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EASTERN EDITION

country-guide.ca

March 1, 2013 $3.50

SHOULD HE BE RAISED TO FARM? Farming’s toughest question gets tougher ❯❯❯ PG.12

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HERE’S WHY FARMLAND PRICES AREN’T ABOUT TO FALL RETAIN YOUR LEAD EMPLOYEE WITH A PARTNERSHIP PLAN HOW TO SURVIVE THOSE GF2 CUTS


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Visit SyngentaFarm.ca or contact our Customer Resource Centre at 1-87-SYNGENTA (1-877-964-3682). Always read and follow label directions. Callisto®, Foundation Acre® Corn, Primextra® II Magnum®, the Alliance Frame, the Purpose Icon and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. © 2013 Syngenta

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MARCH 1, 2013 WILL THEY BE FARMERS? It’s one thing we can be absolutely sure of. Management pressures on the next generation will be intense. Can you keep the farm in the family? Should you try? Throughout this issue, we bring you perspectives from Maggie Van Camp, Gerald Pilger, Anne Lazurko, and a host of impressive voices.

EVERY ISSUE

BUSINESS

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The productivity gains are impressive with today’s newest air seeders.

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HANSON ACRES The kitchen is ground zero when the reality of farm succession hits the Hanson homestead.

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GUIDE HEALTH Start taking effective care of yourself if you’re at risk of COPD.

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PETUNIA VALLEY All the world’s a stage, the bard says. It’s certainly true in the valley.

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MARCH 1, 2013

CHECK OUT THESE NEW FARMERS While today’s farmers worry about succession, urbanites and immigrants line up for their chance.

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SURVIVING GF2 New Growing Forward programs are a thinly veiled bid to cut farm spending. What’s your strategy now?

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THE NEW LIFELONG LEARNER You may think you’ll retire into an easy advisory role. Think again. You’ll still need to keep up to date.

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INSIDE A FARM SUCCESSION Manitoba’s Betty Green shares the emotions, complications, and ultimate payoffs for their farm.

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SELLING TO SELLERS The component makers who sell to the big tractor brands want to grab your attention.

WHY LAND PRICES WON’T FALL At least, according to new research, there’s no hint of a bubble in land values.

Our commitment to your privacy

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.

MORE THAN A JOB Anne Lazurko finds the best way to keep the farm in the family might be to bring in a non-family partner.

46 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.

RAISING CHILDREN TO BE BUSINESS LEADERS You might have absorbed business lessons at your parents’ knees. For tomorrow, that’s not good enough.

PESTPATROL Ontario had some 200 reports of bee poisoning in 2012. These recommendations reduce the risks.

TODDLER SUCCESSION It’s never too early to teach the “familiness” of family farming. In fact, it may be essential.

WHAT’S NEXT? Times are changing fast in seed treatments, with new tools for even better crop protection.

MBAGRICULTURE Don Barclay, emeritus professor at Ivey School of Business ranks today’s farm business skills.

THE RESULTS ARE IN Seed treatment is producing a clear win for growers of eastern oats and barley.

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NEW REGS FOR SEED TREATMENT New rules show non-farmers that agriculture is protective of environment and food quality.

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North America is losing its corn dominance, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

INOCULATING FOR YIELD The most valuable harvest in 2012 may actually be what we learned about growing higher yields.

CORN GOES GLOBAL

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GUIDE LIFE — PLAN FOR FARM SAFETY Children on the farm mean safety risks. With these tools, however, you can plan for their safety.

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GUIDE LIFE — FARM PARENTS Welcome your children into the farm, but don’t make them feel disloyal if they choose something else.

CONTENTS

MACHINERY GUIDE

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

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine

A web of contradictions Get used to it. The contradictions are only going to grow in number through 2013, and they are only going to get more intense, including the most startling paradox of them all: the incredible gap between the outlook for today’s farm operations, and the outlook for our farm sector overall. You will see the contradictions in the pages of Country Guide, even in articles that are essentially about the same things. For instance, associate editor Maggie Van Camp writes in her article, Surviving GF2, about the federal government’s blatant efforts to cut back on farm spending. After reading Maggie’s insightful reporting on the issue, you need only flip a few pages to find Gerald Pilger’s, Why Land Prices Won’t Fall, which seems at first to argue the opposite. Gerald reports (persuasively, I think) that high-priced land is a relatively safe bet, not because a growing population needs more food, but because there is little risk of governments closing the books on their farm support. There’s no question that the new Growing Forward programs are designed to push more costs on to farmers and off of tax payers. There is also no denying that the Canadian countryside is rife with rumours about other pending cuts to Canadian farm spending, including a substantial reduction in support for Farm Credit Canada. Given strong grain prices and the healthier net worths of many farms, it will be a disappointment but not a surprise if some 4 country-guide.ca

of these fears don’t prove valid. That said, the overall government support of North American agriculture — from its tax provisions to its supports for ethanol and supply management — appears to most farmers to be relatively secure. At the very least, there’s little sign of farmers rushing for the exits. As we go forward, however, the central contradiction will only get more oppressive. We appear to be hurtling toward an agriculture where many more farms will be run by a generation of farm employees — not the landowners themselves — despite the fact that there is precious little evidence that this is a healthy way to build the Canadian farm sector, or even that it has been thoughtfully studied. I have argued in this space before that more farm families will hold on to their land long after they cease actually farming it. In part, this is because families will be reluctant to sell an asset that has proved such a good investment, especially when they look at neighbours who sold out a few years ago and have missed the subsequent ride. More farm parents are also unwilling to trust their valuable farms to the next generation, and they are unwilling to give such large amounts of equity to one child. Of course, not all farms will be caught in the cycle of good news for one generation of farmers becoming bad news for the next. But before you dismiss it, talk to your neighbours and play with some numbers. I’ll be waiting to hear what you think at tom.button@fbcpublishing.com.

Head Office: 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1 (204) 944-5765 Fax (204) 944-5562 Advertising Services Co-ordinator: Sharon Komoski (204) 944-5758 Fax (204) 944-5562 Email: ads@fbcpublishing.com Publisher: Bob Willcox Email: bob.willcox@fbcpublishing.com Associate Publisher/Editorial Director: John Morriss Email: john.morriss@fbcpublishing.com Production Director: Shawna Gibson Email: shawna@fbcpublishing.com Director of Sales and Circulation: Lynda Tityk Email: lynda.tityk@fbcpublishing.com Circulation Manager: Heather Anderson Email: heather@fbcpublishing.com Designer: Jenelle Jensen Contents of this publication are copyrighted and may be reproduced only with the permission of the editor. Country Guide, incorporating the Nor’West Farmer and Farm & Home, is published by Farm Business Communications. Head office: Winnipeg, Manitoba. Printed by Transcontinental LGMC. Country Guide is published 12 times per year by Farm Business Communications.  Subscription rates in Canada — Farmer $36.75 for one year, $55 for 2 years, $79 for 3 years. Non-farmer $79 for one year. (Prices include GST) U.S. subscription rate — $35 (U.S. funds). Subscription rate outside Canada and U.S. — $50 per year. Single copies: $3.50. Publications Mail Agreement Number 40069240. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

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Call toll-free 1-800-665-1362 or email: subscription@fbcpublishing.com U.S. subscribers call 1-204-944-5766 Country Guide is printed with linseed oil-based inks PRINTED IN CANADA Vol. 132 No. 4 Internet address: www.agcanada.com

ISSN 1915-8491 The editors and journalists who write, contribute and provide opinions to Country Guide and Farm Business Communications attempt to provide accurate and useful opinions, information and analysis. However, the editors, journalists, Country Guide and Farm Business Communications, cannot and do not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this publication and the editors as well as Country Guide and Farm Business Communications assume no responsibility for any actions or decisions taken by any reader for this publication based on any and all information provided.

march 1, 2013


Machinery

By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor

Spring may still be a couple weeks away in most parts of the country but already you can feel yourself tensing, ready for the soil to become fit for what is arguably the most important field job of the year — getting the crop in the ground. To help, today’s air seeders and drills can offer a steady stream of new technological advances, from larger-capacity air carts to precise seed metering and singulation. Making the right equipment choice isn’t easy. North America has at least a dozen different manufacturers of air seeders and drills, and most of them carry two or three models, plus a variety of configurations. Country Guide is only scratching the surface here with five different manufacturers’ designs, but our goal is to demonstrate some of the choice available to you. It’s also why we recommend you get ready to do some serious homework. Check company websites, talk with dealers, and dig deeper than paint.

sunflower 9700 series air till drill 

morris cx 8105 disc drill and seeder

Another new arrival in the air seeders and planters race is the Sunflower 9700 Series, featuring a unique ribbon-seeding system. Featuring widths of 40, 50 and 60 feet, the 9700 Series is built to handle no till or conventional production practices and is designed as a single-pass seeding system. It opens the soil, clears out weeds and residue, places seed and fertilizer and then packs it to preserve soil moisture while enhancing seed-to-soil contact. The company says its five-inch-wide seedbed is the widest on a packed-row unit, and that it encourages stronger plant development, from the roots to the stems and all the way to higher yields at harvest. www.sunflowermfg.com

Introduced last June in Western Canada, Morris is showcasing its CX 8105 seeding system now across the country. The 60-foot design is unique to Morris, and it is based on the company’s branded commitment to efficiency and precision, as seen in the Morris Contour Drill, complete with seed metering accuracy on the air cart. The Contour Drill’s compact design makes it a good potential fit for smaller-acreage farms, and it’s available in 25-, 26- or 31-foot widths as well as 10- and 12-inch widths. Morris has built its reputation on consistent penetration and uniform emergence, and the company believes the CX 8105 is certain to continue with that tradition. www.morris-industries.com

MARCH 1, 2013

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case ih precision disk 500 and 500t drills  Case IH has started from the beginning, redesigning an all-new Precision Disk single-disk air drill for what it claims is the best seed placement accuracy of a variety of crops. Demands for more uniform emergence and better plant-stand establishment are behind this retooling of a completely new row unit. No matter the seeding or planting conditions — or the region you call home — these new drills are designed to go, with 30- and 40-foot widths in the Precision Disk 500, and 25-, 30- and 40-foot widths in the 500T. www.caseih.com

bourgault 3320-86 phd

seedmaster

Bourgault has introduced its latest design based on three guiding principles: productivity, high flotation and advanced tracking. The 3320-86 is the largest in its 3320 series. This is a limited release for 2013, but comes with the extraordinary capability of seeding more than 50 acres in an hour. To go with its larger size, Bourgault offers improved tracking through its hydraulically designed steering system, including larger 700/65R32 front tires and dual 16.5 x 16.1 rubber on the rear. The advanced tracking system also means you can keep your wheels where you want them, even with a fully loaded air seeder on the back. www.bourgault.com

As farms continue to grow in size, SeedMaster has recognized the need to ramp up the speed and accuracy of seeding. That’s why the company has unveiled North America’s first 100-foot air drill, the largest of its kind. This true double-shoot design pledges to save growers time, fuel and horsepower, complete with 15-inch spacing on 80 openers. SeedMaster’s unique Active Wing Brace provides strength and stability, reducing wing stress that can be an issue with other wide-configuration drills in the industry. It also comes with a new “Matrix” hydraulic block feature, which provides adjustable transport height from 22 feet to 15 feet for greater safety for the operator. www.seedmaster.ca

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MARCH 1, 2013


business

Corn goes global North America is losing its corn dominance, the same way it lost soybeans. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing ven though commodity prices have been above average since about 2007, the talk after every harvest is all about how prices will soon return to normal. Instead, prices have stayed historically high, buoyed by weather cycles and especially by the U.S. government’s ethanol policy. “Each year, that meant an average 750 million more bushels we needed to feed that industry,” says Cal Whewell, a risk management consultant with FC Stone in Perrysburg, Ohio. After 2010, corn’s story is all about yields and opportunities. The U.S. has suffered through three years of disappointing corn yields at the same time that feed grain demand has been rising, especially in China. Suddenly, the world needs more corn and the U.S., with its fuel mandate and its lower yields, isn’t the powerhouse it once was. “If you take a look at the yields in corn, between the added demand from 2006 to 2010, and the crop we didn’t grow in the past three years, that amounts to 5.2 billion bushels of corn,” says Whewell. “That curve has given us the pricing opportunities we’ve had and the real drive for more acres.” In 2006, the U.S. produced 78 million acres of corn. For 2013, it’s projected to go to 97 million. At the same time, soybean acres increased from 75 million and are forecast to go to 80 million for 2013. Interestingly, in 2007, corn took 11 million acres from soybeans, and since then, the soybean sector, in order to regain its acres, had to go elsewhere. “We’ve lost wheat acres, we’ve lost cotton acres, and the majority of that has been picked up from conservation reserve program (CRP) acres, which have gone from a high of 37 million to 38 million acres at the start of this process down to 27 million acres projected for 2013,” says Whewell. The other major factor affecting price and the overall market is the arrival of Brazil and Argentina, along with Russia/Ukraine. The Black Sea Region has MARCH 1, 2013

By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor seen significant growth in corn in the past two years. According to the USDA, 2006 marked the highest production level (3.51 million tonnes of corn) since 1987 (3.84 million tonnes). Production in Russia was up and down through the 1990s and into the 2000s, taking off in 2008 (6.68 million tonnes) before falling back to 3.0-milliontonnes range in 2009 and 2010. Then in 2011, production more than doubled to 6.68 million tonnes, only to jump another 12 per cent to 7.5 million tonnes, last year, a new high for the country. Brazil and Argentina are in a similar position, vying for a larger share of the world trade in corn. According to Whewell, the U.S. had its best year exporting corn in 2007-08, with 62 million tonnes. That same year, Brazil and Argentina were a combined 23 million tonnes. “Today, the U.S. is hoping, and I don’t know if we’re going to accomplish it or not, but we’re hoping to export 29 million tonnes of corn,” says Whewell. “Combined out of Brazil and Argentina this year, they’re going to export 34 million tonnes of corn. So, they’re going to do more than we did, where just five years ago, they did a third of what we did. And then the real kicker in that is Ukraine, and what I’ve read about there, the potential out of that country is mind boggling.”

Opportunity knocks For many growers, the urgency may be there to shift acres from soybeans into corn. Depending on where the farm is located, Ken Nixon might agree that moving acres or shifting to a corn-oncorn scenario makes sense. For instance, for Corn Belt farms on sandier soils that can work the residue into the soil, continuous corn can actually increase water retention. But from Nixon’s vantage point, shifting rotations, at least here in Canada, might not be the prudent thing to do, especially with more corn being grown in the U.S. Nixon, who farms near Ilderton, Ont., agrees with Whewell’s assessment of the

emerging world players, noting that Brazil is working on further improvements to its overall export picture. Although Argentina is in a bit better position, labour unrest in late 2012 was disrupting the country’s ability to do business on a global basis. “Every time a traditional exporter has a hiccup, and you have to go through the second and third and fourth source, they say, ‘We have this opportunity, but we don’t have the capacity at the docks or the transfer elevators or the rail, and if we only had that, we’d be set,’” says Nixon. He adds that in spite of what looks to be a great opportunity to meet demand, reality kicks in and exposes the limitations of that trading partner’s lack of infrastructure. Nixon replays the situation with soybeans in the 1970s, when there were really only two players: the U.S., as the supplier, and Japan, as its customer. American soybean growers reached a point where they thought they could dictate to Japan how it would accept their soybeans. But the Japanese had other plans, choosing instead to invest in Brazilian soybean production. “The same thing happens with world trade, where any time there is a vacuum created, it gets filled,” Nixon says. “It might not get filled immediately. In the case of the Americans holding up the Japanese, it didn’t happen overnight, but five or six years later, all of a sudden, here are Brazil and Argentina.” Nor do we have to go so far afield to see major shifts in the geography of corn. It’s a sign of the times and an opportunity to grow other crops — including corn — may be shifting corn production to Western Canada. Is that a threat to the East? Absolutely not, says Nixon. “In southern Ontario, we have a very robust processing industry for most of our crops, and the opportunity to go to a world market, very easily, because of the water situation around us,” reasons Nixon. “That helps stabilize things, year over year.” CG country-guide.ca 7


opinion

BIG IDEA

MBAgriculture From his seat on the faculty at the Ivey School of Business, Don Barclay says farm management skills have been getting exponentially better — and broader By Gord Gilmour, CG Associate Editor In the winter of 2004 Don Barclay, a professor with the Ivey School of Business in London, Ont., sat down with a unique group of participants for a short course in business management. It was the first Syngenta Grower University, a program that’s now in its 10th cycle, pulling farmers in from around the country to show them how business strategies and business thinking can be applied to their farms. Now a professor emeritus, Barclay is in the process of wrapping up his involvement in the program and passing the torch to a new leader. During one of the courses this January, he sat down with Country Guide to talk about key insights garnered over the course of the past decade, as well as to share his insights. Plus, we wanted to know: Just how do farmers stack up, management-wise?

