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May/June 2013 $3.50

MID-SIZE MIRACLE Like Jason Reed, more farmers start to believe


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MAY/JUNE 2013 MID-SIZE MIRACLE Five years ago, we were told mid-size would soon disappear. Now, they’re stronger than ever, so we turned writers Anne Lazurko, Gord Gilmour and Maggie Van Camp loose to ask, is this for real?



PRAIRIE CROSSROADS Could a handful of massive farms really take over the heartland of Canadian agriculture?


IN A BOTTLE Sometimes the best argument for starting up a new on-farm venture is simply because you want to.


EASTERN BACKGROUND Atlantic Canada’s largest beef farm builds a future by adapting its business model to the family’s strengths.


OUR SUCCESS IS YOUR SUCCESS Local food buyer Jackie Fraser shares tips for getting shelf space in her thriving store.


A QUESTION OF INTEGRITY It used to be all a company had to do was sell the best tractor at the best price. Not anymore.


HOW TO CHANGE Loads of experts can tell you what to change, but who can tell you how? Gerald Pilger looks for help.


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GUIDE LIFE — BALANCE YOUR LIFE Learning to say yes to yourself — and no to extra work — can be good for you, and for the farm.


CONTROL THE CONTROLLABLE Four corn and soybean farmers share their strategies for getting those extra bushels.


BACK TO THE BASICS ON FERTILITY Soil test numbers on a worrying number of farms are falling toward danger levels.


WEED TUG OF WAR New strategies are evolving in the “control versus management” weed debate.


PESTPATROL How late can you go with herbicides in soybeans? OMAF’s Mike Cowbrough sorts out the data.


MACHINERY GUIDE With new levels of excitement in forage markets, our Ralph Pearce takes a look at the new equipment.


HANSON ACRES By the time this day is over, something has got to turn out right.

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GUIDE HR — DECISIONS FROM HELL Some decisions are winners. Others bring you nothing but grief. Here’s help to predict the difference.

MID-SIZE TURNAROUND Yes, today’s mid-size farms are more optimistic, but they’re also bigger and more aggressive.



THE MID-SIZE CHOICE More farmers prefer mid-size, where risks are lower, returns are just fine, and their lives are their own.

NEW LAND TRUSTS It turns out land trusts do have a role on the farm, maybe even on your farm.

TAKING CHARGE OF CHANGE If you aren’t planning your next step, you might be the only farmer in your neighbourhood who isn’t.




GUIDE HEALTH If you knew how many Canadians suffer from incontinence, you wouldn’t be so shy about getting help.


PETUNIA VALLEY Calling this thief “light fingered” puts Dan’s latenight call to the police in a whole new light.



desk EDITORIAL STAFF Editor: Tom Button 12827 Klondyke Line, Ridgetown, ON N0P 2C0 (519) 674-1449 Fax (519) 674-5229 Email: Associate Editors: Maggie Van Camp Fax (905) 986-9991 (905) 986-5342 Email: Gord Gilmour (204) 453-7624 Fax (204) 942-8463 Email: Production Editor: Ralph Pearce (226) 448-4351 Email: ADVERTISING SALES Lillie Ann Morris (905) 838-2826 Email: Cory Bourdeaud’hui Cell (204) 227-5274 (204) 954-1414 Email: Head Office: 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1 (204) 944-5765 Fax (204) 944-5562

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine

Now for mid-size farms It’s always worth spending a moment to think how the stories we print will be read by different farmers, but perhaps it’s never been more important than with this month’s issue. I should confess up front my own reaction, which is that this Country Guide brings us some very hopeful perspectives. As we suspected, those mid-size farms across the country that were told only a few years ago they had to expand or die now find that they are vibrant and profitable and full of optimism for the future. As we suspected too, when we assigned award-winning writers Anne Lazurko, Maggie Van Camp and Gord Gilmour to talk in depth to mid-size farmers, they uncovered an impressive subtlety and range of attitudes. One of the farmers wrote to one of the writers that their interview “made me evaluate our farm in ways I have never done before,” which is one of the reasons I am hoping that even more farmers than usual will read these stories. You may not read something new in every line. Some of the thoughts could and should be thoughts you have had yourself, but we hope you find them well and clearly articulated, and we hope too that you will find them woven together in a way that provokes even more thinking and discussion… because more thinking and discussion is patently necessary. There are none of us right now who don’t wish we could know today how we 4

are going to look back on 2013 with the benefit of hindsight five or six years from now. Grain and oilseed prices today seem to be lifting all our farms. If they aren’t lifting them equally, at least they seem to be creating more or less equal feelings of buoyancy across different farm sizes. But take a look at the mid-size farms that can make the most persuasive case for optimism. These clearly are not the midsize farms of a generation ago. They’re at least double the size, for starters, and they’re run by farmers who are as comfortable talking about financial ratios as they are litres per acre. These farms haven’t lost their self-reliance, and they’re as family-focused as ever, but their shrewdness is of a different type, and they assemble their business tools to achieve farm objectives with the same clarity of purpose that they manage their fields for extra bushels. It’s a different passion. Nor are the talents and aptitudes that drive it equally distributed. So I’m not convinced that all mid-size readers will feel quite so optimistic after reading these pages. At some level, farming has always been Darwinian. I wonder too how these stories will be read by large, expansion-minded farmers. They must think that if five years ago we thought mid-size farms were doomed, and today we think they’re bound to last forever, shouldn’t we expect the cycle to keep cycling? So let me know what you think. I’m at

Advertising Services Co-ordinator: Sharon Komoski (204) 944-5758 Fax (204) 944-5562 Email: Designer: Jenelle Jensen Publisher: Lynda Tityk Email: Associate Publisher/Editorial Director: John Morriss Email: Production Director: Shawna Gibson Email: Circulation Manager: Heather Anderson Email: President: Bob Willcox Glacier Media Agricultural Information Group Email: 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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By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor

As we head into full production, the topic on the minds of many is forages. Whether the forage is for on-farm use, or increasingly, if it’s an opportunity to sell off the farm, forage quality and timely harvesting are essential. With that in mind, we’ve put together a lineup of the newest innovations in windrowers and swathers, draper headers, mowers and rakes. Check the latest on these pages, and then head to each company’s website for even more information on these and other models and designs.

john deere w110 and w150 windrowers

John Deere aims for diversity in design, so its machinery can be precisely adapted to the job at hand. In the forage segment, that’s led to two new models to replace its A400 SP standard. The company says these new self-propelled windrowers offer greater value with a wider range of horsepower, along with more header options. The W110 model touts 110 horsepower, while the W150 boosts that to 148 horsepower, with the capability of being matched to six new draper heads and three new auger heads. Each of those options does more to meet specific on-farm needs. As well, the heads are interchangeable, with flexibility to switch heads on a traction unit for different crops and a variety of harvest conditions.

massey ferguson rk series rotary rakes

When quality is key, Massey Ferguson aims to deliver with three new rotary rakes that enhance hay quality while improving efficiency and expanding capacity. The introduction of these three new designs broadens the offerings of rotary rakes, and all three will help speed drying time as they sweep the forage into a more uniform windrow. That helps with leaf retention which boosts protein content as well as the value of the hay. Choose from the RK3802, for smaller tractors, the RK3845 with a 21-foot width, and the RK3879 Pro model, with a 27-foot working width for heavy-duty delivery.


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macdon 5 series draper headers

MacDon says it is continuing to reach for new standards in draper technology, and it says that the 5 Series product line is a result of that drive. The PR 15 reel comes with a cam-leading design for less wear and for quieter, smoother operation. Thick and lush forage crops are no problem, the company says, since the lifting action of the reel can be easily adjusted to meet a very wide range of crop conditions. Compatibility is also a hallmark for MacDon, and the 5 Series draper headers will fit most current model combines, including the FD75 FlexDraper headers that are available in widths of 30, 35, 40 and 45 feet.

hesston wr series windrowers/swathers

krone easycut b 1000 cv mower

Billed as an entirely new class of windrower, the Hesston WR Series offers its own next-generation design in this self-propelled line. There are more than a dozen advances in the WR Series, thanks in no small part to grower feedback. According to the company, this is the first windrower to include an on-board virtual computer terminal to maximize productivity. Plus, the TwinMax advanced conditioning system with double crimping is designed for faster drying and higher-quality hay. The series also incorporates better fuel economy, plus in-cab modifications to reduce fatigue and reduce overall operating costs.

This is just one of eight new products on the market for Krone. The spring 2013 Krone newsletter states the EasyCut B 1000 CV butterfly mower offers exceptional adjustability, with working widths of 30.5 feet to 33 feet, two inches. The mower also features the new ConstantFloat, a hydro-pneumatic float system which maintains the pressure in the hydraulic system. That keeps a uniform ground pressure at all times. Another advantage is the Krone EasyCut cutterbar, complete with the SafeCut hubs and quickchange blades.

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Taking charge of change If you aren’t planning your next big step, you might be the only farmer in your neighbourhood who isn’t By Gord Gilmour, CG Associate Editor Are farmers good at change? Yes, some of them. To succeed, farms have become almost infinitely adaptable, capable of making almost any change on the fly to meet the whims of the weather or the market. But responding to changing field conditions isn’t the same thing as taking charge of future change, says Gord Colledge, a Lethbridge, Alta. farm adviser, family coach, and public speaker who has worked with farm families for more than 20 years. Truth is, a lot more farmers believe that as their farms get more complex, and as they rely on more and more participants to be successful, getting the people-part of change right is among the most important things you can ever do. That insight is the beginning of successful change management, Colledge says. So what’s the next step? Country Guide: Do you find farmers are more willing to embrace change these days? Or has this period of decent commodity prices tempered the drive for change and adaptation? Colledge: It can go both ways, and it depends entirely on the family involved. Yes, there are definitely some that don’t want to deal with change until it’s forced on them. But the more forward-looking farm families seem to be viewing this as an opportunity to rethink the future of their family enterprise. They’re adaptable and able to look at the future dispassionately, visioning the next chapter for the farm and their family. It allows the senior couple to experience a twinge of excitement. They correctly recognize that these better financial times give them some greater freedom to explore all their options. They seize the opportunity to dream a little, to imagine what’s possible. I think these families really get it, and they’ll do well. Families that aren’t seizing this opportunity, I worry about them a bit more. 8

CG: What’s the one thing you’d tell farm families if you had a chance to sit down with them across the kitchen table from them all, one by one? Colledge: Manage your relationships carefully. I’d say there really is a return on investment for doing this work, and not just in the area of better family relations and work relations, as important as those are. There’s also an economic return on this investment. Awhile back I was at a farm conference and a farmer told me he wasn’t going to my session on Families in Business because it was a ‘fluff’ presentation. I asked him a bit more about that, and he said, “A farmer doesn’t make any more money by going to your session.” I challenge that thinking. In my experience, farm families that are dealing best with the changes and challenges with their business are the farms that pay close attention to relationship issues too. I work with a lot of farm families, from across the country, and there’s no doubt in my mind. The ones that are better at these so-called “soft” issues M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 3


— vision, communication, trust, respect — are the ones that are doing better. They’re better at identifying new opportunities, they’re better at planning and at executing on their plans, and therefore, they’re doing better financially. What lets them capture these opportunities better than other farm operations is the way they understand and respect each other’s skills and abilities. We’re not all the same people. We have our own strengths and weaknesses. They understand this better; and as a result, work better together. They understand, for example, that one member of the farm operation is a big picture, idea generator kind of person, and the family respects that and doesn’t start shooting down the ideas. Another member is a due diligence type… better at refining ideas, fine tuning and honing them. A third member might be better at actually going out and making the ideas work. It’s a question of complementary skills working together, and the various members of the team respecting each other’s skills, rather than brushing them aside, making disrespectful comments, or quashing their enthusiasm. CG: What are the changes that farms and farm families are good at, and what are the ones they struggle with? Colledge: They’re very good at facts and figures, columns of numbers, adding new equipment and technology, production-related things. They’re not nearly as good at what we call the soft stuff — understanding the people in their businesses, how change affects them, how it affects those around them. Change is stress and sometimes, stress brings out the worst in us. CG: So what are some basic ground rules for managing the impacts of change on the various members of an operation? C olledge : Have a clear vision for the operation, trust each other, and respect their differentness — that’s a really great start. On family farms you really see how the wants and needs of various members of the operation become intertwined and interdependent. Let’s say, for example, you have Mom and Dad senior, who have built the farm. They worked together hand in hand, and this farm has always been their vision. Now they’re nearing the end of their career, and most don’t have a clear vision about what their next chapter looks like. Their uncertainty triggers a ripple effect. In the successor generation, the adult kids are getting frustrated because there is no clarity of what Mom and Dad are thinking or doing… there’s no plan and the uncertainty puts the kids’ future on hold. Frustration builds. Another “flashing amber” for farm families is the lack of respect and disrespect can be really difficult for families that work together. Nearly every issue M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 3


or serious conversation within the family is wrapped with a family member’s own history, and like ghosts from the past. In families, we must also know who is talking: my business partner or my spouse? Is that my dad talking or the farm’s business manager? It’s very important that we’re conscious of the way we treat the other people in our lives, and that we are respectful to them. I see this again and again, where the spouse should be No. 1 overall. But the farm becomes No. 1 and the spouse is pushed into second place. The kids’ childhood is extended into middle age. This puts a lot of pressure on the spouse giving leadership to the farm. It’s hard to feel loved sometimes. Working with the ones you love requires simple acts of kindness and encouragement that demonstrate our love and respect for each other. CG: It's an interesting point. Most businesses assemble a team to get the job done, sourcing people with skills that complement each other. Is it fair to say on the farm you often have to work with the team you’re given? Colledge: There’s a lot of truth to that. Farm families need to evaluate what members are able to contribute, both strengths and weaknesses. I like family business policies that set the education level required before a child can be employed on the farm and it’s my opinion that young people should work elsewhere for five to seven years after college or university before any position is offered to them in the family enterprise. Communication on such policies must be very clear, however, and understanding must be acknowledged by the young adult or this can really breed resentment inside both the business and the family. Families also need to set aside time to have regular business meetings. A successful model I’ve seen over and over is a business production meeting at the middle of the week. Start at about 11 a.m.; have a written agenda (distributed a couple of days prior to the meeting); keep accurate minutes and note who is tasked to do a certain assignment or chore; have a one-pot lunch, and you should be back outside by 12:30. A good chair allows vigorous discussion, but keeps participants on task and completes the agenda on time. There is discussion with everyone present, communication is clear, and everyone is in the know! Keeping careful watch over the business numbers and managing adaptation to technological change is very important for today’s farm. However, it is also vital that the farm’s leadership be capable of relationship management. Blend the “hard stuff” with the “soft stuff” and family enterprises create the “solid stuff” that makes the difference between simply surviving in business and absolutely, thriving. CG 9

doIng More. usIng less.

A series on being ready for the farming challenges ahead

Meeting Tier 4 final engine requirements Case IH Uses Smart, Simple Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR)-Only Technology Right From the Start


n the 1990s, the United States Environmental Protection Agency adopted a comprehensive national program to reduce emissions from nonroad diesel engines In 1996, the first off-highway diesel emissions standards began with the implementation of Tier 1 regulations. Since then, standards have continued to be raised culminating with Tier 4 B/Final in 2014. For agricultural equipment manufacturers, meeting the new Tier 4 requirements have necessitated some major changes in engine design. Beginning in 2010, Case IH made the choice to focus its development efforts on SCR-only technology to meet these standards, while also providing maximum customer benefit. Cool-running and quiet, SCR is an engine exhaust after-treatment system that works outside the engine in the exhaust system. Rather than interfere with engine performance, it actually improves it. Unlike competitive hybrid solutions, Case IH Tier 4 B/Final technology will not require regeneration of particulate filters or any Cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (CEGR) technology for their high horsepower equipment. “SCR-only exhaust after-treatment is simply the most efficient and most powerful engine technology solution for highhorsepower agricultural equipment,” says Kyle Russell, Senior Director of Marketing, Case IH North America. “Especially when you consider the high load requirements for field work and how important fuel efficiency and maintenance costs are to large producers.”

For nearly a decade, Case IH and Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT) have been working together on engine innovations for agricultural equipment to meet Tier 4 regulations while also taking performance to the next level, to increase responsiveness and fuel efficiency in Case IH tractors and combines. FPT produces approximately 2.6 million engines per year and is one of the largest engine manufacturers in the world. FPT has Research & Development centers around the world, but their U.S. R&D center is located in Illinois near the Case IH Engineering Facility. This means that the FPT application engineers, testing engineers, after-treatment experts, and quality experts are working with the Case IH team of tractor engineers and experts to design and test these highhorsepower engines. “Before these engines even entered the market, they’ve gone through several

thousand hours of rigorous testing to make sure they were built to deliver the power and performance you depend on,” Russell says. “The close partnership between Case IH and FPT means that our customers can be confident in the quality, reliability, and level of expertise supporting Case IH engines. The partnership also means Case IH dealer service technicians are trained to work on these engines in-house at your local dealership, limiting the time and hassle of working with a separate engine dealer.” As equipment manufacturers prepare to comply with the Tier 4 B/Final standards, Case IH already has more than 25,000 Case IH Tier 4A engines with 13 million hours of operation at work in North American fields. To learn more about Case IH Tier 4 SCR engines and to hear it directly from some of the users of these vehicles, visit

Case IH Crop Production Specialists are a true competitive advantage. It’s their job to be on-site with you, helping you create a better growing environment and getting the most productivity out of your equipment. And they are backed by 24/7/365 precision farming support. In fact, it’s the sole job of two-thirds of all Case IH experts to be in the field, working alongside you. The world of farming is changing. And our experts will be right there with you to ensure you’re ready. Visit to learn more.

be ready.

©2013 CNH America LLC. All rights reserved. Case IH is a registered trademark of CNH America LLC.


THE MID-SIZE CHOICE By Anne Lazurko, Contributing Editor


igger is better. Bigger is more profitable. Bigger is inevitable. Over the past 10 years, accountants and analysts alike foretold the demise of the small and mid-size farm, while increased costs and shaky margins spurred farmers to grow their land base or herd numbers to spread risk and realize economies of scale. Growth and expansion were key to getting and staying ahead. Go big or go home. And farm operations grew accordingly, threatening to squeeze out the middle and create the same doughnut effect found in many other sectors. But while onlookers relegated the small farm to the dust heap of history — even implying that anyone who would choose such a business model clearly lacked the brain function to know better — many farmers quietly didn’t grow. And are not planning to. Before I go on, maybe you should know our own farm story. Five years ago our farm adviser, a Saskatchewan guru of trends and innovative farm management ideas (I am not being sarcastic), encouraged us to expand our land base to spread the risk, increase production, and make more money. However, as land prices became ever more bloated and the markets more volatile, his advice changed. Over the past couple of years, he’s looked at our numbers and declared us quite OK, advising us to sit tight. At least for now. And we are small, quite small by Saskatchewan grain farm standards. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for many farmers to see their way clear to expand even if they want to, given the state of land prices. And therein lays the catch-22 for small and mid-size operations these days: the high cost of land, for either purchase or rent, and its shrinking availability. Analysts don’t seem to have direct answers about how to assess the purchase of different types of land for different uses and in different locations, except to say that “it depends.” On what? I took the question to Jason Reed, a grain farmer near Delia, in east-central Alberta. He farms 4,500 acres with his wife Goldie and his parents, Wally and Roxie, who are slowly phasing out of the farm operation. Reed is in his early 40s and the couple has three children. Theirs would be considered a mid-size grain farm in Alberta. They grow wheat, canola, peas and malt barley. It’s historically a dry area and Reed says their biggest production hurdle is having enough moisture to grow a crop. But what he worries about even more, is losing land.

