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What if they ever divorce?  8 | Get income insurance that works  54

EAstern EDITION / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / april 2016

THE INDEPENDENTS Taking over a local ag supplier  22

CROPS GUIDE Conventional farms adapt organic  39

Preparing

FOR

Takeoff Their innovative plan transfers management, not just ownership  16

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MACHINERY

6 CROPS GUIDE

Global design AGCO’s series 4700 and 5700 tractors take on the world.

Business

Inside country guide / Vol. 135 Issue no. 7 / april 2016

FEATURES

8 c  ommon-sense thoughts on divorce A third of married couples divorce, usually in their 40s, so whether it makes you uncomfortable or not, it makes sense to talk about how to protect the farm.

12 for rent Rents wouldn’t be so high if your neighbours weren’t pushing them up.

39 39 Learning from organic

46 Watch out for bollworms

48 Pest Patrol 50 Weather

28 findIng the right mentor Should farm groups be pushing for more mentorship programs? It’s working in beef.

51 a new era begins Robotic tractors will transform agriculture, and they’re coming faster than you might think.

54 income replacement insurance Many farm employees are covered, so shouldn’t you cover yourself too?

With farmers and business-minded locals in charge of more farm supply outlets, sales are surging. But this is not a game for the faint of heart.

Take charge of stress levels.

62  Not your same old board Read this before you sign on.

66 Reflections

Preparing for takeoff 22 Taking over the shop

60  HR

65 Hanson Acres

Succession planning:

One farm, four children. Manitoba’s Parsonage family shares their innovative approach to making it all work.

Guide Life 64 Health

16

32 Their head start

62

Supply-managed boards have their critics, but you’ve got to hand it to them for helping young farmers get started.

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.

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

3


EDITOR’S NOTE

1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1 (204) 944-5765 Fax (204) 944-5562

EDITORIAL STAFF

A season for deciding on new goals for the farm Farmers stand out in today’s culture for their ability to make actual decisions, not just choices. Now the rewards for choosing which decisions to make are about to multiply I know I’m a broken record on this subject, and that I’m forever saying that if there’s anything I’d like consumers to really understand about today’s farmers, it’s how they excel at decision making.

Can our business productivity grow as fast as our crop yields?

It’s foreign to consumers, who excel in their own way at making choices, such as which pairs of jeans send which signals, or which restaurant is the right place to be seen in. In such a context, choices are utterly different from decisions. It’s a difference that can be captured by listing the attributes required for effective decision making, including courage, analytical capabilities, and the ability to simultaneously hold multiple factors in your mind so you can anticipate how a change in one part of your management will integrate with all the other parts of your operation when you begin implementation. I admire too the ability of great decision makers to know how to stagger and pace their decisions. Yet there is a also a change underway in how top farmers are managing that pacing. Most farms have a work regimen that uses the winter to ensure their equipment, inputs and workforce are all perfectly prepared for peak performance the day they can hit the field in the spring. Now there’s a counterpoint in the business cycle too. It emphasizes using the summer to ensure the farm is primed to make maximum gains from its business management opportunities once the fieldwork slackens. Today’s farms are evolving faster than we are able to quantify. It isn’t just a matter of acres or equipment;

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APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

there’s also the harder-to-measure matter of business growth and sophistication. The speed of this evolution also varies between farms, and I’m reminded of a 2015 Ipsos study that looked for commonalities among farms with strong financial performance. Ipsos found that such farms: 1. Commit to continual learning. 2. Make decisions based on accurate financial data. 3. Select and use excellent advisers. 4. Know their business plan. 5. Aggressively manage costs. 6. Understand and manage risk. 7. Set clear budget objectives. Wouldn’t it be an interesting exercise to key this list into your phone and set it to pop up periodically through the summer? Then you could use those reminders to ask yourself, which three categories offer the most room for growth on your farm? What would be your action plan? Whatever system they use, it’s exactly the sort of process that many farms will undertake this summer, and every summer from now on. We’re all fond of quantifying how our field productivity is steadily climbing. Could you compete with your neighbours for land if your yields were still where they were a decade ago? And can you expect to compete if your business productivity doesn’t progress even faster? Are we getting it right? Let me know at tom.button@fbcpublishing.com.

Editor: Tom Button 12827 Klondyke Line, Ridgetown, ON N0P 2C0 (519) 674-1449 Fax (519) 674-5229 tom.button@fbcpublishing.com Associate Editor: Maggie Van Camp mvancamp@fbcpublishing.com (905) 986-5342 Fax (905) 986-9991 Associate Editor: Gord Gilmour (204) 453-7624 Cell (204) 294-9195 Fax (204) 942-8463 gord.gilmour@fbcpublishing.com Production Editor: Ralph Pearce ralph.pearce@fbcpublishing.com (226) 448-4351 Design & Layout: Jenelle Jensen

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Call toll-free 1-800-665-1362 subscription@fbcpublishing.com U.S. subscribers call 1-204-944-5766 Country Guide is printed with linseed oil-based inks. PRINTED IN CANADA Vol. 135 No. 7

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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.


SOIL CONSERVATION COUNCIL OF CANADA SOIL CONSERVATION COUNCIL OF CANADA CONSEIL CANADIEN DE CONSERVATION DES SOLS

The face and voice of soil conservation in Canada

NATIONAL SOIL CONSERVATION WEEK SCCC pays tribute to soil conservation farmers

S

oil conservation is not an act of convenience. It is a responsible and profitable way to manage crop land. Soil degradation and loss of soil health brings a huge cost to farmers and Canadian agriculture – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada numbers suggest $35,000 per year of lost production for the average farm. The evidence of soil degradation is clear: • Silt-laden streams and silty plumes out into the lakes during spring thaw and following storms. • Summer algae in waterways and lakes. • Increasing yield variability as tillage continues to erode soil and reduce organic matter on hill tops – and those eroded areas continue to increase in size. • Tillage-induced hard pan and compaction that interfere with water infiltration and contributes to surface water runoff. • Wind and water erosion continues on unprotected and degraded soil – even on flat land. These indicators would be unusual on the well-aggregated soil of native prairie or eastern woodland. Much of the soil degradation originates with land managers who continue old habits, traditional values and outdated practices.

Photo courtesy: Ducks Unlimited

Photo courtesy: OMAFRA

Many farmers have moved forward improving their soil, the environment and the natural areas that it affects. They understand soil and are working hard to protect and improve it. They understand the importance of soil health and that soil aggregation is an excellent indicator of active soil biota, organic matter and a water-air balance that is friendly to crop root systems. For them, full surface tillage has been abandoned. They use strategic crop combinations, and extended crop rotations to improve crop health and soil bioactivity. Cover crops add to crop diversity, compaction remediation and provide added dormant season soil protection. These farmers control wind erosion, surface water and sediment runoff with combinations of windbreaks, soil structures (i.e. terraces, grasses waterways, check dams), soil aggregation and undisturbed crop residue. They recognize the soil degradation and tillage erosion that result from aggressive, direct-seeding

and high-speed planting. They know the importance of good and frugal nutrient management for use efficiency and least risk to the environment (i.e. 4R Nutrient Stewardship system). Because many of these farmers adopted direct-seeding or no-till ahead of the science, they learned and learned well, the art of putting together a successful soil management system. They learned that each management change, including tillage, must complement the entire crop production system. They also learned that biological and organic matter (carbon) gains are lost almost immediately if tillage is re-introduced. This brings consequences for CO2 emissions, water quality and soil productivity. These farmers are found on all soil types in all regions across Canada and represent a wide range of crop management demands. They are the true leaders of the soil conservation movement and SCCC applauds their efforts.

NATIONAL SOIL CONSERVATION WEEK April 17-23, 2016

www.soilcc.ca

@soilcouncil


machinery machinery

Global design AGCO’s new MF utility tractors are designed for worldwide appeal By Scott Garvey / CG Machinery Editor

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AGCO’s state-of-the-art facility in Changzhou, China. The assembly process will use a module-oriented manufacturing approach that standardizes components and reduces production costs, and that is intended to improve product quality and performance, according to AGCO. The 4700 tractors get power from a Tier 4 Final, AGCO Power three-cylinder diesel mated to a standard, synchro-shuttle or power-shuttle transmission. The 5700SLs get the turbocharged 4.4-litre, four-cylinder engine with the same Dyna-4 powershift carried forward from the previous 5600 Series. The engine emissions systems will use a diesel oxidization catalyst system rather than a diesel particulate filter, making them maintenance free. The emissions system is located under the cab steps on the 5700SL tractors, which frees up space in the engine compartment to allow for a sloping hood that improves forward vision during closequarters work.

A 4709 on display at AGCO’s exhibit during Agritechnica in November. The “Tractor of the Year” award decal is visible on the 5713SL behind it.

Photo: Scott Garvey

ack in early 1970, International Harvester released two tractors that made up what it called its Worldwide Series. The idea was to use shared platforms to build tractors that could appeal to farmers in every market where the brand had a presence. They would meet a global need — or that was the hope. Standardized platforms are a great idea for saving millions in development, manufacturing and distribution costs. Besides, other manufacturers were already doing the same thing by the ’70s. Ford had its 6X Series and Massey-Ferguson had the 100 Series, which were being sold nearly everywhere. Today, AGCO executives are attempting to recreate the global success of the old 100 Series by launching three new model ranges of MF utility-class tractors. Together, they are designed to have universal appeal, with engine ratings that can be pushed up into the mid-horsepower category. A panel of 23 international judges at Agritechnica in Germany last year was sold on the idea. They pinned a “Tractor of the Year” award on one of the new models, the MF 5713SL, in the Best Utility class. So, in those judges’ eyes at least, it seems these new tractors apparently do have some measure of global appeal. AGCO launched the first model range in this globally focused group of tractors with the 4700 Series last year. But the series didn’t make its first North American appearance until the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky in February. And alongside them at the show were their bigger brothers in the 5700SL Series, also making their U.S. debut. The three “introductory” 4700 Series models, i.e. the 4708, 4709 and 4710, cover the 80to 100-horsepower range. The three models in the 5700SL Series push the horsepower offerings to 110, 120 and 130, and eventually a 6700 Series will cap the worldwide group. Adding to the international theme is the fact all of these tractors will be built at


machinery

Top right: The 5700SL Series is the second range of MF tractors built on a global platform, designed to appeal to farmers all around the world.

top photo: AGCO, bottom: Scott Garvey

Bottom right: Both the 4700 and 5700SL tractor lines offer a deluxe option for greater operator comfort. The cabs use narrow pillars to maximize visibility, making loader work easier.

Both series are available in a deluxe edition that offers higher specifications and more operator comforts. In the 5700SL Series, this means factory-installed auto-guidance is also an option, and buyers can opt for a suspended front axle and cab too. The 5700SL tractors get a standard hydraulic flow rate of 57 l/min. (11 g.p.m.) to the rear remotes, although an optional Twin Flow system can boost that to 98 l/min. (26 gpm). AGCO believes the new globally focused models will appeal primarily to mixed farmers and livestock producers here in North America. “We are proud to introduce these tractors to the North American market,” said Shaun Allred, tactical marketing manager for mid-range and high-horsepower tractors in the brand’s press announcement. “Livestock producers will especially appreciate these tractors,” Allred continued. “After operating one, they’ll understand why the MF 5713SL model was named Tractor of the Year 2016 in the Best of Utility Category at Agritechnica this fall.” CG

What’s your Next Move? Chances are, you have something exciting on the drawing board right now. Maybe it’s more land, new equipment, higher-value crops or other ways to grow. Our agriculture banking specialists have expertise and financial products to help you carry out your plans today and build the farm business you want tomorrow. Go on, make your move. At RBC® we’re ready to help.

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COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

7


BUSINESS

Common-sense thoughts on divorce Divorce doesn’t have to get ugly, or to destroy farms and people, but that’s what it’s doing to more farming couples By Maggie Van Camp / CG Associate Editor

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ivorce is one of the biggest threats to farm family legacy,” says Manitoba-based farm adviser and coach Elaine Froese. “We need to start talking more about how to prevent the breakups and create more makeups.” Farms and divorce can be a toxic mixture. Tradition, culture, religion, isolation, community gossip, strong families — they all come together to add to the stress, which then gets top loaded with big assets. Two Statistics Canada numbers are especially disturbing. First, 41 per cent of marriages fail. Second, couples most often get divorced in their 40s. They’re disturbing because for farmers, that’s also the point in their careers when their assets are starting to solidify, grow and gather steam… much of it thanks to the multiple generations of sweat, blood and brains that the family has injected into the home operation. That means it’s even more important to discuss how assets, liabilities and growth will be divided among all the parties if something goes wrong, especially as farm sizes increase and new family members become a part of the businesses, either directly or indirectly. On many farms, succession naturally leads to discussion about the four Ds, death, disability, disagreement and divorce. Even if you’re not doing succession planning, however, creating a pathway for your business in case of divorce should be done before problems arise, and it should be guided not only by your caring and deeply held family values, but also by good legal and accounting advice. In this area, always insist on advice from a trusted lawyer, someone who will consider all implications. In the eyes of the law, after all, marriage is essentially a legal contract dealing with the property rights of two people. Divorce is a termination of that contract. For farmers, however, that property can be worth millions, and its emotional value is at least that great. Keep in mind, too, that the specifics of separation law vary from province to province, and the laws are complicated. And of course, each case is unique. But the overall

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

legal framework governing divorce in Canada is based on the belief that value created or property acquired during the relationship should be equally shared on separation. But farming has its own complexities, says John Mill, succession expert and tax lawyer based at Windsor, Ont. To begin with, all parties should understand that in law, the term property means everything that can be transferred, and that in a farm context, this can involve things as complicated as shares of a family farm corporation or quota, or land, inventory (think crop in ground), equipment or homes, whether in your own name or part of your farm corporation. Then there are other layers of legal complexity. For example, in Ontario any money received (or that you have a right to get eventually) as a result of a personal injury, like a car accident or money that you received from an insurance company because someone died, isn’t included as property, so it’s important that you be open and candid with your lawyer. But this isn’t the fundamental farm concern. “In a family farm we’re trying to protect the family aspect of the farm itself,” Mill says. In fact, on the farm, you may want a specific agreement to acknowledge that the family intends to keep the farm in the family for generations. The conversation can start by everybody knowing the value of the property the spouses own on the date they get married. Then everyone also needs to understand that this foundation isn’t part of the property that would be shared if the marriage doesn’t succeed.

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK


Today, most divorces are settled by negotiation between the two parties; they tend not to be settled by a judge. Farmers need to know up front that while this has advantages, it also has risks. Too often when marriages break down, negative emotions carry the day and former spouses are intent on trying to gouge each other, or people just want out so badly they walk away without their fair share. Both can be avoided with some smart, caring preplanning. That begins by learning how to talk with a positive attitude to ensure fairness to spouses and to ultimately take care of their children in a splitup. Don’t let your default position be to hide behind the righteous­ness of keeping the family farm no matter what. Conversely, don’t sign anything that might compromise your ability to survive financially if the marriage does end. Being realistic is being loving. “Marriage breakdown is always a possibility,” says Barrie Broughton of Lethbridge, who practises tax, corporate and estate-planning law in the heart of the capital-intensive irrigated farming area of Alberta. Broughton says the law will not allow a person’s legitimate interests to be ignored, so the goal is to look at ways to accommodate those interests without causing the farm to be split up, or imposing an unsustainable financial burden. “We have a surprising number of marriage breakdowns that are handled quietly and in a respectful manner, maintaining a large degree of family harmony,” says Broughton. The following may mitigate the damage a divorce could do to your farm. Although not totally comprehensive or applicable to all cases, this list is a starting point to launch your planning and thinking process. Matrimonial Home The family home is an exception to rule that the growth in property value will be equally split. The full value of the family home must be shared equally, even if one person owned the home before they got married, received it as a gift, or inherited it. This matrimonial home may include the land it’s sitting on even though only a small part of the residence was sometimes used for the business’s office. If the farm property has been purchased with inherited funds and kept separate from family members, however, it might not be considered part of the matrimonial home. Find out up front, and be aware of the potential implications. Another complication is that when money is put into the family home, it must be shared. So the value of renovations is shared even if that money came from a gift, an inheritance or other property that otherwise wouldn’t have to be shared. To date, the rules for the matrimonial home do not apply to common-law spouses. A common-law spouse does not automatically have the right to stay in the family home if it’s not in his or her name. Also, if one

common-law spouse owns the home they can sell or mortgage it without the other spouse’s permission. Co-Hab Agreement People often think they need a cohabitation agreement when they move in with someone in a romantic relationship, but the labelling around this often gets fuzzy. Remember, living together for many years, having children together, or referring to each other as “husband,” “wife,” or “spouse” do not make two people legally married to each other. It can be hard to get everyone to see the benefits of preplanning for something negative, i.e. for splitting up. However, a cohabitation agreement can certainly clarify roles and expectations around the relationship and the home and farm. Statistically, cohabitating is less stable than marriage.

No one wants to talk about divorce, but being realistic is being loving, farm lawyer Barrie Broughton tells his clients. “Marriage breakdown is always a possibility.” In past, the matrimonial property act didn’t apply, but the rules, definitions and precedents about cohabitating have been changing. Ask your lawyer what living together on your farm might mean in your specific situation. For example, if that person is going to work on the farm, should they be paid and should their pay be documented? You also should check with your accountant if you’re going to move in together, since you’ll be considered common-law for taxes after a certain period of time, depending on where you live. Prenuptial agreements Prenuptial agreements are basically a way of negotiating a divorce settlement ahead of time, before you even get married. Each party must have their own independent lawyer and many of those lawyers tend to tell the person marrying the farmer to not sign the contract. Basically a prenup agreement lists the assets each party brings into the marriage with an agreed value, and an agreement that if the asset increases in value, then the increase will be divisible providing the marriage lasts a specified number of years. A prenuptial agreement can be modified if both partners agree, even after they marry, or you can write one while married, called a postnuptial. If you don’t want to have to sell off a particular parcel of land to pay out the other spouse in case of a divorce, Continued on page 10

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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BUSINESS then an agreement might be of benefit. When individuals with large interests in separate assets are planning to marry, prenuptial agreements can help achieve clarity and trust, which helps dispel suspicion. On the other hand, however, the discussions can sometimes be very hurtful and add stress to new family relationships. If the family farm corporation owns the home, or if it is on a large property or the property has a barn or shed on it, it can potentially be really problematic. One way to make it seem a little fairer is to value the matrimonial farmhouse, like a house in town, on the list of assets and to have cash settlements for the spouse written right in the agreement. These agreements can help reduce the impact of divorce, but if not handled properly, they can also cause more problems. “The term prenup has too much baggage: images of the gold digger versus the controlling patriarch. A better name would be Family Farm Legacy Agreement,” says Mill. Inherit property Michael Bondy, a chartered accountant in London and national director of succession planning with Collins Barrow, often recommends against transferring farms or farm shares to a child until after marriage, and then for the parents to gift the assets and do a gift agreement to exclude the assets and the income from them from those that qualify as marital assets. “This and other reorganizations and structures may remove the need for a prenup,” says Bondy. Before you get married, also ask your lawyer to explain the rules around inheritance. Under family law, if the property was transferred as a gift or an inheritance during marriage, it’s often excluded from being divided. However, you have to be able to prove it. This can get a little messier with property held in joint names, even if it was inherited, so farmers again should seek legal advice before transferring property. To protect the farmland from divorce, instead of building a house for your child on an existing farm parcel, a “gift” might be better protected via a subdivided acreage with an agreed value as of the date of the gift. Alternatively, you might consider formally lending the funds to buy land and letting the couple buy their own home so everything is written down. Gift Shares Similarly, a strategy that veteran farm accountant Mike Bossy, president of BNG in Tillsonburg, Ont., has used to potentially avoid spousal ownership problems is to issue common (growth) shares to the parents, with these then gifted to their farming son or daughter as “excluded property.” This excluded property does not come under the definition of net family property in a divorce because it was gift from parents. If that farming child dies at an early age, he or she can bequeath those shares back to their parents. All of this happens tax free in Ontario, says Bossy. Although this method avoids the daughter-in-law get10

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

ting the farm assets, it doesn’t consider her contribution or her future needs. With this plan, you might want to include an insurance policy listing the spouse as the benefactor, says Bossy. Farm financial adviser and succession specialist Len Davies also favours the use of gift shares. “The gifting of common shares after marriage is always my first choice,” says the Ontario-based Davies. But the overall agreement still needs to be fair if there is to be an amicable divorce. “The gift after marriage protects property,” Davies explains, “but what stops the departing spouse from claiming their ex is actually making $150,000 per year when they may not be?” Davies also always recommends an agreement regardless, emphasizing fairness while protecting the farm. Trusts A trust can be one of the strongest ways to protect the farm assets from getting caught up in a divorce. Parents put a farm’s common shares in a trust for their son or daughter, making them the beneficiary of that trust. However, the “child” doesn’t officially own the shares, so they don’t have to give half to their spouses, even if they get divorced. Generally, trusts are deemed to dispose of certain properties at fair market value 21 years after the day the trust was created, however. Also, they can be costly to maintain. Unanimous Shareholder Agreements Many farms use a corporate structure. In addition to the other reasons to use a corporation, the unanimous shareholders’ agreement can be used for a layer of protection for the farm in the event of a marriage breakdown or other unexpected developments. “With a well-crafted shareholders’ agreement, divorce doesn’t necessarily have to financially cripple the farm business,” says Broughton. For example, the shareholders’ agreement (SHA) can stipulate that on leaving, a shareholder must give one year’s notice, with payment over 10 years at zero interest. Also, if the divorcing parents share the goal of preserving the asset for the children, agreements can be written so the departing spouse gets or retains shares, with the shares ultimately ending up with the children of the marriage. The SHA can ensure the decision control remains with the farming spouse. Keep in mind that shareholders can only vote for directors and dividends, and to succeed in such a vote requires a majority. As long as majority control remains with the farm family, it may not matter if the former spouse owns some shares. Sometimes, departing spouses need the security of a steady cash income, and retaining shares instead of receiving a cash buyout can be better for them. In those cases, the separated and divorced spouses are quite content to remain as a shareholder and receive the dividend income. “In some cases we have spent generations creating a viable farm, and a Unanimous Shareholders’ Agreement is one of the tools we use to insulate the farm from adverse events,” says Broughton. CG


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BUSINESS

For rent

By Gord Gilmour CG Associate Editor

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t isn’t like commercial real estate, or even like housing markets where so much information is available. If you’re interested in a house, for example, your realtor can tell you what the last six houses sold for in the same neighourhood. If you want to rent office space in downtown Calgary or Toronto, finding out the prevailing vacancy rate and rents is a relatively simple thing. But if you want the same sort of information on farmland rentals, you’ll have to look long and hard for it, and you’ll likely still be disappointed, according to one land rental specialist. Ted Nibourg is a business management specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF), and he spends a lot of time talking to landowners and tenants about farmland rentals. “We just don’t have the same sort of metrics in agriculture,” Nibourg says about the dearth of information.

