDT is fat-soluble, so it won’t dilute in water. If you’re a bug and you get a sublethal dose, you’ll store it in your fatty tissues and it tends to stay there. If something like a fish or a bird eats you, your predator gets your full dose, as well as everything it got from eating your friends and March 18, 2014


PRODUCTION

family. The concentrations go up as you travel on up the food chain. At the top (and that’s us) it rises to an even greater level and this is called bioaccumulation. DDT was in the environment and it didn’t break down fast enough so it caused a lot of trouble with different species of birds and animals. Since it’s fat soluble, it was easy to find. Another thing DDT taught us was an uncomfortable truth in a brand new science called genetics. Down in the cotton fields of the southern U.S., boll weevils took their annual drenching, but instead of dying as they had before, they marched on through the fields and decimated the crops. Certain genetic combinations were resistant to DDT, so killing the vulnerable weevils left only resistant parents and they begat resistant offspring. Insects became immune to a deadly and persistent insecticide. We had to ban it but I might say it was because of DDT’s long life and the boll weevil’s selective resistance that we learned some of what we really needed to know about chemical agriculture. Of greatest importance, we simply couldn’t spray toxic chemistry around without regard for the consequences. I’d tell that to the science student, and explain that nowadays any new chemistry undergoes intense scrutiny through the Pesticide Management Review Agency before it’s registered for use. Then I’d show myself the label on the package that outlines the directions for best possible efficacy. I’d talk about spraying and how farmers are instructed to spray under the right conditions. I’d mention how it’s usually done within a certain time period so the chemistry has a chance to work and after that it starts to degrade into its different components. Then I’d show myself a list of banned pesticides, just so I knew we weren’t complacent in all this. I might mention the use of seed treatments, an effective way to aim an insecticide right at its target without foliar spraying. I might also point out that, due to an unfortunate incident with bees around

cornfields in Ontario in 2012, new seed coats are under development and the results are promising. If new problems crop up, we look for new ways to solve them. Then both of us would talk about a NOVA program — the PBS science series — we saw back in the late ’70s where we were introduced to the concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This was a new idea that suggested pesticides should be used as needed rather than as insurance. Pest populations were measured and, if the numbers were high enough, then farmers would spray. On the other hand, if spraying cost more than the estimated crop loss, then they wouldn’t spray. Although they might lose some production, they would actually save a little money and pest populations were less likely to develop resistance. Another thing I might mention to my earlier self are the interviews I’ve done with entomologists about biological control. There are a number of pest insects that are effectively managed with predatory beetles and parasitoid wasps. I’ve talked to others about fungal sprays that kill grasshoppers and then there’s Bt genetic modification. Spraying isn’t the only option but, if done when needed, it’s still very effective. A lot has changed since we started spraying. We’ve developed an impressive array of new chemistries to replace the older outmoded ones and we’ve developed much better protocols for their use. Our analytical chemistry and environmental monitoring are more accurate so we’re much better at doing more with less. Farmers are a lot cagier about using these compounds, and the equipment they have is improving. The last thing I’d tell myself is what a career farmer told me. I asked him about insecticides and he said he used them as he felt he needed but he used them as a last resort. There are an awful lot of little friends out in those fields and taking them out doesn’t do you any favours. CG

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country-guide.ca 59


Production

Cr op pr otection

We’ve come a long way Weed control evolution has occurred incrementally over the years, but looking back at the sweep of history shows some very impressive gains By Warren Libby, Savvy Farmer ome might remember the 1970s cigarette commercial featuring the slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Well, as I think back to how we controlled pests in the early days of my career, no slogan could be more appropriate for our pesticide industry. I was recently reminiscing with my brother Bill, who has been in the crop protection business in southern Ontario for over 45 years, about how things have changed during our careers. In particular, we were discussing Roundup, since we were both involved with the original launch. Fortunately, Bill is a bit of a packrat when it comes to pesticide information, so he had some of the original brochures and government guides.

Back in 1978, we sold a litre of Roundup for $33, setting the cost of quackgrass control at $66 per acre, equivalent to about $235 per acre in 2014 dollars When first launched, Roundup was a tad expensive; so expensive, in fact, that many of us in the industry didn’t see much future for it. Originally it was only labelled to control quackgrass, bindweed, milkweed, and thistles, and the use rate was about two litres per acre. Back in 1978, we sold a litre of Roundup for $33, setting the cost of quackgrass control at $66 per acre, equivalent to about $235 per acre in 2014 dollars. This pretty much relegated Roundup to spot treatment duties to control patches of quackgrass prior to planting. In fact, during farmer meetings at that time, we told growers that Roundup was too expensive to spray overall, but if you just switch the sprayer on and off over the patches, it just might be cost-effective. Where are we today? Glyphosate is the biggest pesticide in the world, with over 120 brands registered in Canada alone, with 92 weeds on the label, with the ability to be applied before planting for any of the 800-plus crops grown in Canada, or even on top of five glyphosate-tolerant crops (canola, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, or alfalfa). Most significant though, it does 60 country-guide.ca

