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April 2014 $3.50

CHANGE IT UP CHRIS PAGE FINDS DIVERSIFICATION IS ITS OWN REWARD

+PLUS HAS CHICAGO LOST ITS COMMAND OF GRAIN MARKETS? FINDING THE RIGHT PARTNER GETS HARDER THAN EVER REALLY? $140,000 IN SALES FROM JUST 1.5 ACRES? Publications Mail Agreement Number 40069240


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CONTENTS

APRIL 2014

BUSINESS 8

FUTURE FARM (3)

16

CHICAGO TRADES UP

21

GUIDE LEGAL— CROWN LIABILITY

24

WORLD CROPS

28

THE MARKET FARMER

32

THE RIGHT PARTNER

36

BREAK AN EGG

38

GUIDE HR — BETTER WAYS TO REACH YOUR GOALS

Futurist Calvin Mulligan continues our exploration of how farming will evolve, including “sustainable intensification.” With electronic algorithms, investors trade on five-minute trends. It’s fast, it’s efficient, but is it also out of touch with the farm? When can you sue the government? Lawyer Naomi Loewith launches her GuideLegal series with this look at XL Foods. The foods that we used to lump together under the “ethnic” label are breaking out on their own. The dollars are getting serious. Is it a real farm? With $140,000 in annual sales, Jean-Martin Fortin doesn’t actually care what you call it. With the farm population falling, it's getting harder and harder to find the right partner. But it’s never been more important. This farmer-owned Lethbridge processing facility cracks open surprising new markets for two million eggshells a week.

40

C0-OP SUCCESSION?

42

THE POWER TO HELP AFRICA

62

GUIDE LIFE — GOSSIP — NOT AS INNOCENT AS YOU THINK

64 66

There’s more to diversification than figures on a simple balance sheet. For Manitoba’s Chris and Crystal Page, their extra greenhouse enterprise also sharpens their overall management ability, with benefits for the entire farm operation, including grain production.

Poor succession planning is a key reason why so many farm co-operatives are being sold to non-farmers. Ottawa used to deliver overseas aid with huge Canadian-style tractors. Now, industry-led programs find success in going small. Pssst! Did you hear ..? Yes, it’s only human to gossip, but the harm for farmers is greatest.

EVERY ISSUE 5

PG. 10 UNTRADITIONAL

Management psychologist Pierrette Desrosiers helps turn your wish lists into accomplishments.

MACHINERY GUIDE

Grain carts are becoming the vital link in harvest management.

PRODUCTION 45

PLOTTING A COURSE FOR 2014

48

MIX AND MATCH

50

IT ISN’T HERE YET

52

HARD WIRED

GUIDE HEALTH

Insect repellents do work, if you use them correctly.

HANSON ACRES Oh no! Grandpa Ed is back from the south with more than a tan.

Company plots this year aim at getting more from precision agriculture.

Wider choices mean it’s time for a second look at PrecisionPac.

Bt-resistant rootworm threatens the U.S. Corn Belt. Will it move north?

Across the country, wireworms are staging a comeback.

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.

APRIL 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: Maggie Van Camp Fax (905) 986-9991 (905) 986-5342 Email: bmvancamp@fbcpublishing.com Gord Gilmour (204) 453-7624 Cell: (204) 294-9195 Fax (204) 942-8463 Email: gord.gilmour@fbcpublishing.com Production Editor: Ralph Pearce (226) 448-4351 Email: ralph.pearce@fbcpublishing.com ADVERTISING SALES Lillie Ann Morris (905) 838-2826 Email: lamorris@xplornet.com Dan Kuchma Cell (204) 290-5419 (204) 944-5560 Email: dan.kuchma@fbcpublishing.com

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine

Where the wind blows We know so little about agriculture. Sure, we know how many tonnes our farms produce of which commodities, and what our farmers earn in total from them. As a country, we’re actually quite good at generating those kinds of numbers. But we can only guess at the biggest trends shaping the industry. Last summer Country Guide looked into the phenomenon we called the midsize miracle. Like you, we had always been told that agriculture was losing its middle. In order to survive, a farm either had to be huge and focused on low-margin commodities, or small and focused on high-value niche markets. After the bull market began roaring in 2008, however, mid-size farms had a renaissance. When we talked to Jason Reed in Alberta, he was quite comfortable with continuing to farm 4,500 acres, a mid-size grain operation in that part of the country. Still, Reed knows he can’t be complacent. First, he needs to excel at production efficiency. Second, he needs to address a serious risk: Reed leases 40 per cent of his acreage. To reduce that risk, he needs to be ready to buy land whenever he gets a reasonable chance. “Being aggressive is the only way,” he told us. We have great confidence in Reed. He’s smart, savvy, strategic… all those good things. But if you take all the farms in his category all across Canada, can they all size up? Can they all survive such financial strains in a very unforgiving industry? 4 country-guide.ca

In November, we talked to Mike Kalisvaart, a couple hours north of Reed. Kalisvaart is convinced that agriculture is transforming, and that the only way he can be in charge of his destiny is to keep sizing up. He sees a Wal-Mart effect coming to grain production, similar to the impact Smithfields had on hogs in 1998. That same year, a 10,000-acre grain farm in his area seemed huge. Now it’s 20,000 acres. And Kalisvaart believes the climb will continue. “We have growth targets that we want to hit,” Kalisvaart told Country Guide. Indeed, the family has restructured its management and its entire way of doing business to hit those targets. Meanwhile, closer to Calgary, we talked to Rob Baerg, who has devoted 25 successful years to farming just two quarters. Baerg admits the operation is small, but it isn’t exactly niche either. He focuses on seed production, quality premiums, and other revenue enhancers. Combined with low debt and shrewd financial management, it has proved a good approach. But as technology continues to put more management tools into the hands of large-acreage farmers, will small farms be able to hold on? I’m skeptical of predictions. Rarely do we see tidal waves in agriculture. Still, in 10 years time, you have to think we’ll look back on 2014 and say, Why didn’t they see it coming? 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 r y 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. 7 Internet address: www.agcanada.com

ISSN 1915-8491 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.

april 2014


Machinery

By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor

Here it is, late April, with harvest still a distant dream, yet we’re talking grain carts and wagons? Yes, because with agriculture evolving so rapidly, there’s no such thing as an off-season in farming. Farmers are always learning, always looking for options. That’s why this issue of MachineryGuide is taking a seasonally proactive approach. How you get your crop from the field is becoming every bit as important as growing it.

 Gerber Model 650  Balzer — Field Floater 5 with steerable track It’s one thing to provide a sizable advantage in terms of volume, and still another to be able to unload in about 90 seconds. But to do all of that and take better care of your soils? That’s the total advantage promised by Balzer with its Field Floater 5 with steerable track system. The rear axle can turn as tight as 10 degrees, while the front axle remains fixed, providing the pivot point that the rear axle follows. Plus, with four tracks instead of two, there’s superior flotation, reduced compaction and improved production. With its hydraulic suspension system, the Field Floater 5 also provides smooth towing and manoeuvrability, no matter the terrain. Available in 1325, 1550 and 2000 models.

New to “Machinery Manager” but not to its customers, Gerber gravity bins, including the company’s Model 650, are fully gusseted and reinforced for long life and reliability. Designed with a significantly steeper slope than most of its competitors, the grain flow out of this near-650-bushel bin is faster and easier, according to company literature. That eliminates the need for an operator to shovel out the inside, even if the grain is sticky. The Model 650 also comes with 10-inch extensions, boosting the height to 97 inches and the capacity to nearly 750 bushels. Light kits and roll tarp covers are also available.

www.gerbergravityboxes.com

www.balzerinc.com

 Demco Harvest Link Working to ease the bottlenecks between the combine, the grain cart and trucks waiting at harvest, Demco is working on its Harvest Link system. It was so new in July 2013, there were only two units. But its capabilities and data co-ordination potential are considerable. The key is keeping everything moving and reducing the wait times, thanks to 3,000-bushel capacity, and an unloading

ap r il 2 0 1 4

rate of 333 bushels per minute. The Harvest Link is also equipped with a radio-frequencyprogrammed electronic scale system, which allows the grain cart to unload at the same time a truck is filled without the loss of field data due to simultaneous loading or unloading. And with the unloading auger boasting a fore/aft adjustment feature, it means a truck can be loaded without leaving the road, reducing compaction concerns on your fields.

www.demco-products.com

country-guide.ca 5


Elmer’s HaulMaster Elmer’s Manufacturing marks its arrival in the “MachineryGuide” with its HaulMaster, and a pledge to maximize returns through innovation and design. Available in six sizes, the HaulMaster can carry between 670 and 2,000 bushels of valued crop. The 1600 and 2000 come with tracked units, and tracks are also options on the 1150 and 1300, plus high-flotation tires on the 850 and 1000. All HaulMaster carts have a lower profile along with lower centre of gravity and excellent balance. Another standard feature is the full-length cleanout. From the back of the cart, the single-point access opens the entire length of the floor, for fast, easy and total action.

www.elmersmfg.mb.ca

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BUSINESS

FUTURE FARM (3) In the conclusion to the series, FCC futurist Calvin Mulligan tells Madeleine Baerg it’s a good time to be farming, but the threat of major disruption is as big as ever By Madeleine Baerg

“Times of major transition like this are inherently disruptive and uncertain,” Farm Credit Canada’s resident futurist Calvin Mulligan tells us this month. For some farms, the future will be brighter than ever. For others, there will be difficulties ahead. But which farm is which? Below, Mulligan identifies some of the key trends for 2014 and beyond. While you’re reading, would you like a side order of schmeat bacon with your egg-free eggs?

CG: What lies ahead in 2014? Are we likely to still be debating GMOs a year from now? Mulligan: Yes, that’s one of the certainties of 2014. Apart from

CG: We have saved an important question. Is this a good time to be farming? Mulligan: Certainly, the dynamic nature of

the ongoing debates about the safety and efficacy of GM crops, the battle over GMO food labels in the U.S. will keep things bubbling. In Canada, there’s the controversy regarding the plan for the coexistence of GM and non-GM alfalfa. And, there are a number of other issues that are woven into the GMO debate. They range from concerns about the impact of their widespread use on biodiversity to the matter of how much influence big agribusiness has on the food system. So there are a lot of reasons why GMOs will remain topical.

CG: What is the likely impact of climate change on global food production?

growing importance of farm data, the automation of agricultural production, and specific technologies like drones. We can certainly expect to be talking more about how to mitigate the risks associated with climate change, weather extremes and natural disasters. That’s going to push the issue of climate geo-engineering out into the open and prompt significant debate. Consumers will keep conversations regarding agriculturefood-health linkages front and centre. I’m also expecting increased public concern regarding chemical contaminants in water and our foods.

CG: And on the energy front? Mulligan: I’m going to be watching

for changes on multiple fronts — progress toward development of a smart energy grid and distributed power generation, breakthroughs in green energy storage, and advances in the development of second- and thirdgeneration biofuels. 8 country-guide.ca

Mulligan: A report from the UN’s International Climate Change Panel is due to be released very soon. A leaked draft report suggests that it will be a mixed picture. That is, there will be beneficial climate change effects for some crops in some places. However, climate change could also reduce overall crop production by as much as two per cent each decade for the rest of the century. It’s hard to know with any precision how the costs and benefits will net out. There will be climate change winners and losers. At the same time, it’s likely going to be disruptive for all jurisdictions irrespective of geography.

CG: What kinds of disruptions? Mulligan: Apart from extreme

weather events, climate change is already leading to changes in the geographic ranges of plants and animals, including insects, so it’s more than just a matter of changes in the length of the growing season, for example, or the frequency of droughts and floods. It’s also a question of what new pests and diseases will migrate into farming areas where they weren’t found before. APRIL 2014

PHOTOGRAPHY: CAREY SHAW

CG: What other key subjects are on your radar? Mulligan: We’ve already talked about big-picture topics like the

the industry today makes it a very exciting time to be involved in farming or agriculture at any level. Times of major transition like this are inherently disruptive and uncertain. They bring surprises which challenge existing risk management capabilities. The good news is that they also shake up the status quo, creating new openings and opportunities for entrepreneurs.


BUSINESS

CG: Meanwhile, we’re seeing more food being produced in and on the edges of cities. What is behind the urban agriculture trend? Mulligan: The most obvious driver is growing consumer demand for fresh, locally grown food. There’s also an environmental motivation to reduce food miles. The calculations regarding carbon emissions and food miles however, don’t always favour locally grown. That aside, I see three other less apparent benefits which can come from urban agriculture. One is that we’re going to learn a lot more about the science and technology of producing food in “closed-loop” systems. These are systems which link production processes in such a way that the waste or the byproducts from one process become an input for another, thus optimizing the resource use and energy flows. The goal is to mimic nature’s model which achieves zero waste. Sustainable, cost-effective urban agriculture enterprises will be closed-loop systems aimed at zero waste. A second is that urban agriculture can give us more liveable, greener cities. And a third is that urban agriculture could grow to become an important source of contingent food production capacity. This will be important if, or rather when, international agri-food value chains are disrupted by natural disasters or other factors.

CG: Do you consider such disruptions a significant threat? Mulligan:

When you realize just how disruptive something like Finland’s 2010 volcano or Japan’s Fukushima disaster were for international value chains, the need for contingent food supply capacity becomes clearer.

CG: On a different subject, last year we witnessed the taste test of a lab-grown, fabricated hamburger. Is there a future for faux meats? Mulligan: The verdict of that taste test was essentially “not bad, but lacking juiciness and flavour.” So, it’s gone back to the lab for further work. I wouldn’t dismiss it at this point, however, since there are several factors which could shape future markets for fabricated meats and other foods. One is environmental — a concern for reducing the environmental impacts associated with livestock production. Another is ethical in that some folks believe eating the meat of animals is wrong. Others don’t eat meat for health reasons. Some consumers in each of these groups could comprise a market for “schmeat” as it’s been called. On a side note, Hampton Creek Foods Inc. of San Francisco now offers cholesterol-free mayo and “egg-free eggs.” CG

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APRIL 2014

country-guide.ca 9


business

Untraditional Greenhouses may not belong in the traditional farm stereotype, but Chris and Crystal Page reflect a new era of young farmers diversifying for business, and for the challenge too By Rebeca Kuropatwa

“A positive challenge to me means your brain doesn’t stop,” Chris says. “You’re always moving and thinking.” So, what’s the best way forward? How do you make different businesses complement each other? In their upper 30s, Chris and Crystal Page from Souris in southwest Manitoba are already involved in three established and successful businesses: a grain farm, seasonal greenhouse and custom spraying operation. Crystal and Chris began dating in high school and then married in 2000. Crystal began her career as a dental assistant, but the summer when oldest daughter McKenna was born, she changed her career path, opting to work in the greenhouse which her parents, Geraldine (“Gerry”) and Larry Sadler had opened under the name Sadler’s Creekside Greenhouse some 20 years earlier on their farm at Elgin. Chris’s parents, meanwhile, had begun farming in the early 1970s, starting with roughly 1,000 acres, which they have since grown to 2,600 acres, and in 1998, Chris came back to the farm after taking the agricultural diploma program at the University of Manitoba (U of M), majoring in farm business management.   10 country-guide.ca

Chris says the diversification wasn’t really planned — it just sort of happened. “Crystal had a passion for the greenhouse,” he explains. Balancing the different parts of the two operations, however, is something Chris sees as a “positive challenge.” “Everything is fresh. When you go to the greenhouse, it’s a consistent thing year after year, but there’s always something new. It’s the same with the farm; every year is different,” says Chris. “A positive challenge to me means your brain doesn’t stop. You always have a challenge and something to think about. When you’re always moving and thinking, to me that’s a healthy thing.”

The greenhouse The greenhouse became a part of the Pages’ life when their first child (McKenna, 11) was born and Crystal’s parents thought a relocation of their business from the farm into the town of Souris would be beneficial. Besides the main greenhouse in Souris, the Sadlers have a greenhouse in Boissevain and stock another greenhouse in Carnduff, Sask. When the Pages looked at the numbers they decided they would be better off with Crystal working in the greenhouse and being closer to home to raise their growing family (which has since grown with the addition of Kelsey, 9, and Raylee, 6). “Adding the greenhouse has increased our income flow more than when Crystal was working as a dental assistant,” says Chris. “The biggest advantage is that we’re both self-employed, but work together as needed. We have a lot of flexibility.” The family has actually moved to town and have a house right beside Crystal’s parents, because it makes life a lot easier during the greenhouse season. “The greenhouse is like having cattle, where you need to be close to it,” says Chris. “Because the farm is strictly grain and Mom and Dad’s place is only four miles from town it’s easier for me to commute.” Crystal’s parents still own the greenhouse and Crystal works for them handling all the retail and employee management while Gerry looks after the growing side of the operation and Larry looks after soil preparation, water maintenance and deliveries. April 2014

Photography: Sandy Black

here can be as many reasons for running a diversified farm business as there are farms. Diversification can add income stability and reduce overall operational risk. It can exploit market opportunities, enabling the farm family to take advantage of a lower cost of entry than competitors who might not have the same access to land or machinery. Sometimes, too, diversification can give the farm a way to invest profits at higher rates of return than can be had through banks or other investments. But equally, diversification can be a risk, and even a gamble, taking energy and investment away from the farm’s core business. It can even be untraditional, like incorporating a greenhouse as part of a grain operation.


business

Sales have been increasing annually since the move, and the greenhouse has a loyal following with customers coming from miles away because Gerry, who grows most of the bedding plants from seed, has a reputation for quality and selection. “I’ve got some relatives that live in Saskatoon, which is a seven-hour drive, and they wait until they come down to visit my Grandma to pick up some plants that aren’t offered anywhere in any greenhouse between here and Saskatoon that they’ve found yet,” says Chris. The greenhouse now runs from late-February until mid-July and then reopens for the Christmas season from November 1 to December 23 for sales of poinsettias, Christmas trees and giftware. The greenhouse is the one area where they have to rely on seasonal employees and they have up to 14 people employed in the spring for transplanting and sales. Crystal is in charge of scheduling the employees, which, she says, “includes a great group of ladies who return every year, as well as students.” April 2014

The greenhouse has a very low employee turnover rate and part of the reason for adding the Christmas sales season was to try and keep some of the younger seasonal employees around. “It was something to help a couple of our staff that are younger that are seasonal to stick around so that we don’t lose them because they’re very good to us and they’re good at their job and we don’t want to lose them somewhere else.”

The grain business Chris and his parents (John and Arlene Page) farm 2,600 acres on a piece of land just north of Souris, Man. John and Arlene are in charge of roughly 1,100 acres, while Chris and Crystal work roughly 1,500 acres on the books. This gives them the ability to make decisions independently, but they also consult with one Continued on page 12 country-guide.ca 11


business Continued from page 11 another before any final decisions are made — operating together, dependent on each other. John does the seeding and Chris does the spraying and fertilizing. When harvest comes, Chris runs the combine and John trucks the grain. With 2,600 acres and no hired help, operations need to be well planned. The Pages have been growing a wide variety of grain over the years, from Red Spring wheat to winter wheat, barley, canola, Nexera canola, flax, mustard and soybeans. They have tightened their rotation over the last five years to two kinds of wheat and two kinds of canola, with small test acres of soybeans. The farm takes up most of Chris’s time, with a pre-seed or pre-emergence burnoff on almost every acre. This, combined with fertilizing each field just ahead of the drill, has Chris covering two to three times the number of acres John does. But, Chris notes, “the machines I operate are wider and run faster, so time spent in the field may only be one and half times.” The Pages also operate a small spraying business where they do all of one neighbour’s spraying as well as their own — combined, about 15,000-20,000 acres per year. The two families try, wherever possible, to handle the workload on their own and the Pages admit they are very lucky to have two sets of in-laws who get on well and are always ready to help one another out. “My dad has had some health issues in the last couple of years, so Crystal and her mom and dad have come out and helped. Larry has run the combine for us and I’ve not had to worry about hiring somebody or having do it on my own,” says Chris. “My mom is very important to the operation too, from driving truck and moving equipment to making meals, and my dad will just stop into the greenhouse and he’ll carry on a conversation as I’m sitting there working, and of course he ends up helping out too.” In addition, the flexibility that Chris and Crystal have to cross over into the two separate enterprises is a great strength and one that leaves them plenty of options for the future. “Crystal helps out when she can at harvest time but doesn’t often have as much time in the spring when I am getting crop in,” says Chris. “But by late September and early October, she’s already decorating in the greenhouse for Christ12 country-guide.ca

mas so she can be on top of it before all the figure skating and hockey things start up with the kids. If we were to close the Christmas side of things at the greenhouse then we might be able to do more on the grain side of things because then I would have a consistent combine driver.”