It’s not just an Alberta problem either. This is the reality across the country, according to Farm Credit Canada’s chief economist, J.P. Gervais, who says it’s more art than science when it comes to determining what the rent on a piece of land will be. “There is no clear repository of this kind of information. You can really only get a bit of a sense of it talking to individuals about what they’re doing,” Gervais says. Besides, Gervais adds, “A lot of different information, often unique to each farm operation, goes into the determination of what they’re willing to pay to rent a piece of land.” Steady so far It was hardly surprising that land prices and land rents shot up over the past five years. Both had stagnated through the commodity doldrums of the 1980s and 1990s, and when crop prices finally did advance to new

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Too often it seems you don’t hear land is up for rent until you learn someone is already renting it


heights, land values got pushed up along with them. In 2016, however, this thinking would tell us to expect rental prices to fall, since crop prices have retreated from those dizzy heights. But there’s no evidence of it, Gervais says. “Right now I would say rental rates are holding steady to edging higher,” Gervais says. In no small part that’s because the devaluation of the Canadian currency has shielded grain producers from so much of the impact of lower international prices, with the loonie losing nearly a quarter of its value. When your grain is priced in U.S. dollars, that math works for you. Prices might be down, but nowhere near as much as they would be if we didn’t have this built-in shock absorber. “If 2015 — we only have the first nine months data now — isn’t a record for farm cash receipts in Canada, it won’t be far off it,” Gervais says. “We don’t have any hard numbers for 2016 yet, but it’s probably going to be very good too, if our dollar remains where it has been, around 75 cents U.S.” That means Canadian growers who signed long-term rental agreements at healthy prices aren’t under the same pressures as, say, their counterparts in the Iowa countryside, where there is no currency effect to soften the blow. “In the U.S., there’s a significant softening of the agriculture economy,” Gervais says. “We’re not feeling it here in the same way, and the reason we’re not is really a Canadian dollar story.” Land appraiser Ryan Parker, of Valco Consulting at London, Ont., agrees there’s little to no evidence that farmland rental rates are dropping. “In light of lower commodity prices, that’s somewhat baffling,” Parker says. He also stresses that any impressions of rental rates from any observer are exactly that — impressions. “Some have a bit of paperwork involved, many are just straight handshake deals,” Parker explains. “There’s no way to find six comparables for farmland renting. You’re left with, ‘well, I heard these guys are getting this, and those guys are getting that.’” Impressions to date, however, do suggest that the rental market for farmland is taking a breather from rising rents, but continues to hold its past gains. “In a lot of cases I think farmers are working on a cost-averaging model, though calling it a true model might be a bit of a stretch,” Parker says. “They’re combining

rental arrangements from today where they might be paying more than prices would justify, with a deal from 15 or 20 years ago, where they probably paid a bit less than market rate.” In the short term, taking on more land that won’t necessarily pay for itself might still be a winner in the farmer’s eyes in that light, especially if it allows them to spread fixed costs and labour costs over a larger land base. Maintaining a land base of a certain size often necessitates that sort of decision-making, Parker explains. It’s rolling forward a few years that makes the picture murky. Land rental rates tend to be sticky, but if the period of low grain prices persists, farmers and landlords may be forced to take that into account eventually. Parker notes that land prices fell at one point in the 1980s during the farm crisis of that era. “What’s less clear — and I don’t know if anyone has the answer to this — is whether land rental rates fell during that period as well,” he says. “I suspect they did.”

Not just numbers AAF’s Nibourg describes a good rental arrangement that sounds a lot like a good interpersonal arrangement of any kind. It starts with respect for the other person and understanding where they’re coming from, and builds from there, going well beyond just raw numbers. In fact, he says one of the most common jobs these days is educating landlords who might be a couple generations removed from the farm on the realities of the agriculture economy, and disassociating them from a straight numbers approach. “These folks will come in with the mindset that they want to see the same sort of return on investment they’ll get somewhere else, say five per cent,” Nibourg says. “If they’re talking about land that’s worth $3,000 an acre, that’s a cash rent of $150, and they’re just not going to get that.” Some come to understand that in agriculture returns tend to be low — something Continued on page 14

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BUSINESS on the order of two per cent — and that the real gains come in the form of increasing land values over time. Others decide they haven’t the appetite for this business and would be better off getting out. “I actually convinced a couple of ladies to sell their land,” Nibourg says. “They came to the conclusion that was just better for them personally.” For the ones who do stick around, Nibourg recommends a few straightforward starting points. The first is understanding exactly what the true productive capacity of their land is. In many jurisdictions, including Alberta, a legal land description can give the landowner crop insurance data that gives a clear picture of that. “Taking that information, I then look at a four-year rotation — canola, maybe a couple of years of wheat, and barley — and look at what that would translate into as cash receipts,” Nibourg says. “That can give a pretty sound starting point for negotiations. But just saying, ‘I have the best land in the county,’ doesn’t really tell me anything.” From there it’s a question of finding a spot where a willing renter and a willing landlord can come to an agreement. He tells both parties when he has a chance that the right answer is probably not going to be scooping up every last cent. If you want to build a long-term, stable renting arrangement, a bit of empathy running in both directions goes a long way. “The people who tend to have these long-term arrangements are people who are willing to leave a little something on the table for the next guy,” Nibourg says. The intangibles also come into play. For example, what is it worth to you to deal with someone you know you can trust? Quite a bit at times, according to Nibourg. More than once a landlord has gone through the exercise of pencilling out the rental value, based on the land’s productivity, and been a little surprised at the results. “They’ll say, ‘Well, that’s a bit more than I’m getting now, but I’ve been doing business with this person for 20 years, and they’ve never ripped me off yet — I think I’ll stick with them’,” Nibourg says. As with so many things in agriculture it’s partly a question of reputation. Consider the way land tends to hit the rental market. Sure, now and then you might hear about a tender going out, or see an advertisement. But the majority trades quietly, with a landlord giving a prospective ten14

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

ant a call one evening and saying, “I have a quarter section I thought you might be interested in.” “These are small towns, and there’s a saying I like to remember: ‘If you don’t know what you’re doing, somebody else does,’” Nibourg says. “I know renters have told me they’ll look around the hockey rink, see the person who’s always shouting at the referee, and think to themselves, ‘I don’t know if I want to get involved in that.’”

Already, 40 per cent of Canada’s farmland is rented, and that number continues to grow. For farmers, it’s a staggering investment in a largely unregulated and unreported market

Growing issue One thing that is clear is that getting rental arrangements right is becoming more important with each passing year. Recent FCC estimates peg rented farmland at 40 per cent of Canada’s total acreage, and on many of the largest farms, rented land comprises the majority of their land base. Gervais says growers frequently need to walk a tightrope when making rental arrange­ments. Nobody likes to sign a deal that won’t be immediately profitable, but competition for land can be intense and growers also can’t afford to either miss opportunities or lose their land base. “It really is a delicate balance that they have to strike,” Gervais says. One thing any renter should know is just how big the range of rental rates are. A 2012 study funded by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture looked at nearly 1,500 cash rental arrangements and about 500-crop share deals, none between immediate family members. The company hired to do the survey found an astonishing range of rental rates, ranging from an almost unbelievable low of $6.25 an acre to a high of $140.60 an acre. On average, the rate was $35.65 an acre across the province, with a significant variation through the province’s agricultural regions. There also appears to be a significant variation in length of rental agreements. An Alberta study for 2011 and 2012 found just under half of agreements were for a single year. About a third were three-year contracts, with five-year deals in place on about a fifth of the contracts. After doing their homework on what’s going on around them, growers will need to look within their own operation for answers, Gervais says. “They will need to delve into their balance sheet and their cash reserves and decide just how much risk they’re comfortable taking on, how much of a ‘premium’ they might be willing to pay to rent that land.” CG


soil matters………..www.ifao.com

Sarah Singla Believes in Regenerative Farming “We’re a little more diversified than most folks around here,” Sarah Singla says. On her 250acre farm in southern France, Singla puts in nine acres of winter wheat, 57.5 acres of triticale, 14 acres of flax, five acres of sunflowers, one acre of buckwheat, 40 acres of rapeseed, 40 acres of alfalfa, 41 acres of spring peas, 1.2 acres of phacelia, one acre of parsley for seed, one acre of dill and 14 acres of sorghum. That’s 12 different crops. Diversification allows her to use crops with long tap roots like alfalfa, phacelia and sunflowers to break up soil compacted layers and use up water with other crops like parsley and wheat that have shallower roots. Diversity also encourages a living soil with earthworms and their castings provide a perfect mix of nutrients for the plants. “Diversity doesn’t always mean adding more species,” Singla said. It also means putting the same crop in different areas of the farm to add nutrients, depending on the needs of the area. Peas can add nitrogen, and buckwheat can unlock phosphorus. Buckwheat also has a good effect on controlling weeds,” she said. Singla said farmers need to think about what is in the ground and what kind of crops will address the soil issues. For example, wheat has shallow roots, so a crop like rapeseed with a taproot can help. Fava beans can bring nitrogen to the soil, and cover crops can include a variety of crops like vetch and radishes that provide a lot of advantages to the soil. In 1980, Sarah’s grandfather went no-till. She now manages her grandfather’s farm and strives to constantly “look forward” and evolve to not only be no-till but to constantly improve and regenerate their soil with diversity and other farm methods. Covered soil, direct sowing and rotation of crops are all part of her conservation tillage and regenerative practices.

What helps regenerate the soil? Singla says light, air and water; biological available nutrients; living material on the soil including plants and animals and living materials in the soil. “Organisms in the soil can work for you if you keep it covered,” she said. “Soil is meant to be covered. We need to cover and rebuild the soil to regenerate it.” Some of the varieties Singla uses in her cover crops are red clover, phacelia, guizotia niger, mustard sarepta, sunflower, forage peas, vetch, and oats. She will seed triticale directly into cover crops to keep the soil covered with residue at all times. Sara’s on farm trials have shown her that bare soil is too hot while covered soil stays cool. “If the soil is too hot you are killing your fungi. You are killing all the living organisms,” Singla said. The cover crops also help with retention and infiltration. “Water won’t infiltrate bare soil. Instead, it runs off.” In addition, she says, “I’ve found I can use less and less fertilizer when I keep my rotations diversified and cover on the soil” she said. Sarah was a speaker at the Innovative Farmers Conference on Feb 23 and 24, 2016.


feature

Harold Parsonage was determined to find a better way to open the farm to future generations.

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Succession planning:

Preparing for takeoff By Maggie Van Camp / CG Associate Editor

C  ase Study Objective Four children in their late 20s and early 30s, all want to be part of this family farm and aerial spraying business.

Photos: Sandy Black

First Step The Parsonage family transferred ownership before operational management. The parents had used some of their capital gains exemption earlier when buying out of partnership, and about that time created a trust containing the farm corporation’s shares. Each child now bought the farm’s common shares that were held in the trust, getting young farmer loans to cover part of the cost of these shares, and using some of everyone’s capital gains exemption. Now the farm corporation has some additional working capital, plus a multiskilled young team all striving toward the same vision. Challenge The next step is to transfer management of both the farm and aerial spraying business to the next generation.

S

ometimes, we hear, succeeding a farm business can be storybook simple. The parents roll the ownership of the farm to one child while they switch their own attention to travel or to a hobby. Occasionally Mom and Dad can be spotted back on the farm helping out during harvest, but often with the hint of a frown that shows how much they’re actually enjoying their new independence. Other times, succession is hard work. There are structures to create, timelines to be met and miscommunication to deal with, not to mention the all-too-real risk of emotional upheaval around every corner. These are the farms where the farm advisers get called in and they start drawing those three overlapping circles — ownership, business and family. The messy part, the advisers always say, is right in the middle where the three circles overlap. Harold Parsonage knows that overlap. Time and again, he has lived and worked inside it. First, for instance, he and his brother had a farming and feedlot partnership, although they split it up when BSE wreaked its havoc on cattle markets. After that dust settled, Harold followed his passion for flying. He started an aerial spraying business and cropping operation with his wife Jody about 50 miles southwest of Portage la Prairie, Man. But then Harold’s father delayed any succession planning on the family farm, which led first to uncertainty and then to some tension once the early signs of dementia set in and it all needed to be sorted out in a rush. Harold, after all that, was determined to do things differently. He promised himself he wouldn’t put his children in such a position, so he made sure he started the succession process sooner rather than later. His clear goal was to have an ownership transfer plan in place before health issues could be expected to have an impact. That’s how, in January 2014, Harold came to propose a plan to his four children, and it’s how, 10 months later the paperwork was signed. “The whole thing was Harold’s idea. Once the kids were on board, Continued on page 18

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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feature

For father Harold here with son Riley, succession has involved learning how to excel at listening.

18

it happened fairly quickly, after a few discussions of the plan and implications,” recalls Jennie Parsonage, who has helped her dad co-ordinate the family’s succession process. After earning a degree in economics from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. and serving as a logistics officer with the military, coming back to the farm and helping co-ordinate the family’s succession planning began to look achievable to Jennie. Soon, she transferred to the Reserve Force so she could remain in Manitoba and take on the task. It turns out, in fact, that it’s the kind of role that can improve the chances of success for almost any farm succession. Al Scholz, farm adviser and executive director for Sask­atchewan Institute of Agrologists even calls the appointment of a planning co-ordi­ nator “one of the primary success factors” for farm families. A planning co-ordinator is usually a family member delegated to make things happen. The co-ordinator’s job is to stay focused on the goal, and to keep pushing the rest of the family forward.

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

The co-ordinator also collects the information that the advisers require so it’s consistent. “It doesn’t require any experience to be the planning co-ordinator,” says Scholz. “In fact, common sense is all that is needed... and a desire to be part of the solution.” The Parsonages were able to leverage some Growing Forward 2 funding to cover about half of the financial costs of the actual consulting and professional services. However, that doesn’t include their family’s investment in time and energy to get this done. “One of the biggest costs has been the time required for discussion, research, and advisers,” says Jennie. The Parsonage succession also required some business smarts and preplanning, however. In 2006, Harold established and controlled the Harold Parsonage Family Trust that owned all of the 100 common shares in Parsonage Farms Ltd. At the time, the beneficiaries of the trust were Harold, Jody and their offspring. Eight years later, the kids had finished post-secondary education and all indicated a desire to be part of the family farm. So in 2014, to trans-

fer ownership to the children, the trust sold each sibling 24.75 shares at fair market value and transferred the remaining share to Harold. The children each got partial financing for the purchase price of the shares, which included a promissory note to Harold and Jody, forgivable on death. Then, the trust distributed the capital gains realized on the sale of the shares to Harold, Jody and each of the four children, who were able to each use a portion of their lifetime capital gains exemption (LCGE). The limit on gains arising from sales of qualified farm property, qualified fishing property or Qualified Small Business Corporation Shares (QSBC) after March 18, 2007 and before 2014 was $375,000 or half of an LCGE of $750,000. The good news for farm succession is that recently this has increased significantly and now the lifetime capital gains exemption is $1 million for Qualified Farm Property, which can include sales of farm­land, quota, and shares of a farm corporation. “Also of interest to some people is that even if they had used all of their old exemption (for example when it was $800,000) they still have this ‘new’ $200,000 available,” says Lisa Kemp, partner with BDO Canada. Harold and Jody were able to use the proceeds of the sale of shares to purchase the home quarter and another half section from Harold’s parents, ensuring access to a core portion of the operation. The remaining cash was split four ways and put back into the farm as shareholder loans from each kid, providing cash inflow to the farm. It’s complicated but an ingenious way to succeed ownership, defer taxes and allow for growth. Their accountant had never seen a plan like this but couldn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work and he got the nod of approval from a tax lawyer colleague. The Parsonages were willing to share it with Country Guide to push the thinking a little further about succession structures and to motivate other farmers to look for creative solutions for treating chil-


We need to have more annual or semiannual meetings, with agendas, notes taken, actions assigned.” Jennie Parsonage

dren fairly and avoiding the potentially massive tax burden of selling the farm. Meanwhile, the Parsonage children got approved for loans and the family began a series of discussions with their lawyer to come up with a unanimous shareholders’ agreement. This document addresses what-if situations, such as anyone wanting out of the farm, death of a shareholder, marital separations and the transfer of shares to the next generation. “A key clause is a formula that limits the value of the shares if any sibling decides they want out in the first 20 years, with the shares eventually reaching an unrestricted value,” says Jennie. Harold developed a plan for how they could transfer ownership, and then asked his children if they were interested. “The clear plan and early ownership opportunity helped to cement the interest and the plans of the kids to continue farming,” says Jennie. Management transfer But there was also more to it. “Transferring ownership first was seen as a motivating factor for the next generation to become more involved in operational and management control,” says Jennie. “Plus it facilitated an injection of capital into the farm.” Jennie and her common-law spouse (Patrick) now farm with his family close to where she grew up. They also have three children, so currently she only helps with Parsonage Farms Ltd.’s year-end books,

plus filing corporate taxes and personal taxes for the family and occasionally doing some grain hauling. At 59 years old, Harold is still very involved in day-to-day operations of the 1,800-acre farm, growing canola, wheat, soybeans and oats. He’s also the chief pilot of Air Greenway Ltd., their aerial spraying company that last year sprayed 40,000 acres using two Thrush S2Rs and a Cessna AgWagon. The only bump they’ve run into is a common one. It’s the generational divide on work ethic, where Dad is a workaholic while the younger generation wants some time away from the farm to be with their children. Getting Dad to slow down and find hobbies not related to the farm can be difficult, and he sometimes feels that the kids aren’t putting in long enough hours. Although Harold still does the majority of grain hauling and is still involved in all decisions, he’s slowly letting Sally (26 years old) and Riley (28 years old) make some final production decisions, including the daily prioritization of work. And all the children are involved in major financial decisions.