all this for about $5 per acre, or for about two per cent of what it cost in 1978, when inflation is considered. Yes, we have come a long way, baby, and the only question is what will the future hold? While glyphosate may not always be the miracle solution it once was due to those pesky weed resistance issues, at $5 per acre I suspect it will remain the foundation of most weed control programs for a long time. Which brings me to the topic at hand: What’s new for 2014? I have selected a few of what I consider the more promising developments over the last few months and interestingly enough, four of five new herbicide solutions highlighted also involve the use of glyphosate. Focus Herbicide Co-Pack for corn and now for soybeans, is a pre-plant or pre-emergence herbicide that employs two modes of action using Pyroxasulfone (Group 15) and Aim (Group 14), offering an attractive way to address weed resistance problems. Focus also provides long residual control for up to 60 days and can be tank-mixed with glyphosate, to burn down just about any weed that dares to poke its head up at the time of application. Boundary LQD Herbicide is a new all-in-one formulation which replaces Boundary co-pack and therefore eliminates the need to mix. This blend of Dual grass herbicide and a low dose of Sencor will do a great job of controlling annual grasses and nightshade well into the growing season. However, I suspect most growers will prefer the option of mixing Boundary with glyphosate to provide initial pre-emergent burndown of existing weeds with the added benefit of the residual activity delivered by Boundary LQD. Freestyle, a co-pack containing two Group 2 residual herbicides from DuPont (Classic Grande and DuPont Imazethapyr), was just announced for Ontario and Quebec soybean growers. Freestyle will control a wide range of grass and broadleaf weeds, including glyphosate-tolerant weeds. DuPont also recommends mixing Freestyle with glyphosate for systemic and residual burndown. Fierce Herbicide is yet another residual herbicide option for eastern soybean growers. With two active ingredients (pyroxasulfone + flumioxazin) and two modes of action, Fierce provides about eight weeks residual control of a nice range of annual grasses and broadleaf weeds, including march 18, 2014


production Group 2-, glyphosate-, and triazineresistant biotypes. And like most new herbicides, Fierce can be tank-mixed with glyphosate for complete pre-plant or pre-emergent burndown. Enforcer M is technically no longer a “new” herbicide; however, it has recently received registration with some important tank mix partners, making it an attractive choice for cereal growers in 2014. Enforcer M contains three active ingredients (Fluroxypyr, Bromoxynil, and MCPA) representing two modes of action (Groups 4 and 6) so is a good option where Group 2 resistance is a threat. It can now be tank-mixed with most of the popular grassy weed herbicides including Axial 100EC, Varro, Simplicity, Everest 2.0, and Nufarm Tralkoxydim, in addition to Achieve, Puma, and Cordon and Signal. Propulse Fungicide from Bayer is a new fungicide for dry and edible beans, offering protection against white mould (sclerotinia). Propulse contains prothioconazole (Group 3) and a new active ingredient fluopyram (Group 7), delivering both contact and systemic protection. Bean growers have relatively few

options for the control of white mould, and none with two modes of action, making Propulse a brand that growers should check out. Raxil PRO Shield is a new multi-pak cereal seed treatment that incorporates the systematic and contact disease protection of Raxil Pro (Tebuconazole + Prothioconazole + Metalaxyl), with the wireworm protection of Stress Shield (Imidacloprid). That’s a lot of technology to put between your seed and those critters in the soil that want to attack that seed. Raxil PRO Shield is available for on-farm or commercial treating. Fluency Agent seems like an odd name for this new technology. As most readers already know, there has been a dark cloud hanging over the use of neonicotinoid-based seed treatments due to possible links to bee deaths. The two big players in the neonic business, Syngenta and Bayer, have taken different approaches to protect the use of neonics. It appears that Bayer may be pulling ahead, with the launch of its new “Fluency Agent,” which is now the only legal option for corn and bean growers this spring.

Fluency Agent is a polyethylene wax seed lubricant which must be used when planting seed treated with any of the neonics — clothianidin, thiamethoxam, or imidacloprid. Talc and graphite are no longer permitted as seed-flow lubricants for corn or soybean seed treated with neonics. It is believed the Fluency Agent can reduce the dust made up of lubricant and neonics, which can be released from a planter’s exhaust system. Bayer claims Fluency Agent can reduce dust by about 65 per cent; however, those numbers need to be viewed with some caution. In an independent Ontario study, while the total dust was reduced by 67.5 per cent, that dust contained 3.7 times the concentration of neonics. Therefore the real reduction in neonics was about 28 per cent. That’s still important, but if neonics are actually the main cause of bee deaths, it may not be enough. However, the PMRA has also issued other “best practices” to further reduce risk to bees and other pollinators. CG Do you have a crop protection issue you’d like Warren to write about? Send any suggestions to: warrenlibby@savvyfarmer.com.

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country-guide.ca 61


Production

Make more money from fertilizer Canola is a nutrient-hungry crop and fertilizer is the biggest input investment for most canola growers. The 4 Rs of fertilizer management — right source, right rate, right time, right place — will improve the economic sustainability of the crop By Jay Whetter ower canola prices will force growers to rethink their fertilizer investments and focus on inputs that provide a proven return on investment. For canola, those nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur. At the FarmTech Conference in Edmonton in January, I moderated a panel that included all eight Canola Council of Canada agronomy specialists along with five other industry experts. During a discussion on fertilizer investment, I asked the panel, “If canola growers are budgeting an extra $10 per acre for fertilizer, what should they spend it on?” The panel quickly corrected me, suggesting that growers were more likely to trim budgets this year, so I rephrased the question accordingly. Murray Hartman, oilseed specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and one of the expert guests on the panel, said potassium is the least likely to show a return. Most soils are still high in potassium, and unless cereals are showing clear signs of deficiency, potassium fertilizer is unlikely to have a significant economic benefit for canola, he said. “Tighter margins always force growers to go back to the basics when it comes to fertilizer and other inputs,” says Dan Orchard, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada. “The 4 Rs of fertilizer use efficiency may be considered “the basics,” but they will improve profitability every year, no matter what the price of canola might be.”

