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June 2014 $3.50

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A NEW VENTURE Like B.C.’s Grant Stevely, more farms get the spirit

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CONTENTS

JUNE 2014

BUSINESS 8

THAT’S THE SPIRIT

14

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

20

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

24

GRAIN DRAIN

26

HERITAGE ON THE MOVE

32

SO CLOSE, SO FAR

38

RETURN OF THE CZARS

Farm smarts are the engine for these two enterprising ventures in B.C.’s Okanagan. And oh yes, stir in some passion too. Who says you can’t do niche marketing from a remote location? Apparently no one told the Wilkinsons. Ag businesses are facing a succession crisis of their own, which is why DuPont Pioneer has brought Andrew Lauver to Saskatoon. Winnipeg used to be the clear capital of agriculture in the West. But can it keep the crown? Can you keep farm and family together when you move after 170 years on the same ground? It takes a different kind of farmer to thrive amid the challenges of eastern Ontario. Will the Putin effect hurt the outlook for global farm machinery manufacturing and sales?

ACROSS THIS COUNTRY

40

THE CANADIAN-MADE BOTTLENECK

58

GUIDE LEGAL — AS THE WIND BLOWS

With midsummer fast approaching, we crossed Canada to talk to farmers and agribusinesses about how they’re preparing for the future. Their answers will inspire you. They should inspire the whole country.

60

GUIDE LIFE — NEW LIFE FOR OLD CHURCHES

PRODUCTION

66

THE OTHER VIEW

44

THE BIG CHANGE

48

A FASTER START

50

12 INSECT TIPS FOR CANOLA

52

THE WILD SIDE OF CHICKPEAS

54

SIX QUESTIONS FOR THE AG ENTREPRENEURS

The West’s grain paralysis is nothing new. Our Third World grain infrastructure is inadequate now, and it’s getting worse. Can you be sued if GMO pollen from your field drifts onto a neighbour’s property, or onto an organic farm miles away? These rural churches are finding life and a renewed sense of mission by reconnecting with their local communities. Alberta grain grower Michael Kalisvaart writes that today’s young farmers are being unwisely held back by older farmers.

EVERY ISSUE 6 62 64

MACHINERY GUIDE

Everything in agriculture is getting bigger. That means tires too.

GUIDE HEALTH

Take care of your digestive tract, and it will take care of you.

HANSON ACRES It wasn’t anybody’s fault, except the fella with the grin.

Today’s tougher market outlook is fuelling the next big wave of farm innovation. But which innovations?

Cigi takes on early-generation testing in order to speed up the development of new varieties.

Use these strategies through the growing season for effective, practical and economic insect control in your canola.

New genes from wild relatives will make chickpeas a better option for more western growers.

So you’ve got a great idea for a new product or service. Should you actually invest in developing it?

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.

JUNE 2014

country-guide.ca 3


desk EDITORIAL STAFF Editor: Tom Button 12827 Klondyke Line, Ridgetown, ON N0P 2C0 (519) 674-1449 Fax (519) 674-5229 Email: tom.button@fbcpublishing.com Associate Editors: Gord Gilmour Cell: (204) 294-9195 (204) 453-7624 Fax (204) 942-8463 Email: gord.gilmour@fbcpublishing.com Maggie Van Camp (905) 986-5342 Fax (905) 986-9991 Email: bmvancamp@fbcpublishing.com Production Editor: Ralph Pearce (226) 448-4351 Email: ralph.pearce@fbcpublishing.com ADVERTISING SALES Dan Kuchma (204) 944-5560 Cell (204) 290-5419 Email: dan.kuchma@fbcpublishing.com Lillie Ann Morris (905) 838-2826 Email: lamorris@xplornet.com

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine

A hot time in the city There’s nothing wrong with a fishing lodge, of course. Nor for that matter is there any reason to miss out on going to a golf course or cottage. I hope to spend some time there myself. But a summer without some serious time in at least one of Canada’s great cities can hardly qualify as a productive season. I have written about this before, and I am thinking about it again because for our June issue every year, we make a point of crisscrossing the country and reporting on some of the major farm trends that we’re seeing. Agriculture is so vibrant, there’s never enough room to include even the most whittled-down list of stories that we promise ourselves during planning, and more gets left out than ever gets included. But there’s Gerald Pilger’s piece on Canada’s grain infrastructure, and Michael Kalisvaart’s column at the very back of the magazine. They are essential for grounding the entire issue in the world of the real. When you read them, you’ll know what I mean, but I hope you’ll pause over the issue’s other stories too. Every year, I’m more and more convinced that agriculture is a people story. But I also always feel it’s a mistake to pretend that we’re covering agriculture in Canada without seriously engaging with anyone in what are, from every possible view, this country’s world-class cities. In an earlier editorial, I wrote that Swift Current is a fine place. So are Brandon and Guelph, and Medicine Hat and Regina. 4 country-guide.ca

The fact is, however, that Canada has three cities that are on a different plane — Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver — and it’s as short-sighted to say you can understand this country without visiting these great cities as it is to feel that you can understand Canada if you don’t appreciate at least to a minimal degree its phenemonal, world-class ability to produce food. If you bemoan the agricultural ignorance of the average Canadian, I hope you’ll devote time to learning this summer about Canada’s amazing urbanites. They’re as much a part of our country as we are, and we should be equally proud of them. So take a week this summer and visit one of our great cities. Choose one that you’ve never spent time in before, or the one you know least well. Take the family too, especially if they’re unsure. It’s unconscionable today to raise kids who haven’t spent enough time in these cities to at least understand why other kids are so energized by them. Talk to your spouse and set a date today. In the first place, you’ll have a great vacation, which is a good thing. You’ve earned it. In the second place, if you’re like most people in rural Canada, you’ll find that most of our preconceptions about big cities are actually misconceptions. What a great feeling it is to rise above them. Then let me know what you think. As always, I want to hear from you. I’m at tom.button@fbcpublishing.com. Enjoy!

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. 8 Internet address: www.agcanada.com

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

june 2014


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Machinery

By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor

In agriculture today, everything is getting bigger. The yields, the farms, and certainly the equipment have all grown larger in the past five years, and now the tire manufacturers have joined the trend. Late in 2013, more manufacturers began breaking the seven-foot barrier, crossing over from Group 48 into Group 49s and 50s, with diameters of 7.2 and 7.6 feet, respectively. Some are even pushing their new series into the Group 51 level. Yet that is only part of the story with the newer tire designs. Some manufacturers are exploring the “extreme flotation” concept to reduce soil compaction, tighten turns, and provide a smoother ride. For all that technology is doing for equipment and precision agriculture, however, it really does come down to taking better care of the soil. Here’s a glimpse at what’s new.

Alliance Agriflex 363  Bigger machinery inevitably means more road time between fields. It affects our machinery choices, for instance, driving the spike in self-propelled sprayers. It is also affecting tire choice, with farmers looking for new designs that can excel both on pavement and across a range of soil conditions. The Agriflex 363 series is new from Alliance and is an example of the company’s Improved Flexion (IF) design. The configuration of the tire means it can work with higher tire deflection, translating into 20 per cent higher load capacities at the same inflation pressures. At the same time, it can also perform just as well at lower air pressures and a standard load, increasing the footprint of the tire and reducing ground pressure. Added blocks in the tread also provide superior traction on softer surfaces.

www.atgtire.com

Trelleborg  Sustainable farming has become an important theme with Trelleborg’s new tires, and they used several exhibitions earlier this year to show off all they have to offer. First on the list is their IF900/65R46 TM1000 High Power line, with what the company calls “incomparable flotation performance.” Incorporating Trelleborg’s BlueTire tread design, it’s been engineered to make the most of both tread width and its larger footprint, said by the company to be the widest on the market. Trelleborg also launched its ProgressiveTraction design, featuring a double lug which is engineered to improve efficiency in the field. In addition to boosting traction more than 10 per cent, the Progressive Traction design also generates extra pull, reducing working time while increasing efficiency.

www.trelleborg.com

6 country-guide.ca

June 2014


Goodyear-Titan Farm Tires  Goodyear is stepping up its interest in the farm tire sector. Not only has the company made the jump into the Group 49 and 50 categories, they’re into Group 51 as well, and it is investing in Extreme Flotation technology as well. In all, Goodyear is pushing three new series and 11 different sizes, with three Super Traction radials in Group 50 and 51, seven sizes in the Optitrac tires, four Group 49s and three Group 50s. And for what Goodyear says is the ultimate — or extreme — in flotation, there’s the Goodyear DT930 featuring the low sidewall (LSW) technology, with smaller sidewalls and a larger rim diameter, meaning less road lope and power hop.

www.titan-intl.com

Michelin AgriBib 480 95 R50 When something works, people tend to stick with it. For Michelin, 2014 marks a revisiting of the AgriBib technology that the company launched in 2012. The new AgriBib 480 95 R50 is taller, and designed more for larger, front-wheel assist tractors. The key to its performance is the capacity to handle larger loads and an improved quality of ride. The company also promises longer-lasting tread and improved traction. This particular design is expected to be released in North America during the latter months of 2014, and it’s expected to garner plenty of attention when it does arrive; John Deere and Case New Holland are partnering with Michelin for the launch.

www.michelin.com

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june 2014

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country-guide.ca 7


business

Farm smarts, an incredible dose of dedication, and intense passion for their products are driving these two ventures into consumerism

aybe these two startup agribusinesses are riding the coattails of B.C.’s wine industry. Or, maybe they’re on to something unique and innovative. Either way, they’re succeeding in farm-based ventures based on the passions of their customers, and they are thriving on the essential passion of their owners. With the summer tourist season barely six weeks away, and with out-of-town traffic already picking up, Grant Stevely is under some serious pressure when I arrive. After five years of researching, planning, designing, investing, and jumping through bureaucratic hoops and hacking through red tape, his dream is in the final stages of becoming reality. His production facility, tasting area and landscaping are all on track. Calls are already coming in from retailers and restaurants keen to feature his output. “And that’s before I’ve actually produced a single product,” Stevely says. Unfortunately, he’s got one fairly major problem. The delivery of the production equipment, which had originally been scheduled to be installed and operational in April, has been delayed by two very crucial months. The holdup means Stevely won’t open his doors to the public until Canada Day… at best. Given the seasonality of the tourist business, he’ll have to hit the ground running from day one, and he is crossing every finger and toe that there are no additional delays. Still, for a guy with an ever-building mountain of startup costs on the one hand, and little in incoming cash on the other, he’s surprisingly cool under pressure. His calm comes from a total confidence in the business plan, he tells me. But it also comes from his respect for his craft, and from his eagerness to begin showing what he can do, and educating consumers on his product. Of course, the whiff of whisky at 9 a.m. just might help a little too. Don’t be alarmed though. Any early-morning sipping is all in the name of research. Stevely is a passionate connoisseur of all things whisky, a keen advocate for the expansion of B.C.’s craft alcohol industry, and the owner and soon-to-be distiller behind Canada’s newest craft distillery, Dubh Glas Distillery in Oliver, B.C. Continued on page 10 8 country-guide.ca

Photography: Lionel Trudel

By Madeleine Baerg

June 2014


business

“This is my passion,�  says Stevely, who devoted years to planning how  to make whisky into a  prospering business

June 2014

country-guide.ca 9


business

“We are farmers first,” say Hol and Chegwin

Continued from page 8 Meanwhile, a valley away, Jyl Chegwin and Roger Hol are also well aware of the clock ticking down to tourist season, and when I join them, the hammering in the background — today it’s a deck under construction — and Hol’s rapid-fire directions to staff punctuate Chegwin’s description of their business vision, and prove the to-do list still has a ways to go. “When you really like something, you put more effort into it. And we really, really love what we’re doing here. But yes, we’re running flat out,” Chegwin admits with both a sigh and a laugh. “We want to cater to the high-end market, but it takes a lot to get things really polished.” Hol and Chegwin’s just-about-to-open agribusiness is ambitious to say the least: a vineyard, winery, three-unit (hopefully growing soon to 10-unit) tourist accommodation, event location for up to 350 people, and hands-on agri-tourism experience which together make up VineGlass Winery in Cawston, B.C. “What are we? We are farmers first. But, we are hosts too. We like to say what we offer is experiential tourism. We encourage our guests to walk 10 country-guide.ca

through the vineyard; learn about the vineyard; see what stage the grapes are at; participate in whatever vineyard tasks we are working on that day. Basically, to step into the farming life,” says Hol. “Our primary guests are city people who love wine and nature but have never had the opportunity to learn about a vineyard, who want to see how things are grown and get their hands dirty,” continues Chegwin. “There has been a growing movement toward knowing more about your food and finding your rural roots. People in the city want to connect with the country so they can get to know where their food — and their wine — comes from.” Only 20 years ago, B.C.’s Okanagan and Similkameen valleys were characterized by countless acres of apples, peaches, cherries and plums. But the consistently hot days of summer, the cool evenings, and the long fall that produce excellent tree fruits also suit a somewhat easier to grow and (usually) more lucrative crop: wine grapes. Today, the majority of fruit-growing ground in the valley bottoms, as well as much of the desert hillside above, has been repurposed as vineyard. Continued on page 12 June 2014


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business Continued from page 10 It’s a change that has created its own economics. Cactus- and sagebrush-covered hillside that, until recently, was relatively worthless is now priced at $120,000 per acre and more. The growth of the wine industry in the Okanagan and Similkameen is nothing short of phenomenal. Where in 1990 there were just 14 wineries in these neighbouring valleys combined, today the Similkameen has 15 and the Okanagan boasts a whopping 123 largescale and boutique wineries. The Okanagan was recently selected as the top wine tourism destination in the world by the Huffington P ost , an honour that will help increase the $140 million in economic impact wine tourism generated last year for the valley. And, 20 minutes to the west, the Similkameen Valley now happily sports the title of “one of the world’s five best wine regions you’ve never heard of,” as dubbed by EnRoute Magazine. The wine industry trajectory appears to be pointed firmly upwards. Wine tourism continues to grow on a year-over-year basis. More and more wineries are popping up each year in the Okanagan and Similkameen, and higher and higher hillsides are turning from desert yellow to vineyard green. Both Dubh Glas Distillery and VineGlass Winery intend to benefit from wine tourists’ enthusiasm for the region. They both believe that what they plan to offer ties in nicely with the existing wine industry, yet is unique enough to set them apart in the competition for tourist attention and dollars.

Hillsides that a few years ago were almost worthless now sell for $120,000 an acre.

12 country-guide.ca

“Craft distilling is a great complementary industry for wine tourism,” says Stevely. “We can make a whisky that is uniquely Canadian, uniquely Okanagan. I want to mature our whisky in Canadian wine barrels to create a lighter, fruitier whisky. And I can make fruit liqueurs — eau de vies and schnapps — from the area’s peaches and cherries; fruit that is perfect but might not be the right size or the right shape to sell on a grocery shelf. I love making something out of fruit that would otherwise be landfill.” “When we first started thinking about opening VineGlass, the Napa Valley (California) had over 2,000 wineries, more than 600 restaurants, and something like 30,000 tourist beds in an area the same size as the Okanagan and Similkameen,” says Chegwin. “People want variety. A study done a decade ago said we need hundreds of wineries in this area; there’s so much potential. It said there’s not nearly enough restaurants, not nearly enough high-end accommodations. Since then, there’s been a proliferation of wineries and it’s turned into an industry. But there’s still so much room for growth and creativity. And in our area, there is no high-end accommodation at all, no one offering a hands-on experience.” Dubh Glas (since everyone asks) is pronounced “Douglas,” as in Stevely’s middle name. It’s fitting that his business name is a twist on his own name since this business has consumed Stevely from vision through execution. The original concept was born in 2009. To bring it to fruition, Stevely took a giant leap of faith: he went back to school to develop a business plan, sold virtually everything he had, quit his job, and travelled to Arizona to educate himself on the science and magic of distillation. Finally, after much research into where the most wine industry traffic might be and where the liquor laws would be most receptive to craft distilling, he uprooted from Alberta and moved to the “Wine Capital of Canada”: small-town Oliver, B.C. “When people sample a product, they feel an attachment to it and to its story, so the key for me is getting people in the door,” Stevely says. “Twentytwo per cent of winery visitors are drive-by; 37 per cent are referrals. I knew I had to have a location with a high profile so I could capitalize on drive-bys, and I needed to be in a community with a strong referral market. I began to realize the Okanagan was the place I had to be.” He’s hopeful the craft distilling industry will grow into a destination industry of its own. “The craft distilling industry in the United States has blossomed; there’s been absolutely huge growth. Usually we’re reflective of what happens there. And, last year’s changes to B.C. liquor regulations really improved things for us. Under a craft distilling licence, if you make your product with 100 per cent B.C. product, you can sell directly to licensees now, which is a really big deal for us,” says Stevely. B.C.’s proposal to allow craft distillers to sell their products at farmers’ markets, likely as soon as this June 2014


business summer, make the province even more conducive to small-scale distillers. For its part, VineGlass is the product of a shared vision a decade old. “Back 10 years ago, we had 75 acres of grapes but there wasn’t much beyond a living from it; we were just barely squeaking by with many years in the red. I explored added-value avenues for the vineyard, but the winery we were growing for would not let us make our own wine. After 30 years of farming, we realized there was no way for us to make a living as a traditional farmer doing what we were doing. So, we sold the farm eight years ago to the winery and moved down river,” explains Hol. “Our intention from the beginning when we bought this property was to combine a winery with accommodation and agri-tourism. We have always felt that that would be the most successful model.” The most successful, and the most personally satisfying for these two agri-tourism advocates. Both Hol and Chegwin have been actively involved with the B.C. Agri-tourism Alliance (BCATA), and Hol sat on the board of the B.C. Wine Institute (BCWI). Both were directly involved in putting together a study on behalf of these two organizations about the agri-tourism industry. In addition to farming and agri-tourism experience, Chegwin brings another perhaps more rare skill to their business. She boasts several years’ experience building corn mazes in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, which gave her the know-how to help design and build VineGlass’s most memorable attribute: the image of a giant wineglass etched into the vineyard itself. Hol and Chegwin hope to grow their facility to accommodate more overnight guests and develop their event-hosting reputation. VineGlass’s quiet location, on-site catering facilities, three acres of gardens and gracious pool area, combined with an authentic and accessible farm experience, lend themselves well to corporate training and team-building workshops. With recent personal experience with cancer, Chegwin also sees a connection to wellness. “This is the most incredibly peaceful place to be. Even after being here for eight years we still don’t take it for granted,” she says. “It is the ideal place to get away from outside pressures and focus without outside interference.” Stevely is confident in his product. He has enlisted the consulting help of one of the greats in the business: Mike Nicolson, a master distiller for 36 years at six of Scotland’s top distilleries, who also assisted in the startup of Shelter Point Distillery in Comox. And, when the production equipment finally arrives, it will be new and high tech, which means Stevely will be able to produce a very highquality product in a short amount of time. (“It no longer needs to be old to be good. Especially if you age it in small barrels, it can be three or four years and superb,” he explains.) June 2014