Harold has already transferred management control for large decisions — financing, crop rotation, marketing — to his children, while still providing his opinion and experience in these areas. “He doesn’t veto even if he disagrees with the kids’ ultimate decision,” says Jennie. Harold, Riley and Sally work full time on the family businesses and an additional person steps in during spray season and harvest. Often, that extra work is filled by a combination of Sally’s common-law spouse Jeff, brother Dory (one of the owners and an engineer and pilot in Edmonton), Jennie or another cousin. Also, Dory’s wife Adria Grewal, oversees the advertising and website for Air Greenway Ltd. Riley, who has a diploma in agriculture as well as his aerial application licence, does the machinery repairs, equipment management and maintenance, and he works with Sally to make crop production decisions. His wife Rachelle, works off farm and often feeds the crew at harvest time. Sally has completed an agri-

For Jennie (l), and Sally, clear roles and a respect for each other’s skill sets have helped make quick progress on succession.

Continued on page 20

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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feature

Lending to grow Launched in March 2012, FCC’s Young Farmer Loan has grown to almost

6,000 Loans $1.3 Billion worth more than

approved, as of the end of 2015. The Young Farmer Loan provides qualified producers, under age 40, with loans of up to

$500,000

to purchase or improve farmland and buildings. The loan has a variable lending rate of prime plus 0.5 per cent, offers a special fixed rate and no loan processing fees. In 2014-15, FCC approved more than

$2.4 Billion

in financing to farmers under age 40, representing more than one-quarter of the

$8.6 Billion

in disbursements last year to help customers expand or start their operations.

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cultural degree in agronomy and did some post-graduate work before deciding to farm full time. She co-ordinates input purchases and is becoming more adept at running the administrative side of the farm. During spraying, Sally is both ground crew and the contact person for clients, but as the business grows, she is focusing more on liaison and planning with clients, providing the pilots with GPS maps of the fields, and co-ordinating chemical. Sally and Riley also end up being the catch-all for all required tasks when non-farming children aren’t there. Last spring, Jeff decided he’d like to be more involved in the farm and left his job to be part of the ground crew during spraying and a combine driver during harvest, as well as helping with maintenance and repairs and overseeing the computer/ technology for the farm. This January, he returned to school to become a qualified aircraft mechanic engineer. Acres sprayed per year have been steadily increasing with the addition of Riley as a second pilot and larger planes. However, the family must think about further expansion to be able to financially accommodate everyone. Currently the spraying part of their operation is more profitable than growing crops so the cash flows for buying larger planes often look better than buying land, which has increased in value dramatically in the last decade. Having said that, the farm is always looking for more land to buy or rent. With so many family members involved, they try to involve all of the shareholders before making large financial decisionm like debt repayments, land purchases, new rental agreements, large equipment purchases, and even to some extent, marketing decisions. With one shareholder in Alberta and everyone busy with young families, it’s not always possible to have an in-person meeting in a timely manner, so they get together when Dory is home and often engage via a group chat dedicated to farm business on WhatsApp (a free messaging app available for Android and other smartphones). Hiring an adviser to lead succession planning with all of the children and their spouses helped non-farm background spouses better understand the farm, and it highlighted everyone’s expectations. “Working with Backswath Management helped us to better understand everyone’s perceptions, values, interests, and goals, including personal, family and business,” says Jennie. Their adviser, Gavin Betker from Morden, Man., says it certainly helped that all of

the siblings are fairly laid back, so flexibility and harmony are not often an issue in decision-making. Also, Dad and Mom (Jody) mostly stayed quiet and listened during these discussions. Although Jody has a career off farm, she does have a vested interest in the ability of her shareholders’ loan to provide a future retirement income. “She (Mom) also tends to stay removed from actual succession discussions and decisions, but is always listening,” says Jennie. An emerging challenge is for the siblings to come forward with their ideas, have some discussion, and then drive them through implementation. As they move away from the intensity of succession, this stalling out is starting to happen more. “We need to have more productive annual or semi-annual meetings, with agendas, notes taken, actions assigned, minutes distributed and subsequent followup,” Jennie says. “I think this could help maintain momentum.” They’re fairly unique in that the nonfarming children own equal shares in the farm as the farming children, says Betker. As a result, there has been quite a bit of discussion about how to fairly compensate the farming children for their labour in a manner that is somewhat tax efficient and doesn’t drain all growth out of the farm. At the same time, they need to recognize the investment the non-farming children have in the farm and ensure an acceptable rate of return on those funds. Recently, the group did establish baseline personal compensation amounts for Riley and Sally that the farm will always be responsible for paying. After that, profits will be retained in the corporation up to an agreed-on rate of return for shareholders, while in good years with excess profits, bonuses would be paid to Sally and Riley and kept in their shareholder loans. So far, this arrangement is satisfactory, but there’s the risk that in very profitable years, the two of them will be bumped into higher marginal tax rates. Everyone was open with their career goals during their planning session with Betker. So far, they’ve managed to work their personal goals into the business models, now or at some point in the future. Given their broad range of complementary skill sets, interests and backgrounds, it was relatively simple to allocate roles and responsibilities in a way that made sense. But having seen the success that structured thinking can bring, Jennie says, an organizational chart and job descriptions are in their future. CG


SPOTLIGHT ON CROP ADVANCES Crop Advances is an annual report that summarizes applied research projects involving the OMAFRA Field Crop team, in partnership with commodity groups, industry and the OSCIA.

Go to the Research & Resources page at www.ontariosoilcrop.org

Advancing cover crop systems – studying soil health, nutrients, insects and nematodes By Lilian Schaer The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA)is continuing its research into cover crops with a new multi-faceted project. Headed by the St Clair regional association, the work also involves growers and sites in the Ottawa Rideau, Quinte, Eastern Valley and East Central regions. Launched in 2015, it is building on a previous project led by Soil Management Specialist Adam Hayes of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) that evaluated establishment levels and impacts of two, three and six-way cover crop mixes following winter wheat. Hayes is continuing his involvement in the new initiative; OMAFRA Soil Management Specialist for horticulture crops, Anne Verhallen, is also collaborating. How is the research being conducted? Activities in the three year project consist of five components: Multi-species mixes– small plot and field length trials looking at mixtures including three to 14 different species and grown using various treatments to assess what combination might give the best results. Nitrogen (N) credits– although it is known that red clover frost-seeded in winter wheat will produce N credits for the following corn crop, less is known about the impact of cover crops involving legumes or other species and with shorter growth periods. This work is in conjunction with Dr. Laura Van Eerd from University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. Phosphorous (P) implications – investigating what happens to soluble phosphorous released from cover crops and possible management opportunities. Dr. Merrin Macrae from the University of Waterloo is leading this aspect of the project.

Insects and nematodes– Tracey Baute and Albert Tenuta from OMAFRA are investigating what, if any, potential impacts cover crops might have on soil insect and soybean cyst nematode populations, respectively. Demonstration sites– sites will be established in various regions showcasing different cover crop practices which will be available for OSCIA tours, hosted learning events, or self-learn opportunities. What has the project found? Although the project is only in its first year, some initial results are available, says Hayes. For example, cover crop mixes involving three, six, nine and 10 or more species were trialed on small plots, and biomass weights were taken. “Having more species isn’t adding to the amount of biomass produced as we really didn’t see any increase in biomass beyond six cover crop species in a mix,” Hayes explains. “But there was a certain amount of variability because of dry conditions, so we’ll need to wait for two or three years’ worth of numbers for more definitive outcomes.”

ONTARIO SOIL AND CROP IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION

Some field scale plots of multi-species mixes were also established, but showed no increase in biomass beyond the six species mix. A single field scale site had the same mix applied but at different seeding rates, and results did not show any difference in biomass accumulation beyond the base seeding rate. “From an economic perspective, that’s important because it shows you may be better to start with a lower seeding rate instead of getting into high rates,” he adds. Who is funding the research? This project is funded through a Tier Two grant under the new OSCIA grant structure introduced in 2015. Tier Two grants are supported by OSCIA and OMAFRA. Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario and the participating OSCIA regions are also providing support. Where can I get more information? Visit www.ontariosoilcrop.org for information on this and other Tier Two OSCIA projects.

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

www.ontariosoilcrop.org


feature

Taking over the

SHOP

When the big chains consolidated their outlets, business-minded locals and farmers started up their own independent farm supply businesses. They’re succeeding too, but it isn’t simple By Lisa Guenther / CG Field Editor

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APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA


Photos: Rebecka Bloom

O

ld habits were dying hard, even on a personal basis. Here, about two hours west of Prince Albert, Sask., the Canadian National Railway abandoned the branch line that used to run up from North Battleford, connecting the little towns that had been my stomping grounds. It happened just a couple of years after I finished high school in Turtleford, but whenever I came home from university, I would stop at the tracks before I remembered I no longer had to look out for any trains rumbling down those rails. The railway was just that deeply ingrained in us. But that was the least of the problems that the rural communities faced with the closure of branch lines. The elevator companies soon padlocked their sites too, deciding it was time to pull out of the countryside. Farmers still did big business with those line companies. They bought inputs in the spring and sold grain in the fall even as the companies started building big terminals in larger regional centres such as North Battleford, apparently confident the traffic would follow them to their new sites. But if that was the assumption, it was a miscalculation. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does business. In the space left by the elevator companies, independent ag retailers have started up and in many cases thrived. Since 1995, market share has steadily grown for these new local enterprises. Cavalier Agrow is one of those companies. Started by Martin and Monique Detillieux in 1999 at the ghost town of Cavalier, it now also boasts locations in Medstead, Meadow Lake, and Spiritwood, with 30 full-time staff. The Cavalier location features a new office, shop, and chemical warehouse, plus the first liquid fertilizer facility in the area, something they saw a need for during the dry years. If you’d told Martin and Monique 20 years ago that they’d one day be running a business this size, they might not have believed you. Martin had worked for the elevator in Cavalier for 13 years already. They were raising their family, which would soon include four kids, and were happy to be part of the tight-knit Meota/Edam community. But then the elevator closed. Pioneer transferred Martin to the Saskatoon area, and although the couple started looking at acreages around that city, Monique says it just didn’t feel right. Martin agreed. “I gave it a try. I spent three months in Saskatoon. And it just didn’t really appeal to us as much as staying here in small-town Saskatchewan.” It didn’t feel right to his customers, either. The Cavalier site is nearly 50 kilometres northwest of North Battleford, and farmers weren’t thrilled about driving farther for inputs. Nor did they want to lose another rural business, or give up on the idea of strong, local relationships.

In fact, relationships are so important that there’s now a sign glued to the wall of their Cavalier boardroom: Our business is all about relationships. Cavalier Agrow isn’t the only independent ag retailer in the area. If you drive 25 kilometres north on Highway 26, you’ll find Warrington AgroDynamic, which sits just outside the town of Mervin. John and Roger Warrington started out growing seed and operating a seed-cleaning plant, then moved into fertilizer. In the early ’90s, they saw a need for custom spraying, and added that to their business. Today they focus purely on inputs and agronomic services. I’m reminded it’s a tight community when I meet in the boardroom with Roger, general manager. Also at the table are John’s son Greg, the location manager, and Ian Weber, their sales manager. Greg and I had been in the same graduating class, and I was in 4-H with Roger’s daughters, and they always struck me as calm and confident. Ian has been with the Warringtons for nearly 10 years, but he easily recalls the exact date he started working with them because of their different philosophy. He says their whole business model is based on providing services the big companies won’t. “They were trying to force growers into doing things that they didn’t want to do, like driving their grain an hour and a half out of the territory,” says Ian. “They forced them into doing that by closing the elevators. And they figured their inputs and crop supplies would follow.” But as the elevators left, the Warringtons’ business expanded, Roger says. “When everybody else was leaving, we were putting money back in.”

OPPOSITE: For Martin and Monique Detillieux, running an independent ag supply demands big business sophistication without jeopardizing the tight local relationships that are essential to the area’s success.

Continued on page 24

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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feature

Small size means an independent can deliver better service, say Greg (l), and Roger Warrington and sales manager Ian Weber. All levels of management in the company, they point out, are firmly grounded in the field.

24

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t tough decisions. As farmers upped their use of fungicides, the Warrington crew worried about the growing risk in their custom application business. The acreage they needed to cover was increasing. Their clients didn’t own sprayers, and the application windows were very narrow. Ian says dealing with sudden insect infestations was particularly stressful. So the Warringtons moved out of custom spraying, encouraging clients to invest in their own sprayers, and they focused on inputs and agronomy. Warrington AgroDynamic now boasts a new office, with a neat bin yard and chemical warehouse. Greg points to their 14,000-tonne dry storage capability, which ensures product is there when farmers need it. They’ve recently hired two new full-time employees, too, and in spring, with their seasonal staff onboard, they have 12 staff. While customer relationships are top-of-mind at both companies, supplier relationships are important too. They’re not afraid to ask their suppliers questions when they need more information about a product. An important part of their job is to be the interpreters between the farmer and the supplier, he explains. Martin echoes that sentiment. He says their suppliers have always wanted to see their retail business succeed. Suppliers offered them credit for inputs when they were starting up, and he’s worked with some of them for over 20 years.

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

Human resources and other business Ag retailers face some of the same business challenges you’ll find in every industry. One of the big ones is finding and keeping talent. Greg says Warrington AgroDynamic doesn’t have the brand or name recognition of a big company like Cargill outside their trading area. They’re also a couple of hours drive from Saskatoon, and some people hesitate to move to a remote area. And, he adds, some people like the inhouse training and perceived security of working for a large company. But others find working for smaller companies more exciting and engaging, he says. Ian is probably the best proof of that. He likes to have a meeting, discuss what needs to be done, and then go do it. He found this more difficult to do in the large company he used to work for, where decisions coming from upper management didn’t always make sense in the field. So how did the Warringtons recruit Ian? He happens to be best friends with Cavalier Agrow’s location manager, who knew the Warringtons were looking for an agronomist, and suggested Ian talk to Roger. With new personnel about to join the company, the Warringtons realized they needed to brush up on their human resource policies. They’ve signed on with a Canadian company that offers HR services through an online platform and over the phone. Greg has talked to their HR advisers, and says they’ve been pretty helpful.


“There’s a lot to HR,” he says. The Detillieuxs don’t ignore their human resources either. They look first for personality and passion for agriculture, followed by paper (i.e. credentials), and they recruit university and college students to their in-house Field Scout Apprenticeship Program. About half their permanent employees have come to them through that program. They also have a personal development program that is built into their bonus structure. Staff are expected to take part in three levels of training. This includes training that they send staff to and in-house training, as well as training that staff ask to be sent to, such as the Canola Labs. But there’s also a budget for personal development. This can be work-related, but it doesn’t have to be. Employees have used this money for gym memberships, cooking classes, bow-making courses, and photography courses. Why would Cavalier Agrow pay for someone’s bowmaking class? “Happy people make happy staff,” Monique says.

We want to keep opportunity here,” says Roger Warrington. “We think it lies with independent people, not with multinationals.”

Continued on page 26

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Feature Martin hopes that every time they draw a string on that bow, they think, “Cavalier Agrow helped me do this.” Besides, he points out, it’s less expensive to invest in the staff you already have than to recruit new ones. After we’ve finished the official interview, Monique gives me a tour of the building. She shows me the kitchen and lunch area where they all eat together every day. Each location has a kitchen, she says, and they all have catered lunches during the busiest seasons. Cavalier has catered lunches for their staff yearround. The lunches are so good that some staff also wanted an on-site gym, so they added it when they built their new office three years ago. Monique planned the gym so their customers could use it as well. Both Cavalier Agro and Warrington AgroDynamic are also part of United Suppliers, a network of sorts that negotiates better prices on behalf of its members. It also offers training in the spring and fall to the employees of independent ag retailers, and both companies have taken advantage of that. Ian says the network gives him a chance to talk to other managers and agronomists. It also helps them source new products that work and are a good fit for the area, he adds. A foundation of sound agronomy Of course, neither the Warringtons nor the Detillieuxs have had success just fall into their laps. When opportunity presented itself, they were ready to leverage it. Sound agronomy that creates value for customers is at the core of both Warrington AgroDynamic and Cavalier Agrow. In fact, Martin has also posted this on the boardroom wall at Cavalier, as a reminder during staff meetings. This has turned into a timely policy as well. Once the Canadian Food Inspection Agency dropped the efficacy requirements for fertility products, farmers started seeing and getting calls about new products with big promises. Sometimes the product claims are valid, Martin says, but some sales reps are overclaiming. “It’s turned into quite a sleazy market on the foliar nutrition side of things. And we haven’t seen the end of it,” Martin says. Location manager Greg says that even agronomically sound products don’t necessarily perform well in their area. They only want to sell products that give their customers a return on investment, he says. “Just an example is canola seed. Varieties that perform well in Lethbridge or Saskatoon are not necessarily going to work in Mervin or Turtleford,” Ian adds. For years, the Warringtons conducted on-farm trials to try out new products and farming practices. Roger says they used to weigh the results in the seed-cleaning plant. Once Ian joined the company, they implemented protocols and repeatability to make the trials more scientifically rigorous. They bought a weigh wagon so they wouldn’t have to rely on suppliers to have one on hand when it was time to harvest trials. 26

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

If you can show a product or practice has a consistent return on investment, “it becomes a no-brainer,” says Greg. It’s easier for farmers to pencil it in when it’s going to give them a return, he adds. Not every customer values the trial work, but Roger says they’ve noticed the farmers who value the trials are expanding their operations. Cavalier Agrow has been running trials from the beginning. They now run between 120 and 150 field trials per year with farmers, and own a weigh wagon at each location. Martin says they wanted to quantify sound agronomy, and their trials, branded agProve, are a way of “sorting through the chaff.” Running trials at each location is important, even though it makes their business more complicated. What works near Cavalier may not work in Meadow Lake, Monique explains, whether because of growing degree days, soil, or microclimates. “There are just so many factors.” Ian says the biggest recent shifts in agronomy have been around fertility and fungicides. They do a lot of soil testing and can custom blend anything required by a field. And fungicides weren’t common in this area just a few years ago. “Now they’re a big part of our business. They add a lot of money to farmers. The return on investment is huge,” says Ian. Both companies see precision agriculture and data management as the next big shift. But both were cautious about aligning themselves with any one system, preferring to do more research to identify their best options. Martin is sceptical about using NDVI images and sparse soil testing to create field zones. Instead, Cavalier Agrow does extensive soil testing to create management zones. They eventually settled on a precision ag and data management platform called iFarm, which has gone over well with their farmers. They didn’t know how long it would take farmers to see an economic return from the variable rate, but they started seeing it right away, Martin says. But there’s also value in the record-keeping aspect of the program, he adds. For example, in the future, malt barley contracts might require a few years of farming records. “They have to start today to see the benefits in three or four or five years… They have to get on the bus now,” he says. Warrington AgroDynamic has just chosen to align with a company called Decisive Farming. It also offers data management, precision farming, and grain marketing to farmers who sign on. The record-keeping aspect is also important to the Warringtons. Greg points out there are already countries where farmers face more regulation around how they use inputs. Whether that will come into play in Canada remains to be seen, he says. “It’s better to be proactive and already have a system in place,” says Roger. When the regulators come knocking, you’ll already be ahead of them, he adds.