Country Guide: You probably see as broad a cross-section of active commercial farmers as any business management specialist in Canada. Can you tell us what you’ve observed? D on B arclay : I’ve certainly met and worked with a lot of farmers, both from across the country and across sectors, but also across time, and I think that’s where you can see the real changes. We have a 10-year perspective here. Over time, across the country and across sectors, the average grower has become more broad minded and entrepreneurial in their thinking. They may not quite be sure how to apply this entrepreneurial spirit yet, but it’s a younger, more advanced and more entrepreneurial group, perhaps in part because of the rising optimism in the industry over the past few years. Another observation is the wider variety of backgrounds. It used to be a generational thing — you’d maybe get an agriculture certificate, but largely you learned on the farm. Today, you’re seeing farmers with degrees in business administration, engineering, or economics. These are people who have a family 8 country-guide.ca

connection to the farm, but have gone elsewhere for a few years. Maybe into the oilpatch, an accounting firm, or working in management at a retailer or distributor. Now they’re coming back to the farm and they’re bringing those skills and abilities to the industry. They come back with a very different perspective. CG: Would a fair characterization be that farmers — and the agriculture industry in general — have a growing confidence? DB: They have a different kind of confidence. In the past that confidence was about operational things, about things that had worked over the generations. If you worked hard on efficiency and the operational side of the business, it would continue to work. The new confidence is more around thinking that they can actually shift a bit out of that operational mode into more of a market mode and take on some of the challenges and opportunities in global supply chains. When we started the program I would have difficult conversations with farmers about getting the blinders off. They’d say things like, “Wheat or corn is a commodity, and we’ll focus within the farm march 1, 2013


BIG IDEA gate.” The farmers I’m seeing today are realizing that outside the farm gate isn’t quite as scary as Grandpa thought it was. They’re gaining the confidence to think beyond being a commodity grower. In the conversations we’ve had recently, there’s much more openness to thinking about entrepreneurial opportunities and maybe not quite so much risk aversion. CG: Can you give us an example? DB: Sure. We had a grower here last week who looked at the infrastructure in his local community, found out there were some railway lines up for sale, got together a group of growers, bought the rail lines and got some cars. They decided that for oats, they’d make an arrangement with Quaker Oats and ship directly to Quaker and guarantee on-time delivery and quality — clean and up to spec. They’re not going through any kind of agents or oat buyers. They’re going direct to Quaker Oats. They also do that with malt barley, shipping directly to Milwaukee to Pabst brewery. It speaks to that confidence, but also, “We’re not going to treat this as a commodity anymore.” CG: So what can you tell me about the overall management skill level of farmers? DB: There’s definitely an increased set of skills at the table. That’s driven by the recognition that a farm isn’t the stereotypical “family farm” anymore. Farms are hiring employees for the first time — other than the one hired hand — because they’ve got the scale to justify having employees. As soon as you get that in front of you, and you’re faced with that reality, you’ve got to start engaging in building your management skills. It’s very different having the family do things, as opposed to having employees do things. There’s been a drive to pick up management skills, especially on the people side, which you haven’t had to do for generations because it’s all been family. Also if you look at the capital investment required on a farm these days, it’s many millions of dollars in a lot of cases. Growers look at that and they realize they should learn more about capital investments and return on investment. It’s actually been the changing nature of farms that’s driven the change in management skills of farmers, rather than the other way around. The other thing that’s happening is that growers, because of access to information and the changing dynamics of the industry, are getting to the point where they know what they don’t know. They start feeling a bit uncomfortable about what they don’t know… which is always a good place to be. CG: That’s a good place to look at another topic. We’ve talked a lot about the good so far — how about a bit of the bad? Can you tell us about areas where you see the need for improvement? DB: Areas for improvement are fairly fundamental march 1, 2013

opinion

areas that cross businesses. The people side for sure — how do I find, recruit, retain, motivate, reward and recognize people, especially when you’ve got competition for people coming from places like potash mines in Saskatchewan or the oilpatch in Alberta. There’s a real desire to learn about people management — job descriptions, role clarity, all the way through to reward and recognition. Retention is a big one. Another is the financial side. I don’t want to generalize, but I would say that in the past a number of growers would get their financials done to satisfy audit and tax requirements. They wouldn’t know what the statements were telling them from a managerial perspective or have a strong sense if the statements were telling them they had an issue with inventory or payables or receivables or if some ratios were out of whack. Now, there’s a real burning desire to dive into that stuff. The other notion is that of proactively thinking about where you want your farm to be in five or 10 years. Historically the thinking has been that the farm is going to be the farm and it’s going to be passed on to the kids and so on. But that’s not the case right now. Kids think differently these days. More recently growers are really seeing a need to understand agriculture as a global industry, so that’s a gap that people are curious about filling. Related to that growing entrepreneurial spirit we talked about earlier, growers are asking for more information about how they can apply it and what they can do with it, how they can apply it to this big, growing global industry. CG: So tell us a bit about how farmers can improve these skills. You have taught for many years in an MBA program here at Western University. What can you tell us about that set of skills and how it fits primary agriculture? DB: I taught the executive MBA program for many years at Ivey, and we had a fairly significant farmer involved one year. He had dairy and a sizable cash crop operation, and he told me he got a ton out of the program. One of the things we do at Ivey is we emphasize process over content. By that I mean we emphasize the decision-making process, for example, over understanding the finance industry. In an executive MBA class I’ve had everyone from poets and theatre directors to priests to doctors and farmers. The common bond is not so much learning about a business context, it’s about learning how to make better decisions. So a farmer would be thrown more than 350 case studies and what comes out of that is a way of looking at things, of understanding and making better decisions. Context becomes almost irrelevant. If MBA skills are taught and learned appropriately, they become almost context free. MBA skills can be applied quite nicely to the ag industry; to any industry. It’s developing managerial ways of thinking you can apply to any industry or organization. CG country-guide.ca 9


doing more. using less.

A series on being ready for the farming challenges ahead

Precision farming becoming mainstream Adoption accelerates as capability and simplicity of new technology improves

Y

ield monitors were the first step many growers took when venturing into precision farming in the 1990s. While yield monitors are still considered to be the cornerstone of precision farming, other applications are quickly gaining popularity. these applications include, but are not limited to, farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, auto guidance, crop scouting, variable-rate applications and yield mapping. “there is no question that precision agriculture has changed how farmers view their land,” says trevor mecham, Case iH Advanced Farming systems marketing manager. “Where they once treated fields uniformly, they now are able to micromanage fields – developing the most effective strategies for higher production. the result is reduced expenses, higher yields and a more environmentally friendly farm.”

“There is no question that precision agriculture has changed how farmers view their land…” Trevor MechAM Case IH Advanced Farming Systems marketing manager

mecham attributes the gaining popularity of precision farming to availability of tools that are more accurate, cost effective and user friendly. “there used to be the perception that precision farming could only be used on large farms with large capital investments and it required extensive experience with information technology,” he says. “this is certainly not the case. there are inexpensive and easy-to-use techniques developed for use by all farmers through the use of GPs, Gis and remote sensing.”

caseih.com

Case iH has made a deep commitment to precision farming with the Advanced Farming systems (AFs®) program that is dedicated to helping producers be ready in an agricultural environment that runs on technology. AFs delivers an integrated, less complex precision farming solution built right into Case iH equipment using a single display across machines. Case iH provides a complete offering of built-in precision technologies to improve productivity and agronomic performance while minimizing input costs and helping manage risk. Growers appreciate the ease of use of this technology. Benefits include: More capability. Built on open architecture, AFs can interface with existing equipment, no matter what the colour. Less complexity. A single Case iH AFs display serves as the equipment control centre and works seamlessly across all product lines. similarly, a single software suite lets users view, edit, manage and analyze precision farming data. this single display and control centre are factory installed to save trouble and time – across all product lines. 24/7/365 support. Case iH helps farmers learn new technology before heading to the field with technical training available through AFs Academy and AFs certified dealers. dealers are always just a phone call away and AFs support Center engineers are ready to answer questions any time, day or night. Additionally, a team of AFs and product specialists is available to work alongside producers when needed. “Precision farming has never been easier to use or more reliable,” says mecham. “it improves producers’ abilities to manage their equipment and find new opportunities to improve on return on investment.”


At Case IH, we design equipment with a producer’s agronomic needs in mind. Our Quadtrac® technology, soil management and planting systems are designed to foster a better growing environment that maximizes yield potential. We’ve developed equipment that gets you in and out of the field effectively to make the most of short weather windows. And our deep understanding of agriculture helps producers when they need it most. Case IH agronomic design keeps producers ahead of today’s increasing demand. Will you be ready? For more information, go to caseih.com/agronomicdesign.

be ready.

©2013 CNH America LLC. All rights reserved. Case IH is a registered trademark of CNH America LLC. www.caseih.com Earth photo courtesy of NASA.


business

It’s never too early to start teaching the “familiness” of family farming By Maggie Van Camp, CG Associate Editor hey wear big cowboy hats and tiny workboots. They play with toy tractors in their sandboxes, go with Grandpa on a parts run, push brooms in barns and listen to conversations with salespeople. Before they can even count, farm kids learn some valuable lessons about farming, or as Elaine Froese, farm family coach and partner in a family farm near Boissevain, Man. sums it up, “Parents sow the seeds of farming.” Transferring a family farm from one generation to the next is a critical point in the survival of a family farm, and everyone involved in a family farm knows that the process actually starts years earlier, based on a foundation that is typically laid when the children are still small. Just think about it: In no other industry would a kid miss school to attend a trade show. Only farm children spend a Saturday on a barn tour or their summer evenings training 4-H calves.

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When families put high value on these types of agricultural activities, they’re sending a message that farming is an important career, says Froese. On top of that, involving children in the ranch or farm makes them feel a part of business. Consider that farm chores might be training opportunities. Age-appropriate experiences can really set them on a course for a career in agriculture, says Froese. On the other hand, of course, farm families live where they work, so children also overhear and see things that may not give them such a positive attitude about the prospects of farming. Sometimes it’s not so much what you say to kids as what they hear when you’re not expecting them to be listening. Froese recalls a local kindergarten class writing in to the local newspaper about what they wanted for Christmas, and one boy saying that he wanted Santa to bring better barley prices. “I wonder what that kid heard over the dinner table?” says Froese. It’s important for parents to get a handle on their own attitudes toward farming and money, Froese says. What does money mean to you? When is enough? How do you value it for yourself? Is it hoarding that makes you happy, or sharing? Is it what you can buy, what you can give or how much you can save? What are your ingrained values around debt, bill payment and marketing? Teaching your young children how to talk and share feelings goes a long ways toward building an open relationship, as does simply spending time together. “Family secrets don’t work,” says Froese. “Silence is a form of violence.” Froese believes it’s also important to address favouritism at an early age. Sibling strife can cause huge problems later on, especially during succession. That means parents need to state and address the issue early. Navigate it as caring parents, instead of building sibling rivalry by comparing and pitting children against each other, says Froese. MARCH 1, 2013


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Transfer financial smarts early “If there are communication problems and there’s the issue of succession, it’s that the children are almost always illiterate when it comes to what is going on regarding the finances of the business,” says Richard Cressman, communication adviser, seed dealership owner and former farmer from New Hamburg, Ont. Cressman distinctly remembers his father asking him when he was 16 years old if he wanted to buy three cows and quota. At the time it would have cost about a 10th of what it would today, and he still regrets not taking his dad’s offer to co-sign for the loan. “I was too afraid even though I was hell bent and determined to be a dairy farmer at that age,” he says. Fast forward to the new millennium and a new generation of Cressmans. At 18 years old, Cressman’s oldest child bought an ongoing vegetable retail business. She and her younger sister had worked for a market gardener for a couple of summers, and when he wanted to get out of the business, he put it up for sale to any of his employees, mostly university students.   Even though young, quiet and shy, she bought it, and ran the business for two summers. Then she sold it to her next youngest sister who ran the business for four more years. Their younger sister worked for them but never was an owner. This little farm retail business paid their way through post-secondary education and gave them financial knowledge that they are still using in non-farm applications. The girls weren’t afraid to take responsibility for their dreams — and for the financial implications of achieving those dreams — because from the time when they had been very young, they had been taught financial know-how. Their parents had shown them how to track expenses for their personal lives and any ventures, and at age 16, Cressman’s oldest daughter had already taken a tax certification course. “From a very young age — the first time you give a child a quarter — they’re involved in the commerce of the world,” Cressman says. The message is that if a child feels compelled to be involved with something such as a 4-H calf or rabbits, the feeding and caring for the animal is only part of the package. The costs also have to be managed. Indeed, a calf project can become an excellent opportunity for learning the financial realities.

The Errington Report In his often-cited paper on succession, U.K. economist Andrew Errington identifies three stages of farm transfer: succession, retirement and inheritance. Errington defines succession as the transfer of managerial control. In most cases, it is gradually handed over, and his research found that on most farms there is a progressive transfer of different types of responsibility, starting with a number of technical and short-term tactical decisions and ending with the transfer of financial decisions and ultimately financial control of the farm business. Errington also compared methods of farm transfer between generations in England, France and Canada. He found consistent patterns for helping the next generation climb the rungs of responsibility. The final rungs were financial — paying bills, identifying sources of financing, and negotiating financing. How quickly the successor ascends this ladder and achieves decision-making power varied fiscally and culturally. French and Canadian successors both move fairly rapidly up this ladder, while British successors only gradually achieve increasing amounts of control and often never got to the final financial rungs until the older generation dies. In all geographies, however, Errington found that some farmers are simply reluctant to give up the authority.

“If there are communication problems… it’s that the children are almost always illiterate when it comes to what is going on regarding the finances of the business.” — Richard Cressman

Continued on page 14 MARCH 1, 2013

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business Continued from page 13

Transfer family business values

The challenge, says Paul MacDonald, is to balance your farm’s rich, historical tradition with today’s hard economic realities

According to Paul MacDonald, executive director of the Canadian Association of Family Enterprises (CAFE), the family businesses that groom successful successors are the ones that introduce the family’s business values at a fairly early ages. If that sounds touchy feely, think of it in terms of the attributes that make a family business different from other businesses, such as pride of ownership, the fact that the business is the family legacy, and that everyone is a steward of the business. These families teach the “familiness” of family business, says MacDonald. Not only do they teach basic financial knowledge, they indoctrinate the children with what it means to feel a part of the family business, including a sense of pride. This includes understanding what MacDonald terms “patient” capital investment, meaning that the business invests in long-term assets rather than always looking at short-term return. MacDonald also says some of the most successful transitions have been in businesses that employ family councils and independent boards, and that have written, formal best practices to help maintain the original strengths and values of the businesses. The challenge of family business is balancing the rich, historical tradition with meeting the current and future businesses, economic realities. For many family businesses, there is also a requirement that the children have outside experiences or education, and they must prove themselves outside the family business before they take on a role within the business. Future generations shouldn’t work in the family business until they have the necessary skills and independent experiences, MacDonald says, and until they have gained a broad experience and skills. CAFE estimates that more than two-thirds of the operating companies in Canada that are controlled by business families will go through an ownership and/or management transition in the next decade. MacDonald estimates that only about a quarter of their members have formal written succession or transition plans.

Transfer skills and confidence Working in the business is not the same as running a business. In a family-business survey by CAFE and KPMG Enterprise, a common suggestion involved exposing future generations to the business at an early age in order to instil passion for the business, and empower the next generation to become leaders. The current owners said the next generation needs to have both the vision and the leadership capability to innovate new ideas and overcome entitlement issues. 14 country-guide.ca

MARCH 1, 2013


business Meanwhile, many of the younger generation were concerned with how they were going to fill the older generations’ shoes. They should be more concerned, their parents said, with what’s ahead for their own shoes. Young children move through a hierarchy of development and skilled tasks, mostly based on dexterity, size, experience and safety. On a farm, a child might go first from using a push mower to a riding lawn mower, then to a tractor and wagon, and finally to a combine. Slowly they build skills and confidence. There are rights of passage through various chores children are allowed to do, adds Froese. Those steps of development continue into adulthood. In their 20s, the developmental task is to become independent. At this phase, children need to set up their own households and learn to take care of themselves, says Froese. Their 30s is a time to be mastering skills and by the time they’re in their 40s, they need some ownership. “Most importantly, the succeeding generation gets to choose, and doesn’t feel trapped by the farm,” says Froese. “There’s a power in choice.”

Plan and prepare Larry Morin, investment and farm business adviser from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., says that if parents do some planning for succession, retirement and inheritance when their children are small, it’s often easier when the time comes to make succession decisions. It doesn’t have to be written in stone, but you should talk about what you want after farming. “It’s never too early to think about what your vision of your retirement is,” says Morin. Interestingly, a 2006 Iowa succession survey showed that only about a third of farmers plan to retire, ever. Furthermore, over 45 per cent of those who had indicated they would either retire or semiretire said they had not talked to anyone about retirement. Of those who have discussed retirement, almost half had done so with their families, and the rest talked to professional advisers such as accountants, lawyers, bankers, and farm consultants. Talking about retirement may not seem important when you have young children, but retirement and succession visions should influence the farm growth plan. Often the annual financial challenges of farming and current lifestyle desires influence off-farm income decisions more than longer-term planning for the farm, says Morin. The main influence for growth and expansion is the need for income need. This comes to a head when more families expect to rely on the farm to support their families. If there has been no growth planning to support more families, someone will not be part of the future farm. Planning is not all about talking. There are some structures that farmers with small children can learn about and prepare early to help with succession, retirement and inheritance. Which business structure would be best for succession and tax management MARCH 1, 2013

for farms your size? Learning about options now may make the decisions and timing easier later. One common strategy recommended by many succession planners is to buy life insurance. The spread in insurance premiums costs for different ages is significant. For example, a $1-million whole-life policy for a 30-year-old is about $400 a month compared to $1,900 a month for a 55-year-old. Before buying an insurance policy, Morin says narrowing down the purpose for it will help you choose the right type. For example, if it’s to provide non-farming children a cash payment from the estate, then whole life might be an alternative, depending on your age. Term insurance is much cheaper but only covers for a specific timeline and might best be used for specific needs such as to cover debt. Alternatively, it might make financial sense to buy a term policy combined with periodic investments or universal insurance. Then if the kids decide not to farm, the parents would have the option of using the investment for retirement funding. “Each situation will be somewhat unique, and age and goals will definitely influence what is best for their situation,” says Morin. For both his non-farm and farming clients, Morin suggests parents start saving money in a Registered Education Savings Plans as soon as children are born. RESPs are great ways to save and get government funding for the escalating costs of post-secondary education. Along the way, they also help parents send the message that learning is important enough to invest in. According to Canada’s 2006 census, over half of all operators on farms with at least one young farmer had some post-secondary education, compared to 44 per cent of other farms. It’s also important for young parents to be prepared for emergencies and have legal documents such as wills up to date. Ensure your wishes are explained properly in the documents and discuss the contents with everybody who will be affected to make sure they’re aware of and agree with it. Says Morin: “Just having a will that says if something happens to me, everything goes to the wife, and if we both die, split all our assets between our kids, may create more issues than it solves.” CG country-guide.ca 15


business

Raising A Generation OF

business leaders

Today’s farms need great financial management. Tomorrow’s farms will need even more. These seven steps will help you get the best start Maggie Van Camp, CG Associate Editor avid Bentall of Next Step Advisors Inc. in Vancouver, believes in the power of family businesses. He writes books about them, advises them, and lectures about them at the University of British Columbia, not to mention working for 20 years in his family’s real estate and construction businesses. Although Bentall is a graduate of UBC’s commerce faculty and also of Harvard Business School,

he says some of his most important lessons about family business have come from being a father of four, now almost-grown children. Bentall outlines seven steps that wise parents should take, even before they begin transferring business financial knowledge to the next generations. Raising children to blossom into better business leaders, Bentall says, takes some conscious actions on your part when they are still small.

#1 Start with money

For some jobs, kids shouldn’t get paid. These are just part of being a member of the family. For other chores, they should get paid so they learn that they can make money from work. Every family can decide what that looks like for them, using a healthy dose of common sense. Be aware though that money isn’t the only motivator. Some children are naturally self-starters, others are not. If they aren’t, this doesn’t mean they’re lazy, maybe they’re just too shy or risk averse to speak up.