“I want to look back and say I did it,” says  Stevely. “I don’t want to say I could have,  but didn’t have the guts.” Stevely has big plans for what he’d like to accomplish in the short-term future: a minimum of 2,500 litres of whisky in pre-sale casks, and as much gin and fruit liqueur (both of which are produced relatively quickly) as the market will bear. He is currently pre-selling half-casks (44 bottles) of whisky for $2,000 and has had impressive demand despite not yet even having publicly announced the offering. “This is my passion — I absolutely love whisky, so I don’t want to be too big. I want to be an integral part of the business over the long haul,” Stevely says. “There have been tough days when I’ve thought it was easier collecting a paycheque. But it will be worth it in the end.” Chegwin and Hol are similarly positive. “We’ve been very intentional about where we are, what we’re building, and how we’ve gone about doing it,” says Hol. “It has been a daunting startup but it’s always difficult to start something brand new. Like any new business, it takes three to five years to get it going. But we’re sure that we can make this work.” CG country-guide.ca 13


business

In fact, Kevin and Judy Wilkinson say, value-add marketing can actually cut a lot of the volatility out of farming

14 country-guide.ca

June 2014


business

The road less travelled Here’s proof that niche markets can thrive far away from the city lights

Photography: Mark Seabrook

By Lisa Guenther, CG Field Editor evin and Judy Wilkinson have never been afraid to take the road less travelled, as I learn while navigating their winding driveway on a late-spring weekend. Four-wheel drive is a must to get through the thick mud here, and the laneway snakes through the boreal forest for about two miles before stopping at their ranch, Trail’s End Bison. On the south side of the driveway is a sliver of Thunderchild Reserve, which butts up against northwestern Saskatchewan’s Turtle Lake. On the north, bison stare from behind pasture fence. One bull slowly rises to his feet, vigilant. The laneway opens into a clearing. A ranch house with wood siding and a large deck are the first things you see. An Esso sign in mint condition hangs from an outbuilding fashioned like an old gas station. The Wilkinsons have been running bison from this ranch since 1977, shortly after Kevin’s interest in bison was sparked during his first job, at Al Oeming’s game farm near Ardrossan, Alta. “I worked up there for one winter, and the buffalo — both the Wood and Plains — were on my feed route,” Kevin recalls. Kevin settled into ranching and started raising cattle. But he still had bison on the brain, so he and his brotherin-law, Rick Hartley, bought two bison cows with calves, plus a bull, from a producer near Maidstone, Sask. “That was our start. And pretty soon we got rid of the cattle, and just got into the buffalo more,” says Kevin. Judy soon got involved too, and in March 1982 was elected to the first June 2014

board of directors for the Canadian Buffalo Association. At that time, Canada had roughly 175 bison producers, and 54 became members. Marketing bison was easier said than done when Judy and Kevin started out. “You never really knew who was going to buy these bulls that were ready to go,” says Judy. At the Canadian Buffalo Association’s first sale in 1982, yearling heifers averaged $875 and yearling bulls $775. In the early ’90s, the exotic market started taking off, and bison heifers were suddenly valuable breeding animals. A young couple bought the Wilkinsons’ best heifer calves for $1,500 apiece. “And we were just dancing because we thought, ‘We’ve got it made,’” says Kevin. But that was just the start of the skyrocketing breeding market. The Wilkinsons sold heifer calves for $5,000 to $6,000 in 1996. Cows went for $9,000. “It’s absolutely unreal when you think of it now, how people were so desperate to get a buffalo,” says Kevin. The good times didn’t last forever, though. A sharp market correction was followed by drought and BSE. Business

was so lean the Wilkinsons sold yearlings for around $400. “You couldn’t make a living on it,” says Kevin. Though Kevin and Judy had made money during the boom, they’d also kept back a lot of heifer calves, expanding their herd. They knew they had to do something to boost their revenue. And that is how, as they recovered from the crashing market, they mapped out a new path to add value to their bison. In 2004, the Wilkinsons started marketing Trail’s End Buffalo Stix. “Most people, when they think of jerky, they think of the old full-muscle product, hard to chew and spicy,” says Kevin. “They don’t realize that ours is totally different because it’s a ground jerky, it’s very moist, it’s easy to chew.” Judy worked with Saskatoon’s Food Centre in Innovation Place to develop the recipe. Another bison producer was adding saskatoon berries to jerky, so to avoid competing directly with that product, they first tried blueberries, but the final product proved too moist. Continued on page 16 country-guide.ca 15


business

Continued from page 15

Getting their bison jerky chosen for the International Space Station sparked more sales.

But cranberries added flavour without too much moisture. They christened the winning recipe Cranberry Craze. Today Kevin and Judy have two lines of Cranberry Craze Buffalo Stix. The provincially inspected line is processed at Drake Meats, located in Drake, Sask. The Drake Meats line includes bison from Kevin and Judy’s own herd. Any food products sold outside the province have to be sourced through a federally inspected system, however, so the Wilkinsons also process a line at the Food Centre. Federal regulations require the animals to be slaughtered in a federally inspected plant, and Kevin and Judy are a long way from the closest facility, so they buy prime cuts with less fat. The Wilkinsons have talked about adding other flavours, but that would necessitate another production run, separate labels, more packaging, and more samples, says Kevin. “And I don’t necessarily think it would up your sales. I think it would just change your sales. More work for less,” says Judy. “Plus we can’t get enough production time for what we want now.”

During our conversation at their kitchen table, neither of the Wilkinsons utter the word “branding.” But it’s clear they’ve attracted a loyal following. The Wilkinsons aren’t looking to develop a big market because their production capacity is limited. But they tried out many different marketing strategies before hitting on what works. These days they focus on consumerdirect sales, such as trade and craft shows, plus mail orders. Spring and fall are busy times for them as they hit shows from Fort McMurray and Calgary to Regina and everywhere in between. Last year they sold their products at 26 shows. Knowing how to engage people so they try a sample is important, Kevin says. Judy agrees, adding, “I call it the five-second rule. It takes five seconds for the sample to hit their mouth before their face goes, ‘Oh my God.’” In 2011 a customer nominated their Buffalo Stix for the Canadian Space Agency’s Snacks for Space, and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield voted to ensure they made the trip to the International Space Station.

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“We got customers out of that,” says Kevin. “That was a real boost.” Nor was the customer who submitted the nomination an anomaly. The Wilkinsons have repeat customers who drop by while they’re on the show circuit. Judy says it’s easy to sell a stick of jerky because it’s an impulse buy. “But it’s the people who buy from you all the time that build your business. And I’m always really grateful to them because that’s what makes your business.” These days Kevin and Judy use Apple’s Square Reader to accept payments at trade and craft shows. Before Square, they only accepted cash or cheque so they could avoid the bite of transaction fees. But many customers carried neither, and they tended to lose sales when people went to the ATM, and never came back. So they allowed people to take product home and mail a cheque later. “I figured I’d rather feed people than Visa,” says Judy. They’ve left shows with various customers owing them $800 in total, but they’ve rarely been burned. Continued on page 18 June 2014


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business Continued from page 16

Plenty of challenges

And people not only repay Kevin and Judy’s goodwill by buying product, but by offering them ideas too. For example, a customer wanted a familysize pack, so the Wilkinsons created it. “We’re always listening to people,” says Judy. Judy had what she calls a profound moment last year at a show in Red Deer. A woman dropped by her booth and told her, “You’re first on my list. You’re the reason I came to the show.” Judy and Kevin still keep an eye out for new markets, however. An Ontario group called the Carnivore Club is featuring their Buffalo Stix in June. The club sends a package of gourmet meat products to its members each month. “So that’s a pretty cool thing because that’s going to be a group of people who have never, ever heard of us before,” says Judy.

“In the food industry, everything costs a lot of money,” says Judy. Products that don’t fit in stock boxes require a special die, which can cost thousands, she adds. “But we’ve been really, really lucky in that everything we produce fits in stock boxes. Little things like that have just flowed.” Kevin and Judy have also managed to keep the business risk at a manageable level. “Because we started so small and just did the little steps all along, we didn’t get into a bind where we had a huge investment,” Kevin says. “I think that’s the trouble with a lot of businesses. They start too big.” Making and packaging jerky is labour intensive. A different butcher used to process their provincial line, and because the business had an old cryovac machine, Judy had to open each

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bag, fill it with product, stuff it into the machine, and seal it. “I did 35,000 (packages) that year and got tennis elbow really bad,” says Judy. “So I came home and said to Kevin, we’ve got to change this. We’ve got to do something different.” The tennis elbow spurred the switch to Drake Meats, which has a larger, mechanized cryovac machine. Flexibility and patience are also important when it comes to dealing with the supply chain, says Judy. “When you don’t do it yourself, you’re totally at the mercy of everyone else.” Last year they had a batch of product that lost its seal. “So you’re already selling product that’s unacceptable. And you get feedback. And of course we were more than willing to reimburse (customers),” says Kevin. But the bigger worry is the customers who didn’t contact them, Judy adds, especially as they may have been firsttime buyers. Lately the U.S. has been draining Canada’s bison herd, and more bison producers are retiring while prices are good. This makes it harder for Judy and Kevin to source meat for their federal line, especially as dwindling supply means higher prices for those prime cuts. “You don’t want to run out of meat because you’ve got shows booked,” says Kevin. And because the Food Centre has so many clients, it’s hard to book in with them, he adds. “So there are only so many spaces in the whole year that you can actually get your product made.” But Judy managed to buy most of the meat she’ll need for the upcoming year before prices jumped. Somehow, it all comes together. For instance, tracking inventory is an important task for traceability and to see which products are making money. Judy picked up those skills at a previous off-farm job, although she says when she finished the job, she thought, “What am I ever going to do with that? “Things that you think are nowhere in life end up being really beneficial,” she says. After 10 years, Kevin and Judy say they wouldn’t do anything differently. “It’s like every single little thing has added to what we do now,” says Judy. Perhaps that’s proof enough. As the poet wrote, taking the road less travelled can make all the difference. CG June 2014


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business

Great expectations Faced with their own succession crises, ag businesses are drafting tomorrow’s star players, like Pioneer’s Andrew Lauver By Tom Button, Editor an emerging leader in international business for the giant ag multinational. Only 23, there’s already a kind of mythology surrounding Lauver, and inside that mythology is a kind of composite picture of the management characteristics that DuPont Pioneer thinks will prove winners for its next generation of senior execs. First to come to mind is Lauver’s Chuck Grassley story. Grassley is widely known both in the U.S. and Canada as the U.S. senator for Iowa since 1981. He had farmed part time in the 1950s, but then excelled in academics and became a genuine power broker in Washington, where he has chaired the Senate Finance Committee and is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It all means that Grassley is the kind of overscheduled, overmeetinged politican who loves to get on an airplane because the flight gives him at least the hope of an hour or two of anonymity and peace. Except on this day in July 2012, Lauver was on the same two-hour flight to Reagan National in D.C.

Photography: Dave Stobbe

cross the country, agriculture has evolved at blinding speed. Today’s farms operate on a scale and at a pace that no one could have imagined 20 years ago, not to mention the sophistication of their financial and business management, or the sheer value of the assets they must command. It’s why all eyes are on the newest generation of farmers, fresh from college and university and full of passion and determination to succeed. We know they’re going to farm differently from their parents, but there’s incredible excitement and impatience to see how they’re actually going to do it. It turns out the same thing is happening in agribusiness, where the challenges and opportunities surrounding succession are every bit as real and high stakes as they are on the farm. In fact, there may be no place better in Canada for seeing the drama unfold than at the DuPont Pioneer regional office in Saskatoon, where a young American named Andrew Lauver has been named

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BUSINESS Lauver, who admits to loving to talk ag policy, was on the plane as part of an Iowa Corn Growers Association delegation. Shortly before, he had formed the first chapter of the association at Iowa State University, where he was studying agriculture on his way to a B.Sc. with distinction in 2012. While at Iowa State he had been president of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, growing its membership by another 25 per cent while also being named to the ag college’s Dean’s Strategic Planning and Budgeting Committee, among other honours.

Lauver was on this flight because the corn association wanted to take young voices with them to Washington to see decision makers including Grassley and talk about the aspirations and challenges of farm youth. Lauver knows those challenges at first hand. He was born and raised on a corn and soybean farm near Rockwell City, a couple hours northwest of Des Moines. The farm, run by his grandfather Don Lauver and his father Kevin is 500 acres, and as with so many other mid-size farms, it would need to double in size for the next generation to take it over on a full-time basis. Yet the amount of capital that would be needed for such growth is beyond staggering. So Lauver climbed into seat 12C, mentally rehearsing the kinds of messages he would try to spread in Washington, probably mainly talking to staffers and lower-level politicians while the big names in the corn association tackled the big names from Washington. Except, the passenger in 12D was Grassley himself. Nothing daunted, when Grassley nodded hello and said words to the effect of, “Where are you on your way to, son?” Lauver plowed straight ahead, engaging Grassley for the entire flight and taking full advantage of what seemed a too-good-to-miss lobbying opportunity. It was the kind of chutzpah that needed to be played right. If too brassy, Lauver risked being obnoxious. If too quiet, he’d risk equally fatal tiresomeness. So how did Lauver do? Well, as they landed, Grassley leaned toward Lauver and said, in words to this effect, “Say, son, why don’t you contact my office about coming on board as an intern.” Continued on page 22

Hand picked for the Ross internship, Lauver sees these western fields as the upcoming base for one of the world’s great revolutions

JUNE 2014

country-guide.ca 21


BUSINESS Continued from page 21 That’s just where the following January found him, in Washington on Grassley’s staff. “I’d never seen decisionmaking that operated at such a pace,” Lauver recalls. It was an education in bringing together all the components of an issue — each with its supporters and detractors — and weaving them into a process that everyone could respect, even if they didn’t always love the final decision. Perhaps equally valuable for corporate life, it taught him that in large organizations, change takes commitment. That same winter, Lauver also applied to DuPont Pioneer for its Frank Ross International Business Emerging Leader program, named for the company’s former vice-president of global commerical business. After three rounds of interviews, Lauver was named its North American winner. To a degree, it was an unexpected turn in his career. While the family farm in Iowa is based on corn and beans, Lauver had always leaned toward animal science, focusing on beef and livestock clubs during his many years with 4-H. Early at Iowa State, however, he checked out a career fair on campus, where he was won over by the seed sector and how it was plunging into molecular science and new traits, and how it was building for new global markets. Lauver knows Pioneer wasn’t his only choice, so while winning the Ross internship means that he has the personal qualities that DuPont Pioneer is looking for to build its own future, the vice versa is true too. Lauver remains convinced he chose right — a view that is only reinforced by his posting to Saskatoon — and like young farmers who talk of farming these days as being at the beginning of a brand new era of better returns, new markets, and extraordinary opportunities, Lauver talks of seed as at a thrilling point for starting a new career. In fact, it’s of farmers that Lauver talks first. During the first leg of his Ross internship, he worked from the company’s Johnston, Iowa headquarters, assigned to conduct one-on-one interviews with some of the biggest American farms as part of the company’s decision to expand its “strategic account manager” approach to these customers. Large or small, today’s farmers are different, Ross now believes. They see management as their core competency, and their mantras are all about working 22 country-guide.ca

“Farmers have a progressive mentality,” Lauver says. “They are trying to build something that will last forever.”

smart, instead of the older self-reliance, running lean or simply working hard. “We have to supply value that advances their farms,” Lauver says of the seed sector. Still, it’s one thing to say that a seed company needs to deliver value, not only in its genetics but in the entire relationship it has with a farmer. It’s something else to figure out what that value is, and how your company can use it to differentiate itself in the grower’s mind. For Lauver, who is also enrolled in a master’s of agribusiness program at Kansas State University, it’s a case study come to life in the most real of ways. Lauver also sees the seed sector as home to cutting-edge business thinking about collaborations, as well as to research programs that can go far beyond what previous breeders could do, and that can be expected to soon sail past the limits faced by current programs. Related to this, Lauver is using his spare time to learn conversational Portuguese at the University of Saskatchewan. It isn’t necessarily that he expects to be

posted to Brazil some day, he says, but that as a millennial entering business, he knows he needs to not only adapt to, but thrive in a world where enjoying other cultures is a big part of life. He is also intrigued by communications and electronic technologies, and one of his jobs in Saskatoon is to help devise the company’s first five-year North American e-plan, not just to keep farmers in touch, but to enhance and sharpen farm decision-making. Such needs, it’s clear, call for world-class solutions, not just solutions that are good enough for the farm. Still, such factors don’t totally explain the excitement of Saskatoon in 2014. That, says Lauver, is corn and soybeans. “We’re going to see these highyield crops become part of the western rotation,” he says. If you look at it in terms of how the world feeds and fuels itself, he continues, “this is a big deal.” None of it will be easy, but for a young agbiz student at the beginning of his career, it’s about as close to breathtaking as things get. CG JUNE 2014


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business

Grain drain

Winnipeg has long reigned over Western Canada’s grain trade — but can it keep the crown? By Gord Gilmour, CG Associate Editor o one noticed,” author and historian Allan Levine says. “We’re talking about arguably the most important business institution in the city’s history, and it barely ranked notice in the city media.” For Levine, author of The exchange: 100 Years of Trading Grain in Winnipeg, it was the moment he realized the grain trade in Winnipeg just wasn’t what it used to be. This particular moment was in 2007, when the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange morphed from a stand-alone open-outcry trading pit to just another part of the ICE online trading platform, a U.S.-based amalgam of various smaller exchanges. The city barely cared, Levine says. “It was unbelievable.” Agriculture had been at the core of Winnipeg, almost from the day the settlement began as a modest fur-trading outpost populated by French and Métis traders and Scottish refugees from the highland clearances. Through almost all of its existence, grain trading was what this city did. The downtown core of the city bustled with traders for decades. The sidewalks and later the all-weather walkway systems were full of runners carrying cash tickets between the offices of the grain companies that dotted the downtown and the Canadian Wheat Board. Traders from the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange were regulars in the taverns, and at lunch time it was all but impossible to sit anywhere without hearing grain prices talked about at the next table. That’s not exactly gone, but it’s a lot more muted these days. The grain companies have amalgamated over the years, and Viterra, one of the biggest, is now headquartered in neighbouring Saskatchewan. Yes, the Canadian Wheat Board is still around. Stripped of its single-desk powers, however, it’s a shadow of its former self. Ditto for the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange — that august institution demutualized and joined the much larger ICE Futures online platform a few years ago, ending more than 100 years of open-outcry pit trading. In just a few short years, the grain trade has faded from in your face to tough to spot. And with every passing year, the whispered question gets just a bit louder. Is Winnipeg still heart of the grain trade? Geographically, it’s on the edge of the Prairie region, so Saskatoon in many ways is seen as a 24 country-guide.ca

more logical hub, given its more central location. The direction of trade has also reoriented over the decades, with the emergence of major Asian customers causing much of the grain to flow west through distant ports like Vancouver and Prince Rupert, instead of through Thunder Bay to the east.