The Biggest risks When I ask Monique and Martin what their biggest challenges are, Martin lets out a long, low whistle. Martin and Monique see risk and challenge a little differently because of their individual personal approches, and they have participated in a personality test designed to help people understand each other better. Monique is squarely in the cautious and sceptical quadrant, which seems very appropriate since she’s the director of finance. Martin is in the more outgoing and fast-paced camp. Growth is necessary to stay in the industry, Monique says. “But growth for me is scary, because I’m questioning and sceptical, and he’s got all sorts of ideas, and I sit back and say, ‘OK. What are the consequences of this?’” For example, the bigger they grow, the more closely they have to watch that they aren’t jeopardizing their rules around sound agronomy, creating value for customers, and focusing on long-term success, she says. They also don’t want to jeopardize relationships with current customers by growing too fast, says Monique. “That’s what keeps me awake at night sometimes.” After opening new locations, Cavalier Agrow is now focusing more on their current trade areas and their core customers. That seems to be paying off. When the new Cavalier office opened in 2013, they built five extra offices for future employees. Those offices are now occupied. Martin worries about the criticism farmers and the ag industry face from outsiders. That’s part of the reason they brought Rob Saik, CEO of Agri-Trend and agriculture advocate, in to their Farm Forum. They hoped Saik would open farmers’ eyes to how people outside the industry view them. Sound agronomy and record keeping are part of their defence against such criticism, Martin says. He also feels responsible for his customers’ success or failures on the farm: “If the growers fail, we failed, even if it’s because of the drought.” Over in the Warringtons’ boardroom, there’s consensus that they face the same weather and market risks that their farmers do. But they don’t have the same risk management tools as farmers. Greg says they try to help their clients manage risk, in an effort to manage their own risk. They also have very little in-house credit for that reason, Ian says. Instead, they’ve partnered with Farm Credit Canada to offer their farmers credit for inputs. This works for farmers, too. Farmers can farm better with proper credit in place, Roger says. “It’s part of a business plan. You’ve got to have cash flow. Farmers are way better at that now than they used to be.” While no one can control the weather, it’s amazing how well crops can perform these days under poor conditions. Last spring was cold, with several late frosts, and it was very dry right through June. Yet local farmers pulled off good yields despite the early lack of heat or moisture. Monique says it was one of their better years for yields.

Innovative HR is as crucial to the success of rural independents as it is for farmers, say Monique and Martin. They’re convinced it’s less expensive to invest in staff they already have, than to hire new ones

Some of that comes down to new technology and better varieties, but both businesses agree that farming practices get a huge share of the credit. Farmers can grow much better crops with very little moisture, due to minimum tillage and better weed management. “The soil quality has changed so much from when I started. It’s so much better now,” says Roger. People outside the industry think farming is doing so much damage, “yet I think it’s way better than it was.” Both companies not only employ local people, but support everything from 4-H to hockey teams. Martin says they’ve included community support into the company’s code of ethics. As for Roger, he says he’s always felt like he’s working for the community. The community has invested in their business, he says, so they have a succession plan to ensure the company continues to work for their community. Roger explains why that community connection is so important. He used to play cribbage with his uncle John, who homesteaded the farm after coming to the area looking for, and finding, opportunity, he says. “We want to keep opportunity here,” Roger says. “I think it lies with independent people, not with multinationals.” CG COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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BUSINESS

Finding the

right mentor Should farm groups be pushing harder to set up mentoring programs? By Amy Petherick / CG Contributing Editor

U

nfortunately for many of us, by the time wisdom finally catches up with us, we are already beginning to feel our age. There are just so many things to learn on the farm, and you only get so many chances to learn them. Every spring is different, every barn is different, every market is different. But what if you were a young farmer smart enough to realize this? Could you do something to put the odds back in your favour? Across Canada, more farmers are trying to do just that. There’s a notable and growing appetite for mentorship in agriculture, and seasoned farm managers are responding to their call. But is it paying off? Based on the people we talked to, not only can it work for the young farmers, it actually works for the mentors too, helping them on their home farms as much as it’s helping the incoming generation. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) witnessed this law of unintended benefits very quickly after it launched its Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program in 2010. What started as a pilot in Alberta went national in 2011, and by this August, a total of 84 producers between the ages of 18 and 35 will have graduated.

Getting a little crop advice from a neighbour from time to time isn’t mentorship. Instead, a mentoring relationship starts with specific goals, specific time frames, and a commitment to career building Jolene Noble, the program co-ordinator, is expecting 60 to 75 applications again this year, yet she still finds it humbling just to read about the individuals coming into their program, even before they ever meet face to face. “It’s just unreal what some of these people are doing at such a young age,” Noble says. “These are some very powerful young people.” Meanwhile, however, Farm Management Canada had to give up its STEP UP program in 2013 when it 28

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

couldn’t find matching dollars to trigger federal support under the Growing Forward suite of programs. Making it work Hand-picking the best mentors to partner with its formidable young candidates is more than one person can handle alone, so the CCA has set up a selection panel to get the job done right. What’s impressive, however, is that when the panel sends out a feeler to see if their mentor might be interested in donating some time to help a young person learn new skills, the mentor almost always responds with a quick and resolute “Yes.” Noble sees this as proof that people in the industry really are supportive of the youth. They don’t just talk the talk. They walk it too, turning down the opportunity only when they just cannot free up enough time to commit to making the relationship successful. That’s even before they know what’s in it for them, Noble adds. They’re pleased and often a bit flattered to be asked, of course, but mostly they’re motivated by a sense of wanting to give back. Even so, the mentors almost always begin to report that they’re getting some very real benefits from the process too. “I get a lot of feedback from the mentors saying that they get a lot from the program,” Noble says. “Some feel like they’re the ones getting mentored.” Heather Watson, executive director for Farm Management Canada, says no one in her group had really predicted how appropriate the tagline of their STEP UP mentorship program would prove, with its emphasis on “where experience meets enthusiasm.” Sometimes the established farmer had brought experience to their mentorship pairing and found that the younger partner provided the enthusiasm. This wasn’t unexpected. But then there have also been times it went the other way completely. “Sometimes the new entrant or young farmer came with a bunch of new ideas or from another province and they had all this different experience to bring,” Watson explains, “and sometimes it wasn’t just the mentees bringing enthusiasm to the partnership, it was the mentors saying, ‘look how great this is,’ and were really inspiring.” Watson says mentors themselves reported the experi-


ence often helped them establish new friendships and reduced the workload on their own operation, since the mentees would come live on the farm for at least eight weeks. More importantly though, she often heard that they had gained a fresh perspective on their current farm business management practices and were able to refine their own strategies during the teaching process. “One of the big things was taking time for the mentorship, not just welcoming someone to the farm, put them in a corner and say, ‘get to work,’” Watson says. “It wasn’t just an add-on, it was a fundamental belief that they have a duty to pass on knowledge. They took it really seriously. The mentors who stood out really made a place for mentorship as part of their everyday activities on their farm.” Keeping it real That said, setting aside time as a mentor can be a significant challenge, warns Mary Lynn McPherson of Strive, a consulting firm. She has facilitated discussions among Ontario farmers in the past, specifically about mentorship, and most seem to agree that an ability to manage their time well is one of the things all great mentors have in common. Really great mentors not only make room in their

lives for their mentees, McPherson says, they also avoid distractions during these meetings. “When you do get together, you want to be focused and have identified, in advance, an area of untapped potential that you are specifically working to improve on,” McPherson advises. Making preparations in advance of meetings helps significantly. Watson, for instance, says their program required formal learning contracts between the mentor and the mentee to specifically define what the objectives of the relationship included. “I don’t know if any other mentorship program goes that far,” Watson says. “We had to get serious because the industry doesn’t readily think of farm business management, especially when it comes to teaching how to farm.” It’s like anything else, Watson says. If you don’t write it down, then it easily slips away in the day-to-day demands of running a business. To be successful, she says, the mentorship plan needs to specifiy a time period for achieving specific objectives, describing the goals of the mentorship clearly, and outlining not only how they’ll be accomplished but also how progress will be measured. Continued on page 30

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BUSINESS BUSINESS “I like the idea of a formal mentorship because it keeps people accountable and it keeps the learning machine going,” Watson says. “It’s nice to learn bits and pieces along the way, but there’s no real goal in sight.” Noble says that in their program, they don’t have a contract but they do have a road map. She hesitates to tell the program participants that they can’t deviate from their plan at all, because many young leaders don’t have the exposure or experience to know what they don’t know, and their goals will evolve as they learn, perhaps even including things that weren’t very visible at first, such as lobbying and policy-making. Indeed, the CCA program wants mentees to have five learning objectives, but program participants are encouraged to choose only three of five learning objectives for themselves, and to allow two others to emerge through the advice of the mentor. But Noble agrees it’s important for mentors to do more than just talk. She encourages everyone in her program to plan for site visits where the mentee can observe their mentor in action (since these program participants don’t move in, like STEP UP mentees did), in addition to attending conferences or seminars together which pertain to their shared interest, and arranging side meetings for the mentee with other individuals they know who have wisdom to offer the mentor perhaps can’t. “Networking is huge,” Noble says. “What we really strive to do with our mentor selection committee is to open doors that they don’t know exist.” That only works, however, if the younger partner is ready to walk through those open doors. Ready to learn Mentees who want to get the most out of their experiences need to check their pride at the door and focus on humility, Strive’s McPherson says. “Having a teachable spirit is one of the most important things,” she says. “You’re going to have mentors who will put out extra effort if they see their mentee is coming to them with a sense of being transparent and being willing to be human.” “Fake it ’til you make it,” or, “never let them see you sweat” philosophies don’t make for great mentorships in her experience. A good mentee must be willing to confess that they’ve made mistakes and admit to needing help in order to improve. Which isn’t to say you must take all the advice your mentor gives you. But don’t ignore all of it either. 30

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

Some people just seem to have a lot of wisdom,” says Mary Lynn McPherson. “They’re just very wise in how they thoughtfully and intentionally engage in their interpersonal relationships.”

“It’s important to demonstrate that you’ve heard and you’ve tried some suggestions,” says McPherson, as a way to keep the mentorship moving forward. If the relationship doesn’t sustain itself in the long term, it’s hard to say if it really ever was a true mentorship. “Mentorship is more than a one off,” she insists. “It develops when very technical conversations start moving into business management and more nuanced leadership questions over a sustained period of time.” In other words, getting a little crop advice isn’t mentorship, but regular conversations about how to get along better with your boss, who’s also your father, might qualify. McPherson says learning to deal with these aspects of business, and life in general, are far more involved than simply having someone explain their planting practices. Mentoring an individual through these complexities requires talent, which is something many mentors learn the more they practise, and others come by it naturally. “Some people just seem to have a lot of wisdom,” McPherson says. “Even if they haven’t mentored a lot of people, they’re just very wise in how they thoughtfully and intentionally engage in their interpersonal relationships.” In essence, mentors help you learn those things that don’t often have clear directives to follow. This is how mentors are different than a business adviser or coach, although many people would use those labels interchangeably. Watson says unlike these other advisers, a mentor looks beyond surface details and the “whats” of a farm, to the “why” and the “how” of an operation. “When you do these mentorships, you get this awesome story that fills in those blanks,” she says. “You need that context to fully understand what you’re seeing.” Meanwhile in northern Ontario, RDÉE Ontario has secured funding to launch its own mentorship pilot project. It’s just not specific to agriculture. Pierre Tessier, the

executive director, believes this program can do a lot of good for businesses with maybe one to nine employees because these entrepreneurs, like many farmers, are having to do everything themselves. Although they haven’t received any interest from farm business owners yet, Tessier would strongly encourage them to consider a mentorship outside of the agriculture industry. “The key to mentorship is that it deals with the well-being of the individual as opposed to just looking at the technical aspect of running that particular business,” Tessier says. “You might find a person from the farm business who’s maybe retired, who’s gone all through the hoops of running a farm, so the empathy will be there and some of the knowledge but they will be limited by their own experience. Someone from another sector might say, “Hmm, interesting how you’re doing that, but you might want to try something a little different.” Of course, this does depend on matching the right individuals, Tessier says. His best advice is to look for a person with the right skills and attributes, but who is also going to fit from a human relations standpoint. This really shouldn’t be overlooked, he says, because some of the most important exchanges in the partnership will be sensitive in nature. “Sometimes people will tell you things you don’t want to hear, and the person being mentored has to accept that this will be an open relationship where things will be said that may not be pleasing all the time,” he advises. Mentors with good bedside manner understand that the process is one where you’re building on the well-being of the person themselves, he explains. Ultimately it’s up to the mentee to come to terms with their own sense of who they are and how they should go about their business. No matter what their experience is in business, truly great mentors allow this process to unfold naturally. CG


CHRISTIAN FARMERS FEDERATION OF ONTARIO 642 Woolwich St. • Guelph, ON • N1H 3Y2 Voice: (519) 837-1620 Fax: (519) 824-1835 Email: cffomail@christianfarmers.org Web site: www.christianfarmers.org

Agricultural Safety By Suzanne Armstrong

F

amily farming is one of the bastions of family owned and run businesses that still survive and thrive in our contemporary economy. Farming creates a special opportunity for family members to work together, and for children to see, and in many cases learn, what their parents do for a living. Many farmers say that they love farming because it affords them the opportunity to have more meaningful relationships with their family members, be that children, parents, siblings, or cousins. We have had many tragic stories of loss on farms in 2015, and already in 2016 too, even though we are only a few months into the year. Every tragedy, be it the loss of a barn, the loss of farm animals, or the injury or loss of a family member in a farm accident, reminds us of the vital importance of farm safety for everyone living and working on farms. The Agricultural Safety website (http://www.agsafetyweek.ca/ keeping-kids-safe.html) points out the different risks on the farm for family members of different ages. The website has many resources to encourage family farm safety, with special focus on safety for children. Family farms create special opportunities for children to learn and participate

in the work of the farm. It can also create risks that need to be addressed to keep children safe. Children have different personalities, and, as the website points out, it is important to keep in mind things like assigning tasks and responsibilities appropriate to a child’s personality, age and physical ability. Children are not always able to problem solve if something goes wrong, or to think through the possible consequences of doing something risky. For any child learning a new task, it is important to make sure they are confident with the task under supervision before they are left to work on their own. The Workplace Safety and Prevention Services website

(http://www.wsps.ca/FarmSafety-Products/FarmSafe-Plan. aspx) also has a lot of farmrelated safety information and resources. One that is particularly family-related addresses the risks of having extra riders on farm or lawn mowing equipment. Farm safety is important every day of the year. Take advantage of the many resources available to help keep the whole family safe on the farm. As you ramp up for spring, it may be a good time to review farm safety on your own farm, be that to remind every one of the rules and safety procedures, or to check the safety of equipment or workspaces on the farm. We wish everyone a safe farming year ahead.

A professional organization of entrepreneurial farming families


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head start “

W

e’ve got a lot of young people coming in,” says Tim Lambert, CEO of the Egg Farmers of Canada. Like others, he credits board programs that give young farmers preferential access not only to quota, but to training in business leadership, and management. Yet underpinning it all, says Lambert, is income security. “They earn a reasonable living doing it.” Blake Jennings is the fifth generation on his family’s egg farm overlooking Cobequid Bay, a branch of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. The view from his kitchen window is enough to make anyone envious, with the bay gleaming behind the old egg-laying barns that still stand on the farm. Walking into those barns is like walking into a time warp, Blake says. The old barns never had glass in their windows, for example, so Blake’s grandfather, Cecil Jennings, had to be slow and gentle whenever he opened a door. If he scared the hens, off they’d fly out the windows and he’d have to round them up all over again. All that has changed, of course. “My grandfather, when he walks in the barn, he looks at the computer and just shakes his head. He wouldn’t have a clue in the world how to run that thing,” says Blake. The owner’s manual for the climate controls is three inches thick, Blake says. Hen

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feeders are on timers. Windmills power the layer barns. Those windmills have worked well since the Jennings family installed them in 2007, but Blake says they’re already becoming outmoded technology now, and he can’t buy parts for them anymore. Blake’s pet project is a new barn, which he plans to build in the next five years. He thinks it will be solar powered, but the technology changes so rapidly there’s little point in researching it until you’re about to break ground, he explains. Technology is only part of what’s changing on this and other supply management farms, however. The newest generation of farmers must also be financially astute, politically savvy, and socially conscious. And they must obtain quota. But young farmers like Blake, and like Gilbert and Stacy Matheson on the other side of the Bay of Fundy, aren’t deterred, largely because of what the supply management sector is doing to help its young farmers, and what those farmers see in their futures. Getting started It’s not easy to start farming in any sector. It requires a significant capital investment to line up land, buildings, and equipment. And of course, if it’s supply management, you must have quota. Continued ON page 34

Photo: candace snowdon photography

By LISA GUENTHER / CG FIELD editor

Photo: Light & Lens Photography

Among supply management’s successes are its programs to help young farmers get established


Supply management gives income certainty to Blake Jennings, above, and Gilbert and Stacy Matheson. But there was still the question, “How do we afford quota?”

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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feature

For Gilbert and Stacy Matheson, young-farmer programs helped make it feasible to shift their New Brunswick farm from beef into dairy.

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Both programs have helped the young couple build a viable business for themselves and their family. If any of the kids want to farm someday, Gilbert says, “there should be a decent little living for them at some point.” While some heap criticism on supply management, both Gilbert and Blake are quick to defend the system and its benefits to their businesses. It gives farmers a predictable market and guaranteed payback, Blake says. Agricultural lenders understand supply management too, says Gilbert. “They know what you’re going to get

It gives you that initial cash flow to get things going,” Gilbert Matheson says of the dairy sector’s young-farmer program. It helps at the bank too, he adds. “They know what you’re going to get paid.” paid. They know what your market is and it’s guaranteed. And you never have to chase money. It just arrives in your account each month.” Quotas and markets aside, farmers in supply-managed industries still need sharp business skills to stay viable. The biggest thing today is “to know where your money is going to and where it’s coming from,” Gilbert says. Managing costs is key, just as in other sectors. Gilbert and other dairy farmers have formed a management group to compare expenses and see what the averages are and where the top and bottom farms sit. Gilbert keeps a close eye on his variable costs. “It’s all the little things that add up over the course of a year that really make the biggest difference,” Gilbert says. One of the biggest risks Gilbert faces is the weather, which will certainly be familiar to other farmers. Too

Photos: candace snowdon photography

The Mathesons farm near Kars, New Brunswick. In between raising six kids, they run a dairy as well as flocks of chickens that produce table eggs and hatching eggs. Hatching eggs come from layer breeders, in this case Bovans. Their chicks become commercial layers. The Matheson farm sounds as picturesque as the Jennings homestead, with views of nearby Belleisle Bay. Gilbert, now in his 30s, took over the farm from his grandparents years ago. At that time, it included beef cattle. “But after BSE, prices were always kind of poor,” Gilbert says. The birds were making money, but he was paying for the cattle most years. He has a saying that he doesn’t mind working for nothing, but he does have a problem paying to work. Stacy grew up on a dairy farm, and the Mathesons were always interested in having their own herd. The Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick were loaning quota to new entrants, so Stacy and Gilbert ran the numbers and applied for the program in December 2007. Within a year they’d obtained their quota, built a 46-cow, free-stall barn, and started milking. In 2009 they bought more quota, and today they produce 36 kg of butterfat per day. Under the new entrant program, the Mathesons purchased 12 kg of quota, and the board loaned them another 12 kg. Five years after lending the quota, the board starts removing quota in small increments — a tenth of a kilogram per month in the first 10 months of the year. The farmer can either buy quota to replace it, or let it go, Gilbert explains. Gilbert says the program, which he compares to an interest-free loan, has worked well for them. “It gives you that initial cash flow to get things going.” A provincial new entrant program for egg producers has similar benefits. In 2011, the Mathesons applied and were granted quota as a licence for 3,200 birds. After 10 years, that licence becomes quota just like any other quota, Gilbert says.