What are the 4 Rs? The 4 Rs, as described by the Canadian Fertilizer Institute and other crop nutrition organizations, are the right fertilizer source at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. Right source: Elemental sulphur is not the right product for spring application. Agrotain-treated urea, for example, might be better than untreated urea for fall applications of nitrogen. Right rate: Are phosphorus rates based on minimum crop needs, or long-term maintenance? Is it 62 country-guide.ca

time to re-evaluate nitrogen rates given the higher yield potential of new hybrids? (More on that below.) These are some rate considerations as growers strive for higher profits. Right time: This can vary by product. At or before seeding is often more efficient than fall application or in-crop top up, but growers will also consider fertilizer costs for fall versus spring and the logistics of applying all their fertilizer at seeding. Right place: The only fertilizer that has benefit when it comes to seed placement is phosphate. All other nutrients should go in a band away from the seed row. Adhering to the 4 Rs as closely as possible will help efficiencies, the environment, and ultimately economics. “It’s important to evaluate all 4 Rs, not just one or two,” says Orchard. Take elemental sulphur for example. “The right place and the right rate are not enough to meet crop needs if elemental sulphur is used at the time of seeding, which would be the wrong product for that timing,” he says. “This could lead to serious sulphur deficiencies and yield loss if many areas of the field are sulphur deficient.”

The basics The Canola Council of Canada has three basic starting points for canola crop nutrition. 1. Put only phosphate in the seed row. All other fertilizer should go outside the seed row. Safe and effective seed-placed rates of phosphate are generally around 20 lb./ac. of actual phosphate. With lighter soils, dry conditions and very low seed-bed utilization (SBU), the 20 lb./ac. rate could cause some reduction in emergence. The 4 Rs for phosphate — Right source: phosphate is phosphate and all inorganic forms are useful if adhering to the remaining Rs. Right rate: 20 lb./ac. provides enough prills or droplets for each seed to have relatively good access, and 40 lb./ac. is probably the maximum safe rate as long as soils are moist. Right time: Place safe amounts in the row. Band the remainder. Right place: Seed row. March 18, 2014


production 3. Use a rate of nitrogen that makes economic sense based on the yield potential for the soil and region. A recent study led by Bob Blackshaw with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, Alta., found that current nitrogen rates may not match the yield potential of today’s hybrids. A summary of the study stated that canola yield responded positively to the 150 per cent fertilizer rate versus the recommended 100 per cent rate in about half the cases. “The question for growers is whether an increase in nitrogen rates will provide a positive increase in per-bushel profits,” Orchard says. “This is something to evaluate each year, based on crop price outlooks. For 2014, nitrogen calculators may not suggest a pedal-to-the-metal approach to N inputs.” The 4 Rs for nitrogen depend a lot on the individual grower’s system and appetite for risk. Right source: Urea, UAN, or anhydrous ammonia. Each

“Tighter margins always force growers to go back to the basics when it comes to fertilizer and other inputs.”

— Dan Orchard, Canola Council of Canada

Dan Orchard (l), Canola Council of Canada agronomy specialist, discusses canola nutrition issues with Murray Hartman, oilseed specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. 2. Apply some sulphur. Canola has a high need for sulphur, and sulphur deficiencies can lead to costly yield loss. Even if a composite soil test says a field is sufficient in sulphur overall, unless you have sampled enough sites to be convinced your sample can represent the entire field, some sulphur is recommended to meet basic needs for all acres. Sulphur is highly available across a field. The 4 Rs for sulphur — Right source: Sulphate is plant available and most suitable for spring applications. Right rate: 10 to 20 lb./ac. is suitable if the composite soil test says overall supply is sufficient — 20 lb./ac. or more in every area of the field. If soil tests indicate sulphur deficiency, growers may use 20 to 30 lb./ac., but rarely would anyone apply more than that. Right time: Have it in place before the crop needs it. Sulphate can be broadcast in spring or fall. Application at seeding can reduce field passes. Right place: Anywhere outside the seed row. Sulphur can go in the banded nitrogen blend or broadcast. March 18, 2014

has its benefits and most farms have made a choice based on which fits best with their seeding systems. Right rate: It might be higher than you think, but the decision to increase rates depends on the rate of return for that next 10 lb./ac. of nitrogen. Right time: Spring placement has the lowest risk for loss compared to fall, but fall application may present an economic advantage. Time, supply, logistics, and weather influence the decision for each grower. Right place: Limit nitrogen in the seed row, and make sure it’s available when and where the crop needs it. “We know there are limitations — such as equipment cost and availability, time management in spring, risk management and weather — that can make it a challenge to always achieve the ultimate 4 Rs,” Orchard says. “What we want is for growers to use the 4 R concepts to find improvements that are practical and realistic and provide a clear benefit to their bottom line.” CG Jay Whetter is communications manager with the Canola Council of Canada, and editor of the free C anola W atch agronomy newsletter. Sign up at www.canolawatch.org and follow @CanolaWatch on Twitter. To read a summary of the Bob Blackshaw study, see the Canola Digest Science Edition 2013 here: www.canolacouncil.org/canola-digest-pastissues/. Look for study 2.3. For more on the 4 Rs, try this link: www.nutrientstewardship.com/whatare-4rs. country-guide.ca 63