Still beating Winnipeg is still the heart of the grain trade, however, and some insist it’s a heart that is still beating strongly. On the face of it, there are a number of things that keep the trade off life support, Levine insists. Not least of these is that the remaining grain companies are almost entirely family-owned enterprises — outfits like Paterson, Parrish & Heimbecker and the Richardson family, arguably the city’s first family of the grain trade. “We’re talking about companies and families that have touched every part of the city’s social and cultural fabric,” Levine says. “They’ve made Winnipeg much more important in many ways than its size might suggest it should be.” That commitment has taken many forms, Levine says. For example there’s the city’s outsized cultural footprint as represented by institutions like the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the symphony orchestra and the well-supported local theatre scene. There’s also the city’s role as a financial centre — something that grew along with, and because of, its role as a graintrading centre. With these roots running so deep in the city, Levine says it’s unlikely most of the remaining companies will pull up stakes and leave. Another source of Winnipeg’s incumbency in the industry is the role of various government-run or -funded institutions. For example, the Canadian Grain Commission is headquartered just a few steps from Portage and Main. In the same building — at least for now — is also the Canadian International Grain Institute (Cigi). For many years, Cigi was jointly funded by the federal government and farmers, through the Canadian Wheat Board. It’s had to find a new path forward that involves more industry work following the death of the CWB’s single-desk powers, and in that process Cigi has bumped into limitations at its current location, where it’s been doing business since its inception in 1972, says Cigi executive director Earl Geddes. “We were trying to build new industry relationships and we were finding we had to turn down business because we simply didn’t have the space June 2014


business and resources to take it on,” Geddes says. “That just didn’t sit right with me.” That reality led to talk of finding new facilities, which placed Cigi at the centre of this emerging new dynamic. Almost immediately, representatives from the city of Saskatoon appeared, touting that city’s benefits and emerging status as a significant agriculture research hub. That’s hardly surprising — what was surprising is that a similar effort didn’t materialize from the Manitoba and city governments. Ultimately, however, Winnipeg still makes more sense, Geddes says, and he says it’s a view that’s been underscored by comments from Cigi’s international customers when they come to the city. “What they’re telling us is this is something that’s entirely unique in the world,” Geddes says. “There simply isn’t another location where they can come and visit all of their major customers in one place.” And while it may have taken time, the city did rise to the challenge, and Geddes says the local downtown business improvement zone and the mayor’s office have been spending a lot of time making sure Cigi’s next home is inside the city. “I think they’ve really gotten it lately,” Geddes says. That power of incumbency also drew in another major new player recently, as the industry organization Cereals Canada named Winnipeg as the location of its new head office. Cereals Canada, freshly organized in the wake of cereal market deregulation, joins other major groups like the Canola Council of Canada and Pulse Canada in calling Winnipeg’s downtown core home. Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada, says the board members of the organization chose Winnipeg for good reasons, mainly relating to the concentration of the industry, something he views as continuing even today. “Traditionally Winnipeg has been the centre of the industry, and it does still have a major concentration,” Dahl says. “It makes so much sense for things like organizing meetings. The majority of the industry is still here.” That’s not to say the city and provincial governments can rest on their laurels though. Dahl explains that what he’s talking about is a question of critical mass — and what is uncertain is what the threshold is, and the effect of falling below it. “Right now it’s obviously less than it was 30 years ago, but it’s still there,” Dahl says. “I would suggest that’s something local policy-makers would want to pay attention to.” Author Allan Levine also says there’s another reality that colours this debate, because in some ways what’s happened is that the city has continued to evolve and grow past its origins as a singleindustry town. Today it has everything from a pharmaceutical and biomedical research sector to a major international currency printer. “As the city’s business community has grown and evolved, it’s only natural the grain industry would appear less prominent,” Levine says. June 2014

Twin tracks It’s impossible to crystal ball the future, but based on recent trends Geddes hazards a guess that Saskatoon’s prominence in the lifescience and agricultural research sectors will continue to grow. Evidence of that can be seen in the coming closure of Winnipeg’s Cereal Research Centre by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the relocation of key research programs to the Saskatoon area. At the same time, Geddes expects to see the grain trade itself and organizations like Cigi continue to call Winnipeg home for the foreseeable future.

The minute Cigi began to ponder new headquarters, Saskatoon was at its door with a pitch, says Earl Geddes, Cigi executive director

“We’ve been working closely with the city and with the SHED (Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District) and I would say the lights have really come on in the corridors of power,” Geddes says. “They’re working to keep the industry here, and they haven’t had to before.” If they can keep the critical mass in Winnipeg, it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle, as more players are attracted to the centre of the business. And while it may seem to an outsider that the business has become more muted, Cam Dahl says there’s still plenty of informal cross-fertilization that happens due to random run-ins over the lunch hour. “I just went for lunch the other day and found it took me nearly 25 minutes to walk back, and it really shouldn’t have,” Dahl says. “I kept running into people.” CG country-guide.ca 25


business

Heritage on the move How to keep farm and family together when you uproot after 170 years on the same ground By Helen Lammers-Helps

Vital to the move’s success was the transition to the next generation, with Mary Ann, Nadine and Joe Doré, and Amanda and Graham Johnston.

arm succession is never easy, but for the Johnston family, bringing the next generation into the dairy business has meant extra challenges. You might even say it has meant miles and miles of challenges. After their family had farmed near Brampton for 170 years, Frances and James Johnston figured the time had come. Toronto was looming over their fencerows, coming close enough so that while other Canadian farmers pull onto quiet country roads to go to town, the Johnstons had to dart into five choked

lanes of roaring traffic. And where other farmers can look across to their farming neighbours, the closest yard the Johnstons saw from their doorstep was a rail yard and distribution centre. But those weren’t the only kinds of population pressure the family was facing. Son Graham, daughter Mary Ann and her husband, Joe Doré, all wanted to be involved full time in the dairy operation, not to mention that Graham’s wife, Amanda, a medical imaging technologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and a third sibling,

Photography: David Charlesworth

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June 2014


business

With the family spread apart, making barn decisions demanded patience and sensitivity. Claire, who works for a John Deere dealership in Nobleton, currently help out on weekends and wanted to maintain their connection to the farm too. And on top of that there was the barn, which had last been upgraded in the early 1990s and would soon need more work. With the evidence mounting, the family all agreed. It would make more sense to relocate and build new. The question is, how do you go from a decision like that to actually carrying it out? What are the skills that will get you through it? What are the parts that are harder than you think? For the Johnstons, the questions have some fairly simple answers, although that doesn’t mean that the solutions were always easy. What was the most important skill? Hands down, it was — and continues to be — communication. What was harder than they expected? Again, the asnwer is straightforward. In a nutshell, the whole process takes longer than you think — you can probably think in terms of five years to make a full change. But there were victories too, such as agreeing on a name that they would all take as a sign that they had made the transition a success, keeping both the farm and the family intact, all wrapped up in a few simple words. In fact, coming up with the name for

“As the seventh generation,” said Mary Ann, “I felt so much pressure to get this right.”

Continued on page 28 June 2014

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business

Carefully planned work schedules and job assignments keep the family working together, but not tripping over each other. Continued from page 27 the new farm was the hardest part of the whole process, says Graham with a chuckle. “We were looking for something that represented our family’s long history of farming in Canada, but also something that would tie it to the new farm.” The eventual name — Heritage Hill Farm — scored on all those levels, with a view from the back of the barn that stretches for miles. If the selection of that name capped the process, what it all began with was a family meeting with everyone sitting down together to develop a checklist of what they would want in a future property. Mary Ann says that while they recognized they could go anywhere in the world, they decided they wanted to stay in Ontario to be near family. Then, while the family looked for property and made plans for a new barn, Mary Ann worked for three years as a herdsperson in a free-stall dairy barn near Tavistock — an hour and a half west of Brampton in the heart of Ontario’s biggest dairy county — and Joe worked in service for Advanced Dairy Systems, a half-hour north of her at 28 country-guide.ca

Wellesley. Both gained valuable experience they could put to use planning the new barn. They also did their research and visited many other barns too. Communication flow was crucial. With Frances, James, Graham and Claire back on the home farm and Mary Ann and Joe living in Stratford, decisions for the new barn were made via email. “This way we could all have input and there was a paper trail for discussions,” explains Mary Ann. Eventually they found a farm near New Dundee that met their criteria. Barn construction began in August 2010 and was completed in March 2011, with Joe and Mary Ann quitting their jobs so they could help during construction. When it comes to making decisions, James has the final say but he carefully considers everyone’s input, says Mary Ann. For example, while James preferred building a tie-stall barn, he agreed to a free-stall design because that is what the others wanted. All of the cows adjusted well to the new barn but there was tension between the partners during the transition period. Mary Ann uses a boat analogy to try to explain what was happening amongst the five part-

ners during this time. “It was like Mom, Dad and Graham were already in the boat but Joe and I were swimming in the water beside the boat. When we tried to get in it was a little rocky.” Now that everyone has adjusted, it’s smooth sailing again, she says. One of the secrets to getting along is to realize that everyone is different and that your own way of doing things is not the only way, says Joe. It also helps to keep in mind that everyone wants the same outcome, he says. For all of them, the farm comes first. Joe, who grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, spent a summer working for one of the Brampton farm neighbours to see if he would like dairy farming. “I fell in love with it,” he says. When it comes to getting along, it’s also important to understand that everyone has different communication styles, says Mary Ann who recommends family members go through counselling to learn good communication skills. For example, it’s a bad idea to start a sentence with “You never…” and it’s important to say “thank you,” she says. Mary Ann says she has come to realContinued on page 30 June 2014


S:7”

Bon Voyage, Sclerotinia!

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BayerCropScience.ca/Proline or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer CropScience representative. Always read and follow label directions. Proline® is a registered trademark of the Bayer Group. Bayer CropScience is a member of CropLife Canada. *Contest will be subject to eligibility requirements. See online for contest details, contest ends June 27, 2014.

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business Continued from page 28 ize that she is more verbal while the guys tend to process things first before they’ll talk about it. “I just have to accept that we’re different,” she says. “Making assumptions is one of the worst things you can do,” continues Mary Ann. “We’re all getting better at talking about the things that are bothering us.” As an only child, in the early days Joe found it alarming to watch Graham and Mary Ann interact at times. “One minute they’d be arguing and the next they’d be getting along great,” he recalls. Not having any siblings, he’d never seen this kind of dynamic before, he explains. Now that they’ve been in the new barn for three years, they’ve developed systems that work for them, especially with multiple people working in the barns. On weekdays Graham, Joe and Mary Ann are all in the barn for chores. They’ve each carved out complementary roles. While Mary Ann milks, Joe runs the skid steer and Graham feeds the calves. Graham makes breeding decisions with input from James. Joe looks after maintenance and Mary Ann does the bookkeeping. Cropping decisions are made by James, Graham and Joe with the help of neighbouring farmers — the Sherks, the McNabbs and Dan Shantz. Since moving to the new farm, Joe and Mary Ann welcomed a new addition to the family. Two-year-old Nadine likes to help around the barn with the cleanup, says Mary Ann. Being able to take some time off from chores is one of the advantages of farming together. One weekend Joe and Mary Ann do the milking, the next Graham will do the chores with the help

Not on its own Good farm communications don’t just happen. They must be planned for, says Ontario farm business management coach Richard Cressman, who specializes in helping families sort through the complex relationship issues of multi-generation farms. Communication is crucial to farm success, says Cressman. Farm families who do it right spend time talking with each other either in family meetings or in informal discussions or both, and they find out what each person is dreaming about for their individual future. “It’s imperative to put in place a system,” Cressman says. Face-to-face meetings, whiteboard notes, text messages, or phone calls all work. But, says Cressman, “Asking someone to convey a message to another family member DOES NOT work.” Formalize as much as possible the frequency and the type of information that needs to be talked about, he adds. “Nothing trumps a sit-down around the table face-to-face meeting with as many family members as is necessary.” Transparency is also essential, says Cressman. “Perception is everything. If assumptions are allowed to fester they become very destructive.” Once everyone understands where each family member is at, putting together a plan to make it all happen is much easier. Most families who run into problems do so because of inaction, says Cressman. They are either too afraid to ask for help, or they fear making the wrong decisions.

30 country-guide.ca

of either Claire or Amanda. When not in the barn, they are all able to relax. “Working by ourselves on the weekend makes us appreciate having the help the rest of the time,” says Mary Ann. When planning the barn they intentionally included a kitchen so they could have breakfast meetings after morning chores. “This was something they had at the farm where I worked,” explains Mary Ann. They each take turns stocking the fridge. Strategically placed whiteboards throughout the barn help them to keep track of what needs to be done. In the office there is a whiteboard with daily and monthly to-do lists. In the parlour there’s another whiteboard for milking communications such as information on fresh or sick cows. In the vet room is another whiteboard with information on breeding and foot health. A smaller whiteboard has information on sick cow treatments, a list of vet supplies needed and a barn maintenance schedule. The final whiteboard shows feeding information for the calves in the corresponding hutches, numbered using ear tags. The Johnstons are very pleased with the location of the new farm where there is a strong farming community. The farm equipment stayed back in Brampton where the family still owns land so they have contracted with neighbouring dairy farmers for custom work. They are also centrally located to get quick service from their milking equipment suppliers. At age 65, James is content to let the younger generation take over the milking. He is also turning over more of the decisionmaking to the younger generation to prepare them to take over. With this in mind, the five partners have started succession discussions to map out the transfer of ownership. While it can be hard to talk about the tough stuff, by building on the communication skills they’ve developed while planning, building and moving the herd to a new barn an hour’s drive from the original farm, this family is well positioned to meet this challenge. Communications also facilitated using the move to improve the farm’s productivity. Although there is room for 94 cows in the new barn they are currently only milking 60 cows due to quota restrictions. Equipped with a BouMatic Double-8 Herringbone milking parlour, they are set up to handle the extra cows. They chose the parlour over a robotic milking system because they like to milk cows and feel this allows them to keep a closer eye on the cows. They are expanding as they are able to purchase more quota but with the cap in place it’s a slow process, explains Mary Ann. In fact, the whole barn project was a stressful time, but it was also deeply satisfying, recalls Mary Ann. Cow comfort was a high priority for the new barn. The family is very proud of their purebred Holsteins with two-thirds of the herd classified as Very Good or Excellent under the Jameston Holsteins prefix. The Johnstons also placed a great emphasis on energy and water conservation in the new barn. In June of 2013 the family got a chance to welcome the public to the new farm and they took it, hosting the first-ever Ontario Breakfast on the Farm sponsored by Farm and Food Care Ontario. Some 2,000 people enjoyed a free breakfast and toured the barn. Growing up so close to the city meant that many of the Johnstons’ friends were not from farms. “We are used to talking to all of our city friends and family about farming and understand the concerns of the consumers; we wanted to make sure our new farm addressed those concerns,” explains Mary Ann. “We’re very proud of our new facility.” CG June 2014


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business

So close, so far Farming in eastern Ontario takes a special breed

“I have friends from the London area  and when they visit,” laughs Forman, “they think we’re noble for farming, but they don’t understand why we bother.”

32 country-guide.ca

he area isn’t for everyone, Charles Forman tells me. Squeezed between three of Canada’s most densely populated urban centres — Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto — farming here is almost eerily anonymous. Even other farmers across the province or all across the country easily overlook the farming that goes on in eastern Ontario. Not that the farmers here complain about it. Much of the time, in fact, they’re happy enough to be a kind of island, hidden away on their own. But it does involve some special talents, and some special pride. The rolling land and frequent outcrops of bedrock make the area extremely beautiful, with the region’s lakes making this one of the world’s top vacation havens. But eastern Ontario is home to only 15 per cent of all the farms in Ontario, and a mere 10 per cent of the farms that generate over $1 million in gross farm receipts. Farmland sells here for less than $10,000 per acre — a potential bargain by Ontario standards. Some land, according to reports, even sells for as little as $2,000 per acre farther from sprawling urban centres. But it is also extremely challenging to farm, and when visitors try to plot their way to Charles Forman’s farm at Seeley’s Bay, a half-hour northeast of Kingston, they often call en route to ask if they can possibly still be heading in the right direction. “Coming down our road off of Highway 15, you would think you were heading right into the middle of the Canadian Shield,” Forman explains. Indeed, when he travels outside the region and tries to describe his operation to other farmers, Forman meets disbelief. The more you learn, however, the more you become a believer too. June 2014

Photography: photos by arlene

By Amy Petherick


business

Charles Forman’s farm was a typical 200 acres when he began in 1973. Now the farm is 2,400 acres, with grains, vegetables, greenhouse crops, a biomass pelletizing operation and more.

Forman Farms started as a modest 200-acre dairy farm in 1973. Now it includes 2,400 acres of cash crops, nearly 40 acres of field vegetables, a half-acre of greenhouses, a biomass pelletizing operation, land improvement services, custom farmwork for clients spread over as many as 12,000 acres, and a trucking business. It’s taken the collective efforts of Charles’ wife Christine and two sons, together with a collection of full- and part-time staff to run it all. “We’re spread a little thin here sometimes,” Charles says. “We try to make sure everybody has a job 12 months of the year.” That ability to successfully manage such a diverse operation anywhere would suggest above-average skills, but in eastern Ontario, it’s downright inspiring. Southwestern Ontario may think it would be easy, based on the less intense competition for land. But it isn’t all cake. In the east, a lack of critical mass causes logistical nightmares. “Where we are, we can’t just drive up the road to grab on to a five-tonne buggy of fertilizer when we want it,” Charles says, “so we figured out how to spread fertilizer on frozen ground.” All his lime goes on before spring thaw. He spent a small fortune and did it himself, but every piece of ground he owns or rents is tiled so that he can put anhydrous into the ground before planting with his RTS unit. “We have that job all done before everybody else is using anhydrous,” Forman says. Sometimes it means he has to pick up supplies at 2 a.m. but maintaining a 15- to 20-year relationship with the same supplier for all his seed, fertilizer, and chemicals will get him that. “You have to figure out where the loopholes are and how to take advantage of them,” Charles says. Besides, Forman knows that other farmers can have it even harder. The importance of logistics planning applies exponentially to farmers on the Frontenac Islands, for instance, such as Jason Pyke of Wolfe Island in the middle of the St. Lawrence, closer to New York state than to Kingston. Continued on page 36

June 2014

country-guide.ca 33


S:15.125”

L AG

EAF TIM I

NG

FL

TO SPRAY

N

AD TIMING HE

P F

When scouting your crop, starting at flag leaf stage, please consider the following steps to determine whether to spray or not.