Management There is only one machine — a loader tractor — that is shared by both the farm and the greenhouse, since both receive and ship many deliveries throughout the growing season. Still, the diversified approach means that accommodations must be made. On the farm side, Chris and Crystal will prob-

For Crystal and Chris the learning is: It takes passion and support to make diversification work ably have to adopt a one-pass seeding operation. They already have a plan in place to address this in the near future. They may also need to downsize their current spraying operation. On the greenhouse side, there may be more options, but it all boils down to the need to find and hire good personnel and build a financial plan that works with the extra associated costs. “We know we can’t do it all,” said Chris. “As Crystal’s mom does all the seeding and growing at the greenhouse and her dad does all the soil prep, watering, maintenance and deliveries, we may need to hire someone to manage the retail side and have Crystal move into the growing side of the operation.” For several years after he started farming Chris did some bookkeeping and tax preparation for a local accountant, but now he only has time to handle the books for his part of the farm and the greenhouse using a spreadsheet program he developed himself. “I do both sets of books,” says Chris. “It saves us a little money, but I also know exactly where we sit financially in both businesses and comparing the numbers year after year helps me see where we might gain some efficiencies. It’s easier April 2014


business to talk to lending reps when you know where you sit, without having to put a lot of thought into it with your numbers already rolling through your head.”

The future Apart from their growing businesses and family, it is very important to both Chris and Crystal that they contribute in other ways to the town of Souris. Chris serves as a school board trustee and on the minor hockey board, as well as being an active hockey coach. Crystal serves on the figure skating board. Both dream of increasing the grain as well as the greenhouse operations, but acknowledge there are always risks and they are unique to each enterprise. The farm’s equipment is large enough so they could easily add an additional 1,0001,500 acres, says Chris. “If it was any more, we’d have to start changing some of our bigger pieces of equipment and add some different crops into our rotation.” In the greenhouse, space does not seem to be a limiting factor, though they may need to upgrade some of the structures (which Chris anticipates will make for more floor space on the same footprint). With about half an acre of growing and retail space, there is definitely room to grow more, assuming the Pages can find a market for the extra product, and the labour to get it produced. “Balance hasn’t been too much of a struggle as of yet, but as both sets of parents get closer to retirement, it may come to the forefront,” says Chris. He and Crystal know that the next thing on the agenda for the two families is succession planning, which they haven’t really immersed themselves in yet. “We don’t have a succession plan in place with Crystal’s mom and dad nor do we have with my mom and dad on the grain side of things,” says Chris. “Both sets of parents are still active in what we’re doing and haven’t really shed a light on when their retirement may or may not be.” “There is risk with both enterprises. I’ve lost crops and didn’t plant a crop at least three times since I began farming 16 years ago,” says Chris. “Going into this season we’re thinking, with it being one of the coldest winters on record we may be swamped early on in the spring because people are so sick of -50. But next year it could be different again. “There’s always risk on both sides,” Chris says. “But I don’t really view it as a risk. I think it’s a good and different diversification.” CG April 2014

country-guide.ca 13


WHAT MATTERS MOST?

Family. When we’re all done we hope to work for our boys, so we’re putting resources into place for them now. Our Syngenta Rep is always there for us and treats our sons well. That trust and respect make all the difference. We know when our boys take over they’ll be in good hands. Hugh Dietrich, 2nd generation farmer and owner, Hugh J Dietrich Farms Limited, Lucan, ON

Visit SyngentaFarm.ca or contact our Customer Resource Centre at 1-87-SYNGENTA (1-877-964-3682). Always read and follow label directions. The Syngenta logo is a registered trademark of a Syngenta Group Company. © 2014 Syngenta.


business

Chicago trades up Volumes soar with electronic trading. But has the board lost touch with fundamentals? By Lisa Guenther, CG Field Editor

t’s 8:28 a.m. on a Monday in early March, two days after Russian president Vladimir Putin has gained parliamentary approval to invade Crimea. Russian troops have rooted themselves in Crimea, and Ukraine has called up its reserves. Scott Shellady and a cluster of traders in the corn options pit at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT)

As he waves a bid across the Chicago floor, trader Scott Shellady aims to win against algorithms

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are quiet, waiting for the markets to open. Shellady and his colleagues have been here since 5:30 a.m. because Putin’s manoeuvres are sure to ricochet through the markets. Shellady, the son of a trader and dairy farmer, has been at this for 26 years, and he wears his heritage on his back, in the form of a Holstein-print jacket, just like his father used to wear on the floor. Ronald Shellady wore the cow-print jacket as a reminder that floor traders serve a function, his son explains. “So it’s not dollar bills in Vegas. There’s a guy that’s got cattle and there’s a guy that’s got grain, and we’ve got to put the two together somehow and sell his milk and sell his corn. So that’s why he wore it.” “So it’s kind of like a game-used jersey. I wear it now.” Rows of computers for support staff and electronic traders circle the pits. A Sons of Agriculture sticker, spoofing the Sons of Anarchy series on HBO, marks one terminal. Huge screens of numbers, flashing green, orange and red, border the room. CNBC plays out on enormous flat screens. In the middle of the floors lie the pits, sloping towards the centre, calling to mind amphitheatres. We all wait for the show to start. The New York Stock Exchange has an elaborate ritual each morning, Chris Grams, the CBOT director of corporate communications tells me. In New York, companies pay for the honour and bring in celebrities to ring the opening bell at 9:30 a.m., as they’ve done for decades. But Chicago’s trading community hasn’t any desire for such ceremony, it seems. Chicago is all business. Exactly at 8:30 a.m., a low buzzer sounds, and at that moment, the corn options pit erupts into shouting and flailing hand signals. Adrenalin and testosterone permeate the air like humidity. For a first-time visitor, it’s a striking scene. Yet the grain floor isn’t nearly as hectic as it used to be. Before the advent of electronic trading, each pit would have been a jostling sea of traders, aggressively wheeling and dealing. Today the futures pits feel like ghost towns to older traders. April 2014


business

Algorithm-based trading is affecting not only the number of traders, but the very culture of the people working in and around the exchange, raising questions about whether Chicago can still perform its price-discovery function.

CBOT’s beginnings It’s worth delving into the Chicago Board of Trade’s past to better understand the changes it’s caught up in today. Farmers and merchants began gathering in Chicago in the 19th century to trade. “There were merchants on every corner at harvest time, so the farmers would come in and talk to a merchant or two, but they were scattered all over the city,” says Fred Seamon, senior director of ag commodity research and commodity development with Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group. Seamon spends his days levelling the playing field so the game is fair for both buyers and sellers. “I’m one of the few people who can say that my job is to make all of our customers a little unhappy because that means they don’t have an edge in the market.” In 1848, a group of businessmen decided to centralize the merchants to bring in price transparency and so everyone could participate in price discovery, April 2014

Seamon says. “And immediately things got better because everyone knew what was going on.” Storage facilities were built so grain could be sold when it was worth more, giving the industry some price risk management. “You could lock in a price today, and no matter what prices did, you were protected. And that sort of evolved to futures,” Seamon explains. The Chicago Butter and Egg Board, the CME’s forebear, formed in 1898 to offer contracts in those commodities. In 1919, the board’s mandate expanded to futures trading and it morphed into CME. In 2007, the CME and Board of Trade merged into CME Group. Today CME Group offers trading in metal, energy, currency and agricultural commodities, and also includes markets in New York and Kansas City. The historic section of the Board of Trade building, an art deco skyscraper, was finished in 1930 and stands in the heart of downtown, at 141 W. Jackson Boulevard. The Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres, adopted as a sort of patron saint by corn traders, still perches at the scraper’s peak, clutching a grain sample bag in one hand and a

With electronic bidding taking more business, Chicago’s vaunted ag pit is getting tamer.

Continued on page 18 country-guide.ca 17


business

Never a dull day “It’s almost impossible for it to get boring,” Fred Seamon says, when asked what’s so great about working in the heart of Chicago’s great grain-trading network. “There’s always some issue that needs to be addressed.” Seamon isn’t the only one who counts the variety as a plus. Each day is different, adds Scott Shellady. “It’s kind of like recess but you’re trying to make money.” The people working in and around the Chicago Board of Trade have a front-row seat to how world events, such as Russia invading Crimea, reverberate through the markets. And as you can imagine, they have their share of war stories. Analyst Jerry Gidel cites the market’s reaction to the Japanese tsunami and subsequent nuclear blow-out as particularly memorable. Grain markets sold off hugely for two days, he said, which wasn’t logical when you consider that Japan would have needed more food, not less.

Continued from page 17 But the grain markets reacted to the stock market’s plummet. Jack Scoville was a phone clerk on the floor when Argentina and Britain were fighting over the Falkland Islands. He got a call to sell soybeans, which were limit up. Scoville wrote the ticket and gave it to a runner to zip to the pits. “And all of a sudden one of the Generals came in and said, ‘Well, we’re going to make peace. We’re ready to talk peace,’” Scoville says. “Limit down.” The client called Scoville back, and they decided to buy back. Scoville wrote the ticket. “And then (the General) comes back and says, ‘But only on our terms.’ Right back up.” Scoville’s client should have made 50 cents. But when Scoville finally got both fills back, he realized the market had moved so fast they’d missed their chance. “If he made or lost a nickel, that was it.” Both he and the client laughed at the timing of the trades.

wheat sheaf in the other. She surveys her domain with, one imagines, a mixture of benevolence and wrath. But even with that pride in the Board of Trade’s history, change is inevitable, and no one knows it better than the analysts and traders working in and around CBOT.

Loss of knowledge Back in 2006, CBOT launched electronic trading. Today more than 80 per cent of all CME Group trades are electronic, which has led to fewer boots on the floor. In 2008, CME Group merged the remaining open-outcry traders to a single floor in the historic Board of Trade building. Jack Scoville started as a runner on the CBOT floor in the early ’80s. Today he’s a futures market analyst and vice-president of PRICE Futures Group. He doesn’t work on the floor these days, but sits at a computer, one in a row of five. He chats with clients through Skype, with a landContinued on page 19

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April 2014


business Continued from page 18 line and cell phone also at hand. Orchids rest between his and his neighbour’s work stations. Scoville specializes in grains, softs, rice, oilseeds and tropical commodities such as coffee and sugar. His day typically starts at 7 a.m., when he checks the previous day’s runs and publishes his market commentary for clients, in English and Spanish. But his day doesn’t wrap at 5 p.m. — night sessions open at 7 p.m. and he works Sunday nights, too. Scoville seems relatively relaxed, but throughout our conversation he keeps an eye on his computer screen, watching the markets. “These were both down, coffee and sugar, when I walked in, but they’re up big time now,” Scoville says. The floor was a little wilder when Scoville started out. “You’d see fights every once in a while.” He recites some of the arguments that preceded fisticuffs in the pits. But as future trades have moved online, CBOT has lost more than the thrill of the occasional brawl. The futures traders have left the pits, and are trading for themselves at home or have taken on other jobs, Scoville says. “That central meeting place for knowledge is not really there. It’s a real shame,” says Scoville. A block north of CBOT, on South LaSalle Street, Jerry Gidel works as the chief feed grain analyst at Rice Dairy. He has a strong grasp on the fundamentals, and chats about everything from the weather and drought patterns to Canada’s grain transportation system and dried distillers grain. Russia’s move into Crimea has Gidel scrambling today, too, as he revises his weekly market updates, which go out on Tuesday. Like Scoville, Gidel started working on CBOT’s grain floor in the ’80s, and he says there used to be people around the Board of Trade whose work with elevators and producers gave them a better understanding of grain markets. However, the expansion of electronic trading to speed order flow has wiped out this floor pit community, he says. “The speculative community is now totally technical in orientation. It doesn’t really have a sense of some of the fundamentals,” Gidel says. Gidel adds that the short-term traders, previously called locals, who used to populate the futures pits had a better sense of market fundamentals that made them less reactive to chart patterns and more attuned to fundamental news of the day. When the floors were more active, locals tendered a bid and offer. They’d buy quickly and then immediately sell “one tic higher,” says Seamon. “And if they were right 51 per cent of the time, they could make a middle-class life doing that.” Firms now do the same thing electronically, and are often referred to as high-frequency traders, Seamon says. “But they basically take the strategy that the local used to do on the floor and perform that strategy on the screen.” April 2014

“The makeup of the markets has remained remarkably constant over time,” says Fred Seamon, senior research director at CME Today’s high-frequency traders tend to focus more on the technical than fundamental side of agricultural markets, Gidel agrees. They lack a good sense of the seasonal nature of agricultural markets. They also rely on algorithms set to follow fiveminute charts, so “if the five-minute chart says to sell it, well then everybody sells it,” says Gidel. “Sometimes I call them all lemmings because they don’t really follow the news. They follow the other followers,” Gidel adds. “So they’ll walk right off the edge of the cliff because that’s what all the lemmings are supposed to do. Because that’s what we’re all doing.” High-frequency traders look less at statistics such as the Relative Strength Index (RSI) and more at moving averages, Gidel says. “To me, that’s caused more volatility as we move dramatically from one moving average to the next,” says Gidel. But despite a few warts, electronic commodity trading is now here to stay, says Gidel. For one thing, it allows people to move in and out of the market more easily, he adds. Before electronic trading, anyone trying to buy at Continued on page 20 country-guide.ca 19


business Continued from page 19 the low of the day had a tough time getting it filled, he explains. “In the electronic world, you’ve got a fighting chance if you happen to be buying at the bottom of the day.” Shellady misses the open outcry, noting “you’re getting increasingly used to listening to the air conditioning upstairs in the office rather than being down here screaming and wearing a funny-coloured jacket.” But customers want trade certainty, Shellady says. “You can give it to them instantaneously with an electronic screen. You lose some transparency, but at the same time you can also do more volume. There are some pluses and minuses to everything.” Gidel adds the market needs the liquidity the highfrequency traders provide, too. “Otherwise you’re going to have the commercials overriding the markets. And so then you have a one-sided market, too.” CME’s research indicates the market’s liquidity has improved over time, Seamon says. “You’ve got all of these traders that are competing to fill orders.” The Commodity Futures Trading Commission collects data on who owns open interest. “The make up of the grain markets has remained remarkably constant through time,” Seamon says.

“If you’re not going to be a  part of the market… then, yeah, you’re going to get yourself kicked around.” — analyst Jerry Gidel Electronic trading has significantly boosted the number of traders, Seamon says, but it hasn’t altered the market’s overall balance. “We’ve attracted new speculators, but we’ve also attracted new commercial participants for hedging. And that’s where a lot of our growth has been, in international participants being able to use these markets to hedge risk.” Seamon also looks at hedging effectiveness or correlations with international prices, and he says those numbers have improved as well, probably because more global participants mean world events in remote agricultural areas are instantly reflected in prices. Electronic trading has also changed CBOT’s culture to some degree. Relationships were important with open-outcry trading because, although anyone could place an order, only exchange members could trade on the floor, Seamon says. “So those guys all relied on one another to make their living. So if someone tried to do something a little ethically challenged, they would get called on it because it requires co-operation among all of them,” Seamon explains. 20 country-guide.ca

More market regulations have replaced the standard of collegial accountability that brokers used to hold each other to, Seamon says. And electronic trading leaves an audit trail with each trade, he adds, making it fairly transparent. Scoville says relationships are still important in his job. In fact, with the way the markets move these days, knowing your customers is more important than ever, he adds. “You’ve got to make sure your guy can handle it.” What the next 10 years hold for electronic trading is anyone’s guess. Gidel thinks high-frequency traders may get tired of being burned by the market and educate themselves. Whether one looks at the stock market, bonds or commodities, “if you’re not going to be a part of the market, and you’re just going to sample that market, then, yeah, you’re going to get yourself kicked around,” he says.

Open outcry still king for options Back on the floor, paper litters the floor outside the pits like snow. Chris Grams explains the traders in the pit don’t want to risk missing a deal, so they toss the paper and CME Group cleans it up at the end of the day. It’s visible evidence that although electronic trading has emptied the futures pits, so far open-outcry trading is still king for options, at least in Chicago. “I think that they’ve had trouble getting the algorithms right in the computer programs to handle some of the more complicated option spreads,” says Scoville. “Futures is basically buy and sell it or buy May, sell July.” The New York Mercantile Exchange, which also falls under CME Group, ended open-outcry trading for options. Scoville says he hasn’t tried an options spread in New York for a while because they’re hard to make work, particularly for coffee. “I really like having the guys on the floor,” says Scoville. “We’ve got a couple that we work with rather specifically here in our office that we’ve known for years and trusted on the floor. And they’ll take our paper and give us a good shot.” Options in Europe and Asia are also traded electronically these days, Shellady says. “But the U.S. customer still seems to like an open-outcry pit so far. It’s dwindling, though.” The persistence of open-outcry trading in Chicago is partly because the exchange is run by members, Shellady says. “A lot of the other exchanges around the world are run by five banks so they can just make the decision on a Friday. So they made the decision for the customers.” Whether or not customers will keep supporting open outcry trading for options in Chicago remains to be seen. “Maybe there’s a niche, maybe there’s not,” says Shellady. “But if it does ever go that way, it’ll be sad because it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve been doing it for 26 years. And it was neat.” Shellady is gracious about answering questions, but it’s clear he’s busy this morning. As the interview wraps, he leaps back into the fray with a roar. “I’m still at a quarter!” CG April 2014


Legal

Crown liability When can a government be liable if its action or inaction causes harm? By Naomi Loewith, lawyer at Lenczner Slaght gribusinesses are occasionally accused of failing to take due care in their production of food products, and have to defend lawsuits as a result. In some cases, producers can try to shift some liability onto the government, if they can show that inadequate inspections or other bureaucratic failures are at least partly to blame for any harm suffered by customers. Alberta meat packer XL Foods is trying to do just that. XL is defending a proposed class action started after the discovery of E. coli in its beef products. It has asked the court to make the Canadian Food Inspection Agency a defendant, so that CFIA might pay some or all of the damages that could arise out of the incident. XL denies that it has any liability, but says that if the court finds otherwise, CFIA should share or assume some or all of the burden because it failed to establish adequate operating standards, properly inspect or test its products, or withhold or recall the beef products. XL is essentially trying to start a lawsuit within a lawsuit. It is asking the court to expose the federal government to the possibility of shared liability, if the court decides that sale of tainted beef resulted in harms to customers. What factors do courts consider when deciding whether the government can be held at least partially responsible for harm? The easiest way to bring a government into a lawsuit is to show that courts have held governments responsible in similar circumstances. For example, building inspectors can be liable for conducting a negligent inspection, as inspectors have specialized expertise to prevent harm, and building owners rely on that expertise. Interestingly, an inspector can be responsible for negligent inspection even if the owner himself authorized a breach of the building bylaws. Another area where courts have allowed lawsuits against the government is negligent misstatement. As with the building inspector, government agents have particular expertise, and individuals rely on their statements. Thus, for example, the government was liable where it provided wrong information to an employee about his pension entitlement. Reliance on government statements does not, however, extend to policy announcements made to the public. You cannot sue for a breach of campaign promises. Even without a precedent, courts will let a claim April 2014

against the government proceed where the relationship between the government and the person harmed is sufficiently “close and direct” that it would be “just and fair” to make the government responsible. When, for example, a striking miner bombed a Yellowknife mine in 1992, killing nine replacement workers, the workers’ families were able to sue the government for failing to prevent the deaths. Government inspectors had identified the risk to workers and knew management’s steps were insufficient to protect them. As a result, the government could be named as a defendant. Courts will not, however, let defendants sue the government on the basis of a policy decision. Bad policies should be addressed at the ballot box, not in the courtroom. As a result, the government could not be sued when health authorities failed to adopt adequate policies to prevent the spread of West Nile virus. That decision was based on the allocation of scarce health resources, and government priorities. Similarly, a municipality could not be sued because its budget only allowed it to inspect its parks during the summer. But once that inspection system was in place, the government could be liable for failing to carry it out properly. Naming the government as a defendant is just a first, but important, step. Where the court allows an action to proceed against the government, the plaintiff will next have to demonstrate that the government failed to meet the duty it owed to the injured party, and that such failure caused harm. Producers should keep these principles in mind. If a government representative gives assurance that safety or other procedures are appropriate, businesses should get these assurances in writing. Producers should also keep records of when government employees visit their facilities, and what statements are made during those visits. So far, XL has been successful in its efforts to expose the federal government to liability. The court has allowed XL to name the government as a defendant, and its potential liability will now be determined on the principles discussed above. CG Naomi Loewith is a lawyer at Lenczner Slaght in Toronto. As a business litigator, Naomi advocates and manages risks for clients in a variety of sectors, and has experience in actions involving all levels of government. country-guide.ca 21


® The Cargill logo and MARKETSENSE are registered trade-marks of Cargill, Incorporated, used under licence. © 2014, Cargill Limited. All Rights Reserved.