HR

“Tell me how to motivate” By Pierrette Desrosiers, M.Ps., work psychologist, speaker and business coach ften, my clients ask me, “How do I motivate my employees?” It’s a common question because worker motivation has remained an enduring challenge for executives and managers for hundreds of years. It’s also a critical piece of any successful business operation; a motivated employee voluntarily supplies above-average effort to produce quality, value-added work for the team. However, motivation is complex, involving both individual and organizational factors. When we break these down, we find that some of the personal characteristics that influence motivation include: • Personal values • Performance needs • Stability of personal life (for example, periods of separation or illness) • Interest in the type of work assigned • Skills and ability A few organizational characteristics that influence motivation include: • Fair and competitive work conditions • Status • Job security • Fringe benefits • Well-defined roles and responsibilities • Materials and equipment • Positive relationship with the supervisor • Positive work environment It’s important to recognize, however, that such lists mostly help avoid de-motivation. The things that satisfy and motivate employees are different in kind from those that leave them dissatisfied. For example, insufficient pay, an uncomfortable work environment, or overly restrictive policies produce unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and de-motivation. Even if an employer fixes or manages these demotivators, they cannot guarantee that their employees will work harder or smarter. This begs a question: What does work? What is new in the field of motivation? In recent years, psychologists have identified three important factors you can keep in mind: 1. Autonomy: an internal desire to accomplish a task. If an activity is pursued for its own sake (known as intrinsic motivation) rather than to relieve external pressures (which constitute extrinsic motivators), motivation is greater, suggests psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester. The sense of being supported rather than controlled greatly increases the desire to improve work. Moreover, a task that we personally endorse is perceived as less exhausting than an imposed task. Contrary to popular opinion, the famous “carrot and stick” approach is not a recipe for consistent motivation! 64 country-guide.ca

2. Mastery: the desire to continually improve at something that matters to us. Possessing a sense of competence, called selfefficacy, influences motivation. The more a person practices, the more they feel competent. Importantly as well, the more they feel competent, the more time and commitment they are likely to invest. This has been empirically demonstrated in studies on sports, arts, and academics. 3. Purpose: the desire to do things in the service of something larger than ourselves. An employee is not motivated by the idea of making the boss richer. Instead, our ideal is to serve a cause that is aligned with our values, especially one that we consider to be important. Finally, one of the most important but often overlooked ways that employers can encourage and motivate is through verbal recognition or feedback. Many employers are uncomfortable praising employees or telling workers that their good work is appreciated and important to the company, yet this practice results in a great return with no financial cost. Some employers are afraid that they will be asked for a raise in return, while others think the employee will overestimate their abilities and seek work elsewhere. The opposite tends to be true. All employees, including managerial personnel, need recognition. When they do not receive it and think as a result that their efforts are unnoticed, they become increasingly unmotivated and begin to look elsewhere to meet this need, sometimes even seeking alternative employment. The most effective employers set aside their pride and provide verbal recognition, benefiting morale and, in turn, motivation and performance. For verbal recognition to be effective, it must be frequent, specific, clear and timely. Employees want to know that they are consistently appreciated for their accomplishments. If workers are praised vaguely or sporadically, their motivation is less likely to be tied to reaching specific milestones that will add value to the company. For example, it is better to praise an employee for saving the business $1,200 than for “doing a good job.” In a good investment, the potential profit (and the likelihood of its realization) outweighs the risk. Few investments in agriculture cost — and risk — so little, but pay out such dividends! Why not give it a try? CG Pierrette Desrosiers, M.Ps., CRHA, is a work psychologist, professional speaker, coach and author who specializes in the agricultural industry. She comes from a family of farmers and she and her husband have farmed for more than 25 years (www. pierrettedesrosiers.com). Contact her at pierrette@ pierrettedesrosiers.com. March 18, 2014


w e at h e r

NEAR-NORMAL TEMPERATURES AND SNOWFALL

S

y wer Sho ild M lls spe

COLDER THAN NORMAL NEAR-NORMAL PRECIPITATION

BRITISH COLUMBIA Mar. 23-29: Seasonal to cool. Blustery. Fair skies interchange with rain on the coast and snow elsewhere. Mar. 30-Apr. 5: Mainly fair apart from coastal rain and showers or snow inland. Windy at times. Seasonal to cool. Apr. 6-12: Variable temperatures. Frost areas inland and higher levels. Sunshine alternates with rain west and snow east. Apr. 13-19: Scattered rain and highs in the teens south and 20s Interior. Fair with occasional rain/snow/frost elsewhere. Apr. 20-26: Seasonal and at times mild. Blustery. Sunshine alternates with rain south and a mixture of rain and snow north. Apr. 27-May 3: Mild to seasonal. Settled overall apart from scattered showers in the west. Periodic rain or snow with frost east.