The only time you shouldn’t spray is when you have a poor looking crop and you are not in an area where fusarium head blight (FHB) is present.

If your crop doesn’t look good, but there is FHB present, a fungicide application can still pay and safeguard the yield and quality of your grain. Do some calculations and if your potential disease risk and expected return exceed the cost of application – you should protect your crop with a fungicide.

No visible disease present

No visible disease present

No visible disease present

No visible disease present

Leaf disease on upper leaves and/or flag leaf

Leaf disease on upper leaves and/or flag leaf

S PR AY

S PR AY

If your crop looks good, you will definitely want to protect your investment with a fungicide application. Which product will provide the most bang for your buck? It depends on crop staging, current disease pressure and potential disease risks. Here is a quick chart to help make your fungicide decision easier.

Leaf disease only (lower to mid leaves)

Leaf disease only

Leaf disease only (lower to mid leaves)

Leaf disease only

S PR AY

S PR AY

To see how It Pays to Spray in your area visit BayerCropScience.ca/ItPaystoSpray BayerCropScience.ca/ItPaystoSpray or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer CropScience representative. Always read and follow label directions. Folicur® and Prosaro® are registered trademarks of the Bayer Group. Bayer CropScience is a member of CropLife Canada.


S:15.125”

NOT TO SPRAY WHAT SHOULD YOU SPRAY?

GAIN IN YIELD* SPRING WHEAT

+ 4.7 bu./ac.

NO

Even when you can’t see disease symptoms, there is no such thing as a disease-free crop. A good crop is worth protecting – consider spraying an application of Folicur® EW or Prosaro® applied at head timing to help ensure top grade, quality and yield.

Folicur EW 3/4 rate, flag leaf OR

+ 5.7 bu./ac. Folicur EW full rate, head OR

+ 8.4 bu./ac. Prosaro, head

+ 2.4 bu./ac.

There is no such thing as a disease-free crop. Even in the absence of disease symptoms, the mere fact that you are in an FHB area means you need to protect your crop. Apply Prosaro or Folicur EW at head timing.

+ 3.0 bu./ac.

Folicur EW full rate, head OR

+ 4.2 bu./ac. Prosaro, head

NO

Leaf disease damage to upper leaves or the flag leaf can cause irreparable injury to your crop and immediate action is required. Spray Folicur EW and reassess at head timing to determine whether a Prosaro application is required.

YES

Spray Folicur EW and re-assess at head timing to determine whether a Prosaro application is required. Consider following up with an application of Prosaro at head timing to help ensure top grade, quality and yield.

NO

When leaf disease is limited to lower/mid leaves at flag leaf timing, Bayer CropScience would suggest re-assessing at head timing and as disease pressure warrants, protect both your flag leaf and your head by spraying either Folicur EW or Prosaro.

+ 9.5 bu./ac. Folicur EW 3/4 rate, flag leaf

+ 4.5 bu./ac. Folicur EW 3/4 rate, flag leaf

+ 7.0 bu./ac. Folicur EW 3/4 rate, flag leaf OR

+ 7.0 bu./ac.

Folicur EW full rate, head OR

+ 10.0 bu./ac.

Prosaro full rate, head

+ 5.2 bu./ac.

YES

Whenever you are in an FHB area, you should spray Prosaro or Folicur EW at head timing. However, if leaf disease is limited to the lower/mid leaves you have the ability to make your Prosaro or Folicur EW application at head timing to protect against both leaf disease and FHB.

Folicur EW 3/4 rate, flag leaf OR

+ 5.5 bu./ac.

Folicur EW full rate, head OR

+ 8.2 bu./ac. Prosaro, head

C-51-06/14-10191928-W

S:10”

YES

Folicur EW 3/4 rate, flag leaf OR

*Gain in yield based on multi-year wheat Demonstration Strip Trial (DST) results in Western Canada, 107 replicated trials, 2008-2013. Results compared to yield of untreated check. †Yes FHB means yield data is derived from DST trials where both %FDK and DON ppm levels were greater than zero, indicating FHB was present within the trial. †No FHB means yield data is derived from DST trials where both %FDK and DON ppm were zero, indicating that no FHB was present within the trial.

POTENTIAL FOR FHB?


business

Plastic mulch gets high-value crops off to a fast start in a highly diversified, highly productive agriculture.

Continued from page 33 “It’s harder to farm… period… on an island because all of your inputs in the spring need to come to the island via ferry, and all your commodities in the fall have to leave the island via ferry,” Pyke says. In his case, supplies which classify as dangerous goods like propane and gasoline are only able to come to the island two days a week. Pyke says competing with mainland farmers for services during peak seasons is also that much more difficult. “If the feed or seed store can make two or three deliveries on the mainland in the time it takes to do one on Wolfe Island, sometimes they’d rather keep two or three customers happy,” Pyke admits. “We’re fortunate they do their best, but it does add another element to farming.” Until commodity prices improved in recent years, Pyke says cash cropping alone wasn’t an option to make a decent living on their 600 acres, so they diversified into bison. But it was spreading the family too thin getting to farmers’ markets, even though demand was strong, and there were also safety concerns with such essentially wild animals. The Pykes now farm 1,000 acres and also rely more on solar and wind energy, and he is grateful to be able to work on the island full time thanks to 300 to 400 acres of custom work for nearby farmers. “Those who have to work off the island have to be to the ferry an hour before it leaves just to get a space in line, and on a Friday afternoon, when there’re cottagers coming, you could be 36 country-guide.ca

two hours or more waiting for the ferry,” Pyke says. “It’s a half-day event for us just to go and get parts.” Pyke says one of the definite drawbacks of farming in eastern Ontario is that there are fewer farm machinery dealerships. Last year that one factor almost forced Graeme and Alex Brown to make a very costly decision on their farm at Belleville, an hour west of Kingston, where they work 1,600 acres and do custom on another 2,000. “We put a bunch of precision-planting equipment on our planter last year, and we went through last season really getting nothing out of it,” Graeme says. This past winter, while at a conference on the other side of Toronto, he made a casual remark to a dealer about having wasted his money. The dealer wasn’t long in diagnosing that a critical component hadn’t been installed, and offered to come have a look. So now, one year after purchasing it, the Browns finally have their equipment set up right. “I’m positive that precision ag is going to pay back,” Graeme tells me, “but if we hadn’t found that dealer, we would’ve just taken it all off.” To a degree, Graeme is sympathetic. The saying, “good help is hard to find,” also seems to go double here, he says. “If we don’t get the weather and we don’t have everything come into play, we don’t have the same yield potential. That leads to a lack of willingness to put money into things that might not pay back, forcing retailers into paying low wages and not necessarily having the right support for guys who do want to be on the cutting edge of things.”

But farmers have avoided investing in more than retail services. Brown says he almost had to beg a company to come out and take a sizable chunk of money to grid sample his farm, and still they wouldn’t come until six other farmers got in the line too, just so the company had enough total acres to justify the trip. Charles Forman says sometimes, you just can’t get any service at all. “When we bought the greenhouse, we didn’t know a thing about it so my wife got on the phone to OMAFRA (the Ontario Agriculture Ministry), who told her they were definitely not coming down this way to ever talk to us.” Forman says it didn’t matter how many eastern-based greenhouse operations they named, the province’s advisers continued to insist there were no greenhouses in the area and offered zero help. “We ended up talking to our fertilizer salesman who knew somebody, who knew somebody, who could get us hooked up with a crop consultant that we could pay to come down here,” Forman says, adding that in this part of the agriculture world, you need to figure things out for yourself. “There’s a lot of things working against us unfortunately, but at the same time, that also works for us because if you are aggressive and business savvy, it leaves all sorts of doors wide open,” Forman says. Necessity has bred some pretty innovative farmers in the area he says, and it has produced a culture of strong farmers. Here, he says, you either sink, or you swim really hard. CG June 2014


Wring out more

efficiency To feed a hungry world, you need to grow more each year while caring for and protecting your land. And to sustain your farming operation, you need to grow these crops more efficiently. But where do you go to find out the latest information on sustainable practices that increase yields? The 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture in Winnipeg, Manitoba will present new ideas on how you can grow more, more efficiently. Innovative growers, cutting edge researchers, and technology leaders will share their success stories and tips. Be there June 22-25, 2014 for practical solutions to the challenges facing today’s agriculture.

June 22-25, 2014 •

Winnipeg Convention Centre Winnipeg, Manitoba •

register today at WCCa6.org


machinery

Return of the czars Will the Putin effect hurt global ag equipment manufacturing? By Scott Garvey, CG Machinery Editor

amuel Allen was blunt. “Today’s world is filled with uncertainty — fiscal, economic, and political uncertainty — that breeds extreme caution, disrupts thoughtful planning, and is generally bad for business,” the John Deere chairman and CEO wrote in the company’s 2013 annual report. Those words from December of last year now seem profoundly prophetic, given recent events in Ukraine and their potential impact on global trade. The question for ag equipment manufacturers such as John Deere that have made substantial investments in Russia is how they proceed from here on. Until Putin went rogue on Crimea, Russia was seen by ag equipment manufacturers as a land of opportunity. Russia was the “R” in the BRIC group of countries that also includes Brazil, India and China, and it was expected that its economic growth would be on a massive scale. According to John Deere’s latest market analysis, average GDP growth in the CIS states including Russia in 2012 was 3.4 per cent. It dropped in 2013, sinking to 2.1 per cent, but had been forecast to jump again this year. While not anywhere near the 8.2 per cent in Brazil or the 6.0 per cent that China chalked up in 2013, growth in the former Soviet states still outpaced the 1.9 per cent the U.S. experienced. So the whole region remained a market with above-average potential. Plus, from an agricultural perspective, there are other bullish statistics. Here’s a big one. Of the 1.96 billion hectares of arable land in the CIS, only 560 million are currently being utilized. Here’s another. “Western-style” farm equipment is currently being used on less than 25 per cent of CIS farms. It’s easy to see why farm equipment manufacturers are champing at the bit to get into these markets. Germany’s ag manufacturing sector has so far taken best advantage of the opportunities, becoming the largest exporter of farm equipment to Russia. But recent events in Crimea have left German manufacturers on edge. A headline in the German ag engineering magazine Der Eilbote in March seemed to sum up the thoughts of industry executives interviewed in the article: “This is poison for business,” is the English translation. According to a 2012 report published by VDMA, the German Engineering Federation, that country sent 694 million euros worth of equipment to Russia, which meant a real boost for Germany’s economy. 38 country-guide.ca

The VDMA report also tallied the size of farm machinery exports to Russia from other countries. In that same year, it says, Italy delivered 82 million euros’ worth of iron, France 69 million, Poland 58 million, and the Netherlands 92 million. North American companies were cashing in too, with U.S. firms sending over 215 million euros’ worth, and Canadian companies shipping farm machinery to Russia in 2012 worth 116 million euros (C$176 million). Despite those numbers, foreign-based manufacturers have faced problems in fully capitalizing on the potential in Russia as well as in Eastern Europe and the CIS states. Deere’s experience is a good example. In 2008 as the global farm commodity price boom kicked off, the brand realized net sales of US$1.9 billion in the region. Since then, however, sales have fallen off significantly, struggling to get back to just $1.6 billion in fiscal 2013. The trouble in Russia, in part, is that despite its recent admission into the WTO, its leaders haven’t really been playing nicely when it comes to trade. Government subsidies along with punishing import tariffs and quotas designed to promote domestic manufacturing have taken their toll on ag equipment imports, even though they are still reported to account for more than two-thirds of all equipment sales there. Despite protests from foreign governments and industry about unfair trading practices, Russian officials haven’t given much ground. To escape those excessive tariffs and take advantage of the built-in-Russia label that makes machinery eligible for a 15 per cent government purchase subsidy, many brands have invested in manufacturing facilities, announcing either sole or joint manufacturing ventures with indigenous companies in Russia over the past several years. Of the seven new factories John Deere opened in 2013, one is in Orenburg, Russia. It now churns out seeding and tillage equipment, adding its output to another Deere plant in Domodedovo that builds tractors and combines. Back as far as 2009, Deere announced its intention to invest US$500 million in facilities inside Russia. In an investor relations document, Deere describes that investment as part of an effort “to capture anticipated tailwinds by attracting more customers to the John Deere experience across our six key geographies.” Russia is one of those “key geographies.” In 2010 CNH, parent company of Case IH and New Holland, jumped into the Russian market with June 2014


machinery an investment in a joint facility with the Russian heavy truck manufacturer KAMAZ. That effort, which created the CNH-KAMAZ company, represented a US$70 million investment designed to produce selected Case IH and New Holland tractors and combines. In what might be the worst possible timing, AGCO proudly announced in late February it had embarked on a joint venture with Russian Machines (RM), an established farm equipment manufacturer, to introduce the Massey Ferguson brand to that country. The joint venture will see assembly of MF tractors start at an RM facility near Moscow. “We expect to continue… devoting significant resources to enhance our presence in the CIS region, China and Africa,” said AGCO’s CEO Martin Richenhagen in the company’s fourth-quarter report for 2013, written well before the Crimean crisis. With economic sanctions and counter-sanctions imposed, and others likely in future, the risk associated with Russian investment is growing. But in a strange twist, one equipment brand may face a potential risk if it does not move more assets there. That is Winnipeg-based Versatile, whose majority owner is the Russian combine manufacturer Rostselmash Ltd. Versatile (Buhler Industries) has remained incorporated in Canada with its stock trading on the TSX. According to a Moscow Times article, Putin has demanded Russian-owned foreign corporations reregister their operations in the Motherland and pay

taxes there. According to a Reuters report in March, he told corporate leaders, “this is also in your interests” (although the Moscow Times translation differs slightly). Putin called it “deoffshorization” during a state-of-the-nation address in the State Duma, apparently preparing the country’s economy for a hunkering down in the face of western economic retaliation. One of the long-running factors that had been limiting farm machinery sales growth inside Russia was the relatively tight availability of capital. With the Russian stock market’s main MICEX index down 13 per cent the day after Crimean annexation, there is now even less capital available to finance purchases. And with the ruble hitting an all-time low, plus a sudden 1.5 per cent interest rate hike by Russia’s Central Bank to bolster it, financial conditions alone are likely to hurt farm equipment sale. With all this, there is also now a growing anxiety among some of the country’s elite. A few editorials in Russian newspapers are expressing disapproval, despite a notoriously strangled free press. Writing in the Moscow Times, Vladimir Ryzhkov, a State Duma deputy from 1993 to 2007, and now a political analyst, criticized Putin’s behaviour. “From now on, Russia’s entire policy can be summed up in a single word: unpredictable,” he wrote. Deere’s Allen agrees, saying in February, “… it’s clear we live in an age of uncertainty.” When it comes to Russia in 2014, that’s true in spades. CG

Russian farm equipment brands on display at Agritechnica in Germany in November. Photo: Scott Garvey

June 2014

country-guide.ca 39


business

The Canadian-made bottleneck The West’s grain paralysis was predictable. Canada has a Third World grain infrastructure, and it’s getting worse By Gerald Pilger rom the headlines, it can feel like Canada’s grain transportation woes have suddenly got worse. In fact, they’ve been looming for decades, or even longer. Nor have its inadequacies come as any surprise to people in the know. For instance, in their paper “Grain Transportation in Canada — Deregulation,” transportation experts Joseph Monteiro and Gerald Robertson with Industry Canada, write: “The problem began before the turn of the 19th century and it has continued even into the first part of the 21st century.” In their 1999 study of the Canadian grain-handling system for the Organization for Western Economic Cooperation, noted agricultural economists Graham Parsons and William Wilson said the system is “widely recognized as inefficient, with many bottlenecks and system constraints including multiple origins and destinations, car allocation, limited use of most efficient elevators and unit trains, grade mixups, excess tough and damp storage, impurities in grain, high demurrage.”

Successive governments have lurched from one crisis to the next, hoping minor regulatory changes would fix a system that is actually broken But despite a trail of such reports, there have been no fixes. In a presentation addressing “The Transportation Mess,” Paul Earl, ag economist at the University of Manitoba stated: “History is littered with dead studies of grain logistics (seven major studies between 1950 and 1994; we are now on No. 10). Something is not working.” Successive governments have lurched from one crisis to the next in the grain industry, hoping minor regulatory adjustments would fix a system that most observers feel is actually broken. One reason why attempts to improve grain handling and transportation have failed is that most 40 country-guide.ca

of the studies only examine a sector of the system rather than the entire supply chain. The focus has mostly been on rail instead of the entire grain handling system. Short-sighted, ideological changes are introduced with little to no regard for the impact that those changes will have further up or down the supply chain. There is simply no long-term vision for the future of the grain industry in Canada. We must look outside the box for a long-term solution. The problem is that very few farmers, and likely even fewer politicians know what the box is. There is a general lack of understanding of the grain industry outside the farm gates and how our system compares with our competitors.