“Why should you pay a grain marketing advisor when there seems to be so many other places your money is needed?”


Let Us Ride Shotgun with You That pleasant, easy, summertime journey of the past four years is at an end. Today’s commodity markets require all the vigilance, planning and caution of a winter’s drive. Take risk out of the journey — and off the table — by inviting a grain marketing advisor along for the ride.

With the canola and wheat markets the way they are now, it’s more like embarking on a wintertime journey. As you know, winter driving requires planning ahead, and the likelihood of making an error is greater, and the consequences more serious. Now is the time to be extra vigilant.

These are turbulent times. For some of you, prices have fallen so far you feel you’re close to break-even levels, and paying for grain marketing advice now could take you below those levels. This is an understandable reaction. However, this is the time you’re at greatest risk and in need of help — the likelihood of making a mistake, and its consequences, are far greater during market downturns than when markets are good.

Why should you pay a grain marketing advisor when there seems to be so many other places your money is needed? First of all, a good advisor will force you to have a grain marketing plan. You and your advisor will craft this plan during a time when emotional biases will not influence your decisions.

Let me explain by drawing an analogy: when you set out on a summertime drive, you worry about some pretty minor things as you embark. Along the way, if you change your plan, the consequences of that detour are pretty insignificant. Generally the journey is simple, it’s usually desirable, and it’s one you choose to make. This easy and carefree summertime drive is the journey commodity markets have taken us on for the past four years.

A good advisor is also looking out for you all week long, watching the markets on your behalf. This person alerts you to events you should be paying attention to, whether it’s an opportunity to sell because something favourable has happened in the market or something you should deal with proactively. Your advisor should be there riding shotgun with you to give you some peace of mind so you don’t have to fret about the markets. To read the complete story, visit asktheexpertnetwork.ca. Keith Brownell, Regional Grain Marketing Services Manager


business

World crops We used to call them ethnic crops, but the new name shows just how big the hottest trend in food is growing By Helen Lammers-Helps he face of Canada is changing, and it may mean new market opportunities for farmers. According to the 2011 Canadian National Household Survey, one in five Canadians was born in another country. While in the past, newcomers had to adapt to traditional Canadian foods, increasing global trade means “new Canadians” are now able to source familiar foods, especially vegetables, from their home countries.

24 country-guide.ca

It’s such a hot phenomenon, there’s even a new label for it. Although older terms such as “ethnic” or “ethno-cultural” linger on, these crops that are not traditionally grown in Canada are increasingly referred to as “world crops.” It isn’t a uniform trend across the country. Although cities in every part of the country have witnessed increased cultural diversity, it’s still true that most immigrants to Canada settle in Canada’s major urban centres, mainly Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In 2011, almost half of all the residents in Toronto were foreign born. Within these cities, as well, immigrants tend to cluster in certain sections. For example, in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), 72.3 per cent of Markham’s population is a visible minority compared to 54 per cent for Mississauga. This immigration pattern is expected to continue. Statistics Canada estimates that by 2031, 63 per cent of Toronto’s population will be a visible minority. But as mentioned, the 2011 National Household Survey also shows a trend towards more immigrants settling in regional centres like Halifax, Winnipeg and Saskatoon. In 2009, University of Guelph researchers Glen Filson and Bamidele Adekunle along with Sridharan Sethuratnam, program manager of the non-profit organization FarmStart, attempted to put a dollar value on the potential market for ethno-cultural vegetables. They surveyed a random selec-

April 2014


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tion of people from the three largest ethnic groups represented in Toronto: South Asian, Chinese and Afro-Caribbean. The researchers pegged the potential market for vegetables consumed by these three groups in the GTA at $732 million per year. The crops included okra, bitter melon, amaranth, yard long beans, cassava and various varieties of eggplant. At present, such ethno-cultural vegetables are mostly supplied by imports from California, Mexico and South America. Displacing just 10 per cent of this imported vegetable product with Canadiangrown produce would create a new market worth $73 million per year. There is also potential for export to nearby population centres in the United States which have similarly diverse populations and demand for vegetables. Not only do immigration patterns contribute to a demand for world crops, but Canadians of European heritage are increasingly consuming non-traditional vegetables. Canadians in general are becoming more adventurous in their eating, says Michael Brownbridge, director of horticultural production systems at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, who has been researching ethnocultural crops for the past five years. As Canadians travel more and eat more at ethnic restaurants, Brownbridge says, they become exposed to these vegetables and will buy them to cook at home. Brownbridge has focused his research on okra since it was ranked No. 1 by two of the three ethnic groups surveyed in the University of Guelph study. In his trials, Brownbridge tested 15 varieties with the most potential out of the hundreds available. Brownbridge also ran trials with both long and round eggplant, which are also in demand. “There is a market for other vegetables but we had to focus where the greatest opportunities are,” he says. Almost all the okra consumed in Ontario is currently trucked in from Florida or flown in from Nicaragua, says Brownbridge, who adds that Canadian farmers supplying the local market will have reduced transportation costs and superior freshness, so produce should last longer and taste better. Having successfully grown okra and round and long eggplant, Brownbridge is continuing his research to get more reliable yield and cost-of-production figures. Data from 2013 showed a return above variable cost per acre for okra of $1,404/acre (based on one-year data only). Such ideas aren’t entirely new, says Filson. He points out that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada did extensive work 30 years ago, and as a result many Asian greens such as bok choy and pak choy are grown successfully in Ontario, especially in the Holland Marsh. The Chinese have a long history in Canada, he says. April 2014

Early research puts net profits for ethnic vegetables at up to $1,400 or more per acre However, Filson and Evan Elford, new-crop development specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, believe the conversation surrounding import replacement with domestic production has become more sophisticated, taking better account of the nature of that particular business sector. Even when markets exist, there are still many hurdles for farmers, warns Elford. He says farmers should be cautious and do their background research on markets and marketability. They need to find out who their customers are, what they want, what variety they are looking for, what growth stage the vegetable should be harvested at and how it needs to be packaged. Elford recommends farmers determine the demographics of their local market and visit stores to get a better understanding of the local marketplace. “A grower in one area could easily have a market for a non-traditional crop, while another 30 minutes away may be unable to sell their crop,” Elford says. “I’ve seen it first hand.” Brownbridge agrees. It’s essential that farmers have a good understanding of what the market wants. “Understanding the consumer mind has been an important part of the research at Vineland,” he says. Representatives of the retail sector have been closely involved with the research since they understand what the consumer is looking for in terms of appearance, taste, and quality. “You have to grow what the consumer wants,” emphasizes Brownbridge. There may also be challenges in growing these crops. For example, many of these crops require a long growing season. It may be necessary to use greenhouses, hoop houses or other means of extending the growing season, says Elford. Continued on page 26 country-guide.ca 25


business

Continued from page 25 Weather variability is also an issue. 2012, which was hot, was a good year but 2013 which was cooler, was not, says Brownbridge. Farmers with European ancestry often lack experience growing these ethno-cultural vegetables, while new Canadians with an agriculture background are keen to grow them but may lack access to land. Debby Claude, manager of operations at the Saskatoon Farmers Market says she has seen new immigrants try to grow these vegetables, but they are often surprised by the harsh conditions and they have a high failure rate. These crops are very labour intensive during the harvest season because they require hand harvesting every day or every other day for several weeks during peak production.

Resources Specialty Cropportunities (interactive database with over 100 specialty crop profiles containing production, pest management and marketing information): www.omafra.gov.on.ca/CropOp/en/index.html. ONSpecialtyCrops Blog (timely updates through the season for specialty crop growers): http://onspecialtycrops.wordpress.com/. A preliminary analysis of the economics and market potential for okra is available here:

www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/hort/news/ hortmatt/2013/08hrt13a3.htm. Information on growing, harvest, storage and marketing world crops is on the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre website at: www.vineland research.com.

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Without solid yield and cost-of-production data for Ontario, it’s also difficult to know how profits for these non-traditional crops compare with more traditional crops, cautions Elford. Vineland Research Centre will be starting to gather cost-ofproduction data in 2014. The lack of solid economic data for growing these crops in Canada may make lenders reluctant to back the venture, and the lack of crop insurance may also be a stumbling block. Growers also need to consider how well the crop fits in their operation. “Just because they can grow it doesn’t mean they should,” advises Elford. For those wanting to explore some of these ethno-cultural vegetables, Elford has the following advice. Try growing a small acreage, says Elford. And start with cross-over produce. For example, a grower could get some experience with European eggplant first, and then could try growing world varieties of eggplant, he says. Some farmers who sell direct to consumers through farmers markets or CSA shares are successfully growing some of these world crops. Brownbridge is aware of a number of growers around Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal who are growing non-traditional crops such as okra on a small scale now. He expects these farmers will scale up production as they gain more experience and more economic data becomes available. Government funding may be available to help growers grow new crops and access new markets, adds Elford. For example, in Ontario the Growing Forward2 Program (www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/ about/growingforward/gf2-index.htm ) and the Local Food Fund /www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/ local_food_guidebook.pdf) may provide support to growers. CG

April 2014


Elevate your uptime

You can rest assured that when you run a reliable, all-crop, all-condition John Deere baler, that you’ll keep baling long after other balers have called it quits. How do we do it? The 9 Series feature roller shafts that are a 1/4 inch larger and bearings that are 1 1/2 inches larger than those found on the 8 Series. With an increased shaft size the baler can now handle even heavier loads in the toughest conditions. And the bigger bearings run cooler, last longer, and are more reliable. Everything about a John Deere 9 Series Round Baler has been designed to raise performance to all new levels, while greatly reducing the chances of downtime. That’s why more and more hay producers run John Deere Round Balers than any other color baler. And should your baler ever need service, it’s good to know that there’s a local John Deere dealer standing behind you who will get you back up and running. See your John Deere dealer today about a new 9 Series Baler – and elevate your uptime.

JohnDeere.com/Hay


business

The market farmer Can small farms survive? With $140,000 in sales from a few acres, Jean-Martin Fortier insists his can By Steven Biggs, CG Contributing Editor

“We challenge the belief that the small family farm cannot stay afloat,” Fortier says.

t was early January when I clicked through a farm website and saw the page where JeanMartin Fortier listed his upcoming workshops. His late-March workshop in nearby Montreal, with space for 50 people, was already sold out. “Neat,” I thought. “People in the city are paying to listen to a farmer.” But is he a farmer? Or, as I came to wonder, does that question really miss the point? After watching him on video, it’s no surprise that Fortier fills the workshop. He has a stage presence that you might not guess from his photographs. It’s a combination that connects with people. He’s young, articulate and charismatic with a touch of self-deprecating humour. (In Paris recently, he jokingly told his audience they might need a translator to understand his Quebec French.) His book about his farm, Le Jardinier-Maraicher , has sold 16,000 copies since its fall 2012 release, including an incredible 6,000 outside of

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Quebec. With 5,000 copies making a book a bestseller in Canada, this is astounding. When I ask Fortier about the 10,000 copies sold in Quebec, I wonder out loud how many farms there are in the province. He stops me and explains that it’s not just farmers and aspiring farmers buying his book. “It’s your average Joe,” he says. Consumers, too, want to hear Fortier’s farming story.

Small farm business thinking Fortier’s book is a personal narrative that tells readers about his journey into farming and then shares his model for success. What’s unexpected is that Fortier has found success where many farm commentators say he shouldn’t — on a very small family farm. “We challenge the belief that the small family farm cannot stay afloat in today’s economy,” Fortier says in the book. And at a time when many people worry about job security, Fortier says that unlike employees of large companies, “I have job security.” For Fortier, staying very small has been a big part of the recipe for success. And being small, he says, need not mean small income. Nor must growth in income necessarily come from a bigger operation. On their 10-acre property, called Les Jardins de la Grelinette, he and his wife Maude-Helene Desroches farm 1-1/2 acres. “To grow better instead of bigger became the basis of our model,” explains Fortier. He contrasts this to the conventional model to “extensify” production over a larger area. While mechanization is often seen as the way to get higher profit, he says it doesn’t have to be that way. “Instead,” he says, “we opted to stay small scale.” To illustrate why he believes in intensifying production as opposed to expanding the land base, he tells readers how, when first raising crops on one-quarter acre of rented land, he sold $20,000 worth of vegetables; and then the next year, with the same space, $55,000 worth of vegetables, i.e. more than double. The following year, with his own farm and 1-1/2 cultivated acres, he sold $80,000 worth of vegetables — a figure that climbed to $100,000 the subsequent year. As we later chat on the phone, I find out that this figure is now roughly $140,000. While Fortier is not opposed to mechanization, he says expensive machinery doesn’t necessarily make farming more profitable. If two options give equally April 2014


business good results, cost is his deciding factor. That has meant eschewing a conventional tractor and opting for a small, two-wheeled “walking” tractor. Aside from costing less than a conventional tractor, it allows the intensive spacing that he favours. Less emphasis on machinery, he says, means most of his operating costs are inputs, not machinery. “We’ll have 10 rows of carrots instead of three,” he says, explaining the benefit of not having to tie in crop spacing to conventional, tractor-drawn equipment. That means more yield from the same space, reduced costs for material such as row covers, and less labour for tasks such as mulching and weeding. In addition, he grows a succession of crops to keep the land producing. Fortier emphasizes that revenue is only part of the equation, saying, “Revenue minus expenses equals profit.” He keeps a careful eye on expenses and does not buy into the notion that good profitability requires high costs. “Our market garden demonstrates that high profits can be made without high costs,” he says, adding, “Our low-tech strategy kept our startup costs to a minimum and our overhead expenses low.”

Sell smart, grow less To bolster the revenue side of the equation, Fortier sells some of his produce directly to consumers, keeping profit that would normally go to retailers and distributors. The way he sees it, when he doesn’t need to give retailers and distributors approximately two-thirds the value of his produce, he can grow onethird as much and make the same profit. Fortier is a big believer in having an identifiable logo. In the local supermarket, which sells his product, his logo appears next to his produce. “At the local grocery store, customers swear by our products, which they recognize easily,” he says. Maximizing revenue also means adding value. It can be as simple, he says, as leaving the tops on carrots. Bunched carrots with leaves usually fetch more per pound than bagged ones. He also considers the revenue a crop can bring in and how much time and space it requires. By doing this, he has determined that greenhouse cucumbers are four times more profitable than turnip, and that a bed of lettuce brings in as much as leeks, but in half the time.

With wife Maude-Helene Desroches, Fortier says their low-tech strategy is actually an efficient business model, generating reliable family income and security.

Practical idealism Neither Fortier nor Desroches are from a farm background. After graduating from the McGill School of Environment, they went on a two-year journey to the U.S. and Mexico, working on small farms. “I had found practical idealism,” he says in the book. Returning home, they rented land and started their first market garden. The couple wanted their own farm, but knew that buying land meant the business would have to bring in enough money to cover payments on land, build-

Fortier doesn’t own a tractor, and doesn’t plan to buy one. Instead, he builds his management system around generating healthy net returns per acre.

Continued on page 30 April 2014

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BUSINESS

Continued from page 29 ings, and house, and also raise their family. They eventually found their current farm in St-Armand, Quebec, south of Montreal, in 2004. Fortier’s favourite tool — the antithesis of mechanization — is the broadfork (called a grelinette in French). This tool, he explains, allows deep aeration without inverting soil layers. “We named our business after the tool because we found the grelinette emblematic of manual, ecological and effective organic gardening,” he says. Fortier pays a lot of attention to soil biology, which he says helps replace some mechanical labour. “Our objective has always been to create a cropping system that strikes a balance between yield, longterm fertility, and efficiency,” he says. To do this, he practises minimum tillage, growing in permanent raised beds. He points out that many people get into organic farming for philosophical reasons, but he says it’s still a business, and it’s important to treat it as one. “I would not be too hasty in brushing aside proven solutions from experienced growers, even if they do not seem ‘ideal,’” he says. For example, while he likes the concept of no till, a lot of crop debris in the market garden is impractical. So he’s found a middle ground, using shallow cultivation. For him, no till is an approach, not a doctrine. 30 country-guide.ca

Garden or farm? Fortier says he calls himself a market gardener to emphasize that he works with hand tools. But some people have trouble seeing him as a farmer, not a gardener. One bank loan officer declared this was not a real business — a real farm — and him not a farmer. In the conclusion of his book, Fortier, who is 35, says he feels privileged to find such a satisfying calling so early in life. I later ask Fortier whether he would do anything differently if he were to start again. “Yes, for sure,” he says, but adds that he’s very happy with the way things are now, and that getting here was a learning process. His story about food and farming is reaching a lot of people. After chatting, I head back to the website and then to his Facebook pages: 2,100 “likes” for the farm, 2,400 for the book. Then I spot a November 2013 blog post saying that the French edition was No. 1 on Amazon France’s bestselling list of gardening books. The English language edition, T HE M ARKET GARDENER (www.themarketgardener.com) was released in early 2014. Stay tuned. CG APRIL 2014


Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association

SOIL CHAMPION Recognizing outstanding achievements and advocacy in the cause of soil management excellence

An interview with AdAm HAyes, OSCIA Soil Champion As part of the 75th Anniversary of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, and with support from private funding, OSCIA has initiated the ‘Soil Champion Award’. This Award will recognize those who raise awareness of the importance of soil health and soil conservation by example through work in the field or through advocacy. Adam Hayes has been selected as the first-time OSCIA Soil Champion. Adam has dedicated his career to soil conservation, currently as Soil Management Specialist, Field Crops with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and the Ministry of Rural Affairs.

Q: What sparked your interest in soil science/soil conservation? A: There was not one particular moment but a series of steps that built my interest. My first step toward an interest in soils came when I was at the University of Guelph taking a course on soil management. It was taught by Dr. Eric Beauchamp. He had a way of teaching that drew you in and made you want to learn more. His understanding of soil management combined with well thought out labs greatly increased my interest in soils. The second step was the Crop Science field trip in my last year at Guelph. During the trip I saw a number of soil conservation measures being implemented and wrote the trip paper on soil conservation. The final step was being hired as a soil conservation advisor by the then Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The hands-on learning about soils and soil conservation was great. We were on the leading edge of technology working with farmers to protect the soil from erosion.

Q: How do you think people perceive soil erosion/soil degradation?

http://www.ontariosoilcrop.org

A: There are a significant number of farmers who are very concerned about soil erosion/ soil degradation. They have taken action on their farms to preserve their soil but they drive around the country side and see soil washing or blowing off fields and fields being excessively tilled and wonder how someone can treat their soil like that. And then there are a significant number of people and farmers who don’t really think about it and don’t realize what is happening to the soil.