As a first step, we should train our kids about money, says Bentall. Begin by giving children responsibilities — chores, both in the house and on the farm. They can start these when they are physically able to do the work safely. You can download the North American Guidelines on Children’s Agricultural Tasks www.safekidscanada.ca/OrderCentre/ tabid/157/List/1/CategoryID/30/Level/a/ProductID/ 15/Language/en-CA/Default.aspx. 16 country-guide.ca

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#2 Talk about budgets Second, we need to teach kids about budgeting. At a fairly young age children can learn about spending, saving and giving. Children need to manage money wisely but that also means having a chance to use it. Bentall suggests you start giving children an allowance when they can add and subtract up to 100 so they can deal with the concepts of a dollar. “Teach children that money is a scarce resource,” says Bentall. Additionally, parents should begin teaching integrity at an early age. This is done by example, good and bad. Bentall points to research first done in the mid-1970s and subsequently repeated which shows the most important trait for a CEO is integrity. As a father, he believes that parents’ task is to help children develop their natural talents. So when children are young, we need to help them identify what he calls their God Squirt. Encourage successors to develop their natural bent and pursue it. Otherwise they won’t be good at what they do. If that happens to align with the family business, that’s great, but we also need to accept it if it’s something else. “Constraining kids’ potential is unfair,” Bentall says. “Help them get an education that will help them develop their natural gifts.”

#3 When they’re 18 When children reach adulthood, at about 18 years old, it’s time to transfer more adult financial responsibility to them. Bentall suggests writing them a letter stating your financial expectations. If they are living at home and not going to school, are they expected to pay rent? Are students expected to earn money in the summer to put toward tuition? If the parents are planning to pay for education, what do they expect? By clearly stating your expectations, your young adults can start planning and thinking independently about money. At that age, they need to be financially responsible and independent. Be ready to assist and to offer advice, but they need to be in charge of their own finances.

#4 and #5 Talk about business Bentall’s fourth step in raising family business leaders is to explain how your business works. Take time to explain in business terms what your farm does — its market, customers, products, staff. “Start with the tangible stuff,” Bentall says. “Then you get to step five, how the money works in the company,” Bentall says. Bentall says the previous development steps are needed before the next generation can understand the role of money and of money management in the company. Prior to that, they simply don’t understand enough about money and your specific industry and farm to understand how your family business works financially. Keep focused, but if you’ve done a good job with march 1, 2013

the previous steps, this won’t be as big a leap for your children. “If they can’t manage their money in their own personal lives, they will certainly not be able to understand your business,” says Bentall.

#6 Know when it’s time So when should you transfer management and decision-making authority to your children? The answer isn’t always age specific. It varies with circumstance, but as a rule, Bentall says, “Too many people hang on too long.” At the latest, Bentall believes this should happen at least 10 years before the older generation dies, based on average life expectancy. So if the numbers suggest you might live to 85, then all the decisions should be in the hands of your successor at least by the time you turn 75. That allows the next generation to benefit from at least a decade of advice and mentoring. That’s how long they need, Bentall says. Don’t make it shorter. On the other end, there’s no hard and fast rule about how early you can transfer responsibility when someone is capable. For instance, Bentall was given control of his family’s construction and real estate business when he was in his late 30s. It depends on the business and the individuals. “Age has nothing to do with competency,” he says. However, Bentall does strongly advocate that family business successors get experience and prove themselves in other situations. “Experience forged in the field will strengthen and develop strong, capable family business leaders,” he says.

#7 Make them work off farm Successors need to have relevant training, education and experience in another similar business, outside the family business. To force that, Bentall helps family businesses create a family employment policy. It’s a written official document that lists the expectations for the business to hire a family member. It can describe the requirements to be CEO or president of the family business or what it takes to be a manager. If family successors require specialized knowledge, courses or experiences, they need to know that before they make their career or post-secondary educational choices, says Bentall. This lays it out. Bentall talks about writing a family employment policy for a successful West Coast company. He met with all of the third generation, aged 12 to 21, of the family business and asked them what experience and education levels they thought the company’s CEO should have. The group decided the CEO needed at least a business degree and 12 years’ experience outside of the family business with at least two promotions. It was a tough crowd. “The kids should be part of this policy,” says Bentall. “It’s a good way to start the best practices of family discussions and dialogue with this generation.” CG country-guide.ca 17


business

More than a job Jeff Bean gets a loyal employee. Ryan Hoffman gets a stake in the farm’s performance, and maybe some equity too. Could this be the future of your farm? By Anne Lazurko, CG Contributing Editor hat happens to the guy who has the smarts, the ambition and the ability to run a farm, but doesn’t have the money to buy one? And here’s another question. What happens to the guy whose farm is well capitalized, but his ability to succeed and grow is threatened by a labour shortage? Well perhaps these two guys are made for each other. They just don’t know it yet. Before you get the wrong idea, we’re talking about a business relationship. And there is a matchmaker in Saskatchewan who is putting together business “marriages” that work to satisfy the desires, goals and objectives of both parties. Dean Klippenstine has been making a name for himself in the province, coming up with unique succession plans, farm business structures, and farm management methods. He’s a longtime agriculture specialist with MNP in Regina. In 2008 he brought Ryan Hoffman to meet Jeff Bean at Veridian Farms near Rouleau, southwest of Regina. Jeff farms 9,000 acres with his wife Deborah

Klippenstine asks: Which is better, retaining 95 per cent of profits with a good manager, or 100 per cent without one? and in partnership with older brother Lance and wife Laurie. Jeff is in his late 40s, and the couple has two children in post secondary education. Lance and Laurie have three kids. None of the kids know yet if their futures include farming. A booming Saskatchewan economy means a promise of big wages and a steady job for every available worker, and for farmers, it means that recruiting and retaining people to work on the farm is becoming steadily more difficult. 18 country-guide.ca

Enter Ryan Hoffman. He’s 30, married to Shanna who is an accountant in the same office as Klippenstine, and the couple have a two-year-old and another on the way. Ryan started out farming marginal land near Parry, Sask. Ironically it was Klippenstine who a few years ago advised Ryan to change the way he was farming. “Dean told me to quit trying to farm marginal land long before I actually did quit,” Ryan says. “I was angry at first, thinking who is this guy, but over time I realized he was right and I got out of farming.” Knowing Ryan still had the desire, ambition and ability to farm, Klippenstine introduced him to Bean who is a longtime client, and together they worked out a plan to make Ryan a “junior” or “minority” partner in the farming operation. This winter, I sat down with Jeff and Ryan to find out how they met and how the plan is working. At first blush, it’s a pretty typical arrangement. Ryan receives a monthly wage based on a certain number of hours. Obviously in farming this means more hours in certain seasons, but provides him a steady income over the entire year. Nothing new there. The unique point of this arrangement is what happens after all the farm bills have been paid. Ryan also receives a bonus, calculated as a percentage of net returns to the farm. The structure of the payment is based on reliable financial statements, produced off farm and open to viewing by all parties. A critical requirement to establish both trust and accuracy is that the farm use accrual accounting. Other than that, it’s a pretty simple plan and can be tailored to most types of farm operations. Veridian Farms is set up as a partnership with the Bean brothers owning companies under that umbrella. The brothers receive a percentage of net as well. In other words, all of them are tied to the fate of the farm’s production. “For a guy starting out, it’s a pretty good deal,” Ryan says. Klippenstine has helped set up three such arrangements over the past few years and says they all operate on the same principle of a minority partner receiving a bonus based on a percentage of net. The initial rate might be three or five per cent, and some agreements have built-in increases every one or MARCH 1, 2013


Photo credit: Carey shaw

business

two years to a maximum 10 per cent. Specifics vary depending on the farm and the people involved. “We went this route because now Ryan has the best interest of the whole farm in mind and not just the half section he might have got to farm in other arrangements,” Jeff says. “Now he’s looking at it from the perspective of whole-farm profitability.” It’s all about attracting and retaining labour, and it’s becoming increasingly clear to farmers that to do so requires finding creative ways to use employee skills, make them part of the operation, and provide a good living. Klippenstine says it has to start with wages that are fair and competitive. From there he says these arrangements are similar to the old concept of giving the hired man a quarter section to farm separate from the main operation. Or perhaps the farm manager renting a half section and farming it. But both of these options still require that the employee have money to farm the land, and with the cost of rent, machinery and inputs ballooning, it’s often too much. So Klippenstine tweaked the concept. “What if the minority partner doesn’t have his MARCH 1, 2013

own land, but we motivate the entrepreneurial spirit he has?” Klippenstine asks. “We want him committed to the whole farm over the long term and with a stake in the risk and rewards.” He calls the percentage-based bonus the “motivational difference.” It works for Ryan Hoffman. Even though, due to flooding and commodity price drops, he’s taken a cut to his bonus every year since the record crops of 2008, he is taking it in stride. “It’s real farming. It’s easier to take when I know the other people involved are taking an even bigger hit than I am.” There is a mutual respect between Jeff and Ryan, evident in their conversation and Ryan’s open involvement in the discussion. Promotions come fairly quickly, but the concept is so new neither really has a name for what Ryan is within the farm organization. It ranges from junior partner to chief operating officer. “The only thing I don’t want to call him is a hired man,” says Jeff. Klippenstine says that what is similar about the farmers who choose this route is their ability to see

When Jeff Bean took Ryan Hoffman on as minority partner instead of as farm employee, the idea began proving itself.

Continued on page 20 country-guide.ca 19


business Continued from page 19

Despite an economy with myriad job options, Ryan now sees good reason to commit long term to Veridian Farms.

the benefits of such an arrangement to their farm. “They are entrepreneurs with a desire to increase their quality of life, or they see missed opportunities for profit because they don’t have the labour they need,” Klippenstine says. Jeff needs Ryan to run the farm and doubts the farm would have been able to expand without him. While the arrangement gives the kids time to decide what they want to do, Jeff also sees Ryan as being a part of the farm as long as it remains in the family, and regardless of which family members own it. In fact, hiring Ryan is part of the plan to keep the farm together as long as possible. “We’re one of the first farms to think along the lines of potentially running without a family member over the long term,” Jeff says. The arrangement is simple and so can be used in most farm business structures whether they’re partnerships, limited companies etc. “The mechanics are easy, if the desire is there,” Klippenstine says. “When I ask people who have been doing this for any length of time if they’d take

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95 per cent profit and a good farm manager, or 100 per cent profit without one, they don’t even think it’s a logical question.” They know the 95 per cent is more actual profit than 100 per cent precisely because of the manager. “Besides that, no one is unhappy having good labour around.” It’s an innovative concept that has serious potential for success over the long term. And there’s obvious commitment on all sides, but Klippenstine stresses that this is not a succession plan. “It’s a tool to motivate and secure a solid level of farm management for the future,” he says. “This is a little solution to help with the labour problem regardless of stage of life.” He might see it as a little solution, but it just might be one that more farmers need over the long haul. In fact the youngest person Klippenstine knows to have taken on a junior partner is just 34 himself. The idea is that the junior partner might become senior farm manager one day and play a part in providing guidance and skill development to the farm kids who might grow into the operation. While Jeff says he doesn’t plan to retire any time soon, having a plan in place with Ryan can allow the farm to generate income into his retirement and give him the option to step back a little. On the other hand, Klippenstine does know of one operation that’s gone to the next stage, with the minority partner now leaving his bonus money in the farm business as equity and so taking on some ownership. He believes 99 per cent of minority partners have something similar in mind because for the most part they are in these arrangements because they love to farm. Klippenstine believes that if they can achieve a degree of ownership, it will only strengthen their commitment to the larger operation. Ryan might agree. He says that while he’d like the opportunity for part ownership at some point, he’s happy now to know “that if I stick around and work hard and make myself more valuable, I’ll have a future on the farm.” Meanwhile Jeff says that a buy-in might be in the cards as a next step in the farm organization. The arrangement to bring Ryan on board kick-started greater organizational planning at Veridian Farms. They’ve set a direction, assigned farm roles, and mapped out operations for the next few years with a focus on greater farm efficiency. Klippenstine rarely sees farms setting out roles and responsibilities, but says it’s coming. Rather than everyone analyzing and participating in every decision, he suggests looking at the talents of each, and assigning roles. Empowering individuals frees up time for everyone to grow the operation. Ryan Hoffman and Jeff Bean are in the early stages of their relationship, but it’s obvious they are both happy with the match. “Guys like Ryan are hard to find. He’s invaluable because he wants to farm,” Jeff says. And it’s pretty clear Ryan is proud to work at Veridian Farms where the lines of communication are clearly open, where the farm is getting better every year, and where he sees his farming future. CG MARCH 1, 2013


Tillage to Swear By

by Greg Stewart, Corn Specialist, OMAFRA Plow. A four letter word? No-till – the moral high ground within tillage systems? What about strip-till, ridge-till, vertical-till, mulch-till, placebo-till, testosterone-till or conservation-till? Over the years we have had a great time defining and labelling the way we till the soil. In some cases the discussion has become quite heated, as ardent no-tillers have challenged the more conventionally minded to change. Sometimes the argument has had a cost of production spin, especially when commodity prices were low. At other times the emphasis has been on soil conservation and the merits of leaving enough residue to protect soil from wind and water erosion. In Ontario, the trend towards conservation tillage has ebbed and flowed. So where are we now? Consider the advancements that might influence tillage systems:  significantly improved planting equipment,  a host of planter modifications to foster reduced tillage success,  “vertical” tillage equipment designed to handle high residue situations,  seed that is more tolerant to reduced tillage stress,  herbicide resistant crops, and  seed treatments that mitigate some of the challenges of unplowed seedbeds. And yet when we look around Ontario now there is arguably less ground covered with residue than in quite awhile. Perhaps it’s time to refocus on the end game – not the titles.

30% Ground Cover Research has identified the maintenance of a minimum of 30% ground cover as critical in the protection against wind and water erosion. The goal should be to have your soil covered with at least 30% cover (dead or alive) all season long. 

Leaving surfaces too rough in the fall means multiple passes in the spring and eventually less residue to conserve the soil. This is particularly challenging after low residue crops like soybeans.

Vertical tillage tools have given producers a more complete arsenal of equipment that can prepare a seedbed while maintaining high residue levels. Target the use of these tools to ensure 30% cover after planting is complete.

Producers determined to eliminate compaction and do some fall tillage should aim for a system that can leave significant residue in the fall so that after spring operations 30% cover is still possible.

A seedbed left relatively smooth with good residue cover can, on many lighter textured soils, be planted directly without any further residue reducing spring tillage.


BUSINESS

Check out these new farmers There seems no end to the city folk, immigrants and second careerists who want to start farming By Rebeca Kuropatwa

McVean Start-Up Farm in Brampton is 35 acres leased from the regional conservation authority, all a mere stone’s throw from the Golden Horseshoe’s suburbia.

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lthough no one can guarantee that getting into farming will ever be easy, FarmStart is working to make the leap more accessible, less risky, and much less lonely. “We’re facing a very real crisis of renewal in agriculture within the next 10 years,” says Christie Young, executive director of FarmStart, a Guelph, Ont.-based non-profit whose mandate is to create a new generation of entrepreneurial farmers with an ecological bias. In the last three years, 1,500 would-be farmers have attended FarmStart programs in Ontario, including 21 who have launched their own ventures through the program’s incubator farm just outside Toronto. Virtually all the wannabe’s in those lists are from non-farm backgrounds, and most are urban. Those with farm experience are typically recent immigrants, whose farm background comes from regions as diverse as central Asia, tropical Africa and Latin America. While it may not sound like farming to most commercial-scale farmers in Canada, it apparently sounds enough like farming to get funding from the powers that be. FarmStart gets funding, for instance, from the federally funded Agricultural Adapation Council, as well as grants from sources such as Ontario’s Trillium Fund. MARCH 1, 2013


BUSINESS

HARVEST MOON Communal support helps these organic farmers get their start

Farmers and interns at the McVean Start-Up Farm PHOTO CREDIT: LAURA BERMAN, GREENFUSE

Young sees an urgent need to evolve Canadian agriculture to make it a better fit with Canada’s evolving population. “While farming communities are aging, structural, economic and practical challenges are preventing new and young farmers from getting into the sector,” Young says. According to Canada’s 2006 census, the country has fewer than 30,000 young farmers under the age of 40, setting up the fastest period of declining numbers in the country’s farming history. At the same time, over 50 per cent of existing farmers are expected to transfer their farms in the next decade, and of those who are looking to retire, only a quarter have a named successor. “We need to encourage and support a new generation of farmers today who will be prepared to fill the shoes of our soon-to-be-retiring farmers,” says Young. In 2005, the FarmStart initiative started up on the premise that farming communities are aging, and that the obstacles preventing new and young farmers from entering the sector will simply be too high to be overcome without help, Young says. Yet Continued on page 24 MARCH 1, 2013

In Manitoba, the Harvest Moon Society is a culmination of over 10 years of developing relationships, research, and rural revitalization projects taking place in and around Clearwater, about two hours southwest of Winnipeg. “As people become more interested and aware of where their food is coming from, they get disillusioned with the mainstream food systems and start to look for alternatives to find the kind of healthy, sustainably produced food they want to eat,” says Sharon Taylor (36), past co-ordinator of Manitoba Farm Mentorship. “This draws them to organizations like Harvest Moon that can connect them with local farmers and a community of people with like-minded goals.” The Clearwater society says it was founded in the spirit of co-operation, community, camaraderie, and a keen interest in building a sustainable food system for future generations. In early 2001, the group secured funding and launched a program, with the goal of bringing urban dwellers interested in agriculture out to farms, to partner with and learn from experienced organic producers. A number of young, successful farmers currently practising sustainable techniques first got their start through this initiative. Today, the society owns and operates the Harvest Moon learning centre (the former Clearwater elementary school) and hosts various educational programs, including university credit courses, learning opportunities for local high schools, and community-oriented workshops. The society also supports a local food initiative and organizes the annual Harvest Moon Festival. Taylor also says that a chunk of the interest in Harvest Moon actually comes from current farmers, and from their children. “As farmers find themselves in deeper debt due to a food system that doesn’t favour the farmer, or as they start to question the chemical load they put on their land, they look for alternatives and are drawn towards sustainable farming and local food systems,” Taylor says. “Anecdotally and quantitatively, organizations like the HMS and the OFCM can attest to greater numbers of people inquiring about sustainable food and farming, paths to growing their own food, or living a lifestyle that has less impact.” Compared to conventional ag, the numbers of organic farmers are still small, but Taylor says it’s a mistake to say they’ve got no future. Says Taylor: “The community of sustainable farmers and local food purchasers, as well as the interest from prospective future farmers has grown significantly in the last five to 10 years.” country-guide.ca 23


Continued from page 23 this means the disconnect between agriculture and Canadians is only going to grow, she says. “Consumers and governments are beginning to make a sustainable, healthy, regional food supply an economic and social priority. “Fortunately,” says Young, “we’ve begun witnessing a strong resurgence of interest in healthy food and farming.” More young people (from farm and non-farm backgrounds), new Canadians, and second-career farmers are interested in pursuing a future in agriculture, FarmStart says, and they’re interested in developing emerging local market opportunities that are viable for small and mid-scale sustainable farm operations, but that are often overlooked by commercial farmers. As emerging entrepreneurs, Young says, these new entrants strive to build successful, healthy, and resilient farm enterprises. Many of these new farmers grew up in cities, suburbs, or other countries and have pursued non-farm careers, and are choosing farming as a way to get back to their roots or as a means of creating new ones. 24 country-guide.ca