How we compare In any industry, it is important for participants to understand the entire value chain and to identify any bottlenecks. Equally important is to know how your business compares to competitors within the industry. In the Canadian grain system, we cannot do this. There are no recent studies which compare the Canadian grain-handling system to the systems of our major competitors. Instead, what I found after weeks of interviews and research into grain production, transportation and handling in major exporting nations around the world is that Canada is an important, but relatively minor competitor in the global grains industry today. Our reputation is struggling. In part, our importance is ebbing due to the expansion of commercial agriculture in developing and Third World countries where climate and lower cost production favour primary food production. In part too it’s because government and industry support of the agricultural sector has declined more in Canada than most other nations. Most troubling, however, is the hit that Canada’s reputation is taking because of our aging and limited capacity infrastructure combined with unreliable service. If we want to maintain our market share of global grain trade, we must fix the system. To do that, however, we need to understand the constraints in our system and know how our system compares to our global competitors. We have to find a way to overcome the bottlenecks. June 2014


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So here is a quick comparison of our system with that of the U.S., Brazil, and Australia. Between 2008 and 2012, Canadian farmers produced an average of just over 50 million tonnes a year of wheat, coarse grains, and oilseeds. This compares to a 31-mmt average annual production of these same crops in Australia, 128 mmt in Brazil, and 464 mmt in the U.S. Because of our relatively small population, however, we export a large percentage of that production. In an average year, Canadian farmers export 70 per cent of their wheat, 55 per cent of their oilseeds, and 30 per cent of their coarse grains. Other big producers are big exporters too, although not at those levels. For comparison, Australia exports 66 per cent of its wheat crop and 50 per cent of coarse grains, Brazil exports 46 per cent of the oilseeds it grows and 15 per cent of the coarse grains, and the U.S. exports 50 per cent of its wheat crop, 44 per cent of the oilseeds, and 15 per cent of the coarse grains grown. This brings to light two very important points. First is that Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Brazil (along with many other countries) are competing to sell similar commodities to the same importing countries. Second is that, while many farmers believe marketing our grains to the U.S. is the answer, the U.S. is a much larger producer of grains than Canada is and, in tonnage terms, it is also a much larger exporter than Canada. Unfortunately, the primary end-use consumers for June 2014

Canadian grain exports are found either in the Far East or Middle East. We need an efficient sales and logistics system to compete with other grain-exporting nations in these markets.

From farm gate to port All four of these exporting nations rely primarily on bulk ocean shipping to move grain from port to the importing country. However, there are real differences in how the grain reaches the port. Canadian farmers move nearly all of harvested grain by truck to on-farm storage, and then by truck to inland commercial storage, from which it is moved by rail to port terminals. In the U.S., only about 50 per cent of the harvest goes into on-farm storage. The other 50 per cent moves directly from field to commercial storage by truck. Grain then is moved by rail, river barge, and truck to terminal ports. Australian farmers are now increasing farm storage, but nearly all of their grain still moves by truck either directly to port at harvest or by truck to a local collection facility which then either trucks or rails the grain to port. Brazil relies primarily on trucking to move the entire harvest destined for export to port position with next to no on-farm storage. It is important to note Brazil is investing heavily in both rail and increased storage capacity. Continued on page 42 country-guide.ca 41


business

Continued from page 41

Commercial storage Closer analysis of the four systems highlights a major pressure point in the Canadian system. The combined commercial elevator capacity in Canada (including port and inland) can store barely 20 per cent of our average annual production. The U.S., by contrast, can store over 50 per cent of the crop in commercial storage, Brazil has 114 per cent storage capacity, and Australia has storage for 175 per cent of an average crop. Instead of a system where most of the grain is in port and available for export at all times, as it is in Australia or Brazil, or even in the U.S. where half of the harvest is in commercial storage, Canada relies on just-in-time delivery from farm to port to meet export demand. This system works only if buyers and sellers know exactly what is in on-farm bins, and if there is a co-ordinated effort to move the exact grain and grade from farm to port only when needed. Unfortunately, this pull system is exactly opposite of the push system that many farmers desire. Canadian farmers want a system where they are able to deliver their grain whenever they want, yet in fact the commercial Canadian grain storage system can handle only a little more than 10 per cent of an average crop at any given time. In other words, it is physically impossible in Canada for all farmers to move all their grain at harvest or in the fall period even if there was the customer demand for the multitude of grains and grades grown in any given year.

Transportation system Even if Canadian farmers decided to deliver only to match sales, we would still be left to face the restrictions of our transportation system. Prairie farmers cannot deliver to port other than by rail. Our limited port facilities are not designed for receiving grain by truck. So we rely on a duopoly of two private, non-competing rail lines to move all of the grain destined for export. There really are no viable alternatives, which means in turn that there are no competitive forces to control freight costs. As a result, a revenue cap was imposed to protect farmers from excessive rail freight rates. The U.S. by contrast has four major rail lines, so there is more competitive pricing for rail movement of grain. More importantly, there are three major river systems bisecting the major grain-growing regions in the U.S., and the publicly supported river system also controls freight costs. Furthermore, U.S. port terminals are able to handle truck traffic. As a result, even though the distances from farm to salt water are roughly similar, the U.S. system 42 country-guide.ca

is much more efficient and cost effective than the Canadian system. Brazil also must move grain over long distances, but freight costs are minimized by the competition between truckers. This is not to say there are not problems. Harvest-time truck lineups at port facilities have occasionally been reported up to 80 kms long. Still, Brazil manages to move almost three times as much by truck in eight months compared to what Canadian rail moves in a year. Australia, with a much shorter haul than any of the other three nations, is in the best position, with both truck and rail capacity for moving grain from farm to port as well as having storage capacity for almost two years of harvests.

Investment One of the most troubling comparisons may be the lack of investment going into the Canadian grain system. We are not seeing the investment in Canada that is happening in other grain-exporting countries. For example, while CN and CP have invested roughly $2 billion a year in track upgrades, expansion, and maintenance, U.S. railroads companies invest $7 billion a year, and in Brazil, the government has pledged $30 billion over the next six years for building more storage capacity to handle the ever-increasing production in this country. This quick comparison identifies a host of bottlenecks in the Canadian grain system other than simply a rail problem. An apt analogy of the existing Canadian system and the government’s attempt to address the problem might be a farmer who runs a class 10 combine but only has one threeton truck hauling the grain a long distance on washed-out dirt roads to a six-inch auger filling a 1,350-bushel bin, and then blaming the lack of harvest efficiency entirely on having one truck. Legislating more rail cars will move more grain but only until other bottlenecks in our constricted grain-handling system override this quick fix. As farmers, we need to ask why our system has so many constraints compared to our competitors. We need to look at the Canadian grain export system in its entirety and address all the bottlenecks if we are to successfully compete in the world grain game. We need to ask not only what the government can do, but what we as farmers need to do and what we expect industry to do. It has to be a collaborative effort between all players. Fortunately, Canada monitors our grain system better than most countries through Quorum Corporation. While Quorum’s mandate is to monitor the transportation of grain, its reports do provide a look at the entire system. I believe that every farmer should review Quorum’s annual report to get a better understanding of our system. These reports can be found at www.quorumcorp.net/. CG June 2014


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Production

The big change It’s a safe bet that today’s tough market outlook is already fuelling the next big wave of farm innovation. But which innovation? By Gord Gilmour, CG Production Editor t wasn’t so long ago that the talk at farm meetings was of how everything was different this time. Demand would never fade. The emerging middle classes of the world’s developing nations were hungry and they were ready to pay. Plus, as if that wasn’t enough, new government policies in favour of biofuels had shot grain prices up into the stratosphere, a trend that was reinforced by a series of production shocks in critical grain-producing regions around the globe. A July 20, 2012 report from the Reuters news service, written as the U.S. Midwest baked under drought conditions, showed Chicago Board of Trade nearby futures contracts setting new highwater prices in key crops. Corn for September delivery hit $8.16 a bushel (all prices U.S. $) and soy for August delivery was at $17.49 a bushel — both all-time records. Wheat also saw a bump, up to $9.35 a bushel, a four-year high only eclipsed by the prices at the peak of the 2008 food crisis. Just 12 months later, the picture had changed entirely. Headlines in the farm press fretted that the bumper crop of 2013, especially on the Canadian Prairies, was pressuring prices downward.

“I’m still surprised by the sheer number of farmers I meet who don’t know their cost of production.” — Val Panko, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture This winter, the mood at farm shows was different again. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development unveiled its annual cost-of-production estimates at Ag Days in Brandon in January and our sister publication, the Manitoba Co-operator, reported the grim news in the headline “Few money-making crops projected for 2014.” Winter wheat planted the previous season in 2014 44 country-guide.ca

would earn a grower a margin of $95 an acre in the wetter eastern half of the province and just $46.45 in the drier western region. Eastern growers might also eke out $5.71 an acre with specialty canola. Everything else was predicted to be a moneylosing proposition or, in the best-case scenario, to be “near break-even.” All in all, it’s a far less rosy picture, concedes one farm business management specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. Val Panko says the numbers for her province were similarly discouraging, a trend grain growers around the world find themselves grappling with as better growing conditions see supply meeting demand again. As long as this continues, farmers are back to having to produce as efficiently as possible, waiting for prices to rebound, Panko says. “Cost containment becomes much more important,” Panko adds. “Marketing is also a huge part of the equation.” It all boils down to an approach she and other farm business management specialists have advocated for decades now: having an intimate understanding of your farm’s cost of production and then executing a sales plan based on those numbers. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time, but I’m still surprised by the sheer number of farmers I meet who don’t know their cost of production,” Panko says. In part that might be due to the difficulty in assembling the numbers. Then there’s the question of applying meaningful analysis to them, for example benchmarking them against similar farm operations to see how you stack up. Panko says there are some business development programs available to farmers that would help fund a consultant to do some of this nitty-gritty detail work. “It does require doing research, and looking very closely at your operation,” Panko says. “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” Assembling, analyzing and benchmarking those numbers can reveal important information about a farm, Panko says. For example, a cost of production higher than similar farm operations will undermine that farm’s viability over time, so it must be addressed. A cost of production lower than other farms gives that operation more opporJune 2014


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Lower prices are already encouraging growers to try new things.

tunities to find profitable prices — which leads to the second and equally important part of this equation, Panko says. “You really can’t talk about cost of production without then talking about marketing,” she says. “The two really do go hand in hand.” Once those numbers are in hand, it gets easier to set and execute a marketing plan that can bring a farm to profitability even during challenging times, although of course nobody knows how markets will move into the future, or what the longerterm trends will be, and prolonged downturns will be challenging to almost every farmer. On the farm level it’s causing growers to pencil long and hard, and to look for areas where they can trim fat without hitting muscle or bone, or make decisions that can keep productions costs lower over time, be that the next season, or the next few. Lynn Jacobson, the head of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, who farms near Enchant, Alta., says farmers saw the writing on the wall last fall and started adjusting their plans almost immediately. Input costs were among the first items to fall under heavier scrutiny, Jacobson says. That doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out key inputs but rather looking for the lowest prices possible instead, say, of taking things from the local outlet because it’s convenient. He says his operation purchased its June 2014

fertilizer last fall, when nitrogen was around $500 a tonne, versus $700 when he spoke to Country Guide early this spring. “That’s a decent savings right there,” Jacobson says. Also many producers will be exploring ways to minimize their equipment costs, but with so many already zero tilling, the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. It does likely mean a bit of a moratorium on major capital investments like new tractors or combines. Crop protection costs are also going to cause people to explore options like bringing in lowercost chemical from the U.S., Jacobson adds, citing the case of one popular fungicide that sold for dramatically less in the U.S. market. “It’s six times more expensive on this side of the border,” Jacobson says. “I think those sorts of price differences are going to cause farmers to look at using things like the GROU (pronounced ‘grow’) program to import their own.” This has been made easier by the role of broker organizations that handle the logistics on behalf of farmers. Jacobson cites Farmers of North America as an example, but stresses he’s not promoting any one organization, but acknowledging they blazed the trail, and once a road is built, anyone can travel Continued on page 46 country-guide.ca 45


Production

Continued from page 45 on it. More companies are likely now going to be willing to pursue this strategy, making it more difficult over the long term for chemical producers to do price discrimination based on the U.S.-Canada border. In his role as head of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, Jacobson says farm groups like his will be working hard on this file. “How well this works will depend a lot on government, and we’ll definitely be pressuring them to make it possible,” Jacobson says.

“I’m quite certain the  opportunities are there,  if they’re prepared to work. Work isn’t throwing 100-pound bales and bags of seed anymore — this is mental work now.” — Jim Pallister, Portage la Prairie, Man. 46 country-guide.ca

Another option he’s heard of farmers exploring is cutting crop protection costs using newer and more efficient nozzle designs. It’s not supported by the chemical companies, he says, but farmers are dropping rates by as much as half and still seem to be reporting good coverage, he says. “You could save $10 or $15 an acre using the air induction nozzles and lowering rates,” Jacobson says. “Basically farmers are going to be looking everywhere they can to save a dollar. That’s what happens when you’re farming at or just below the cost of production.” This new austerity isn’t likely to stop with the farm books either. “It will even come down to personal expenditures, with people spending only what they have to,” says Jacobson. Other than that it’s just going to come down to having a marketing plan and working it, Jacobson says. Learn your cost of production, be ready to do things like lock in a positive basis and basically exploit any opportunities that might tip you into the black on the balance sheet. Jacobson also says he expects to see a lot of interest in non-traditional crops. Oilseeds will hang in and perhaps even grow, but wheat will likely fall. Other crops like grass seed, alfalfa seed and even hemp might look more attractive in a lower price environment. “We planted a field of alfalfa for seed and I’m thinking maybe I should plant another quarter,” Jacobson says. The bottom line is that farmers are going to be out looking for options. This is likely to encourage a wave of innovation, and some of that innovation might involve seeking out market opportunities on their own. “I was on a Cigi course recently, and was talking to someone from Morocco who was interested in contracting directly with farmers,” Jacobson says. “You might have to load shipping containers on your farm to take advantage of something like that, but shipping containers also seem to move before bulk grain shipments.” Back on the eastern Prairies, Jim Pallister, of Portage la Prairie, concedes the numbers are getting tougher, but insists it’s still a world full of at least as much opportunity as danger. He suggests that one of the key concerns of the smart young farm manager during this period of lower prices will be cutting costs while not cutting corners. In other words the goal is to maximize production and spread fixed costs as far as possible, while not overspending to chase diminishing returns. “The idea is to be lean and mean, but still maintain yields,” Pallister says. “That’s the only way you’re going to keep your cost per bushel or cost per pound down.” That could prove to be a challenge for the most recent entrants to the business, since anyone who June 2014


production

has come in during the past five years has only experienced boom times. Pallister says you can see the exuberance in the enrolment numbers at the University of Manitoba’s agriculture diploma program, which he graduated from in the 1970s. Those numbers tend to track the fortunes of the larger industry very closely, he says. “In the 1970s when I graduated, the graduating class sizes were between 120 and 125 students, when one of my sons graduated in 2004, it was down to around 40 students. Today I understand it’s back up to over 120 students,” Pallister says. That means an era where almost nothing pencils out profitably is going to come as a rather rude wake-up call for some of these freshly minted farmers — but the best will rise to the top and see opportunities to be siezed rather than an endless landscape of hopeless numbers, Pallister says. For example, one opportunity may be found in embracing the next wave of innovation, Pallister says, noting that other breakthroughs such as zero till really came into their own during the challenging economic times of the 1980s and ’90s, when necessity forced growers to find solutions to the problem of high costs and low prices. One area he highlights is embracing new precision agriculture tools to contain costs while keeping total production numbers up. “I found an old binder in the office this winter that had a bunch of information on zone management in it,” Pallister says. “I’ve been reading about this system since 1999, and I think the industry is still really getting its head around it. It’s the younger farm managers that really understand this technology and will drive it forward.” Pallister notes that each successive generation on Prairie farms has its own unique challenges that they must rise to in order to succeed. For his father’s generation it was embracing mechanization. His generation really perfected Green Revolution agronomy systems based on fertility and crop protection tools, as well as the first wave of biotech. This generation will see its own windows of opportunity, he insists. “For this generation, it’s the IT stuff — that’s their window,” Pallister says. “It’s going to be up to hard work and this is going to take some serious mental effort, but I’m quite certain the opportunities are there, if they’re prepared to work. Work isn’t throwing 100-pound bales and bags of seed anymore — this is mental work now.” One opportunity to put conditions to work for you on your farm can be found in managing interest rate risk, Pallister says, highlighting that the issue touches down heavily in both the production and financial management side of the business. We’re currently living through a period of historically low interest rates that have lasted longer June 2014

than anyone ever could have predicted. That has provided some great opportunities to invest in farms across the country. It has also contributed, along with high grain prices, to a wave of optimism across Canadian farms. Unfortunately, it’s also bred more than a little complacency, says Pallister, and it’s a deadly risk known first hand by farmers who carried debt at rates in the high teens through the 1980s. Simply put, he believes it’s a mistake to assume rates are going to stay this low, and farm managers should be looking for opportunities to lock in interest rates for as long as possible. In itself, that may hardly be a dramatic statement, but Pallister takes it one step further. He suggests managers should be paying off the principal slowly, to take advantage of the rate differential he’s predicting will emerge in the coming years. Using round numbers, he says take a $10,000 loan, and lock it in at four per cent over 10 years. For many the desire would be to pay off the principal as quickly and completely as possible — but that would negate the protection at the far end of the loan term. Better to treat it as a mortgage, where the length of the term and the period of amortization are two different things. “If you had that loan and you paid it off over 10 years, your lender would probably really like you,” he says. “But I say you should pay that principal off slowly and put that cheap money to work on your farm. By actually maintaining a balance, you maintain your interest rate protection.” So, for example, rather than paying $1,000 a year on the principal, and having a zero balance, it might be wiser to pay $500 a year, and still have a $5,000 principal owing at the end of the term. In an ideal world, you’ve either invested the difference in places that yield more than your low interest rate, or you’ve been using it to prevent your operation from having to borrow at higher rates. “That’s how you can put these low rates to work for you,” Pallister says. Val Panko says it’s going to be interesting watching how farmers rise to these challenges, and she agrees that similar periods have had a transformation effect on the industry in past, such as the rise of canola. “It wasn’t that long ago that you never saw canola south of the No. 1 highway — now it seems like that’s all you see,” Panko says. One of the most obvious transformations is already happening — a move to corn and soybean production in parts of the region. Other smalleracre crops are beginning to garner attention too — everything from quinoa to hemp. “It really isn’t possible to say what the next big thing may be,” Panko says. “But I do think farmers have already started looking for it.” CG country-guide.ca 47


Production

A faster start Cigi takes on early-generation testing in support of new wheat varieties By Ellen Goodman, Cigi

Micro-milling samples allows further analytical testing of small samples of early-generation grain.

esting early-generation samples is an important part of a process that is ultimately intended to improve the quality of Canadian wheat varieties. To support this process, the facilities at Cigi (the Canadian International Grains Institute) were put to the test from last November to the end of March, with more grain samples than ever coming through its doors for testing on behalf of public wheat breeders. “We did a little bit in the past but this is the first time we’ve done it on this scale,” says Rex Newkirk, Cigi vice-president of research and innovation. “There was an opportunity to offer plant breeders the support that they require through early-generation testing,” Newkirk says. “We realized because of Cigi’s expertise in quality and our understanding of customers’ requirements that we’d be a good place to take on more of this type of work.” Cigi worked with several breeders from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to analyze early-generation wheat-breeding lines, Newkirk says. “In the past

48 country-guide.ca

we have had requests but weren’t set up to handle the volume. In the long term we hope to offer the service not only to government but to the industry.” Newkirk explains that early-generation testing involves assessing the quality of thousands of extremely small grain samples which are then selected, discarded or culled. The plant breeder narrows it down to one line which then has to go through a very detailed set of tests and comparisons to other lines coming from other breeders. “This year we tested several thousand samples of CWAD, CPSR, and CWRS, plus some soft wheats as well,” Newkirk says. “We borrowed a special micro-mill — a Quadramat Junior — for milling CWRS and CPSR and will be purchasing additional mills this upcoming year. For CWAD we used our Bühler lab mill which worked very well and bought a laboratory scale purifier for the semolina. We also purchased a mixograph with a 10-gram bowl so that we could evaluate the dough-mixing characteristics of small flour samples.” The mixograph, which measures dough

June 2014


PRODUCTION

strength and protein quality while a dough is being mixed, enables Cigi to quickly analyze large numbers of small samples (see video at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=djCsI0fjK80/). Cigi’s other lab dough-mixing equipment, such as its farinograph, are designed for evaluating larger flour samples and also take longer to complete a test. “The breeders require rapid tests where they can evaluate a particular parameter quickly,” says Elaine Sopiwnyk, Cigi director of science and innovation, noting that the grain samples received were a few hundred grams at most and flour extraction is only about 70 per cent. “They may only have a 60-gram sample to spare, so we may get 42 grams of flour from that to work with. “This is really early on where small amounts of material are screened in hopes of finding the few lines that have potential,” Sopiwnyk says. “When

the lines finally get to the Prairie Grains Development Committee, they have already gone through years of seed increases and testing.” After going through sets of tests where lines are evaluated and compared, the PGDC determines which lines from both public and private breeders become registered varieties. Detailed data from across the Prairies is compiled and discussed at PGDC meetings held yearly in February. Early this year, Cigi also conducted tests on samples for companies submitting their lines to the PGDC. “Farmers need new varieties and plant breeders need to make sure they have the tests they require so they can develop those varieties,” says Newkirk, adding that costs for testing are covered by the breeders. “Cigi is in a position to contribute because we understand the customers’ needs and want to make sure the system works well.” CG

A mixograph is then used to produce dough samples to test functionality.