Q: What are some of the most significant impacts of the (soil erosion/soil degradation) process? A: The most significant impact of soil erosion is the loss of the most productive soil from a field. The topsoil or the A horizon is rich in nutrients, usually high in organic matter, has the best soil structure and the most pore space of the soil profile. The gradual removal of this layer by wind, water and tillage takes away productive capacity and can reduce yields by as much as 50% or more. Soil degradation caused by lack of organic matter additions, excessive tillage and poor crop rotations depletes the soil of organic matter, the most important part of the soil. As organic matter is depleted aggregate stability is reduced making soils more prone to erosion and soil compaction. Reduced organic matter levels reduce the soil’s ability to cycle nutrients and to hold on to soil moisture. Soil structure gradually lost, reducing water movement through the soil and air movement in the soil.

Q: What are some of the key opportunities to be gained through the adoption of soil conservation practices? A: Soil conservation pays big dividends! Reduced or no-till not only saves soil but it saves fuel, labour and can reduce equipment costs improving the bottom line. Using soil conservation practices to improve soil health results in higher yields and improved nutrient cycling reducing fertilizer costs. It also results in a more resilient soil which is very important with the weather extremes we are experiencing now. Thus, yields are higher in the adverse weather years. There is a push to achieve 300 bu/ac corn and 100 bu/ac soybean yields and this is not achievable without good soil health.

Grassroots Innovation Since 1939


business

The right partner In today’s farming, partnerships make more sense than ever… as long as you know how to find the right partner By Amy Petherick

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artnerships and agriculture are so closely entwined that even the smallest children know from singing about the farmer in the dell that the farmer’s first job is “to take a wife.” If only farm partnerships were so easy. With the farm community shrinking so fast, and now accounting for a mere 1.5 per cent of all Canadians according to the 2011 Census of Agriculture, the odds are stacking up against your bumping into your ideal future business partner anywhere in your neighbourhood or even in the ordinary run of life. Actually, it’s even harder than that because for the first time ever in this country, there are more farmers aged 55 and over than any other age group. Since older farmers may be less interested in building new partnerships, the available pool is even smaller than our already meagre numbers suggest. Not to be too sexist, but this may

mean the equivalent of a wave of “city girls” is about to enter into the industry, providing the extra operational vigour that is being chased by the farmers who are looking for new partnerships. Or, it might inspire more creative solutions. One question Grant Robinson, a business transition specialist with BDO Canada in Guelph, Ont., has been known to ask first is: “Do you even really need a partner?” “Don’t just bring someone on because you want their money,” Robinson warns, although he suspects this strategy is still popular enough. Instead, with a bit of a play on words, he encourages partnership seekers to weigh their decisions according to three different types of capital. “The capital you’re trying to deal with in a partnership is social, intellectual and physical capital, and you have to try to bring all those things together,” Robinson says.

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Robinson says physical capital can be thought of as asset which you manage in a transactional way. For these, he says, you’ll have a partnership agreement that outlines how things of monetary value will be handled jointly. Intellectual capital, however, is about the knowledge of the business and how you plan to run the place, including who makes decisions about what. This is an especially important consideration in inter-generational partnerships. Finally, Robinson says, social capital is where the personal interactions and even a kind of corporate culture come in. Robinson sums it up succinctly: “If you don’t like an individual on a social level, if you don’t like to socialize together, if you’re not connected in the community together, that’s pretty good evidence that you shouldn’t be business partners.” Jolene Brown, a family business consultant who covers North America from her base in West Branch, Iowa, talks

ness, whatever it is. The second thing is if partners want to see each other succeed as much as they want to succeed themselves, and that they work to help one another in this way. The third and final component she looks for is a willingness to work through conflict and problems. “Don’t invest in joint assets until you really know you can be good partners,” Brown warns. “Make sure you have the right mix of experience, education, personality and character.” She strongly believes in a year’s probationary agreement before locking into a formal structure with family or non-family members. “When you’re talking partnerships, in all the many structures,” Brown says, “it’s important you discuss termination early, so that if you feel ‘we’re not a good fit,’ pending certain notice, there’s no hard feelings, ‘we can still be family or friends,’ but not working together.” Brown believes there are a number of

“A friendship founded on business is better than a  business founded on friendship.” — John D. Rockefeller about social capital as a critical element in forming a good business partnership. But she’s more apt to call it goodwill. “If you have goodwill, you will have a heart-felt desire to work together toward the common goals of the business, help each other succeed, and work though challenges to get along,” Brown says. Part of your commitment to the partnership, Brown advises, is to get things clarified and in writing, such as a communications contract, a code of conduct, a buy-sell agreement and even a conflict management plan. “When goodwill is gone, it is really tough,” Brown says. “That, more than anything in my opinion, breaks up partnerships.” Whether farmers choose to partner with a spouse, family, or some external friend, she says goodwill must be evident not just when everyone is happy or when prices are high, but also when people are tired and conflict emerges in the partnership. Brown says goodwill is one of the first things she goes looking for when she takes on new clients, and she measures it based on three characteristics. The first, she says, is a willingness to work towards that defined common goal of the busiApril 2014

other elements that make a good partnership work. First and foremost, she says, common business goals need to be defined. She even likes to see them outlined in a one-page overview that includes clear job descriptions and expressed standards for responsibilities. Brown also feels every farm partnership needs a leader who understands the “people business” aspect of farming, not just production. Other important elements are a defined communication process that centres around purposeful meetings, conflict management protocols, and compensation that befits worthy partners doing worthy work. Brown also cautions that every partnership agreement needs a defined exit strategy for one or both partners. Brown tells me that if you’re thinking about business partners being married partners, it’s important to remember that, “If you want to honour the marriage, and the family, you’d better do the business right. If not,” she warns, “at the end of the day you may have neither family nor business.” It’s advice that Dan Ohler, an inde-

pendent relationship and communication specialist from Sangudo, Alta., is quick to echo. Having been there himself, farming with his wife Carol and his parents once upon a time, he personally understands how miserable life can get when partnerships go bad. “When we left the farm, we were so close to going our separate ways,” Ohler says. “People need to know they can’t afford not to work on their relationship.” But far more commonly, he says couples wait until things have gone sour. Ohler says most people struggling with their farm marriage confess to him that they’re thinking about their problems anywhere from 50 to 90 per cent of the time. Not only does this mean a serious loss of productivity, but it can be downright dangerous, considering all the hazards of farm work. If you’re tempted to consider divorce, be forewarned, Ohler says. “There can be a huge financial cost, expecially if it means selling off farm assets. And it can get really ugly.” Start by recognizing what your happiness is actually worth, Ohler says. “People are busy, absolutely, but there’s always time to do the important things,” Ohler says. “If people can realize the importance of the relationship with their spouse, especially in a farm operation, then the farm can be incredibly productive and effective.” Ohler says a simple strategy is thinking about your partner as much as or more than you think about yourself. Looking for ways to improve is usually not rocket science but something almost everyone can stand to do more often. Ideas can include reading a book together about relationships, taking some kind of course, or starting on some coaching, Ohler says. Even a weekend away from the farm, just to be together to work on their relationship, away from regular routines, can work wonders. “The tough thing is having the courage to really sit down and have a structured meeting, with an agenda, and break into pieces the business piece and the family piece,” Ohler says. Strong farm partnerships ensure fulfillment and prosperity, Robinson and Brown agree. So whether you’re “taking a wife” or a partner of any other kind, make sure it’s the right one, for the business’s sake as well as your own. CG country-guide.ca 33


A Business Strategy for Forages and Grasslands As part of an export-focused agri-food sector, Canadian producers understand that viability and growth depend on supplying competitively priced products into international markets. Investments help improve competitiveness when they allow producers to adapt to emerging and evolving opportunities, respond to the development of new markets and enhance business and entrepreneurial capacity. The challenge for the forage and grasslands sector will be in deciding where to invest its resources, how much to invest and why any one specific investment has merit over another. While this undertaking may seem daunting, experienced agricultural entrepreneurs simplify complex assignments by breaking them down into a series of simpler tasks. The Canadian Forage & Grassland Association (CFGA) will lead this process through the development of a Canadawide business strategy. Business strategies take many forms. CFGA has chosen a basic four-step process: • Identify an overarching goal • Conduct an environmental scan to examine market trends • Prepare a SWOT audit to examine options for strategic objectives • Develop, list and rank potential strategies overarching goal CFGA’s overarching goal is its vision: to become a global leader in all aspects of forage production and utilization, promoting the environmental benefits

Canadian Forage & grassland assoCiation www.canadianfga.ca Ph: 780-430-3020

and incorporating research results into a successful, sustainable forage and grassland industry. environmental scan Forage and grassland markets will evolve over time. The nature of these future markets will affect the types of investments that should be made today. An environmental scan helps define future markets by examining current trends in five areas: Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic and Political. Trends show how markets are evolving and point towards opportunities that may be worth exploiting in the future. For example, in developing nations with highincome growth rates, per capita calorie consumption is increasing – and there has been a shift to the consumption of highvalue proteins from livestock products. This may seem to be an economic issue, but there are other considerations. Will technological enhancements in developing countries have any bearing on their ability to supply animal protein? To what extent could Canada meet these needs by producing animal protein in a cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally sound manner? Will these markets be open to Canadian exporters? Addressing these issues helps identify opportunities to be exploited and threats to which forage and grassland stakeholders must respond. sWot analysis A SWOT analysis, addresses Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and

Threats confronting stakeholders. One opportunity is increasing demand for animal protein in developing countries with high income growth. A potential threat is that some markets may not be open to Canadian exports. Canada’s forage resources, which account for 33.8 million acres or 39 per cent of the land devoted to crop production, are a strength. A weakness is the significant decline in investment and expertise dedicated to research and extension education/technology transfer in forage production and grazing management. strategy development Strategies develop from the SWOT analysis if strengths and opportunities outweigh weaknesses and threats. A forage and grassland strategy will be effective if it can take advantage of strengths, mitigate the effects of weaknesses, exploit opportunities and defend against threats. CFGA’s business strategy development is in its infancy. The onus, however, is on all Canadian forage and grassland stakeholders to develop and rank an array of strategies that are designed to maintain and increase competitive capacity in global markets. At this point, we are seeking input from our provincial members, our supporters and our partners to help develop and refine a business strategy that will guide our investments in forages and grasslands over the next five to 10 years.


learn more about how peter farms smart at nhsmart.com/peterJ Š2014 CNH Industrial America LLC. All rights reserved. New Holland is a trademark registered in the United States and many other countries, owned by or licensed to CNH Industrial N.V., its subsidiaries or affiliates. NHM04148906L


business

Break an egg Alberta’s new EPIC plant finds extraordinary value in what used to be a very ordinary farm commodity By Yvonne Dick

f you’re looking to break some eggs, set your GPS to the city of Lethbridge. Egg breaking is becoming southwest Alberta’s newest way to make money. There, in a refurbished dairy plant, you will find a new business called EPIC, which stands for Egg Processing Innovations Cooperative. It’s owned by the United Egg Farmers of Alberta, and got a big send-off into the business world last June with the help of grants and support from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). Inside Alberta, ALMA needs little introduction. For readers outside the province, it’s good to know that ALMA’s mandate is to encourage new farm initiatives with grants, information and investment “to help Alberta’s livestock and meat industry become more profitable, sustainable and internationally respected.” In Lethbridge, the goal for the new EPIC plant has been differentiated from the outset for the province’s former but more modest egg-breaking endeavour at Airdrie, just north of Calgary. It’s also differentiated from the huge egg-breaking plants in the U.S. that cast a shadow over North America’s egg markets. Between the two extremes, EPIC believes it has found a value niche. The project in Airdrie was a 50/50 ownership between the egg farmers’ co-operative and Vanderpol’s Eggs. (The Vanderpol’s main branch is in Abbotsford, B.C.)

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During its evolution, Vanderpol’s Eggs at Airdrie struck an agreement with biotech company IRI Separation Technologies. IRI’s goal was to focus on the extraction of antibodies from eggs for use in things such as natural food products and pharmaceuticals, since the antibodies that can be extracted from eggs are similar to the beneficial human kind. At Airdrie, then, Vanderpol’s would handle the sale and distribution of liquid egg products, leaving IRI to focus on the separation technologies. IRI struggled, however. By 2009 it was looking to restructure and merge with other companies, but its last public mention was in 2011, about the same time the Airdrie plant ceased operations. In Lethbridge, meanwhile, Bruce Forbes was given the CEO’s job to get the EPIC plant off the ground. “I was hired to write the business plan and oversee things,” says Forbes, “We are very happy with how smoothly we were able to get things into place.” With equipment from the former egg-breaking plant in Airdrie, it took about a year to finalize the deal and begin operations. Raw, shelled eggs are used for many different products. To put it simply, the egg shell is used for calcium, while what’s inside the egg is used for convenience products such as liquid eggs, as well as a pet food additive for Champion Pets. However, the full lineup of end uses via EPIC’s processing methods is far longer.

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Making eggs At the Lethbridge plant, a machine breaks some 18,750 dozen eggs a day and then separates yolks from whites, eggs from shells, and shells from membranes. Liquid egg is pasteurized and can be used in food products such as ice cream, mayonnaise and noodles, as well as in healthier “egg white only” liquid egg products. There are myriad other food markets as well, including markets for pasteurized liquid whole egg, pasteurized albumin (including pharmacology use among others), and pasteurized yolks. A range of cooking and related products are blended for food-service companies as well, and users of egg shell membranes and egg shell calcium are other possible markets. On the non-food side, nutraceutical companies, researchers and other clientele are increasingly looking at new uses for the egg byproducts, yolks and whites. Egg membrane is important, as is the calcium inside the shell. Some future product partners could be companies making cinder-blocks, nutraceuticals (calcium based and joint health supplements) and more. At peak capacity, EPIC can process 2.1 million eggs per week, producing 90 tonnes of liquid egg products. Egg supply, however, is lagging behind the plant’s needs. This slowed down the first half year of operations more than EPIC would like. “Things are starting to pick up now, but there is an overall egg shortage in the province so we are actively looking for bigger operations to get more eggs,” says Forbes. The reason for needing larger-producing farms is that eggs must be from cage-free chickens, and it isn’t always the most fuel- or product-efficient to be sourcing from numerous smaller farms. Eggs must also be graded before delivery to EPIC. “Our facilities are great. Demand for our products currently exceeds supplies, however,” Forbes says. “We are taking all the eggs we can get our hands on. Going farm to farm, we are talking to farmers about switching to cage-free poultry farming and building our supply chain.” Previously, non-table egg breaking and processing was shipped out to British Columbia and Saskatchewan plants. Starting in 2008, British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario launched cagefree poultry campaigns. A 2012 ban in the EU of caged birds has motivated many producers to make the switch. EU poultry may reside only in enriched cages with perches, nest boxes and free-range setups. According to an Egg Farmers of Alberta’s press release, 85 per cent of Alberta eggs came from hens in conventional cages in 2012. This number was down from 98 per cent in 2006.


april 2014

Gordon Cove, CEO at ALMA, predicts expanding value for the egg sector. He calls egg breaking “a whole new area” and in media reports has said the Lethbridge plant “has the potential to be a catalyst for the entire egg industry.” Currently at 14 employees, EPIC originally forecast revenues of $2.5 million in the first year. Whether that will be met in the second half remains to be seen. However, the plant has room for future expansion and, at an originally predicted 22-employee capacity, might inject a total gross annual output of $5 million to the Alberta economy. The Lethbridge location also boasts the advantage of being near to many food-product companies and processors. EPIC offers an “engineered” egg solution according to customer specifications. Enriched feed eggs, fertilized eggs and a range of unique traits can be important to nutraceutical manufacturers. In some product and research categories, customers may also be seeking such things as inseminated and incubated eggs.

“We are taking all the eggs we can get our hands on,” says Forbes. That’s 2.1 million a week “Because we are producer-owned and we do work closely with our suppliers, we can ensure that our end-customer gets the exact product they are looking for,” says Forbes. Currently, Alberta is the largest net importer of interprovincial egg products in Canada. Through the EPIC plant, Alberta’s egg industry hopes to boost its value-added capacity in egg processing. At the grand opening, Verlyn Olson, Alberta agriculture minister, said, “We’re very proud to have the EPIC plant in Alberta. The work done here benefits our egg producers and the local economy by creating jobs and a steady source of demand for eggs. More importantly, it benefits all Albertans by giving consumers additional valueadded options for egg products.” In practical terms at EPIC, things will be running closer to original plans when egg supply meets demand. EPIC wants egg producers with strong yields to take note, saying this is a chance to really get their sales figures cracking. It’s also a chance to crack open new markets, Forbes says. “Nothing of the egg will be unused. We will be processing the entire product.” CG

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HR

Better ways to reach your goals By Pierrette Desrosiers, M.Ps., work psychologist, speaker, and business coach t happens to all of us. We set goals but, in the end, are not able to reach them. Then how do we increase our chances of reaching our goals? For decades, pop psychology gurus have encouraged people to visualize success, and then, by magic, it will happen! “Don’t ask yourself any questions. You just have to believe, and the cosmic universe will bring it to you.” That’s the “secret.” However, it seems a long way from reality, at least on the farm. Here by contrast are some real questions that can help you assess the quality of your goals, and your probability of achieving them. Ask yourself about the importance of your goal. How important is it to you, on a scale of one to 10. If you rate it at six or below, you may give up when you encounter the first obstacle. Also ask yourself about your sense of personal effectiveness. In other words, on a scale of one to 10, what degree of confidence do you have that you will succeed in reaching your goal, assuming you put in all the effort needed and have all the resources required? Then ask if your goal is a “SMART” goal?  Specific Goals are often too vague. For example: “I am going to work less.” On the other hand, specific goals emphasize details such as, “I am going to take time for myself. I will play sports four times a week.”  Measurable Sometimes goals are imprecise. For example: “I want to cut my spending.” Measurable goals provide concrete information, such as, “I will decrease my food costs by three per cent.” By establishing a number, it is easier to verify whether or not the goal has been reached.  Achievable Frequently, success depends in part on establishing practical, achievable goals. For example, an unachievable goal might be, “I will grow my net income by 50 per cent next year.” Unachievable goals discourage us and undermine our self-esteem.  Realistic To be realistic, a goal must take into account both your strengths and your weaknesses, as well as your work environment. Be aware too that if you set the bar too high, you will be discouraged. If too low, it won’t trigger the adrenaline that it is required.  Timely Deadlines encourage action. In addition, setting a specific schedule makes it possible to monitor progress on the work. For example: “I want to renovate the old shed.” The question to ask here is, “By the end of this December or in about two years?” 38 country-guide.ca

Such SMART strategies are useful, but over the years, I have realized they aren’t enough on their own. Here are the pieces that are missing. Make CLEAR goals.  Control Do you control the results of your goal? When a client tells me, “My goal is to pass on the farm to my child,” I ask them, “What part of this do you control?” In this case, you can create conditions to facilitate the succession. After that, however, you have to let it go.  Legal Some people reach their goal but don’t consider its legal ramifications. This can end in disaster.  Environmental and ethical Goals are achieved within a system. When we pursue a goal, it affects our life and those around us. What are the consequences of your goals: • On your physical and psychological health? • On your spouse, children, employees, and associates? • On your environment and society in its widest sense? • On your ethics?  Appropriate alignment Are your goals aligned with your values, mission, and vision?  Registration How do you register or track progress toward your goal? Finally, to succeed, you must plan your resources. What resources will you need (money, time, energy, skill development, contacts, equipment, etc.)? Accomplishing goals requires various resources. Make as realistic and specific a list as possible. What are the obstacles you might face? How can you confront them and what steps can you take to overcome them? What are the self-limiting beliefs that you hold that could prevent you from reaching your goal? For example, “I am unable to learn information,” “I am too shy to meet people,” “They will not accept me.” Be prepared to challenge these beliefs in order to reach your goal. The more you are able to respond precisely and positively to these questions, the more likely you are to succeed. And remember: Where goals are concerned, there are two possible sources of misfortune: failing to reach them, and sometimes… succeeding. 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. April 2014


CHRISTIAN FARMERS FEDERATION OF ONTARIO 7660 Mill Rd. RR4, Guelph ON N1H 6J1 Voice: (519) 837-1620 Fax: (519) 824-1835 Email: cffomail@christianfarmers.org Web site: www.christianfarmers.org