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Like Jason Reed, more farmers plan to stay mid-size. Risks are lower, returns are just fine, and their lives are their own


Staying in the game Reed leases roughly 40 per cent of his land, but as more farmers queue up to sell their land into a hot market, Reed is worried about some hefty competition if his leased land goes on the block. There are six Hutterite colonies in the area and they’ve begun to bid against one another on land sales, he says. His response is to save as much as possible for future land purchases. “We have to save the cash to be competitive on the bid. We know which land we want and we need to be financially ready for it. Machinery comes and goes, but once the land is in the colonies, it will never come out.” Fair enough. Would his strategy be different if he were a large farmer? Probably not. Would he be able to access bank capital more easily if his farm were bigger? Maybe. Jean-Philippe Gervais, chief agricultural economist with Farm Credit Canada, says ultimately decisions about farm loans are based on margins. With current land prices, a producer has to know where the margin is if they plan to buy more land. “We want to lend to customers who can repay their loans,” Gervais says. “Nobody wins if the customer can’t repay. It sounds corny, but it’s true.” Gervais’s role is to supply assumptions to FCC staff who share them with producers. A farm is analyzed within the larger context of its sector, the overall business outlook, forecasts on prices, and interest rates. At the farm level, FCC looks at benchmarks based on farm size, crops, and commodity prices. Debt/equity ratios are a significant measure of business health, but Gervais says FCC has to look at the whole farm package. That package includes a grade on producers’ management skills. “This is all aggregated into a profile of the producer and the operation. One thing people don’t realize is how much managerial skills do count. It’s a dynamic sector and an understanding of the business is critical,” Gervais says. But sometimes, no matter how good your business skills, no matter how sharpened the pencil, land purchases that might not make sense to a banker make perfect sense on the farm. “These are hard decisions,” Jason Reed says. Indeed. He recently bought some land he had previously leased, paying more than what he thought it was worth. But he bought it because it was close by and because his fear of losing it altogether was greater than his fear of the loan. And he makes another point. If the land next door to your own is sold at a price the market seems to think viable, should the value of your land not increase as well, and thus provide for increased leverage at the bank? It would seem to make sense to a layperson, but “try to convince the bankers of that,” Reed laughs. Reed sees no other choice than to be as aggressive as possible on land purchases. “In 1992 nobody M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

wanted land, and off-farm income kept them going. Now, it’s the opposite. If you don’t have the land base, forget it,” Reed says. He doesn’t believe he can afford to be conservative on land deals. “That kind of mentality is a slow slide into being squeezed out. Being aggressive is the only way to maintain our piece of the pie. If we aren’t aggressive, we’ll be gone anyway.” It’s important to note that Reed simply wants to maintain his mid-size operation. This isn’t about growth, it’s about staying in the game. Reed says his family is happy with the size of their operation. They can manage the work without extra labour, they are happy with the machinery they’re running, and they have a balance in their lives. “I think we might have more time to spend with our family (than a large operator). I want to be part of my kids’ lives, and we volunteer with 4-H and in the community,” Reed says. “If you’re making a decent living, you have to ask yourself why you’re getting bigger and how you’re going to balance it all.” Reed is optimistic about his future in agriculture. With a growing world population, he doesn’t foresee the trouble selling his grains that his father’s generation had. And he’s not worried about the large corrections in land values his father experienced either. His plan is to do everything he can to own the land he farms, and if analysts are right, and the pace of land price increases slows even a little into the future, he’ll be ready. “We have to be prepared, hope for rain, and hope that prices stay good.” Continued on page 14

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Even to stay mid-size, Reed says, “Being aggressive is the only way.” 13


“We will try to grow a little bit… as long as we can handle it ourselves.”

Continued from page 13

Soft landing Those good prices might just be the linchpin that allows the mid-size farming operation to continue. Good prices take pressure off the spiralling need to be larger. Agriculture Canada’s medium-term outlook (MTO) for agriculture sees a positive balance for crop prices through to 2021. This means land values will likely increase for a while yet, says Gervais. But he thinks the pace of those increases will slow over the next two or three years, particularly on the Prairies. “I think it would be healthy if that happened,” he says. Crop prices are expected to come down from recent highs, but still remain above the 20-year aver14

age. And interest rates have only one way to go at this point. He sees the ideal scenario as a gradual increase in interest rates in one or two years, along with a small shift in crop prices. “This would provide the soft landing everyone talks about,” he says. British Columbia provides a prototype for how it might happen, Gervais says. Land prices there increased at a crazy pace in the early 2000s but in the past four or five years there have been limited numbers of transactions as factors levelled out. Dave Beckie, a farm adviser with Endeavour Chartered Accountants in east-central Alberta, says there are many farmers in his area who choose to remain mid-size for various reasons. High prices and availability of land, higher equipment costs, labour needs and succession issues all influence the decision. While renting land used to provide an obvious alterM ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

Photo credit: Sandy Black

— Arnold Blaauwijkel


native for producers, recent high rental rates now have to be pencilled against land purchased at attractive interest rates. “My own opinion is that we will see a partial reversal of the doughnut effect due to some large operations not being able to sustain themselves,” Beckie says. “Challenges with labour and the growing season are, and will, take their toll.”

Mid-size farms more independent This spring, Arnold Blaauwijkel was definitely seeing the effects of weather on his cow-calf operation at Forrest, just north of Brandon, Man. He was 70 per cent done calving his 140 cows when we spoke in mid-April, but there was still lots of snow on the ground and cold night temperatures, adding stress to the already long days. M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

Blaauwijkel and his wife, Theresia, immigrated from the Netherlands six years ago. They are in their early 40s and have two children. They started small and two years ago bought 65 more head from a neighbour, and rented his land as well. They now have about five quarters in pasture and hay. Their ability to grow the operation is impacted by several factors, including the price of land and the price of grain, both of which are high right now. Plus the weather. Last fall, Blaauwijkel had to start feeding early because drought in the area left him short on grain, and while he’s been bale grazing as an alternative, snow-covered pastures this spring meant he was feeding longer at the other end too. It all adds up to significantly increased costs per calf. Continued on page 16 15

business Continued from page 15 Blaauwijkel is looking at other alternatives now, like distillers grains produced at the ethanol plant in nearby Minnedosa. So far he hasn’t seen any difference in price to other grains, but hopes his location will help on freight charges. Expansion doesn’t seem in the cards any time soon. “If the calf price doesn’t go up, we’ll have a hard time to expand,” Blaauwijkel says. “If the price of calves goes up, then the decision to expand is easier. At this point we need a little bit extra put away to do that. Calf prices aren’t bad right now, but we need them to be higher in order to grow.” But while Blaauwijkel talks about growing, like Jason Reed he isn’t interested in growth for its own sake. “The bigger you get, the more equipment you need, and also more people. Does it make a lot of difference in the end in terms of how much you take home? I still think that if you can make a living on your own (without help), then that’s the best scenario. “We will try to grow a little bit as long as we can handle it ourselves. When the kids grow up and we want to grow them into the farm, then yes, but we still want to be a family farm,” Blaauwijkel says.

Trends and influences

First and foremost, Blaauwijkel says, theirs will always be a family farm.

Arnold Blaauwijkel, Jason Reed, and others like them, are bucking the trend and choosing to keep their operations at a size others might not consider viable. And while FCC’s Gervais says the pace of consolidation of farms will likely stay the same as long as the cost of capital remains low, he has noticed yet another trend running parallel to the growth model.


“The model that worked was to keep expanding, lower the cost of production, increase margins etc. One thing I’ve definitely noticed that I wouldn’t have said 15 years ago is the increase in smallerscale, niche, farms,” Gervais says. “Some call these ‘lifestyle’ farms, but they still have to be competitive to survive and they need to make a living. If there’s money to be made there’s always someone willing to take that business away from you. These guys are doing it on a smaller scale and investing in producing what the buyer wants and is willing to offer a premium for. They target production to get the price they want. It’s a different way to compete and is a definite change in the marketplace.” It’s happening in east-central Alberta where Dave Beckie has also observed a small increase in starter farms, mainly from people wanting to live in a rural setting and who have secured good jobs in health care, the oilpatch etc. These small farms consist of 160 to 320 acres and a lot are livestock or feed production based. It’s pretty clear that analysts and advisers who say “it depends” when addressing questions about expansion have pretty much got it right because it does depend on the skill of individual farmers, the health of particular sectors and the vagaries of location. And those are only the influences here in Canada. According to the MTO for Canadian agriculture, some of the global factors both forcing and limiting expansion won’t change any time soon. While demand for agricultural commodities will remain strong, supply will be influenced by emerging economies like those in Asia and South America, the cost of fuel will rise, and the Canadian dollar will remain high, affecting exports. At the same time, crop prices are expected to drop slightly, but remain well above pre-2006 levels. This means that competition for land will remain high. While there is expected to be increased production of feed grains, their price will still limit expansion of the livestock industry, unless exports of red meats increase as expected. At FCC, Gervais believes international factors are the most important drivers of the world and domestic agricultural scene. He believes the growth in emerging markets, in particular demand from their growing middle classes, will keep Canadian markets strong. “If the U.S. keeps all its drama to itself, it won’t impact growth in China and Asia,” Gervais says. Across Canada right now, I would bet large sums that most of us are more worried about the weather at this point than the international goings-on in agriculture. While they obviously affect us, the decision to expand the farm is made with a general sense of those things on the other sides of oceans, and an acute sense of what’s happening at home. Land prices, crop prices, input costs and interest rates. And increasingly, the decision is to stay the course and not grow at all. History will tell us which if either strategy worked. CG M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

Spotlight on Crop AdvAnCeS

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

Disease awareness can improve alfalfa yield, quality By Lilian Schaer Traditional diseases affecting alfalfa crops are as prevalent as emerging ones. That’s the somewhat surprising finding of the 2012 Alfalfa Disease Survey that was conducted in Ontario last year to look at incidence, distribution and severity of many common diseases affecting commercial alfalfa fields in Ontario. “We were initially thinking we would find mostly new diseases and we did, but at relatively low levels,” says pathologist Albert Tenuta, Field Crops Program Lead with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. “We found the older diseases to be quite prominent, ones that we haven’t been paying as much attention to and that have gone under the radar as endemic issues in production.” How was the research conducted? Researchers surveyed 18 alfalfa fields across southern Ontario using traditional field sampling, processing and mycological culturing to determine the distribution of fungal diseases in fields with typical alfalfa yellowing symptoms. They also tested new molecular technologies for crop disease identification, developed by Dr. Andre Levesque at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa, to evaluate their suitability for forage crops.

a real negative impact on root health, forage quality and productivity,” he explains. “We’ve made great progress in developing new varieties, but we have to also remember that some of those older challenges are still there. What we’re seeing here is ‘what is old is new again’.” The presence of Aphanomyces root rot (race 2) in the province was confirmed using a new greenhouse differential test and Tenuta says the diagnostic capacity of these new molecular identification tools will allow for earlier detection, quicker sampling of grower fields and plant samples, and help breeders identify new lines with potential resistance. Although alfalfa was used as the first commodity-based study of this new technology, it could be applied to other crops as well. As a result of its success in alfalfa, AAFC Ottawa will be looking at other crops like cereals in 2013. One farmer who knows the value of good quality forage to his growing hay business is John Schaer. He grows 150 acres of forage crops, including alfalfa, on his farm near Hanover in southern Grey County.

What has the project found to date? Emerging alfalfa diseases include Aphanomyces root rot (race 2) and brown root rot, and although the survey found these in Ontario, Tenuta says older, more established diseases were present in unexpectedly high numbers. In particular, a large number of Fusarium species were found in more than half the samples taken, which could indicate potential changes in Fusarium diversity in the province.

“There is definitely an increasing demand for good quality hay,” says John. “If you are going to grow a good crop, it’s important to know what diseases are out there that might affect your quality so that you can get the best return.” Forage is already a significant part of Canada’s agricultural economy. According to the Ontario Forage Council, it was the third largest crop in terms of income generated at the farm level in 2011 and supported $50 billion in direct and indirect economy activity across the country. Where can I get more information? More information on this project can be found in Crop Advances at ZxcHU1. How was the research funded? Funding for this project was provided by Growing Forward, a federal-provincialterritorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of several Growing Forward programs in Ontario. OSCIA assisted with communication of research results.

Key project tips 

Be vigilant. Monitor your crop and be aware of what’s happening in your fields. Take action. If you notice something unusual, dig up a few plants and look at the roots – there are many things below ground that can affect productivity of your alfalfa crop. Select appropriate varieties. Look at the specific conditions in your area and pick varieties that are suited that environment.

“Many of these older diseases can have


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


Mid-size turnaround

By Maggie Van Camp, CG Associate Editor nly a few years ago, economists, accountants and rural development specialists were all forecasting that agriculture would evolve into the proverbial doughnut. The middle would be missing. In the near future, this legion of experts said, farms that survived would either have to be very, very large, or they would have to be very, very small. In between, there’d be a no-man’s land. Or rather, a no-farmer’s land, where the remaining midsize farms would slowly fade and falter. Smaller farmers grossing less than $250,000 a year would still exist, but they’d be producing niche crops and livestock, and they would boost their margins via marketing to stores and to consumers. The big operations grossing over $1million a year, meanwhile, would be economic juggernauts. As commodity producers, their economies of scale would give them so big an advantage that medium-size operations simply wouldn’t be able to compete. 18

The inevitable outcome, the experts predicted, would be their farm-income doughnut, with few or no middle-size farms. And it’s true, the big-picture statistics did look pretty bleak for the mid-size category. In 2010, only about 37,000 farms (a quarter of Canadian farmers) fell between the two marketing extremes, producing between $250,000 and $1 million in gross sales a year. For comparison, some 9,500 farms grossed over $1 million in sales in 2010, and almost a quarter of the total Canadian farm revenue came from the 2,000 farms with annual revenue over $2.5 million. Those big farms also invested more than $500,000 per year in their businesses. Yes, it did look like the only way to survive would be to get big, or to get small. Some experts still say that mid-size farms are the most vulnerable in today’s polarized markets, since they are too small to compete in the highly consolidated commodity sector and too large and commodity driven to sell in the direct markets. Nor, according to the statistics, are they keepM ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

Photo credit: vanessa savage photography

In 2010, Canada’s mid-size farms seemed bound for extinction. Now, they’ve got a shot


ing up by reinvesting in farm assets, which would sooner or later have to catch up with them. Indeed, a group of Midwestern U.S. extension staff (Fred Kirschenmann, Steve Stevenson, Fred Buttel, Tom Lyson and Mike Duffy) have gone so far as to create an initiative to renew what they term “agriculture of the middle.” “If present trends continue, these farms, together with the social and environmental benefits they provide, will likely disappear in the next decade,” says the group’s white paper. Yet, in the blackness of this prediction stands a beacon of efficiency — the medium-size family farm. Stable and less indebted than the very large farms, mid-size farms tend to be run with tight owner management and often are multi-enterprise. Their business goal isn’t necessarily to get bigger, but to get fundamentally better. Below all the noise about expansion, corporate ownership, bailouts and global competition, medium-size farms have grown cautiously. They take on less debt and only expand when it makes M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

sense financially and when it matches their machinery and labour capacity. These farms are operating with stellar efficiency in the predicted doughnut hole. They are run by owner operators who are usually related and are big enough so individuals can specialize in what they’re good at. Importantly, recent technology advancements have also allowed these families to produce larger amounts of sales without hiring a big staff. These farms don’t have a lot of overhead, and marketing tends to not be complex, says David Sparling of the Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ont. “At the top end of the medium-size class are farms in the sweet spot,” Sparling says. When Sparling and colleague Florentina Uzea analysed Ottawa’s farm financial data they found that farms with sales of at least $500,000 actually increased to six per cent of the farm population between 2005 and 2010. These farms now account for more than twothirds of industry sales, up from 55.6 per cent in 2005.

Cousins Larry (brown coveralls) and Mike Spratt know their future depends on their own skills and dedication.

Continued on page 20 19

business Farm sales and expenses

Average per farm, by sales class, 2010 versus 2005 Sales class

Total Expenses 2005

Farm Sales


% change



% change

$10,000 to $99,999







$100,000 to $249,999







$250,000 to $499,999







$500,000 to $999,999







$1,000,000 to $2,499,999







$2,500,000 and over







Source: Statistics Canada, Farm Financial Survey 2005 and 2010

Continued from page 19 (While part of the shift may be attributed to higher grain prices resulting in higher farm sales, this would be counterbalanced by the collapse of both beef and pork prices over the same time frame.) “In the last few years these (mid-size) farms have tended to drift into the next category,” says Sparling. “With new technology and better grain prices they are producing more and more.” Since Larry Spratt and his cousin Mike Spratt graduated college and came back to work on the Melfort, Sask. family farm 12 years ago, they’ve been smack in the middle of the most intensive period of farm consolidation in history. With four families to support, the Spratts quietly, slowly built up their land base to 5,000 acres of wheat, barley, oats and canola, and they have 3,500 acres of hay, pasture, silage and swath grazing both to feed their 200 purebred cows and bulls and to background their own calves. Scale is relative to a geography’s production capacity and how production is marketed. Like many medium-size farms, the Spratts market their grains and oilseeds via nearby elevators. But they also direct market. They have a niche market with their breeding stock, sell finished beef directly to local consumers, and also sell some hay and alfalfa bales.