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Cold Occasional snow / rain

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E UR AT ER LL MP TE INFA A AL RM ND R A NO

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NEAR NORMAL

NE AR -N WE ORM TT AL ER TE TH MP AN ER US AT UA UR Un ES L s

COOLER THAN NORMAL

SASKATCHEWAN Mar. 23-29: Changeable temperatures and blustery with intermittent rain and snow south, heavier snow north. Mar. 30-Apr. 5: Cool but with occasional thawing. Windy. Sunny apart from snow or rain on two or three days, chance heavy in places. Apr. 6-12: Mainly sunny and milder aside from a couple of wet, cool days with rain or heavier snow. Blustery at times. Apr. 13-19: Highs reach the teens with a few frosty nights. Fair, windy days exchange with cool, wet days. Chance of heavy snow. Apr. 20-26: Often sunny, mild and windy but expect scattered rain or snow on two or three days this week, possibly heavy in places. Apr. 27-May 3: Sunny, blustery, mild most days but with shower activity south. Frost pockets. Seasonal north with heavier rain/ snow.

rain or snow on two or three days, possibly heavy in places. Apr. 27-May 3: Sunny, blustery, mild most days with scattered showers. Frosty areas south. Seasonal north with heavier rain/ snow.

March 23 through April to May 3, 2014

ALBERTA Mar. 23-29: Unsettled, blustery at times with occasional rain to snow south, heavy snow north. Changeable from mild to cool. Mar. 30-Apr. 5: Variable freeze/thaw cycle and often cool, windy. Fair but snow or rain on two or three days, heavy in places. Apr. 6-12: Weather conditions and temperatures vary as fair sunny days and mild temperatures interchange with cool, wet days. Apr. 13-19: Sunny and windy but look for a couple of cooler days with rain, snow in places. Chance heavy precipitation. Apr. 20-26: Sunny, seasonal to mild but periodic rain, chance heavier snow on one or two days this week. Blustery at times. Apr. 27-May 3: Pleasant with periodic rain. Some highs in the 20s south. Frost pockets. Seasonal north with heavier rain/ snow. March 18, 2014

MANITOBA Mar. 23-29: Weather conditions and temperatures vary. Often windy. Intermittent rain/snow south with heavier snow at times north. Mar. 30-Apr. 5: Cool but with occasional thawing. Windy, sunny days alternate with rain or snow, chance heavy in some regions. Apr. 6-12: Sunny other than a couple of days with rain/snow south and heavier snow north. Windy. Mild days exchange with frosty nights. Apr. 13-19: Unsettled, windy and changeable this week as sunshine alternates with rain, chance of heavy snow. Frosty nights. Apr. 20-26: Variable from mild to cool with some frost. Sunny but with scattered

March 23 through April to May 3, 2014 NATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS Cool temperatures are expected to delay the arrival of spring in many areas of the country. Milder air from the south will attempt to disrupt the cool temperatures from time to time, leading to highly variable weather conditions. As a result, cool wintry weather with snow and rain will alternate with warmer, rainy weather during this period. In some areas where snowfall has been heavier than usual, flooding is a possibility. In Atlantic Canada, disturbances are expected to bring heavier than usual amounts of rain and snow, although temperatures will be seasonable. More typical spring weather is likely in southwestern British Columbia.

Editor’s note:

Where’s my weather page? Look in every second issue for your month-long Country Guide weather forecast during the winter months when we’re publishing every two weeks. Prepared by meteorologist Larry Romaniuk of Weatherite Services. Forecasts should be 80 per cent accurate for your area; expect variations by a day or two due to changeable speed of weather systems. country-guide.ca 65


LIFE

The paperless farm These search, share, and backup solutions will help you take the next step By Helen Lammers-Helps

lthough predictions of a paperless office date back to the 1970s, paper use actually doubled between 1980 and 2000. However, since 2000 paper use has been on the decline. Not only will you save space, paper, and money, but proponents of paperlessness say you can also improve your productivity because you’ll be able to find, share, and process the information you need more quickly. We often talk about computerized offices as memory hogs, full of all sorts of documents that we can’t remember putting into them. The truth is, the same happens with paper. Studies show that 80 per cent of the documents that get put into filing cabinets never get looked at again. To make the next step toward your own paperless office, start with simple changes to reduce paper clutter, says Colette Robichaud, a professional organizer in Halifax, N.S.

66 country-guide.ca

Robichaud’s suggestions are already widely used by farm families. For instance, sign up to receive bank statements, monthly bills, and credit card statements electronically. Pay bills online. Also purge your existing paper files of documents you no longer need to keep, and become more aware of your printing habits, always asking yourself if you really need to print that document. Then assess your particular situation, Robichaud advises. In particular, she recommends you get clear about what you’re trying to accomplish, and your level of technical expertise. The software and hardware you already own may be sufficient, says Robichaud. The latest versions of Windows and Mac operating systems have excellent search capabilities built in. Take a few minutes to explore them with an eye to finding new search methods that will work for the kinds of searches you wish you could do. Also, use Google Docs and Google Calendar to share files and schedules with family members or team members. Your all-in-one printer-scanner-copier may be enough to get you started but if you decide to go electronic by regularly scanning a lot of documents, you are going to want to invest in a high-quality scanner, says Brooks Duncan, a Vancouver consultant who advises individuals and small businesses on moving towards a paperless office. Duncan recommends getting a scanner with a document feeder that can scan both sides of the paper. “Scanning must be fast and easy,” he says. He especially likes the Fujitsu ScanSnap line. Before attacking that backlog of paper in your office, both Robichaud and Duncan advise only scanning the new paper that comes into the office. “It’s a huge job to scan existing paper,” says Robichaud. When Paul Lima’s printer broke down four years ago, he decided not to replace it. The Toronto writer and media trainer had already been moving towards a paperless system when the printer broke down. That clinched the deal for him. “There’s a lot of little things you can do just by MARCH 18, 2014