The CFFO cares about the long-term sustainability of the farming sector

T

he CFFO cares about the long-term sustainability of the farming sector. We do this by focusing on the long-term policy issues that will provide opportunities for farmers looking to expand their operations and take on new ventures. • For example, CFFO is working on programming recommendations around water use in agriculture that will provide productivity increases while reducing environmental risks. • We do this by focusing on ensuring that there is stability

for existing operations that are growing their core businesses. • For example, the CFFO is a strong proponent of land use policies that protect our best farmland for agriculture in the long-term. The CFFO: Long-term Thinking for Today’s Issues

A general farm organization that is rooted in faith and guided by values

“Don’t give up, look up” The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario is one of two accredited General Farm Organizations in Ontario. The organization is focused on the long-term issues facing the sector, and is supported by 4000 farmers in the province. Learn more about us at www.christianfarmers.org

• 22 District Associations Across Ontario • Supporting our members since 1954 • A Professional Organization of Entrepreneurial Farming Families

www.christianfarmers.org

A professional organization of entrepreneurial farming families


business

Co-op succession? The lack of succession planning helps explain why so many co-ops are being sold, and why even more are in danger By Gerald Pilger

he only thing farmers seem to do better than growing vast amounts of grain seems to be selling off ownership of the industry, especially in the West. In February of this year, Parrish and Heimbecker purchased the 112,000-tonne farmer-owned Weyburn Inland Terminal. Just a month earlier, Viterra bought the 42,000-tonne Lethbridge Inland Terminal that had been co-operatively built in 2007 by more than 150 southern Alberta farm operations. Of course, we also remember the sales of the farmerbuilt Prairie pools and United Grain Growers. People argue why these and other farmer-owned grain-handling co-operatives were sold. Reasons include being too small to compete in the global markets, overregulation of the industry, not enough regulation, the existence of the CWB, the loss of the CWB, mismanagement, the inability of co-ops to raise funds for upgrades and expansion, and ideology and politics. However, there is one reason rarely brought forward which farmers need to think about, not only to account for what happened to these co-operatives, but to prevent the same sorts of buyouts from happening to thousands more member-owned businesses, ranging from the few remaining independent grain facilities to farm supply co-operatives, rural gas and electrical co-ops, and credit unions. That factor is a lack of business succession planning. Why are we not planning for the succession of our cooperative businesses to the next farming generation? One of the main reasons co-ops disappear may simply be an increasing lack of knowledge of what co-operatives are. Many farmers no longer differentiate between the corporate and co-operative business models. Failure to educate and update the co-operative directors, staff, prospective co-op members, and even current membership on the advantages and benefits of being a co-operative may be the leading cause of co-operatives transitioning to a corporate or private ownership structure. Dr. Greg McKee, ag economist at North Dakota State University, argues that each co-op must have an ongoing education program. “Co-ops must communicate with the membership to prevent misunderstandings,” McKee says. “They need to educate the core membership on the role of a co-op. They need to provide leadership training to the board.” This is not to say that co-ops can ignore supply40 country-guide.ca

and-demand forces, and McKee is quick to agree that co-ops must be competitive to remain in business. To retain their membership, he says, co-ops must compete with all other businesses in both price and quality of products and service.

Leadership In their working paper “Succession Planning in Nonprofit Organizations” published by the Centre for Nonprofit Strategy and Management at Baruch College, New York, researchers identified an “impending leadership deficit” for co-operatives and non-profit organizations. The authors found by survey that only 18 per cent of co-operatives have developed a formal plan for CEO transition. The paper’s summary stated: “Both types of organizations see succession planning as important, yet are doing relatively little about it.” Quality leadership is as important to success in a co-operative as it is in any other business. According to McKee, a board must “define the characteristics desired for the CEO, aligning CEO succession with business goals and ensuring that a pool of qualified candidates exists. Selection of the CEO is the most important activity of the board of directors. Planning for CEO succession is a board responsibility and the board should not wait for the CEO to raise the issue.” McKee also says succession planning needs to go beyond simply setting a procedure for replacing the CEO, and also must identify the skills and traits needed in a CEO as well as encourage the development of these skills in management personnel within the co-op. McKee feels the same attention must be paid to selection of directors of the co-op. The current board needs to seek out members who have the attributes desired in a director. They must actively recruit and educate potential directors. McKee even recommends that co-ops consider having a non-member director on the board if that person brings needed skills to the board table. The Ontario Co-operative Association suggests adding a youth directorship to the board of a co-operative. This provides a learning opportunity not only for a young person but for the board as well. (A check is needed of provincial legislation to determine how old a person must be to be a director — usually 18.) It is important that boards which bring in a youth director ensure the youth director has all the rights and responsibilities of any directorship, April 2014


business including voting privileges. A youth director should not to be a token position. However, the association says the term of appointment may differ, such as a one-year term for a youth director instead of the usual three- or four-year term for a director.

Strategies While education and leadership are important, co-ops must also ensure they continue to meet the needs of all members. This was likely a lot easier in the past when there was likely less differentiation in farm size and in the business needs of members. The more diverse the membership, the more likely it is that the co-op will run into problems. As well, the larger the membership, the greater the risk of the co-op failing. McKee, however, suggests a number of strategies to address this issue of member satisfaction. First, clearly identify the goals of the members and of the co-op. Continually communicate these goals to the membership, staff and directors. Second, identify where the business is losing membership and address the problem. Third, stop trying for 100 per cent consensus. It is impossible to be everything to everyone all the time. Focus on the core business of the co-op. Fourth, consider offering customized or specialized services for a subset of the membership. While this may appear to go against the basic equality principle of coops, McKee suggests co-ops could offer a new class of membership, or a preferred membership for the subset of membership who is looking for additional service over and above the basic service available to all members. McKee is also emphatic on another point: “A co-op cannot simply continue with business as usual. A co-op will not succeed if it will not change with the times.” An example of change may be using social media like Facebook, Twitter, or even a blog to communicate with the membership and prospective members (especially young people) about the co-operative and how it differs from other businesses. (The addition of a youth director may bring valuable information about social media to the board table.) Dr. Murray Fulton, director of the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan, identifies some other issues that co-ops have experienced which likely have contributed to the transition of some rural co-ops. He also identifies the succession strategies that could have been used to prevent these issues leading to loss of membership control. According to Fulton, some co-ops fail to allocate sufficient funds to cover retained earnings which are payable when members leave a co-op. He says a co-op must set aside the funds needed to cover this cost. He also suggests a co-op may even want to consider a regular, scheduled payout of retained earnings for all members instead of waiting until members leave. On the other hand, Fulton points out some co-operatives have not allocated enough of the profits generated by the co-op for the growth of the co-operative. While high patronage rebates benefit current membership through lower costs and services, it can be a April 2014

short-sighted strategy. Instead of returning all profits as patronage dividends, Fulton wonders if perhaps some of these funds could remain as permanent capital of the co-op to be used for growth and expansion of services.

New-generation co-operatives Fulton and McKee warn that new-generation coops present an even greater challenge for long-term continuation under the co-operative business model. While new-generation co-ops seemed the perfect way for a group to fund a new venture to provide a needed service in a community, this model typically requires a very significant upfront investment by the membership. Even after a relatively short time, a successful new-generation co-op (NGC) can have increased so much in value that potential new members simply cannot afford to buy out members seeking to leave the co-op. As a result, new-generation co-ops are even more likely to transition away from membership control than a traditional co-op.

New-generation co-ops are even more vulnerable. Many get sold, although there’s no reason they should have to If you are a member of a new-generation co-op it is even more critical you have a strategy in place to transfer ownership to new members if you want the business to remain under membership control. This is also the opinion of USDA economist Bruce Reynolds. In his publication, Ownership Succession Crucial for Rural America, Reynolds writes: “The challenge is that most beginning farmers, especially those with farm debt, cannot afford to buy appreciated shares in a new-generation co-op. “In recent years, many value-added enterprises have been functioning as NGCs but have been formed as Limited Liability Companies (LLCs),” Reynolds continues. “In this way farmers have a larger market for selling shares, one that includes non-farmer investors, but ownership and control of these businesses will become increasingly unavailable to beginning farmers, or to any farmers, for that matter. “Thus the new-generation co-operative may not become the co-operative for the next generation of farmers.” The co-operative business model is highly successful. The 2012 House of Commons Committee report “Status of Co-operatives in Canada” points out one in three private-sector businesses fails whereas only one in five co-operative enterprises fails. However, their downfall is business succession planning. If you are a member of a co-op, and want to see the business continue to be member controlled, succession planning is an issue your membership and directors must tackle immediately. CG country-guide.ca 41


business

The power to help Africa Where Canada once based its aid programs on high-capacity, Canadian-built machinery, new industry-led plans work better By Scott Garvey, CG Machinery Editor

Winnipeg-built Versatile tractors and Brantford-built MF combines were supplied to Tanzania as part of the development of a large-scale wheat farm created by CIDA. Photography: Ray Bianchi

n the February 4 edition of Country Guide, you read about Canada’s latest $13 million in agricultural development aid being invested in Ukraine to create a new generation of farm cooperatives under the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). While the Ukraine project represents a significant financial investment, CIDA has funded much larger agricultural development programs in the past, most notably one in Africa in which Canadian-built machinery played a key role. In a long-term project in Tanzania that ran from 1968 to 1993, CIDA invested a total of nearly $78 million to create a state-of-the-art wheat farm. It was based on the western Canadian model of broad-acre production using large-scale machinery, and the plan was to hand over management of the farm within a few years of it becoming fully operational. In 1987, during phase two of the project, a shipment of Massey-Ferguson 852 combines and Versatile four-wheel drive tractors arrived on the CIDA farm, which was set up and staffed by experienced Canadian prairie farmers. “A block of land, about 3,000 acres, actually very close to Mount Kilimanjaro, was made available west of Arusha, which is the second-biggest town in Tanzania,” recalls Dave Nicolle, an engineer who worked for Massey-Ferguson’s combine assembly

42 country-guide.ca

plant when it was located in Brantford, Ont. He was one of a team of engineers sent to the farm by Massey-Ferguson to assemble the combines and see they were operating properly. “Everything else came from Canada,” Nicolle says. “The pre-fab houses, even the furniture came from Ikea (through Canada). There was no hydro so they brought 110-volt generators. But the rest of the country was 220 (volt). So it was uniquely Canadian.” “There were a lot of Versatile four-wheel drive tractors from Winnipeg. Because western Canadian farmers were used to pull-type combines, they asked for pull types, which we made. They were 852s. At least half a dozen were sent from the (Brantford) factory.” “There were brutal roads getting from Arusha out to the farm,” Nicolle remembers. “Something that would take an hour in North America took four hours. The only vehicles that would stand up in that part of the world were (Toyota) Land Cruisers. I remember they had about 34 of them that the Canadian government had bought to provide transportation on the ground.” On the farm, CIDA had built top-quality facilities to keep machines operating, along with an ample supply of spare parts. “They had a beautiful workshop complex,” says Nicolle. “The spare parts in it April 2014


business were unbelievable. They even had spare engines for the Versatile tractors.” But despite the massive investment and the proven production capacity of the farm while under the management of CIDA staff, it ended in failure after it was turned over to locals. In response to a C ountry G uide request for information, the federal government described the result this way: “An important lesson learned from this project was that Tanzania’s dependence on foreign machinery and expertise, coupled with the liberalization of the Tanzanian economy, meant that the cost of the wheat production and the approach of tying development assistance to the use of foreign equipment was not sustainable.” But a dependence on foreign-built machinery wasn’t — and still isn’t — unique to Tanzania. Other countries face the same situation and still succeed. And the farm’s output had been significant. “(It) produced import savings of $140 million over the lifespan of the project,” noted the government response. “Significantly, during the drought in 1992, Tanzania was the only Southern African state that did not require food aid.” Although the government also fingers dependence on foreign expertise as a factor contributing to the farm’s demise, it acknowledges the farm contributed significantly to local skills, “…training more than 120 Tanzanians in all aspects of wheat production, and 150 mechanics

An impressive and well-stocked maintenance facility was built in order to keep the Canadian-built equipment operating.

gained skills and experience at the maintenance workshop.” So, clearly, enough expertise was created within the country to continue the farm. Those familiar with conditions in Africa aren’t surprised the CIDA project failed after Canadian managers left. They suggest the failure was inevitable because of widespread poverty, cultural differences and political corruption. Those trying to mechanize the region now have devised an approach they think takes those factors into account. Martin Richenhagen, chairman and CEO of AGCO, has been one of the driving forces working to expand agriculture

In total, about 1,700 locals were employed at the CIDA farm during the time it was operated by Canadian managers. April 2014

on that continent, and he is well versed in the challenges. “When an African farmer gets a tractor through an aid program, and they get it for free, those are very poor guys,” Richenhagen said during a 2012 interview in Jackson, Minnesota. “So they think about it. Well, what is better? Is it better to start to work hard or is there a better way to make money? So the first thing is they sell the seat. They strip the tractor down to the parts. After about a year the tractor is completely gone and you find the engine on a power generator or a water pump or something like that. So this brought us to the problem, how do we do better?” Successful development under those conditions requires a different tack than the CIDA program took. The overall approach to increasing mechanization there now is very different. And global brands including AGCO are involved in the effort. It goes without saying that aside from the moral obligation to help eliminate hunger, there is enormous potential for future profits if they succeed. “We try to do two things,” says Richenhagen. “One is we invest in, we call them, demonstration farms — farms which are managed by Westerners where we can train customers and dealers in mechanized farming. It’s different than what we’re used to here. It’s like our farming used to be in the ’50s or ’60s. We do that with the help of the seed and chemical guys as well. “The second thing is we also use those demo farms as machine stations. We don’t sell a tractor anymore, but we rent it to a Continued on page 44 country-guide.ca 43


BUSINESS

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Continued from page 43 farmer for a day. He pays for a day. He has to bring it back, clean it, check the oil. He has to do the little service. So we make sure the tractor stays together. We force them into a discipline.” But a major cultural impediment to development revolves around the fact that women are often the ones expected to provide labour, not men. “You need to understand the African culture,” Richenhagen explains. “In most of Africa, work is only for women.” However, they sometimes can’t reap the benefits of their own efforts. That factor wasn’t lost on delegates at the 2013 AGCO Africa Summit, Richenhagen’s annual event held in Berlin in January that brings leaders together to strategize on how to stimulate agricultural development. “…the rule of law is important as well, in order (for women) to be able to acquire land titles,” suggested Gudrun Kopp, parliamentary state secretary to the federal minister of economic cooperation and development in Germany, during her address at the summit. “…they are the ones driving development forward. It is thus important that they are able to inherit a piece of land.” It’s something many women still can’t do. Now into its third year, the annual Africa Summit has helped blend and co-ordinate public and private sector initiatives. Despite that, the challenges ahead on that continent are formidable. “This is what we’re doing, and we have a good plan,” says Richenhagen. As CIDA’s earlier effort showed, anything less than that just isn’t enough. CG

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APRIL 2014


production

Plotting a course for 2014 This summer’s demo trials will focus on how to mesh traits and crop protection with precision ag technology for even better results By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor fter a long winter and a slow start to spring, everyone is itching to hit the field, and the major seed and chemical companies are no exception. This year, though, they’re moving away from just looking at new active ingredients or new genetics in their R&D plots. Now, they’re also starting to show what their products can do with the latest precision agriculture technology. Their research teams are recognizing that technology is transforming the way their products are going to be used. Farmers are farming differently, and they get better at using precision ag technology to its full potential. The companies want to show how their products operate in this new environment. With that in mind, Country Guide offers this snapshot of what some of the major companies are planning this season for their plots, tours and research studies.

DuPont Pioneer Hi-Bred Using technology to generate more information — and therefore better-informed decisions — is a goal for DuPont Pioneer Hi-Bred and its PKP (Product Knowledge Plots) program for 2014. Paul Hermans, area agronomist for eastern Ontario, says the objective is to learn more about products under different management systems, such as in plots where he’ll be planting four hybrids at four populations across different soil types. “The project will use yield monitors and GPS to collect the data for decisions on product placement this fall,” says Hermans. The more data points, the better the information gleaned from the plots, Hermans adds. “It’s all aimed at taking precision agriculture to the ‘decision’ agriculture stage.” Hermans is also overseeing corn silage trials in his area, with a special focus on populations. Plots will begin with a grower’s normal population, and then compare that to populations of 4,000 to 5,000 more plants per acre to see if there’s an economic advantage to the higher rates. Also on Hermans’s R&D list are boosting corn nitrogen rates by 50 pounds an acre, plus benchmarking work on soybean cyst nematodes in the region. April 2014

Pride Seeds Another company looking to add value to existing technology is Pride Seeds. The company wants to take trait technology to the next level, building on the concept of “prescription agriculture.” They’ll do that with sites and plots across the province. “It’s taking advantage of the genetics and the traits,” says Stephen Denys, vice-president of sales and marketing for Pride Seeds. “What we’re trying to do then is to better match the genetics to the management area in the field.” “The way we start to select hybrids will evolve,” Denys says. It’s one thing to have plots along a road, but the goal this year will be to determine which hybrids work across an entire field. For instance, a lower-yielding hybrid in a plot may be the best choice in another part of the field because of the soil type or other factors. Continued on page 46

Learning how to do more with the seed, beyond its traits, is becoming another facet of precision agriculture.

country-guide.ca 45


Production Continued from page 45 The process actually starts when the breeder decides what sources to cross, but now it will involve more analysis along the way, says Denys. “It means intensifying the testing at earlier stages so that when you actually watch the hybrid, you can already tell the producer that this is the population, this is the soil type that it should go into.” Pride also plans to help the grower do more with soil testing to define management zones and incorporate that information into a planter or variable-rate fertilizer applicator.

BASF For 2014, BASF will focus on six different plot studies. With cover crops and residual herbicides, BASF is exploring inter-seeding covers such as ryegrass into standing corn around the five-leaf stage while ensuring the cover doesn’t become a weed. In 2013, Quebec growers employed this practice on about 30,000 acres, and according to Rob Miller, technical development manager with BASF, they’re expected to up that to over 50,000 acres this year. “Every year is different, and they’re still experimenting (in Quebec) with which application timing works best, but they’re saying that with the increase in soil health, it improves the soybean yields the following year,” says Miller. “They’re even finding that with a wet fall, it’s easier to harvest and there isn’t the same risk of compaction.” On fungicide timing and foliar fertilizer, BASF is continuing work conducted partly with Dr. David Hooker at the University of Guelph. The idea is to apply foliar fertilizers earlier — around the R 2.5 stage — when pods first develop at the bottom of the plant. Research in the U.S. suggests the best timing there is R 3. “We’re getting more consistent yield results at that earlier timing,” says Miller, adding that Hooker’s research examined numerous varieties across different locations and different maturity groups. “He saw a benefit to going with that earlier application, and that lined up with our data from the last three years.” Weed resistance management, the timing for Priaxor fungicide in soybeans, and the effect of fungicides on cereal straw quality are also on BASF’s research list for 2014, as is work on Eragon as a desiccant in IP soybeans and edible beans.

Bayer CropScience How insecticide applications affect all forms of insects is top of mind for many growers, and it is against this backdrop that Bayer CropScience is highlighting a new foliar and soil-applied insecticide, which it has submitted for registration. Sivanto Prime is a Group 4D insecticide with xylem-mobile activity. Corn is among the many field and horticulture crops in the submission. Included as target pests are aphids, leafhoppers and Colorado potato beetles, along with many others. Note, however, that at press time, Sivanto Prime is not registered for use in Canada. This summer, Bayer CropScience is also hoping to launch a new fungicide formulation, which also has been submitted for registration for soybeans and winter wheat. Stratego Pro provides improved disease control and higher yields than the original formulation. Other benefits include long-lasting residual control, preventative and post-infection activity, a broader disease spectrum and improved white mould protection in soybeans. At press time, Stratego Pro is also not registered for use in Canada. 46 country-guide.ca

Hyland Seeds/Mycogen This summer, Hyland Seeds and Mycogen will be showcasing a new corn trait, particularly in 3000-plus heat-unit areas. Late last November, Powercore was registered in the U.S., providing the latest above-ground insect protection in corn with three different modes of action. “We’re launching the trait in the newest, most elite genetics, which also incorporate the Enlist herbicide trait,” says Bill Webster, marketing manager of Hyland Seeds. “We’ll be talking about the technology itself, and then be able to show a couple of hybrids that have that technology.” Of particular interest with the Powercore technology is that it combines three different Bt proteins which, in essence, provide multiple modes of action to control five of the most serious above-ground insect threats in corn. “Growers will have season-long control of all generations of European corn borer, black cutworm, fall armyworm, Western bean cutworm — which has been making its way into Ontario — and corn earworm,” says Webster. “If you cover those off, you’re really protecting the above-ground portions of the plant. And because it’s using multiple modes of action, we’re sustaining the longevity of the trait.” Canadian approval is expected for the 2015 growing season, but it’s dependent on gaining U.S. trait approval for Enlist, as well as approval for export.