FIGURE 1. Average net margins (before depreciation) by sales class, 2005-10 15% 10% 5% 0% -5%

$100,000 to 249,999

$250,000 to $500,000 to 499,999 999,999

$1,000,000 to 2,499,999

$2,500,000 and over

-10% -15%





The Spratts also focus on efficiency, not necessarily expanding in huge volumes. “To capture economies of scale, I need to maximize outputs from minimized inputs,” says Larry Spratt. “We try to match our HR and machinery to get the most per cow and per acre.” With this kind of dedication, farms this size achieve better operating margins. Sparling and Uzea found that farms with sales of $250,000 to $500,000 saw average margins rise to 12.7 per cent in 2010 from 6.5 per cent in 2005, and farms with sales of $500,000 to $1 million saw average margins rise to 13.7 per cent in 2010 from 9.9 per cent in 2005. “The aggregate numbers that we have available support, to some extent, this idea of medium-size farms focusing on efficiencies,” says Uzea. “On average, expenses decreased for these farms (along with farms selling more than $2.5million), while they increased for farms in the other size categories.” (See Figure 1.) Equally significant, medium-size farms’ sales and margins don’t fluctuate as much year to year. “These farms can survive,” says Sparling. “They’re stable because they are lean and can just cut back and manage to get through it.” Along with their fathers, Don and Ross, the Spratt cousins farm together as one unit and with one line of new equipment. They don’t employ nonfamily members. The only outside contracted work they use is two days of feedlot cleaning service and a good accountant who knows their operation. Otherwise all work, including everything from bookkeeping to field scouting and artificially inseminating cows, is done by one of them. Everyone has the same percentage ownership in everything and the same deep commitment to making their farm successful. Their management style is as if each one of them is a sole proprietor with partners, says Larry. He estimates that if each of them farmed by themselves, they’d individually need 1,000 to 1,500 acres with 50 to 80 cows and their own, probably older, equipment.

-20% Source: Statistics Canada, Farm Financial Survey 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010 20

Continued on page 22 M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

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

The CFFO proposes an Agricultural Water Uses Action Plan


ater is one of our most precious resources and is of growing importance for the future of food production, even in a province with the abundant water resources we have. The CFFO believes that an action plan is required if Ontario farmers are going to harness the full potential of the water resources available to us. It is imperative that government recognizes that biological use of water is dependent on maximizing potential through effi cient – but always suffi cient – use. The first step in the action plan is Water Management legislation co-authored by Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food/Ministry of Rural Affairs (MAF/MRA) and the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) that takes into consideration a number of critical areas. The legislation must separate water into types that account for the source of the water, and the appropriate management and use of that water. We then need to enable appropriate irrigation and water capture for later use through retention ponds or storage systems. Beyond agriculture, the legislation must encourage high efficiency use of water for residential, industrial, commercial and power uses. Reducing water use in these areas will allow greater supply for agriculture within our international agreements on

the Great Lakes. Mechanical use in these areas can lead to efficiencies and reduced use, opening up more biological use by farmers. Returning to the action plan, the province, municipalities and farmers need to maximize water access that is linked to municipal and/or complements water-taking systems wherever possible by mandating that existing and new municipal water supply systems accommodate agricultural irrigation development based on Leamington Area Drip Irrigation (LADI) guidelines. LADI refers to a group of farmers who invested in a drip-line irrigation system that draws from Lake Erie and supplies water to their tomato crops. It has produced a productivity boost ranging from 40 to 80 percent. The action plan should promote and educate farmers on conservation practices and reuse of water. Farmers should be encouraged in their efforts to move to better technology and adaptation

of more efficient practices, including re-use of water multiple times. Finally, as responsible stewards, farmers must continue to work on legitimate solutions regarding nutrient run-off issues of all types. Taken as a whole, the CFFO believes these particular steps in the plan can lead to a more environmentally responsible, more productive, and more profitable agriculture sector.

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

A professional organization of entrepreneurial farming families

business Continued from page 20 Instead they try to take advantage of some efficiencies of scale and specialization of tasks and management. Mike manages the cattle and Larry does the grain, but everyone helps each other get the work done. In their part of the country, the oilfields are competing for people so hiring employees is a big challenge. Besides, when everyone is very capable and has the power to make decisions, there’s no training time and equipment breakdowns are fixed immediately. “I don’t want to spend my time babysitting guys,” says Larry. Larry says too that larger farms usually have higher management costs and are at more risk if there’s a downturn. Over the years, he has noticed medium-size farms seem to handle changes better, whether it’s extreme weather or markets. However, larger farms can spread costs over more acres. “Larger farms might have a better return to management and return to ownership,” says Larry. “And they have the advantage of buying in bulk with their machinery and crop inputs.” At a recent producer meeting Larry attended, a chemical salesperson showed a chart with the larger rebates a farmer would get with the larger quantities purchased. Similarly, larger farms buying more equipment more often would probably get a reduced price. To try to capture some of this buying power, the Spratts have done multi-piece equipment deals — they find buying several pieces all at once gives them more negotiating power. Several years ago, researchers at University of Manitoba found the lowest cost/highest production per acre units are often family farms operating pods of production based on equipment and labour capacities. It was estimated that one combine, one air seeder and one farmer could manage to seed and harvest about 3,000 to 5,000 acres, with Manitoba’s limited seeding and harvest windows. Of course, the types of crops, weather constraints and optimal seeding and harvest windows will affect this number. For example, areas with longer growing seasons or drier climates are likely able to farm more acres with the same equipment. Consistently, however, crop size increases are simply being driven by size of equipment with labour as the limiting factor. The most efficient machinery assets are usually the largest available as they can cover the most acres in limited seeding and harvest windows. To capture efficiency, production pods are replicated, jumping farms to 6,000 or 10,000 acres and doubling up equipment. The Spratts are in a medium-size catch-22. Their one line of equipment includes one combine, a sprayer, two semis, a swather, a 50-foot air seeder, one baler and couple of tractors. Although they’ve maxed out the hours that their one combine — the biggest conventional one that New Holland makes — can do in a year, they don’t have enough work for two combines. 22

Additionally, the logistics of expanding in smaller increments has become more difficult. Custom harvesting crews require a guaranteed number of acres, and hiring local custom operators is limited as everyone’s finished about the same time anyway. An overarching limiting factor in many areas and sectors is that there simply isn’t a chance to expand enough to look at adding another combine, buying a bigger air seeder, or hiring on extra help. “The biggest hurdle on our farm right now is land,” say Larry. “Not so much the price of land — purchase or rental — but just getting it.” Like many medium-size farmers, the Spratts might have a relative advantage over larger farms in things like working capital, debt to equity and debt structure ratio. They own 65 per cent of their land and the rest is crop shared and cash rented, so they could afford to increase their land base. However, it’s simply not available — or the Spratts don’t want to get into a bidding war. Rent in the Melfort area runs $70 to $80 per acre, some of the highest in Saskatchewan. “But equity doesn’t pay the bills,” says Larry. Instead the farm is focused on paying off existing loans and on maximizing each acre of output by keeping input costs as low as possible. If the price is right, they might add some commercial cows to calve in mid-spring so they can improve cash flow on their cattle enterprise. Instead of building a genetic base by expanding the purebred herd, it would allow them to get in and out as markets dictated. To increase the cow herd up to 30 per cent would not require more equipment, says Larry, just another day to make silage, and they could make better use of their existing marginal land and stubble grazing. “If we dropped the cattle we’d need 10,000 acres to match net income, and if we dropped the grain we’d need 700 to 800 commercial cows,” says Larry. With the only two major slaughter plants in Western Canada an eight-hour drive away, they’ve stopped finishing cattle and have gone to backgrounding. Now many local feedlots are closing, reducing the buyers for their market calves. “On the cattle side, the biggest hurdle is the end-user for our product,” says Larry. Over the years, the Spratts have found many synergies between their livestock and grain operations beyond using feed-quality grains and spreading manure. The cows help them maximize the skills of the people on their family farm and spread out the labour needs, as they calve in January and February. Most of their equipment serves multiple purposes. Instead of having only grain trailers and water tanks, semis are used with cattle liners and flat decks for moving feed. Their self-propelled swather is used for haying with its disc bine attachment. “There are many different ways of looking at financials and when we look at an issue on our farm it boils down to feasibility and profitability,” says Larry. “Something might be feasible but it’s not profitable and visa versa.” CG M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3





WORLDPLOWING2013.COM MAY_04_CountryGuide_WPC.indd 1

13-04-18 10:32 AM


Prairie crossroads How far can consolidation go? Is it inevitable someday a handful of operations will farm virtually all of Canada?

Finally, says Gerrid Gust, more farmers feel they can pursue quality of life instead of endlessly chasing more acres.


hey stir Canada’s soul. Under a western sky, those sweeping, wide fields of Saskatchewan feel like home even to Canadians who have never set foot west of Ontario or east of British Columbia. The question is, if Saskatchewan is the foundation of our national agriculture, what can its evolution over the last few years tell us about where we’re all heading next? Saskatchewan may be one of the great grain export economies of the world, but it is also very fluid. It is a very young economy, and one that has been in constant flux since the first plow first cut into the sod, exposing a rich soil that had been 10,000 years in the making. Since then the story of the Saskatchewan economy has pretty much been, for better or worse, the story of the ups and downs of the commodity cycle. Even today, the provincial government estimates that 95 per cent of all goods produced in the province are directly dependent on the basic resources produced by the province, including grains, livestock, oil and gas, potash, uranium and wood. With such a commodity-based economy, no wonder it’s been a rollercoaster ride. Today Saskatchewan finds itself at one of its periodic peaks, with a strong, healthy economy, booming commodity sector and dynamic farm sector. It’s a very encouraging picture, and naturally, it gets a lot of people thinking about the future. Among the people Country Guide spoke to is Gerrid Gust, a grain grower from near Davidson, in the central part of the province. Gust, 37, is a self-described “father, husband, full-time grain farmer and part-time ag policy nerd.” We wanted to ask Gust, as a farmer on the ground in the region, does it feel like the grain economy of Saskatchewan is at another of its periodic peaks, or does it feel like things are at a crossroads, and we’re entering fresh new territory? M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

Photo credit: Riverstone Studios

By Gord Gilmour, CG Associate Editor

business In other words, should we be hoarding our resources against a down cycle, or should we be investing in a future that is going to just keep getting better? “Yes, I think it is at a crossroads in many ways,” Gust tells me. “I think the industry is in a really positive place right now. Generally prices are higher, interest rates are down, and farmers have some opportunity to lock in a profit margin.” It’s a night-and-day difference from the reality his family farm — and every other grain farm in the region — faced from the 1980s through to 2007. During that run prices sank towards the bottom of the established price range and languished there for years on end, with only an intermittent blip or two upwards back into profitable territory. Interest rates, in the meantime, climbed sharply as the U.S. federal reserve attempted to choke off inflation that was edging into the danger territory. For a time the prime rate was a nosebleed 21 per cent, though more typical but still crippling rates in the mid- to high teens lingered for years. For Gust, however, there’s still a feeling that agriculture is in transition, and that the key word is “crossroads.” University of Saskatchewan agriculture economist Murray Fulton isn’t expecting a re-creation of the 1980s any time soon — he says there’s little evidence of inflation pressure to drive interest rates up, for example. He also notes — so far at least — food demand is rising in emerging economies, and political support for biofuel mandates continues to underpin global grain demand. However, Fulton also cautions that the prices of the past few years aren’t likely to prove durable, as investments are made through the global grain industry to grow productivity. He’s not expecting a return to the bad old days of 1980s prices, but he just as strongly asserts there will be an inevitable price retrenchment as the basic, cyclical nature of a commodity-based economy reasserts itself. And when that happens, Fulton says, there will be unfortunate — and entirely predictable — results. “This is one time where I think the past can tell us a fair bit about how the future will play out,” Fulton says. “In the last iteration of this cycle, it was the people who got in late, and maybe paid a bit too much for land that got hurt worst, and I strongly suspect that’s what we will see this time.” Gerrid Gust echoes that sentiment, M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

Balancing act One thing Gerrid Gust is certain of — today’s younger farmers simply aren’t interested in a life of constant, neverending work. Yes, they’re willing to work hard, but a concept long familiar to many others, but new to farms in Saskatchewan has crept in — work-life balance. Farmers of today want to actually enjoy their families, take vacation and basically have a normal life. “It’s definitely an issue,” Gust says. “People are recognizing the importance of a farm work-life balance. There’s more willingness to hire labour, even though there is an expense associated with that. Hiring a few

Awake at night Even in good times there can be those niggling little things that can keep a farmer laying awake at night. When we ask Gerrid Gust what keeps him awake these days, there is one big worry: the future of biofuel mandates. Gust says he’s not expecting them to disappear overnight, but he never loses sight of the fact they only exist because of political will, and that they use a lot of grain and keep a floor under grain prices. “If they disappeared, things would look a whole lot different,” Gust says.

and says that anecdotally he’s hearing some of the investment funds that have garnered a lot of headlines in recent years investing in Saskatchewan farmland aren’t quite so enthusiastic about making new investments these days, and might even be contemplating selling. “Those people, who got in five years ago, there’s no question their crystal ball worked,” Gust says. “But I don’t see or hear of them bidding up land today, at least not in this area.” Outside investment represents dollars captured for investment in agriculture from other areas of the economy. Five years ago, the stock markets were still finding their post-global financial crisis lows, making surging agriculture commodities and farmland a more attractive investment. Saskatchewan, along with other major grain-producing regions, benefited from this. And while some operations — particularly those that expand too much at

extra days and working a few less hours, it’s still cheaper than a divorce.” Gust also says he suspects it may make some farmers rethink the constant drive to get bigger in favour of improving their operation other ways, like finding new efficiencies. “If you think about what it would take to get to, say a 50,000-acre farm, the stress on your family and life, I’m not sure a lot of people would be willing to do that,” Gust says. Instead, farm operators are looking for solutions that fit their lives better, and they are willing to take a small hit to the bottom line to do it. “There are a lot of hard-working, poor people out there,” Gust says. “Better to work smarter.”

University of Saskatchewan’s Murray Fulton agrees the loss of biofuel mandates would be a big deal in the short term, but also says he’s not expecting it at all. Oil supplies aren’t likely to outstrip demand any time soon if growth in emerging economies continues, Fulton explains. And alternative “green” energy systems are still well back in the development phase and their move to commercial viability will likely be measured in decades. “Until that happens,” says Fulton, “biofuel mandates will continue to support grain prices.”

once or too late in the cycle — may feel some pain, many farms will continue to do just fine, Fulton says. There will be farms that struggle when prices fall back to a more normal range, and others that will remain profitable and will likely continue to expand. Today the 5,000-acre mark for a grain operation in parts of the province is seen as being at the low end, and in the future that number will likely continue to rise. “The norm may soon be 10,000 or 15,000 acres — that seems like a reasonable possibility,” Fulton says. Will farms get even larger, becoming massive by today’s standards? Here both Fulton and Gust say the crystal ball is a fair bit hazier. “I’m not seeing it right now,” Gust says. “In my area virtually all the farms are family owned and operated.” Fulton’s answer is equally brief. “We don’t know yet.” CG 25


In a bottle Sometimes the best argument for starting a business is simply because you want to

t first you’d think the business of bottling farm-fresh milk at Eby Manor Guernseys would be all about fancy concepts like vertical integration and consumer appeal, which in truth it is. But it’s just as much about making a dream come true for Jim Eby, which in its own way may be the real definition of a successful farm business, or at least part of it. Like so many farmers, Eby and his wife Ruth inherited more from his parents than just their land north of Waterloo, Ont. They inherited a passion for the Guernsey breed too. So when Eby learned the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) was offering to work with producers to introduce on-farm processing facilities to the province, he was ready to sign up. After all, it had been a marketing deal that got the Eby family into the Guernsey business in the first place. As a kid, Eby recalls the barn being full of Hol26

stein cattle, but also that the dairy industry was going through a tumultuous time. This was the 1960s, and Eby’s father was hoping to land one of the region’s more lucrative contracts with a dairy in Kitchener. “So my mom went in and sat down with the owner who said their market growth was all in Guernsey milk, and he said they would take us on if we would switch the whole herd over to Guernsey within two years,” Eby says. “It was something my parents had never even considered but when they started looking at the numbers it made a lot of sense. And so that’s what they did.” Eby says it wasn’t an uncommon story at the time. Consumers were looking for lower-fat milk and Guernsey milk was popular because it offered fuller flavoured 2% milk. Demand for the breed was really on a roll... until the milk marketing board was established and deemed all milk to be equal. M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

Photo credit: David Charlesworth

By Amy Petherick


After that, interest in the breed waned, says Jim. “But I’ve always liked the Guernsey cow, the qualities of her milk and working with her, so we stayed with the breed,” he says, “and it’s always been my dream, though I thought it was a pipe dream, to be able to see Guernsey milk marketed again in Canada.” In February of 2011 Jim and his wife Ruth were milking a herd of 57 cows together with their son, Ben, and daughterin-law, Sheri, when Jim learned a local Jersey producer was considering an on-farm processing venture. After consulting the rest of the family, Jim decided investing in a facility was a bigger commitment than they could handle. “A commitment like that has to be really long term, and then one day I got an idea in my head,” said Jim. “I wondered if there was any possibility of having milk processed off farm, so I called the board and they said that would be all right.” The DFO directed Eby to two small dairies nearby, but the only one that was set up to produce milk in the glass bottles Eby was hoping for was Hewitts Dairy of Hagersville, Ont. Now, Eby says working with Hewitts has got Eby Manor Golden Guernsey milk off to a good start. “We’re taking (our milk) to a plant that’s been in business for over 100 years, and they have a sterling reputation for their product. When you go into a store and tell them our milk is processed by Hewitts, right away their eyes kind of light up.” Eby says he also thinks the plant manager gave them good startup advice, encouraging them to limit themselves to launch with only one product. “The biggest challenge is that we can’t bring another product out until we get up to so many litres a week because it costs (Hewitts) money to do small volumes,” Eby explains. But there’s a trade-off. “Trying to grow your market with only one product isn’t as fast as you’d want.” Now that they’ve grown their one-litre volume from 500 to 1,200 litres per week, Eby says they’re ready to expand to two products this year. Jacqui Schmucker, of Fresh from the Farm in Toronto, is just one of the many Eby Manor retail partners who have been clamouring for a whole-milk product. She’s been selling one-litre bottles of 2% milk for a year, and says the brand has developed a loyal following.

“When it’s your dream and you’re really pumped about it,”  says Jim Eby, “it’s a bit of a rush.”