LIFE

being more aware,” Lima says. For example, instead of printing pages from websites, he saves them to a folder on his computer for future reference. He used to print documents to proofread them but now he does that on his computer screen. And instead of sharing handouts from presentations, he sends a pdf so people can view it on their laptop or other devices. Lima does have access to an old printer someone gave him, but he keeps it unplugged. Knowing he has to get up in order to use it makes him think twice before printing. There are many different programs and services geared to making electronic document retrieval easier. Duncan likes Dropbox (www.dropbox.com), a file syncing service. This means any files you save in your Dropbox folder also get synced to Dropbox’s servers, and can also be synced to any other computer as well. Dropbox has an iPhone and iPad app that will let you view your documents when you are on the go. Evernote (www.evernote.com) is another program Duncan uses. It makes all of your notes, web clips, files, photos, and audio files available on every device and computer you use. For example, you can use it to keep all of your travel itineraries, confirmations, scanned travel documents, maps, and plans so you’ll have them when you need them. You could also use it to keep track of crop yields, inputs used, photos of wet spots or weed invasions, along with voice recordings to remind you of things you want to try next year. No matter what route you go when setting up an electronic document storage system, be sure to spend some time thinking it through, says Duncan. “The biggest mistake people make is not putting enough thought into the organization system beforehand.” For example, when naming files and folders it’s important to be consistent, Duncan points out. Also, when scanning documents to a PDF format, it will be easier to retrieve information if you make the PDFs searchable, he adds. Being able to access information from anywhere in the world is one of the current drivers of growth for electronic document management, says Matt Peterson, president of EFileCabinet, based in Lehi, Utah. Their software platform creates a central repository for all documents, emails, spread sheets, etc., in one place and allows you to share them with others if you want. You can choose to put documents in a “secure drawer” so your advisers can have secure access, says Peterson. For example, your crop consultant could have access to all your field records. “This is more secure than emailing data,” says Peterson. The software also makes it possible to restrict access of some files to certain employees. For example, only you and your spouse might be granted access to the employee files. MARCH 18, 2014

Monthly cloud-based subscriptions for the EFileCabinet software start at $30 and include automatic backups. Their 75,000 users around the world can access their data away from the office or while travelling on vacation, says Peterson. Storing your data on the cloud protects your data in the event of fire, flood, hurricanes, earthquakes, or computer theft. There are many options for backing up data such as CrashPlan, SugarSync, and MozyPro. All computer experts agree it is absolutely essential to back up your data. “They say there are two kinds of computer hard drives,” says Duncan. “Those that have failed and those that will fail. It’s only a matter of time.” No matter what electronic document storage system you choose, be prepared to stick with it for a bit, says Robichaud. “There’s usually a learning curve.” She also warns not to be continually lured by the “shiny new thing.” Take advantage of the free 30-day trial period offered by many software companies. And if your current system is working for you, there may be no need to change, she continues. “It’s a very individual thing,” Robichaud says. “Some people like to feel the paper, a tangible thing.” CG

Resources Brooks Duncan has a free guide to going paperless available on his website at www.documentsnap.com. He also offers virtual consulting by the hour to help you set up your system. You’ll find lots of great tips on the website of California dairy farmer and tech guru Dino Giacomazzi at www.dinogiacomazzi.com. He blogs about how he uses Evernote DropBox.

E-tools to consider Whatever programs and apps you choose, spend some time upfront getting to know their capabilities. • Use Google Docs and Google Calendar to share files and schedules. • Invest in a better scanner, such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap series. • Share and retrieve files with DropBox at www. dropbox.com. Also check out the system’s handy smartphone tools. • Evernote helps you keep track of notes, photos, audio clips and more, and it makes them available to all of your computers. • EFileCabinet is a central respository that is much more secure than email for sharing sensitive documents with your advisers.

country-guide.ca 67


h e a lt h

Memory and drugs By Marie Berry

veryone is concerned about memory loss in old age, but before you resign yourself to dementia, check your medications. Some drugs may actually cause adverse effects that can be mistaken for memory loss. For instance, benzodiazepines used to treat stress, anxiety, and sleep problems may remain in the body causing daytime drowsiness and confusion, which in turn may be identified as symptoms of dementia. Drugs used to treat seizures, depression, and pain can also result in sedation and confusion. So before you assume that you have dementia, check the medications that you are taking. An adjustment in dosing or even a change in drug may be able to resolve the symptoms. Smoking can deprive nervous system cells of oxygen, resulting in impaired memory and a nervous system that doesn’t function well. Alcohol and drug abuse damages nerve cells as well, and once the damage has occurred, your body cannot repair it. Obviously, you want to quit smoking and not drink heavily or abuse drugs! Dementia is more than just forgetting. As an example, you may forget where you left your house keys, but with dementia you may not know what door your keys open or perhaps even how to use them. About one in 11 Canadians over age 65 are affected by dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 60 to 80 per cent of the cases. With the aging of the Canadian population, these numbers are sure to increase over the next 10 to 20 years. There is no cure for dementia, but some drugs are able to slow its progression. In a healthy nervous system, nerve cells or neurons communicate with each other using neurochemicals. The neurons look like trees with “branches” spreading out to touch the next neuron. The area where the branches of two cells meet is called the synapse, and it is here that neurochemicals carry the impulses (i.e. thoughts, feelings, and memories) across the gap. In dementia, it is believed that a combination of effects account for memory loss. Levels of a neurochemical known as acetylcholine may drop too low. As well, tangles or strands of protein may separate from the nerve cell branches, so the cells lose