Syngenta The shift from a product-driven to a crop-centric strategy is allowing Syngenta to target the emerging agronomic needs of farmers. The company’s Field Evaluation Trials (FET) and Grow Your Best Crop (GYBC) plots will evaluate technology and also assess agronomic attributes to provide growers with advice regarding which practices produce the best results. In 2014, Syngenta will be showcasing Lumax EZ herbicide, registered for use this year, and the newest addition to the Foundation Acre corn portfolio. A combination of Group 5, 15 and 27 herbicides, Lumax EZ features the same active ingredients found in Primextra II Magnum, Aatrex and Callisto, allowing for a one- or two-pass system. The herbicide controls key weeds with an extended pre-emergent application window. New research indicates that like corn, soybeans have a critical weed-free period (CWFP) and that early weed control is important in attaining high yields. Syngenta is also promoting Boundary LQD herbicide in an emulsifiable concentrate formulation that pours as a liquid for easier handling. It can be applied in a one- or twopass system with premium residual control of annual grasses, eastern black nightshade and redroot pigweed. The company has also submitted for the registration of Vibrance Quattro, a new fungicide-only pre-mix seed treatment, with the hope of having it registered for use in cereals in 2014. A combination of sedaxane, difenoconazole, mefenoxam and fludioxonil, Vibrance Quattra pledges to provide cereal growers with improved control of fusarium head blight (FHB). Its higher rate of sedaxane will also improve control of loose smut in barley as well as with Rhizoctonia. CG April 2014


Spotlight on Crop AdvAnCeS

Crop Advances is an annual report that summarizes applied research projects involving the OMAFRA Field Crop team, in partnership with commodity groups, industry and the OSCIA. www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/resources/cropadvances.htm

Intensive management formula can boost soybean yields By Lilian Schaer

Ontario researchers have found a formula for intensive management that can increase soybean yields by up to seven bushels an acre. Plot trials conducted by Prof. Dave Hooker of the University of Guelph (UG) Ridgetown Campus and field-scale trials led by Horst Bohner, Soybean Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs (OMAF & MRA), helped identify the best treatments and compare long season and adapted soybean varieties. “The results are exciting in terms of consistency. The strategy works to increase yield, there is no question about that,” says Bohner of the field trials carried out in cooperation with growers. “Every trial yielded significantly more than the untreated fields, so it does work.” How was the research conducted? Hooker’s team in Ridgetown evaluated many different treatment combinations on small plots, from which Bohner selected several to replicate in field-scale trials. Hooker says their goal was to see if long season soybeans would respond more to management than standard full season soybean varieties, as well as evaluate the impact of higher seeding rates, foliar fungicide application and increased fertilizer on yields – both individually and in combination. For the in-field component, Bohner established trials at 15 sites across Ontario from 2011-13, where he evaluated both adapted and long season soybean varieties, either untreated or using the “kitchen sink” treatment. This treatment consisted of Cruiser Maxx seed treatment, Hi Coat inoculant, Quilt foliar fungicide, a higher seeding rate (250,000 seeds per acre), 50 pound per acre of nitrogen in the form of ESN and

ammonium sulphate, three gallons per acre of 2-20-18 liquid applied in furrow, six litres of Slow Release Nitrogen and two litres of 3-16-16 foliar fertilizer. The long season soybeans used were a variety that was 200 Crop Heat Units longer than recommended for the given geographic area. What has the project found? In the UG plot trials, Hooker found four to five acres per bushel of yield difference between the long and standard full season varieties. Some varieties were more responsive to the intensive management treatments with yield increases up to nine bushels per acre, whereas others showed no response. “We’re still working on data to determine why and get some predictability on the different responsiveness of varieties,” Hooker says. “You can save the input costs on the intensive management if you know you are using a non-responsive variety.” Individually, none of the treatments impacted yield, but when used in combination, the average yield increase was 4.6 bushels per acre, although Hooker cautions this does not offset the added input costs. Foliar fungicide combined with a higher seeding rate tended to show the most consistent yield response. Applying foliar fungicides between the R2 and R3 instead of R3 and R4 stages has shown to boost yield, so may be a consideration for growers. The field-scale trials showed an average yield response of five bushels per acre with full season and seven bushels an acre with long season varieties, but like Hooker, Bohner says the added costs don’t pay for the added yields. “The consistency of these results indicates that if you give the whole package to soybeans, they do come to the table with extra yield, about 10 per cent more, but cost is the main issue,” Bohner says. “We have a formula that gets you higher yields, but have

ONTARIO SOIL AND CROP IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION

not answered the question on how to make it economically viable – that’s the next step.” One solution could be through variable application of the kitchen sink treatment – using it only in parts of a field that show more of a response. Reducing fertilizer levels is another option, as is only using a portion of the kitchen sink treatment combination, as shown in Hooker’s plot trials. Scott Ruppert hosted in-field trials on his Norfolk County cashcrop farm near Delhi throughout the project. “Every year we did get responses. This year, there was a payback, not a large one but it is a step in the right direction,” he says of the 2013 season. “The benefit of the plots is that you can see in areas how much of an advance you did get compared to others.” Where can I get more information? More information on this project can be found in the Crop Advances section of the OSCIA website at http://bit.ly/1kpO6sJ. How was the research funded? The project was supported by Grain Farmers of Ontario, Syngenta and the Ontario Seed Growers Association. OSCIA assisted with communication of research results.

Soybean yield-boosting tips to consider: • Use a good seed treatment and inoculant. • Test your soil to determine whether you need to apply potassium and phosphorous. • Fungicide applications should be timed to crop development so familiarize yourself with the reproductive stages of soybean development (R1-R8) to get the best response.

Mission: Facilitate responsible economic management of soil, water, air and crops through development and communication of innovative farming practices

www.ontariosoilcrop.org/default.htm


a

e,

Production

Mix and match With wider chemical choices coming, the PrecisionPac system might be worth a second look By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor magine a world where you could roll into your local farm supply outlet and head to the back of the room where a vending machine sits. There, you’d plug in some basic data. The machine would ask what you’re planting, how many acres, what major weed species are present and what you’ll be rotating to next season. Based on this information the machine will create, blend and dispense a custom weed-control solution for you field by field. Something out of “Star Trek”? Not even close. This is science fact, not fiction. It’s technology that’s been available for several years through the DuPont PrecisionPac system, and there are already more than 100 of these machines dotted throughout the agricultural regions of Canada. Despite its obvious advantages — less fuss and muss in the field, less waste material, better inventory control — it’s also a technology that has never really taken off. Yet. In no small part that’s because it has largely been limited to DuPont’s own modest portfolio of products, which tilt heavily toward the Group 2 family of weed killers. But one Ontario agri-retailer who has been using PrecisionPac for the past several seasons says it’s too soon to write this system off — and in fact they’re expecting great things from it in coming seasons. Darryl Acres, of Chesterville, Ont.’s SynAgri, says he’s been told to expect a significantly larger portfolio of active ingredients in coming years — including some from other crop protection companies. He says clients — especially a lot of the custom applicators he deals with — like the simplicity. “We don’t need to worry about a whole bunch of packages. You can just type in the acres you have and go,” Acres says. They’ve been using a PrecisionPac system for three years, and at this point, he’s set up to handle only Pinnacle and Classic, and only in soybeans. At some point in 2014, he’s expecting to see SB-01, a blend of Classic and fluioxazin added to his lineup, and that’s where the true potential for this technology starts to take shape, he says. As more of the other companies begin to add their formulations to the machine — and as corn herbicides enter the picture — the technology’s value will increase, possibly beyond the application of herbicide actives, and into precise measuring and traceability applications. 48 country-guide.ca

“Blending is the next step, and that’s the issue where DuPont is working with a lot of Group 2s, which we seem to be trying to get away from, but to be honest, what else do we have for soybeans?” says Acres. He echoes a sentiment expressed in the early 2000s regarding atrazine resistance, that despite the arrival of Group 2s, atrazine was still a useful herbicide. “The Group 2s are still an important piece of chemistry but you have to add to them now,” Acres says. “There’s an endless supply with any dry chemistry that you’re working with, and if there’s any way to put that in this machine, it’s going to make it that much more useful across different companies and different retailers.” The more companies that make use of these machines, and the more chemistries they employ, the greater the value. Added to that, says Acres, there’s the precise measuring capacity: if a field is 73 acres, there’s the precision of providing exact amounts of different chemistries for those 73 acres. “We’re starting to do more tank mixes, so if we can do mixtures that are easier for the farmers, then that’s not as difficult, because that is where mistakes can be made,” says Acres. In the heat of the season, he says, applicators and growers can find themselves in the field, scratching their heads and wondering “Did I just put one or two packages in there?” “If it’s all in one bag, with two or three different ingredients, all they have to do is make sure they put that one bag into the sprayer,” Acres says.

Traceability, inventory management Such precise measurements also pave the way for traceability protocols, something Mike Cowbrough, the weed management specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, says is just one of the potential benefits of this system. In an era where the default question on weed management has become: “What do you mix with your glyphosate?” Cowbrough agrees that the focus on what DuPont doesn’t have is short-sighted. “You tend to focus on the chemistry available to an organization, but I think if you were to look at it from a supply-chain perspective — a retailer or large producer, or a producer who does his own spraying — that the potential for customization is there, but inventory management would be the value,” says Cowbrough. April 2014


production very potent, they don’t require a lot of volume and they come in a dry granular form. That, he notes, is workable with herbicides that are effective at 75 or 100 grams per hectare. His only question is whether the convenience is still a benefit at 900 or 1,000 or 2,000 grams. Still, Cowbrough maintains the ability to customize crop production starts to become intriguing with this type of technology and he lays out a futuristic vision of a fully integrated system. “You have done your scouting, and maybe you’re putting that information into an app or a management tool, and that could be synched with your crop adviser at the retail outlet, that goes into PrecisionPac, and comes up with a recommendation,” says Cowbrough. “Then it also sends that data to your field records, then you have a one-stop shop in terms of recordkeeping and traceability potential. But this is all easy to say. It’s difficult to execute.” The main hurdle to overcome, he adds, may not be in accepting DuPont’s herbicide offerings or the use of technology. It might be in the human nature of the grower, and the motivation to change. As an example, Cowbrough has encountered some farmers who haven’t experienced herbicide resistance on their farms. He attended one grower meeting during the early part of 2014, where the incidence of Canada fleabane was shown on a map. “The farmers were in the county where the weed wasn’t confirmed yet, but they were more or less surrounded by the counties where it was confirmed,” says Cowbrough, adding that they acknowledged it was a problem. “Even when I spoke to a few of them after, there was an attitude that said, ‘I’ll wait until a certain active doesn’t work, and then I’ll use a tank mix.’”

More choices to come

“It’s the convenience, the simplicity, the time-saving, the waste reduction.” — Dave Kloppenburg, DuPont Cowbrough adds that bulk seed provides a similar benefit, where it leaves retailers with less of a concern about the number of bags left in a warehouse at season’s end. The same is true with herbicides, both from a retailer and farmer perspective. “The last thing you want to be doing is dealing with a lot of half-jugs and quarter-jugs, from a pesticide perspective,” says Cowbrough. “To me, that’s the most obvious benefit, where one year, you decide that this is the weed management program for you, but based on its results, you might want to switch directions next year, but meanwhile, you’re left with half a container, and what are you going to do with that?” The short-term dismissal of PrecisionPac because of its use of only DuPont herbicides is overlooking what Cowbrough sees as a significant upside, and that’s the time — however long it may take — when every dry active ingredient becomes available for this technology. Why it also works well for DuPont, says Cowbrough, is that the company is dealing with many active ingredients that are April 2014

With the planting season, DuPont’s Dave Kloppenburg is focused on increasing the number of PrecisionPac machines in Eastern Canada, as well as increasing the number of actives. In Western Canada in 2013, the technology covered several million acres through 120 outlets. “We’ve had very good response from the customers who have been using it, and that’s the reason we’re moving ahead to expand, with more machines in Eastern Canada and also looking at corn,” says Kloppenburg, the company’s row crop segment manager. The company is on a definite growth trajectory in Eastern Canada, not only with the number of systems placed, but also in putting the pieces together for blends — with DuPont chemistries and third-party chemistries, as well. And Kloppenburg notes that how the blends are packaged is almost as important as what’s in the package. Acres and Cowbrough both mentioned the precise blending capabilities for different sized fields. Kloppenburg notes that the machine is capable of dispensing the dry ingredients in weights up to six kilograms. The situation with herbicide resistance, particularly what’s happening in the U.S., also demands greater flexibility, including keeping active ingredients that some might see as obsolete, viable and accessible. “We want to put together solutions that have a number of different actives, to be able to put blends together for a number of different situations, whether it be targeting the right weed spectrums, or having multiple actives for weed resistance management,” says Kloppenburg. “That’s the direction we’re going, and in corn, we’re just launching Engarde this year, so in 2015, we’ll be deploying our first corn PrecisionPac systems based on the chemistries we have in that crop.” CG country-guide.ca 49


PRODUCTION

It isn’t here… yet Will Bt-resistant corn rootworm cross the border into Canada? By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor rowers in the western U.S. Corn Belt have a real fight on their hands, and they know it. Corn rootworm is showing resistance to Bt hybrids. From Illinois across to South Dakota and down into Kansas, the Cry3Bb1 protein that is the foundation of some Bt genetics is under threat. Researchers now say that pyramiding the Cry3Bb1 protein into the SmartStax system may be partly to blame. When introduced in 2010, SmartStax hybrids let growers switch away from refugia rules that required planting large blocks of susceptible hybrids. Instead, growers could adopt the convenient “refuge-in-a-bag” system, with susceptible seed interplanted with Bt seed at a rate of five per cent. Because most rootworm hybrids depend at least in part on Cry3Bb1, the new system may heighten the risk of resistance, especially in continuous corn. But is it a concern for Ontario?

FOCUS

FRINGE

The largest incidence of Western corn rootworm resistance is found in the Focus area with sporadic, less-intense finds in the Fringe region, including Ontario. INFO GRAPHIC: CHRIS DIFONZO, MSU

50 country-guide.ca

Not yet, say several industry reps. But vigilance here is essential. Growers need to get actively engaged in finding and reporting the pests, the reps say, and growers must also expect to play a leading role in developing the solutions. As with so many pest and weed issues, eastern Canadian growers get to be spectators to what strikes farms south of the border first. It’s happened in past with herbicide resistance and the spread of weeds such as Palmer amaranth. It also happened with Asian soybean rust. The corn rootworm situation, however, is different, largely because Ontario’s standard three-crop rotation does a good job of breaking the rootworm cycle. In much of the U.S. where resistance is showing up — even in first-year corn fields — continuous corn is more the rule than the exception. For Tracey Baute, field crop entomologist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the issue comes down to recognition and reporting. First, she says, farmers need to understand there are Western corn rootworm beetles in Ontario, and that some are showing up in first-year corn. As well, growers need to participate in learning how to handle the pest. That means when they recognize corn rootworm in their fields, they need to report it. “They may see them in August or September, and say ‘Oh, this is definitely what it is,’” says Baute, who was one of three Ontario participants in a U.S./ Canada report last year on managing Western corn rootworm resistance. “But they don’t remember to ask until September, October, November or even March, and that’s when we have lost our seasonal ability to go in and get those adults.” As soon as growers find the insect, it’s time to contact someone — a company representative, a seed dealer, an agronomist or goverment extension. Baute stresses this isn’t to assess blame for possibly abusing the technology. It’s to collect adults, perform bioassays and then to develop go-forward strategies before resistance gets to U.S. levels. “The point is to identify where those sourceresistant fields are, and look beyond that, and to help work toward not allowing the continuation of those resistant populations,” says Baute. “We have that opportunity to at least mitigate those risks now,” Baute says. “Three-year rotations can definitely benefit us with this issue.” APRIL 2014


production However, Baute sees it as an increasing concern in volunteer corn in soybeans. In a tough spring, she says, when a farmer can’t get out and spray those fields, that field is no longer “out of corn.” Even a small number of volunteers can help resident rootworm population build up.

Five years ago Baute was vocal about stackedtrait technologies in corn. Those technologies were launched with the goal of adding more protection. But Baute’s concern was that more traits added more management variables, possibly aiding in the development of resistance based on a lack of understanding of the biology and corresponding technologies. “Especially with an organism like rootworm,” Baute adds, “because that pest has developed resistance to almost everything we’ve thrown at it.” An additional threat is there may be crossresistance possibilities with Cry3Bb1, so you could quickly lose other genes, leaving you with no options. “We’re playing a little bit with fire,” Baute says. “It’s being stacked with everything.” In more than a few cases, that means growers are using the gene where they don’t need it, contributing unnecessarily to selection pressure. Then there are growers who need the protection but don’t follow good integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, planting corn-on-corn instead. The stewardship issue is top priority for Pat Lynch, independent certified crop adviser from Stratford, Ont. This whole situation shows what can happen when stewardship guidelines aren’t followed, Lynch says. “When a small number of growers ignore the stewardship proposals,” Lynch says, “all growers in that area suffer the consequences.” Lynch recalls when problem weeds, such as velvetleaf, spread across Ontario. Discoveries were mapped, purely for the purpose of identification and to inform neighbouring farmers. Similar vigilance could help on corn rootworm resistance. The current situation in the U.S. has been developing for four or five years, says Lynch, and it reminds everyone that stewardship guidelines are not being followed. That’s especially important because of the difference between corn rootworm and the European corn borer — the first pest targeted by corn Bt genetics. It proves again, Lynch says, that growers need to know more about the technology they’re buying. With corn borer, the Bt technology has been around long enough that resistance should have developed by now, but control continues to be good. The same cannot be said of corn rootworm, and Lynch echoes some of Baute’s concerns. It’s important to understand the technology, but it’s also essential to understand the biology of the pest, including traits such as extended diapause and laying eggs in soybeans. April 2014

Photo: Tracey Baute, OMAF

Hard pest to beat

“Education is teaching and learning, and I think the teaching was done,” Lynch says, referring to the job the seed and chemical companies did in bringing the technology to market. “I don’t think the learning was done; there was too much of ‘It’s not a problem on my farm and I’m going to do this, so I don’t need to take the time to understand it.’ But it’s definitely another of these wake-up calls that continue to pop up, similar to glyphosate resistance.”

When growers find Western corn rootworm in their fields, they need to report it as soon as they can to help identify those farms, and then develop workable strategies.