much rain affects forage quality, which has been a problem in the last few years. “If you don’t get good-quality forage, you don’t make as much milk,” he says. Blake meanwhile faces risks of his own. Disease is the big threat. Avian influenza can wipe out a flock in a single day, he says. The Jennings have strict biosecurity measures to manage that risk. If Blake has been off farm, he changes his clothes before entering barns. He has a pair of boots that stays on the farm, and a different pair that never leaves the barn. Boots are disinfected before entering the barn. Any off-farm visitors sign in and wear full Tyvek suits when going into the barn. Signs of sickness show up in behaviour and egg quality, so the Jennings do three thorough checks each day, plus additional walk-throughs, Blake says. The birds get used to the people contact, and inspectors tell them they have the calmest birds around. The Jennings usually have about 21,000 birds on the farm, and that means a lot of cleaning. Mondays and Thursdays they haul manure and also sweep and blow down barns. They also raise their own pullets from day-old chicks, which means cleaning the barns whenever they bring in

a new flock. That’s a day of blowing down and sweeping the barns, followed by about three days of pressurewashing and disinfecting. “It’s a full-time job.” An ‘A to Z’ education It’s one thing to master the daily labour that goes into running a farm. Blake has grown into that role, learning to run equipment and complex technology. He also still appreciates the hands-on work — he likes to manually place eggs in trays, even though that can be automated, and he is willing to do it at six in the morning. But the industry also needs young farmers who understand the business, politics, and social implications of farming. And for that, they need to get off the farm. Blake, for instance, jetted to the Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum in Vancouver this winter. It’s an annual conference that draws young farmers from every sector and every part of the country. Blake has been a regular at these forums since 2014, when he enrolled in a young farmers’ program created by the Egg Farmers’ of Canada. In a way, it’s Blake’s vacation, his chance to get off the farm. It’s a sentiment that might Continued ON page 36

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feature

Tim Lambert on supply management myths Tim Lambert, CEO of the Egg Farmers of Canada, worked 10 years in the pork sector and eight years in beef. He’s now got 12 years in the egg sector, giving him a wide perspective on both supplymanaged and open-market sectors. Lambert in particular is anxious to debunk what he calls the three big myths about supply-managed eggs. 1. The idea that supply management inflates egg prices is “simply not true,” says Lambert. Consumers in Australia and the European Union, which don’t have supply-managed eggs, pay more than Canadians, he says. “People will often say, yeah but it’s cheaper in the U.S. Well sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.” Besides, he says, that’s true of everything from cars to clothes because of American economies of scale.

seem strange to some Canadians, but is likely familiar to many farmers. According to Tim Lambert, CEO of the Egg Farmers of Canada, their young farmers range in age from 18 to 40 and typically the program pulls them in to three events each year — the Young Farmers’ Forum, an Egg Farmers’ of Canada summer board meeting, and the groups’ AGM. They’ll usually do a day of educational sessions as well, Lambert says. For example, they did a recent session on how to make the most of meetings with politicians before bringing the young farmers to a “Breakfast on the Hill” event with the federal ag minister and other parliamentarians. Blake counts the Breakfast on the Hill as one of the program’s highlights. “They even convinced me to put an apron on and cook some eggs.” Typically it takes a young farmer two years to go through the program. It’s taken Blake a little longer because he frequently has to hold down the fort while his father, Glen, is gone. Glen is on the Egg Farmers of 36

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Canada board and is gone 30 to 40 per cent of the time for related work, Blake says. But Blake has already been building networks and learning about the business side of supply management. The program has also opened his eyes to how farming works in different sectors and different parts of Canada. He’s had media training, and seems at ease throughout the interview. The Young Farmers’ Program also presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when Prince Charles visited Nova Scotia in the spring of 2014. The prince wanted to talk to a young Canadian farmer, and his royal tour organizers found Blake through the program. Blake talked to the Prince of Wales about how his family cares for their birds, and learned about agriculture on the other side of the pond. He credits the Young Farmers’ Program for giving him the knowledge and confidence to speak about Canadian agriculture in a broader sense. Continued ON page 38

2. The charge that supply management blocks Canada from signing trade deals is also unfounded, Lambert says. He points out Canada has managed to sign dozens of trade deals with minimal impact on supply management, including TPP. “And they still are able to get additional access for pork, beef and grain producers.” 3. As well, there’s the argument that being part of supply management means farmers must cede their freedom as business people. Lambert says this is “not true at all.” Farmers in most other commodities are price-takers, he says, because they have few buyers. Supply management gives farmers a “fair share of the consumer dollar. It doesn’t set the consumer price but it sets the wholesale price.”

Photo: Light & Lens Photography

Farming will continue to be a marriage of technology and the human touch, Blake believes.


THE ONTARIO AGROLOGIST Don Lobb, P.Ag.(Hon), was an innovator and leader in soil, water and environmental management during the 36 years he farmed in Huron County. In recognition of this, OIA made him an Honourary Life Member in 1991. He remains active in agriculture. A conversation with Don brings focus to the sustainability issue. What is sustainable agriculture?

populations can be fed and organic

Sustainable agriculture requires the

matter levels can be increased with

protection of soil from irreversible

the use of cover crops and careful

alternate use and the care of soil in

choice of crop types and rotations. All

a way that maintains or improves

of this is critical to soil health and crop

its capacity to grow crops without

production efficiency. While we know

compromising the surrounding

that our scientific understanding of soil

environment.

health and the soil ecosystem is not

How can this be achieved? Sustainable soil care must begin with

complete, we do know that they are complex and must be protected and nurtured in sustainable agriculture.

measures to control degradation and

Why is this important? Farm business models that endure must be built around sustainable soil management because all agricultural

erosion by tillage, water and wind.

On our more fragile soil and where

production and activity begins with

But much more is needed. We have

soil improvement is attempted, deep-

the soil. Benefits can be realized in

learned through experience and

rooted perennial forage crops provide

many ways as healthy soils produce

scientific discovery that support and

significant benefit. By processing

more stable yields and the productive

care of soil biota gives soil its capacity

forages through ruminant livestock,

potential of the soil improves.

to produce, regenerate and be

food can be produced as meat or milk.

physically stable. Because most biota

Forages and ruminants are the key to

are damaged or destroyed by soil

extending food production to fragile soil

disturbance, tillage must be minimized

in a sustainable way.

or eliminated if sustainability is to be

To be truly sustainable, we must control

declining land base. Intensive is the only

achieved. Furthermore, precise soil

carbon loss to the atmosphere and

alternative to agricultural exploitation of

moisture management is critical to soil

sediment and nutrient loss to our

fragile and Natural Heritage lands. We

biota survival, crop root development,

waterways. All nutrients, regardless of

must now carefully implement the very

nutrient retrieval and water availability.

source must be used responsibly and

high levels of science and management

A healthy balance of air and

efficiently because supply is limited.

required to ensure that intensive

moisture must be achieved through

Nutrient lost to an off-site fate brings

agriculture is sustainable. Professional

combinations of drainage, irrigation and

unnecessary agricultural cost and

Agrologist support will be important as

crop residue management. Soil biota

environmental concern.

we move forward.

“Intensive�, health-focused soil management must be the new frontier for agriculture as it meets a rapidly growing demand for food on a

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feature “I guess I was a shy guy before,” Blake now says. Lambert says the program is creating a pool of young leaders. Young farmers not only get an “A to Z” education, they also rapidly build networks. They come in with fresh ideas, and the industry veterans are learning as much as they teach. Since the program began in 2014, 10 farmers have finished it and 18 are enrolled for 2016. Each province puts forward one name, and the Egg Farmers of Canada picks up the cost. But some provinces nominate two farmers, and share the cost of sending the second person. Lambert says husband-and-wife teams are now participating too. The Egg Farmers of Canada originally intended to educate the next generation on how supply management worked and the history behind it, Lambert says. But the program found its own life, he says, and has exceeded expectations. After starting the program, they thought they should have done it years ago. “Any commodity that isn’t doing it really needs to think hard about the value in it, because it truly is an important thing.” Lambert is also vice-chair of the International Egg Commission. That organization is starting a young leaders’ program for the entire egg value chain. The Egg Farmers of Canada is sponsoring a young farmer to be part of that group, so they can gain an understanding of global issues, he says.

The future Blake is looking forward to buying more quota, building that new barn, and expanding in the future. Thinking about how much farming has changed since his grandfather started, it’s hard to know what farming will be like by the time he’s ready to retire. “I don’t know what to expect for the future because the technology is coming out faster than I can find it, really.” As for Lambert, he says young farmers are coming into a growing industry. The volume of eggs sold in Canada has grown about 22 per cent in the last nine years, he says. Part of that is due to the cholesterol myth being debunked, and consumer preferences shifting to protein over carbs. Consumers want more choice these days, and Lambert sees more opportunities in specialty egg production in the future. The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal will create stability in the industry, he also believes, so overall, it’s a good industry to be in, with a fair return for farmers, stable prices, and growth. But it will take excellent farmers. Technology skills must be strong, as must their business management, and it will also mean adjusting to social expectations, Lambert believes. The next big opportunity and challenge throughout the food chain is “maintaining and enhancing our social licence and public trust,” he says. Young farmers “will need to understand that environment and make sure that they’re doing the right things the right way and for the right reasons.” CG

Things that drive young farmers crazy Country Guide asked both Gilbert Matheson, top, and Blake Jennings what they wish older farmers knew about young farmers. Both had pet peeves that young farmers in other sectors can probably relate to. Gilbert despises comments from older farmers such as: “Well, you can’t afford to do that. I couldn’t do what you’re doing, so you can’t afford it.” Sometimes the critic assumes someone, such as a father, has given the younger farmer money, when it really comes down to management, he says. Such farmers have the mindset that they can judge new farmers based on how they’ve been operating for decades. Their criticisms can include any kind of on-farm investment — even young farmers buying quota or building a barn. Such criticism isn’t helpful to people starting out, Gilbert says. He adds he knows forward-thinking older farmers who don’t take part. As for Blake, he’s tired of the perception that his generation just sits around. At one conference, a speaker told young people to get off their phones and do some hard work. Blake and a couple of other young guys “had quite a talk with him afterwards,” says Blake. “You can’t farm nowadays unless you have the technology,” he says.

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PG. 46 Scientists are already scouting for the next big threat… Old World bollworm PG. 48 Check tender crops for cereal leaf beetles

A

griculture is always in search of the next innovation, but as most growers learn — some, the hard way — there is no silver-bullet solution. If you’re going to change things for the better, it’s going to take time, effort and likely a departure from the norm. Yet with lower crop prices, growers are also more open-minded about change, plus there’s a renewed interest in soil health and sustainability, driven partly by soiltest studies that reveal fertility and organic matter are dropping in many parts of Eastern Canada. So all sorts of questions are back on the table, including some unexpected ones. And perhaps most unexpected of all is, can conventional row-crop growers learn anything useful from organic production methods? The quick and easy reply is, “Yes.” The more in-depth reply is, “Yes, but it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.” In fact, some organic strategies have already made the crossover. Cover crops, for instance, were mainly a holistic strategy a generation ago, one of the simpler choices from the list of organic practices that includes composting, mechanical weed management systems, trap cropping and the introduction of bio-control agents such as predatory or beneficial species. To learn more, Country Guide sat down with the operators of two farms, one an organic operation, and another that began incorporating a more organic approach two years ago.

Dave Hunter and Bob Kerr Kerr Farms and Wolfe Creek Organic Farms, Chatham, Ont.

PHOTOS: JEFF BROWN

F

ew farmers have a keener knowledge of conventional and organic production systems than Dave Hunter and Bob Kerr, who operate both a conventional and an organic farm just outside Chatham, Ont. It’s a definite advantage, they agree, that

CROPS GUIDE Learning from organic takes patience and an open mind, says Dave Hunter (l) and Bob Kerr, but there’s a payoff in richer soils.

Learning from

organic

These conventional farms are adapting techniques from organic agriculture — with a little time and care By Ralph Pearce / CG Production Editor

Continued on page 40

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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crops Guide they’re primarily a horticultural operation. They’ve been producing fruits and vegetables in the Chatham area for decades. In fact, they made the transition to organic for part of their production in 2000, renting a field in 2001 from a neighbour who had been growing organic already, and then they built from there. At the time, prices on conventional crops were low, which spurred their search for a way to differentiate the farm’s production and to generate higher revenues. “It was an opportunity to produce more vegetables in our fields,” says Hunter, adding that the operation was already growing tomatoes. “We had an opportunity to grow more tomatoes organically for our customer, and they were valueadded and we were looking to create some stability.” At the time, revenues in organic markets were more stable than conventional, and Hunter says prices for organic ran more on their own merit. There were also small numbers of people converting to organic with a steady growth in demand, and the outlook seemed positive. Today, he still says that organic production isn’t for everyone, nor is it always feasible for growers in traditional row-crop regions of Ontario and Eastern Canada to add a horticulture crop as a stepping stone to organic. Even so, there are opportunities to add non-chemical or non-synthetic practices to a farm’s operation, and Kerr maintains that it’s a step in the wrong direction to look at conventional and organic as an “either/or” choice. He asks why growers can’t apply the best of both. “We do try to apply as many possible methods from organic into the conventional — because our heart is in organic,” says Hunter. “But we do have some opportunities with some contracting and things where we’re staying conventional, so there are many practices that we use in both like cover crops and composting. We look at the biology of the soil and feeding the soil, as well as IPM and managing a few products that we can use organically.” There are products for Hunter 40

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We do try to apply as many possible methods from organic into the conventional.” Dave Hunter, Kerr Farms and Wolfe Creek Organic Farms

and Kerr to use in their operations. although they obviously aren’t always the same products. The synthetic ones for their conventional acres are more effective than the organic products but again, that doesn’t mean there aren’t shared lessons. For example, in conventional production, Hunter notes they only band-spray what they need in order to deal with the issue at hand. They don’t cover the whole soil surface. They also use variable rate technology, including RTK in their tractors for both conventional and organic. And they use cover crops everywhere they can. Mechanical weed management One of the trends that’s been developing in the past two years is the use of mechanical weed management tools. Some might align those closer

to organic production, but there are cases where row-crop producers are using them in an organic setting. One is an abrasive weeding or “weed blasting” system being tested by the University of Illinois (see below). At Kerr Farms and Wolfe Creek Organic Farms, they use a Flame Weeder, a device they run between rows that will chemically “flame” or burn emerged weeds, but there is also a hand-held or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-mounted sensor being tested at North Dakota State University. “It’s non-selective — it’ll kill any weeds that are underneath the canopy of the actively growing crop,” says Hunter. “It controls the weeds in the row and we row-crop cultivate between the rows.” He adds that they use it at different stages of plant growth, namely prior to crop emergence and after emergence, depending on the crop being flame-weeded. In certain instances, they can also use it for insect control. “We can use it both organically and conventionally, but it’s less selective — you can injure the crop with a Flame Weeder.” Hunter and Kerr do express their frustration with the seed, trait and chemical side of the industry, especially since the advent of GMOs and the increasing role of fungiContinued on page 42

To Bob Kerr (l) it’s a mistake to look at organic and conventional as an “either/or” choice. The goal, he says, should be to use the best of both.


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crops Guide cides. Yield has become foremost, and it is vital, they agree. But a single-minded focus on yields can create problems that growers recognize, like herbicide resistance, as well as other problems that may take longer to become apparent, such as damage to what Hunter calls the soil-food web and its importance for healthy crop growth. Organic may start with adding cover crops, but it doesn’t have to end there, Hunter and Kerr also emphasize. “There could be opportunities in the future to sequester carbon for carbon credits, with the use of conservation tillage or cover crops, and by building organic matter in the soil,” says Hunter. “Long term, we do reap the benefits of more water-holding capacity in the soil, with higher organic matter, more of an ability to hold and retain nutrients. And hopefully with cover cropping, you keep the soil covered so you’re not washing your phosphorus and nitrogen into

the lakes, especially in the Great Lakes area, where we know we’re getting these phosphorus blooms.” Buying into organic Among the other organic practices available to growers, use of manure and composting comes after cover crops, although in Kent and Essex County, the availability of manure can be a challenge, given the scarcity of nearby livestock operations. “But there is more composting going on, and there’s more interest in biological inoculants — increasing the naturally occurring benefits that we can be applying to the seed, whether it’s in soybeans or other crops,” says Hunter. “It’s a natural biology and some of those are becoming more mainstream.” As with most changes, adding an organic component to a farm operation takes patience and open-mindedness. That said, there is a determination that is shared by

most innovators and early adapters. They do all they can to see the change or a new system succeed on their farms, and the same is true with organics. It will take time, patience and a determination to make small, necessary adjustments to management practices. “You have to have a toolbox of implements, so it’s going to cost some money and there’s a big learning curve,” says Hunter. “You’re not going to solve all the problems at once because you’re going to find new ones come along all the time,” he adds. “If you think you have it right this year or next year, there’ll be something else will pop up. So you have to be willing to adapt and change. “It is tough, but in the end, you’ll benefit by building soil organic matter, and even on our conventional side, we use less nitrogen than most of our neighbours do, just because we’re using some of our organic methods to build the soil and get more natural nitrogen with cover crops.”

Mike Belan Belan Farms, Oil Springs, Ont.

S

ome 25 years ago, Mike Belan decided to cut costs on his farm by moving to no till. As he went along, however, the Lambton County grower determined he needed to accelerate the building of soil organic matter, so he opted for the organic practice of cover cropping. What started out as an economic strategy turned into an environmental one — trying to better the soil’s characteristics. “Indirectly, our goal will be for financial gain, producing a higher yield with fewer inputs and less environmental instability as we progress and build our soils,” says Belan, who favours the concept of working more with Mother Nature. “It pertains to using organic practices with conventional farming so that we can limit our need of herbicides for weeds and chemicals for crop protection from pests. It’s also to have the ability to control and limit the need for synthetic fertilizers by working the soil biology and building our soil organic matter to efficiently and effectively use, maintain and keep our applied fertilizers for our cash crops.” Belan’s ideal practice is to plant a cover crop that will stay green during the winter months and easily terminate to leave the soil covered with a thick mat of residue, so the 42

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There is much for conventional farmers to learn from organic growers about how to build soil and soil organic matter, Belan says.


crop management

It pertains to using organic practices with conventional farming so that we can limit our need of chemicals.” Mike Belan, Belan Farms

only thing capable of coming up through it will be the cash crop that’s seeded into that residue. This not only protects the soil from the harsh environments but limits the need for pre-plant burndown treatments and in-crop applications if the residue keeps weeds at bay until the crop leaves canopy and shades out the weeds. It’s also ideal if the cover crop takes a secondary role, that of a companion crop that provides a nitrogen boost. Asked about the percentage of growers who are using a form of organic farming in their operations, Belan believes the frequency is rather low. In fact, he sees a pendulum swing in his region towards increasing tillage and plowing, particularly cultivating between soybean harvest and winter wheat planting, a practice he just doesn’t understand. “Bottom line, these organic practices are, in my opinion, relevant and necessary in every type of farming practice, especially

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crops Guide with row-crop growers,” says Belan. He adds that at the very least, there’s no reason for not using cover crops. “We are depleting the soil organic matter and growing less and less diversity all the time, and many growers don’t even realize it’s happening.” There are many objections levelled by conventional growers towards organic practices, which Belan has a hard time acknowledging. One of the more common myths Belan encounters is that use of a cover crop will help the development of weed pressure — or continued growth of the cover crop — that will hinder the cash crop’s growth. Or there’s the concern that a cover crop that has overwintered too well will cause planting issues in the spring. It means it will take another level of management to deal with these issues. Organic still bears a stigma, notes Belan, and that comes from the years of conventional agriculture, with its emphasis on high-priced equipment, clean fields and high yields. In his eyes, however, a strong return on investment is better than high yields, especially if a grower has to “buy” those yields. With the use of cover crops, Belan believes there is a definite swing in the way farmers are farming, and in his view, cover cropping and the reintroduction of grazing those cover crops is a unique hybrid of the organic/conventional row-cropping methods of farming. The bottom line is that growers need to shift their approaches, if not their mindset when considering changing practices on their farms. Nothing happens overnight, says Belan, echoing Hunter and Kerr. And that may be the hardest concept to grasp, especially in a day and age where most growers forget the lessons learned two, three or five years ago. “A farmer definitely needs to take it slow so as not become overwhelmed with it, especially with incorporating cover crops on their farm,” says Belan, suggesting a grower try cover crops on a piece of his best land and a piece from his worst. Put the test area right in the middle of the farm so you can compare the two, he recommends. “And stick with simple cover crop mixes to begin with. That way you can still maintain control of it in the spring before you plant your cash crop. And don’t expect large returns right away, but over the long term.” CG

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Weed blasters and flame weeders Here are two pieces of technology that are gaining advocates across North America in a variety of organic and some conventional operations, although they are not necessarily suitable for every farming operation.