their connections with each other and die. As well, plaques or an accumulation of dying or dead cell debris may block the synapses. Drugs that are prescribed to treat memory loss are aimed at correcting the damage to nerve cells. Cholinesterase inhibitors, such as donepzil, stop enzymes from destroying acetylcholine, thus leaving more of it in the nervous system. NMDA blockers such as memantine work to stop NMDA receptors from becoming overstimulated, which seems to cause nerve cell death. Remember, these drugs are not a cure. Rather, they are used to allow someone with dementia more time to organize their lives or do the things that they have been putting off. Other drugs such as Chinese club moss, vitamin E, non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, ginkgo, and even estrogen have been touted as possible treatments for memory loss. Unfortunately, none have been proved effective. Research has shown that if you exercise your mind, you actually reduce your risk for memory loss, but you don’t necessarily need to purchase a program. Instead, you can challenge your mind without spending any money. Start with small changes, perhaps using your other hand to hold your toothbrush when you brush your teeth. Mind games including crosswords, sudokus, and word puzzles are great ideas, as is reading books, writing letters, keeping a journal or diary, or even visiting with friends, relatives, and co-workers. Keeping busy and trying new activities will also help, so visit a museum, go to a concert, attend a play, take up a new hobby or enrol in a continuing education course. Challenge yourself with learning a new word each day, learn a new language, take music lessons, try ballroom dancing, or even do math problems. You know that overall good health (i.e. eating a healthy diet, maintaining an ideal weight, and keeping physically active) will help you avoid disease. However, you also want to maintain a healthy and active mind. The adage “use it or lose it” rings true when it comes to your memory! Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist interested in health and education.

Your body needs small amounts or traces of minerals to function properly, including sodium and potassium. These electrolytes can be involved in disease conditions ranging from high blood pressure to kidney disease. Next month we’ll look at these minerals, so the next time your doctor or nurse has your electrolyte levels checked, you will know why they are ordering the lab tests.

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March 18, 2014


NOW AVAILABLE “Time for a coffee?” My friend is a leader in his church. He needs to vent about a “church fight.” The battle is over a bequest for a stained glass window. Half the church members want a modern design with a green pasture and a flowing stream. The other half wants Biblical figures in ornate flowing robes. “Some Sundays I do not want to go to church. I go looking for peace and come home with my stomach in a knot.” Church fights are not new. The Apostle Paul was told that the Christians at Corinth were picking sides and fighting among themselves. Paul confronts the issue. “I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.” My first experience of a church fight was in my hometown of Delburne, Alta. People in the town were tired of carrying water from the town well and tripping to their outdoor biffies in winter. It was time to install a water and sewer system. The plan ran into vocal opposition. Taxes would increase and it would be costly to install home plumbing. Tempers ran high. About the same time people began to barbecue. At one particularly heated meeting, Horace, who drove the town grader, declared, “People have gone crazy. They used to go outside to pee and inside to cook. Now they want to go inside to pee and outside to cook.” On the first ballot, the new initiative failed to win approval by one vote. The pro side decided to try again. This time the churches would be allowed to vote. The Anglican Church had a dilemma. Anglican Churches have two wardens, one elected by the parishioners and one appointed by the priest. They are the responsible leaders in the congregation. “Who will vote on behalf of the church, and will they be pro or con?” The people’s warden, who owned a trailer park, was a vocal leader of the anti group. His opposition was well known. The other church warden, the local electrician, was outspoken about the need for progress. There was a great uproar on Main Street. Shouts and threats abounded. The two wardens were having it out. The people’s warden held his cane over his head but no blows were struck. In the end the rector’s warden voted for the church. The anti group blamed the Anglicans for the result. Church grudges can last a long time. Old differences of interpretation and opinion divide us for years, even centuries. We argue about the meaning of scripture passages, how the church is to be governed, how we understand ministry and priesthood. We cling stubbornly to our arguments because we are bound and determined we are right. Paul was the ancient equivalent of a hockey referee. He tried to persuade the Corinthians to give up the fights. He recognized that people would not always agree about everything. He believed that faith in one God united people for a common purpose. When the water and sewer project was completed, the mayor declared a “Burn the Biffies” day. Places of solace were piled on Main street. A parade of floats, decorated cars and a marching band terminated at the pyre. Cheers erupted as the volunteer firemen set the end of an era ablaze. The day concluded with a dance where hard feelings were “flushed away.” Suggested Scripture: Psalm 66, 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Rod Andrews is a retired Anglican bishop. He lives in Saskatoon. March 18, 2014

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country-guide.ca 69


ACRES

Leeann Minogue is the editor of GRAINEWS, a playwright, and part of a family grain farm in southeastern Saskatchewan