Maybe some optimism As much as there’s a need for continued vigilance, there are three reasons why the corn rootworm situation is worse in the U.S. than in Ontario: the flight of the beetles, the lack of rotation in the U.S. Corn Belt and stewardship, says Doug Alderman, national sales manager for Pride Seeds, of Paincourt, Ont. Alderman says flight patterns aren’t funnelling the pests towards Ontario, at least so far. Ontario rotations are more robust, and U.S. growers typically don’t plant any wheat at all and only add a token soybean crop every third or fourth year. As for the stewardship issue, Alderman says U.S producers were clearly the authors of their own misfortune. “Right from the start there weren’t very many people being very responsible with the stewardship down there,” says Alderman. “That’s why we have refuge requirements, and farmers in the U.S. weren’t being compliant, and if they continue to not follow that stewardship and not be compliant, they’re going to continue to have issues. Technology’s a wonderful thing but we have to treat it with respect.” CG country-guide.ca 51


Production

Hard wired Several factors are encouraging the return of an old pest enemy — the wireworm group — that had long been a thing of the past for Canadian farmers

hey live quietly in your fields for as long as two or three seasons, silently but slowly damaging your crops and undermining your farm’s profitability. Their top hosts are grassy crops such as corn, but they’ve even been known to feed on potatoes, scarring the tubers with long feeding holes. Wireworms damage grassy plants in several ways. Immediately after planting, they can either eat the seed or cut off seedlings below ground level. A few weeks later, after the plants have grown a bit more, they will tunnel into the underground portion of the stem and cause the plant to wilt and die. Even later, they’ll feed on roots, eating deep tunnels into them. After a busy growing season chowing down on your profitability, the most mature larvae pupate into beetles in the soil during the late summer. The following summer the adult female will disperse hundreds of eggs throughout the field. It’s a pernicious pest, and it might surprise you, because the last time it was a major pest problem, the Second World War was still recent news. Wireworms are a group of related pests that are a growing source of concern for farmers across Canada, according to one research scientist. Bob Vernon, based at AAFC’s Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz, B.C., has spent much of the past 15 years watching this once-banished pest make a comeback, for some interesting reasons. This group of insects is thought to do better under zero- or minimum-till scenarios and continues to benefit from the fading impact of organochlorine

insecticides such as DDT, banned in the 1970s. As populations bounce back, the wireworm issues of the 1920s and ’30s are threatening to re-emerge and Vernon says British Columbia was the first province to develop serious problems. He says modern crop rotations involve a lot of wireworms’ preferred food crops such as cereals and grasses, but chemical controls aren’t nearly as persistent or lethal. “Wireworms are a very difficult insect group to control because you can’t see them and you’re looking at one generation every four or five years, which all may overlap in the field,” he says. “You also have between 20 and 30 economic species, and different species with different life cycles may be more susceptible to certain controls than others.” This means that in a field, there can be up to five different species and many newer products may only control two or three. Vernon says in order to combat these multiple defences, he’s had to search for a silver bullet. Past studies seemed to suggest there were a lot of products to work with when it came to wireworm control but because wireworms can’t be observed underground in the field, researchers didn’t know the wireworms weren’t being killed by the chemicals and only repelled, or sometimes induced into recoverable comas. “If you put neonicotinoids, for example, on corn or wheat seed, for the most part when the wireworms come to feed on the seed, they get cold-cocked for a month or two and then they recover,” Vernon says. “If you go from cereal crops into, say, potatoes, the population in the cereal crop will carry over.” Even now he says, they suspect the higher rate of neonicotinoids used on corn offer more mortalities — but they don’t know for sure. It’s not like the old days when organochlorines such as DDT killed and even gave effective control in following years. Those products came very close to the silver bullet designation, but there’s nothing like them registered in Canada today. However, in the U.S., there is fipronil. “What we found with fipronil, which is very interesting, is it kills wireworms dead,” says Vernon. “At higher doses it kills them very quickly but at extremely low doses, it doesn’t kill them right away, but does so maybe 200 days down the road.” Based on what he has seen in the lab, Vernon’s idea is to knock out the wireworms with a low rate Continued on page 54

52 country-guide.ca

April 2014

Photo: Dr. Bob Vernon, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

By Amy Petherick


soil matters………..www.ifao.com

Cover Crops – Are They The New Revolution? by Kate Procter

Maybe you have been thinking about it for a while. Maybe you have heard speakers talk about it at farm workshops and conferences. Maybe this will be the year that you will say yes to cover crops. Dr. Ray Weil is a soil scientist from the University of Maryland who is perhaps best known for his book, The Nature and Properties of Soils. Dr. Weil will get you excited about cover crops, if you aren’t already. Cover crops, says Dr. Weil, “are the revolution that is sweeping North America”. Preventing soil erosion is cover crops’ big selling feature. However, cover crops can provide many benefits beyond keeping the soil where you want it. “Using cover crops changes everything,” Weil says. Dr. Weil recently traveled to North Dakota, where he saw farmers using cover crops to make big improvements in soil quality in a very cold, dry climate. “If you’re ever wondering how to meet your climate challenges – they are doing amazing things there,” he says. Cover crops can utilize otherwise wasted resources. Even when the ground is frozen – microbes are working. Dr. Weil asks the crowd – “How many months of the year is your land actually green and absorbing sunlight? Only a tiny part of the year.” He points out that even before corn reaches black layer, it stops drawing nutrients. Adding cover crops to the rotation can help increase the length of time that plants are working to improve the soil quality. Along with preventing soil erosion, they can also enhance crop growth, suppress weeds, and depending on the crop chosen, increase nitrogen content and fertility of the soil.

Planting cover crops can also add organic matter to the soil and when it comes to organic matter, a little goes a long way. “1.2 per cent organic matter versus 2 per cent – makes a huge difference to whether the soil disperses or holds together,” says Dr. Weil. “Polymers hold things together – when it dries out, low organic matter soils form a hard crust then crack,” he adds. Some cover crops can also help solve compaction problems. Farmers are using tillage radish in places where they used to plow. “We can replace steel with cover crops,” says Dr. Weil. Radishes are also easy to grow, and he recommends them to people just starting to think about growing cover crops. While it sounds like a great idea, Dr. Weil cautions growers to make a plan before jumping right into planting cover crops. The first question you should answer is “what problems do I want cover crops to solve?” Knowing what you want it to do can help you choose the best species to plant. Planting window is the next consideration. When can I get them in so they do some good?” asks Dr. Weil. Actually getting the plant seeded so that it has time to grow and help your soil is a big consideration. “Haphazard cover cropping is not the way to go – plan ahead and treat them like your other crops,” he suggests. Aim for small but measurable increases and do trials until you figure out what works best on your farm.


Production

“The neat thing is that you kill  the wireworms before the next  crop even gets there.” — Bob Vernon, AAFC Continued from page 52 of neonicotinoids such as 10 grams of active ingredient per hectare or so, rather than the usual 30, and then add some fipronil for an ultimate kill strategy. “So the wireworms might come out of their coma but you’ve preserved your crop because of the neonicotinoid and they might be able to survive for a little bit but eventually they die,” Vernon says. “The neat thing is that you kill the wireworms before the next crop even gets there.” Vernon says he has colleagues who are working on alternatives to his chemical control strategies. On the West Coast, Todd Kabaluk is studying fungal pathogens and his work is showing some promise for limited wireworm control in the field but it’s not as potent as the leading chemical controls. A considerable challenge has been 54 country-guide.ca

that the effectiveness of the pathogen varies between wireworm species in some cases, shifting Kabaluk’s focus toward control of the adult beetles instead. On the East Coast, research scientist Christine Noronha, of Agriculture and Agrifood Canada’s Crops and Livestock Research Centre in Prince Edward Island, has been looking at different rotation crop options, and one which seems to work really well is brown mustard. “If you plant it for two years before you plant potatoes, it’s giving really good control,” Noronha says. “The number of holes per tuber is way down to two holes per tuber compared to 20 holes per tuber associated with conventional barley rotations, and there was also a higher percent of tubers with no damage.” As the problem continues to worsen and spread into previously unaffected parts of the island, Noronha has been

recommending farmers grow brown mustard as a rotation crop in fields that already have wireworm issues. Noronha says she is also working to control wireworms in carrots, rutabagas and recently transplanted fields of cabbage. “There’s a lot of grower interest in either using it for two falls or just one, depending on the populations,” Noronha says. She also says they are still working to establish thresholds to help farmers determine if they can get away with only one year of cover because there is no financial gain by growing the crop. Of course, some farmers have explored the option of growing a full season for seed but risk facing it again the next year as a weed. “Mustard is good in the fall because it’s quite resistant to the cold and it will flower, but the seeds don’t mature,” Noronha explains. “It’s actually better if you cut and cultivate it because the glucosinolates are a lot higher if you don’t let it go to seed.” Glucosinolate is the chemical found in the mustard crop which reacts with an enzyme when plant material is crushed or damaged to produce the fumigant known as isothiocyanate. Noronha says brown mustard also has a secondary means of attack against wireworms, storing another type of toxic chemical in roots which it increases production of in the event of insect feeding. It is so deadly that given the choice, wireworms won’t touch the plant and that is why the cost can’t be offset by adding other seed for cover-cropping purposes. “If all they have is mustard in the field, they have to eat it to survive, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a blend,” she says. “Growers say the mustard is kind of expensive but on the other hand, so is losing a good potato crop.” With their last chemical control option due to become deregistered, farmers are willing to try unproven alternatives despite the cost. Vernon says a combination of cultural and chemical controls may be the ultimate solution eventually, but there are still too many unknowns to identify it. “A lot of work needs to be done with these alternative strategies,” he says. “Once you know whether an individual strategy is going to work, how it works and what species it works on, then you can start to think about integrating them.” If fipronil doesn’t get registered in Canada, Vernon says they do have a system now to substitute future fipronil-like chemicals into their management strategies, because he says multinational companies are very aware of wireworms. CG April 2014


Because not everyone has one of these, there’s Quilt fungicide. Quilt® puts added yield within reach. Applied with a conventional sprayer at the 5 to 8 leaf stage of corn, Quilt boosts yield without the need to wait for tassel. Field-scale trials in 2012 show a six bushel per acre yield benefit when Quilt is applied on corn early versus untreated. Two modes of action provide better resistance management and you can tank-mix with your in-crop herbicide application. With Quilt, the only thing that takes off is your corn.

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

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2/7/14 12:28 PM


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We tackle any equipment related project Phone: (613) 388-2345 Fax: (613) 388-1092 Mobile: (613) 561-5006 Email: herman@richmondditching.on.ca www.richmondditching.on.ca

Excavating Ltd. P.O. Box 215, Pakenham, On K0A 2X0

Tile Drainage Contractor • GPS RTK Topomapping Backhoe, Bulldozer, Excavator Rentals Steel Culverts in Stock • Plastic Tile Licenced in Ontario & Quebec

Mervyn Downey 613-624-5346 C: 613-720-2143

Stephen Downey 613-624-5030 C: 613-314-3819

613-623-8802 | Arnprior, Ontario pneillwms@gozoom.ca

Manufacturer of Quality Profile Polyethylene Pipe Locations in: Thorndale, ON Winchester, ON & Carman, MB

1-800-265-7098

www.idealpipe.ca sales@idealpipe.ca


LAND IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTORS OF ONTARIO

www.drainage.org

A licensed contractor is valuable in assessing and correcting drainage problems.

CROPLAND DRAINAGE

A Spring Field Inspection Checklist Spring is a good time to check for subsurface drainage problems, for example: • Blow-outs – are found where drain pipe water comes to the surface, often found where there is a drain blockage, a broken tile, a faulty connection, undersized drain pipe, where too much surface water is directed into a drain via inlets or where there is a sudden change in grade from relatively steep to nearly flat. • Cave-ins – are typically found where drain pipe is installed deep through fine sand; i.e. quick sand, and where there is upward pressure from springs and groundwater that carries the sand into the drain until a void is created around and under the drain. Eventually, the surface soil collapses into the void. Repairs usually require installing a gravel bed below the drain and the installation of protected or nonperforated pipe through the sand. If this happens on a pipe municipal drain then inform your local municipal Drainage Superintendent who is responsible for performing the work. • Localized wet spots – are usually the result of plugged drains. Common causes are debris that enters through unprotected catch basins or stand pipe inlets, dead animals in the drain pipe and tree roots. Mechanical causes include crushed drain pipe caused by heavy equipment traffic in wet soil conditions or where there is insufficient soil cover over drains in eroded areas. Drains may also be damaged during construction of buildings or fences. Other causes include

bad connections, old drains not being connected to newly installed drains and drains not being installed with constant grade (silt collects in low spots). • Slow soil drainage – Compacted hard pan below the tilled soil is the most common cause on clay and silt soil. Dig to check for this. Typically, the soil below the hard pan will be drier than the soil above it. The cause is too much tillage, heavy machine traffic on damp soil and crop choices that contribute to soil structure degradation. Deep ripping may give some very temporary improvement. Installing new drains will help but the problem may persist between the new drains. Improved soil management is the only good remedy for compaction. On some soil, iron ochre can seal off drains and then new drains may need to be installed. On other soil, sediment may collect in the drain pipe. Filter cloth and steeper drain grades may be required.

barnyard runoff or manure storage. Your contractor can reroute drains if necessary. Remember, drains are installed clean and it is important to keep then clean. If drainage problems are not corrected promptly they can have a serious impact on crop production and also impact the water that leaves the farm. Licensed tile drainage contractors are trained and have the experience to install drains properly and to avoid most common cropland drainage problems. Most of these licensed contractors are members of the Land Improvement Contractors of Ontario, an organization that states that one of their objectives is “Encourage high quality work and fair dealings…” When a problem is identified they can diagnose the cause and efficiently correct it to the benefit of both the land manager and his/her downstream neighbours.

• Drain outlets (outfalls) are blocked or restricted – Check for sources of sediment that would cause restricted flow in outlet drains (ditches). Typically, this will be field soil erosion and ditch bank scouring. Contact appropriate authorities for permission to have the blockage removed. This would be the Drainage Superintendent for a municipal outlet drain. • Contamination in drain outlet water – If contamination is suspected, then investigate and if confirmed, locate the sources, such as septic,

For more information: • “Operating and Maintaining a Tile Drainage System”, OMAF fact sheet – AGDEX 752/555, Dec 2010, order # 10-091. • “Farm Tile Drains and Tree Roots”, OMAF fact sheet – AGDEX 555, Dec 2012, order # 12-055. • “Best Management Practices – Cropland Drainage”, Agriculture Canada/OMAF/OFA, order: www. publications.serviceontario.ca, 1-800-669-993

The Land Improvement Contractors of Ontario (LICO) is an association of professional drainage contractors and suppliers of drainage pipe and equipment. The focus of their business is soil moisture management to enhance crop production in Ontario.


LAND IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTORS OF ONTARIO

LICO CONTRACTORS LISTED BY REGION

■ SOUTH-WESTERN Region ■ SOUTH-CENTRAL Region ■ CENTRAL Region ■ EASTERN AND NORTHERN Region

TILE DRAINAGE PAYS! Let a good drainage system work for you to help improve: • Soil erosion • Aeration • Crop yields • Soil warm up • Crop rotation • Harvest length • Land values • Soil Conditions • Plant growth • Fertilizer efficiency

KMM FARM DRAINAGE FAMILY OWNED & OPERATED

Ron McCallum Paul McCallum Walton

519-887-6428 519-527-1633

ROTH DRAINAGE LTD. “WHERE QUALITY IS NOT OLD FASHIONED”

2184 Line 45, Gads Hill

519-656-2618 • 1-866-494-2618 or

82562 Allboro Line, Blyth

519-895-6367 • 1-866-671-5950

GPS Grade Control & Mapping

Don’t let your lanD Drain you!!

LICO CONTRACTORS SOUTH-CENTRAL Region

KUEPFER

Farm Drainage Quality Drainage Systems New: Drain Leveling Available

FARM DRAINAGE LTD.

Thorndale, Ontario N0M 2P0

(519) 461-1422 kmmccut@gmail.com

GPS Control & Mapping – Septic Installations Complete Drainage Service

Quality design & Construction of Agricultural Drainage Systems

Glen & Dennis Kuepfer (519) 595-4545 R.R. 1, Newton, Ontario N0K 1R0

DRAINAGE SINCE 1949 H OW A R D

FARM DRAINAGE

DRAINAGE

A.G. HAYTER CONTRACTING LTD.

Cook Stratford & Area

“Drain Your Farm Before It Drains You”

Septic & Sewage Treatment Systems

519-273-4118 Mobile 519-272-7264 1-855-273-4118 YOU NAME IT – WE DRAIN IT – FREE ESTIMATES

1-877-669-1440 www.martindrainage.com

YOUR INDEPENDENT

DRAINAGE DESIGN SPECIALIST Specializing in:

• GPS Data Collection • Professional Drainage Design

A&E Farm Drainage Inc.

Drainage Installation and Repair

www.cookdrainage.com

“Your Total GPS Contractor” WALLENSTEIN

Glen Allan, Ontario Call Us Today

R.R. 3 Parkhill

519-238-2313

Glenn Hayter 519-808-6115

Grant Hayter 519-238-2313

FREE Estimates

Allen Hayter 519-238-2313

DRAINAGE PROFESSIONALS SINCE 1967

KEITH FREY

Phone: 519-698-9933 Cell: 519-575-6211 Email: aefarm@sgci.com

Countr


Š 2013 Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc.

Country Guide ad Canada, 09-13.indd 1

12/10/2013 9:01:12 AM


LAND IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTORS OF ONTARIO

LICO CONTRACTORS CENTRAL Region CHECK WITH US FOR YOUR

FARM DRAINAGE NEEDS

MARQUARDT

FARM DRAINAGE LTD. (Established 1968)

43 years of experience in providing professionally designed drainage systems. • Plastic installations • A GPS equipped • Family operated for contractor 35 years • Open trench & plow • Excavating & Bulldozing installations • Custom trenching & backhoe service

GREG WALKER

705-340-5500

7226 Blindline Rd. R#4 Elmira ON N3B 2Z3 Ph: (519) 669-2256 or Res (519) 669-4253

We provide you with the best of: Drainage knowledge & expertise Free estimate based on our expertise  Competitive pricing  Personal service  Detailed field surveys  Professionally designed drainage systems and installations  GPS mapping and guidance  Excavator and backhoe work 

Schmidt’s Farm Drainage

1990 Ltd. Harriston

Specializing in Farm Drainage, Backhoeing & Excavating. GPS includes: mapping, grade control & surveying GPS Grade Control Tel: 519-338-3484 Cell: 519-323-6335

GPS Design and Mapping Quality Farm Drainage Systems

Call us Toll Free:

1-888-534-0393 LISTOWEL Matt 519-291-0767 1-800-565-6478

STEVE CRONSBERRY (Owner)

Office: (519) 343-3233 Home: (519) 338-2373

LICO CONTRACTORS SOUTH-WESTERN Region

SINCE 1927

FARM DRAINAGE INC. CONSULTING • EROSION CONTROL BULLDOZING • EXCAVATING • G.P.S. SURVEYS PLOW AND WHEEL

Excavating Ditch Cleaning Brush Cleaning Dozer Services Available

Scott Wilson & Jarrod Wilson Owners/Operators

10622 Blind Fourth Line, Kent Bridge Scott Wilson Cell 519.401.3659 Office 519.683.1710

Jarrod Wilson Cell 519.331.9697 Office 519.864.1968

519-436-6134 www.gillierdrainage.ca

GPS Surveying & Mapping GPS Guided Drainage Plow Hourly Equipment Rental Competitive Pricing Professional Experienced Staff

342 Chatham St. S., Blenheim, ON, N0P 1A0

519-676-7226 E-mail: clarkedrainage@bellnet.ca


w e at h e r NEAR NORMAL

COOLER THAN NORMAL

NEAR-NORMAL MILDER TEMPERATURES AND AND DRIER PRECIPITATION THAN NORMAL

m War ered tt Scaowers sh

ONTARIO

Change a Showerble T/storm s s

Mild y er Showlls e sp

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ES

R ATU R E P ON I TEM AL IPITAT M R C O E PR R-N NEA AND

COLDER THAN USUAL NORMAL PRECIPITATION

e bl a ge ery n a ow Ch Sh

May 4 to June 14, 2014

May 4-10: Sunny and often cool in the south with rain on two or three occasions, chance heavy in places. Windy at times. Showery north with some frost/thundersnow. May 11-17: Highs in the teens and at times 20s south. Scattered showers or heavier thunderstorms. Cool central and north with some rain and frost and snow patches. May 18-24: Temperatures vary under gusty conditions. Sunny but with passing showers and heavy thundershowers. Occasional rain to flurries in the north. May 25-31: Sunny, warm days interchange with showers and a few heavy thunderstorms in the south. Blustery. Periodic rain and a frost risk in the north. June 1-7: Sunny, warm in the south apart from a couple of cooler, windy days with rain and thunderstorms. Variable in the north with occasional rain. June 8-14: Pleasant, warm days are interrupted by a few humid days bringing showers or thunderstorms, risk heavy rain with hail and strong winds.