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Production

12 insect tips for canola Use these management tips throughout the growing season for effective, economic and practical insect control By Jay Whetter

iamondback moths are in a deadly battle in canola fields — yet their primary adversary isn’t the grower. In fact, producers are learning to leave low populations of diamondback moth larvae alone because, in many cases, wellestablished beneficial insects will prevent the pest from becoming a major economic problem. The main parasitoids of diamondback moth have been three tiny wasps, but the list keeps growing. Now, recent studies led by Lloyd Dosdall with the University of Alberta have identified another species, Cotesia vestalis, responsible for what is being called a very substantial level of total parasitism of diamondback moth larvae and many ground beetles that also prey on the pest.

“An important first tip for insect management in canola is to always remember the beneficials.” — Keith Gabert, Canola Council of Canada “Of all the insects in the environment, very few of them are significant crop pests,” says Keith Gabert, Canola Council of Canada agronomy specialist. “The more we study the insect fauna in our fields, the more we learn about our beneficial allies. An important first tip for insect management in canola is to always remember the beneficials.” Sometimes leaving beneficials to do their job will save growers the cost of an early and unnecessary spray. But beneficials alone may not be enough to prevent economic loss from some insect outbreaks — which is why the first tip is certainly not the only tip. “In some cases, beneficials cannot act fast enough to take down a rising threat. And in other cases, we may not have a strong beneficial population to counter some insects,” Gabert says. “That is why scouting and following economic thresholds have to be part of an insect management plan.” 50 country-guide.ca

Here are 11 other insect management tips to follow throughout the canola-growing season: 1. Scout for flea beetles. Fast-hopping flea beetles can move in quickly and cause economic losses within days. Seed treatments often provide enough protection, but they may not be sufficient if soils are cool, crop development is slow, and flea beetle numbers are high. If average leaf area loss is over 25 per cent, and the flea beetles are still present and feeding, then a spray may be necessary. 2. Look for missing plants and patterns during your early-season flea beetle scouting. Cold soils, seedling diseases and deep seeding are among the many possible reasons for missing plants. Cutworms could also be at work. Use the diagnostic tool at www.canoladiagnostictool.ca for help with management decisions. “With a few calculations, you may also find that missing plants might not be ‘missing’ at all. The seeding rate might have been low to begin with,” Gabert says. “Count plants and check emergence rates before blaming insects or disease or cold soils.” 3. Protect the bees. Bees and other pollinators are an important part of the ecosystem. They can improve crop yields, and bees give us honey. To protect bees while also protecting your canola crop, avoid spraying insecticide on flowering canola or at least spray after 8 p.m. when most bees are back in the hive. Take steps to minimize drift and, where possible, choose products with low potential hazard to bees. Stay in touch with your local beekeeper if beehives are in your area. 4. Know the economic thresholds for all major insects, and try to spray only when those thresholds are reached. Most thresholds vary depending on canola prices and crop protection costs. “Also keep in mind that some insects — flea beetles or diamondback moth larvae, for example — can build up quickly and surpass thresholds within a day or two, in some cases,” Gabert adds. For more on thresholds, search for the article “Thresholds: Insect management tools” at www.canolawatch.org. 5. Evaluate your sweep net technique. Thresholds for lygus bugs and cabbage seed pod weevils are based on accurate sweep netting. Use the standard 38-cm-diameter net, and make full June 2014


production

Three problems and one solution: lygus nymph, swede midge, root maggot and a diamondback moth caterpillar under attack by a beneficial insect. 180-degree sweeps through the top of the canopy while walking forward. “Sweep netting is also a great way to see what other insects are present in the canopy,” Gabert says. 6. Spray at the right time. Know the most vulnerable crop stage for each pest, and know the appropriate times to scout and take action. For cabbage seed pod weevil, for example, the goal is to stop adults from laying eggs in newly formed pods. Seed pod weevils don’t do their damage until pods are at least one inch long — so aim to spray just prior to that stage, at about 20 per cent bloom. Spraying seed pod weevil when canola is at the bud stage provides no economic benefit. 7. Lygus bugs are most likely to cause economic loss when feeding in the period from late flowering to late pod formation. When sweep netting, include later instars — the ones with black dots on their back, soon to be adults — as well as adults in the count. Studies are underway to update the current thresholds. This insect pest tends to do less damage than expected when canola has adequate moisture. 8. Bertha army worm can do a lot of damage in a couple days. Check provincial monitoring data for trap counts in your area, and check individual fields within moderate- to high-risk areas. Isolated outbreaks can occur. If field counts are close to threshold, keep looking. As Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development entomologist Scott Meers says, “If the action level is 20 per square metre and you find 17, look more closely to make sure you’re right.” Young bertha army worms can feed for weeks down in the canopy. Scouting long before worms reach full size and darken would give growers adequate time to assess if control is required. 9. Learn to identify swede midge damage. Swede midge has been found in northeast Saskatchewan the past couple years, and the range is likely expanding. Economic thresholds are not established and we have no proven best timing for sprays. For 2014, the key message is to learn to identify swede midge damage. June 2014

Damage typically includes one or more of the following: • D istorted and twisted young shoots, and stunted growth, if damage is very early. • Misshapen individual buds in a bud cluster. • The primary raceme develops normally, but individual flowers are abnormal or only the flower stem and a small dried flower remnant remains. • The primary raceme may be normal, but secondary branches may be stunted if infestation occurs later in flowering. • Pods may form in a cluster because the growing point is damaged and stem elongation cannot occur. 10. Pull up what look like diseased plants. Check roots for clubroot galls and, while looking, check for root maggots. An AAFC study has shown very clearly that with continuous canola, there is a statistically significant increase in root maggots. “Pulling up plants and checking the roots for maggot feeding, clubroot galls and other damage is an essential part of scouting and should be on every canola grower’s checklist,” Gabert says. 11. Put your crop in the best position to succeed. Growers can reduce the risk of economic loss from insects, and reduce the need to spray pesticides, by starting the crop off with enough plants. “Canola needs a minimum of five plants per square foot to have good odds of reaching full yield potential. We recommend a stand of seven to 10, which allows for some insect feeding and some plant loss without reducing the yield potential,” Gabert says. “Having an adequate stand is an important first step in an integrated pest management strategy.” CG Jay Whetter is editor of the Canola Council of Canada’s free Canola Watch agronomy newsletter. Sign up at www.canolawatch.org and follow @CanolaWatch on Twitter. To read a summary of Lloyd Dosdall’s beneficial insect studies, see the Canola Digest Science Edition 2013 here: www.canolacouncil. org/canola-digest-past-issues/ . Look for studies 6.2 and 7.1. country-guide.ca 51


PRODUCTION

Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) is a farmer-funded and -directed non-profit organization investing primarily in wheat and barley variety development for the benefit of western Canadian producers. Through investments of more than $57 million, WGRF has assisted in the development and release of more than 100 new wheat and barley varieties over the past decade and a half, many of which are today seeded to large portions of the cropland in Western Canada. WGRF also invests in research on other western Canadian crops through the endowment fund. In fact, since 1981 the WGRF endowment fund has supported a wealth of innovation across Western Canada, providing over $26 million in funding for over 230 diverse research projects.

The wild side of chickpeas New genes from wild relatives will make chickpeas a better option for more farmers By Clare Stanfield

t wasn’t all that long ago in Canada that it was hard to find hummus in a grocery store — unless you went to a specialty shop. “Now hummus is everywhere!” says Bunyamin Tar’an, associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan. “Any food store you go to has it, so it’s a growing market, and all those chickpeas have to come from somewhere.” Indeed they do. But while over 27 million acres of chickpeas are grown worldwide in over 40 countries, the problem is that they are notoriously poor field competitors and they are highly susceptible to biotic and abiotic stressors, including disease and climate, which means global chickpea yield is prone to wild fluctuation. The solution is obvious. Chickpea breeders need to come up with new varieties that offer higher yield potential and better stress tolerance. Simple, right? Not so fast, says Tar’an, who specializes in chickpea breeding and genetics. “Chickpeas have a very narrow genetic background. They are all related to each other,” he points out. Even kabuli and desi types aren’t so far apart, genetically speaking, since the former were derived from the latter. With so little domesticated genetic material to work with, chickpea breeders the world over are turning to wild species of chickpea in search of useful traits that can be added to their own breeding programs. “It’s a long-term project to build up the resource for breeding,” says Tar’an. It’s also a project where Canada has a role to play.

Kissing cousins Crossing wild chickpea varieties (Cicer spp.) with domesticated ones sounds easier than it actually is. “One of the difficulties with the wild ancestor is they require a long growing season, also short day length. Those are challenges here in Canada,” says Tar’an. 52 country-guide.ca

Large phenological differences (growth characteristics and timings) between wild and cultivated chickpea varieties are a big stumbling block, Tar’an adds. “For example, root system architecture, heat and cold tolerance as well as biomass responses to nitrogen and rhizobia are all heavily impacted by even small phenological differences among genotypes.” Using traditional crossing techniques to capture the best of both worlds (wild and domestic) and overcome the phenological barriers typical of wild species is very inefficient on a cost-benefit basis. It’s the main reason why few chickpea breeders have turned to wild species as a genetic resource. Until now. What has changed is the recent formation of a global collaborative effort to unlock the promise of wild Cicer species. The work Tar’an will be starting this year is part of a larger U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project based at the University of California (Davis). “They are co-ordinating the collection of wild varieties and characterizing them,” Tar’an says. In a nutshell, researchers at UC Davis are gathering wild Cicer species from their centre of diversity in Turkey, then systematically analyzing and cataloguing genetic material. This material will then be made available to Tar’an in Canada, as well as to researchers in Australia, Turkey, India and Ethiopia, who will all use the wild germplasm in their own breeding programs. “I’m using these wild species and crossing them with our own domestic cultivars,” says Tar’an. “In Australia and the other countries, they’re doing that, too. Everyone has their own challenges. For us here, it’s ascochyta, among others.” JUNE 2014

WGRF E


PRODUCTION Growing local Tar’an explains his team’s three-step process to using wild germplasm to improve Canadian chickpea varieties. First, remove the phenological barriers through reverse introgression. Essentially, he says, this is a reverse engineering process where a desired trait in a domestic variety (say, a shorter flowering period) is introgressed into the wild germplasm — taming the beast, so to speak. These crosses will be produced in growth chambers and become the starting point of a full-fledged domestic breeding program. Tar’an says that he will be crossing CDC Leader with 20 wild “accessions,” or 20 pieces of unique genetic material, which will ultimately result in 1,000 unique genotypes. Second, the resulting lines will be phenotyped and selected for yield traits as well as biotic and abiotic stress tolerance. Given the sheer number of individual plants, this work will occur in stages over the three-year period of the study, starting with yield. Since all countries in the larger USAID project will be doing the same thing at roughly the same time, results will be shared to help researchers more quickly identify variables such as climate adaptation among the material everyone is working with. Third, Tar’an aims to develop a predictive net-

work of genotype-phenotype associations based on his team’s work. “We will have the tool box, so we can use this information to do things faster and more affordably in the future,” he says. “This is a three-year project starting this year,” says Tar’an. “By the end of that time, we expect to have a collection of germplasm resource for future breeding purposes, and that will be a gem. It will open a lot of other research, for example into the interaction between chickpea species and rhizobia. We do not know if the interaction we have now is the best or not.” Tar’an and his team are receiving funding from the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers and the Agricultural Development Fund to complete this project. “The WGRF funding is very important,” he says. “It’s like a commission from farmers. If they didn’t think it’s important for them, they wouldn’t fund it.” Chickpeas, Tar’an says, are a bread-and-butter crop for those who grow them because returns can be substantial in a market that seems to want more and more. His hope is that this work will expand Canada’s chickpea-growing area while improving stress tolerance and yields. “We’d like to move chickpea production farther north to the dark-brown soil zone, that’s where we’re targeting,” says Tar’an. “I’m really excited about it.” CG

Cultivating Growth Increasing Endowment Fund expenditures for the benefit of western Canadian crop producers

$15 million

in new funding to crop research over four years

More than

100 new projects

Research

priorities identified by producers

Leveraged to $30 million by co-funding

New research funding examples:

Weed Management

Blackleg & Clubroot in Canola

Improving Oat Nutrition

Pulse Disease Management

Graduate Student Scholarships

Fusarium Resistance in Cereals

WGRF is committed to utilizing the Endowment Fund for the benefit of western Canadian crop producers by managing and investing the fund in order to provide future long-term benefits to producers. To find out more, visit us online.

www.westerngrains.com WGRF Endowment Fund Half-page Ad_final.indd 1

2013-09-12 8:34 AM


Production

Cr op pr otection

Six questions for the ag entrepreneurs So you’ve got an idea that might make a great new product or service. Should you invest in it? By Warren Libby, Savvy Farmer oday’s agriculture isn’t your grandmother’s agriculture. While we still work the soil and practise animal husbandry, today we do so in wonderful ways that past generations could never imagine. From lasers and GPS to genomics and drones, agriculture has become a hotbed of innovation. Nor is ag innovation the exclusive domain of the major multinational companies. Farmers and nonfarmers alike are dipping their toes into the ag-innovation pool with an endless array of novel ideas. Even so, however, it can be a daunting experience to try to convert an idea into an actual product or service, and then get that product or service into the marketplace.

Innovators are notorious for overestimating their markets, and underestimating their costs Fortunately, budding entrepreneurs don’t have to take that journey alone. There are a number of ag organizations available to help aspiring entrepreneurs turn ideas into commercially successful products. Or, if necessary, these organizations can offer a bit of tough love. One that I have worked closely with for almost 10 years is Bioenterprise Corporation (www.bioenterprise.ca) located in Guelph, Ont. Bioenterprise is a not-for-profit centre whose sole purpose is to foster innovation in the agribusiness sector across Canada. Its team of agribusiness professionals provides entrepreneurs with earlystage feedback on the validity of its business idea. It also provides insight into areas that may need continued work, and it helps to fill in the gaps. Here’s how it typically works. At Bioenterprise, if a business concept looks interesting and passes the initial evaluation phase, prospects are invited 54 country-guide.ca

to expose their idea to an Entrepreneur’s Reality Check, a sort of friendly “Dragons’ Den.” Here, a group of senior industry experts will apply their skills and experience to give entrepreneurs a deeper evaluation based on the specific dynamics of the industry they plan to enter. In this way, the Reality Check gives entrepreneurs direct access to industry-specific professionals that they would otherwise have little chance of meeting. If the idea passes the Reality Check, the entrepreneur can continue working with Bioenterprise staff to receive help with writing patents, building a business plan, assembling financial forecasts, conducting market research, and of course, finding sources of seed money. The best part is that there is only a nominal cost for all these services, in the range of $300 per month. You’d do well to get two hours of a consultant’s time for that kind of money. But how do you know if your business idea is even worth giving Bioenterprise a call? Too often we fall in love with our own ideas, especially if well-meaning friends and family provide encouragement. Although their intentions may be genuine, rarely are these the best sources to ask for an evaluation of whether you should devote the next few years of your life and much of your savings to your innovation. However, after working with dozens of ag entrepreneurs over the past 10 years, I have found six simple questions which, if answered honestly, can provide entrepreneurs with a good initial selfevaluation of whether their innovation is ready for the big stage.

Does my invention work? More importantly, can I prove that it works using industry-recognized standards? The more third-party data you can generate to prove your product delivers on its claims, the better. If you can’t prove to the satisfaction of industry professionals that your product works, there is no need june 2014


PRODUCTION

most difficult steps for entrepreneurs. The best distributors tend to be tied up with the best suppliers, and they may be unwilling to carry your product if it could put that larger relationship at risk. Plus, if your product is destined for the mass retail market, such as with a novel food, gaining shelf space with one of the major food companies can be a daunting task.

Will I make a profit?

to even consider the next five questions. As the saying goes, “Without data, you’re just another guy with an opinion.” Can my invention be protected? That is, can my invention be patented, or is there some other form of intellectual property protection that can be used to keep competitors at bay. If it cannot be protected, it will be copied. As well, without protection, you can forget about enticing a major company to ever make you an offer. Along the same line, an often neglected question is whether you have freedom to operate. In other words, are you sure you are not infringing on someone else’s patent? Many entrepreneurs forget to check this, only to have the rug pulled from under their feet after they have invested a large chunk of their savings.

Can I register my invention? Although not necessary with all products, many areas of agriculture are highly regulated. Do you know how your invention will be regulated, what government agencies will be involved, and whether you will be able to satisfy their questions? Some products, such as pesticides, food additives, or nutraceuticals can be very difficult to register and can cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some technologies may not be registerable at all.