These emerging farmers face many challenges as well as opportunities. As a group, however, FarmStart is convinced that their skills, connections, and passion will revitalize agriculture in the urban shadow, and help get communities connected again to the farmers around them. “New farmers move through several stages in their farm business development — exploring, planning, startup, and restrategizing — before establishing a farm business,” says Young. “This transition typically takes up to 10 years. Each new farm and farmer’s needs are unique and benefit from different combinations of practical, technical, financial, and one-on-one forms of support. “Everyday, at FarmStart, we meet passionate and dedicated new farmers exploring agriculture or taking the exciting, exhausting, and rewarding leap into running a new farm business. FarmStart’s goal is to offer flexible programs that encourage a new generation of “ecological” farmers with the resources, tools, and support necessary to not only get their businesses off the ground, but to thrive. Says Young: “We work primarily with new march 1, 2013

Photo credit: FarmStart

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business

In 2008 Cheng, a new immigrant, approached FarmStart with the hope that we would provide him an opportunity to start a mushroom farm. He had considerable experience in this area having been a mushroom farmer in northern China. He set up his greenhouse at McVean in 2009 (pic here) and has been learning both production techniques and the markets. Canadians, young people from non-farm backgrounds, and second-career farmers... creating real, healthy change in their lives, throughout our communities and across our farmlands. “FarmStart is part of a growing, dynamic, exciting movement across Ontario and Canada.” FarmStart offices are located in Guelph, and it runs Start-Up Farms in Brampton and Hamilton. It offers Explorer Courses and farm tours, the Digging into Farming Course, business development workshops, and skills building farm tours in southwest Ontario. FarmStart also works with partners in various regions to share some of its programming. “Our farm landscape is changing,” says Young. “More and more farmland is being sold to developers, speculators, and private non-farmers. Prime farmland is rapidly being lost under pavement. Remaining farms are being consolidated into huge farm operations. While we still have picturesque countrysides, the farms that actually feed us are farther and farther away. “Our family farms are disappearing,” Young continues. “The trend around the world is towards march 1, 2013

increasing polarization in our food systems. Research indicates the loss of family and independent farm operations is having a huge impact on the social fabric of our rural communities, the availability of quality and differentiated locally produced foods (which are in demand by consumers), and perhaps most importantly, the ecological stewardship of our productive and valuable farmland resources for generations to come. To counteract those trends, Young believes in the vibrancy and innovation of new farmers. One example of this is a side road near Neustadt, an hour north of Waterloo, Ont., where one new farm couple (one of FarmStart’s first incubated farmers) settled, and now there are five new young farm families living on the same side road. There are also growing numbers of small, diversified and new farm communities around Peterborough, Kingston, Ottawa, Sudbury, and more. “Even high school kids are now exploring agriculture and local food systems,” says Young. “There are organizations growing across North America encouraging and supporting this new generation of farmers.” CG country-guide.ca 25


management

Surviving GF2

What business strategies will help your farm thrive — or at least survive — in the new Growing Forward 2 environment? By Maggie Van Camp, CG Associate Editor his spring, under the camouflage of higher commodity prices, Canada’s Growing Forward risk management programs are becoming leaner and meaner. Most dramatically, according to estimates from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the new generation of programs, nicknamed GF2, will cut nearly half of government funds from AgriStability, and a third from AgriInvest. “Our government’s top priority remains the economy, and Canada’s agriculture industry plays an important role in creating jobs and keeping our economy strong,” says Gerry Ritz, federal agriculture minister. “In addition, governments will continue to provide a fulsome suite of business risk management programs for times of unforeseen disaster.” In reality, GF2 will focus more of the budget on research and trade development. “Farmers know that in order to keep Canadian agriculture on the cutting edge, investments must be focused on research and innovation,” says Ritz. “That is why Growing Forward 2 represents a $3-billion investment over five years in strategic initiatives for innovation, competitiveness and market development — a 50 per cent increase from the original Growing Forward agreement.” The bottom line, though, is that your farm’s safety net has been yanked back significantly. Critics say Ottawa is using short-term high commodity prices to implement a long-term withdrawal from its traditional level of farm support. They say the Harper government is being opportunistic, making the kind of cuts they have favoured for years while prices are high and the immediate impact of the cuts will be correspondingly low. “It’s obvious the government is looking at this as a way to cut some direct assistance to farmers,” says Kelvin Shultz owner of Wheatland Accounting in Fillmore, Sask.

What the changes mean Several key differences in risk management programs will come into effect this April. However, they affect the numbers, not the conceptual design. Generally, the framework of how AgriStability and AgriInvest function is untouched. For instance, the 26 country-guide.ca

margin-based AgriStability program will still allow farmers to protect against big decreases in farm income, with payment triggered when allowable revenues minus allowable expenses drop below the average historical reference margin. Beginning in 2013, if your gross farm margin is less than 70 per cent of your historical reference margin (i.e. income drops 30 per cent), you’ll get a payment. Previously, you qualified once your margin fell below 85 per cent of your reference margin. Also, previous benefits were tiered based on the extent of loss in margin. Coverage began after a 15 per cent drop in margin, the next tier kicked in after an additional 15 per cent drop, and the third tier would cover any remaining decrease in margins. Now, you just have one tier that is triggered at the 70 per cent level. Also in 2013, the reference margins (and as a result, the support level) will be the lower of the farm’s historical reference margin or allowable expenses reported in previous years. At the time of writing, the details on how the new average allowable expenses will be calculated had not been released. There are many possible ways farms could ask to calculate this new number.

Where it hurts To get a non-politicized idea of the real-life impact, Shultz looked at 37 of his clients who participated in the 2011 AgriStability calculations of benefits. Then he recalculated the outcome under the new GF2 program, using the allowable expenses from the calculation of benefits that related to the same three years, as was done in previous years. As readers may remember, 2011 was a disaster year in many parts of southeastern Saskatchewan, so you’d expect a program such as AgriStability to pay out in many cases. However, Shultz’s results showed a dramatically different outcome with the new GF2 rules. He found 43 per cent fewer clients would have received a payment from AgriStability in 2011 under the new program compared to the old one. Indeed, the average reference margin of the sample group in the new program as compared to the old was 22 per cent lower. Overall, the government funds paid out to this MARCH 1, 2013


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sample group would have been 52 lower than under the terms of the original Growing Forward system. Of the clients who did get a payment under the old program for the 2011 year, on average they would have received $41,067 less in government assistance under GF2. Shultz’s calculations match fairly closely to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture estimates that Growing Forward 2 would cut nearly 50 per cent of government funds from AgriStability. Furthermore, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture suggests the cuts to AgriStability will provide a net savings to government of about $350 million per year and AgriInvest program changes will result in about $100 million in savings per year. AgriInvest has also been cut back. Before 2013, you could contribute a matchable deposit of up to 1.5 per cent of allowable net sales (gross commodity sales less qualifying purchases, such as seed and plant expenses) into an AgriInvest account. This annual net sales (ANS) was limited to $1.5 million at 1.5 per cent for a maximum AgriInvest benefit of $22,500. However, in 2013, this rate will be reduced to 1.0 per cent, so the maximum benefit will be $15,000.

On the positive side On the plus side, limits on farmer contributions that are unmatched have increased for AgriInvest, as have maximum account balances. You will now be able to contribute up to 100 per cent of ANS annually and up to 400 per cent of ANS in total. This means in good years you can set aside more money tax deferred. In less profitable years, you can use these funds to help with small income shortfalls, or make investments to reduce on-farm risks. You still withdraw AgriInvest money by transferring funds to your farm’s bank account. However, don’t forget that the government portion is taxable and once the withdrawal is made all taxable government funds are considered to be withdrawn first, ahead of the non-taxable farmer deposits.

Other risk strategies “This (GF2) will greatly change the risk management strategy for farmers going forward,” says Schultz. Although crop insurance protects the production side of risk, now Canadian farmers will not have the level of added protection against market swings that AgriStability provided in the past. “It may be necessary to look to some private income insurance programs, such as Global Ag Risk, to supplement risk management,” says Shultz.  However, this added level of insurance from the private sector will come at a significant added cost compared to the previous AgriStability coverage, says Shultz. “But with the level of risk facing farmers today, it will merit looking into this coverage as a potential tool for risk protection.” MARCH 1, 2013

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) wants private market insurance and other risk management tools to develop. “The changes being made to BRM (business risk management), combined with efforts to facilitate new products, should encourage producers to take on greater responsibility for managing income declines and developing other private risk management solutions,” says Patrick Girard, senior media relations officer at AAFC. Analysis from outside experts, including private insurers, academics and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, along with AAFC’s own analysis, have shown that the comprehensive approach of the original Growing Forward BRM suite left little room for private-sector tools and may reduce producer adaptation to market conditions. “The OECD in particular found that BRM program coverage would sometimes mask market signals and, in turn, limit adaptation and innovation by the sector,” says Girard.

“This will greatly change the risk management strategy for farmers going forward.” — Kelvin Shultz GF2 allocates an average of $12 million per year for research and development and to implement new agricultural risk management tools, including insurance and hedging products. “GF2 seeks to further promote the development and use of a broader range of these tools and services for producers,” Girard says. AAFC sees enormous potential in the development of new risk management tools for producers by governments, industry organizations representing producers or commodities, the academic community and the private sector. “We are already seeing greater interest from the private sector in developing new insurance products,” says Girard. Back in southern Saskatchewan, Shultz is concerned about the potential impact of the changes in GF2 in lower market conditions. He says under GF2, farmers will need to leverage more knowledgebased strategies to reduce market risk, including diversification, using more futures and options, and predetermining costs of production to establish an acceptable return before marketing a crop. Many Canadian farmers are already relying on their own strategies (and on supply management) to manage market risk, but are taking advantage of government matching funds and saving for a rainy day… or a non-rainy season. However, during the 2010 program year, only about half of Canadian farmers participated in AgriStability and accounted for 74 per cent of allowable market revenues. CG country-guide.ca 27


business

The new lifelong learner More farmers may plan to retire, but they also look to stay connected by advising the next generation on the farm, as well as by managing their own business interests. In our fastpaced world, it will take renewed focus on lifelong learning By Helen Lammers-Helps here is only one constant in life and that is change,” the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is supposed to have said in 500 BC. If anything, those words ring even truer today than they could have in his own time. Since operating a farm involves so many disciplines, young farmers get used to continuously upgrading their knowledge by reading, attending conferences, using social media and taking courses. They’re also used to prioritizing the learning process within a busy farming life, where the most limited resource is the farmer’s own time. As farmers approach their senior years, however, that sense of urgency can seem to fade. Yet with more farmers continuing in advisory roles, education may provide a bigger payoff than ever. Because of the crucial nature of this ongoing job, Country Guide asked for advice from three adult education specialists; Patsy Marshall, an award-winning instructor in the adult education department at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont., Sharon Abbey, director of the Centre for Adult Education at Brock’s faculty of education in St. Catharines, and Kari Nicolas, a manager at the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education at the University of Sask. All three agree the first priority is to understand what kind of learner you are. Do you learn best by listening, seeing or doing? Marshall explains that each of us uses all three types of learning but we usually have a preferred method. Knowing your preferred learning style will help you choose the right course or program for you, and help you implement the most effective learning strategies. To find out what your preferred learning style is, you can take a free online assessment. Marshall suggests typing the search terms “free learning style assessment” into your search engine, although she likes the dogpile search engine found at www.dogpile. com which combines the results for four different search engines including Google, Yahoo and Bing. Abbey also recommends looking at the course requirements to see if they are a good match for your strengths. If the program requires a lot of reading and you hate reading, that’s not going to be a good fit, she explains. Or if it requires writing essays 28 country-guide.ca

and this is not one of your strengths, that’s probably not the best choice for you either. Some people prefer a face-to-face class where you get to know the people in your class. Others prefer online courses because they can do the work whenever it is convenient for them, says Abbey. “Of course in some remote areas, face-to-face courses may not be available,” she points out. Nicolas agrees it’s important to research the method of delivery. “Not all methods (such as online or independent study) work for every learner,” she advises. With technological advances, online courses are getting more and more sophisticated and interactive, says Abbey. One of the advantages of video-taped lectures is that you can watch them as many times as you want. Discussion forums, blogs, chat rooms, and Skype are allowing more interaction between students. Some courses allow students to express what they’ve learned creatively through art or music. Online courses also make it possible for people from different geographic areas to connect. Abbey recommends being a shrewd consumer when it comes to selecting a program. Some of the things to consider include how long the institution has been offering the program. She knows from experience it can take several years to develop a good program, so if it’s brand new it may not be up to standard, she says. “If they say they have 15 courses but only two are currently offered that’s another indication it may not be as good as it sounds,” Abbey says. Also make sure there’s a phone service, so you can actually ask questions before you sign on any dotted lines. Before registering for any course or program, Nicolas also suggests you make a point of discussing your plans with the whole family, so they’re in the loop from the beginning. Of course, selecting the right program is only the beginning. Successfully completing a program, even if it’s not for credit, means absorbing the information that’s presented. For tackling course readings, Marshall likes the SQ3R method. First, Survey the chapter by skimming the titles, captions under pictures, graphs, review questions, introductory and concluding paragraphs and the summary. Then pose MARCH 1, 2013


BUSINESS Questions about the material. When you begin to Read, look for the answers to the questions you raised and note all underlined, italicized, and bold-printed words. Stop and reread passages that aren’t clear. Recite the key points after you’ve read a section, making notes in your own words. The more senses you use, the more likely you are to remember it! Finally, Review. For a complete description of this study method, go to http://www. studygs.net/texred2.htm. When taking notes, Marshall recommends the Cornell Method. Make a two-inch column on the left-hand side of the page and another along the bottom. During the lecture, or while watching a video, make notes in the large column on the righthand side of the page. Use “mind mapping” in the left-hand column to record connections between the new material and things you already know, advises Marshall. A mind map is a diagram used to visually outline information. In the bottom margin, write key points or use diagrams or pictures to summarize the material. This note-taking method may be especially useful for subjects requiring the student to synthesize what’s being learned rather than strict recall of the material. For more details on the Cornell Method, go to http://www. montgomerycollege.edu/Departments/enreadtp/Cornell.html. The Cornell Method lends itself well to taking notes by hand. Marshall says most of her students continue to take notes by hand and some research does indicate that the act of writing information down does help store it in memory. However, some people prefer taking notes with a laptop because they have poor handwriting, are faster typing than writing, or find it easier to organize their notes when they are in a digital format. The key is to find the method that works best for you. Next, don’t forget it’s important to select the right study environment, says Marshall. Some people are distracted by noise of any kind so should study in a quiet environment. Others do better with some background music playing, she explains. For kinesthetic learners who need to move around but are not able to, she recommends chewing gum or sucking on a candy. Talking about the key concepts in study groups can also help you understand and retain the information, says Marshall. Good time management is one of the foundations of success. Nicolas stresses the importance of carving out regular, scheduled time for learning/studying and expecting friends and family to respect that time. It will be easier to remember new information if you can find ways to link it to what you already know, points out Abbey. You can also use abbreviations or create a song to help you recall information. Don’t overlook the Internet. For instance, YouTube videos can bring you additional information and hands-on pespectives. But don’t overdo it, says Abbey. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions, says Abbey. “Tell the instructor if it’s not clear.” You also have to be able to take constructive criticism, says Abbey. Be sure to alert the institution about any learning disabilities you have and ask for modifications to the program of study to accommodate you, says Abbey. Nicolas agrees and also recommends using the support services that are available to students such as writing clinics that help with essay writing. And if you want to retain what you learned after the final exam is over? That’s simple, says Marshall. Start applying it and using it as soon as you can. CG

Let’s Get GrowInG! Growing Forward 2 is an investment of $3 billion in strategic initiatives to assist farmers like you find innovative ways to expand markets and stay competitive. Learn more about these and other federal, provincial and territorial programs that can help you manage your business risks.

Growing Forward 2 programs focus on: • • • •

Innovation Competitiveness Market Development Business Risk Management

To find out more about federal programs and application deadlines, visit

www.agr.gc.ca/growingforward2 or call 1-877-246-4682 today!

Modern. Innovative. Growing.

MARCH 1, 2013

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13-01-28 4:42 PM


business

Inside a farm succession

Farmers like Betty Green may head into succession promising they’ll be different than their parents’ generation. The reality is, the kids are different too

he numbers aren’t exactly encouraging. Historically, only 30 per cent of farms succeed in transitioning the farm to the first new generation, a mere 15 per cent survive the second succession, and no more than five per cent make it through the third. There are all sorts of reasons why farms stumble, of course. In fact, the reasons are as unique as the farms themselves, and also as unique as the families that own them. Still, there’s a whole generation of Canadian farmers who survived the sometimes messy and often frustrating business of taking over the farm from their parents, and who now face the job of overseeing the farm’s transition to their children. The question is, are all those Canadian farmers in their 50s, 60s and 70s actually any better at the succession process than their parents were? Will their children not only be able to take over the farm, but be able to take over the farm with a fighting chance of building a full and long life on it? Manitoba’s Betty Green has been through both, and while she believes the second was more successful than the first, she admits neither was easy. When Green married husband, Robert, back in the 1970s, he had already begun the process of taking over the family farm. That process wasn’t going too smoothly. “At that time, I think it was more difficult for a senior member of a partnership to step back and relinquish the decision-making to the younger generation,” says Betty. “There was a lack of trust in the decision-making and a lack of role definition. “The experience was hard, but we learned a lot from it.”

Round two Now that the Greens are dealing with the transition of their own ranch to the next generation, the memories of that first transition are helping the family smooth out a few of the bumps. In 1982, Betty and Robert moved to Fisher Branch in the province’s Interlake region to start ranching, where today they have a 1,000-head 30 country-guide.ca

cow-calf and backgrounding operation. But as so often happens, it’s hard to split the family and the farm, and along the path toward growth and eventually toward succession, they’ve had to help the farm evolve along with the family. When the Greens seriously began the transition process about three years ago both their son, Donald and their son-in-law, Phil were involved in the ranch operations. In this case, the son-in-law Phil had already been working on the farm for a number of years when Donald moved back to the ranch in 2003 with a new wife, an agrology degree and a haystack of enthusiasm. Donald’s return created a challenging new dynamic. “The son-in-law had taken the son’s position and when Donald came back, there were issues to work out,” says Betty. As it turned out, the differences between the two young men emerged as strengths. They worked well together, each recognizing that they had a set of skills that complemented each other’s. But the timing of Donald’s return, just as the BSE crisis erupted, couldn’t have been worse. It was hardly the best time to start transitioning the farm, and the family’s plans had to be put on hold. “We were hesitant to move forward very quickly,” says Betty. “We delayed a lot of our structural change for three or four years.” Part of the reason was because they wanted to give Donald ample opportunity to change his mind, admits Betty. But Donald stuck it out. It was a time, the Greens now say, when the old adage definitely proved itself: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” As the market and the farm slowly got back on track, the transition train gathered speed too. Yet throughout the process there have been a number of revelations, and it has turned out to be an exercise in self-discovery for everyone involved. The first revelation came early on when Betty and Robert realized that the next generation had a far different attitude than they’d had when they were young themselves, and when they were going through the same process as beginning farmers. MARCH 1, 2013

Photo credit: There’s a Smile Photography

By Angela Lovell


business

In non-farm businesses, the bottom line may be the only consideration. For the Greens, as for other families, the key has been learning to function as both family member and business partner.