QUEBEC May 4-10: Sunshine in the south exchanges with rain, chance heavy in places. Some lows near zero. Blustery. Cool in the north with periodic rain and some snow and frost. May 11-17: Pleasant in the south aside from shower or thundershower activity. Frost patches. Cool in the north with some rain and a chance of snow/frost. May 18-24: Often sunny, warm and blustery in the south aside from scattered April 2014

MILDER THAN NORMAL

showers or thunderstorms. Pockets of snow/frost in northern areas. May 25-31: Sunshine and warm days in the south alternate with showers and occasional heavier thunderstorms. Windy. Unsettled in the north with some rain. June 1-7: Sunny and warm in the south apart from showers and thunderstorms on a couple of cooler, blustery days. Changeable in the north with intermittent rain. June 8-14: Warm and sunny aside from two or three humid days with showers and thunderstorms, chance of heavy with hail and strong winds in some localities.

ATLANTIC PROVINCES May 4-10: Partly sunny aside from a few unsettled, windy days with occasional rain mixed in some areas with snow. Frost patches inland. May 11-17: Fair skies alternate with rain and gusty winds. Chance of snow and frost in eastern and northern areas. Seasonal in the west, cool in the east. May 18-24: Often sunny, warm in the west with scattered rain and thundershowers. Cooler east and along coasts with some rain and fog. A few lows near zero inland. May 25-31: Pleasant, warm days interchange with cooler, blustery days and occasional rain. Frost threatens a few northern and inland localities. June 1-7: Scattered showers or thunderstorms west with highs often in the 20s. Seasonal to cool in the east with blustery winds and occasional rain and fog. June 8-14: Frequently sunny and warmer east with occasional shower activity and

coastal fog. Warmer in the west with heavier showers or thunderstorms.

May 4 to June 14, 2014 NATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS The transition to a warmer season will be marked by variable, changeable weather across the country. The most noticeable warming is anticipated in British Columbia where a westerly circulation is forecast to push warm and relatively dry conditions into the West. In contrast, a cold northerly circulation in Central Canada is apt to prolong cool temperatures over the eastern Prairies and Ontario. In these areas, frost and even some snow is expected to persist well into May. However, a warmer, wetter trend is expected in June. Elsewhere across the western Prairies as well as Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, look for variable weather with temperatures and precipitation both averaging close to normal values.

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 61


life

Gossip

not as innocent as you think By Helen Lammers-Helps

he next time you’re standing in the farm kitchen and you’re tempted to pass on the latest, juiciest bit of gossip, maybe you should think twice. We all know that gossip can wreck reputations, create hurt feelings and lead to divisive conflict. But what we don’t always pause to consider is that gossip can be especially destructive on the farm and in farm communities. Of course, not all gossip is bad. In fact, anthropologists say that gossip helps us to live in groups. It’s a way to know who is a friend and who should be avoided, says Eric Anderson, a researcher with Northeastern University in Boston. At its best, adds Elaine Froese, a farm family coach from Boissevain, Man., gossip is a way for people to stay connected and to find out what’s happening to one another. “When something goes wrong,” Froese says, “this informal information broadcasting lets people know what has happened so that others can help.” Plus, gossip also communicates social norms, says Nicholas DiFonzo, a researcher at the Rochester Institute of Technology and author of The W atercooler E ffect . He points to all the talk

62 country-guide.ca

surrounding the Tiger Woods sex scandal as an example. Sometimes we may share information out of a sense of social responsibility. For example, if someone’s child is hanging around with someone who has a bad reputation, you may warn the parents, says DiFonzo. Unfortunately, however, 70 per cent of gossip is shame or negative gossip, says DiFonzo. Gossipers solidify their own place in the hierarchy by knocking someone else down, he explains. Or they may gossip to get back at someone by harming their reputation. The problem is that when we hear negative things about people, it changes how we feel about them without our even being aware of it, says Anderson. Even when we learn it’s not true, it doesn’t undo the damage that’s been done, he continues. Mary Abbajay, president of Careerstone Group, an organizational development firm in Washington, D.C. agrees, and says it’s human nature to pay more attention to information that supports our perception of someone and to disregard information that doesn’t. She points out that psychologists even have a name for this tendency: “confirmation bias.”

April 2014


life

Not only is negative gossip bad for individual reputations, it also creates a toxic environment where there are “in” groups and “out” groups, says Abbajay. “This is bad for morale and it hurts productivity,” she says. Family businesses are ripe for problems with gossip since the lines between business and family are blurred. “I’ve seen family businesses rocked by gossip to the point where both the family and the business failed,” Abbajay says. We do have the power to stop the damaging effects of gossip. Froese advises farm families to work to reduce destructive talk by not engaging in it and by naming it as inappropriate when people cross lines. “Remember that not all — and some would argue little — of what you hear from the rumour mill is true,” she emphasizes. Also remember that if someone is gossiping to you about someone else, then chances are they gossip about you to others when you aren’t around, adds DiFonzo. People will stop gossiping if no one is listening, says Abbajay. Some people think, “I’m only listening, I’m not repeating it,” but that in itself encourages the gossip, she explains. “Active listening actually supports and promotes gossiping.” Don’t agree with the gossiper, she continues. “Turn it around by saying something positive,” says Abbajay. It isn’t nearly as much fun to spread negative news if someone counters it with a complimentary statement about the person, she explains. Tell the gossiper you don’t have time for gossip, or avoid the gossiper, Abbajay recommends. Gossip is as old as mankind and it’s unrealistic to think we could free the workplace of gossip, says Abbajay. Even so, managers can take steps to curb negative gossip in the workplace. Lew Bayer, Winnipeg corporate trainer and author of The Power of Civility encourages companies to incorporate anti-gossip protocols into the Code of Conduct. Spell out what kind of language is off limits, she says. For example, it’s not OK to discuss someone’s health, weight gain or pregnancy, she says. “It’s the old saying; If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all,” says Bayer. “It’s simple but it makes a difference.” Managers should make it clear to employees that negative gossip hurts morale and productivity and that it will not be tolerated, agrees Abbajay. They also need to lead by example by not gossiping themselves. By communicating regularly with employees,

April 2014

especially during times of change, you can minimize speculation, says DiFonzo. “If people don’t know what’s going on they’ll make stuff up,” agrees Abbajay. While social banter and idle chit-chat isn’t harmful and can even improve cohesion, gossip with negative emotional undertones should be avoided, says Abbajay. So before you repeat anything you hear, ask yourself: If this was about you, would you want this information passed on? Consider the impact of what’s being said. Does it cast negative aspersions? Does it create rifts? Does it perpetuate conflict or negativity? Is it hurtful or damaging? Is it something I would say in front of the person? Consider your intentions and be honest, say

Even if we later learn the gossip isn’t true, the damage is real, changing how we view people without our being aware of it Froese and Abbajay. Are you passing on information to be helpful? Or are you sticking your nose in somewhere it doesn’t belong? If your intentions aren’t good, don’t repeat the information. If you have a problem with someone, rather than talking about it to someone else, go directly to the person you are having the issue with, advises Abbajay. When you say, “I can’t believe so and so did this,” it gets passed along and expands the conflict. It’s like a game of telephone, she says, and everyone adds something to it. The same principles apply in communities, says Abbajay. If you want a positive, supportive community, then don’t pass on negative gossip, she says. “Everyone needs to take responsibility.” What should you do if you are the one being gossiped about? You can confront the source, make a public statement or just ignore it, says Abbajay. “Gossip usually has a short lifespan, so sometimes the best thing to do is just to let it run its (hopefully) short course. Creating a stink sometimes causes more drama than just letting it go.” And if you’re the person who wrongfully gossiped about someone? Apologize. Then make a point of not doing it again, says Abbajay. “We all do it from time to time.” CG

country-guide.ca 63


h e a lt h

Bug repellents By Marie Berry

othing spoils a picnic, barbecue, or even weeding in the garden more than bug bites. And, if you work outdoors as farm folk do, insects are sure to find you. Regardless of your occupation, however, you will probably have experienced insect bites, some of which were no more than bothersome, but others more potentially dangerous. Biting insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, some flies, bedbugs, and fleas bite in order to feed on blood. A substance in their “saliva” prevents blood coagulation and makes their feeding possible. It is this substance that causes the local allergic skin reaction that you see as a bug bite. Different people react differently depending upon their immune system’s allergic response, and if you have not experienced bug bites, you may have a more serious allergic reaction, for example a young child or a visitor from an area where bug bites are not the norm. These biting insects can also be vectors or transmitters of disease. The mosquito species, Culex tarsalis, carries West Nile virus from infected birds to people. The deer tick transmits lyme disease from a variety of mammals to humans. Regardless of whether or not insect bites might be the cause of disease, however, they are never pleasant. Insects that sting include bees, wasps, hornets and fire ants. They sting as a defence mechanism and actually inject you with a venom through their stingers. The venom is the reason for the allergic reaction, which can range from mild swelling and redness to anaphylaxis. If you, a family member, or a friend is allergic to insect stings, it is important to have on hand at all times a pre-filled epinephrine injector or “pen.” With each repeated exposure to insect stings, the allergic reaction can become more marked, with swelling of airways and an inability to breathe. Epinephrine is able to counteract the allergic symptoms. However, you do need to seek immediate attention. Ideally, you want to avoid bug bites and stings. Avoiding insects is a good first step. Stay indoors when insects are most active, especially at dusk.

Avoid perfume and bright colours which can attract insects. When you are outdoors, wear long pants, long sleeves, and even tuck your pants into your socks in order to put a barrier between you and insects. Keep garbage, sweet beverages, and even food covered to avoid attracting insects. The most effective bug repellents contain 25 to 30 per cent diethyl-meta-toluamide or DEET. However, these are mainly effective against biting insects, not stinging ones. It is thought DEET works by confusing insects so that they are no longer able to find you; picture a radar-jamming cloud of bug repellent surrounding your body. Proper application is important. You want to reapply your bug repellent after physical activity, sweating, or swimming. When the weather is windy, your bug repellent may blow away faster, and with warmer temperatures your body heat and perspiration can mean a quicker dissipation. The downside of DEET is that, when absorbed into the body in large amounts, it can affect the nervous system causing dizziness and disorientation. Appropriate application is necessary. It should never be applied to damaged, broken, or cut skin, and when using a DEET-containing bug repellent on children, it shouldn’t be applied to hands because children often put their hands in their mouth. You can apply the bug repellent to clothing, but check the fabric first as DEET can damage some material. Also remember options like mosquito netting and protective clothing. Some products combine both bug repellents and sunscreens, both of which are important. But your better choice is to use two separate products. You want to apply your sunscreen first, about 20 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, so that it has time to penetrate into your skin to give you the best possible protection. Conversely, you want to apply your insect repellent just before going outdoors so that you have the largest “cloud” of protection around you. Smart use can mean more enjoyment outdoors for you and your family. Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist interested in health and education.

Digestion is not something anyone thinks about until they experience heartburn, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, or other symptoms of digestive problems. Non-prescription remedies and prescription medications for gastrointestinal symptoms are numerous and varied, but with so much choice you may have difficulty choosing. Next issue, we’re going to look at digestion and some of the more common products.

64 country-guide.ca

April 2014


NOW AVAILABLE “How often does magnetic north circle true north?” My commercial pilot students are learning the principles of magnetism. The Earth is a very big magnet. The compass in an airplane seeks magnetic north, making navigation possible. Magnetic north and true north are not in the same place. The angle between true north and magnetic north is called variation. Variation differs everywhere on the globe. Pilots need to know the angle for their area when calculating a heading to fly. Magnetic north constantly moves. How long does it take magnetic north to circle the North Pole? Some students answer “24 hours,” others venture “a week.” They are surprised to learn that it takes approximately 960 years. I ask if anyone remembers their grade school teacher bringing a box of iron filings and a magnet to class. The iron filings form a symmetric pattern from the North Pole of the magnet to the south end. The magnetic field of the Earth is similar, another demonstration of an orderly universe. Ancient mariners pointed their sextant at the sun, moon and stars to calculate their position. Crude compasses indicated direction. The two techniques told them where they were and which way they were heading. People in Saskatoon are waiting by the South Saskatchewan River for the first pelicans to arrive. The large white birds take up summer residence on an island in Redberry Lake, 70 kilometres northwest of the city. Each morning a few birds fly to the city. They have a favourite fishing spot below a weir in the river. When they catch their daily requirement, they fly home. They appear to take fish back to the island to feed other birds. In the autumn they fly long distances south to their wintering area. How do they know to come to the same place, generation after generation? How do they find their way? Do they have inbuilt compasses and sextants? Are they able to sense the Earth’s magnetic field? Order and pattern in the universe help me to believe in God. Is the growth of a grain of wheat into a plant divinely ordained, or chance coincidence? Who possesses the power that holds stars in their places, or makes a rosebush grow? What is the place of religion in a world of science? At one time scientific truth was deemed in conflict with religious faith. Those days have passed. Science and religion are parallel approaches to life. They do not contradict each other; they complement each other. Scientists ask how the world was created. They study the shape and substance of the world and everything in it. Religion is concerned with why the world was created, with the meaning and purpose of life. Scientists do not set out to tell us the meaning of life. Science can tell us the facts of “how” we got here, but science does not claim to tell us “why” we are here. Our faith can help us answer religious questions such as, “What is the purpose of our existence?” and, “What is the value of life?” I am making parish visits on a frosty afternoon. I ring the doorbell and wait for a response. When a lady opens the door, her face falls. “Oh dear,” she blurts out, “I was hoping it would be the plumber.” With an inch of water on the kitchen floor she needs science more than religion. I help her clean up, a religious act while she waits for a scientific fix. Suggested Scripture: Genesis 1:20-23, Psalm 11:4

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Rod Andrews is a retired Anglican bishop. He lives in Saskatoon. ©2013 Farm Business Communications

April 2014

country-guide.ca 65


ACRES

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

Sleepless in Saskatchewan Doesn’t Dad realize his romance is putting the farm at risk? ale Hanson was surprised at how relieved he was when his father, Ed, drove into the yard, towing his 32-foot trailer behind Dale’s one-ton truck. “I was starting to think he’d never come home,” Dale said to his son Jeff. “Wasn’t sure how we were going to get the crop in without him.” The Hansons hadn’t expected Ed to change his routine, but one day last fall he’d come home from the city with a new RV. Ed headed south after harvest, and spent all winter in a trailer park in Yuma, Arizona, so busy with social events from fish frying to jewelry making that he barely had time to phone home. In mid-March, when their neighbour went south on a golfing holiday, the Hansons found out what was keeping Ed so busy. Bill Henderson snapped a photo of Ed eating burgers with a woman at the Lutes Casino, sitting close enough to touch. She was reaching out with her napkin to dab ketchup off Ed’s chin. Bill had texted the photo to Jeff. Jeff had been a little shocked, but not too shocked to share it with the rest of the family. Ed was home for a few hours before anyone 66 country-guide.ca

brought this up. But while Ed, Dale and Jeff were cleaning the last of the mud off Ed’s trailer before they parked it in the shed for the summer, Dale got up the nerve to ask. “Meet anyone nice this winter?” “Sure,” Ed answered. Dale kept on. “Anyone special?” “Why are you looking at me like that? Is there something on my jacket?” Ed said. Then he turned on the power washer — a machine loud enough to put off any further discussion. When they went in for coffee, Jeff picked up the ball. “We saw a picture, Grandpa. You might as well tell us about her.” Jeff pulled out his phone and showed Ed the incriminating evidence. Ed turned red. “What the heck? Am I on ‘America’s Most Wanted?’ Is the CIA following me? A guy can’t get any privacy. Did you people have my trailer bugged?” Donna made peace. “We didn’t spy on you Ed. Bill Henderson texted that picture to Jeff. He shouldn’t have. But we were all glad to see you having a nice time.” “Fine,” Ed said. “If you all have to know, I guess I have to tell you. Her name is Helen. She’s APRIL 2014


acres

widowed. Seventy-two. Lives in Medicine Hat. She’s got two sons. Both in Calgary. They’re engineers or something. And tomorrow I have to drive out there and meet them and all their kids.” This was more than the rest of the Hansons had expected; they were stunned into silence. “You don’t even like other people’s kids,” Jeff’s wife Elaine said. “Some days you barely tolerate ours.” “Not much I can do about it.” “You’re going to Alberta? Now?” Dale asked. “I thought we could finally get you to work.” “I’m just going out for a few days,” Ed answered. “Then… Well… Helen’s coming back here with me. She wants to get a look at the farm. Dale couldn’t believe it. “May? The middle of seeding? I thought you’d be working. Not operating a tour guide service.” “Don’t worry. My social life won’t get in your way. She’s staying awhile. We… uh… thought we might save some money on lot rental and just take one trailer south next year. Driving those monsters all the way to Yuma is a nightmare. No point taking two.” Dale put down his coffee cup and got up from the table. “I have to go to the bathroom.” Dale couldn’t sleep that night. After an hour and a half of pretending to ignore his sighing and thrashing around, Donna got him to talk. “What if this woman sticks around?” “That would be nice for your dad,” Donna said. “Nice? For my dad to shack up? With a woman named Helen?” “Maybe you’ll get a half-sister. We could babysit,” Donna said. This didn’t get even a smile out of Dale, so she tried a different tone. “Is this about your mother? It’s been 17 years, Dale. It’s good for your dad to move on.” “I know,” Dale said. “It’s not that.” Donna waited awhile before he spoke again. “Three sections of the land we farm are still in his name.” “Oh Dale,” Donna said. “We’ve seen the will. Your sister’s agreed to take an insurance payment. The land is ours.” “Helen has sons. Two. They’ll want something.” Donna shook her head. “That’s what this is about? You think your father’s girlfriend might try to take part of the farm? We worried about the same thing when Jeff was engaged. And that’s worked out fine.” “So far!” Dale said. “I’m threatened by my father and my son! I’m getting it from both sides. What if Dad gets dementia, and turns over everything to her? Donna rolled her eyes. “Your dad’s happy. Jeff and Elaine are happy. Everything is just fine.” “For now, Donna. For now. But we’re hanging by a thread here.” april 2014

Donna rolled over and went back to sleep. But Dale stayed awake. He tried to take his mind off his father by worrying about grain transportation. Wondering how much canola they should contract. Was it really a good idea to seed so many acres to soybeans? And how would they seed, if Ed was gallivanting all over, meeting grandchildren that belonged to some woman named Helen?

Dale didn’t see the brighter side of things in the morning. “Geez, Dale! Be careful!” Ed called Dale did not see the brighter side of things in the morning. He came dangerously close to getting an arm stuck in the auger while he unloaded fertilizer into a bin. Then he turned around to see his father standing behind him. “Geez, Dale! Be careful!” Ed called. “What are you doing here? Thought you were off to Calgary this morning.” Ed handed over a brown paper bag. “Thought I’d drop this off first.” Dale opened the bag to find a bottle of hickory smoked barbecue sauce. “Got it at a restaurant near Yuma. The place had real good food,” Ed said. “Helen bought some for her daughters-in-law. She said I should get you some.” “You drove all the way out here to drop off a bottle of barbecue sauce? Calgary’s the other way, you know.” Ed shrugged. “I’m not in a huge rush. Helen’s kids aren’t too excited to meet me. They’re worried I’m after her money.” Dale raised his eyebrows. Ed kept talking. “Hope you won’t lose any sleep in that department. I already told Helen you’re running a business — we can’t go making any changes at this stage.” “I’ll bet that went over like a lead balloon,” Dale said. Ed shook his head. “Helen understands. Her husband ran a carpet store in Medicine Hat for years. We’ve both got our estates in order.” Ed turned toward his car. “Well, guess I’d better get going if I’m going to make Calgary tonight. Enjoy that barbecue sauce.” Ed had his car running already when Dale walked up and knocked on the window. Ed lowered the glass so Dale could talk. “Have a nice time, Dad. Tell Helen we’re looking forward to meeting her.” CG country-guide.ca 67


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