Weed blasting The weed blaster is a hand-held unit being tested by University of Illinois researchers with a particular focus on organic growers. The technology sandblasts weeds using a gas-powered air compressor, which is hauled down crop rows by a walk-behind tractor. Preliminary studies indicate weed control of 69 to 87 per cent compared to non-weeded checks. University researchers have been testing “sand” composed of walnut shells, granulated corn cobs and soybean meal, among others. Used at the optimum plant growth stage, the force of the propelled grit can damage both the stem and the leaves of weeds. There are two primary concerns in the use of this particular unit. First, the speed: the grit is propelled at better than Mach 1 (1,227 km/h), so protective eyewear is strongly advised. And since the technology has no electronic sensing to distinguish between a plant and a weed, it’s very possible to damage the crop. www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1d68ujE6IE www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VMGmSWzvQE www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtqblVqkY8I

Flame Weeder The Flame Weeder is a technology that employs extreme temperatures to scald or overheat the weed plant’s tissues, effectively cooking the protein of the plant. It is another system that is used primarily in the organic sector, and comes in four- and five-torch configurations. Like the weed blasting technology, it’s hand-operated, running across a seed bed that is prepared and marked for planting roughly two weeks prior to the actual planting date, allowing weeds to germinate and emerge. Once the treatment is complete, the desired crop can be planted. The key to the Flame Weeder is timing: like the weed blasting technology, the Flame Weeder cannot distinguish between weed and crop, and it is possible to damage the plants at the same time as scalding the weeds. flameweeders.com/


The Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA) Inc. is a national, non-profit professional umbrella organization dedicated to assisting farm families and businesses by increasing the skills of farm advisors and consultants.

www.cafanet.com

“Don’t be an Idiot: Get on a Rocket Ship” by Liz RobeRtson, CAFA exeCutive DiReCtoR

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griculture is changing rapidly. Successful farmers need to be be on top of technology and production, but more importantly, need to clearly understand that it is the business management decisions that will determine the success of their farm. The Ipsos “Dollars and Sense” study commissioned by the Agrifood Management Institute and Farm Management Canada highlighted seven top management practices of successful farms. The top three were continuous learning, making decisions based on accurate data and hiring professional business advisors and consultants. These three practices cannot be emphasized enough. Following are quotes on each of these practices (selected from dozens): • Continuous learning: “Education is the key to self-development and empowerment” – Lailah Gifty Akita, “Think Great: Be Great!”

• Accurate data: “What gets measured, gets managed.” — Peter Drucker • Hiring professional advisors: “If you think hiring a pro is expensive, wait till you hire an amateur.” — Red Adair Farm business is changing rapidly. You need to hire the best advice for your farm. CAFA is an umbrella organization of farm professionals — if you need qualified advice for your farm on succession, HR, marketing, taxation, business structures, etc.,contact CAFA. You may not have the expertise, the time or the desire to actively plan and manage certain aspects of your business. You may benefit from an objective, third-party perspective on what are often emotional, difficult decisions. It is beneficial to have a farm advisor make sure you stay focused and follow through with your business plans. Upcoming meetings Successful farm advisors also adhere to best management practices. Through CAFA, they have access to continuous farm-focused professional development meetings.

Our “Farm Succession Update: Three Circle Model” will be held May 18 in Guelph. On June 2 in Woodstock, Ont. we will have our “Farm Management Update: Building the Rocket Ship.” “Don’t be an idiot. Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.” Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave that advice to Sheryl Sandberg, current COO of Facebook, in 2001. If you are a farm advisor or farm manager, get on board and stay current through CAFA’s Farm Update Series. CAFA also has Farm Succession Updates planned for November 3 in Saskatoon and November 10 in Niverville, Man., with more in the planning stages for Alberta and B.C. To find out more about CAFA or how to register for these events, contact me at 1-877-474-2871 or info@cafanet.com.

FaRm manaGement upDate: BuIlDInG the Rocket ShIp

FaRm SucceSSIon upDate: the thRee cIRcle moDel

June 2, Quality inn, Woodstock, on

november 3, smiley’s Buffet, saskatoon, sK

Heather Watson, Farm Management Canada michael Bossy, Bossy Nagy Group Chartered Professional Accountants

Jim snyder, BDO Canada LLP Agriculture

Rob Hannam, Synthesis Agri-Food Network Doug Berchtold, DB Consulting Ltd. Lisa gilvesy, Jenkins & Gilvesy Law Firm John Lanthier, Market Smart Inc.

chris corbett, FarmLink Marketing Solutions Don mccannell, My Farm Group mel Annand, Annand Law Office mike pylypchuk, Saskatchewan Agriculture paul Hammerton, MNP LLP

gerars seijts, Ivey Business School

Kim gerencser, K.Ag. Growing Farm Profits morgan Janzen-Knezacek, AgVantage Management Group

steve mcQueen, Emerald BloAgrlculture Corporation

Kelvin shultz, Wheatland Accounting

Bernard tobin, Synthesis Agri-Food Network

stuart person, MNP LLP

Debi sanderson, Desiderata Group Inc.

Toll free: 1-877-474-2871 Email: info@cafanet.com PO Box 270 • Seven Sisters Falls, MB • R0E 1Y0

crystal taylor, Felesky Flynn LLP Tax Counsel

Follow us on Twitter @CAFANET


crops Guide

Watch out for

bollworms Old World bollworm may be a severe threat to agriculture in North America By Ralph Pearce / CG Production Editor

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crop losses, just in its optimal climatic area. If it migrates beyond those borders, total losses could soar to near US$80 billion. But could bollworm have that kind of impact in Ontario and Eastern Canada? That depends, says Hutchison, pointing to one pest assumption that did turn out to affect Ontario: the western bean cutworm has become a major economic pest in the province. Another consideration, says Hutchison, is how often Ontario grain and sweet corn growers are forced to deal with corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) — a very close relative of bollworm that can also migrate considerable distances. “(Earworm) is well known to not likely overwinter in Ontario, and must therefore reach your growers each summer by long-distance migration, which it actu-

One of the challenges with Old World bollworm is it closely resembles corn ear worm, pictured here, complicating positive identifications.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Pat Porter, Texas A&M University

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sian soybean rust, aflatoxin in corn and Palmer amaranth are but three examples of disease and weed species that have made huge news in the U.S. but haven’t yet crossed the border into Canada in a big way. It makes it difficult to issue a credible alert about a new pest threat called Helicoverpa armigera or Old World bollworm (OWB). It’s a little like forecasting a severe storm, in fact. If you don’t warn people, they can be caught off guard with disastrous results. If you do warn them, and if the storm doesn’t appear, they can stop listening to future alerts. Scientists are already concerned that their alerts about soybean rust, aflatoxin and Palmer amaranth are producing yawns, not action. Despite the alerts when Asian soybean rust landed in the Gulf States late in 2004, for instance, soybean growers in Eastern Canada rarely see the disease, and when they do, it’s usually so late in the season that there’s little if any damage. Similarly, aflatoxin remains mostly a concern in drought-prone regions of the western Corn Belt in the U.S. and Palmer amaranth is having a tough time establishing itself against more prevalent species such as Canada fleabane and giant ragweed. Now there’s OWB, the latest South American import which could have an impact on Canadian growers, depending on weather conditions from year to year. According to Dr. Bill Hutchison, an insect specialist at the University of Minnesota, H. armigera is a lepidopteran species, similar to the European corn borer (ECB), and poses a wide range of concerns for growers as well as for entomologists, advisers and retailers. OWB is a broad-based threat because of its diverse dietary preferences including corn, soybeans and wheat, along with sorghum and cotton, and even tomatoes and lettuce. In all, OWB can feed on nearly 200 plant species in at least 45 families, according to a report from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Hutchison, as well as researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and universities in Australia and Brazil, issued a report in the spring of 2015 on the moth’s advance. Among other findings, researchers estimated OWB could cause $843 million a year in


corn production ally does quite well and consistently,” says Hutchison. “And it reaches your corn in late July to early August, when much of your corn may still be tasseling and silking and it is most attractive to corn earworm.” In September 2014, OWB was detected in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. In response, extensive trapping was conducted on the island with the capture of 193 additional moths to date. With the expected establishment of the pest in the Caribbean, there is an increased risk for natural movement of OWB into the continental U.S. Three OWB moths were trapped in Florida in early summer 2015, but no additional moths have been seen since then. Once OWB is confirmed as “established” in the southern U.S., the risk to Ontario growers will depend on the number and magnitude of migratory flights northward each summer. With Asian soybean rust in early 2005, it was said that it would take one severe storm system born in the Gulf of Mexico to “blow up” rust spores into the U.S.

Midwest and Ontario. Although that has yet to happen with any severity with soybean rust, the bollworm moths are capable of flying to high altitudes, particularly if and when food is scarce in one region. “Because of migration, they indeed have the potential to easily cover the entire growing region of a given state or province,” says Hutchison. Identification and control issues What makes OWB particularly daunting in an if-and-when scenario is the difficulty that goes with identification and the fact that the species has developed resistance to most chemical pesticides. On a purely visual level, bollworm is identical to corn earworm in all stages of its life, and is differentiated only by dissection or genetic identification. The worms of the bollworm are also similar in appearance to the tobacco budworm and some species of armyworms, although those can be distinguished by colour patterns.

Based on what growers in Europe, Africa and Asia have encountered, insecticides do not work very well on bollworm: the species is capable of developing resistance very quickly. The other concern with a North American arrival is the pest’s potential “hybridization” with corn earworm. The hybrid moths would produce larvae that could be difficult to manage, as they would appear to be corn earworm, yet potentially carry higher levels of resistance to insecticides or Bt corn. And that would complicate options for rapid identification and managing the pest. One measure that seems to show some level of control comes out of Australia, where Bt cotton has proved useful. It’s believed (but has yet to be confirmed) that Bt technology used in corn hybrids and soybean varieties may also prove valuable. CG

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COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

47


Crops GUIDE #pesTpatrol

Pest Patrol

with Mike Cowbrough OMAFRA

Are there any new insect pests that we should be alert for? The following information was provided by Tracey Baute, field crop entomologist, OMAFRA. Photo: J. Smith, University of Guelph

C

IMAGE 1: Cereal leaf beetle adult.

Photo: T. Baute, OMAFRA

ereal leaf beetles feed on wheat, oat, corn, forages and grassy weeds. Spring plantings are most attractive, particularly late plantings, though some winter wheat can be infested in the spring. Both adults and larvae cause damage by chewing long strips of tissue between the leaf veins, leaving the top layer of the leaf intact (Image 3). This creates a window-pane or “skeletonizing” effect. Most of the injury is caused by the larvae in June. Heavily damaged fields appear silver. The cereal leaf beetle adult is a metallic, bluegreen beetle, approximately five mm in length, with a reddish-orange head and legs (Image 1). The larvae are six mm in length when mature and yellowish in colour, but this colour is obscured by a black deposit of fecal material making it slug-like in appearance (Image 2). Control is warranted if an average of three larvae per tiller are found before the boot stage. One cereal leaf beetle adult or larva per stem warrants control after boot but prior to heading. If significant feeding is taking place on the flag leaf in the early heading stages, control may also be warranted. Malathion 500 EC is the only insecticide registered for the control of cereal leaf beetle in wheat, barley and oats. CG

IMAGE 2: Cereal leaf beetle larva and feeding “scratches.”

Photo: D. Campbell, Agronomy Advantage

H ave a question you want answered? #PestPatrol on twitter.com @cowbrough or email Mike at mike.cowbrough@ontario.ca.

IMAGE 3: Cereal leaf beetle damage on wheat.

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cropscience.bayer.ca or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer representative. Always read and follow label directions. Prosaro® is a registered trademark of Bayer Global. Bayer CropScience Inc. is a member of CropLife Canada.

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Crops GUIDE weather MILDER THAN NORMAL

Sn Coo sp ow l el y ls

NEAR NORMAL

A LITTLE MILDER AND DRIER THAN NORMAL

May 1 to June 11, 2016National

May 1-7: Sunny, blustery in the south but with rain on two or three occasions, chance heavy in places. Warm but cooler near lakes. Seasonable in the north with periodic rain, some frost. May 8-14: Warm, sunny days are interspersed with showers or thundershowers, some heavy. Fair central and in the north with scattered showers, patchy frost. May 15-21: Windy with variable temperatures trending to the warm side. Sunny apart from showers or thunderstorms on a couple of days. Nighttime frost in the north. May 22-28: Pleasant weather and warm temperatures in southern regions. Passing heavy showers or thunderstorms. Seasonable with occasional rain in the north. May 29-June 4: Considerable sunshine in the south and seasonable but a few humid, warm days trigger showers and heavy thunderstorms. Unsettled, showery in the north. June 5-11: Sunshine dominates with warm temperatures but look for hit-and-miss showers and thunderstorms with higher humidex values throughout the province.

Quebec

May 1-7: Windy with variable temperatures. Sunny but rain or thundershowers on two or three days, heavy in some areas. Seasonable central and in the north with occasional rain and frost. May 8-14: Warm and sunny in the south but expect two or three showers or thunderstorms this week, risk heavy in places. Scattered rain central and north, pockets of frost and snow.

50

ld d Mi tere at Sc rain

Un at settl tim ed es

ld Mi wers o Sh

Ontario

NEAR-NORMAL TEMPERATURES AND PRECIPITATION

Variable Snow / rain T/storms

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

May 15-21: Blustery with seasonable to warm temperatures. Mostly sunny apart from showers or thunderstorms on a couple of occasions. Frost threat in the north. May 22-28: Temperatures lean towards the warm side. Mainly sunny with scattered showers or thunderstorms, some heavy with strong winds. May 29-June 4: Sunny and warm but a couple of cooler, windy days bring some rain and heavier thunderstorms. Unsettled, cooler and wet in the north. June 5-11: Sunny skies are interspersed with clouds and showers or thunderstorms on two or three days this week. Humid at times. Warm to seasonable.

Atlantic provinces

May 1-7: Fair but rain occurs on a couple of days, mixed with snow in some inland areas. Seasonable to mild but frost patches inland. Occasionally windy. May 8-14: Milder days will interchange with wet, cool and foggy days. Chance of snow east and north. Blustery. Some lows approach zero inland. May 15-21: Fair apart from heavier rain on two or three days. Seasonable to warm but a risk of snow/frost in a few inland and northern locations. Brisk winds. May 22-28: Sunny, warm west with scattered showers or thundershowers. Cooler elsewhere with periodic heavier rain and fog, risk of snow in Newfoundland. May 29-June 4: Sunshine dominates aside from rain and gusty winds on a couple of days this week. Temperatures trend to the mild side. June 5-11: Changeable as pleasant, warm days interchange with wet, windy weather and cooler temperatures. Chance of heavy rain in places.

highlights May 1 to June 11, 2016 Fluctuating springtime weather is anticipated throughout Canada as warm, pleasant conditions are replaced by cooler, wet spells from time to time. These changeable conditions will be accompanied by a variety of weather ranging from frost and snow in May in a few regions, to rain and thunderstorms later in the season. As usual, some thunderstorms will have the potential of causing heavy rain, strong winds and hail for short periods. In spite of these inclement weather occurrences, nearto slightly above-normal temperatures are likely as a result of the weakening El Ni単o. With the milder conditions, precipitation is expected to be lighter than usual in most areas, except perhaps in far northern and eastern areas of the country.

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.


BUSINESS

The U of R AgBot Challenge team (l to r): Joshua Friedrick, Assoc. Professor Mehran Mehrandezh, Caleb Friedrick, Sam Dietrich (kneeling).

A new era begins We’re living at the dawn of the robot as hired farmhand By Scott Garvey / CG Machinery Editor

Photos: Scott Garvey

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friend has been keeping me posted by email about her trouble finding a full-time employee for the family farm in Saskatchewan. If it didn’t represent such a serious problem for the operation, the details would actually be pretty funny. A few — how do I say it? — less-thanadequate applicants are all her efforts have netted so far. Two days before her last email, I was in the small garage above, tucked behind a house in Regina, and I was looking at what could become the long-term solution to her HR problem. It was a compact tractor matched to a special two-row corn planter, with both of them wrapped in a network of electrical cables and computers. It made me think of Hewlett and Packard inventing the computer era in their own garage, because this is no average tractor and planter. Instead, they’re the

foundation for a general-purpose farm robot that will be entered in the upcoming AgBot Challenge to be held in Illinois this May. The winner of that event will need to prove their machine can work entirely on its own. In this case, that means the robot must be capable of loading its own seed and planting a series of corn rows in a field, all without human intervention. The small group of industrial systems engineering students from the University of Regina who were busy working on that little tractor and planter in their urban workshop were urged by their professor to enter the competition as their final-year class project. “The driving force for students has been the excitement,” says Mehran Mehrandezh, associate professor in industrial systems engineering at the U of R. “If they see Continued on page 52

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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BUSINESS

The team is basing its autonomous planting entry on a Kubota tractor and custom-built Vaderstad planter donated by corporate sponsors.

The day of bigger and bigger farm machinery is about to get shoved aside by swarms of small robots that all know how to work together

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something exciting, they go for it. We can make this very exciting and at the same time very useful.” Of course, the US$50,000 first prize in the AgBot Challenge helps add to that excitement. Autonomous systems have been appearing with increasing frequency at farm shows lately. And as I stood among the budding engineers in that Regina garage, joined by their mentor and a farmer who has actually put robotics to work on his farm, it seemed unstoppable; general-purpose robots in agriculture are about to hit a critical mass. Major manufacturers all quietly acknowl­ edge they could put an automated tractor on the market tomorrow, and even though they aren’t yet willing to do so, efforts like those of these students are proof the future is getting impatient. The widespread adoption of farm robotic systems may actually be poised to mimic the initial phase of the home computer. In the 1970s, the first personal computers came as DIY projects made up of a box full of

parts that needed to be assembled on the workbench. The same is likely to be true for the first wave of on-farm robotic control systems. But unlike those home computer kits, which didn’t really have a clearly defined purpose in the early days, on-farm robotics may fill an immediate need for manpower and efficiency. “Will there be (robotic control) kits available?” Mehrandezh wonders rhetorically. He also sees a parallel to those early days of the personal computer. “Right now it’s a community of hackers that are buying these cheap components and working in garages,” chimes in Sam Dietrich, one of the students on the team. “There’s nothing on the market yet, which is kind of surprising, I think.” “A lot of people are able to get these components, use open-source libraries and do stuff like this,” adds Joshua Friedrick, another team member. Maybe, but putting together an entry with all the sophistication to make it a con-


tender in the upcoming AgBot Challenge required getting some sponsorships. In this case, a local Kubota dealership provided a 26-horsepower tractor for them to modify. And Saskatchewan-based Seed Hawk, an implement manufacturer, custom built a two-row planter for it to pull. “Technology and robotics are all becoming very mainstream in agriculture,” says Edward Lambert, vice-president of R&D at Seed Hawk. “It will get to a tipping point where the next phase is automation. A lot of our customers are excited about new technology and what we’ve come up with. They can see there’s going to be another leap in the future as well.” And Professor Mehrandezh wants his team to ensure this leap is a big one. “I told these guys, let’s not just move forward this much,” Mehrandezh recalls, holding his fingers an inch or two apart. “Let’s have a quantum leap. Let’s go to swarm farming so we’ll be ahead of everybody else. Taking this to the next level of swarm farming is not that difficult.” The swarm idea refers to having a group — or swarm — of smaller machines working together in a field. “If we can make this navigate off a GPS signal, it’s just an extra 20 lines of code to make it follow another tractor,” agrees Friedrick. “It’s very easy for us to just expand it into a lot of different areas.” That’s an idea that Lambert thinks has merit. “I don’t like the word swarm, especially in agriculture,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s something a lot of companies are working on, to get multiple machines in the field working together. I think one of the trends going forward is faster machines and smaller machines, because not everybody can handle a 100-foot-wide implement. I think we’re probably getting to the limit of how big tools and tractors will be.” He isn’t alone in that thinking. Another industry insider I spoke to recently confided that he believed the trend to bigger implements is about to reverse itself, in large part due to the potential offered by automation. “The next phase going forward, it may be five years or 10, I don’t know the time frame just yet, but autonomous vehicles will be something farmers will go for,” says Lambert. “I think it can be produced in a very economical way and provide value to the farmer. It’s not too far away. I can see it happening within my career.” For Manitoba farmer Matt Reimer, a robotic tractor he can put to work is no lon-