Continued on page 28 M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3 27


For Eby, the surprise wasn’t how much consumers like Guernsey milk. It’s how much they don’t like GMOs

Continued from page 27 “Usually people take three to four bottles but I have a customer who takes six bottles every week,” Schmucker says. “I have customers now who don’t want any other milk.” At $3.95 plus a $2 bottle deposit, Schmucker says people tend to be deterred more often by the price than the quality, yet even customers accustomed to organic milk appreciate the richer flavour and colour of the Guernsey product. Schmucker believes with a second product, she’ll easily be able to grow the volume she moves each week, which will be good for her and the Ebys. “I know that in any business the beginning is not easy,” Schmucker says. “I really want to support them because our philosophy is to support our farmers here in Ontario.” Schmucker says she also likes to support Eby Manor because they’ve chosen non-GMO feed for their herd, which makes it easier 28

M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 3

BUSINESS for her to sell the product, and Eby says this is a common sentiment among the retailers who carry his product. Teaming up with specialty groceries and health food stores made sense, given recent food trends. “There’s a major shift back to more natural, holistic foods,” Eby says. Since he didn’t have a strong opinion of his own about genetically modified crops, this decision was based purely on consumer demand. “It gives us more market opportunities and because of the characteristics of the Guernsey milk, the health food stores gravitate to it and most of them are really trying to become non-GMO.” Eby says it was a real eye-opener to see how controversial genetic modification is among his customers, and he was surprised to learn it was an even bigger issue than organic certification. Nor do the controversies stop there. Guernsey supporters are famously proud of their quality, saying Guernsey milk is naturally higher in beta-carotene, giving it a golden colour, and it is higher in omega-3 as well, and the World Guernsey Cattle Federation says their milk also contains 12 per cent more protein, 33 per cent more vitamin D, 25 per cent more vitamin A and 15 per cent more calcium than the average glass of milk. Newer debates focus on A2 protein, a variant of beta-casein that some sources are linking to health benefits, including lower risks of digestive irritability, skin rashes, autism, schizophrenia and diabetes. In 2002, an Australian study proposed that the A1 variant, found in

higher levels in standard milk, could also lead to more plaque accumulation in arteries. In 2004, the EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to support many of the health claims associated with the A2 protein variant. Still, Eby says he’s seen enough anecdotal evidence he is now using A2 scores to select bulls for his herd. Eby says it’s often difficult for customers to understand the results they see. “We’ve had people ask us what we put in the milk or what we feed our cows that’s different,” Eby says. “We don’t go out and put down other breeds, but we tell them every breed’s milk is unique. Just like apples.” Education seems to come complimentary with every bottle issued. Eby says as more people come to appreciate the qualities of the milk, more market opportunities present themselves. He says just recently, for instance, a number of cafés have started using his Guernsey milk because they discovered it creates a denser foam for cappuccinos and lattes. As he talks about how the farm is just beginning to work with a new distributor to expand into Hamiliton, Eby gets excited about what could develop next. “If we didn’t really like what we were doing, it would be the pits,” Eby confides. “But when it’s your dream and you’re really pumped about it, it’s a bit of a rush.” CG

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Eastern background By Kim Waalderbos


Mid-size by national standards, Atlantic Canada’s largest beef farm builds a future by adapting its business model to the family’s strengths

M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

business or cousins Corey MacQuarrie and Nathan Phinney, making their official leap into beef farming during the BSE market crash in 2003 meant they had to get creative — really creative — and move beyond status quo thinking. Fortunately, they were learning the farming business alongside their grandfather, Robert Acton, a pioneer in the beef industry and Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee. “You can’t buy the kind

Photo credit: Jeremy Boorne

For cousins Corey MacQuarrie (l) and Nathan Phinney, with grandfather Robert Acton, quick action turned their losses into optimism.

M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

of knowledge he has,” says Phinney of his grandfather. Together, the three have climbed back from R.A. Farms’ half-million-dollar loss during the crisis to find their “sweet spot” in the marketplace. Today, nearly a decade later, the farm at Cookville, N.B. near the Bay of Fundy is the largest beef operation in Atlantic Canada with capacity for 1,800 head on 2,000 acres. For the cousins, the strategy is simple, and successful. “Do what you’re good at,” MacQuarrie says. For this family, it meant a complete shift in their business model. Before BSE, the farm had always bought and finished owned beef cattle, marketing them throughout Eastern Canada. But the costs of sourcing grain and then of transporting animals long distances to market were eroding their bottom line. When BSE turned their lives upside down, some hard conversations as a family and with their longtime accountant put them in a sink-or-swim mentality. It was time to refocus. “The Maritimes are forage country,” says MacQuarrie. “We recognized this was our farming advantage, and we needed to better maximize it.” They switched their concentration from finishing to backgrounding animals, and as a risk management tactic, were able to negotiate a contract to become a custom feeder. “It allows us to share both the risks and the rewards with our contract partner,” says Phinney. MacQuarrie says they source calves from across the Maritimes and background them on top-quality forages in Cookville until 1,000 pounds liveweight, after which the cattle are moved to other custom feeders in Quebec and Ontario for finishing on grain diets. In total, R.A. Farms backgrounds 4,000 to 5,000 head per year. MacQuarrie says as a custom feeder, they focus on animal performance and can now pencil in profit expectations based on their targeted gains per day. It means forage production makes an even bigger contribution to profitability, which led to another shift in mindset. “We started to follow the lead of the dairy farmers,” says Phinney. “We aim for highprotein forages and target quality instead of quantity.” In doing so, he says they’ve cut 60 days off their time on feed, and improved gains by a quarter-pound per day. As they revamped their approach to forages, the family switched the majority of their cropping practices to no till, and developed a nutrient management plan to become more tactical with the manure

coming from their cattle. “We’ve cut our purchased fertilizer significantly,” says Phinney, adding they’ve bought only 40 tonnes of fertilizer this year as starter for their corn and some cereals. They’ve also made animal comfort a priority. All animals are housed in groups of 50 to 200 (depending on weight and gender), with the option to go indoors and lay on straw-bedded packs or mill about outdoors in concrete exercise yards. Both inside and outside, MacQuarrie says fresh air is always available to their cattle. MacQuarrie says even with the leaps they’ve made with forages, they still couldn’t quite shake their reliance on purchased grains — until they began using more corn silage and trying feed byproducts such as brewers’ grains. They’re also exploring peas, oats and barley as cereal forage options and for seed down, with success. It’s now been two years since they’ve purchased any dry grain and MacQuarrie says they’re not looking back. Being open to new ideas is important, say the cousins. They’re the first beef farm in the region to adopt full traceability. It’s a need they see developing, and the data is helpful not just for consumer confidence, but for farm management. With their computer system, each animal is weighed at entry and exit and at other handling points. All disease and treatment information is also tracked. Ultimately the followup analysis has helped the cousins better identify what traits perform best in their facility. This in turn has strengthened relationships with their cow-calf clients, allowing them to offer premiums based on the type of calves they want to source. Each morning at R.A. Farms begins with a brief team meeting. The cousins and their grandfather make all decisions as a trio, with no secrets among them. Whether it’s unanimous or 2:1, MacQuarrie says their democratic approach has served them well. While cattle production is their primary occupation, the cousins have also developed some land for low-bush blueberries to diversify their business, and they offer professional livestock transportation and land management services to farms in the Moncton-Sackville corridor. “The sunshine comes after a storm,” says MacQuarrie. Adds Phinney: “Farming is an honest way to make a living and we’re proud of it. We’ll continue seeking opportunities and be open minded as we pursue our passion for agriculture.” CG 31


“Come with a story,” Jackie Fraser says. “Be willing to  help us promote your product.” 32

M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3


“Our success is your success” Quality, reliability and convenience top the list when local-food leaders Jackie Fraser and Derek Roberts sign on new farmers By Jeanine Moyer Jackie Fraser and her husband Derek Roberts, a chef by trade, own and operate Fraberts

the right stuff for the long term.

Fresh Food. It’s a thriving family-operated food

The business has come a long way since

market in Fergus, Ont., just north of the uni-

it first opened its doors almost five years

versity city of Kitchener-Waterloo, and it typifies

ago, including an expansion, and Fraser

the kinds of stores that are succeeding at con-

is quick to say their success wouldn’t be

verting food trends into a viable business.

possible without dependable suppliers and

Fraser and Roberts do that by keeping

quality products.

their eyes clear, and by refusing to get swept

A self-proclaimed “local food forager,”

up in the buzz over the latest food fad. Fra-

Fraser is responsible for sourcing the store’s

ser herself believes for instance that the

food supplies and for working with local

local food movement will fall off from its cur-

farmers and suppliers to ensure that product

rent glory. It won’t be mainstream forever.

consistency and quality both meet her stan-

But she’s OK with that, because even

Photo credit: Sandy Black

weed out the farmers they don’t think have

dards, and exceed customers’ expectations.

though it was local food that launched their

Fraser and Roberts admit that opening

business, they believe they got what they

a retail location has taught them a lot about

needed to get out of it. They’ve built relation-

business, food and most importantly, peo-

ships of quality and trust with their custom-

ple. “Everyone has an opinion about what

ers, which means they’re here to stay.

local food and eating local means to them,”

So Country Guide wanted to know, what

says Fraser. “It’s up to us to find those local

does it take for a farmer to sell to Fraser and

food sources and provide our customers

Roberts? More to the point, what does it take

not only with those products, but trust in

to actually put money in both the farmers’

where it came from and knowledge of how

and the store owners’ pockets?

it was raised, produced or processed.”

Opened in 2008, Fraberts offers locally

Fraser admits sourcing local can be chal-

sourced produce, meats, cheeses, unique

lenging at times, but the relationships she

foods and ready-made meals. It took a lot

builds with her suppliers and the positive

of work to open their business, says Fraser

customer feedback she receives help keep

who ranks market research, finding local

her motivated, so Country Guide sat down

producers to source from, and immersing

with Fraser to talk about the reality of sourc-

themselves in the community among their

ing local food from a retailer’s perspective.

key startup challenges. Another big hurdle was learning how to M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

Continued on page 34 33


Continued from page 33

CG: What do you look for in farmers who want to supply your store? Jackie Fraser: For us, it comes down to three things — quality, reliability and convenience. We need to have confidence in the quality of the products we sell to our customers and we want the products to be reliable in pricing and consistency. Convenience is important to us since we source from many different suppliers, so arranging a convenient pickup or delivery time and sticking to it is important. CG: What makes a great farm supplier? JF: The best suppliers help us sell their products. Providing signage or marketing materials always helps draw customers’ attention. And in our business, knowledge sells — customers like to know as much about a food product as possible, right down to the story of the farmer or supplier. Sometimes it’s the unique story behind the product that can make the sale. We have suppliers who take the time to talk to our staff and provide handouts with points about their products. This is smart since these are the front-line people selling their products. Some suppliers even have social media followers who watch for updates.

CG: How do you find farmers? JF: Suppliers are always approaching us, and we appreciate it. We often get tied down with the store and can’t get out, so it’s good to know what’s out there and who can provide something different.

CG: Can you offer any tips to farmers looking to build a supplier relationship? JF: Don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to approach retailers and take your product to stores that you may not think have a fit. You never know. Come with a price in mind, but remember to check out the going price for your product, or something similar for comparison. And be open to negotiation; remember we’re all in business together. Reliability and consistency are important, so be ready to deliver when you say you will. Don’t be afraid to call or check in from time to time. We have approximately 1,000 products in our store, so your product may not always be top of mind. And come with a story and be willing to help us promote your product. We are in the business of educating our customers as much as providing them with food, so the more we can tell them about you and your product, the better. Helping us succeed as a retailer is the best approach you can have to your business, because our success is your success. CG: How do you define local? JF: We always lead with in-season produce and try to source as close to our store location as possible. When we ask our customers, they define local as anything from Ontario, they don’t seem to have a certain radius or number of miles that determine local. We also listen to our customers — if there is a demand we will try to supply it — for example, when we first opened the store we didn’t even sell bananas, but they are one of our bestsellers now, all because customers were asking for them. 34

CG: What percentage of your store products are locally sourced? JF: On average, 80 per cent of our produce is locally sourced, with 90 per cent of our total yearly sales being sourced locally. In fact, all our meat is local, and when produce is in season we can reach as high as 95 per cent.

CG: What are your customers asking for? JF: Customers are asking for local, and that’s the business we are in. But there is also an element of education. We are responsible for making sure customers understand what local produce and food products are worth. After all, fair trade isn’t just for coffee. Why can’t we have fair trade here too? Just like the bananas, we try to provide whatever the customers are asking for, within reason. We also try to have a variety of everything, because customers aren’t likely to stop in just for a head of locally grown lettuce. They want our store to be a shopping destination. Our ready-made meals really complement our food market and also draw in more customers.

CG: What is your bestselling product? JF: Tomatoes! It seems everyone leaves the store with a tomato, but not just any tomato, they are Floralane tomatoes, sourced from Elmira. Unless tomatoes are in season, it’s hard to find a good tomato and Floralane offers superior-quality produce year round that distinguishes itself from the rest. As a supplier, Floralane is also great at marketing and at product presentation, which helps sell the product and makes our job as retailers easier. Locally raised chickens are also very popular.

CG: What is your biggest challenge sourcing local? JF: The scale and size of our store can work against us when we are trying to get suppliers’ attention. We don’t just source from small farmers or producers. Some are quite large, and since we are a smaller retail location we aren’t always at the top of their list. Economies of scale can also be a challenge. We can’t always buy in mass quantities, so we aren’t always as profitable. Chain stores are our biggest competitors. They often undervalue local food when it’s in season, using it as a loss leader to get customers into the store. They are another reason why we try to educate our customers. It’s not just the produce and food products that keep customers coming back, it’s the trust.

CG: What are the toughest items to source? JF: It’s no surprise, out-of-season produce

is hardest to source, but customers still ask for it. We make sure we are honest with our customers about those items we can’t source locally due to seasonality, such as offering strawberries from California during the winter months.

CG: How do you differentiate yourself from other stores in your area? JF: We position ourselves as a local-food destination. You don’t just come here for food, you come to pick up a meal, talk to our staff, ask questions or learn about how products are grown or made. We don’t try to compete with chain stores, we simply differentiate ourselves. We provide customers with the value of local food and knowledge. CG M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

How does no-till system achieve 300 bu/ac corn yields? Beneficial soil bacteria?

by Blair Andrews

Doubling yields while reducing costs will get lots of attention in the farm business. Case in point: the “fencerow” farming technique of Dean Glenney that has drawn considerable interest in Eastern Canada. Glenney, who farms near Dunnville, Ontario won the 2010 Ontario corn yield challenge by producing 272 bushels per acre. In 2012, his field turned out an eyeopening 301 bushels per acre. Moreover, the yield gains have not needed a corresponding increase in fertilizer and input costs. Glenney told the 2013 Innovative Farmers’ of Ontario Conference the key to his system is planting the crops in the same row every year. The goal is to disturb the soil as little as possible to mimic the soil quality of a fencerow. “I came up with the notion that I could plant on the same spot, year after year; never tramp it, never drive on it,” said Glenney. “I’m planting the corn right on top of the soybean row and planting the soybeans right on top of the corn row.”

the other farm still had 40%. “And it stayed there until the end of the season, so those plants were not taking up the nutrition the grower was applying,” says Lazarovits. “And the big difference in yield was coming from the size of the ears of corn. They were significantly larger - by about 30 to 40%.”

And there may be a lot more going on than meets the eye. The system intrigued Dr. George Lazarovits, Director of A&L Biologicals, when he heard Dean’s presentation at a conference in Quebec. With funding from the Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Canadian Adaptation Council, Lazarovits set out to study as many factors as possible in Glenney’s ecosystem.

Another interesting discovery was made when the researchers looked at the juice that was extracted from the stems of plants from both farms. Lazarovits said they have identified fewer and more uniform species to be present and at significantly high numbers in Glenney’s plants. The conventional system had many more species but at much lower numbers. He suspects that Glenney has created an ecosystem that improves the growth of his plants as opposed to an ecosystem where beneficial microbes have been disturbed. “By plowing the soil and mixing it all up, it looks like you destroy communities that have long-term associations with a crop plant,” says Lazarovits. “Whereas you don’t disturb the soil, these communities actually build up and are being sustained to re-inoculate the plants they are developing out of the ground. You get a critical mass of organisms that are not competing with each other but are interacting with the plant in a beneficial way.”

In 2012, the first year of the study, the project compared the fencerow system, in which Glenney only bands his fertilizer, to a nearby conventional system that uses broadcast fertilizer. Both grew the same variety of corn. Glenney planted slightly more seed than the conventional site as germination in his system tends to be lower. Lazarovits’ team discovered several interesting differences. The root systems of Glenney’s plants were significantly larger than the other site. Meanwhile, by mid-July, the researchers could not detect any residual fertilizer in the soil attached to Glenney’s plants. Lazarovits estimated that

Lazarovits quickly points out that it’s still too early to say if his theory is correct. He says the ultimate goal is to learn more about the differences between the two systems and identify the major bacterial players. If successful, the project could usher in a new way of fertilizing row crops. “What we’re hoping to do – and many companies are very interested in this – is to develop a method of bio-fertilizing plants, putting back those good guys in the soil,” says Lazarovits. “And if you can do that, it may take much less than the five or six years to get the growth promotion that Dean’s site took.”

Noting that it took about six years before he realized good yield increases, Glenney says the benefits include better soil structure, deeper root penetration and improved water infiltration.