“Society has changed and our children have changed,” says Betty. “They are much more insistent that they will have a role, and it has to be concrete. They can’t just be told it’s going to be theirs, they want evidence of that, and we have certainly moved a long way in that direction.” The younger generation, as they have learned, also has very different expectations and priorities. “They want to develop their own business models and try new ideas,” says Betty. “They are determined to work smarter, not harder, because they want to spend more time with their families and friends. Freedom and independence are very important to them.” While understanding these things has helped, preparing to hand over the reins hasn’t been easy. MARCH 1, 2013

A lot of that has to do with role definition, and changing those lifetime habits is hard. It’s not easy to go from being a parent to a business partner. Even seemingly small things fed into the larger, looming issue of who makes the rules… and whether Betty and Robert were making decisions as parents or as business leaders. As a mom, for instance, Betty strictly forbade any swearing in her presence, and she had a hard time listening to Donald cursing away as he handled their ornery cattle. She’s had to catch herself more than once when the “mom” takes over. She recalls one family business meeting. Betty Continued on page 32 country-guide.ca 31


business Continued from page 31

Let’s talk

served cake, then proceeded to tell her son to put his plate in the sink. “Wait a minute,” he joked. “Are you my mom or my business partner?” But the struggles went in both directions. Betty recalls that Donald, armed with plenty of scientific research and data, suggested several times that they add corn to their crop mix to improve the nutritional balance of their feed. He met with a flat “no” from Dad every time. It wasn’t until Betty nudged Robert and recalled the time he’d suggested growing corn to his own father, and received the same response, that Robert changed his mind. “A number of times I reminded Robert that at Donald’s age he had wanted his independence,” says Betty. “It was only fair to think that his son would want more of a decision-making role too.” But as always, it’s one thing to say the words. It’s something else to be caught up in living them.

In the early days Betty was the self-appointed information guru for the transition process. She researched and read, attended seminars, meetings, conferences and workshops, sponging up information that she relayed back to the family. But when Donald suggested that he would like to accompany her to these events she learned a valuable lesson. Parents don’t need to be the “source of all wisdom” for their kids. “Once Donald started coming with me to events it opened up all kinds of discussions that weren’t as easy to initiate when I was going alone,” Betty says. “So a piece of advice is, always involve everyone in the learning process. Even after we initiated the transition we went to a conference that gave us some more ideas about the succession-planning process that had an impact on the final outcome. There is always something to learn.” Meetings were something that Betty pushed hard for in the early days. Betty was a board member of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association, was past president of the Manitoba Beef Producers, sits on the board of the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council and is also the Manitoba provincial co-ordinator for the Verified Beef Production program. She has learned a lot about consultation and compromise, and she was a strong believer in the need for formally conducted business meetings between the farm partners. Even so, they weren’t easy to establish. Donald and Robert were particularly reluctant to set time aside for them and didn’t see a need until an inevitable blow-up over an issue reinforced the realization that everyone needed regular and equal input into the decision-making process. Over time those business meetings, fruitful as they were, evolved into something less formal, that avoids the necessity of getting everyone together in one place at the same time, while recognizing the importance of a regular communication flow. Once everyone had cellphones, business increasingly was conducted on the fly and it has proved just as effective. “We have come to a point where we don’t save our discussions for a business meeting, we have that two- or three-minute conversation on the phone and we are way more comfortable with that,” says Betty.

Says Green: “Our children have changed. They are much more insistent that they will have a role, and it has to be concrete.” Then there were three In 2011, Phil decided that he wanted to pursue off-farm employment and although he retains ownership of his farm and cattle, he has decided not to be a shareholder in G7 Ranch. Phil’s departure was another ‘Aha!’ moment for the Greens. It made them realize that they wanted to build more flexibility into the structure they were putting together for the future of the ranch. “It made us realize that we had to build in options like, what if someone got hurt,” says Betty. That led to discussions about insurance and about how the farm could get through short-term challenges of that type. But then the discussions went deeper, building in individual flexibility. “If Phil decides to come back, there is that option,” Betty says. “If someone wants out, or our daughter decides to come back, she has that option as well.” Partly to allow for future flexibility the Greens decided to incorporate the business with Betty, Robert, Donald and his wife, Jennifer as shareholders. “Incorporation offers us more flexibility in our estate planning and the structure, with preferred shares and common shares, gives us future ownership options and we can keep land in or out of the corporation, so it really gives us the flexibility everyone wants,” says Betty. 32 country-guide.ca

Establishing goals Establishing a common vision for the future of the farm is different for every family. So is the amount of professional advice and facilitation you might need. In fact, say the Greens, their needs varied at different points of the process. The family needed to start with their own discussion of a few key questions, says Betty. Who is in and who is out? What does that mean for inheritances? How can everyone be treated fairly, but not necessarily equally? Where does everyone want to be in five or 10 years’ time? MARCH 1, 2013


business “We did use advisers, but sometimes we thought it was best for us to work through some issues without a third party intervening,” Green recalls. “For example, we decided to set goals and identify everyone’s priorities. Had an adviser been there, we may not have had the same heart-to-heart conversations, and I’m not sure I would have shared everything that I did in front of a third party.” A unanimous priority that came out of those sessions was the family. Everybody agreed that keeping the family together and in harmony with each other was the absolute most important thing. Betty had seen too many cases where families had been torn apart by the transition process, and she was comforted by the fact that no one wanted to see that happen to the Greens. “When this started the roles were really confused, and at family gatherings there would often be some business discussed and it could be a source of tension,” says Betty. “Everyone understands now that family is family and when we are going to discuss business, that’s business. It’s not black and white, but we don’t sit down and talk about succession planning over Christmas dinner. That’s really made a difference and everyone agrees that there is a division there and that the family, above all else, is the most important thing to us all.” To achieve that goal has taken a lot of work, a lot of discussion and a lot of love. It’s a large family. Betty and Robert have five children, Donald, Sandra (Phil’s wife), daughter Angela (an accountant living in Teulon), daughter Jodyne (a veterinarian in Prince George) and daughter Crystal (who works in health care in Winnipeg). There are nine grandchildren, ranging in ages from two to 15, and two more are on the way. Some family members are more involved in the farm than others, but all are made to feel that they are a part of the ranch and will have the option to pursue farming if they so choose one day. “I had an interesting conversation with one of my non-farming grandchildren and he said, ‘Grandma, are we kind of part of the farm?’” says Betty. “When he comes he really loves to help with the animals and there’s lots of discussion with the other kids about this is my calf and if I look after it really well then I get some of the proceeds from selling the calf, and so I guess he began to feel as if he might be missing out a little bit. Not that it’s any indication that he will want to farm, but just to let him know that is an option is important.”

Letting go of the reins The gradual transition to the next generation has become easier as time goes on, even for Robert, who is much more comfortable devolving responsibility to Donald than in the past. “At first when we had a discussion, Robert was the one who made the phone call. Now almost always we have the same discussion, but Robert will say to Donald, you make the phone call.” MARCH 1, 2013

As the dynamics change over time everyone becomes less confused about their roles and more comfortable with them. “We have learned to be comfortable with each other’s decision-making and thought processes,” says Betty. “It’s something you can’t rush. And it’s not necessarily a lack of trust. My husband always jokes that we aren’t any smarter than the younger generation, we have just made way more mistakes, and we want them to learn from those. “Well, you can’t always force that,” Betty now realizes. “Kids have to make their own mistakes.” Today, Robert and Betty find themselves involved in yet a third farm transition as they begin to work in provisions for the grandchildren. “I would never have expected us to be at a point where we were thinking about another go-round,” says Betty. “Honestly, three years ago I would have said if I can get through this, I hope I am not around for the next one.” Some of the decisions the Greens have made will create a working relationship between the children, even the ones who are non-farmers, so they all gain experience about how to work together as business partners while Betty and Robert are still around to offer some advice and before there are all of the other complications that arise in terms of having lost parents. There are so many reasons for parents to be fearful about transition. They fear not being needed, they fear losing touch with the issues of the day, and they fear age and death, loss of financial independence, fighting amongst family members over the farm and its assets, and leaving a failing business to the next generation. But when Betty and Robert discussed the transition with their family, both made it clear that despite the tough times this was their decision and what they wanted. Although this reassurance makes it easier, Betty jokes that Robert’s idea of retirement is still working five days a week, eight hours a day. So where will everyone be tomorrow? Depending on the day, Robert may be fishing, Betty may be making greeting cards, and Donald may be helping load the kids’ 4-H calves for the summer fair. And everyone will be looking forward to the next transition. And there’ll still be huge family gatherings along the way with the soon-to-be 11 grandchildren, who are all growing up to love the farm. At 38, Donald has taken on full responsibility for the cropping, the forage production and the feedlot feeding component. His parents’ confidence in his management abilities is evidenced by the three-week vacation they recently took to Australia, something that Betty says they wouldn’t have contemplated a few years ago, and they even managed it without so much as a phone call home to check up on things. “Donald is certainly capable of taking over the place if something happens to us and is in a position to do that, so that is very comforting,” says Betty. “We have achieved what we wanted to achieve.” CG country-guide.ca 33


Production

Inoculating for yield The biggest harvest in 2012 may actually have been in what we learned about how to grow bigger crops in future By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor he 2012 growing season taught growers and industry immense amounts about what makes yield, especially in soybeans. Still, it may be short sighted to praise those August rains and stop there. Yes, the rains were vital, but there was much more going on behind the scenes. The four “new” pillars of a good soybean crop proved decisive, including getting an early start, planting treated seed, using an inoculant, and spending time to choose great genetics for your farm. On their own, these four components don’t do as much to boost yield as they do when they’re combined. But on many farms, the realization that is turning heads — and some would suggest it’s been rather sudden — is that inoculants can play a cheapinsurance role in annual cropping plans. As summer turned to fall in 2012, reports began filtering east from Manitoba of higher-than-expected yields, with anecdotal reports citing bushel-peracres yields in the high 40s and well into the mid50s. Then came the truly amazing numbers from Ontario, where growers were seeing average yields in the 60s, with sections of fields registering in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

“Once we go to bulk seed that’s pre-inoculated and pre-treated, the uptake increases, year after year.” — Dave Townsend Those yield levels, both in the West and the East, have fuelled sales in inoculants, especially in Manitoba where some seed company reps are forecasting the province will seed upwards of a million acres of soybeans in 2013. That kind of growth is amazing to Dustin Steckle, Ontario sales representative for Novozymes. He’s especially impressed with grower uptake on retailer-applied and dual-mode-of-action inoculants that are coming to the market. Five years ago, he says, dealer-applied inoculants weren’t as popular. “Growers have seen the results, they’ve done their own trials and they’ve seen the yield boost, 34 country-guide.ca

and they realize that it does make a difference,” says Steckle. “Another $15 to $20 profit, on a per-acre basis, is huge.” There are several interesting developments within the inoculant market, in addition to farmers’ growing awareness of their benefits. For many years, the standard inoculant for soybeans was Bradyrhizobium japonicum, with Bacilus subtilis entering the picture nearly a decade ago. Now, companies such as Novozymes are bringing newer technologies to the market, including growth promoters and other biologicals. Among the growth promoters is Novozymes’ LCO (Lipo-chitooligosaccharide) Promoter technology, which is combined with a Bradyrhizobium japonicum inoculant for soybeans. It’s marketed under the Optimize brand, and among its target benefits is better root development which in turn helps in nutrient and water uptake. Steckle emphasizes that the growth promoter is not a bacterium. Instead, Optimize is more like an analogue that helps the rhizobium and the soybean plant skip their preliminary recognition phase, so they can get to work faster. With the Optimize LCO molecule, Steckle says, nodulation is earlier and enhanced, the canopy closes faster and the crop has improved vigour. Vegetative growth, pod set and seed growth are likewise lengthened, Steckle says, with increased yield as the ultimate goal.

Other drivers The inoculants and seed treatments sector is being affected by factors beyond increased yields. Convenience, efficacy of the products, even the need to take things such as live bacterial cultures out of the hands of growers, are all influencing demand. Steckle notes that as farms are growing in size and complexity, farmers are stressed for time and labour, and are often looking for solutions to these types of challenges. “There’s definitely more labour, but the decision makers are also less hands on,” says Steckle, adding that seed company-applied or retailer-applied inoculants are providing a convenience that time-stressed farmers now find appealing. “It’s not that they (farmers) were applying it wrong when they were doing it,” Steckle says. “It’s just that having it done before it’s delivered means that each seed now has the right amount of inoculant on it.” To Dave Townsend, the growth in the inoculants market is another sign that attitudes are changing MARCH 1, 2013


production

among growers. Two decades ago, he says, soybeans were regarded as little more than a rotation crop — something to provide a break between corn crops. “Now they’re treating it as a cash crop,” says Townsend, product manager for Ontario with Becker Underwood, noting that much the same thing is happening now with wheat. “Plus, guys are trying to plant earlier, and they’re looking after their soils a little better. And there’s some more money there (as a result of higher prices), so they’re doing better at understanding soil fertility.” These are the factors that have helped push pre-inoculants at a faster rate than was initially expected, and Townsend, like Steckle, sees that growers are more accepting of the convenience offered by the seed companies and retailers. Do growers fully understand all the science behind inoculants and inoculant application? Maybe not, says Townsend, but they do understand the value of a BioStacked inoculation and the convenience of pre-inoculation. “This is what we’re seeing in the southern Ontario, Essex-Kent-Lambton region, where there’s been low use of inoculants but high acreages of soybeans,” says Townsend, adding that those three counties have been growing soybeans for many years. As a result, there’s a notion that they didn’t need an inoculant. “But once we go to bulk seed that’s pre-inoculated and pretreated, the uptake increases, year after year.”

Where are inoculants heading? It’s not surprising that given the tremendous growth potential on the Prairies that both Becker Underwood and Novozymes are looking to the West. From an Ontario perspective, watching Manitoba — and even Saskatchewan and Alberta — begin to open up to the potential for soybeans, is to look back 20 or more years ago on Ontario’s development. The difference is, Western Canada’s growth is taking shape with today’s technology. “When you talk about maturity with corn, it’s all about heat units, but with soybeans, it’s sensitivity MARCH 1, 2013

to sunlight,” says Townsend, noting the difference between daylight availability in the West compared to the East. “There in the summer, it’s daylight around 4 a.m. and there’s still light at 10 p.m. That’s two or three hours’ difference compared to here (southern Ontario), and for soybeans with that sunlight, it drives maturity and yield. The drought in 2012 meant fewer clouds, plus there was no compaction and lots of root growth. It was just so different. Had it been cloudy with no rain this past year, our yields would have been totally different.” To Steckle, there’s also a difference in management practices, not to mention the difference in farm size that can influence the use of the technology, be it a new soybean variety or an inoculant. “With soybean varieties here in Ontario, we want to try them, so we’ll ask for a few bags,” says Steckle. “But out there, they’ll ask for enough to do 500 acres — just to try them.” In Manitoba, Steckle says, application practices are also different, so growers will mix inoculants such as Optimize and Nodulator N/T and then apply a granular in-furrow treatment. That’s something they’ve been doing in Manitoba for years with their pulse crops, and they’re adapting that same practice to help ensure their soybean crops have proper nodulation. Of particular interest for Ontario growers is that Novozymes is setting up granular in-furrow field trials, so that’s something to watch for in the coming years. According to Townsend, new formulations and new methods of packaging are also coming to market in an effort to extend the life of the rhizobia and biologicals. If packaging can keep the bacteria alive longer and more active, then it will extend the inoculant’s viability on the seed. The trick, however, is to ensure that no matter what they’re putting on the seed, the treatments, the inoculant or the biologicals will not adversely affect the seed’s performance. Says Townsend: “There are a lot of things we have to do to keep these biologicals alive before getting them into the ground.” CG country-guide.ca 35


Production

New regs for seed treatment New rules aim to convince non-farmers that the industry can be trusted to guard health and the environment By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor aybe nobody exactly likes regulations, but increasingly in agriculture, new rules are how we show the public and our governments that farmers are accountable, they can be trusted to be self-regulated, and they are committed to producing healthy, nutritious food in a clean, green environment. Nutrient management and environmental plans are examples of the industry coming together to establish baseline protocols that not only protect the environment and human health, but demonstrate that commitment to non-farmers too. The good news? Despite initial fears that they would be burdensome and costly, these programs have become accepted and even provide a sense of internal stability within their respective sectors. Some have even created a degree of added value for their users.

“It’s for all aspects of the seed treatment sector seed, chemical, growers – all stakeholders.” — Russel Hurst It’s against that backdrop that another initiative is being developed in the seed treatment sector. This new set of protocols is likely to be phased in during the next two years, with rules that will directly affect seed treatment makers and dealers, with indirect impacts on growers. Once implemented, the new system would require a third-party audit of seed treatment facilities, probably every second year, and taking an expected half-day to complete. It’s no secret that seed treatment is one of the fastest-growing segments in the crop protection sector in Canada. In the same vein as nutrient management, the mindset is better that the industry do it itself, for itself, rather than risk having it done by someone outside of the industry. 36 country-guide.ca

Even better, despite the early warnings that change was going to be forced on farmers by various levels of government, farmers have kept a strong hand in managing environmental agendas. There are hints of the same approach with the Commercial Seed Treatment Initiative, which has safety and accountability as key objectives. It’s all part of the effort that CropLife Canada began in 2010 with the establishment of a steering committee to begin developing a set of commercial (as opposed to “on-farm”) seed treatment standards. Its statement of purpose is cited as “to develop and implement improved stewardship practices in the storage and use of the pesticide industry’s seed treatment products.” Russel Hurst, managing director for stewardship and sustainability at CropLife Canada, started developing these best management practices in collaboration with the seed trade, seed growers and retailers, as well as government agencies such as Ottawa’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. On the one hand, Hurst acknowledges growers will look upon these standards as “just another cost for their seed,” but in the end he believes the rules will prove their value, much like the warehousing standards for chemicals and storage standards for anhydrous ammonia. “Right now, we’re drafting the protocols for things like siting and exterior structures and equipment, operational protocols and documentation,” says Hurst. “Then we look at things like whether we need additional employee training. Do we need WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems) training? What about transport and handling? Is there an emergency response plan?”