Components like this Lidar sensor mounted on the tractor to detect hazards are becoming increasingly inexpensive, which is removing the cost barrier for building robotic systems.

ger a pie-in-the-sky idea. He has already created a robotic control system to use on a high-horsepower tractor on his farm. “There are definitely some people who think what I’m doing is nuts,” he says, but many others have expressed genuine interest. The quality and durability of a wide variety of the electronic components and sensors necessary to create robotic systems has grown exponentially in recent years, while their cost has fallen at an almost equal rate. The U of R team’s little tractor takes advantage of that. Relatively inexpensive components — that are becoming progressively cheaper as time goes on — are what make up the bulk of the team’s autonomous system. To keep things simple, a computer controls off-the-shelf actuators that manipulate the manual controls on the tractor just as a driver would. “Our main goal right now is to interface all our components with the controls that are already there,” says Friedrick. “What we’re focusing on is the software and control system. Most of our time is spent programming.” Reimer took the same approach to automating his tractor. Although he had no formal training in computer programming, he was able to find an online course to get some basic skills allowing him to write the software code he needed, borrowing much from free, open-source programs available online. The U of R students will be busy over the

next two months getting their robot ready for the upcoming challenge. Lambert thinks the work they’ll do will help the industry overall, even if they don’t end up creating a market-ready system. “As manufacturers, we don’t always have the opportunity to take something right from the grassroots,” he says. “To get the university to help us with that is really a benefit.” The team also thinks of the tractor as the start of a legacy project that future students can build on and develop further. “We’ve actually started a club at the U of R, an agricultural robotics club,” says Dietrich. “We kind of see it as being a lasting piece at the University of Regina.” Mehrandezh thinks the team’s efforts could be a significant stake in the ground, putting the U of R firmly on the robotics engineering map. “I want to make this like a centre of excellence, headquartered at the University of Regina,” he says. For Reimer and his farming operation, the benefits of robotics are already here for the taking. Having his driverless tractor pull a grain cart during harvest last fall freed up manpower to tackle other jobs that needed to get done. Says Reimer, “I had the best fall I’ve ever had in terms of getting things ready for this coming spring (with a robotic tractor in the field). We’re not going back.” CG COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

53


BUSINESS

Income replacement insurance During their careers, one in three Canadians will be sidelined for 90 days or more by injury or disease. Are you prepared? By Gerald Pilger

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ost farmers insure their buildings, vehicles, equipment and other farm assets. Many insure their crops and livestock. Increasingly, farmers use risk management strategies to insure a price they will receive for the commodities they sell. However, few farmers insure what may be the biggest risk to the farm; the inability for the farmer to work or manage the farm as a result of an accident, sickness, or disability. While loss-of-income insurance is often included in part of a wage earner’s benefit package, it is something many self-employed farmers ignore. Mark Hardy, senior manager with RBC Insurance, says farmers should carry some form of disability insurance, particularly since the farmer is the lifeblood of the business, both in their roles as manager of the farm business and in many cases as primary worker. Disability insurance not only covers salary and the withdrawals an injured or disabled farmer had been earning from the business, but it can even cover a business’s overhead costs including repayment of business loans and a loss of business income as a result of an accident or disability. But Hardy also emphasizes an important point: “Disability insurance is a complicated topic. You need to speak with a professional insurance adviser to get a policy which will protect your income and your business. There are a lot of factors to consider, and it will take time to review.” When it comes to disability insurance,

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there really is no “one-size-fits all” policy. Income replacement by insurance can start the day after a disability or not come into effect for months or even years. The benefits can range from a few hundred dollars a month to an amount equivalent to the net income you were earning from the business before the accident. Similarly, the benefits an injured party receives rarely last a lifetime and could even end after just a few months. Disability payments might continue until you can do everything you had been doing before the accident or may end (or decrease) if you are able to work in any job; even non-farm work. It all depends on the policy and the premium you are willing to pay. The more comprehensive the policy, the higher the premiums. Comparing Disability Plans When seeking disability insurance, the first question to ask is what constitutes a disability. Is coverage only for accident or injury, or does it include illness that prevents you from working? Are there any exclusions? Is coverage 24 hours per day or only if the injury happens at work? The second question should be what the benefit is if you become disabled. Is it a fixed dollar amount per month or a percentage of your income/wage when you became disabled? Most policies provide a maximum benefit of two-thirds of gross employment income, although this is not a fixed rule. When the policyholder is self-employed, this calculation of benefit is even more critical. The question to ask yourself is, could you live on that benefit amount without any other source of income and without dipping into savings? Furthermore, you need to ask if the benefit has a cost-of-living option which adjusts payments in step with the inflation rate. This could be very important if faced with long term disability. Third, what is the elimination period? Policies with benefits that start the day after an injury are much more expensive than those which do not pay for the first 30, 60, or 90 days after an injury. If you can live off savings for the first couple of months when disabled, you can significantly reduce the premiums. The other way of reducing the cost of disability insurance is to limit the duration of benefits. Lifetime disability coverage is very rare. Most policies pay for a set term of


years (often just two or five years) and after that time, you are on your own. Some plans pay until age 65, but as you might expect, these are much more expensive. Be very aware of how long an income replacement policy will provide a source of income after a disability occurs. Besides these main points, there can be a lot of differences in the policy fine print that also needs careful review. If you are unable to farm, but are employable in another job or industry, do you still qualify for disability benefits? Does the policy insure you until you can return to your own occupation or only until you are employable? If you can work part time, will it pay a partial benefit to top up the wage you can earn part time to the benefit amount? What happens if you return to work but then the disability flares up and you are forced to stop working after a short time back at work? Is this a continuation of the initial claim or will this be considered a new claim and you are subject to another elimination period?

Does the disability policy cover any costs of health care or rehabilitation services, or will you have to pay these new costs out of the benefit you receive? What is the claims procedure? Too often it is very easy to enrol in disability insurance, but collecting the benefit can be quite another story. Finally, and unfortunately, the place where many farmers start their comparison of disability insurance policies is what the plan will cost rather than what insurance it provides. Disability insurance is not cheap and the lowest price is not necessarily the best. To compare plans just on the cost of the premium would be equivalent to a farmer deciding to only the cheapest crops to grow, without looking at what the market would pay for those crops. In any case, it’s a good idea to stop putting it off. This insurance can be vitally important. Statistics reveal one in three Canadians will be disabled by injury for 90 days or more at some point in their lives. CG

Income replacement plans are complex, so be forwarned. It will take time and effort to find the right plan for your farm at the right price. But without it, farming is just too risky

the country guide mobile app is ready when you are! Keep up to date on all the latest agriculture news that matters to you with the new Country Guide mobile app! INSTANT ACCESS TO: • • • • • • • •

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COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

55


2016 Seed treatment Guide updated

T

here were some product omissions and some application errors in some tables in the Seed Treatment Guide in the March 15 issue. Rather than running corrections to individual tables, we’re reprinting the whole guide so it will be in a more convenient format.

Insect pests

Earlyseason diseases

C om m e rcia l Name

Ac tive In g redie nt

Wireworm

Loose smut

Septoria

Fusarium

Dwarf bunt

Dwarf bunt

Common bunt

Common root rot

Take-all

Seedling blight (Pythium)

Fusarium

Powdery mildew

Septoria

Soil-borne diseases

European chafer

wheat

Seed-borne diseases

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Apron XL RTA

metalaxyl-M

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Cruiser 5 FS

thiamethoxam

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

DB-RED L

maneb

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

-

-

Dividend XL RTA

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

+1

Intego Solo

ethaboxam

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Maxim 480FS, Proseed

fludioxonil

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

Nipsit SUITE Cereals

clothianidin + metalaxyl + metconazole

-

+

+

-

+

-

-

+

+

-

+

+

-

-

Nipsit Inside

clothianidin (insecticide only)

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Rancona Apex

ipconazole

-

-

+

-

+

-

-

+

pc

-

-

+

-

-

Raxil PRO

tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

-

+

+

+

-

-

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

-

Raxil PRO Shield

imidacloprid + tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

+

+

+

+

-

-

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

-

Stress Shield for cereals, Alias

imidacloprid

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Vibrance Quattro

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane + fludioxonil

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

+1

Vibrance XL

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

pc

pc

+

+

-

+1

Vitaflo 280

carbathiine + thiram

-

-

+

-

+

+

-

+

+

-

-

+

-

-

Note 1: Winter wheat only.

Oa t s

C o mm e r c ia l Name

Ac tive In gredie nt

Seedling blight

Covered smut

Loose smut

Seedling blight (Pythium)

Root rot

Diseases

Wireworm

Insect pests

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

pc

-

-

+

pc

Apron XL RTA

metalaxyl-M

-

pc

-

-

+

pc

DB-RED L

maneb

-

+

+

-

-

-

Dividend XL RTA

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Intego Solo

ethaboxam

-

-

-

-

+

-

Maxim 480 FS, Proseed

fludioxonil

-

pc

-

-

-

pc

Raxil PRO

tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Raxil PRO Shield

imidacloprid + tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

+

+

+

+

+

pc

Stress Shield for cereals, Alias

imidacloprid

+

-

-

-

-

-

Vibrance Quattro

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane + fludioxonil

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Vibrance XL

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Legend

56

+: recommended

pc: partial control

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

-: not recommended


wheat / oats / Canola / Barley / rye / soybeans / corn

canola

C o m m e r c ia l Na me

Ac tive I n g redient

Seed rot and seedling blight (Aspergillus)

Seed rot and seedling blight (Fusarium)

Seed rot and seedling blight (Rhizoctonia)

Seed rot and seedling blight (Alternaria)

Seedling blight (Pythium)

Blackleg

Diseases

Flea beetle

Insect pests

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

Apron XL

metalaxyl-M

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

Dynasty 100 FS

azoxystrobin

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Fortenza

cyantraniliprole

+

-

-

-

-

Gaucho 480 L

imidacloprid

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Gaucho CS FL

imidacloprid + carbathiine + thiram

+

-

-

+

+

+

+

Helix Vibrance co-pack

thiamethoxam + metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil + difenoconazole + sedaxane

+

-

+

+

+

+

+

Helix XTRA

thiamethoxam + metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil + difenoconazole

+

-

+

+

+

+

+

Intego Solo

ethaboxam

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

Integral

Bacillus subtilis, a natural bacterium

-

-

pc

pc

-

-

-

Lumiderm

cyantraniliprole

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Maxim 480 FS

fludioxonil

-

+

+

+

-

-

-

Nipsit SUITE Canola

clothianidin + metalaxyl + metconazole

+

-

+

+

-

+

+

Nipsit Inside

clothianidin (insecticide only)

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Nisso Foundation Lite

iprodione + thiram

-

-

-

+

+

-

+

Poncho 600 FS

clothianidin

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Prosper Evergol

clothianidin + penflufen + metalaxyl + trifloxystrobin

+

-

+

+

+

+

+

Rancona Apex

ipconazole

-

-

+

+

-

-

-

Vault

acetamiprid

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Barley

Ac tive In g redient

Covered smut

Loose smut

False loose smut

Root rot

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

-

pc

-

-

-

pc

Cruiser 5FS

thiamethoxam

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

DB-RED L

maneb

-

-

+

+

-

+

-

Dividend XL RTA

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

-

-

+

+

-

+

pc

Intego Solo

ethaboxam

-

-

+

-

-

-

-

Maxim 480 FS, Proseed

fludioxonil

-

-

+

-

-

-

pc

Rancona Apex

ipconazole

-

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Raxil PRO

tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Raxil PRO Shield

imidacloprid + tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

Stress Shield for cereals, Alias

imidacloprid

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

Vibrance Quattro

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane + fludioxonil

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Vibrance XL

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

-

-

+

+

+

+

pc

Vitaflo 280

carbathiine + thiram

-

-

+

+

+

+

pc

European chafer

C o m m e r c ia l Name

Seed rot and seedling blight

Diseases

Wireworm

Insect pests

-

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

57


2016 Seed treatment Guide updated Insect pests

Seedling blight (Pythium)

Root rot

+

pc

-

-

+

pc

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

pc

-

-

-

+

-

+

-

-

-

-

pc

+

-

-

-

-

pc

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane

-

+

+

+

+

+

pc

carbathiine + thiram

-

+

-

-

-

+

pc

Seed-borne Septoria

-

Ac tive I ngredient

Seedling blight

-

C o m m e rc ia l Name

Wireworm

Dwarf bunt

Diseases

Common bunt

Rye

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

pc

-

Apron XL RTA

metalaxyl-M

-

pc

-

DB-RED L

maneb

-

+

-

Dividend XL RTA

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M

-

+

+

Intego Solo

ethaboxam

-

-

Maxim 480 FS, Proseed

fludioxonil

-

Rancona Apex

ipconazole

-

Vibrance Quattro

difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane + fludioxonil

Vibrance XL Vitaflo 280

s oy b e a n s

C o m m e rcia l Name

Ac tive I ngredient

Seedcorn maggot

Soybean aphid

Bean leaf beetle

Wireworm

Phytophthora rot

Phomopsis seed decay

Seedling blight (Fusarium)

Seedling blight (Rhizoctonia)

Seedling blight (Pythium)

Diseases

Soybean nematode cyst

Insect pests

Acceleron for soybean with insecticide

imidacloprid + fluxapyroxad + metalaxyl + pyraclostrobin

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

Acceleron for soybean with fungicide

fluxapyroxad + metalaxyl + pyraclostrobin

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Agrox B-2

diazinon + captan (TS)

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Agrox CD

diazinon + captan (TS) (PRE)

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

Anchor

carbathiine + thiram (TS)

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

Apron Maxx

metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

Apron XL

metalaxyl-M

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

Clariva pn

pasteuria nishizawae

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Cruiser Maxx Vibrance Bean

thiamethoxam + metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil + sedaxane

-

+

+

+

pc

+

+

+

+

+

EverGol Energy

penflufen + metalaxyl + prothioconazole

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Intego Solo

ethaboxam

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

+

Maxim 480 FS

fludioxonil

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

Stress Shield for cereals and soybean, Alias

imidacloprid

-

+

+

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

Vibrance Maxx

metalaxyl-M+ fludioxonil+ sedaxane

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Vitaflo 280

carbathiine + thiram

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

Legend

58

+: recommended

pc: partial control

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

-: not recommended


wheat / oats / Canola / Barley / rye / soybeans / corn

COR N

C o m m erci a l Name

Ac tive In gr edient

European chafer

Wireworm

Seedcorn maggot

Black cutworm

Corn flea beetle

Seedling blight (Fusarium)

Seedling blight (Rhizoctonia)

Seedling blight (Pythium)

Ear rot (Aspergillus)

Blue-eyed mould (Penicillium)

Diseases

Corn rootworm

Insect pests

Acceleron for corn

clothianidin ( 0.250 mg a.i./seed)+ ipconazole + trifloxystrobin + metalaxyl

-

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

Acceleron for corn without insecticide

ipconazole + trifloxystrobin + metalaxyl

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Agrox B-2

diazinon + captane (TS)

-

-

-

+

-

-

+

-

-

+

+

Agrox CD

diazinon + captane (TS) (PRE)

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Allegiance FL

metalaxyl

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

Apron XL

metalaxyl-M

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

Cruiser 5 FS

thiamethoxam (0.125-0.250 mg a.i./seed)

-

+

+

+

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

Cruiser 5 FS

thiamethoxam (1.250 mg a.i./seed)

+

+

+

+

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

Dynasty 100 FS

azoxystrobin

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

-

-

Fortenza

cyantraniliprole

-

+

+

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

Gaucho 480 L

imidacloprid

-

-

+

-

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

Intego Solo

ethaboxam

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

Maxim 480 FS, Proseed

fludioxonil

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

-

+

+

Maxim Quattro

azoxystrobin + fludioxonil + metalaxyl-M + thiabendazole

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Nipsit Inside

clothianidin (insecticide only)

+

+

+

+

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

Poncho 600 FS (250)

clothianidin (0.25 mg a.i./seed)

-

+

+

+

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

Poncho 600 FS (1250)

clothianidin (1.25 mg a.i./seed)

+

+

+

+

+

+

-

-

-

-

-

Rancona 3,8 FS

ipconazole

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

-

+

+

Vitaflo 280

carbathiine + thiram

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

+

-

-

-

CORN Corn rootworm

European chafer

Wireworm

Seedcorn maggot

Black cutworm

European corn borer

Western bean cutworm

Corn earworm

Fall armyworm

Insect pests

Agrisure CB/LL

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Agrisure GT/CB/LL

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Agrisure 3000 GT

+

-

-

-

-

+

-

-

-

Agrisure Viptera 3110

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Agrisure Viptera 3111

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Agrisure 3122

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

+

Agrisure Viptera 3220

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Agrisure Duracade 5222

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Agrisure Duracade 5122

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

+

Herculex 1 and Herculex 1/ RR2

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

+

Herculex XTRA and Herculex XTRA/RR2

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

+

Genuity Smartstax ( Monsanto) / Smartstax ( Dow)

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

+

+

Genuity VT Double Pro

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

+

+

Genuity VT Triple Pro

+

-

-

-

-

+

-

+

+

Optimum AcreMax / Optimum Intrasect

-

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

+

Optimum AcreMax Xtreme

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

+

Optimum AcreMax Xtra/ Optimum Intrasect Xtra

+

-

-

-

+

+

+

-

+

Genetic traits against insects added through genetic engineering

C o m m erc i a l Name

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

59


GUIDE LIFE hR

By Pierrette Desrosiers / psychologist and coach

Are you stressed?

W

e’ve studied stress in the workplace for years to try to mitigate it. Organizations like Forbes and Careercast have even published their Top 10 lists of the most stressful jobs. The careers on these lists include firefighters, police, airline pilots, and surgeons, which makes sense because people in these jobs after all are responsible for lives. Teachers, broadcasters, and social workers also make the lists. Farmers do not. However, a survey by Ginette Lafleur, a doctoral student at the Universite de Montreal, indicates that farmers are under stress like never before, and that this stress has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. Her research was based on Quebec farmers, but my experience tells me the story across the country is quite similar. So, should farming be rated as a Top 10 job for high stress? Of course, a variety of factors causes workplace-related stress, some of which are

Your relationship with your “boss” is highly predictive of your happiness in your work. 2. Long hours: An inability to maintain a work-life balance can be a major source of stress. 3. Impossible deadlines: If you feel like you can’t meet important deadlines, performance and job satisfaction decrease. 4. Conflicts with peers: Peer conflict can be as draining as conflict with a boss. 5. Too much travel: Lack of consistency and difficulty establishing an appropriate work-life balance can be a consequence of too much travel. 6. Bureaucracy: Too many rules and regulations can prevent you from doing the most important aspects of your job. 7. Micromanagement: Too much supervision can be interpreted as a lack of trust on the part of your supervisor. 8. Lack of growth potential: We don’t work just for the financial return — we crave growth as a person.