A question of integrity To gain market share in the tractor business, selling the best machine at the best price isn’t nearly enough By Scott Garvey, CG Machinery Editor he rules have changed for machinery companies. Winning the respect of today’s 18- to 34-year-old farm demographic is much different than for the baby boomers who came before them. Yet if anything, it’s even more important. Building and maintaining a positive brand image has long been critical for generating sales. Farm country has always been passionate about its paint colours, often passing those loyalties from generation to generation. Now, however, a consumer survey released by Ford suggests the value of a great brand is set to surge to new heights. The coming generation of buyers, the survey reveals, not only need to trust the manufacturer that builds their tractors. Now, they need to actually like the company before they’ll buy. For that to happen, marketers must meet buyer expectations in ways that aren’t immediately obvious, and there is evidence that young farm consumers are reacting to corporate behaviour in ways the baby boomers never considered. Recently, Ford took the unusual step of making its survey findings available to the media. That survey points out how the current evolution in public attitude offers opportunities for companies to win over prospective buyers in new ways. But it also has a caution: firms that fail to recognize these emerging trends in consumer behaviour will eventually feel the pain of declining sales numbers. While we may like to think farm equipment purchasing decisions are made based on calm, cool business calculations, and that farmers approach tractor buying differently than consumers approach car buying, the reality is mixed at best. Indeed, the mantra among executives in the ag machinery business is that farmers buy what they want, not what they need. That means many of the same factors that convince people to put down their money on a new car or pickup truck are also at play in the sales offices of farm machinery dealerships. “Since we cannot predict the future, we look to global trends for inspiration,” reads the preamble to the Ford survey. “We monitor shifts in social, technological, economic, environmental and political arenas, as these will be the drivers of consumer values, attitudes and behaviours in the future.” The survey focused mainly on the generation Y demographic, concentrating on the 18 to 34 age group. 36

These are also the people who are in the process of — or will soon be — taking over Canada’s farms. So the survey findings ought to be required reading for farm equipment manufacturer and dealership executives. The No. 1 item on Ford’s list of growing consumer concerns and priorities is trust. And the fact it leads off with that one is no coincidence. “If trust were bottled as wine, vintages of recent years would be bitter — and scarce,” the survey says. “The social contract as we know it has been broken; mistrust of corporations, governments and media is rampant… People are reappraising their relationship with companies and brands, making integrity a new form of competitive advantage. More important than ever to building brand equity and differentiation, trust has become a precious commodity.” So any company that wins trust stands to grow sales. Boiling all that down, the report summarizes things this way: “Trust is the new black,” it says, ripping on a phrase more common to the fashion industry, and Ford backs up that statement by providing a glimpse at some of its specific findings. Gen-Y’s opinions relating to the broad spectrum of consumer products have changed since the financial crisis of 2008. Remarkably, their trust in brands overall has plummeted by 50 per cent since 2001. Now, on average Gen Yers place their trust in barely one-quarter of corporate brands in all product categories. And the size of market share a company of any kind owns no longer counts for as much as it used to. Gen-Yers are now quite willing to turn their backs on popular brands. The survey showed significantly fewer of them viewed market saturation, being an industry leader or being regarded as a “traditional” company as important. Instead, gen-Y buyers now look on companies that are “authentic,” “obliging” and “more straightforward” much more highly than they did in 2008. What’s even more significant for brands is that today’s generation is willing to couple their spending habits to their values. “Political involvement used to be measured by three metrics,” reads the Ford report. “Did you donate? Did you volunteer? Did you vote? Today, there’s a fourth dimension: Did you change your consumption habits to influence policy? One clear trend emerging from the Trust Bust is the conviction that consumers can hold corporations accountable by taking action into their own hands. It’s not just overt Occupy movements. It’s covert boyM AY / J U N E 2 0 1 3

MANAGEMENT cotts as well, recognizing the choices we make at the cash register can influence our lives and the world.” When companies do mess up, though, gen-Yers are willing to forgive — under the right circumstances. They recognize no company is perfect. But how companies handle mistakes is key. Those that own up to their gaffs and promptly make things right will fare much better than companies that pretend to be perfect. In fact, imperfection is seen to be real and believable, whereas the appearance of perfection makes gen-Yers wary. To back up that assertion, the Ford survey revealed a full 82 per cent of the 18 to 34 age group in its survey see having and admitting to failures as critical in achieving success. “The organic food movement is emblematic not just of sustainability and health, but of a larger revulsion of overly processed things,” explains the report. “We know the overly red, overly round tomato has no flavour. What is emerging is a renewed appreciation for rawness and authenticity.” Applied to the ag machinery market, that seems to suggest people will be more willing to overlook a mechanical flaw in a new farm machine as long as a dealer and manufacturer make an honest effort to quickly and fairly warranty and correct the problem. Another aspect of the Ford report’s findings may apply more to farmers than any other group, and that is that a business’s choice to have a local outlet

will influence how gen-Yers feel about the entire company. In fact, they are 72 per cent more likely than boomers to agree to that statement. I suspect farmers, as an industry group, have always felt that way. Many of them want to do business at local dealerships. When I had an opportunity to talk with Glen Barton, the former CEO of Caterpillar, last year, we discussed that brand’s efforts to break into the ag equipment market with the belted Challenger tractor it introduced in 1987. A key element that limited that tractor’s appeal and long-term market share position, by Barton’s estimation, was the fact Caterpillar dealers then only had outlets in larger centres, meaning they were too far from the majority of North American farmyards. The Ford survey also points out the brand’s implication for attracting and retaining workers. That problem will be much more challenging than when baby boomers dominated the workforce. Fully 91 per cent of gen-Yers say they expect to stay in their job for less than three years. So recruitment efforts will take up a lot more corporate resources as time goes by. But for farmers the most worrying possibility of that statistic is what, if any, effect will it have on the overall technical competence of the workforce. Producers have grown to depend on their local dealership to keep their high-tech machines running. Will their seasoned mechanic become a rarity? CG

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How to change Getting out of the rut is the biggest challenge for today’s farms, even when you know it’s vital to your long-term health By Gerald Pilger We’ve got great tools for analyzing our farm businesses. We’ve also got researchers and educators from industry and government busily creating an endless stream of new tools and techniques that open up an equally endless stream of opportunities for improving the farm business. Unfortunately, most of these efforts fail. That’s because they ignore the biggest hurdle in implementing change; the actual process of how to make a change. On the farm, it is far easier to continue to do the same thing the way it has always been done than to do something new. As a result, many farm businesses are stuck in a rut. But the following farm businesses grew because they knew how to plan for and implement change.

Berry Boss Inc., Dover, Florida


n a presentation called “Making Change” that he gave 15 years ago, Marvin George said: “As creatures of habit we oftentimes resist change. It is comforting for our daily activities to remain constant and consistent. We are, many times, slow to adopt change because of the inevitable fear or lack of confidence in making sound business decisions.” In a recent interview, I reminded George of his quote, and he tells me he still stands by it today. If anything, he believes it even more passionately than he did then, telling me, “There is nothing a farmer hates more than change!”

Farmers must apply all the same skills as any Fortune 500 company, George says. “It’s big business.” Yet, George has created an extensive farm operation by anticipating and pursuing change. Even the motto of Berry Boss Inc. — the company he founded and was CEO of — reflects his attitude toward change: “Quality Strawberries Through Innovation.” In 1977, after trying a multitude of jobs, including being a shoe salesman, a tree surgeon, a miner, 38

and a mechanic, George began growing strawberries as a sharecropper. He started with no money, just a burning desire to be a farmer. Six years later he was able to purchase the farm he was sharecropping. Then a few years later he purchased a second farm, and instead of simply hiring a manager for this new farm, George entered into a 50/50 partnership with a young person who had very limited resources to invest but who was eager to grow strawberries. Over time they added more farms and five more partners. Today George oversees a conglomerate which grows 1,300 acres of strawberries and nearly 1,000 acres of cantaloupe, and he is now starting to grow watermelons. As well, today’s seven partners co-operatively own two strawberry-packaging and -shipping plants in Florida, George says. “We have a very unique business arrangement of independent ownership, partnerships, and co-operatives that all work together. “Agriculture is constantly changing,” George tells me. “You have to stay ahead of the game.” To do this, George has hired people who are responsible for specific parts of the business and he relies on these people to continually monitor and lead that part of the business. If management does Continued on page 40 M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 3

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Strategic Help for making your change Traditionally, most change on farms has been horizontal. Farmers simply decide to increase what they are already doing. They decide to expand the herd or land base, or to acquire bigger equipment or new technology so they can do more of what they have always done. However, rising costs of land and inputs as well-restrictive regulations and government policies are making it harder for horizontal change, especially for small and mid-size farm operations. More and more farmers are considering vertical change through value adding or finding new market opportunities. This makes the adoption of a process of decision-making and change even more important. It is time not only farmers but agricultural educators realize there is a real need to understand how to make and manage change. Unfortunately, most agricultural educators still view profit maximization as the primary goal of farmers. This assumption makes farm analysis a lot easier for economists and resource staff than having to address family and other business goals. However, a few educators and extension personnel are starting to realize there is much more to the decisionmaking process and introducing change on a farm than simply economic analysis. These trainers realize that while most farm decisions are made with profits in mind, profit maximization is not necessarily a farmer’s primary goal. In the paper Managing Change, the authors from the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University recently wrote: “To succeed in the 21st century, farmers must be farm business managers, and this requires new skills and a new orientation — a general management orientation rather than a production or plant management orientation.” The Purdue team goes on to say that to cope with change, a farm business manager needs vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan. If any of these components is absent, it is unlikely the change will succeed. Other northeast U.S. universities are also encouraging a broader view of change on farms. In 2006, the University of Connecticut developed a two-day professional development training session for agricultural service providers called Reading the Farm. Its teaches agriculture service providers to look at a farm as a whole system with discrete biological, physical, and human components and that production constraints, family dynamics, social factors, and economic factors all influence decision-making. Reading the Farm urges participants to understand how a specific farm management change will affect the entire farm, rather than just looking at the change alone. Today this program has grown across the northeast and is being promoted at the universities of Maine and Pennsylvania as well. Holistic management, which addresses not only economic issues but environmental and social factors as well, is now promoted by a growing number of rural agencies as a process of change for farmers, especially cattlemen. Proponents of holistic management believe people count and the environment matters every bit as much as money. By paying attention to all three, farmers become more sustainable and viable. There are also books and online courses which can assist farmers seeking to improve their management skills in implementing change. John Kotter of Harvard University has developed an Eight-Step Process for Leading Change which can be applied to a farm business. “I can definitely see how farm businesses can use the Eight-Step Process for Leading Change in their business,” a representative of Kotter International tells me. “These days, there are constant challenges to the farming industry. The key to remaining successful is getting partners, suppliers, and buyers aligned in recognizing and addressing them. Often a person acting alone feels powerless. When you work as a group you can make change happen.” Kotter’s Eight-Step Process is described online at As well, Kotter has written a number of books on the process of change that are available through and other online retailers.

not have the expertise needed, George does not hesitate to bring in or hire people with the skills needed. Plus, he encourages the hiring of young people because they bring innovation to the farm and because they are accepting of change. Children and grandchildren are also being welcomed into the company. Berry Boss is not afraid of new ideas; it encourages them from everyone in the company. To illustrate the pressure farming is under today, George points out that there are now 57 local, state, and federal agencies that a Florida strawberry grower must answer to. He says one person simply cannot keep up with everything; you have to rely on people within your business. George describes agriculture as big business. “It is a business that must apply the same management skills as any Fortune 500 company if we are to continue to be successful in this global marketplace,” he says. “In business one thing is constant — nothing remains the same.”

Maple Leaf Farms, Milford, Indiana


n 1958, feed salesman Donald Wentzel began raising ducks on his small farm in Milford, Indiana. Today his grandson Scott Tucker is a co-president of the family-owned, vertically integrated company whose 750 employees along with 150 partner farms supply over 15 million ducks annually to the retail and food-service markets across the U.S. and to more than 20 other countries. Besides raising and processing ducks, Maple Leaf Farms has also expanded into duck-breeding farms, hatcheries, feed mills, feather-processing facilities, and a biotech company to market natural animal health products. In 2010 Maple Leaf Farms also entered into a joint venture with Shandong Yonghui Foods, headquartered in Continued on page 42


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management Continued from page 40 the Shandong Province of China, to offer the farm’s INDUX system of nutrition, diagnostics, research, and management to Maple Leaf Farms’ international breeding stock customers.

If you don’t have people skills, Tucker says, real change may not be possible until you get them In 1999 Tucker was frustrated by the resistance to change he saw in some of his employees, and their hesitation at the idea of vertically integrating and growing the farm. So at 36 years of age he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business’s MBA program to try and find a better way to lead and grow Maple Leaf Farms. “You have to develop a clean vision and direction for your business,” Tucker says. “You have to encourage your employees to participate in the com-

pany and you have to seek their input. You have to clearly define the values of your company.” Before making a change, Tucker says a leader helps everyone see why the change is being made, and shows how the change will result in things being as good as or better than they are presently. “You have to look beyond just the financial ramifications of change,” Tucker tells me. “You have to consider the ramifications that change will have on your most important asset, your employees.” Tucker speaks of the very difficult 2008 decision to close the farm’s processing facility in Wisconsin as a result of the global economic downturn. “It was very painful and we really did not want to lay off 200 people,” he recalls. “We had to help those employees to see that if the business was to survive, the closure of this facility had to be done. It was very hard to see 200 ‘family’ members depart, but what you do in helping them through the departure says a lot about your company.” Tucker believes a manager must have good people skills in order to lead employees through change and volatile times. In other words, his message is that on today’s farms, if you don’t have people skills, real change may not be possible until you get them.

Brunner Dairy, Canton, Texas


he benefits of learning how to implement change aren’t limited to just the largest corporate farms. Justin Brunner, 25 years old, works with his father and grandfather on a 525-cow family dairy operation near Canton, Texas. It’s an area where pastures are usually thought of as simply a place for cows to lie down rather than as a source of feed. Little grazing is done. But Justin felt their farm could reduce their feed costs by implementing a managed grazing system.

“This was a completely different way of thinking,” Brunner says. “Nobody wanted to listen to me.” Justin’s father and grandfather were skeptical, to say the least. “They have been dairying for 30 years and this was a completely different way of thinking for them,” Justin tells me. “They could not see how we could graze a milking herd of 525 cows on 240 acres. And as the youngest, nobody wanted to listen to me.” Instead of becoming frustrated by their lack of 42

enthusiasm for his ideas, in 2011 Justin set out to convince his family that managed grazing was a change they needed to make. He gathered information by attending a field day on managed grazing, and he invited Mike Lamborn, a Dairy Farmers of America grazing consultant to the farm to discuss the feasibility of his ideas. But what really made the difference was Justin’s use of Google Earth to map out a paddock plan on their farm. After numerous tries he had a plan he felt might work and he shared his plan with his father. “That plan got my dad on board and together we changed it a couple of more times. Dad said ‘maybe this will work.’” That summer they invested over $50,000 in wire, posts, water tanks, and cooling ponds to create the planned pasture system. In spite of record drought over the past two years, the Brunners’ feed costs have dropped significantly. They will recapture their investment within the next two years. And according to Justin, reproduction rates have improved and the cows look better and seem happier. “If you really believe in a change, you have to show everyone involved in the business that the change is needed,” Justin says. “You have to talk about it with everyone. Now Dad jokes that instead of telling me what to do, he asks me what he needs to do.” CG M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 3


New land trusts In this second of two columns on new land transfer strategies for today’s financial reality, we explore the central myth about trusts. It turns out they really can have a role on many farms, and a trust might be the right choice for your farm too By Madeleine Baerg ith more Canadian agricultural producers than ever over the age of 60, succession planning is top of mind on a lot of farms. But, given escalating land values and a ton of economic uncertainty, minimizing risk needs to be one of a retiring farmer’s highest priorities. Last month, in the first of a two-part series on land transfer strategies, we looked at land partnerships. Because land values are now way beyond the capital gains deduction, adding land to a partnership means land value appreciation can transfer to your child without a massive tax bill. But what if your operating partner — your married son or daughter — gets into marital trouble? Unfortunately, a partnership agreement leaves your farm business open to the very significant risk spelled out by the Matrimonial Property Act. Depending on the circumstances, your child’s now ex-spouse may be legally entitled to a 50 per cent share of your son or daughter’s partnership interest. It’s a risk few farms can afford. In fact, given the price of land these days, losing that share could bankrupt your family farm.

“Let’s be honest. The biggest risk to many farms is the child-in-law.” — Greg Gartner “Let’s be honest: the biggest risk to many farms is the child-in-law. If they choose to walk, they can take a good portion of the farm with them,” says Greg Gartner, a tax lawyer with Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP in Edmonton who has acted as tax counsel for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development for the past 17 years. “One significant disadvantage with a partnership is the children have to be partners,” Gartner says. “If the value of the land goes up, now they own something with value that forms part of the child’s — and his or her spouse’s — matrimonial property.” To protect land from this kind of divorce-induced value bleeding, Gartner recommends farmers consider a completely different kind of tax saving transfer strategy: a discretionary trust. 44

Don’t be put off by the formal sound of this operating structure. Put in its most basic terms, a trust is simply a legal contract between parties, very similar in fact to a partnership. “It’s not nearly as complicated as some might think,” says Gartner. “A trust is just a binding agreement between three types of participants: a settlor who puts the land in, a trustee who manages the land, and one or more beneficiaries.” In a discretionary trust, the older generation can control everything and determine who can benefit from the increase in value. As such, there is a strong argument that the beneficiaries own nothing, so they are not at risk of losing anything in a divorce or debt situation. Likewise, because the beneficiaries control nothing, the older generation does not need to worry that their son or daughter might sell the farm from underneath them. In a partnership, the partners gain real value as the land value accrues, Gartner explains. A trust by contrast offers more flexibility as to who gets value increases. For instance, a trust can be set up so the children are the beneficiaries, but there can still be a “back door” so that if the worst happens — a child’s death or divorce or debt — the property can revert to Mom and Dad. Tax issues must be explored carefully, but put simply, a trust is similar to a partnership in that it can act as a flow-through vehicle to allocate its income and gains to its beneficiaries. When the land is sold, the discretionary trust can pay amounts to the beneficiaries in order to have the gain or income taxed in their hands, which may permit the use of a beneficiary’s capital gains deduction. Alternatively, the trust can be dissolved on a tax-deferred basis and the property — and operating control — transferred into the hands of the beneficiary. Though a trust may offer significant risk savings, it does also have a notable downside. Land transferred into it is not eligible for any tax deferral. As such, if the land you purchased two decades ago for $350,000 is worth $2 million now, a $1.65-million gain must be realized before you can settle the land on the trust. However, any future gains can be spread amongst the parties who are beneficiaries of the trust. Despite their relative ease of setup, flexibility of function, and major risk-mitigating benefits, family farm trusts are currently very uncommon. “In Ontario they’re using them a little more, but M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

MANAGEMENT in Alberta, we’re not really seeing the use of trust structures at all,” says Gartner. “In Alberta, we’re probably 70 years behind in the corporate governance of our businesses compared to B.C. and Ontario.” This is not to say Albertans are less business minded than their counterparts in other provinces. Traditionally, Ontario’s economy has been very diverse, so tax lawyers, accountants and agricultural producers themselves have been surrounded by all manner of small and large business succession and tax savings structures. Conversely, Alberta’s economy has been largely agriculturally based until the past couple of decades. Given that Albertan farmers have always carried most of their business value in land, which was until recently well covered by the capital gains deduction, it is only now that more outside-the-box operating structures are being discussed around Prairie farm breakfast tables. “In the 15 years I’ve taught agricultural tax updates, I’ve seen my rural clients get much more educated on simpler tax planning strategies like the capital gains deduction,” says Gartner. “From Alberta Agriculture’s point of view, the issue is that it’s tough to disseminate some of the more in-depth information on alternative strategies to rural practitioners. Trusts especially are a hard sell: people hear the word trust and they think it’s going to be complicated, or that a trust only applies to really enormous estates. But the truth is, if you’re using them for good and not for evil, they’re really not that complicated. They can suit many farm businesses if the benefits they offer are priorities to the operation. I definitely recommend farming families at least look at trusts as an option.” CG

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Control the controllable Where will we find those extra bushels this summer? By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor In two of the past three years, growers in

everything across the entire cropping spectrum.

Eastern Canada have come to a gradual realiza-

The effects of various stresses have been reduced

tion about the crops they’re producing. In spite

because of improved breeding, molecular markers

of stresses in the field, yields are still generally

and enhanced genetics.

trending up. It’s an observation that often gets followed up with a quick sentence: “And that’s a testament to the job the seed companies are doing!”