Just getting bigger Another consideration is that seed treatment makers are creating new kinds of seed treatments. Active ingredients now include new insecticides, fungicides and even nematicides, and these treatments are being delivered in new ways, such as via stacking traits, inoculants featuring biologicals, growth promoters and soon, micronutrients and polymer coatings. MARCH 1, 2013


PRODUCTION

As well, there are already 66 laws and directives that impact on the seed treatment sector, ranging all the way from fire codes and labour regulations to pesticide label recommendations. Once in place, the new commercial seed treatment protocol would add roughly 10 new directives. Hurst says the new approach will codify practices that many seed treatment makers and outlets have already adopted. “Ask any retailer now if they’ve noticed improvement,” says Hurst. “It just provides some predictability and consistency. Essentially, we’re saying, ‘Here’s the line in the sand.’ And the vast majority of those involved are already operating above the line.”

Looking forward With implementation planned for 2015, the industry is ramping up its preparations. Also important is that the new protocols will only require thirdparty assessment for new seed treatments, and Hurst points out that in a typical registration year, there are usually only one or two new products that come to market.

“It really comes down to two purposes,” says Hurst. “Manufacturers want predictability for their new products, and these standards will give them that. But they’ll also provide flexibility.” Hurst adds that there are some cases where storage and treatment will have some level of conflict. Some sites could be hard pressed to meet the standards where others won’t. Add to that the fact that certain crops have evolved further in terms of treatment capabilities. Corn and canola are being treated at the larger seed dealers, while soybeans are somewhere in between. Small grains are generally treated by a combination of seed dealers and growers. Still, Hurst emphasizes that CropLife Canada is not running this initiative, nor is this an effort to rein in any company or facility, but to work together to improve product stewardship within the seed treatment sector as a whole. “It’s for all aspects of the seed treatment sector — seed, chemical, growers — all stakeholders,” says Hurst. “We know that we’re a lot more successful if there’s buy-in from everybody.” CG

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Production

The results are in In new seed treatment trials, clear results were seen in oats and barley, with one key proviso By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor fter two years, three locations and more than 930 plots looking at 21 different product variations and combinations, you might not be surprised to hear Quentin Martin is glad to have completed his final report on seed and foliar treatment trials for oats and barley. Martin deployed a lot of science in the trials, and his results confirm similar trials done on smuts in small grain crops. Yet he chuckles at how the weather played such an important role. Dignity barley and AC Bradley oats were planted at each site, with six different seed treatments and three foliar fungicides plus a check. The seed treatments included Rancona Apex, Raxil MD, Vibrance/Cruiser/Proseed, Stress Shield and C7 biological, along with a no-treatment check. Caramba, Prosaro, Folicur and a no-spray check were the foliar fungicide choices.

With stronger, more consistent yields, today’s seed treatments are earning a place in oats and barley The goal was to test the performance and interaction of seed treatments and foliar fungicides, many of which have been recently registered for use on barley and oats. Yield was one of the performance measures in the trial, but so was the presence of true loose smut in barley and fusarium head blight in both crops. Although there were many conclusive results that came out of the study, there was also one major caveat concerning those findings. “It just happened that we picked two years that, environmentally, didn’t produce much in the way of disease pressure,” says Martin, president of Wintermar Farms and Cribit Seeds, just east of Waterloo, Ont. “We saw almost no fusarium in oats and barley for those two years, and little rust 38 country-guide.ca

pressure in oats. In spite of that, there was still some response to foliar fungicides, to some extent, in both oats and barley.” The two years saw different planting conditions, with 2011 being late and wet compared to an early and ideal spring planting season in 2012. Sites were located near Conn in southeastern Grey County, in the Elmira-Listowel area on clay, and near Martin’s farm at Winterbourne. Across those sites and treatments, seed treatment increased yields by three to six per cent in barley and two to five per cent in oats regardless of whether a foliar fungicide was applied. On the other hand, with the growing conditions in 2011 and 2012, an insecticide treatment in addition to a fungicide treatment provided no significant yield increase. With a single foliar fungicide application on those plots with a seed treatment, yields were boosted four to 11 per cent in oats and two to 16 per cent in barley. As far as treatments were concerned the 2012 results (see table) showed that on the barley side, the seed treatment combination of Rancona Apex + C7, with a foliar fungicide application of Caramba yielded 3.551 tonnes per hectare. In the oats trial, Rancona Apex with a Folicur application yielded 3.632 tonnes per hectare. “If you analyzed each plot, it was very hard to demonstrate significance, statistically. So that’s why we kind of looked for trends, and we started by ranking these treatments. And when you rank them like that, you look at yield and go in descending order, and you see that the plots that had no foliar treatment are at or near the bottom. There are no ‘nones’ that showed up above 12th place.” Less strikingly, with seed treatments in barley, two of the “no treatments” ranked third last and last. And in oats, the best of the three untreated checks is in 11th place. Martin compares the trial results to a hockey team trying to reach the playoffs. To make it to that “next level,” growers need to use a foliar fungicide application and a seed treatment. “Looking at the whole deal, at impacts and benefits, as opposed to being focused on a single crop, you have to weigh the benefits against the potential costs across all crop kinds and across a fair chunk of geography,” says Martin. “Part of me would MARCH 1, 2013


PRODUCTION

have been excited to see a significant benefit from insecticide applied on seed, especially if it might have reduced a foliar application because it’s more cost effective (saving money on treated seed versus the cost of a spray application). But we didn’t see that, and the other thing is that we were looking to try to increase our yields of oats and barley as much as possible with the available tools, because we’re not getting the kind of genetic improvement in oats and barley for yield that we have seen in the other three major crops.” Martin does see one potential red flag. Many acres of soybean and wheat now see some of the same products being used as seed treatments in

oats and barley. More corn is being sprayed with strobilurin fungicides as well, and there are signs of tolerance in frogeye leaf spot in soybeans. So there is a tipping point in the future that has to be kept in mind. The full report will be available at the Cribit Seeds website (www.cribit.com) as well as the Ontario Cereal Crop Committee website ( www. gocereals.ca). Martin also wants to acknowledge the help of John Sutton, Lily Tamburic-Ilincic, Peter Johnson and Brian Kerr for their help and support, as well as partial funding obtained through the Growing Forward initiative administered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council. CG

ALL 2012 TREATMENT COMBINATIONS RANKED BY AVERAGE YIELD AS KG/HA Dignity Barley, 252 plots over 3 sites Seed Treatment

Foliar

kg/ha

1

Rancona Apex + C7

Caramba

3551

2

Cruiser Vib. + ProSeed

Caramba

3

Raxil MD+Stress Shield

4

AC Bradley Oats, 168 plots over 2 sites (Conn omitted) Seed Treatment

Foliar

kg/ha

1

Rancona Apex

Folicur

3632

3421

2

Raxil MD

Caramba

3620

Prosaro

3416

3

Rancona Apx Stress Shd

Folicur

3590

Rancona Apex

Prosaro

3415

4

Rancona Apex + C7

Folicur

3571

5

check

Caramba

3412

5

Raxil MD+Stress Shield

Folicur

3558

6

Rancona Apex

Caramba

3376

6

Rancona Apx Stress Shd

Caramba

3514

7

Rancona Apex + C7

Prosaro

3372

7

Raxil MD

Folicur

3502

8

Rancona Apx Stress Shd

Caramba

3363

8

Cruiser Vib. + ProSeed

Caramba

3475

9

Raxil MD+Stress Shield

Caramba

3358

9

Raxil MD+Stress Shield

Caramba

3471

10

Raxil MD

Caramba

3355

10

Cruiser Vib. + ProSeed

Folicur

3440

11

Raxil MD

Prosaro

3301

11

check

Folicur

3407

12

Rancona Apex

none

3288

12

Rancona Apex + C7

Caramba

3386

13

Cruiser Vib. + ProSeed

Prosaro

3272

13

Rancona Apex + C7

none

3327

14

Cruiser Vib. + ProSeed

none

3250

14

check

none

3297

15

Rancona Apx Stress Shd

Prosaro

3231

15

Rancona Apex

none

3278

16

Raxil MD+Stress Shield

none

3191

16

Rancona Apx Stress Shd

none

3270

17

Rancona Apx Stress Shd

none

3186

17

Rancona Apex

Caramba

3257

18

Raxil MD

none

3171

18

Raxil MD+Stress Shield

none

3237

19

check

Prosaro

3086

19

check

Caramba

3229

20

Rancona Apex + C7

none

3083

20

Raxil MD

none

3190

21

check

none

3003

21

Cruiser Vib. + ProSeed

none

3129

Summary Comments: Across 122 comparisons, 57% of plots with both a seed and foliar treatment outyielded plots with only one. Of the top-yielding plots across 4 locations, 2 years and 2 crops, 25/30 were seed treated and foliar sprayed.

MARCH 1, 2013

country-guide.ca 39


Production

What’s next? Times are changing fast in seed treatments, with new tools to raise net per-acre revenues even higher By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor ot so many years ago, seed treatment choices for corn and soybeans were paltry, based on either Captan in corn or Vitaflo in soybeans, and with only a couple old and fairly nasty insecticides to kill wireworms and seed corn maggots. So now that soybeans and corn have joined the list of all the crops with seeds that are treated — and treatable — there’s nothing more coming for seed treatments, right? Wrong. In spite of the fact that most major crops have effective seed treatments today, including corn, soybeans, winter wheat, oats, barley, edible beans and alfalfa, the sector is rated as having one of the most exciting futures in the agri-food industry. If you add seed-delivered inoculants to the discussion, the potential is immense, with big impacts on growers, processors and the entire agri-food value chain. Clearly, times are changing for seed treatments, as are their chemical formulations, their targets and their delivery methods “Over the last seven or eight years, there’s been a progression from a single active ingredient, then combining one fungicide, and then two, and then three fungicides,” says Stephen Denys, vice-president of sales and marketing for Pride Seeds. “Now we can stack safer, lower-use-rate products together, each focused on one or more pathogens, and together do a more effective job on multiple targets in the soil.” Inoculants have become the latest, fastest-growing form of seed treatment, with two standard bacterial formulations to help with nodulation in soybeans — Bradyrhizobium japonicum and Bacillus subtilis. But in the world of inoculants, there’s considerable room for expansion, especially with earlier-maturing soybeans moving to Western Canada, not to mention the opportunity to stack inoculants with biologicals and growth promoters such as LCO (Lipo-chitooligosaccharides). On the stand-alone seed treatment side there are new possibilities as well. Companies are now working on incorporating nematicides into their next-generation products, and Bayer CropSciences has brought Votivo to the market, with the potential to protect the roots of a plant by preventing earlyseason feeding by nematodes. “Votivo is a bacterial formulation that protects the roots but doesn’t kill the nematodes,” says Tim Moyes, key account manager for seed growth with Bayer. “Inoculants can be paired with Votivo without disrupting the efficacy of either — they can work 40 country-guide.ca

together. And trends like this, with products working together, will continue.” The idea of “working together” is paramount for the seed and chemical companies. The ultimate measure for any form of seed treatment is its effect on yield. Anything that takes away from yield is unlikely to be brought to market.

About those polymers Another aspect of seed treatment technology that’s been in the works is the use of polymers. Moyes notes that Bayer has been using polymers on commercially treated seed for years, and always has with Poncho, one of the company’s insecticide seed treatments. “The purpose with this polymer is to improve seed flow,” says Moyes. “The goal is always to improve consistency in seeding rates and to keep the product on the seed. Polymers are relatively new to the field crops sector but have been part of the vegetable sector for years, used primarily to build up seed size to improve singulation at planting. With the higher-value vegetable crops, growers could make that investment without it affecting their bottom line. But since field crops have risen further above the cost of production compared to the 1990s, growers have had an easier time pencilling out that cost in the past few years. It’s a matter of maximizing revenues instead of looking to simply minimize costs. “To me, it’s amazing how the landscape has changed,” says Dave Harwood, technical services manager with DuPont-Pioneer. “We’ve seen it (seed treatment) go from being essentially an afterthought to something that’s a fundamental. “We’ll continue to see diversification of the seed treatment area, with continued introduction of products,” adds Harwood. “And the polymer and coating side of things to better adhere the active ingredients to the seed, get better coverage and better flowability, that will continue, too.” Denys believes more possibilities will be explored too, including the use of polymer technology to deliver micronutrients to the seed. Polymers are also the key to adding even micronutrients to the seed treatments offerings. As always, though, efficiency for the farmer will be crucial. “Can we add the nutrient base without losing the plantability?” asks Denys. “The one thing we’ve trained our producers on as an industry is to be able to plant with efficiency, and that remains the No. 1 criteria before we put anything on the seed.” CG MARCH 1, 2013


PRODUCTION

#PestPatrol

with Mike Cowbrough, OMAFRA Have a question you want answered? Hashtag #PestPatrol on twitter.com to @cowbrough or email Mike at mike.cowbrough@ontario.ca.

REDUCING THE RISK TO POLLINATORS Tracey Baute — Field crop entomologist and Greg Stewart — Corn specialist Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs n the spring of 2012, there were approximately 200 incidents of what was likely acute poisoning of honeybees in Ontario. The Ministry of Environment (MOE), Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), and OMAFRA investigated affected beehives, taking bee samples for residue analysis. PMRA’s initial lab results indicate “pesticides used on treated corn seeds may have contributed to at least some of the 2012 spring bee losses. However, there is still additional information being collected.” They found no cases of off-label use by growers. Virtually all corn seed is treated with the insecticides in question. How can a bee come into contact with a seed insecticide? One of the more likely routes is dust. Purdue University research found evidence that dust coming from the exhaust of high-pressure, air-assisted corn planters contained particles of neonicotinoid (e.g. Poncho or Cruiser) seed insecticides. Many factors can contribute to the contamination including abrasion of seed from the planter lubricant (such as talc), quality and formulation of the polymer seed coating (sticker), and rough handling of seed bags causing chaffing of the seed coat. Planting on dry, windy days will carry the “fugitive dust” greater distances. Bees come into contact while flying across the field during planting or from dust settling on water sources or on nearby flowers that they are foraging on. The following actions should help reduce the production of contaminated dust during planting. There is no guarantee that these actions will prevent bee kills. We will continue to modify these recommendations as more information is made available, and as research and technology to address the issue develop. Strengthen communication with local beekeepers. Honeybees can forage up to five kilometres from their hives. Find out where the nearest hives are to your fields and let local beekeepers know when you plan to plant. Find the nearest local beekeepers’ association at: http://www.ontariobee.com/community/ local-beekeepers-associations.

MARCH 1, 2013

Time of planting. During dry spring conditions, dust will travel farther on windy days. Planting in the early morning or evening on windy days, when bees are less likely to be foraging could help to reduce their exposure. Where there are dandelions and other flowering weeds in and around fields, manage them prior to planting. The warm March in 2012 triggered early dandelion flowering for bees to forage on during corn planting, which may have contributed to their exposure. Minimize the amount of insecticide seed treatment used. Growers planting corn on corn should plant Bt corn rootworm hybrids instead. They provide better rootworm control than a high rate of seed insecticide. Follow IPM practices and determine if soil pests are a concern. If insecticide seed treatments have been used in the same field over multiple years, the pests may no longer be present. Most companies can accommodate orders for noninsecticide-treated seed, as long as the orders are placed well in advance. Limit the amount of seed lubricant (such as talc) used at planting. There has been a tendency to err on the “safe side” for planter performance, applying talc at the upper end of the label rate. Experience suggests that in low-humidity conditions, little to no talc is required. Follow label recommendations as the amount of lubricant needed varies by planter. A buildup of talc on the blower exhaust indicates overuse. Exhaust dust towards the centre of the field. When planting the outside rounds along the perimeter of the field, if your planter exhausts air towards the right side, plant in a clockwise direction to blow the air in, rather than directing dust onto the vegetation and water sources near the field’s edge. Modify planters using deflectors. Deflecting exhaust air directly at or into the ground will reduce the distance the dust travels, though deflectors still need to be tested here for their impact both on planter performance and dust reduction. CG NOTE: The complete version of this article is posted at www.bautebugblog.com.