In the same profession, some are satisfied and others are highly stressed. It seems it’s not always the job itself that causes stress inherent to the job, while others are related to the conditions of an individual workplace, and still others are linked to the personality of the employee or business owner. For instance, I love to speak at conferences, but my husband, who is a farmer, would be an insomniac if he had to speak in public. But then, I’d go crazy if I had to work as an accountant or a nurse, while some people find those professions deeply fulfilling. So let’s take a look at 10 of the more common reasons we might call a job “stressful.” Remember, these can apply to your employees, and not just you and your family members. 1. The person who calls the shots is a jerk, idiot, or bully: If you have to work closely with such a person, they will impact your job satisfaction and stress level. Why? They are the ones who give you feedback, support you, promote you, and evaluate you. 60

APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA

9. Working conditions: Dangerous or uncomfortable work environments can exponentially raise stress levels. 10. Emotional labour: It can prove difficult when you are required to always keep your emotions concealed. Still, many common farm stres­ses don’t appear on this list, such as having to deal with weather, thin profit margins, a lack of employees, and a next generation that doesn’t want to take on the farm, plus high debt and the lack of clear boundaries between work and family life, not to mention the perception of the public that sometimes seem to believe farmers are doing it all wrong. Some of these stress factors have been there forever, but some are quite recent and are making farming more stressful. However, we have to remember that the picture is not black and white. The negatives

of farming are sometimes counteracted by the most satisfying aspects of the industry. For example: • You feel a real sense of accomplishment. Your work is meaningful and important. That sense of meaningfulness might compensate for a boss who acts like a jerk or a brother-in-law who is always critical. • You feel you are competent and have control of your job, which might compensate for the long hours. • You have meaningful relationships at work and can joke together about the bureaucracy at the bank. Of course, our personality — the way we think, feel and act in daily life — influences the way we respond to the positive and negative conditions of our jobs. And our accumulated actions, feelings and thoughts make a huge difference over time. This explains why some farmers are more stressed than others. Some have made choices that result in negative consequences, a few should not be farmers at all, some have developed resilience, and others have cultivated good habits and a philosophical approach to work and life. At the end of the day, it’s important that the person fits the job. Is your temperament compatible with your surrounding environment, workload, and people? Being a farmer isn’t easy. I have lived my whole life on farms. As a psychologist and coach, I have spent my whole career with farmers. Over the years, external conditions have changed — and not always for the best. However, in the same profession, some are satisfied and others are highly stressed and unhappy. It seems it’s not always the job itself that causes stress. You can make a difference in your own stress levels. Can you bring something to the equation that will alleviate the effects of the stressors of farm life? CG

Pierrette Desrosiers, MPS, CRHA is a work psychologist, professional speaker, coach and author who specializes in the agricultural industry. She comes from a family of farmers and she and her husband have farmed for more than 25 years. Contact her at: pierrette@pierrettedesrosiers.com. www.pierrettedesrosiers.com


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GUIDE LIFE

By Helen Lammers-Helps

Not your same old board

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gricultural boards are under pressure. They can no longer do business the way they always used to, says Rob Black, chief executive officer at the Rural Ontario Institute, a charitable organization in Guelph, Ont. that helps build leadership skills. This time, though, the pressure is coming from their farmers, and especially from the farmers they want to attract as board members. Those farmers are different than they used to be. They’re insisting that their time be respected, for one thing, and perhaps even more importantly, they also have a new and growing sense of how much can be

Farm boards are under intense pressure to put more tools in the hands of their farmer members

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achieved by a good board. In other words, today’s farmers have less and less patience for simply maintaining the status quo. But there’s another side to consider too, because the available pool is shrinking. Farmers are busier and the younger generation does not seem to be “picking up the mantle,” says David Hartley, a Toronto consultant who has worked extensively with boards. Farm organizations have been responding to this shift by creating their own leadership training programs. Working with Black, for instance, Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) started offering a multi-day leadership training program five years ago. “We found fewer people were stepping up to participate in boards at the county, provincial and national levels,” explains David Stewart, BFO general manager. Beef Farmers of Ontario brought in professional facilitators to do governance training, covering the roles and responsibilities of board members, reading financial reports, communication, understanding leadership styles, and strategic planning. Called BUILD Leadership, the program was open to anyone in the industry who might have an interest in serving on a board someday, and Stewart says it was meant to give young people the skills and confidence to come forward to serve on boards at all levels. And it worked, he says. “People weren’t feeling equipped to put their names forward. The training helps people to know what’s expected of them.” As a result, he says they’ve seen a very noticeable increase in the number of people who are running for boards. The benefits go beyond the beef industry, Stewart believes. These skills are useful for any board that a person might be involved on, even non-farm boards such as the local soccer or hockey association. Four organizations in the Ontario dairy sector came together to offer a similar training program to anyone in the dairy industry who might be interested in serving on a board in the future. CanWest DHI, EastGen, Dairy Farmers of Ontario and Holstein Canada, with funding from the Agricultural Adaptation Council, have created a pool of about 70 people who have undergone the Future Leaders Development Program in the past two years.

photo: Thinkstock

Today’s farming is increasingly sophisticated. Now its boards are too, which is good news all around


“As the industry shrinks, decisions become increasingly important so it’s even more important to have the right people on boards and to have them well trained,” explains Neil Petreny, general manager of CanWest DHI, one of the driving forces behind the program. “A good board can attract good people,” says Petreny. “Likewise, a bad board can repel people.” A similar leadership development program is now being offered by Alberta Milk, the non-profit organization that represents Alberta’s dairy farmers. Director training helps boards tackle the issues that can leave a board foundering. Often, for instance, a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities crops up, says Hartley. What is the board’s mission? What is the role of the board versus the role of the executive director? Some boards are too involved while others are simply rubber stamps, says Hartley, who is fond of saying that “boards need to keep their noses in and their fingers out.” Many boards also struggle with getting everyone pulling together and speaking with one voice to give direction to the staff, says Mary Lynn McPherson, a consultant with Strive, a Guelph company that supports leaders to achieve high performance. Farmers are independent thinkers but they don’t all think alike, McPherson says. Board members need to be curious, diplomatic, and skilled communicators so they come to agreement without simply opting for the lowest common denominator, she says. Sometimes the formal language of the agenda and minutes can also be a turnoff to would-be board members. Hartley recommends streamlining the minutes and the agenda. Unless there has been a motion, one sentence is all that’s needed to describe the discussion. Agendas should focus on the most important matters to be discussed. Topics should be framed as questions so board members will be prodded to think about them before coming to the meeting. The expectations placed on Canada’s ag and rural organization boards are increasingly demanding. However, organizations that invest in leadership training for their board members are seeing a payoff, says McPherson. Board members need a broad base of skills, plus the opportunity to put them to good use. “Boards need to be more proactive and less reactive, more intentional and less passive,” McPherson says. “The board must balance protecting with directing.” CG

Resources

photo: Thinkstock

Imagine Canada is a non-profit that provides programs and resources that help strengthen charities and their operations. www.imaginecanada.ca/resources-and-tools NonProfit Help, David Hartley’s consulting company, has links to Canadian sources of information on risk management, insurance, strategic planning and Best Board Practices. nonprofithelp.ca/online-resources/

Should you say ‘yes’ to a directorship? Always, says board consultant David Hartley, ask yourself if you are passionate about the organization’s mission. Will you be willing to give of your time to work on task forces and committees? Do you even have the time? With everyone so busy, burnout is a real problem, says Hartley. Mary Lynn McPherson says some boards are more strategic in their operations, while others are working boards. Are you someone who prefers to think about long-term planning, or are you a ‘doer?’ What kind of board is it? Is it a good fit for your preferred style? Ask for the orientation package ahead of attending a meeting, advises McPherson. Get the terms of reference and a year’s worth of minutes and financial reports. Is there someone on the board who can act as your mentor and answer your questions? To get a feel for the culture and dynamics of the board, Hartley recommends attending a meeting. Is it a one-person show? Is it a toxic environment? Talk to people in the parking lot afterwards, he suggests. Hartley says the best boards have a diverse membership. Do the board members have different backgrounds and different skill sets? Do you have something unique to offer? Then when you do sign up and attend a meeting, show up prepared, says McPherson. Treat everyone with respect and kindness, and leave personal agendas at home.

The Gay Lea example For the past 10 years, Gay Lea Foods, a dairy co-op with 1,200 farmer members, has invested heavily in their leadership development. It offers four types of training: • For those who may be interested in becoming one of their 60 delegates (15 from each of four areas) they offer a six-module Foundation Program to improve capabilities in financial analysis, communications, governance and strategic planning. • For young people aged 20 to 35, Gay Lea offers the Co-operative Leadership Program, a one- or two-day skillsdevelopment program. • Advanced Leadership Development provides intensive training for delegates and directors using case studies representative of situations a dairy co-op may face. • Board members sit down with the chair annually to discuss their Individual Development Plan. Board chair Steve Dolson says they have seen their investment in leadership development pay off. Many people are vying for the delegate and director positions and when someone does join the board “they are ready to go Day 1” instead of waiting and watching for a year before contributing.

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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GUIDE LIFE health

By Marie Berry / lawyer & pharmacist

IS IT REALLY dementia?

D

ementia is a chronic and progressive deterioration of mental capacity, and you have probably heard of Alzheimer’s disease, its most common form. In Canada, about 15 per cent of people 65-plus years old are affected, and with the growth of this age group, the numbers of people affected are sure to increase. Dementia is not just ordinary forgetfulness. For example, any of us might forget where we left our gloves, but with dementia you forget how to put your gloves on, or even that you should wear them when it’s cold outside. It is a progressive disease that occurs gradually, and mental capacity is irreversibly diminished. By the time a dementia diagnosis is made, the disease has had decades to develop.

Too often we put off getting our forgetfulness checked out, but it may not be Alzheimer’s A disease that tends to affect older people, dementia can be the result of genetic factors, environment, or even diet. Early onset Alzheimer’s disease does indeed have a family tendency, and genetic testing is possible. More women are affected than men, but that may be because women tend to live longer. The symptoms of dementia can include memory loss, difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation to time and place, poor or diminished

judgment, problems with abstract thinking, mood or behaviour changes, personality changes, and loss of initiative. While dementia symptoms are devastating, sometimes an underlying condition or medication may be the cause for the symptoms. And, the good news is that some of these underlying causes can be treated. Trauma such as a head injury or a tumour can produce symptoms. Treatment and even surgery in the case of a tumour may be helpful. Vascular dementia can occur secondary to circulation diseases such as strokes, and treatment can be useful. Infections such as HIV or even something as common as a urinary tract infection can cause symptoms, and treatment with antiinfective agents may alleviate them. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency is manifested by dementia, and correction of the deficiency may help. And sometimes the symptoms may be linked to poor vision or hearing, which eyeglasses or hearing aids may resolve. Any medication that affects cognitive functioning can result in confusion, memory loss, and psychological changes, all of which may be mistaken for dementia. The most commonly implicated drugs include benzodiazepines used for insomnia and anxiety, narcotic pain relievers, and tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline. Elderly people who are more commonly associated with dementia are also more often affected by these adverse effects. Older individuals are more likely to have multiple medical conditions and to take multiple types of medications, meaning they are more at risk. Then, by the very nature of

their age, their bodies don’t work as well as they once did, meaning that drugs can accumulate with more profound effects. A “drug holiday” may identify the dementia as medication induced. You may not notice dementia symptoms, passing them off as “normal aging,” and if the symptoms are noticed they may not be investigated because of the fear of being admitted to a nursing home. However, if you, a family member, or friend is experiencing forgetfulness, it is a good idea to have the symptom checked, as it may be something easily remedied. In the meantime, make sure you are doing everything that you can to keep your brain healthy. Uncontrolled blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poorly controlled diabetes can contribute to dementia. Always wear protective head gear to prevent head trauma. Drug and alcohol abuse can damage nerve cells increasing susceptibility, and there is some evidence that smoking can be a contributing factor in some people. Much like exercise to keep your muscles in shape, use your brain in new challenging activities. Obviously, you know what you should be doing, don’t wait, start now! CG

Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist interested in health and education.

Next Issue You probably take your nose for granted, but you shouldn’t. You breathe with it and it is essential for your sense of smell. Next issue, we’ll look at normal nasal functioning and conditions like the common cold with its nasal congestion that affects your nose.

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GUIDE LIFE Hanson Acres By Leeann Minogue / grainews editor

W

hen Mark was 20 minutes late for work on Tuesday morning, none of the Hansons who were out in the shop said anything, although Dale did make a point of taking a good look at his watch and Dale’s father, Ed, would definitely have said something if he’d been there. On Wednesday, Mark was 25 minutes late. Dale bit his tongue, looked at his watch again, and looked pointedly at his son, Jeff. Jeff looked back at his father, shrugged, and gave Dale a “what-am-I-gonnado-about-it?” type of look. Dale frowned, and pointed at his son, as if to say, “you’re the boss now.” Then Dale and Jeff both looked over at Mark, who had been watching them and grinning. “My turn to guess?” Mark said. “Movie title? ‘Shawshank Redemption?’” Jeff laughed. “We’re not playing charades,” Dale said. “We’re trying to figure out whose job it is to tell you to show up on time.” “I’m sorry,” Mark said, sounding sincere. “I had to give a friend a ride to work. I’ll stay late.” Yesterday, Mark’s excuse was that he had to pick up some medicine for his girlfriend. One story, they could live with. But another? “Don’t worry, I’ll show up on time when seeding gets going.” “I hope so,” Jeff said. Jeff didn’t care much if Mark showed up exactly on time, but he hoped it wasn’t an indication of any other problems. Hiring was risky. Mark already knew where they kept the keys for the vehicles and buildings and what was in all the bins. Some days Mark would be alone in the yard with Jeff ’s wife and kids. Jeff needed someone he could trust. Other than the time troubles, Mark’s first month on the job was going well. The weekend before, the whole Hanson family had held an informal performance review while

Hanson Acres

Just one more coupon Why is that new hired man always so late? And what’s with those excuses? they were waiting for their Easter ham to cook and were sitting around the table, pooling the promotional stickers they’d brought home from the Co-op grocery store to see if, collectively, they’d earned enough of the right-coloured stickers to win a prize. “Does anyone see any more orange stickers?” Ed’s girlfriend Helen asked. “I have three yellow ones marked ‘Swan River,’” Jeff said. “No good,” Helen said. “If we get an orange one that says ‘Cabri’ we can win a $50 gift card.”

girl. And she doesn’t want to leave Weyburn.” Ed was sold on Mark as soon as he heard the details. Ed knew the girlfriend’s family. “Anybody who can get along with that bunch… has to be all right,” Ed said. “There was a learning curve,” Dale said, gluing green stickers into the booklet and remembering how long Mark had taken to figure out the augers and legs at the Hansons’ seed-cleaning plant. “He shovelled the spilled oats himself,” Jeff said. “And he hasn’t made that mistake twice.” “He was good with Connor the

Ha,” Dale said. “Do you want to hear my story or make jokes?” But he didn’t wait for an answer. “For a kid from the oilfield, Mark’s all right,” Dale said, ripping open another ticket and not finding ‘Cabri’ inside. Jeff didn’t bother pointing out that Mark wasn’t a “kid,” he was only three years younger than Jeff. “He… picks things up pretty quickly… for a city kid,” Dale’s father Ed said in his new post-stroke slow-talking style. “He puts his back into a job,” Ed went on. “Not what you expect… from somebody from Edmonton.” An Alberta oil company had transferred Mark to a rig in southeast Saskatchewan a couple of years ago. When oil prices fell and he was laid off, Mark wanted to stay in the area. As he admitted to Dale and Jeff at the job interview, “Well, there’s a

other day,” Elaine said. The little boy had escaped from the house when his mom thought he was napping. Mark had piggybacked him safely to the house before he got hurt. “He tells good jokes,” Donna said. “You only hear the clean ones,” Dale said. “That kid can turn the air in the shop blue. I like him. I just wish he’d show up on time. “I think he’s been late more than he’s been on time,” Dale said. “And some of his excuses are getting a little thin.” “If that’s the biggest problem, it’s going to work out fine,” Elaine said. “Jeff, can you take a look at that orange sticker? Are you sure it isn’t ‘Cabri?’” Continued ON page 66

COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016

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GUIDE LIFE “He can’t just show up any time whenever he wants when we’re seeding,” Dale said. “And what about harvest?” “Well, let’s hope for the best,” Donna said. “Can you clear away those stickers and set the table, Dale? The ham’s finally ready.” So the week after Easter when Mark had arrived late on Tuesday and late again on Wednesday, everyone was silently relieved when he pulled into the yard at 7:59 on Thursday morning. But when Mark still wasn’t there at 8:40 on Friday, Dale spoke up. “What sort of excuse do you think he’ll come up with this time?” Dale asked. When Mark showed up at 8:50, he didn’t offer an excuse. “Sorry,” he told the Hansons. “I couldn’t help it.” Jeff was at a loss. He liked Mark. And he needed the help. Ed was able to drive now, but he could barely get in and out of his truck since the stroke, let alone operate a tractor. “Let’s talk about it later,” Jeff said. “The trucker from Estevan should be here any time to pick up that durum seed. Why don’t you move the auger so we can load him up?” Dale’s phone rang almost as soon as Mark left the shop. Dale took the call, then shook his head when he pressed “End.” “You won’t believe it,” he announced. “It was Brian Miller.” “I believe it,” Jeff said. “He calls all the time.” “Ha,” Dale said. “Do you want to hear my story or make jokes?” Dale didn’t wait for an answer. “Brian ran out of gas out on the highway. Mark picked him up when he went by and gave him a ride to town to get a jerrycan-full of gas.” “Why didn’t Mark just tell us that?” Elaine asked. “We’d never get angry with someone for helping a neighbour.” “Brian asked Mark to keep it quiet,” Dale chuckled. “He should be embarrassed. What kind of grown man doesn’t check the fuel gauge? But then Brian changed his mind. Thought he’d better call and tell us, keep the kid out of trouble.” Jeff let out a sigh of relief. Mark came back into the shop. “Going to need booster cables to charge the battery before I can move that auger.” He picked up on the vibe in the building. “Sorry if I interrupted something.” “No problem,” Dale said. “Brian Miller just called. Told us you helped him out.” Mark grinned. “He came clean? Wasn’t sure he would. He was pretty embarrassed.” Then he turned to Elaine. “Did I hear you say you were collecting those damn Co-op stickers? They gave me one this morning when I bought a coffee, while Brian was filling up his jerrycan. You might as well take it. I’m not playing that game.” Mark picked up the cables and headed back outside. Elaine opened the Co-op ticket. ‘Cabri.’ Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews, a playwright and part of a family grain farm in southeastern Saskatchewan.

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Reflections by Rod Andrews retired Anglican bishop

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man is walking alone at night. He falls over a cliff. Luckily he manages to grab hold of a bush near the top. As he hangs precariously, he shouts into the blackness: “Is anybody down there?” After awhile a big voice responds: “Yes, I am down here. Let yourself go. You can trust me. I will catch you. I am God.” The desperate traveller pauses for a long time, thinking about his situation. Then he shouts: “Is anybody else down there?” I admire the faith of farmers. Dropping seeds into the ground and leaving them to the ravages of nature is an act of faith. While much of society takes their food for granted, farmers know our very existence is dependent upon a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains. Farmers and gardeners sow seeds believing God is good, the rains will come, the sun will shine, and the seeds will grow. I also admire the patience of farmers. I think it is human nature to want to solve problems immediately. We live in a society that wants instant results. We want to fix things quickly. Growing crops does not happen quickly. Patience and time are required. When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” we recognize we are partners with God in creating the bread. Over the winter I set out to clear the storeroom in our house. It is a discouraging task. I have books I want to read but never find time to open. I have many papers collected over the years. I wonder if I will ever finish. Your situation is different from mine but you may have similar feelings as you prepare for seeding. “So much to do and not enough time to get it done.” Realistically we can only do so much. We can only solve one piece of a puzzle at a time. An ancient Chinese parable tells of old Tan Chang who had a small farm overshadowed by a towering mountain. One day he got the notion to get rid of the mountain. With the help of his wife and sons, he began to hack at the rock around its base. A neighbour walked by and scoffed, “You will never finish the job, old man! There are not enough days in the year for you to do this.” Tan replied confidently, “I am not as foolish as you think, my friend. I may be old and feeble, but after I am gone, my sons will continue to peck away at the mountain. Then their sons and their sons’ sons will do the same. Since the mountain cannot grow, someday it will be level with the ground, and the sun will shine upon our land.” Jesus gives some advice: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.” After a long drought, the village elders called the residents together to pray for rain. Everyone gathered for prayer, but only one boy brought an umbrella. That’s FAITH. When you throw a baby in the air, she laughs because she knows you will catch her. That’s TRUST. Every night we go to bed, without any assurance of being alive the next morning, but we set the alarm. That’s HOPE. We plan big things for tomorrow, in spite of zero knowledge of the future. That’s CONFIDENCE. We see all the suffering and evil in the world, but still we get married and have children. That’s LOVE. Suggested Scripture: Genesis 2:4-15, Matthew 6: 25-34

Rod Andrews is a retired Anglican bishop. He lives in Saskatoon.


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