But if it isn’t only genetics, what else is helping grow our yields? Country Guide put the question to four growers, each with their own set of guidelines and perspec-

But the genetics involved in today’s hybrids and

tives. And although the approaches and methods

varieties aren’t the total picture either. Granted,

are different, the one common theme with all of

farmers would be producing less were it not for

them is that their particular system works because

the advances, not just of biotech crops, but of

they insist on it.

Steve Twynstra: It starts with the right people


ith fields spread across a relatively large geographic area, Steve Twynstra has his eye on a variety of elements that can influence production on his farm, including climates, microclimates and soil types. As owner and operator of Twilight Acre Farms, Twynstra has to manage his home farm near Ailsa Craig, along with another farm in south Middlesex County and another southeast of London. Beyond those uncontrollable aspects however, what he tries to manage is his own anxiety, opting to work on being “hyperpatient” and focusing on what’s happening in front of him. To do that, he’s quick to put time and people management at the top of his list as the most important management components on his farm. “That’s an eight-of-out-10 moment, having skilled, dedicated and loyal people who think the same way,” says Twynstra. “You know, it’s the understanding that it’s sometimes important to wait an extra day or a couple of hours, and take the time to set the equipment up for the conditions that they’re finding when they get to the field, rather than just putting in the planter and driving on. It’s to realize that maybe it’s better to drive four miles an hour rather than seven.” The people Twynstra hires share his long-term interests in the farm, so his success is linked to their success, and vice versa. Twynstra also credits the advisers — his CCA that he works with, and his suppliers — for understanding what’s important to his business. He’s done the same thing working with the landlords on farms where he’s renting, treating them as partners and as valued members of the team.


“It’s great to sit there in January or even the first week in April, and have a plan finalized, but you still have to be flexible as conditions change or pest pressures change,” says Twynstra. “And being prepared to work with us, sometimes on a shorter notice, to get the product to where we need to have it, whether we’re picking it up at their outlet and having someone stick around, or delivering it to our location. It just comes down to treating everybody as a partner and realizing that we’re all in this together.” As technologies from traits to precision ag have entered the market and been quickly adapted to growers’ operations, Twynstra believes that relationships have been left behind, if not overlooked altogether. It’s too easy, he believes, to look at seed genetics or variable-rate planting equipment or new seed treatments and believe that these are the solutions to all challenges. Yet it still requires that human element to analyze the benefits versus the risks, to recognize the timing needed for planting or spraying or harvesting, and then to make the appropriate call. “It’s easy to pick technology off the shelf, whether it’s the genetics or the equipment,” Twynstra says. “But it still requires a different attitude to look at that technology and utilize it and maximize its value.” Other aspects that Twynstra focuses on include his fertility program, where he notes he’s unwilling to skimp. He’s also a passionate advocate of certified seed, acknowledging the value of the money returned to the seed industry with each bag sold. M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3


Nick Stokman: Know your limitations


ome growers excel at time or personnel management. Others are adept at looking at the soil and asking “What if?” Nick Stokman farms on his operation near Strathroy, but he has also worked for years on the plots at the Strathmere Farm on behalf of the Middlesex Soil and Crop Improvement Association. So he’s certainly familiar with what can and can’t be done with certain soil types and characteristics. Understanding those limits, and working within them, is key to achieving the next level of production excellence, Stokman believes. “The soil is certainly a very big part of it,” says Stokman. “Do you have a soil that has moistureholding capacity, even in dry periods? Is it a soil that’s forgiving, that allows those roots to fully maximize the ability to draw nutrients for the plant? Or is it a hard soil that restricts root growth?” “Some of that we can change,” Stokman says. “Some of that we can’t.” There are windows of opportunity that can be small, and if that’s not part of the farmer’s management focus, it doesn’t take much to create a situation where production is reduced. “I think that’s where we as individual farmers over time get to know what we can and cannot do with our soils to maximize the productivity of that soil,” says Stokman. Stokman adds that a neighbour used to gauge the activity around his farm, and then go play golf for a couple of days at the same time that everyone else was rushing out to their fields. Since he was on heavier clay, he reasoned that he was actually making money by staying off the land until it was fit.

Then again, offers Stokman, it’s one thing to cite the factors that boost production or push a grower to the next level. What if growers are comfortable with the returns they’re getting? Maybe they’re not the type to say, “Why not?” when others question “Why?” Quick though he is to concede that pushing production may not be for everyone, Stokman is equally quick to assert something he’s seen through his involvement with Middlesex SCIA: a field done only one way without some sort of comparison in it is a lost opportunity to learn. “I like to do some comparisons, and that needs a willingness to look at different options,” says Stokman. “If the mindset is, ‘I’m going to plant, and I’m going to plant everything,’ then fine. But we do need people who are going to say, ‘OK, I’m going to try this, but let’s also think outside the box and try that, too.’” Some want to see different treatments and how they’ll react within their fields. Others don’t. It’s similar to trying something new but not having the right attitude to see it through. Stokman points out that if you want something badly enough, you can justify it many different ways. Even if the math doesn’t work out, you can find some component that adds enough value to justify the expense. The same is true with a new production system, Stokman believes. “It requires the mindset and the willingness to really try to make it work. Otherwise, if you don’t want it, you’ll subconsciously do what’s necessary to sabotage the attempt. Again, it comes back to that central theme of wanting to make it work.

Ryan Marshall: We follow the data


ike Nick Stokman, Ryan Marshall is interested in learning more about what the soil on his own farm can give him. But he doesn’t consider his primary goal to be pushing his yields. He wants to maximize his efficiency, manage his costs and maintain his yields. And he does that by managing data from his fields. Marshall farms about 2,200 acres with his father, relying on a corn-soy-wheat (with red clover) rotation in a no-till system on the family farm near Milton. He concedes that he doesn’t farm on the most advantageous soils. There are some good stretches but generally they’re poorly drained. “For the last 10 years, we have focused on maximizing our information on what we’re growing, and M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

the resources we’re putting on per acre,” saya Marshall. “We follow the data. The data is showing us the ‘max/min,’ and that is what sets us in one direction or another.” On one hand, Marshall and his father are not followers, although they might take an idea they hear from someone else and apply it in a test strip or test plot on their farm. They’ll test it extensively, examine the data to ensure it’s a workable, viable, value-oriented enhancement to complement what they’re doing already. “The biggest thing we’ve found that we can change, besides drainage, is selecting the correct Continued on page 48 47


Continued from page 47 variety or hybrid,” says Marshall. “If you don’t have the information on your farm to know which one is better than the other, then you could listen to a recommendation to grow that variety or hybrid, and you might not make any money. So my biggest focus is the data.” Something else Marshall takes from his data is the fact his no-till system is best for his operation. He’s not losing yield, he’s not adding the expense of tillage systems or a mouldboard plow, and he’s not losing money to the time and fuel of running those implements. “So our data is showing that we’re not sacrificing, we’re actually gaining,” Marshall says. “If we’re stewards and we want long-term benefits, we’re not interested in the short-term payoff. That mentality has focused us into that no-till, cover-crop practice, because it’s the way to really plan for the future and

has proven to reduce input costs while stabilizing yield results.” The Marshalls have been no tilling for more than 20 years, and their soils are more forgiving of those weather-related stresses that Ryan believes to be hurting others with less soil health. And he’s reduced his seeding costs on his soybeans by studying the results of his field tests, cutting his plant populations to below 100,000 seeds per acre. His no-till system isn’t costing him in terms of soil health — in fact, it’s helping in that respect — and his yields are still at trend line for his local area. And he’s working on the same type of research on plant populations for his corn. All because the data confirms what he can do. “That’s why we like to go by the data,” Marshall says, noting there’s always that emotional versus practical tug of war in farming, between knowing and thinking. “And I want to know about it, I don’t want to just think about it.”

Larry Schill: Eight simple rules


arry Schill is another grower with a substantial number of acres. In addition to the fields on his own farm near Drayton, northwest of Kitchener, Schill has ties to Ontario’s “Near North” region, where son David farms outside of Earlton. And he has two other sons, Shawn and Michael, both farming large acreages in the Arthur area. Schill insists there’s a desirable diversity that comes from farming in regions where some might consider conditions to be less favourable than points farther south and west. “Some people think just because you’re north of Highway 7 or north of the 401, you can’t produce as well,” says Schill, scoffing at the idea. To prove his point, he has a particularly diverse rotation, going well beyond corn, (winter) wheat and soybeans. He adds spring wheat, canola, barley, oats and white beans to his cropping plan. Although some might see it as taking on more risk, Schill sees it as making more opportunity for himself. To that end, he responds to the questions about what it takes to take things to that “next level,” not with just one or two suggestions, but eight rules that he lives and farms by. 1. “Start with good, well-drained land.” A farmer can endure some mix-ups in any one year, but well-drained soils tend to be a little more forgiving. “You can count on that land year in, year out.” 2. “You have to have the will to succeed.” Schill says that the focus on success has to be front and centre. If the most important thing is getting away for the weekend, then cash cropping likely isn’t important enough to be as successful as it could be. 48

3. “Have a three-year plan in place.” And it goes beyond simply having a rotation plotted out for those three years. Schill says components such as fertility and spray applications need to be included in the plan too. 4. “Know your costs and never sell at a loss.” It may be fourth on the list — and it rhymes, too — but Schill echoes the advice of many advisers and extension personnel when it comes to understanding cost of production. It can’t be undervalued. 5. “ Have alliances and good standing with your agronomic partners.” As with Steve Twynstra, Schill believes the value of relationships with people who share your practices and goals is unparalleled. 6. “ Know your agronomic limits, and strive to exceed them.” It’s one thing to know your limiting factors, be it your soil type or texture, crop heat units for your region or the expectations of your hybrids or varieties. But there’s nothing that says any of those limits should keep a grower from trying to rise above them. 7. “Technology is a benefit, but all of these other things have to be in place first.” Focus on building a solid foundation: well-drained soils, good fertility and rotation plans — even crop insurance and financing. And then add in the advanced tools as needed or wanted. 8. “Always have a Plan B and probably a Plan C in place.” Schill adds that part of those alternates should include having someone you can rely on waiting in the wings and ready to help. CG M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3


Back to the basics on fertility P and K levels are dropping to the danger point on many farms. So imagine what our yields could be if we actually soil tested the way we should By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor f it’s true that the soil is the backbone of agriculture, many of us are getting a little weaker with every crop we plant. For the last three years in particular, soil experts have been sounding the alarm that soil test levels for phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) have fallen to dangerous levels in some regions, and even micronutrients such as zinc, sulphur and boron are sometimes below optimum. Why? At a time of strong commodity prices, you’d think farmers would be building fertility, even if nutrient prices have been on a roller-coaster ride of their own. Partly, it may be that new genetics are faster at taking more nutrients out of the soil. Maybe farmers simply haven’t been able to pencil out those fertilizer costs. Either way, Ontario soils — and arguably those across much of Eastern Canada — are suffering. Jack Legg, branch manager and agronomist with SGS Agri-Food Laboratories in Guelph, thinks part of the reason it’s happening on some farms is simply that farmers aren’t aware how much their numbers have moved. They aren’t soil testing, and while they may have lots of colourful yield monitor maps with a wealth of information from years past, there is often insufficient work put into proper interpretation of those results. Legg makes no apology for his belief in soil testing. In fact, he used to think everyone felt pretty much the same. Now, though, he’s no longer quite as sure about how firmly many farmers believe in it. “A few years ago, when corn was still tough at $3 per bushel, we had guys who were renting farms and planning on sampling, and then they cancelled,” Legg recalls. “They just didn’t want to spend that extra money. “I thought, you’re getting into a farm, and you don’t even know what you’re getting into in terms of fertility,” Legg says. “I always got the impression that people valued soil testing, but they often never got around to it. I don’t think the large majority who don’t test don’t believe in it, they just never prioritized it or that the crops were looking good, so there’s no reason to do it.” M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

Testing down The conclusion is that Ontario soils are being mined. At least, says Legg, that is what the test results seem to be indicating, based on data from Tom Bruulsema of the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). His survey in 2010 found that average test scores had dropped, and the percentage of samples that were considered at or below critical levels (20 ppm for P and 120 ppm for K) was increasing, which means fertility is dropping. It’s a trend that Legg sees in his own work. In some samples, he has seen P levels down to single digits, and K levels as low as 20 to 30 ppm. Legg alludes to graphs from Bruulsema’s research that show a period of the 1960s to the ’80s, when Ontario fertilizer usage was higher, meaning farmers were applying more total tonnes of fertilizer. But from the 1980s to the present, those numbers have been declining. One possibility is that farmers are making more

Agronomist Jack Legg sees more farms falling behind nutrient removal efficient use of nutrients. But it could also mean growers are missing the mark with their fertility programs because of a lack of sufficient soil testing, or because they are misinterpreting the results. “I’ve had that question recently, with farmers saying, ‘Maybe it’s the new genetics taking out more nutrients than the old crop removal charts would account for,’ and I thought maybe that’s a possibility,” says Legg. Legg decided to put it to the test. He pored over feed analyses for grain corn, corn silage, soybean meal, feed wheat and alfalfa, looking at their potash and phosphate contents. And the conclusion was clear.

Continued on page 50 49

Production Continued from page 49 “The numbers were right in line,” Legg says. “It came out to the same amount as the old removal charts would suggest.” Soybeans came out at 1.56 lbs. of potash per bushel removal, in line with standard numbers from Ontario’s Ag Ministry. With corn silage, Legg concedes that different years might translate into different rates of removal, depending on plant height and other parameters. But by and large, he says, things haven’t changed much. “The plants might be using the nutrients more efficiently. I don’t think I could argue that, one way or another,” says Legg. “But what’s actually being removed by the plant from the soil hasn’t increased, on a per-bushel basis.” That last bit — “on a per-bushel basis” — is the key, though, because yields are going up. So we are removing more nutrients just because we’re taking more bushels off the field. Old OMAF removal charts showed a 45-bushel soybean crop would remove 70 pounds of potash per acre. But if you get a 70-bushel bean crop and if you are still removing 1.6 pounds per bushel, all of a sudden you’re removing 109 pounds. That, says Legg, “is pretty significant.”

Perception versus reality Ironically, manure can contribute to the growth of nutrient deficits. In situations where producers have manure, there’s often the perception that with adequate volumes of manure, there’s little or no worry about balancing nutrient use. But, says Legg, if the animals are very efficient in terms of feed usage, or if there’s a phytase product in the feed, the manure is likely to test low. If the manure is lower in nutrients than it used to be, and if the manure and the soil aren’t being tested, that can lead to a nutrient gap that gets a little worse every year. “And then there’s the grower who assumes the manure is full of water and lacks nutrients, and he’s going to keep up his fertility with commercial fertilizer, and in fact, he has a high testing manure that he puts on it, and he’s just putting extra money on the field that he doesn’t need to,” says Legg. Legg also has growers calling him for average values on solid dairy or liquid swine manure amounts, without doing the actual nutrient sampling. So they could be spreading too much or too little, without knowing the facts. As for other soil nutrients beyond P and K, Legg notes that soil N values deserve an article of their own. The variability in soil conditions alone can alter nutrient demand and usage. Under cool and damp conditions, 160 pounds of N at the beginning of the spring will be too much. Yet turn on the heat and add in timely rains, and 160 lbs. of N might not match the basic needs of the crop. 50

“Do one of two things: use Greg Stewart’s N calculator or a nitrate test, just try to do something to figure it out,” says Legg. Even better, says Legg, is to leave a zero-nitrogen strip. “Yes, some guys are going to say it’s reduced yield, but zero N doesn’t mean zero yield,” Legg says. “And when you can see how much your soil produces without N, it helps you calibrate what your response is to differing higher rates.” Numbers from your farm will help resolve a longstanding issue. In the the U.S., growers are encouraged to apply higher rates of N on their most productive soils and cut back on those areas that are less productive. Legg’s own research with zero-N strips suggests however, that high-yield soils have a lot of the characteristics that are inherent to good yield, including good organic matter and drainage, and they manufacture their own nitrates through mineralization. Indeed, Legg often finds low-yielding areas give the biggest N response. You may never get 180 bushels off those low-yielding areas, but you get more bang for your buck putting your money there.