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management

Selling to sellers Out-of-the-box engineering from component suppliers can help level the technology playing field, but these suppliers still need to market their systems to whole-goods manufacturers. How they do it may sound familiar By Scott Garvey, CG Machinery Editor y the time any new pickup truck rolls onto a dealer’s lot, it and its component systems will have crossed the CanadaU.S. border multiple times, with the parts bouncing back and forth between various suppliers and assembly plants in both countries all through the manufacturing process. Many of those components are built in factories not owned by the brand of vehicle they’ll end up in, because designing and building all the systems required to create a fully functioning vehicle would be too daunting a task for any one manufacturer, even the giants. In the farm equipment sector, a very similar dynamic is at play. It would require enormous engineering resources and capital investment in facilities for any single company to manufacture in house all the components required for a machine like a tractor or combine. For smaller, specialty equipment builders, it’s simply impossible. As the industry has evolved, a network of component manufacturers has emerged to supply the off-road equipment sector. These systems-focused companies use their expertise in specialized components to drive R&D forward in their own fields. Manufacturers of farm machinery get to take advantage of those efforts by having access to fully engineered subsystems they can simply integrate into the machines they deliver to farmers. But component suppliers face similar challenges when selling their goods to the equipment manufacturers that both the major and the minor brands experience in selling finished machines to farmers. Convincing an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer — think John Deere, MacDon and the like) to incorporate newly developed components into a machine involves marketing. At Ag Connect Expo, recently held in Kansas City, a few component suppliers talked about their strategy for getting attention from the OEMs. These suppliers are taking a two-pronged approach. They’re not only showing their new and innovative products to corporate executives and engineers, they’re also targeting farmers, who will be the endusers of their technologies. Because both senior executives from equipment 42 country-guide.ca

companies and farmers alike can be found walking the aisles at Ag Connect, setting up a display at that show allowed these suppliers to reach both their target audiences at once. Standing beside his company’s new generic machine cab, Brett Carlson, director of engineering for cab products at Minnesota-based Crenlo, explained why he and his company paid for booth space at the show. “We think the more people that see it, the more people will ask their OEMs and dealers, ‘Hey, what about that Crenlo cab?’ ‘When are you going to update?’” Carlson said. And staff at the Crenlo exhibit did manage to attract an ample number of visitors from both customer categories. Added Carlson: “We’ve been steady with farmers coming through (our display) along with OEMs.” That same desire to show its component systems to both manufacturers and eventual end-users was the motivation behind hydraulic systems manufacturer Eaton’s decision to set up a display. “We’re working it at both ends,” said Subhasis Chatterjee, director of agriculture and forestry at Eaton. “We’re talking to the OEMs, because the OEMs will appreciate the use for it. We’re talking to the end-users, because if they like it they will pull (demand for) it. They’ll put pressure on the OEMs, saying, ‘I need that.’” Even executives at the major brands seem to concede that engaging everyone in the industry may actually be a pretty effective marketing strategy. “We try to learn from our dealers and our customers,” said Leif Magnusson, president of Claas North America during a panel discussion on the first day of the Ag Connect Expo. So if companies like Crenlo and Eaton can woo farmers, word may filter back to executives like Magnusson. And with social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook amplifying the volume, the voices of individual farmers have never been louder. But deciding which technologies an OEM should adopt is the challenge for executives. “There’s a lot of technology available,” said Albert Zahalka, vice-president and general manager of Topcon Precision Agriculture, during another panel discussion. “Choosing what to implement and when is the challenge.” MARCH 1, 2013


management

Crenlo’s Carlson believes looking to component suppliers like him for some of that technology and help in assessing market demand makes sense for OEMs, especially for smaller, specialty equipment manufacturers who don’t have the massive R&D budgets necessary to develop components not directly related to the end use of their machines, such as cabs. “A lot of them haven’t had the capital investment opportunities to develop a cab of their own, because they’re only doing 100 or 200 units a year,” Carlson said. “That’s where we said we’ll fill the gap. You don’t have to spend your company’s entire R&D budget on a cab. That gives them the opportunity to spend their money on the vehicle and its application.” Coming up with a cab design that meets operator expectations means Crenlo had to do its own background work to find out what it is that farmers expect when they’re sitting inside one. But that also means vehicle manufacturers who opt to use that company’s product don’t have to repeat the research effort. Relying on a component supplier to do the legwork effectively allows an OEM to exploit a supplier’s R&D without budgeting for it themselves. “We went out into fields and talked with endusers,” said Carlson. “We sat in a lot of combine cabs and other agricultural vehicles, along with airport equipment to understand what’s important to people today.” OEMs can also tap component suppliers for systems that allow them to build more efficient machines. “The population is expanding, we need to produce more (food),” said Chatterjee as he describes how Eaton’s new line of compact, piston hydraulic pumps draws less engine horsepower. “But to be honest, for a farmer this is secondary. He wants to maximize his profit and he needs high productivity. MARCH 1, 2013

When we’re designing a product, any product, we’re actually looking at productivity and efficiency.” The major brands have invested tens of millions of dollars collectively in the last decade to meet new emissions regulations with their engines, and Chatterjee goes on to explain how his firm has helped in that process by minimizing the size of its components so they fit into a tractor chassis that now has less available space due to the larger systems required by Tier IV-compliant engines. “You don’t think about how one component affects another,” he said while discussing the give and take engineers face in overall vehicle design. “If you take away space for the larger engines, other things have to be smaller.” Steering me to another part of the Eaton exhibit, Chatterjee began describing the benefits of the company’s newest electronic control block for hydraulic systems. Demand for increasingly sophisticated hydraulic control systems is driving the integration of electronics into the mix, he explained. And his company is going to great lengths to be known as a technology leader in that field. But here’s the paradox. The subsystems that Eaton and Crenlo create are intended to become a seamless, almost invisible part of a branded machine, leaving the OEMs to claim bragging rights over the impressive technology their machine offers. Will farmers who purchase a machine equipped with Eaton hydraulic components or one of Crenlo’s new cabs realize who built those individual parts? “We hope they will by the quality they see,” said Carlson. “There are small bits of Crenlo branding on the cab, but we really don’t want it to be recognized as a Crenlo cab, because we want to give the smaller guys (manufacturers) the ability to brand it themselves.” CG

Would you care if you bought a Crenlo or an Eaton component in your next tractor or combine? Brett Carlson, director of engineering cab products at Crenlo hopes you will, and that it will help drive your final machinery purchase. Photo credit: Scott Garvey

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management

Why land prices won’t fall At least, according to new research, land prices are very unlikely to fall unless farmers begin to fear that government support programs will be chopped By Gerald Pilger axpayers, like farmers in general, believe agricultural support programs, disaster relief payments, and farm subsidies are vital if we are to maintain family farms, the environment, our food supply system, and a host of other motherhood and apple pie views of farming and agriculture. Very little of this cash quickly finds its way into the pockets of these farmers, however, even though the intent of most agricultural support programs is to help impoverished farmers stay in business. Instead, the money gets capitalized into the longterm value of farmland. In fact, the link here is so powerful that farmland pricing is much less likely to soften unless and until farmers believe governments are going to stop such supports. A major research project at the University of North Carolina has tackled the phenomenon head on in a 2011 study entitled “The Buck Stops Where? The Distribution of Agricultural Subsidies.” The team of North Carolina economists discovered much of this money does in fact end up capitalized in higher land values. “Our results confirm that subsidies have a very significant impact on farmland values and thus suggest that landowners are the real benefactors of farm programs,” their report says. It goes on to say, “Owners benefit not only from capital gains but also from lease rates which incorporate a significant portion of the agricultural payments, even if the farm legislation mandates that benefits must be allocated to producers.” This transfer of funds into land value is particularly concerning because almost half of U.S. farmland is rented, and 57 per cent of the landlords are not, nor have ever been farmers. A big problem is that even the subsidies and program funds that get paid directly to farm operators end up getting capitalized into the value of the land that those farmers work. That includes the US$43.3 billion that the 2008 Farm Bill sent in cheques to farmers via commodity program payments from 2008 to 2012. The bulk of the North Carolina paper investigates a variety of farm programs to measure their impact on land values. Their overall conclusion: “A dollar in program benefits typically raises land values by $13 to $30 per acre.” 44 country-guide.ca

The paper also found landlords are even better than landowners at capturing program benefits. For every dollar from all program payments, landlords earn an average $0.32 when land is cash rented. Predetermined direct payments, not tied to production, raise cash rents by $0.73 for every dollar of payment. Historically, the authors found cash rents have risen by as much as $1.64 for a $1 payment from the government. Similar returns are captured by landowners who rent on a share basis. Analysis found $1 of payment raised rents by $0.50 to $1.16 per acre.

What does this mean for farmers? Barry Goodwin, leader of the North Carolina study, feels his research has implications for farmers which they need to be aware of. “We cannot expect land prices to drop just because commodity prices fall. A risk-neutral farmer will not care where a dollar comes from. High subsidy and program payments have the same impact on land values and rental rates that high commodity prices have.” In fact, Goodwin has found that support payments actually have a greater influence on land prices than market prices do. “Real net farm market returns have been falling over time and those market returns are much more volatile than government payments,” Goodwin says. “Because market returns are much more volatile than government provided benefits, market returns actually tend to have a much lower influence on land values.” Goodwin believes that if farmers are confident their agricultural support programs will continue to provide benefits, then land prices will continue to be supported as much as if farmers believe commodity prices will stay strong. Even if commodity prices fall, land prices will not crash if support programs are in place to support current farm income and revenue levels. Indeed, farmers and landowners do have a strong expectation that governments will continue to support agriculture in the future, and Goodwin himself doubts U.S. agricultural programs will disappear any time soon. “In my opinion, it is impossible to say what land prices would be if all subsides were suddenly ended,” Goodwin says. “You cannot add up the marginal increases in land values from support programs, MARCH 1, 2013


MANAGEMENT which is what our paper looked at, and say this is how much land prices and rents would fall. “If subsidies were suddenly ended, farmers and landowners would suffer capital losses,” Goodwin goes on to say, but then quickly adds, “Their political interests are so fully entrenched that it would be impossible for government to simply stop all support programs.” Instead, Goodwin feels the only way we will see a drop in support is if there is a buyout of those programs for those who would be hurt by the end of the programs, much like what was done for tobacco farmers. The costs of a buyout would be substantial. However, there is no guarantee that a buyout of current programs would end support programs. Goodwin points to the buyout of some U.S. programs in 1996, yet support for agriculture has steadily risen since. The entire agriculture industry is trapped in a vicious circle. Low market returns push governments to provide monetary support for farmers. However, much of that support is capitalized by the landowners (both farmers and non-farmers) in higher land values which drive up costs of production, thereby necessitating more support. Even in times of high market returns such as we are seeing now, the many support programs continue, inflating land values even more than market returns do. In the October 2012 issue of COUNTRY GUIDE I reported on the study by Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey on rising land prices and rental rates. One of the most important messages in the article was that, contrary to public opinion, it is farmers who are the real drivers of land prices and rental rate increases. The other point that bears repeating is that based on capitalization analysis, most Canadian farmland is not overpriced and unless we see a drop in commodity prices or an increase in interest rates, land prices are unlikely to crash. Well, we are now seeing most commodity prices trending down and the outlook for the 2013 crop is for significantly lower prices. But before concluding land prices and rental rates will decline, it turns out we must consider the impact agricultural program payments and subsidies have on farmland. CG

MARCH 1, 2013

Ethanol and farmland values While economists debate how much of today’s corn price is a direct result of U.S. ethanol policy (with some economists insisting that ethanol hasn’t added a cent), University of Florida economist Jaclyn D. Kropp is taking a hard look at whether there’s a link between ethanol and land values. Her results are preliminary, Kropp cautions, but she says the overall direction seems clear: “Government payments to the ethanol industry have a positive impact on farmland values and rental rates.” Kropp points out government support for ethanol is not direct transfer to producers of corn, but corn farmers are indirectly impacted by increased demand for corn. As a result, farmers living in relative proximity to an ethanol plant benefit from the increased demand for their crop. In her preliminary work, Kropp has found an ethanol facility in the same county increases land value by $226 to $741 per acre, and it raises rental rates by as much as $10 per acre. Says Kropp: “U.S. policies can significantly impact farmland values and rental rates.”

country-guide.ca 45


ACRES

By Leeann Minogue

The price of change “I thought we were talking about bookshelves,” Dale said n Tuesday morning when Ed drove into the Hanson yard he saw his grandson Jeff and Jeff’s wife Elaine hauling a commercial-size filing cabinet out of Jeff’s parents’ house. “Geez,” Ed said. “Will you look at that.” The dog was lounging in the sun beside the house, watching the commotion. “Can you just lift your end up a little?” Jeff said to Elaine. “I don’t know who hired that dog,” Ed said. “If a burglar was walking out with your TV, he’d be more likely to lick the guy to death than bark. Terrible guard dog. What are you two up to?” “Just... moving... this... cabinet,” Elaine said, out of breath, hefting her end of the cabinet into the box of the truck. “Whew,” Jeff said, setting his end down. “You were right, Elaine. We should’ve emptied the drawers first.” Elaine rolled her eyes. “You two moving the farm files over to your house?” Ed asked. “Yep,” Jeff said. 46 country-guide.ca

When Jeff and Elaine had first moved out to the Hanson farm, it had made sense to leave all the paperwork at Jeff’s parents’ house. Jeff’s mom had been keeping the books for years. And even when Elaine began to take over the job, it had seemed simpler to leave the files where they were. But over the summer Jeff and Elaine had built a new house. It had an office on the ground floor with plenty of room and lots of light. It was starting to seem crazy for Elaine to pack up their three-year-old and haul him across the yard to hunch over her laptop at her mother-in-law’s kitchen table every time she wanted to look at their input costs. “I know Donna likes having us at her house,” Elaine told her husband. “But I’m starting to feel like a temp worker.” It had taken Jeff a few weeks to work up the nerve to bring it up with his mother, but Donna had agreed right away. “It’ll be nice to finally have some room for some bookshelves in our office,” Donna had said. But Grandpa Ed wasn’t convinced. “Donna knows about this, right?” Ed asked, looking at the filing cabinet. “Of course,” Jeff laughed. “Change is hard,” Ed said, shaking his head. MARCH 1, 2013


acres

That evening, her husband Dale was watching TV while Donna puttered around the house, thinking of different reasons to walk in and out of the office, looking at the empty space where the filing cabinet used to be. Finally Dale got up to join her. “You’re going to wear out the carpet, pacing like this.” “Listen!” Donna said. “There’s an echo in here.” “You’re losing it,” Dale said. “Maybe,” Donna said. “You used to talk about getting some more bookshelves. Guess we have room now,” Dale said. “You know what I heard in town today?” Donna said. Dale was a bit confused, but went along with the new topic. “What?” “Jason Helgason’s wife left him.” “Oh?” “Packed up those two little girls and moved to Regina,” Donna sighed. “I thought we were talking about bookshelves,” Dale said. “Jason’s wife never got along with Irene.” “What?” Dale asked. “I’m just saying, mothers-in-law can be hard on marriages.” “And so… we don’t need a bookshelf?” Dale was trying to follow the conversation. “I just don’t want to cause a problem for Jeff,” Donna said. “Are you saying you don’t like our daughter-inlaw?” Dale asked, puzzled. “Of course I like Elaine! I don’t think she has the most efficient filing system… but I try not to say anything. Because I don’t want Jeff to wind up like Jason Helgason.” “Donna,” Dale said. “Do you think our son’s marriage is so weak that if you gave her tips about filing, Elaine would take our grandson and leave?” “No… I’m saying I want Elaine to feel like part of this business. She’s smart. She’s learning quickly. She’s a good wife for Jeff. And a great mother. It’s just hard to see someone do things differently, after I’ve been doing things my own way for so long.” Finally, Dale understood what they were talking about. “Ha. You’ll get the hang of it. What do you think I’ve been doing ever since Jeff came back to the farm? Watching him sign up for variable-rate fertilizer? Change all the rotation plans? He even sets that welder different than I do. Heck, I thought I was going to bite my tongue right off when the kid bought the wrong canola variety last spring. I could’ve had us five more bushels to the acre.” Donna smiled. “I’m just sorry I didn’t think of this sooner. Of course Elaine should have the files in her office. I wish they hadn’t had to ask. It couldn’t have been easy for them to bring it up. They must’ve been worried about hurting my feelings.” MARCH 1, 2013

“I’m just saying,” Donna said. “Mothers-in-law can be hard on marriages.” “Yep,” Dale said. “I thought we had everything sorted out when we went through the banker’s farm succession checklist.” “Bankers don’t think of everything,” Dale said. Dale and Donna stood in the office, staring at the blank space, until Dale finally broke the silence. “Come on. We’re not using that computer for business anymore… let’s use the Internet to hunt up a bookshelf that’ll fit that spot.” The next morning Donna was in the kitchen taking some pumpkin muffins out of the oven when she heard her father-in-law’s truck drive into the yard. Grandpa Ed banged on the door once before he opened it up and stepped into the porch. “Come on in,” Donna called. “Coffee’s on. Dale and Jeff are still out in the shop.” “Right,” Ed said, taking off his boots and coming in. “But I was thinking maybe you should pack those muffins up.” “Why? Dale and Jeff should be in any minute.” “Yup, that’s what I was thinking,” Ed said. “You don’t think they’d want to have coffee out there, do you? It’s so cold. They should probably come in where they can really warm up.” “Well,” Ed said, “I was thinking maybe it was time to move this party over to Jeff and Elaine’s house.” “Oh…,” Donna said, leaning up against the counter. “If we’re moving the office… we might as well move the break room across the yard too,” Ed said. “Do it all at once. Like pulling off a band-aid.” “Right,” Donna said. “You’re right… I hadn’t even thought of that. But you’re right. We’ve had morning coffee here every morning since Dale and I built this house.” “That’s right,” Ed said. “I guess Dale and I really are retiring,” Donna said. “All of a sudden I’m feeling really old.” That made Ed snort. “How do you think it makes me feel? It’s been three decades since anybody thought I was young enough to know anything important.” Donna smiled, and started putting the muffins into a Tupperware container she dug out of a kitchen cupboard. “I hope this doesn’t mean I’m going to have to start getting up every morning at six and drive to town for coffee at Wong’s café.” “We’ll have to see,” Ed said, putting his boots back on. “I’ll try to get you on the waiting list.” CG country-guide.ca 47


LIFE

Plan for farm safety Despite the terrible annual toll, farmers think their farms are safe. Now, the free-of-charge Canada FarmSafe Plan can help make sure they actually are By Helen Lammers-Helps he statistics prove it. Canadian agriculture is among the country’s three most hazardous industries. Yet still, farmers are overly confident about the safety of their farms, according to Farm Credit Canada’s Farm Safety Report Card. Roy Vust knows first hand what happens when your thinking about your safety standards gets out of sync with reality. In July of 2001, the Portage la Prairie, Man., farmer was involved in a tractor rollover accident. He received severe burns to more than half his body when leaked fuel caught fire. Vust spent months in hospital and it took a full year before he recovered. “I missed the harvest season entirely,” he recalls. Yet Vust admits he’s one of the lucky ones. After all, he made a strong recovery. Vust also admits however, that his injuries could have been prevented if he’d had a roll bar on his tractor. “It would have prevented a complete flip,” he explains. Today, as chair of the Manitoba Farmers with Disabilities, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and promotion of health, safety and wellness in the agriculture industry, Vust urges farmers to make safety a priority. Vust is convinced that farmers often know what to do, but don’t take the time to put safety measures in place. “I know farmers need production and profit but you can’t do much farming from a hospi-

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tal bed,” Vust says. “And you can’t do any farming from the graveyard.”

An easier path to a safer farm To make it easier for farmers to build and implement a comprehensive farm safety plan that considers all aspects of the farming operation, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) has developed a planning tool called the Canada FarmSafe Plan. The core plan is available for download free of charge at www.planfarmsafety.ca. This comprehensive planning tool helps farmers identify hazards on the farm, develop safety protocols and communicate these safety procedures to everyone involved, says CASA communications officer, Michelle French Lancaster. The Canada FarmSafe Plan guide includes a detailed explanation of the steps you need to take to protect yourself, your employees and your family. As well, it also includes sample forms, examples of how to develop your plan, and a list of publications and websites to help you develop your safety plan. The FarmSafe process is flexible enough to be used by any sector in any province, and by paying the $50 CASA membership fee, farmers can access an even more detailed farm safety planning tool, adds French Lancaster. CASA also offers a library of resources in a section of the website called the Safety Shop. Here you’ll find information in print or video format on topics such as safe grain handling, preventing back injury, and ATV safety. There’s another feature on the website called Tool Box Talks. These are cheat sheets that help a farm manager give employees the information they need for a specific task, says French Lancaster. CASA is also in the process of developing more specific training packages which are expected to be ready in late March, she adds. In addition to the trauma of an injury or death, there are other risks associated with farm accidents, says Glen Blahey, a safety and health specialist with CASA, the national non-profit organization whose mission is to promote health and safety on Canadian farms. You could face legal action including hefty fines, a civil lawsuit or a criminal charge, and on top of that are the numerous ways that income is lost and costs are incurred when there is an accident. MARCH 1, 2013


LIFE Accidents cost more Farmers tend to underestimate the economic impact that accidents are likely to have on their farm businesses, says Blahey. According to a study by the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting Program (CAIR), the cost to your farm of an injury requiring hospitalization is $10,000, while the cost of an injury resulting in a permanent disability is estimated at $143,000. CAIR estimated the cost of a fatality on your farm at $275,000. Even an injury that doesn’t require hospitalization was estimated to cost $700. It adds up quickly. Calves may be lost because there was no one there to monitor the calving, or crop yields may suffer because the crop couldn’t get sprayed on time, or you may ring up extra expenses and time having to find and train a new employee… if, that is, you can find an employee to work on a farm where there’s been an accident. Damage to the farm’s reputation in the community can be devastating, says Blahey. “That’s something farmers may not think of.” There are many agencies involved in farm safety across Canada. In fact, CASA lists more than 50 organizations on its website. To make it easier for farmers, CASA is working collaboratively with other organizations to develop safety planning and training tools. CASA is also investing in its website in a bid to make it easier for farmers to find the information they need. In essence, the CASA website is becoming a centralized portal for accessing resources available from other organizations. Until now, farm safety information was often available in piecemeal fashion, with individual sources focusing on specific aspects of farm safety such as hazard identification, tractor safety or ergonomics.