Can I manufacture my invention? Making a prototype in your workshop is very different from scaling up into mass production. Do you have the expertise and capital resources to construct a modern manufacturing facility? Are the raw materials readily available, and will the raw material suppliers sell to you? It is not uncommon for competitors to have exclusive contracts with suppliers of specialized raw materials to keep others out of the industry.

Will I have customers? What makes me believe that customers will switch from what they have been using for years and adopt my product? And how will I reach those customers? Distribution tends to be one of the

After investing all my time, energy and money into this venture, will the returns be worthwhile? Entrepreneurs often overestimate the market share they can obtain and underestimate the total cost to bring an invention to market. Unless you have previous experience, you may be surprised by the cost of patent protection, regulatory compliance, third-party research, and marketing. Building an early relationship with your accountant can help avoid nasty surprises along the way. It isn’t necessary to have full answers to all six questions right away, but eventually each must be addressed. In my opinion the first question, “Does my invention work?” is the most important. If you can honestly say that you have invented something new and useful and can prove it works, it may be time to engage the professional help available at organizations like Bioenterprise and become one of Canada’s next successful ag entrepreneurs. CG

> Empty Pesticide Container Recycling Program

There are many reasons to rinse. #1

Only rinsed containers can be recycled

#2

Helps keep collection sites clean

#3

Use all the chemicals you purchase

#4

Keeps collection sites safe for workers

#5

Maintain your farm’s good reputation

No excuse not to!

more information or to find a collection { For site near you visit cleanfarms.ca

Now, take your empty fertilizer containers along for the ride!

JUNE 2014

country-guide.ca 55 10901A-CFM-5Reasons-QRTPage-CountryGuide.indd 1

4/8/14 4:47 PM


Production

field notes

Glyphosate resistance found in Keystone province Manitoba farmers are the latest members of a club nobody wants to join — jurisdictions with confirmed cases of glyphosate-resistant weeds. Last fall an online weed survey suggested that the province’s farmers had a problem with glyphosate-resistant kochia, with 281 growers saying they thought it was present on 23,000 acres. That prompted a program to gather and test genetic material from the suspect plots. This spring, after growing out samples from the fields in a greenhouse and applying glyphosate, the provincial Agriculture Department confirmed what everyone had come to strongly suspect — the province does in fact have its first glyphosate-resistant weed. Writing in our sister publication, the Manitoba Co-operator, respected agriculture journalist Allan Dawson wrote that the infestation was found in an unlikely place, according to those familiar with the situation. For the past few seasons, all eyes had been on the western part of the province, after similar resistance was discovered in eastern Saskatchewan, and weed specialists were wary it would creep into the province via that route. However, the confirmed cases were actually located in the Red River Valley, and the most likely source of the weeds in question is North Dakota. “I was surprised about where it was found,” Bruce Brolley, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development’s (MAFRD) crops knowledge centre manager told Dawson in an interview the week of the confirmation. The finding is especially troubling because herbicide resis-

tance is already a major issue in kochia populations in the province. In fact, it’s assumed unless proven otherwise that all kochia in Manitoba is resistant to Group 2 chemistries. In the same interview, Brolley characterized the situation as a “wake-up call” rather than an immediate disaster, noting that just two suspected sites yielded actual resistance, meaning the scope of the problem remains quite limited, at least for now. However, he stressed that careful management will be necessary to prevent its spread. Another person familiar with the situation agreed the confirmation is a warning sign, but also worried the message might not get through to growers in time. “This is a shot across the bow,” said Gary Martens, an agronomy instructor at the University of Manitoba. “I am afraid there’s so much noise out there farmers won’t pay attention to this. But they need to because there is more (herbicide resistance) to come.”

Clubroot resistance under fire Canola growers in the clubroot zone surrounding Edmonton just can’t seem to catch a break. First one of their most economically viable cropping options was dealt a major blow with the appearance of the disease, and now it appears a new variant of the disease is emerging that’s bypassing the handful of resistant varieties that have emerged in recent years. Stephen Strelkov, a professor and plant pathologist at the University of Alberta, said in a recent release that data from samples in the Edmonton region indicate some forms of clubroot resistance “are no longer functioning well” against what could be a “new clubroot pathotype.” Clubroot, a soil-borne disease, has been moving outward from its points of

56 country-guide.ca

arrival in Alberta at a “fairly steady” rate of 20 to 25 km per year, and has since also been seen at low levels in the other Prairie provinces. “Current research indicates that the concern is limited to very few fields and patches within those fields” in the Edmonton region, Curtis Rempel, vicepresident of crop production with the Canola Council of Canada in Winnipeg, said in a recent media release. Clubroot resistance, he said, “is expected to be functional in the vast majority of acres this year, but attention needs to be paid to prevent this situation from expanding.” The council, which since 2010 has advised growers to scout even clubrootresistant canola fields, said it’s advising canola growers and agronomists to scout

clubroot-resistant varieties this summer with “extra effort and vigilance.” “This is very important in light of the potential for a new pathotype capable of overcoming the excellent resistance currently available in Western Canada,” said Rempel. Clubroot is established in Canada mainly in vegetable-producing regions of British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada and turned up in canola in Quebec in 1997. Even after decades of large-scale canola production in Western Canada, however, it took until 2003 for clubroot to appear in Prairie canola, in spots near Edmonton in 2003. The pathogen was confirmed in fields in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in 2011 and 2013 respectively. CG

June 2014


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Legal

As the wind blows The legal implications of particle drift By Naomi Loewith, lawyer at Lenczner Slaght

n recent years, Canadian producers have significantly increased their use of genetically modified crops. At the same time, a growing number of farms are obtaining organic certification. The concurrent expansion of these two practices will almost inevitably lead to GM and organic fields being adjacent. What are the legal implications when GM products drift onto a neighbour’s field? Particle drift can have serious repercussions. Organic farmers may lose their certification, which can take years to obtain again. Non-organic farmers can also be affected, since certain importers have strict rules about GM content and may close their borders if GM particulates are detected in any shipments. Many countries in Europe and South America have set out legal regimes apportioning liability when GM particles travel. A test case went to trial in Australia in February; the judge is expected to release his decision shortly. How would a Canadian court tackle this issue? One possibility is that a court would compare escaping particles to escaping cattle. Courts have long held that you must pay your neighbour for losses suffered at the “hooves and teeth” of escaping cattle. The underlying principle is that when you keep animals — which have a propensity to escape and cause harm — for your own benefit, you must bear the risk of the damage they could cause, and compensate others if that risk actualizes. A court could expand this principle to cases where a farmer plants GM crops, as seeds or particles may drift and can cause harm to non-GM growers. Under this analogy, producers who grow GM crops for their own profit could be liable for damage caused to neighbours’ fields, including the losses suffered if they lose access to organic or other markets.

Policy considerations Before making the jump to a new liability regime, a judge will consider whether there are policy reasons not to expand the law to the new situation. There are some policy reasons that might prevent such an expansion. First, courts are reluctant to put someone in a position where they could be liable for an “indeterminate amount for an indeterminate time to an indeterminate class.” Since GM particles can travel long distances, and could have serious financial and international trade implications, imposing liability on GM producers might create too much risk and uncertainty. Second, courts are cautious not to make someone liable for following ordinary business practices. As common farming practice evolves to include the use of GM crops, the law may well evolve to embrace that practice. Third, there may be nothing that a farmer can do to prevent the escape of GM particles. Unlike cattle, which can be contained with fencing commensurate with animals’ abilities, GM particles may escape regardless of the protections used. 58 country-guide.ca

Holding a farmer liable for any drift, even if all precautions were taken, would contradict the law’s long-standing support for coexistence of different practices where possible.

Best practices We do not yet know if a court would consider any of these policy reasons in deciding whether liability for escaping cattle might be extended to liability for escaping GM particles. The legislature may also step in and codify responsibilities. Until then, there are some ways that both GM and organic producers can protect their interests. First, if you use GM seed, follow the licensing agreement of the crop developer. For example, Monsanto’s Technology Stewardship Agreement requires a five-metre buffer zone around any GM field. Compliance with these terms will not be a full defence, but failing to follow them will almost certainly be negligent. Second, where there are options for planting GM crops, choose the one that best protects your neighbour. If only some fields will have GM seeds, choose fields away from a sensitive neighbour where possible. When harvesting, swathing can result in more drift than direct heading, so it may be necessary to direct head to protect a neighbour. Organic farmers should also take precautions. First, know the governing regulations for your organic organization. Some organic classifications disallow produce from a field where prohibited products were “applied,” but accept crops if prohibited products arrived by “environmental contamination.” Ensure you understand your vulnerability and risk. Second, if you suspect contamination, keep records. Document what was discovered, where, when, the prevailing winds, and what you have observed of your neighbour’s practices. Take photographs where possible (this advice applies to any type of legal dispute: the person with best records almost always has the upper hand). The last two pieces of advice apply to both sides of the dispute. If you seek the advice of an agronomist or other expert before planting, disclose all relevant information to your adviser — including knowledge of your neighbour’s practices — and follow the advice received or document why you acted against it. Failure to share all the facts or ignoring your advisers could be used as evidence of unreasonable practices. Finally, talk to each other. Explain what you are doing, what concerns you have, how your neighbour’s actions might affect you, and suggestions for accommodating each other. In many cases, the conversation could prevent the problem. In every case, it will demonstrate that you tried to be reasonable, and judges always try to find in favour of “the reasonable person.” CG Naomi Loewith is a business litigator at Lenczner Slaght in Toronto. Naomi represents clients across a range of sectors in civil litigation, administrative disputes and regulatory proceedings. June 2014


w e at h e r NEAR NORMAL

WARM WITH NEARNORMAL RAINFALL

lls spe ed t o H atter Sc torms T/s

MILDER THAN NORMAL

Cool Showery June COOL WITH WET SPELLS JUNE WARM WITH T/STORMS JULY/AUGUST

C Sho ool w Jun ery e

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Hot T/storms July/ Aug.

t s Ho rm g. o st u T/ ly/A Ju

WARM WITH NEARNORMAL RAINFALL

Warm Showery

June 15 through July to August 9, 2014

June 15-21: Seasonal and mainly sunny but a couple of hotter days spawn showers or heavier thundershowers inland. June 22-28: Hot and often dry interior. Mainly sunny, warm elsewhere with scattered showers or thunderstorms. June 29-July 5: Seasonal to warm west with scattered showers. Mostly hot elsewhere with spotty showers or thunderstorms. July 6-12: Sunny, warm west with isolated showers. Generally hot east and north with a few showers or thunderstorms. July 13-19: Sunny, warm most days west with spotty showers. Elsewhere hot, dry with isolated thunderstorms. July 20-26: Passing showers or thundershowers, otherwise warm to hot under sunny skies. July 27-Aug. 2: Pleasant most days under sunshine. Scattered showers in a few localities. Aug. 3-9: Cooler north with a few showers. Mainly sunny, warm south with scattered showers.

ALBERTA

June 15-21: Sunshine dominates in spite of showers or heavy thunderstorms on a couple of occasions. June 22-28: Highs in the 20s most days under sunny skies but showers and heavy thunderstorms here and there. June 29-July 5: Sunny, warm apart from scattered showers or thunderstorms, some heavy on hotter days. July 6-12: Hot on a few days this week under sunshine but isolated heavy thunderstorms occur on two or three days. July 13-19: Sunny, warm but a couple of hotter, humid days set off thunderstorms, some possibly severe. July 20-26: Seasonal to hot with sunny skies. Scattered shower or thunderstorm activity on a couple of days. JUNE 2014

July 27-Aug. 2: Pleasant temperatures often in the 20s. Mainly sunny aside from scattered shower or thundershower activity. Aug. 3-9: Seasonal to a bit cooler. Sunny but look for shower or thundershower activity on a couple of days.

SASKATCHEWAN

June 15-21: Sunny but occasional rain on two or three days, chance of heavy thunderstorms. Variable temperatures. June 22-28: Seasonal, sunny except a couple of warmer days set off showers and thunderstorms. June 29-July 5: Sunny with highs in the 20s, some 30s south. Scattered thunderstorms, heavy in places. July 6-12: Sunny and warm. Expect a few hotter, humid days to trigger thunderstorm activity. July 13-19: Heavy thunderstorms move through the area from time to time, otherwise sunny and often hot. July 20-26: Sunshine dominates with seasonal to warm temperatures. Passing thunderstorms on two or three occasions. July 27-Aug. 2: Pleasant on most days with seasonal to warm temperatures. Thunderstorms at a few localities. Aug. 3-9: Mainly sunny with comfortable temperatures. A couple of cooler days bring showers.

MANITOBA

June 15-21: Mostly sunny but rain or heavy thunderstorms occur on a couple of days. Blustery at times. June 22-28: Sunshine and warm most days apart from occasional showers or heavier thunderstorms. June 29-July 5: Sunny with highs in the 20s. One or two hotter, humid days set off showers and heavy thunderstorms.

July 6-12: Hot and at times humid. Sunny aside from passing thunderstorm activity, chance heavy in places. July 13-19: Seasonal to occasionally hot. Sunshine dominates aside from scattered thunderstorms. July 20-26: Highs in the 20s, some 30s in the south under sunshine. A few heavy thunderstorms here and there. July 27-Aug. 2: Showers or thunderstorms at a few localities, otherwise sunny with seasonable temperatures. Aug. 3-9: Comfortable temperatures but a couple of cooler, blustery days develop showers in places.

June 15 through July to August 9, 2014 NATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS Cool and often wet conditions are expected in June over most of Central Canada from the Prairies eastward to Ontario and Quebec. In July, however, a warmer and drier regime should return. Look for normal shower activity in all of these areas throughout the summer although we expect to see occasional thunderstorms with local hail, strong winds and heavier downpours. On the opposite sides of the country, in British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces, look for pleasant summer weather under an upper-level high-pressure area. This should result in warmer-than-normal temperatures and near-normal rainfall in these areas.

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 59


life

New life for rural churches These rural churches are finding strength and a new sense of mission in their rural communities By Helen Lammers-Helps

n the early days of European settlement, churches played a pivotal role in rural Canada. In fact, says Rev. Dr. Cam Harder, an ordained Lutheran minister and theology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, churches were the key to the cultural life of a community. The same was true in the East, where traditionally the church was more than a place of worship, agrees Dr. John Young, a United Church minister and professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. The church was often the only meeting place in town and was used not only for church functions but also as a meeting place for non-church groups. But now, those churches are under increasing threat. It isn’t new. Rural depopulation has meant that many churches, once the hub of the local community, have closed, with the outlook made worse by the fact that between 1960 and 1975, church attendance dropped from 60 per cent to 30 per cent, according to University of Lethbridge sociology professor, Dr. Reginald Bibby in his e-book, A New Day — The Resilience and Restructuring of Religion in Canada. The mainline Protestant churches — United, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Anglican — were the hardest hit, Bibby writes. Yet Bibby’s research shows some other interesting trends. While the proportion of Canadians identifying as Roman Catholic has remained stable at 40 per cent for the past 70 years, the percentage of Canadians who are evangelical Christian (such as Baptist, Pentecostal, Mennonite, Nazarene and Alliance) has increased from eight to 11 per cent (with most of the increase taking place in the last 15 years) and the percentage of those of non-Christian faith (e.g. Muslim, Sikh, Hindu) has increased from three to eight per cent. The biggest change, though, has been in the percentage of Canadians claiming “no religion,” which has jumped from one to 25 per cent. 60 country-guide.ca

Mainline Protestant churches also tend to have older congregations than the Roman Catholic and evangelical Christian churches. Church attendance is determined by three factors: natural increase (births minus deaths), migration (to and from other groups) and finally performance (how well the church meets the needs of its members). Before 1950, people would attend church out of obligation, explains Bibby, but today many will only attend if they feel they get value for their time spent. Churches which work to identify and address the specific needs of their members are the most successful, says Young. “You have to meet people where they’re at,” he emphasizes. For example, many evangelical churches have seen their attendance increase because they have hired youth pastors and offer youth programming, says Young. They have been innovative and they have reached out to the community, he says. While there has been a hollowing out of rural institutions with the closing of post offices, schools and local stores, in general rural churches have shown more resilience than their suburban or urban counterparts. Those moving into rural areas tend to have a strong sense of community, explains Young. And those with deep family roots tend to value tradition, which means they are more likely to attend the church of their ancestors. Despite the downward trend in church attendance, religion is definitely not dead in Canada, say Bibby. “What transpires in Canada as far as the “religion/no religion” balance will depend largely on the collective performance of its religious groups,” he writes. Bibby encourages people to work together, to seek out like-minded individuals and to build bridges within the same denomination or other denominations with shared values. Many churches in rural Canada are doing just that. June 2014


life

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n Plaster Rock, a village of about 1,100 in the woods of New Brunswick, the Anglican and United Church congregations are taking turns holding Sunday services. Each church has a half-time minister, says the United Church pastor, Amanda Longmoore. “It’s going really well,” says Longmoore. “People are attending each week. There’s a new energy and it’s better for community outreach.” If things continue to go well, they will look at closing one of the two church buildings. “That will be hard,” admits Longmoore. “People are really attached to their buildings. People have to be ready, but if they are ready, you can do a lot.” When the Loyalists settled the southern St. John River Valley in New Brunswick following the American Revolution, they built an Anglican Church every few miles along the river. With an aging and

declining population, it was no longer sustainable to keep all of these churches open, explains Rev. Michael Caines, the current rector of the Anglican Church of the Resurrection in Grand Bay-Westfield. A decade ago the seven small congregations were combined into one parish. The churches were deconsecrated and the proceeds from the sale of the church properties were used to build a new modern church, which was completed three years ago. “They took their time, collected pictures and made archives of the old churches,” explains Caines. Every stained glass window from the old churches was saved and hung in the centre of the new church to preserve the history. “There were hurt feelings and feelings of loss. It was rocky at times, as expected,” says Caines. But, he emphasizes, everyone was consulted and had a chance to say their opinions.

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n the tiny hamlet of Kinkora in southwestern Ontario the parishioners of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church rallied to raise $2 million to restore their 1882 church and build a new parish hall. The money was raised through fundraisers such as galas, auctions, recycling drives, bake sales and garage sales, says Francis Ryan, the church caretaker. Not only did the congregation of 200 families raise

the money needed, they also pitched in to do much of the work. For example, to remedy a mould problem caused by the damp crawl space beneath the church, a crew of 30 volunteers with wheelbarrows filled the crawl space with stone and poured a concrete floor. In 2007 the Architectural Conservancy Association of Ontario, a non-profit organization, recognized the quality of the St. Patrick’s restoration with an award.