What now? The challenge with soil sampling is that no two results are ever the same. Variability across one field or a portion of a field can run higher or lower. “The soil test for potassium isn’t perfect, it does fluctuate up and down, and it’s very difficult to put a finger on the cause of it some of the time,” says Bruulsema, who’s the director for northeastern North America with IPNI. “Some of it is due to changes in soil moisture, so it’s getting wetter and drier, but those effects aren’t always black and white either. Sometimes, drying can increase the soil test level and sometimes it decreases it.” But recognizing the inconsistencies of various test values doesn’t justify not testing. “We do see a clear trend,” says the IPNI’s Bruulsema. “Soils testing below the critical level in potassium increased between the years 2005 and 2010. It’s likely to have continued if we look at the crop nutrient balance in potassium, where we’re still in deficit province-wide.” Bruulsema believes that a majority of growers is doing a decent job of testing for P and K. Is there room for improvement? Always. Based on surveys, Bruulsema suggests up to 20 per cent of farmers don’t soil sample. Another 20 to 30 per cent do sample, but not as frequently as recommended, either sampling fewer than one sample per 25 acres, or less often than once in three years. Bruulsema adds that he believes that most growers who are managing large-scale cash cropping operations as a business are likely sampling on a regular basis. If the number of samples provides any indication, the frequencies may fall slightly short of the mark, but not by a lot. At the other end of the spectrum, some farmers might be sampling on 2.5-acre plots or once every year or two years. It’s not all bad news, Bruulsema says, but it could be better. CG M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3




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Weed tug of war Should you control weeds? Or manage them? New strategies are rapidly evolving By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor

he debate between controlling weeds versus managing them is a tug of war contest that’s been argued about for decades. In the last five years, however, we’ve finally been making real progress. Partly that’s because our technology is better. Partly, though, it’s also because the landscape has changed dramatically. It’s during these five years after all that not only did we get our hands on widely adapted Roundup Ready corn hybrids, but we also came to accept that glyphosate resistance is joining Group 2 resistance as a challenge that can no longer be ignored. Since the mid-2000s, the realization has been hitting home that the chemical industry hasn’t been kidding. They actually don’t have a new silver bullet in the pipeline. If we screw up with glyphosate, in other words, we screw up big time.

acres getting sprayed with just Roundup anymore,” says Van Geffen, who farms on 1,500 acres with a corn, soybean and wheat rotation. “We’re tying it to a tank mix of some sort to get some residual in the ground, and we’re still doing a two-pass program — a burn-down and then a late spray before canopy.” The same is true for Van Geffen’s corn. Indeed, most of the crop across the province is also Roundup Ready, and Van Geffen thinks it’s an easy decision to tank mix atrazine and Halex (glyphosate + S-metolachlor (and R-enantiomer) + mesotrione) in an effort to mix up the chemistries and effectively confuse the weeds. Plus, he’s seeing more weed species that are getting tougher to control, including nutsedge that Van Geffen thinks of as a prime example of what happens when chemistries aren’t rotated. “If you get lax or leave it, but there’s a history of it in the field, you’re going to be fighting it after

Late Eastern black nightshade in a glyphosate-resistant field is a warning sign (your weed program has a hole in it) It was also around that same time that U.S. weed scientists such as Ford Baldwin began warning of a looming “train wreck” as a result of resistance to glyphosate. Again, they weren’t kidding. Just a year later, growers in Ontario now have three different species of glyphosate-resistant weeds — giant ragweed, Canada fleabane, and most recently, common ragweed. And perched on the door, across the border in Michigan, is Palmer amaranth, a weed that has spread rapidly from the southern U.S. and is widely assumed to be a glyphosate-resistant biotype. Strathroy, Ont. grower Mark Van Geffen has lived through resistance before. Group 2 resistance largely cost him and his father their identity-preserved soybeans several years ago. They reached the point where they simply couldn’t control the weeds. “Then we switched to Roundup, and we’re still with Roundup Ready seed, but there aren’t too many 52

it’s too late, whereas you could have held it in check by rotating chemistries through the corn and wheat, and even in soys,” Van Geffen says. “But when you get it in soys, it comes so late and it’s so hard to kill that it gets out of control and costs you yield and gets your fields dirty. We’ve had decent luck attacking it a little bit harder in the corn — and it’s harder to do — but incorporating it is a good method to go after that one.” In Van Geffen’s opinion, the problem with many herbicide strategies in general is that they are used more as a reaction, as opposed to being a preventive or proactive measure. In other words, it’s the old issue of controlling what comes up, versus managing what’s in the field. A management strategy might cost a few extra dollars in planning and execution, but that cost can be insignificant compared to the yield losses and other costs when herbicide resistance begins to take hold. M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3


Today’s strategies There was a day when Eric Richter remembers hearing the adage, “The only good weed is a dead weed.” Although he thought that mantra — courtesy of Pat Lynch — was a little extreme at the time, he understood the motive then and he understands it now. Plus he acknowledges a new emphasis on management that’s beginning to take shape. But it’s a slow process, one that varies according to on-farm practices, crop rotations, timing and soil type, to name a few. As a grower, what’s the need to rush out into a maturing soybean field to eradicate a late flush of weeds? Are they going to impact yield? Probably not. Are they going to be a challenge from a seed bank perspective? Possibly. Is it no till or conventional? And what’s the planned crop going into that field next spring? Is that late flush made up of Eastern black nightshade, and do those weeds have M ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3

berries that could tag food-grade soybeans, costing money because of lower grading? Richter also illustrates the pace of change as it applies to weed resistance, recounting his recent visits to the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky. There, over the course of several years’ editions of the show, he’s met and talked to local farmers who’ve experienced the relatively sudden shift in resistance to various formulations. “They tell their story about how, up to five years ago, the Roundup Ready fields, corn and soybeans, and particularly the beans, were some of their cleaner fields,” says Richter, agronomic sales representative with Syngenta Canada. “And to hear right from growers in that area that glyphosate-tolerant soybeans now are some of the dirtiest fields just blew me away. Their crop budgets now are $100 per acre on weed management, and for many of these guys, it includes one pass of mechanical weed control with a row cultivator or pulling by hand with a hoe crew.” As he’s listened to those growers, Richter has come to the realization that for all of the benefits in terms of herbicide savings and crop yields achieved from the 10 years prior to 2008, many of the benefits and gains have been lost since then. Commodity prices were lower 15 years ago, but with today’s higher prices, growers have had the opportunity to grow decent crops and make some decent money. The challenge now is that they’re back to battling weeds. “There are a couple of things, where we’ve moved away from weed management to more of a quick-fix herbicide program,” says Richter, echoing Van Geffen’s observation about reactive versus proactive spraying. “Our production systems have changed enough that we’ve started to move away from weed management with a residual component, and we went to post-emerge programs with non-residuals. Then we looked at the perennials and the annuals, and we’re coming back to ragweed and velvetleaf. So you can’t let your guard down. The resurgence of problem weeds, including perennials, has been a real sign that we’ve moved too far away from weed management and gone back simply to weed control, as a reactionary program rather than a planned program.” Even seeing a field of glyphosate-tolerant soybeans with Eastern black nightshade late in a season is a signal to Richter. It tells him that that current grower’s weed management program has a hole in it. “We hear about IP beans and working that market, but there are also many weed challenges now in glyphosate-tolerant beans, so that is a true example from both systems,” says Richter. “The outcome is that that grower is now building up the weed seed bank including species such as nightshade, and that’s a problem. I’m still in the camp that says, ‘The only good weed is a dead weed,’ but it’s how we get there that’s really important to understand. There’s no magic bullet: weed management is part of the grower’s overall cropping system, year to year and crop to crop.” CG 53



with Mike Cowbrough, OMAF Have a question you want answered? Hashtag #PestPatrol on to @cowbrough or email Mike at

Soybean response to late herbicide applications

ow late can you apply post-emergent soybean herbicides without causing significant injury and yield reductions? Most herbicide labels specify a maximum crop stage (Table 1). A three-year study by Dr. Peter Sikkema reveals that of all the herbicides tested, Pursuit (imazethapyr) and Pinnacle SG (thifensulfuron) should not be applied at advanced crop stages (between the fifth-trifoliate stage and early flowering) because they caused significant visual injury as well as height and yield reductions (Table 2).

TABLE 1 Application window for post-emergent broadleaf herbicides in soybeans. Herbicide

Application Window

Basagran Forte

unifoliate to 2nd trifoliate

Classic + non ionic surfactant + UAN

1st to 3rd trifoliate

FirstRate + non ionic surfactant + UAN prior to flowering Pinnacle + non ionic surfactant + UAN

1st trifoliate to pre-flower

Pursuit + non ionic surfactant + UAN

up to 2 leaf weed stage

Reflex + Turbocharge

1st to 2nd trifoliate

glyphosate 1

until flowering

1 RR (glyphosate-tolerant) soybeans only

TABLE 2 Injury, height reduction and yield of soybean following applications of post-emergent herbicides applied at twice the maximum labelled rate (overlap rate) and between the fifth-trifoliate and early-flowering stage of soybean. Herbicide

Injury (%)

Height reduction (%)

Yield (bu./ac.)





glyphosate 1




FirstRate + Agral 90 + 28% UAN




Basagran Forte




Classic + Agral 90 + 28% UAN




Reflex + Turbocharge




Pursuit + Agral 90 + 28% UAN




Pinnacle + Agral 90 + 28% UAN




1 RR (glyphosate-tolerant) soybeans only

Source: Three trials, Dr. P.H. Sikkema, University of Guelph (2007-09)


M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 3


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Drain pipe installation represents a very large farm investment; therefore it is important that the system work efficiently for many years. There is much to consider when planning and managing a drainage system. Will the project being considered increase profits? Will a loan be required? Could there be environmental or species issues? • Check with the municipality and Conservation Authority to ensure all laws, regulations and drain outlet requirements are met. This is important. A drainage contractor may be helpful. • Use a licensed, properly trained contractor who can design and match a drainage system to your specific soil conditions, topography and crop requirements. Local contractors know and understand how to deal with problems such as fine sand and stoniness. These contractors can provide a detailed drain plan/map and mark outlets and other drain features, such as surface water inlets. This is invaluable for maintenance and long-term satisfaction with your project. • When your drain pipe is installed it is clean. Make every effort to keep it clean by not connecting it to contamination sources or using land or nutrient management practices that degrade drain water quality. If you are not careful the drain outlet will become an unwelcome report card on your activities. Grass buffers will help to keep outlet drain ditches clean. • Soil management is important. Your contractor will match your system to your soil and crop requirements. However, practices that cause compaction or degrade soil structure will reduce soil drainability. Tillage is the number one

culprit. Practices that protect soil organic matter, aggregate stability and porosity will aid soil drainage and can reduce dry weather cracking of clay soil - a pathway where sediment can enter drain pipe. • Avoid practices that can damage drains or impede water flow. Watch for drain pipes when excavating or digging post holes. Be careful when planting trees near drains – location and species need to be considered. Drains can be crushed or damaged by heavy equipment, particularly when the soil is wet or when the soil is loose; i.e. following drain pipe installation.

To the le… of the orange stake: Conventional tillage results in ruts and compaction. This reduces soil drainability. To the right: 6th year no-till. No sign of compaction as soil structure is improved and soil load bearing strength is increased.

• Monitor the drain system regularly. Keep drain outlets clear. Watch for silt accumulation at the outlet as this may indicate damage to the pipe somewhere in the system. Keep any drain inlets clear of debris and silt accumulation. Watch for wet spots or holes in the field that may be caused by drain failure and make necessary repairs. Your contractor can be helpful with this remedial work.

Crusted soil following rain is an indication of degraded soil structure caused by too much tillage. This interferes with water movement to drains. Some corrective measures are cover crops, better crop rotation and much reduced tillage.

A drainage system can improve soil productivity. However, because water is a shared resource it is important that drain water quality and flow not cause downstream problems.

Further information: • Fact Sheet AGDEX 752/555: Operating and maintaining a tile drainage system. S. Vander Veen, Ministry of Agriculture and Food. • Best Management Practices ‘Cropland Drainage’. CDA OMAF OFA

A flow restrictor in the riser/standpipe inlet reduces water entry rate so sediment can settle out. A grassed area or undisturbed crop residue helps keep silt and other materials from entering the drain system. Be careful that crop debris or grass does not plug the inlet.

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




Schmidt’s Farm Drainage 1990 Ltd. Harriston

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





FARM DRAINAGE LTD. (Established 1968)



GPS maps of tiled fields

43 years of experience in providing professionally designed drainage systems.

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

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Bruce Laidlaw (519) 647-2377 Donald Laidlaw (519) 647-3353

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TAIT BROS. CONTRACTING LTD. Drainage Specialists

• Plastic installations • A GPS equipped • Family operated for contractor 35 years • Open trench & plow • Excavating & Bulldozing installations • Custom trenching & backhoe service

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Scott Wilson Cell 519.401.3659 Office 519.683.1710

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Decisions from hell Are we too optimistic? By Pierrette Desrosiers, psychologist and coach

hy is it that some decisions lead to an improved bottom line and quality of life, while others only create worries and stress and are detrimental to farm profitability and quality of life? Are we too optimistic when we plan our projects? Numerous studies now show that more successful people are not simply optimistic. Instead, they are “realistic optimists,” as opposed to unrealistic optimists. There are too many motivational speakers and self-development books that advise you to just think positively and the universe will give you the rest. Such sources claim that you only have to believe and visualize your success, and the success itself is assured. This is unrealistic optimism. On the other hand, successful people — the realistic optimists I mentioned — know that success is not easy. It comes with effort, persistence and discipline. They also know themselves and they know their circumstances, and they are prepared to deal with uncertainty. We all have access to a wide array of tools to help us make wise business decisions. We are surrounded by experts who can provide more technical and economic data than we can process. We accumulate a ton of analytical and performance information, and we can benchmark ourselves against our neighbours, other farmers and even against other farmers in similar situations in the U.S. Yet despite all this, we sometimes still make the wrong decisions. There are two common reasons that we sometimes see our business decisions turning into decisions from hell. The first is our limited ability to predict the future, especially because of external factors that range from shifting political or economic climates to environmental and social situations, to name only a few. We have absolutely no control over these phenomena. Yet, as a rule, human beings still believe they can predict the future with some semblance of accuracy. The second reason is related to the unforeseen impact humans often have on the results of our choices. Too often, an exhaustive analysis, as thorough as it may seem, fails to take into consideration the human aspect of a decision, such as the values, interests, personality, physical and mental health, strengths and limits of all of the individuals involved with the business. Additionally, it does not take into account the internal and external resources that are needed, or the obstacles that will be faced, or how you might be able to handle the unexpected. 62

We get recipes for success, but there’s no mention of the ingredients that may interfere with the desired outcome. For example, what are the chances of a successful partnership if your new partner is egocentric, or possibly manipulative or aggressive, or someone who doesn’t tolerate criticism? Or, when contemplating a business decision, do we think about the impact of raising a child with learning disabilities, or a spouse suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder? How many businesses expand, only to realize after the fact that there is a workforce shortage or that human resources management is an overwhelming challenge? What happens when you are exhausted, your wife is exasperated, and she threatens to leave unless there is a major change? What will happen when you realize that your stress tolerance is much lower than you had thought? For many of us, these possibilities will become realities, but they are possibilities that no one talks about because we would be ashamed to admit they could be true. Yet this also means they do not get talked about when we are preparing business plans. Even if a neighbour’s recipe seems a sure path to success, therefore, think of the ingredients you have at home before copying it. Otherwise, you may get indigestion. Successful recipes cannot be simply copied. Successful people realize things rarely happen exactly as planned. They also recognize their own weaknesses, and that no one can predict the future. So here are some tips: • K now yourself (strengths, weaknesses, values, motivations etc.). • Be prepared to work hard. • Develop discipline. • Develop an action plan, but • Be prepared with a plan B if circumstances change. • Know that we can’t predict everything. • Develop the courage to adjust to the new realities as they arise. • Develop the humility to ask for help when you need it. • Know what you can control or influence, and what is beyond your control. CG Pierrette Desrosiers is a work psychologist, professional speaker, coach and author who specializes in the agricultural industry. She comes from a family of farmers and she and her husband have farmed for more than 25 years. (www.pierrettedesrosiers. com) Email: M Ay / j u n e 2 0 1 3

w e at h e r


m ar ly t W Ju us g Au ONTARIO


June 30-July 6: Warm and sunny with hotter, muggy days setting off heavy thunderstorms in places. July 7-13: Passing thunderstorms bring severe weather to a few areas. Otherwise sunny, often hot. July 14-20: Mainly sunny with seasonal to hot temperatures. Scattered showers or thunderstorms. July 21-27: Sunshine prevails but a few hotter, humid days set off heavier thunderstorms in a few localities. July 28-Aug. 3: Highs in the 20s under sunny skies but a couple of hotter more humid days set off thunderstorms. Aug. 4-10: Showers or heavy thunderstorms pass through all regions this week, otherwise sunny with cooler nights.

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July 21-27: Warm, sunny days are interrupted by scattered shower or thunderstorm activity, chance heavy. July 28-Aug. 3: Fair and warm but passing showers or thundershowers bring rain on a couple of occasions. Aug. 4-10: Mainly sunny, comfortable temperatures aside from showers and heavier thundershowers on two or three days.

June 9 through July to August 10, 2013

June 9-15: Sunshine and warm but showers or heavy thunderstorms on one or two occasions. Cooler, blustery, showery north. June 16-22: Seasonal, sunny apart from scattered shower or heavy thunderstorm activity on a couple of more humid days. June 23-29: Sunny. Often muggy, warm with spotty thundershowers or heavy thunderstorms on hotter days. June 30-July 6: Often muggy with seasonal to hot temperatures. Scattered thunderstorms on a couple days. July 7-13: Sunny, hot, humid most days apart from a few thunderstorms here and there, severe in places. July 14-20: Sunshine dominates with seasonal to hot temperatures. Scattered showers or thunderstorms. July 21-27: Mainly sunny, seasonal. A few hotter, muggy days trigger heavier thunderstorms. July 28-Aug. 3: Pleasant on most days with warm temperatures. Look for isolated thunderstorms on two or three days. Aug. 4-10: Warm and generally sunny but cooler northwesterlies bring scattered showers or thunderstorms.

QUEBEC June 9-15: Sunny, seasonal most days. Passing thunderstorms bring a threat of heavy rain, strong winds and hail. June 16-22: Sunny. Highs mostly in the 20s. Humid days set off showers and heavy thunderstorms. Seasonal often wet north. June 23-29: Sunny, warm weather in spite of heavier showers or thunderstorms on a couple of humid days. M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 3

ATLANTIC PROVINCES June 9-15: Mixture of sun, cloud, coastal fog and showers. Highs crest in the teens on the coasts, a few 20s inland. June 16-22: Seasonal with a few showers, fog east. Sunny, warmer west with scattered showers or thunderstorms. June 23-29: Variable weather. Mostly sunny but some rain east, showers or thunderstorms west. Warm. Coastal fog. June 30-July 6: Sunny with coastal fog and scattered showers east. Hot, humid west with a few heavier thunderstorms. July 7-13: Warm, sunny east with some fog and scattered shower activity. Often hot west and isolated heavy thunderstorms. July 14-20: Sunshine prevails. Warm to hot, humid. Widely separated showers or thundershowers.

June 9 through July to August 10, 2013 NATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS Much of Canada is expected to enjoy pleasant summer weather. One exception may be over the Prairies and northwestern Ontario in June where temperatures are likely to stay on the cool side and rainfall could be heavier than usual. Conditions should return to more normal by July. In Eastern Canada a warm circulation is anticipated, resulting in above-normal temperatures from southern Ontario and southeast Quebec, eastward into the Atlantic provinces. These warm conditions are sure to spawn a few hot, humid days with severe thunderstorms and heavier-than-usual rain from time to time. In British Columbia and southwest Alberta look for typical summer weather with temperatures and rainfall close to normal values.