Reduce business risk Blahey encourages farmers to think of the farm safety plan in terms of a business risk management tool. It’s an approach that helps expose the connection between good safety practices and your business goals. Of course, there are costs to implementing a Farm Safety Plan. For example, you’ll need to budget time for training, record-keeping and inspections and capital expenditures to replace unsafe equipment or facilities, but Blahey is convinced the benefits outweigh the costs. “To plan for farm safety is the best format for managing this risk and that is why we are promoting the FarmSafe Plan for all farms,” says Dean Anderson, a regional director with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (which replaced the Farm Safety Association in Ontario two years ago). Although there is an Occupation Health and Safety Act which is enforceable in any farm workplace with paid workers, the hazards and the injuries are the same on a family farm, points out Anderson. “It’s just a family member, not a worker, who is injured or killed.” MARCH 1, 2013

“It’s an investment to protect the integrity of the farm as well as the human component,” adds Blahey, who insists that assessing safety and implementing a safety plan on the farm is an important part of every successful farm operation. With the new Canada FarmSafe Plan farm management tool this important task just got a little easier. As the introduction to the plan says: “It takes commitment. It delivers security. It could save lives.” CG

Farm safety resources Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) 3325 — C Pembina Highway Winnipeg, Man. R3V 0A2 Email: info@casa-acsa.ca Phone: 1- 877-452-2272 or (204) 452-2272 Fax: 1-877-261-5004 or (204) 261-5004

Farm Safety Resources in Canada by province British Columbia

Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association

www.farsha.bc.ca Alberta

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

www.agriculture.alberta.gov.ab.ca/farmsafety Saskatchewan

Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture

www.cchsa-ccssma.usask.ca Manitoba

SAFE Farms SAFE Manitoba

http://safemanitoba.com/farms Ontario

 orkplace Safety & Prevention Services W (formerly the Farm Safety Association of Ontario)

http://www.healthandsafetyontario.ca/Resources/ TopicList/Agriculture-Industry-Sector.aspx Quebec

L’Union des Producteurs Agricoles (UPA)

www.upa.qc.ca, Quebec Farmers Association

http://www.quebecfarmers.org New Brunswick

Agriculture Producers Association of New Brunswick

http://www.fermenbfarm.ca/ Nova Scotia

Farm Safety Nova Scotia

http://www.farmsafetyns.ca/index.php Prince Edward Island

PEI Federation of Agriculture/Farm Safety

http://peifa.ca/farm-safety Newfoundland

Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture

www.nlfa.ca

country-guide.ca 49


life

Farm parents Start early to find the balance between welcoming your children into the farm versus making them feel they’ll be disowned by the family if they want something else By Amy Petherick

or most farm parents, every day is “take your kid to work” day. That’s the way it’s been for generations. Full families get trucked out to the field for dinner on farms across the country during planting and harvest seasons. Farm babies learn to doze off in bouncy tractor cabs, and toddlers trail along through the barn, toting helpful hand tools and often following the exact steps their parents did before them. That said, most parents also agree that the farms that kids are growing up on today are very different from the ones they were raised on, and for most, this brave new world of farming means we also need to adapt farmers’ parenting methods to the times. How to do that, however, is far less clear. Even so, parents are finding their way, and Shauna Feth of the Alberta Family Business Institute tells me that her work with modern family businesses shows her that the old rules on how to raise your children in the family business are being rewritten. “Culturally, we’re completely different than we were in previous generations,” Feth tells me. “We don’t live in a traditional world anymore, and it just isn’t a given that the farm is going to pass down to the oldest son.” It’s a kind of upheaval and a time for rethinking that all family businesses are facing, not just the agricultural ones. “We’re seeing a lot of alternatives and it’s really exciting,” Feth says. “But it also means those traditional norms don’t apply anymore.” After relying on the old codes for so long, redefining the roles of children on the farm is a daunting task, as is redefining our expectations of them. On many farms, assigning equal duties so that each child spends as much time with a frying pan as a pitchfork, and vice versa, will be difficult. In fact, it will be even harder, because we’re also increasingly recognizing that equal isn’t always fair. But with careful consideration and planning, our experts agree that kids can still gain great advantages from growing up on a farm, even if it isn’t exactly the way their parents did.

Business savvy There’s much more to farming than chores, even if that’s all younger kids know at first. Feth tells me that once they are capable of beginning to understand the 50 country-guide.ca

nature of a family-run business, farmers should introduce their children to those finer points too. Children need to learn about the privileges and responsibilities that are given to different family members, and those that are given to business associates as well. Plus, says Feth, this learning needs to take place within an environment that emphasizes family values and the role these values play in how the business is managed. “As they get older, you really want to make the distinction between what is a family decision and what is a business decision,” Feth says, “and also give them another level of education about the running of the business.” Feth says the way children are raised on the farm will directly impact their desire to return to it. In her experience, working side by side with kids instils the next generation with a pride in farming and a stronger attachment to the land. At the same time, though, Aron Pervin, of Pervin Business Advisors, offers a note of caution about how this information should be presented to impressionable children. He believes exclusively streaming a child toward only one thing isn’t what’s best for them. “If the message that’s being sent to the next generation is that somehow they’re being programmed for this one choice in life, I think that’s inappropriate,” says Previn. “But as parents who are farmers with a passion for what they do, I think it’s your obligation to share the joy of work, whatever that work is, with your child.” Both Feth and Previn agree that establishing and communicating a clear set of transition rules for the farm can help avoid some of the most common emotional pitfalls that accompany family business succession. These need to include rules for children or for non-family members wanting to enter the business, as well as rules for staying, and rules for leaving. “Naturally, an interest in joining is a good start but, I wouldn’t make the fact that they’re asking to be part of the farm as the only rule for entering,” Previn says. “There’s got to be rules for entering and/or leaving if it doesn’t work, so that the child can actually leave and not feel that leaving the business means leaving the family, perhaps being disowned, or being disloyal to the family legacy. If they do choose to come in, and it’s an error, they should be able to get out gracefully.” MARCH 1, 2013


LIFE

Rules for joining the family business can include specific levels of education or work experience in another field. Rules for staying indicate there are performance standards that employees are expected to achieve within the business. As for rules about leaving, they underline that farming may not be for everyone, even if it is fulfilling work for Mom and Dad. “It’s very important to inculcate them, not because you want them to be you,” says Previn, “but because you want them to know, no matter how privileged, entitled, and wealthy, where that money comes from.” The value of work is a hugely important lesson for parents to teach their children and there is as much opportunity today as ever to teach farm kids a strong work ethic, says Previn. Not only that, but the farm remains a great place to effectively parent, which he believes means bringing up individuals who can successfully manoeuvre in the world and feel good about themselves and their interactions with other people. Previn believes family business owners are well equipped to ensure their children are not only independent, resourceful, and self-sufficient, but that they also grow up into good citizens in general and family members as well. “You should be using everything at your disposal to show the next generation that there’s a lot of joy in finding a vocation,” says Previn. “All too many people find MARCH 1, 2013

work, but being able to find a vocation, whatever that is, is part of a parental duty.”

Teaching safety first The farm is a dangerous place for everyone, children included. Protecting their health and safety is still as important as ever. With so much more equipment on larger farms, Glen Blahey of the Canadian Safety Association gets asked if farms have become too industrial and too dangerous for children. His response is quick and determined. Farms aren’t too dangerous for kids… as long as their parents properly assess their children’s abilities and objectively tackle the operation’s risks. “Most farm families take pride in having their children involved in the farm, and certainly that can happen in a safe manner as long as there is a good planning process,” says Blahey. “Under controlled circumstances, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to come into the barn and know what Mom and Dad do for a living and where their food comes from.” While there are guidelines available online about the appropriate farm chores for children aged seven to 16, Blahey cautions that no two individuals are the same, and since parents know their children best, both in terms of their physiological abilities and their cognitive development, it’s up to the parents to determine when a child is old enough to start being introduced to appropriate activities.

Blahey cautions too, however, that even parents can be surprised by their children’s growth spurts, which make children more accident prone by sneakily beginning with their hands and feet. “When (children’s) hands and feet grow, their brain’s ability to adjust to that change in dimension doesn’t occur as quickly, so they appear to be clumsy,” Blahey explains, “but the reality is that the physiological change is happening and the rest of the body, including the brain, hasn’t been able to adjust.” Strategizing ways to minimize the kids’ exposure to risk, whether it’s putting up physical barriers or hiring a local teen to supervise during high-activity periods, also has beneficial side-effects. Making the farm safer for children often makes the farm safer for everyone else too, and being conscious that they may be being watched by their children may give farmers pause before engaging in riskier behaviour. As most parents are well aware, children are massive little sponges, and the parental perspective should not be “do as I say,” but “do as I do.” “I think there’s great value, from a developmental and cultural perspective, for children when they’re able to see what happens in a controlled environment,” says Blahey. “Use those teaching opportunities, not only to teach about how food is produced but also about safety, by setting the example.” CG country-guide.ca 51


h e a lt h

Catching your breath By Marie Berry hronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is airflow reduction and the inability to breathe deeply. Some sufferers describe COPD as breathing through a straw. There are 1.5 million Canadians affected, and it is estimated that an equal number also have the condition, but don’t yet have symptoms and thus do not have a diagnosis. COPD is ranked as the fourth leading cause of death in Canada. The cause in 90 per cent of cases is cigarette smoking. Other factors can include heredity, secondhand smoke, a childhood history of lung infections, and air pollution. There doesn’t seem to be a “safe” number of cigarettes to smoke, and you may still be at risk for COPD even if you quit smoking decades ago. It is the smoking itself that causes the changes in the lungs which leads to COPD.

You may still be at risk for COPD even if you quit smoking decades ago The most common symptoms of COPD are increased mucus production, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Disabling symptoms tend to occur at older ages, in that the damage to the lungs requires time to progress to COPD. At one time men were more affected than women, but today both men and women are equal because both smoked during the 1960s and 1970s. COPD also includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In chronic bronchitis, it is the bronchi or the larger airways that are involved; in emphysema it is the aveola or small air sacs in the lungs that are Most people view their feet as the least important part of their body, unless they want to wear sandals in the summer, and then they only view their feet in terms of esthetics. Your feet are the most common site of pain, and if you don’t take care of them, mobility may become a problem. Next month we’ll look at some common foot problems and how to resolve them. 52 country-guide.ca

damaged. Cigarette smoking causes inflammation in the lungs which in turn increases the mucus-producing glands, leading to increased mucus production, and it also thickens the bronchial walls, thereby narrowing the passages. The result is the breathing difficulty experienced in COPD. Besides difficulty breathing, with COPD you have an increased risk for chest infections including viral infections such as the common cold. Your quality of life is also decreased with COPD. If you can’t catch your breath, you can’t be active, and you may become housebound. With a smaller breath, your intake of oxygen declines and your circulation becomes less effective. As well, heart beat irregularities may occur. Medication for COPD includes bronchodilators that are used to open airways. Some act quickly, such as ipratropium and salbutamol. Others last longer such as salmeterol, fomoterol and tiotropium. These are all inhalers which deliver the medication directly to the affected sites in the lung. Sometimes, inhaled corticosteroids such as fluticasone are used to reduce inflammation. With all inhalers, your technique is very important. You want the medication to end up in your lungs, not be squirted into the air or even the back of your throat. For flare-ups, a course of prednisone, an antiinflammatory steroid, is sometimes used, and because lung infections can be serious, antibiotics are often prescribed. The idea is to keep your lungs as open as possible. For seriously damaged lungs, oxygen may be required. People with COPD make on average two visits per year to a hospital emergency department, and anything you can do to reduce this number is key. Smoking cessation is always recommended, and additional strategies include a healthy diet to ensure you have the strength to breathe, and exercise to ensure you keep your muscles in top shape. Not being able to breathe is an awful sensation, and if you have COPD or are at risk for developing COPD, start taking care of yourself. You may find the Canadian Respiratory Guideline’s Action Plan at www.copdactionplan.com a good starting point for breathing easier. Marie Barrie is a lawyer/pharmacist interested in health and education. MARCH 1, 2013


inter began early in our part of the Prairies. As I write, we have had little relief from cold and snow. A retired farmer enjoying a coffee at the curling rink claims, “We have not had this much snow since I was young.” I recall a cartoon of a father and son walking through the snow. The father is pointing to his waist and telling his son, “When I was your age we had snow up to here.” The son is walking through snow up to his waist. Children from next door climb a large snowbank in our front yard and slide down. Ella, age five, tells me the snowbank is a fort. To me it is just a lot of shovelling. It is a gift to look at the world through the eyes of a child. John O’Donohue in his book Beauty says, “Childhood is that time of silence when the deepest impressions become imprinted. Everything a new infant glimpses is a first intimation of mystery. The world is seen as if God were just creating it: it has the fresh scent of recent arrival.” Time, space and beauty take on deep dimensions in a child’s mind. A child can be occupied for hours with a few simple toys, while adults flip through dozens of TV channels and declare, “There is nothing to watch.” A new dimension of beauty surprised me when I had cataract surgery. I was anxious when they wheeled me into the operating room and the staff gathered around the surgeon and me with their tools. Faith and confidence are the operative words (pun intended!). I marvel at how clear everything is since the operation, how borders are distinct and colours more brilliant. Fine instruments, the steady hand of doctors and amazing technology work miracles. Speaking of toys, I acquired a so-called smartphone. I can use my phone to check the aviation weather, file a flight plan and track the progress of my students’ airplanes through the air, to say nothing of taking pictures, making videos and finding the closest Chinese restaurant. I lack the skills of young people who grew up with the newest advances in technology, but I run my finger back and forth across the display like they do. I have, by the way, resisted the temptation to check my email at church. Apparently some Catholic dioceses have made provision for penitents to make their confession via the Internet. Cataract surgery and a smartphone. Small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but amazing technology revealing beauty and wonder. O’Donohue says, “So many people feel deep dissatisfaction and an acute longing for a more real life, a life that allows their souls to come to expression and to awaken; a life where they could discover a different resonance, one which echoes their heartfelt dreams and longing. For their short while on earth, most people long to have the fullest life they can. No one wants to remain a prisoner in an unlived life. This was the intention of Jesus: ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.’” Suggested Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15-20, John 10:10b

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

MARCH 1, 2013

country-guide.ca 53


Va l l e y

Two planks and a passion

ILLUSTRATION: RICK KURKOWSKI

Dan Needles is the author of “Wingfield Farm” stage plays. His column is a regular feature in Country Guide

etunia Valley has a long history of entertaining itself. Our Little Theatre Company dates back through the Terpsichore Society to first settlement. There have been stages in every public building since the original log cabin housing the Literary and Debating Society was thrown up in 1854. I remember one old-timer who used to go into a state of rapture when he recalled his one golden moment on the Orange Hall stage in 1926. He played a lumberjack who appeared in the third act, hoisted an axe onto his shoulder and delivered his only line of the night. “I’m going out to split some peas for the split pea soup!” That line stopped the show and brought the house down. He was called Split Pea Thompson until the day he died, 50 years later. Many reputations have been made and unmade on the Orange Hall stage. Our longest serving reeve kick-started his municipal career in 1948 with a convincing performance of Benjamin Disraeli. In the 1950s, the Co-op resuscitated itself by casting the staff in “Our Town.” Our three-point parish for the Anglican Church was hopelessly fractured and at odds until they staged a musical Christmas pageant about 15 years ago. It was the brainchild of the Rev. Ray, the motorcycle priest who blew into town on a Harley-Davidson and started playing the guitar along with the organist and singing his sermons. The congregation was so astonished they stopped arguing about the photocopying budget. Rev. Ray has the persuasive skills of 54 country-guide.ca

Dr. Mesmer and Professor Harold Hill when he gets going, and he recruited his wardens and their children into a lavish spectacle called the Farmers’ Christmas. He found it was like pulling teeth to get people to show up for rehearsals. The corn harvest was late and the actors were circling fields in the dark when they should have been down in the hall learning their lines and blocking out the scenes. But tickets were sold and everybody knew the hall would be full. As the date approached there was a rising sense of tension and dread. People said there was no way the 60-amp service would support the stage lights. His lead actor had a bad stammer and the Old Indian who provided the narration was nearly 90 and no one was sure if he would live to see opening night. Rev. Ray said afterwards that he had packed his stuff into the saddlebags of the Harley and parked it behind the hall in case things went really bad. On the Friday night opening, people streamed into the hall the way Roman mobs might have packed the Coliseum, eager for the chance to see Christians ripped to shreds. The lights went down, the crowd hushed and a single spotlight shone down on the Old Indian. He raised his face to the light, and after a dramatic pause that took up a good part of the first act he finally blurted out: “Twas in the moon of wintertime… and all the birds were dead!” There was

a guffaw from the back, a chilling glare from the Indian, and shushes from the crowd. The play began. It was wonderful. There was a snowstorm, ingeniously suggested by cherubic angels throwing handfuls of tissue bits into two fans. The three wise men brought the house down with their wisecracks. The children’s choir sang beautifully. And when Molly Swithins, the Bar Nazi from the Legion, stood up on a platform in white robes and a staff as a female deity to deliver a stern message of peace, we froze as one body in awe and silence. Sure, there were a few hitches. The moon stuck over the backdrop and had to be pulled down by hand. The Indian was supposed to say, “Let there be hope in your soul,” but it came out, “Let there be soap in your hole.” But it didn’t matter. The crowd loved it. Rev. Ray didn’t have to escape on the motorbike. In fact, his success was so complete that he moved out of his rented quarters above the Home Hardware and bought a bungalow in Hall’s Hill. The wardens became fast friends, like the barbershop quartet in the “Music Man,” and they set the tone for their congregations. The Anglicans still argue about the cost of salt for the church steps, but they have never forgotten the night they got together to make something out of nothing, just for the fun of it. MARCH 1, 2013


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