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ocated in the tip of southwestern Ontario, three Roman Catholic churches, two in Wallaceburg and one in nearby Port Lambton, were successfully clustered 10 years ago due to a shortage of clergy. Where there were four priests there are now two, but each church has remained open and “does its own thing,” explains Father Greg Bonin, the pastor of the Holy Redeemer cluster.

Today, with the aid of an associate pastor, a deacon and several lay staff including two youth ministry co-ordinators and a pastoral minister, each church is a vibrant community with many active youth. Many of the children who grew up in the faith are returning with their own children. With fewer priests to say Mass, the Mass schedule had to change, says Fr. Bonin. “People don’t like change, but we persevered.”

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n the southwestern corner of Manitoba, not far from the Saskatchewan and North Dakota borders, lies the little community of Goodlands, population 25. Here the evangelical Fellowship Community Church is thriving. Originally a United Church, 22 years ago the church switched allegiance to the Congregational Christian Church in order to have more independence. Pastor Glen Whetter says the church has worked hard at being a church that’s relevant to young families. They offer a play group for parents with young children and have involved young families in their planning

process. “We’ve made efforts to build relationships with the community,” he says. In particular, Whetter has set his sights on reinventing what he calls kitchen table ministry. He laments that even in rural Manitoba nobody seems to take the time to visit with their neighbours anymore. While people may be connecting through Facebook, he says they are missing the face-to-face contact. Research has shown that despite technology, people in Canada are lonelier than ever, he says. His congregation is making a concerted effort to help people figure out how to make casual visiting a part of their lives again.

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events, and have skills in caregiving and reconciliation, he continues. Churches which meet the needs of their congregations and look for innovative ways to build bridges within their communities, will continue to flourish in changing times. Although cars and technology mean that people aren’t as tied to their local community today as they once were, churches can still provide important services to the community, Harder asserts. “They have buildings, committed volunteers, leaders, fundraising structures and a focus on building hope and human capacity.” CG

o better prepare ministers and priests of all denominations for rural ministry, Rev. Harder has established the Centre for Rural Community Leadership and Ministry (CiRCLe M) at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. The centre hosts an annual conference and provides training, mentoring and resources to help rural clergy better serve their rural congregations and contribute to the development of healthy communities. In addition to their focus on meeting the congregation’s spiritual needs, church leaders are trained to assist in times of crisis, provide rituals to process life

June 2014

country-guide.ca 61


h e a lt h

Digestion 101 By Marie Berry

igestion occurs automatically, so you probably don’t even think about it unless you are bothered by a complaint like indigestion. Coping with digestive complaints, however, is a multimillion-dollar business, and the products available are numerous. Your digestive tract begins at your mouth and ends at the other end with your rectum. It is responsible for the absorption of water, nutrients and minerals. Food is chewed and swallowed in the mouth, and then it is digested by enzymes in your stomach. Further breakdown and absorption occur in the small intestine, which is from 18 to 23 feet long in adults. The “leftovers” pass to the shorter large intestine (about five feet long), where more absorption occurs, mainly of water. Finally, anything remaining is excreted. The whole process takes four to six hours with variations depending upon the type of food you eat and your health. Poor nutrition can be related to your diet, but it can also be the result of factors that reduce nutrient absorption. Such factors can include inflammatory bowel problems (such as Crohn’s disease), low levels of digestive enzymes, low stomach acid, gluten intolerance (i.e. celiac disease), and lactose intolerance. Canada’s Food Guide is a great place to begin for good nutrition, but check for any of these other problems if your nutrition is poor regardless of your diet. Indigestion may be merely bothersome if it only occurs occasionally. If it becomes chronic, however, it can affect your overall health. Gastrointestinal esophageal reflux or GERD is the term used when indigestion, along with burping and heartburn, seem to occur daily. About a quarter of Canadians are bothered. Between the various sections of the gastrointestinal tract, sphincters prevent food material from moving backwards. With GERD, the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus has lost its “elasticity” meaning it doesn’t close properly. If you have indigestion, check first to see if you can identify any foods that are especially problemThe newest anticoagulants seem to be advertised heavily in American media, and with the aging of the population more people are using them, especially for atrial fibrillation. Next issue, we’ll have a look at the older anticoagulant warfarin and compare it to the newer ones.

62 country-guide.ca

atic, for example fatty foods, chocolate, or spicy foods. Keeping a food diary may help pinpoint the offending foods which then can be avoided. Some drugs such as alcohol, caffeine, iron, some antibiotics, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can cause stomach irritation, which adds to the problem. Smoking increases stomach acid, relaxes the sphincter, and reduces saliva production which also can contribute to indigestion. Pregnancy, being overweight, psychological conditions (such as stage fright), diabetes, and gall bladder disease are other contributors to indigestion and GERD. With diabetes, the problem may also be a slowing of peristalsis (i.e. the intestinal contractions that move food through the system). Drugs such as metoclopramide or domperidone may improve the movement of food. Antacids neutralize acid in the stomach. Although they are fast-acting, however, they are also shortacting and can absorb medications that then pass through you. Acid blockers such as ranitidine and famotidine block the release of stomach acid, thereby relieving symptoms. Many are available without prescriptions, but if you find yourself using them on a regular basis, you should have your symptoms checked to make sure there is nothing more serious happening. Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs such as omeprazole and rabeprazole stop cells in your stomach from “pumping-out” acid. They are longer acting, and generally they are more potent acid reducers, but they may interfere with calcium absorption as well as the heart medication clopidogrel. Gas can be an embarrassing problem. Burping or belching is known as eructation, and if the gas is expelled rectally, flatulence. You normally have gas about six to 20 times each day. It is the result of swallowed air, for example when chewing gum, eating too fast, or drinking carbonated beverages. If you think you have more gas than normal, keep a record and note your diet and foods. You may be able to pinpoint the problem. Good digestion is the starting point for good nutrition, but you need to eat a balanced diet, avoiding foods that may be problematic. Also, don’t rush your eating. Chew your food about 20 times for firmer foods and five to 10 times for softer ones. It turns out your mother was right, so do as she said. Sit down, eat more slowly, and chew! Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist intersted in health and education. June 2014


NOW AVAILABLE “I’m getting old but I’m not old yet I’m already worried that I might forget How to laugh, how to love How to live, how to learn I want to die with a smile when it comes my turn.” David Myles, a folksinger from Nova Scotia, wrote “When It Comes My Turn.” He says he wrote it during his “quarter life crisis.” It is not so much a song about growing old, he says, as it is about staying young. Myles wrote the final verse after watching his aunts, uncles and parents “doing all the things they do to keep themselves happy as they grow older.” “Maybe I’ll start bowling, maybe I’ll play bridge Maybe I’ll join a band with my own grandkids I don’t care if it kills me I’m gonna do what it takes To keep some warmth in my heart and a smile on my face.” Myles reserves bowling and bridge for the second and third stages of life. I suspect many young people feel the same. Joining organizations and participating in group activities seems the domain of those more advanced in life. American political scientist Robert Putnam in his book Bowling Alone — The Collapse and Revival of American Community observed that the highest level of participation in clubs, churches and community events was in the early 1950s. Only 10 per cent of homes had television. By the late 1950s most homes had television sets and membership in organizations had dropped 90 per cent. Putnam chose bowling to illustrate. While the number of people who bowled increased by 10 per cent, the number of bowling leagues decreased by 40 per cent. More bowling — fewer leagues. Putnam sees shared activities, joint projects and volunteering as sources of strength for communities. He defines these assets as “social capital.” Connections function as “social glue,” and help people co-operate with one another for the benefit of all. Andrew Heywood, a British writer, describes social capital as the level of trust and the sense of social connectedness that help promote stability, cohesion and prosperity, “what turn the ‘I’ into ‘we.’” Putnam’s research indicated that one in four Americans volunteered in groups and organizations in 1974. Yet 25 years later only one in five were joiners. Putnam says “… we have been pulled apart from one another and from our communities… ” I suspect the trend to individuality is similar in Canada. My Uncle LaVerne bowled in the same league for 50 years. Josh, a Gen-Y flight instructor, says, “Occasionally a few friends get together to go bowling, but people in my age group don’t join leagues.” Peter Ashton, another British writer, argues that “the growth in individualism in an increasingly materialistic society means that most people are only concerned with themselves, their family and to a certain extent their friends, rather than with society and other people.” Conference organizers plan coffee breaks to allow time to chat and develop networks. Is that what happens? Coffee breaks provide an opportunity for checking email and communicating with people not at the meeting. Do social media such as Facebook and Twitter lead society to become averse to human interaction? Singer David Myles is determined to keep warmth in his heart and a smile on his face as the aging process advances. A life connected to other people, while building a better society, promises huge rewards… rewards for individuals and rewards for society. Suggested Scripture: Proverbs 22, Colossians 2:1-6 Rod Andrews is a retired Anglican bishop. He lives in Saskatoon.

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country-guide.ca 63


ACRES

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

Just one more field to go It wasn’t anybody’s fault, except maybe the fella with the grin hen Elaine showed him the cracked windshield on Monday afternoon, Jeff didn’t know it was only the first straw. “I was over as far as I could get without sliding into the ditch,” Elaine said when she came home with their son from playschool graduation and Jeff inspected the shiny new crack that zagged from one side of the glass to the other, right at the driver’s eye level. “What could I do?” Jeff bit his tongue and left for the field quickly, before he asked her exactly how fast she’d been driving when she met that semi on the gravel road, and before he could also ask why on earth she needed to drive a foreign SUV when everybody knew the replacement windshields were $800 a pop. Jeff suspected it wouldn’t have happened if he’d been driving, but he could hardly bring that up, seeing that he’d skipped playschool graduation to get the last of the wheat seeded.

64 country-guide.ca

“We’ll have to take it in and get a new windshield,” Jeff said. “We can’t drive it like that.” On Tuesday it was the sprayer. Jeff answered his father, Dale’s call for help and rushed out to the field, where he found Dale looking like a duck that had crawled out of the Gulf of Mexico. Dale was covered in oil from cap to boot, and the hydraulic hoses were still spraying oil two feet in every direction. This could have happened to anyone. But Jeff couldn’t help but notice that it hadn’t happened to him. Jeff made his father take off his jeans and shirt before he got into the truck to go home for tools. On Wednesday it was the lawn mower. Elaine was half-finished with the front lawn when it quit running. Jeff had been meaning to change the oil, but when Dale mentioned he might do it, Jeff had forgotten all about it. Jeff didn’t think he deserved all the blame for this, but he wasn’t completely in the clear. “First the $800 windshield. Then the sprayer. Now this,” Jeff muttered.

JUNE 2014


acres

Thursday was the most expensive day. It should have been the last day of seeding, and when Jeff’s grandfather, Ed, came out from town to take his last turn at the wheel for the year, he brought his new girlfriend, Helen, along with him. “Get on in!” he’d told her, holding her cane while she eased her bad hip up the ladder and into the tractor cab. “Let me show you how it’s done!” After a few minutes things seemed to be going well, so Jeff had gone back to the yard for more seed. Dale was in the yard too, and Ed and Helen were enjoying the summer scenery from the tractor cab, so there were no witnesses when the wheel rolled right off the air cart. “Get out here!” Ed said over the phone. “We’ll need your truck to drive around and find the damn wheel. Good thing I made it to the corner on the dual.” Jeff sighed. “Bring some tools. And maybe the loader tractor. That auger’s really dragging on the ground.” Jeff thought Dale had changed out those wheel bolts for some stronger ones. Dale thought Jeff had done it. Ed wasn’t taking any responsibility, which he made pretty clear when he said, “I don’t know what kind of show you guys are running. You’re just lucky Helen wasn’t hurt. I don’t know what she’s thinking about us. We’ll be lucky if she decides to stick around. Especially if you both keep cursing around her.” Jeff spent half the day on the phone, trying to track down a replacement tire rim and some new bolts. He finally found what he needed, but someone had to go all the way to the factory to pick it up — a good five-hour drive from the farm. “I’ll take Helen up to see the sights,” Ed said. “She’d probably like to see more of Saskatchewan. But you guys will have to put us up in a nice hotel for the night.” On Friday morning Jeff’s mother, Donna had been at the wheel of the old grain truck, bringing it home from the field — since seeding was out of the question for a few days — when the truck brakes went. Luckily Donna realized what had happened before it was too late. She managed to roll to a stop on the road right in front of the Hansons’ yard. “Good thing I didn’t meet someone at the corner,” she said. “I was going a pretty good clip.” Jeff and his dad moved the truck into the shop, and got to work on the brakes. They spent more time under the truck than they had in a while. One thing led to another until they had a list of seven or eight things that needed fixing before they could feel good about taking the truck out on the road again. “I didn’t know this thing was in such bad shape,” Dale said. “And how have we been running it without replacing those signal lights?

june 2014

“Good thing Grandpa didn’t see this,” Jeff said, mentally adding up how much all of this would cost. “Time for a break,” Elaine said when she came out late in the morning and dragged Jeff into the house. “Have a shower, then we’ll go to town. We’ll have some lunch and pick up Conner.” Jeff agreed. They needed to look at lawn mowers before the yard was completely overgrown anyway. Elaine was right. It was a nice break. After they wrote a cheque for a new mower, Jeff and Elaine ate pizza while the baby snored and drooled in her car seat on a third chair. Between interruptions from neighbours stopping by to take a look under the pink blanket, Elaine had a chance to tell Jeff about a conference call she’d been on earlier in the week. Jeff told Elaine how Helen had packed Ed a picnic to take to the field. “In one of those wicker baskets! Like in those old Yogi Bear cartoons! Grandpa talks like he’s worried she might change her mind, but she’s not going anywhere.”

“What’s that boy doing?” Ed asked Helen as they approached the yard. “Looks like some sort of dance,” said Helen, puzzled

After lunch, they picked Conner up from his last day of preschool. The little boy was thrilled to see Jeff. “This is my daddy!” he told the playschool teacher, the receptionist, nine other kids and the janitor. They stopped at the glass shop. The windshield on the SUV was already replaced, so Jeff went in to pay the bill while Elaine drove the kids home. Jeff was already slowing down to turn into his yard when he met the semi. He pulled over as far as he could. The semi driver waved and grinned as they met. Then his trailer sent a stream of rocks up into the air. “What’s that boy doing?” Ed asked Helen as they approached the yard, home with the new tire rim and bolts. “Looks like some sort of dance,” Helen said, puzzled. But why is he jumping up and down in the middle of the road? Is he shouting something?” Ed snorted. “Kid gets stranger every day. He’s yelling about ‘800.’” CG

country-guide.ca 65


opinion

The other view Alberta grain grower Michael Kalisvaart says it’s time to trust our young farmers By Michael Kalisvaart really enjoyed reading in Country Guide all the articles about optimistic young farmers excelling in their operations. Tracy Court, Gary Lenderbeck, and Tyler Devloo have passion for agriculture and are great examples of the opportunity available in our industry for young people. Then I read Gerald Pilger’s “A farmer’s rant,” and I found it to be full of pessimism and negativity. It bothered me for days. I agree with Gerald. There definitely is anger building out in the country coffee shops as each contract month goes by and grain hauling gets further and further behind. We are victims of our own success, harvesting the largest crop in history across the whole of the Prairies, and everyone — including myself — was hoping for that “holy grail” event of high yields and high prices. I am not going to get into a discussion about why the grain movement is so bad. It is obvious from what has been said so far about railroad capacity, oil shipping, weather, and grain companies, but I would like to think that we all have experienced poor shipping before and what has happened shouldn’t really be such a surprise. The biggest crop in history, you might expect, would have the worst shipping in history. At another time I would love to discuss whether maybe the rail system should be operated in the greater interest of the public good rather than the share price of CP or CN, but that is a whole other discussion. The main point is that we should have seen it coming and protected our cash flow in some way. Even though its response is maybe symbolic, I commend the government for coming down on railways and passing some legislation. I also take offence at the notion that we are unable to compete in a free and open commodity market. As far as I can tell, canola, peas, lentils etc. have been free for a long time. I would argue that the Canadian Wheat Board prevented a lot of new entrants from thriving in our environ66 country-guide.ca

ment and created an oligopoly of industry giants that benefited greatly from the guaranteed income that the CWB gave them year after year. Our big farmerowned co-ops became stagnant and uncompetitive under this system, forcing them to replace their facilities in a very quick period of time when transportation reforms were introduced in the 1990s. Undercapitalized and under mounting debt, they were forced into the mergers and privatization that happened over the last 20 years. Independent companies are also being sold off because the CWB prevented them from competing in an open and free environment. Building new facilities and additional storage is not going to solve the problem either. We can easily turn the facilities we have many more times if we can drive some more efficiency and accountability into the system. I also object to the suggestion that our current industry associations have been ineffective in advocating for farmers. There has been a tremendous amount of effort put into lobbying this past winter and the government has listened to them. Great young and old farmers have been stepping up and having their voices heard with a lot more legitimacy than a very political CWB had. I believe our industry groups have a great future and with open markets, a lot of optimism abounds among those who choose to get involved. Canadian agriculture is entering a period of great generational change, and with it are coming new ideas and tremendous innovation. The old ways of doing things are being questioned, and farming is definitely changing its structure as rationalization continues as well. One of the sad facts is that there will be fewer and fewer of us as time continues, but a new batch of innovative people are taking over and it will be exciting to see how they respond to these challenges. Some will transition into niche markets and direct markets but there is definitely a future for those who

remain in commercial large-scale commodity agriculture as well. Perhaps a different model — one that is more capitalized and more sophisticated in planning for problems like the one we are currently in — will become the new normal. I also wanted to address a very rampant culture of cynicism that still seems to be alive and well in some older circles. New and innovative ways of doing things are too often met either with an unwillingness to explore them or with negative comments in the coffee shop predicting failure. I visit with Americans from time to time and I believe we can learn something from their entrepreneurial spirit. Too often we are unwilling to take risks or chances to invest in ideas. We need people to not only innovate but to attract capital and to promote new efforts to enhance our commodity pipelines, taking pressure off the rail system and creating jobs here rather than in China. This requires not only leadership, which I think we have in abundance, but also some more support from our community of farmers to make things happen and not just pessimistically dismiss them because ideas were tried and failed 25 years ago. Maybe Gerald was having a bad day when he wrote his article, but I believe we are the greatest country to farm in and will remain so for many years to come. A new group of business-savvy professionals are moving in, a group that certainly cares every bit as much for their communities and neighbours. Gerald, let me buy you a drink sometime, one that is half full. CG June 2014


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