One moment too late Her mother had warned Elaine: “Never open the door unless you’re expecting someone.” n Thursday morning Jeff packed fishing tackle, lunch and an empty cooler, “for all of the fish we’re going to bring home, right Conner?” Jeff and Conner were off to the Souris River to spend the day in Blaine Martin’s icefishing shack with Blaine and his young son Jake. Conner seemed confused about fishing, but he was enthusiastic. It was such a warm day, Jeff figured Conner probably only needed his secondwarmest snowsuit. The winter snow was starting to melt, and the sun was shining in a bright blue sky. “Great day for fishing! You sure you don’t want to come Elaine?” Elaine wasn’t eager to spend the day in an icefishing shack with a baby. “I’ll be fine here,” she said. “You’re sure?” Jeff double-checked. Nobody else was home on the Hanson farm. Jeff’s parents, Dale and Donna, had left early for a day of shopping in Regina. Dale wanted to stop at a couple of hardware stores. Donna wanted groceries from the big warehouse store that Dale just 70 country-guide.ca

called “the $300 store,” because, he said, “Every time we go to the city we spend $300 at that place, on huge crates of things we’ve never even heard of.” Jeff’s grandfather Ed was still in Arizona. It was the first year he’d gone away, and the Hansons weren’t sure if he’d be back in time to help load trucks for Hanson Acres’ spring seed customers. Dale had tried to ask Ed about that the last time he called, but Ed had just said, “Can’t say for sure. Gotta run. There’s a drinks party down at the rec centre for Harold’s 80th.” If she was honest, Elaine would say she was relieved to be home alone. She needed to read a folder-full of papers from her policy committee meeting and catch up on some farm accounting. She could do that while the baby slept, but it was hard to get paperwork done with Conner at home. After Jeff left, Elaine put the baby down for a nap, mixed up a cake batter and put it in the oven, loaded laundry in the washing machine and then got to work. The spring storm blew up quickly. One minute Elaine noticed the sky had clouded over and a few MARCH 18, 2014


acres

drops of rain were starting to fall. By the time she finished reading a paper about canola grading, the rain had turned to large snowflakes and the wind was picking up. When the oven timer buzzed, the sunny day had turned into a full-blown storm. She phoned Jeff. “You won’t believe it!” Jeff said. “Conner caught a fish.” She could hear Conner yelling. “It’s THIS big, Mommy!’” “How’s the weather,” she asked. “No idea,” Jeff said. “Haven’t looked outside… Hang on… Geez! I can’t see the truck!” “I checked the forecast,” Elaine said. “The temperature’s supposed to keep falling, and the wind’s not going to let up all day.” “Damn,” Jeff said. “The highway home is going to be icy… Guess there’s no rush. We’ve got lots of daylight. I think we’ll fish a while longer, ’til the boys lose interest.” Again she heard Conner yelling, “It’s THIS big!” Elaine hung up, moved the wet laundry into the dryer and was pulling the baby out of her crib when the doorbell rang. Through the front door’s glass pane, she could see a giant man. More than six feet tall, and bulky. Through the blowing snow she saw the shadow of another man behind him, just slightly shorter. They were both wearing dark coveralls, and a balaclava covered most of the face of the closest man. He rang the bell again. Elaine had grown up in the city, hearing her mother’s lecture: “If you’re home without a grownup, never open the door unless you’re expecting someone. Stay away from the door and pretend you’re not home.” It was too late for that now. The men could clearly see her. And did that rule still apply now that Elaine was a grownup? Sure, the Hansons were part of a nice farming community. But they didn’t know all the neighbours anymore. With so much oil drilling activity in the Bakken zone, even Donna and Dale didn’t recognize half the people they saw on the road these days. The men at the door could be farmers from down the road looking for coffee. Or they could be anyone. If it was just herself, Elaine probably wouldn’t have thought twice about just opening the door. But now she was also supposed to be protecting this baby… She wished Dale and Donna were at least in the yard. Or even Ed. She picked up her cellphone and dialed Jeff. No answer. She left a message. “Jeff… there’s someone at the door… I’m not quite sure… “ The doorbell rang again. The man in front pulled off his balaclava and raised a mittened hand to bang on the window. Meanwhile, at the ice shack, Jeff and Blaine had loaded the kids, their gear, and the cooler holding March 18, 2014

Conner’s fish (nobody else had caught anything) into the truck. They’d made it onto the highway, but now they could barely see the hood of the truck, let alone the road. Luckily they were going slow when they got too far onto the shoulder and slid into the ditch. While Blaine called his brother to get them, Jeff got out his phone to call Elaine. That’s when he realized he’d accidently shut the phone off. He listened to Elaine’s message and looked at the time. She’d left her worrying message more than 90 minutes ago. Jeff called home in a panic. Elaine’s cellphone rang and rang.

Through the blowing snow, Elaine saw the shadow of another man behind him, just slightly shorter “She’s not answering!” he told Blaine. “Try the house phone,” Blaine said. “I can’t. It might wake the baby.” Blaine just looked at him, and Jeff realized how ridiculous that was, and dialed the number. “Jeff! Don’t call the home phone! It might wake the baby,” Elaine answered. “Are you OK? I just got your message.” “I’m fine.” “What happened?” “A couple of guys put their semi in the ditch just south of our yard. They walked over to see if we had a tractor, but even if you were home there’s no use trying to move that truck until it clears up.” “Maybe they should wait in their truck,” Jeff said. “All day?” Elaine said. “Anyways, we’re playing cards and I’m winning.” “Why didn’t you answer your cellphone?” Jeff asked, still suspicious. “Just now? I was in the basement, getting something out of the freezer for supper. Just in case you don’t bring home enough fish for everybody.” “You’re sure you’re OK?” “Yes,” Elaine said. “I’ll be home when I can,” Jeff said. It was almost four hours before Jeff and Conner got home. By then, Ray, the bigger of the two truckers, was holding the baby on his lap. Jim was in the kitchen, making his mom’s special recipe chili. Elaine was reading about transportation policy. Jeff and Conner had left the truck behind, but they did have Conner’s fish. “But Daddy, why isn’t he moving?” Conner asked. “Wanna play with him in the bathtub.” CG country-guide.ca 71


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