Prepared by meteorologist Larry Romaniuk of Weatherite Services. Forecasts should be 80 per cent accurate for your area; expect variations by a day or two due to changeable speed of weather systems. 63


By Leeann Minogue

In line for whatever Have some faith. By the time this day is over, something is bound to turn out right ale was tightly wound. Anyone watching him waiting in line at the machinery dealership parts counter would see the tension in his back and shoulders. His muttering to himself was another indication that he was under stress. “Damned kid couldn’t tell his elbow from a hole in the ground.” This was Dale’s third time at the parts counter in two days. The first time, he’d gone home with the wrong seal kit. Then he’d taken home the right one, but it didn’t fix the problem. This trip, he needed a hydraulic cylinder. He’d been waiting for 10 minutes, and there were still two women and a man in front of him, with only two parts people on the other side of the counter. Dale was keeping an eagle eye on the staff, trying to stand in the right place. This time, he’d make sure Alison helped him. She was a woman, and not very old, but most of the time she managed to look up the right part. Dale had no faith in the new kid with the big ears who’d already sold him the wrong kit. Dale reluctantly took his eyes off the counter when Rick, the salesman who’d sold him the air drill, came out of his office to say hello. 64

“Hey Dale,” Rick said. “That air drill isn’t acting up again, is it?” “Don’t get me started,” Dale said. “Did you get close to finished?” “Nope. Still got the soybeans to put in. Once we get things running.” What with the late start and all this trouble with the air drill, Dale was losing hope that they’d have the crop in before the 10th of June. He’d never seeded later than that before, and he’d never figured he’d have to. This whole spring had been a fiasco. With the late snow and the endless cold, the Hansons had changed their seeding plans at least five times. And nobody on the Hanson farm wanted to answer the phone these days. It would either be a customer cancelling wheat seed he’d booked months ago, or a desperate farmer hunting for last-minute flax (the Hansons didn’t have any). At the dealership, Dale kept up his end of the small talk with Rick until he heard his name. Damn. The kid with the big ears was waving him over to the counter. Alison was still helping one of the women. Dale’s shoulders tightened further. After a long explanation and a lot of manual flipping, the kid finally brought out what Dale was M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 3

ACRES pretty confident was the right hydraulic cylinder. Dale paid and turned to go, but Shannon Martin spotted him on her way to the counter to pick up parts for her own farm. She beelined straight for Dale before he could reach the door. “I hear you Hansons have good news!” she said, grabbing Dale’s arm. “Yeah,” Dale nodded, trying to guess what she was going on about. “We finally got hold of that foundation soybean seed. But we haven’t got it in the ground yet.” Shannon laughed. “That’s nice. But I was thinking of Jeff and Elaine. Your wife told me. It’s always so nice to have a second grandchild. Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?” “Oh, right. Thanks. Either one’s good. But I’d better run, Shannon. We’ve got to get the seeder back together or we’ll never keep ahead of the fall frost.” Dale finally got to the door, leaving Shannon calling out congratulations behind him. Dale’s son and daughter-in-law had just started telling people they were expecting a second baby. Of course this was good news — growing the next generation of Hansons. But thinking about it made Dale’s neck muscles pull even tighter. One small grandchild was cute and entertaining. But two? That would make Dale… well… old. Officially part of the “past” generation. Relegated permanently to gopher jobs like standing in line at the damn parts counter. Pretty soon he’d be looking for a condo in town, maybe next door to his own father. And would they need to expand faster, to build an even bigger farm for the next generation? And as if that wasn’t enough, Jeff’s baby was expected in mid-September. “What?” Dale had said when his daughter-in-law had first shared the news. “In the middle of harvest? What were you two thinking?” Dale’s wife Donna rolled her eyes and told Jeff and Elaine to ignore Dale. “Who’s going to drive the grain truck?” Dale said. “Elaine’ll be out of commission and Jeff won’t be much use. And Grandma Donna here will probably be too busy looking after the first kid.” Donna didn’t sympathize. She laughed at her husband and said, “Don’t worry, Grandpa. Conner can ride in the truck with you.” Three days later, Jeff had shown up out in the shop with a solution.

M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 3

“I’ve found someone,” he’d said. “Someone for what?” Dale asked. “For harvest,” Jeff said. “You’re right. This baby’s going to keep us hopping.” “I suppose you’ve been on the Internet. Found a family on the other side of the world who wants to live in your basement. We don’t have time to train a guy who’s never driven anything bigger than a pedal bike.” But even Dale had to agree that Jeff’s arrangement with Clay Janson — a farmer from 20 miles south who’d sold his land and moved to town — had potential to be a great solution. The Hansons needed an experienced worker for harvest, and Clay needed something to do. The Hansons didn’t need hired help year round, but Clay’s wife had just bought a new RV and informed Clay that he’d be spending the next winter in California. It seemed like it should work for everyone. In fact, it seemed like such a good idea, they’d asked Clay to help with seeding as well. Clay knew his way around the air seeder, and he was nice to have around. Until last week, when he’d tripped on the tractor steps and sprained a back muscle. “No idea how that happened,” he’d told Dale on their way to the hospital. “Never did that before in 47 years of farming.” The injury would keep Clay off the job for the rest of seeding, and it would be weeks before they’d know if he’d be able to help with harvest. Now Dale was staring down a large-size operating loan and going short handed into a short growing season, all while he should be expanding the farm. As he opened his truck door to climb in and go home, one of the new mechanics stepped out from around the corner. “Afternoon Dale,” Franz said in his just-off-theplane accent. “Isn’t spring the best time of year? It’s always my favourite time back on our farm in Germany. I love knowing farmers are putting so much seed in the ground. It’s such a risk, and it shows such a commitment. ‘Faith in the future,’ my father says.” “Faith,” Dale said. “Huh. Maybe your dad’s on to something.” Dale sat down in the driver’s seat, took a deep breath, loosened his muscles as much as he could and shifted his truck into gear. CG 65


Balance your life Learning to say yes to yourself, and no to extra jobs, can be great for you… and the farm By Helen Lammers-Helps hoose your own favourite way to end this sentence. “I’ll slow down when…” Maybe you’ll say “when the crops are in,” or “when the crops are off.” Or how about “when the books are done,” or “when Dad’s treatments are over,” or “when the kids are older?” Somehow, whatever you say, or however often you say it, it never seems to happen, which means it’s time to take a hard look at your work-life balance. Of course you sometimes need to go full tilt for a stretch. Every farmer has to, but making full throttle your only speed over long periods of time can have serious and sometimes disastrous consequences. When stressed, we may experience headaches, back pain, neck and shoulder tension, insomnia, depression, weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure. We may become irritable and our relationships can be strained. Maybe, you say, you can live with that. It’s all for the good of the farm. But when we subject ourselves to ongoing stress, we make more mistakes, the quality of our decisions drops off, and we have more accidents too. None of those can be good for the farm. Saskatoon life coach, Pat Katz recites the mantra: “If we can’t set limits, our bodies will do it for us.” Unfortunately says Katz, we often don’t recognize the early indicators that such a process is underway. And if we don’t make changes, that stress can lead to a heart attack, stroke, divorce, or a complete mental breakdown. This isn’t a new problem but we still aren’t doing very well at solving it. In fact, research at Carleton University has shown the problem is getting worse, says Katz. There’s another challenge too. We often think that the stress of farming falls mainly on the shoulders of men, 66

and it’s true that it can do just that. But finding work-life balance can be even more of a challenge for women who often wrestle not only with farm responsibilities but with the bulk of child care, elder care, and housework on top of their careers, says Port Coquitlam, B.C. business coach Pam Paquet. Yet instead of attacking the problem, farm women often reach for band-aid solutions, Paquet adds. “We reach for the Tylenol or the sleeping pills, book a massage or take a vacation. Unfortunately, none of these tackle the real problem.” Women need to set boundaries, says Paquet. She encourages women to write a job description for themselves for both work and home and to not take on jobs that aren’t their responsibility. Says Paquet: “They need to say ‘here’s what I’m willing to do.’ And that could be different in different seasons.” Elaine Froese, a farm family coach in Boissevain, Man. agrees we need to be more intentional with our time. “Otherwise we get caught in patterns and habits that don’t serve us well,” Froese says. One of her rules for keeping work from taking over her life is that she doesn’t work on Saturdays and Sundays, which includes not answering the phone or sending emails. “That’s my time,” Froese says. Froese also starts her day with a workout. “I need to look after myself first,” she explains. Froese’s iCal calendar program, which came with her Mac computer, is a useful tool for keeping her life balanced. “It’s colour coded according to the type of activity. I can see at a glance if there’s not enough self-care in there,” she explains. Unfortunately exercising, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, socializing with friends and doing hobbies — the very things that help us combat stress — are usually the first things to go when we are too busy. Sometimes you may have to

be creative with your time management, says Froese. She and her husband wanted to spend more time together but they also needed more exercise so they bought a kayak instead of a motor boat. Paquet says more women need to adopt that kind of thinking. Women can suffer from Super Woman Syndrome, believing they can do it all and be available to everyone all the time, says Paquet. There’s a tendency to keep taking things on, even when they know they’re already overburdened, because saying no creates another burden — guilt. Paquet encourages people to prioritize their jobs by assigning an A, B, C or D rating and focusing on the most important jobs. Then she suggests looking at which jobs you can delegate or hire someone else to do. For example, can you hire someone to clean the house? Can you set up a carpool for soccer practice? People often have trouble letting go of things that others could do, continues Paquet. Her rule of thumb is that if someone else can do the job and get it right 75 to 80 per cent of the time, then it’s a good investment to hand it off. For Deb Calverley of Deloraine, Man., who works full time as an accountant with MNP and manages 12 employees in two offices, having a good housekeeper helps keep her stress in check. Her husband Dennis is a grain farmer, which allows him to be home during the busy tax season from February to April when Calverley is hardly around. “He runs the boys to their activities and he is a good cook,” she says. But, she adds, “he doesn’t really like to clean.” Calverley strives to give it her all when she’s at work, but then to leave work at work. She also plans downtime every year by renting a cabin where there’s no Internet service. When full-time RBC senior financing specialist Amanda Hammell and her husM ay / J u n e 2 0 1 3


Resources Take the Work-Life Balance quiz on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website at: worklifebalance.html Find life tips on the Canadian Mental Health Association website at: Check out articles available on Pat Katz’s website at:

band Steve, who is also a township councillor, built their new dairy barn three years ago they chose to go with a robotic milker. It gives her husband more flexibility, which helps them juggle their busy household, says the mother of two young daughters. Hammell and her husband also make a conscious effort to have a date night once a month to keep the lines of communication open. She and her husband also send emails to each other. “Communication is very important,” Hammell says. “Misconceptions can escalate.” A support system is also a key to their success in juggling family life, careers and farming. “We have friends and neighbours who can be called on to help us out in a pinch,” she explains. Hammell also recognizes that she can’t control everything. “My husband and I do things differently and that’s OK. My way is not the only way,” she says. And she’s had to accept that there are days where not everything will get done, she says. “And it’s OK to throw a pizza in the oven for dinner sometimes.” Learning to let go of perfectionism is essential, agrees Beverly BeuermannKing, stress and wellness expert from Little Britain, Ont. “You can’t do it all,” she insists. M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 3

Some people need to learn how to take time off. They’ve grown up hearing “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” so they need to learn to give themselves permission to take a break. Understanding that a pause is an investment requires a shift in mindset. “Too often a pause is only used as a reward when the work is done,” agrees Katz. “The problem with that is that too often the work is never done.” Katz advises her clients to start by developing a micro-pause habit. For example, when you are working at your computer, set a timer to remind yourself to take a break and stretch every hour. When you are driving, take a deep breath and stretch your shoulders at all the red traffic lights. Once you’ve built these micro-pauses into your day, she encourages her clients to work up to 10-minute mini-pauses. Beuermann-King emphasizes there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to creating a balanced life. It’s about finding tools that work for you. Froese agrees. The important thing to remember is that life is lived in days and moments that become months and years, says Froese. “Ask yourself what you need to start doing. And ask yourself what you need to stop doing.” CG

AVAILABLE BACHELORETTES At 39, 5’6 138 lbs I have my life in order, I have great girlfriends, a nice home, my wonderful canine companion, and I am very successful at what I do. Money is no concern for me, I am heathly in great shape, look good in blue jeans, I’ve been told I have a nice booty, but I have a personality & brains too. I love sports, I enjoy being out on the water on a summers day, with the sun shinning. I love chilling at bar with great food, watching a game too. Love motors sports & motor cycles, I was previous a model for a major beer company, but now that I am older & wiser all that stuff is only fun once in while I am looking for my soulmate. I like to cook, I enjoy dancing & yes I do attend church. I give back to my community & believe love conquers all. Mirander Lambert is a lady I admire.

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Incontinence — more common than you think By Marie Berry f you have problems with bladder control you are not alone. It is estimated that about 3.3 million Canadians (yes that’s right — 10 per cent of us) have a continence problem or, as they say on those American television commercials, they have an overactive bladder. Incontinence is largely an unreported condition in that people prefer to cope with it themselves, either by staying home and/or using an absorbent pad. In short, their embarrassment may keep them from seeking effective treatment. However, there are a variety of therapies that can help with incontinence. Your bladder stores urine until you are ready to void it outside your body via the urethra. A combination of muscles enables you to hold in the urine until you are able to make a trip to the bathroom. Incontinence occurs when urine leaks involuntarily, most often when you participate in sports, sneeze, cough, lift something heavy, laugh, or even turn over in bed. Incontinence impacts your day-to-day life and is often the reason for admission to nursing homes. Incontinence varies depending upon its cause. Transient incontinence is common among older people and is often caused by water pills, conditions like constipation, or physical limitation (that is, you simply need more time to get to the bathroom). If the cause of transient incontinence is solved, the problem is usually solved. Chronic incontinence on the other hand persists and is classified depending upon the cause. Urge incontinence occurs when you have the urge to go to the bathroom and just don’t make it. It can occur when you put the key in your door or even when you hear running water. The older you are, the more common urge incontinence becomes, and conditions like urinary tract infections and kidney stones can complicate it. Stress incontinence happens when a sudden pressure affects the bladder or weakened muscles that maintain the bladder. Pregnancy, menopause in

Everyone has suffered pain at some point in their lives, and we know that ongoing pain conditions need to be treated with effective pain relievers. Often, unfortunately, they are not. Next month we’ll look at pain relievers as well as some of the factors that may contribute to the two extremes that sometimes result from their use, namely undertreatment and addiction.


women, prostate problems, and again older age can make you susceptible to stress incontinence. In overflow incontinence, the bladder doesn’t empty completely, while with functional incontinence you may not realize that you need to go to the bathroom. Often, incontinence is a combination of two or more types or mixed incontinence. Often too, while you may be able to identify factors that contribute to incontinence, such as nervous system damage, increased age, menopause, pregnancy, or stroke, you may not be able to reduce the risk. However, other factors that are also linked to incontinence including constipation, urinary tract infections, smoking, obesity, high caffeine or fluid intake can be treated and the incontinence can be reduced. Medications such as water pills are often necessary for blood pressure control, but by taking them early in the morning, you may lessen your risk for incontinence. Incontinence can also be reduced by good control of conditions like diabetes and even arthritis that can impact it. Behavioural measures including routine toileting and double voiding may help. Develop regular toilet times. For example, go to the bathroom every two hours. Then, once you do not experience incontinence, change the routine to every three hours, and so on. Double voiding is going to the bathroom, then relaxing for a minute, then try emptying your bladder again. Strengthen your muscles that control the urine flow with Kegel exercises. Squeeze and relax these muscles 10 times working your way up to 10 sets of 10 repetitions each day. Remember, you can do your Kegel exercises anywhere and any time. The detrusor muscle sits above the bladder and when it contracts it causes the bladder to empty, and the majority of medications used to treat incontinence act on this muscle. They reduce the detrusor activity meaning your bladder is less likely to empty. Oxybutynin is an example, but unfortunately, side-effects with these medications can limit their use, including sedation, dry mouth, vision changes, and dizziness. Keeping track of your toilet habits in a diary is a great idea as it may pinpoint an activity, medication, or even food that impacts your ability to get to the bathroom. So the message is, incontinence can be treated and usually non-drug approaches combined with medication give the best results. Yes, you may be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about it, but wouldn’t you rather be continent? Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist interested in health and education. M a y / j u ne 2 0 1 3

“Would you like to spend March as the chaplain on a cruise ship?” With winter winds howling in Saskatoon and snow piling deep in our driveway, this was all the invitation we needed. The offer was 24 days of cruising with my spouse Jacqueline in return for clergy duties on the ship. The cruise departed from Sydney, Australia, where the temperature was +30 C and the sea water was turquoise. The ship was docked near the Sydney Opera House, a unique structure which looked familiar. Someone reminded me that the Opera House appears annually on television as one of the first venues where the new year is celebrated. From Sydney we cruised through the Great Barrier Reef and stopped at two ports in northern Australia. I knew I was in Australia when I saw signs at beaches warning of attacks by crocodiles. From there we headed north to Hong Kong then on to Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and three cities in China. We made new friends, enjoyed fascinating conversations and pondered ancient mysteries that Asia holds for those from the West. I learned to preside at church services while balancing in rough seas. I practised my footwork by taking line-dancing lessons! Worship services were well attended. A community of people from many countries and diverse church affiliations joined together to worship. When people came to sing, pray and listen to scripture they did not ask what church I attend, or what religious denomination I represent. If we can come together to pray on a cruise ship, why are we unable to worship together in our local communities? The majority of the passengers were Australians. Many had visited Canada, particularly the West Coast and the Rocky Mountains. They have much in common with Canadians — a large country, a relatively short history, lots of open space and long distances from one city to another. Many of the entertainers on the ship were Australian. I didn’t catch all the punchlines to the jokes but there was always someone ready to explain, and to have a second chuckle. The trip from Darwin, Australia, to Hong Kong took five days. The ship pushed ahead at a leisurely 20 knots while passengers swam, sunbathed, read books and ate. We seemed to be alone in the universe. Occasionally we saw some fishing boats and the odd freighter in the distance. Water extended to the horizon in every direction. It was as though the ship was a dot in a vast open area of blue water and blue sky. I recall being told in a Legion Hall that many Canadian warships were manned by men from the Canadian Prairies in the Second World War. Apparently the sailors found similarities between the open space of the sea and the vastness of the southern Prairies. I understand how they might have felt. Sometimes I stood on the bow of the ship and looked out at the enormity of the sea. The quietness and the vastness of the open water is reminiscent of much Canadian terrain. The late Rita MacNeil lived near the ocean where sailboats bob in the water, fishing boats head out hoping for a big catch and the tide rises and descends. Her songs carried images of water, sky and stars. Words from her song “Moment in Time” came to me as I reflected on my month on the ocean: And you fly where the eagles fly You dance with the stars at night You reach out with all your might For your moment in time

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Suggested Scripture: Genesis 1:6-23, Habakkuk 2:14 Rod Andrews is a retired Anglican bishop. He lives in Saskatoon. M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 3

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


have only been burgled once in 35 years on the farm but it was a deeply upsetting experience. It was about 20 years ago after we were pretty well settled, with two preschoolers and all the trappings of young domestic life. I was roaming the halls in the middle of the night, wondering how I was going to pay for everything on a writer’s earnings when I looked out the window and saw the barn lights had been left on. “Silly me,” I thought and went out to the veranda to put my boots on. A few seconds after I switched on the yard light, an engine started, doors slammed and a truck roared away down the barn lane out to the road, spewing dirt and small stones. “Good heavens,” I thought. “I’ve been robbed!” There was no chance to get a licence plate or even the make of the vehicle. I ran back into the house and called the police and then dashed out to the barn to see what they had stolen. It was a creepy feeling, knowing that thieves had been prowling through your stuff and helping themselves to whatever they saw. I didn’t see anything missing right away. But I knew this was the way it went. You think they haven’t taken anything and then an hour later or even a day later you realize they’ve taken all the power tools. But no, my 10-year-old Black and Decker circular saw was still sitting on the bench in plain sight. My collection of free screwdrivers from the gas station in town was lined up on the rack and the Rem-


ington chainsaw I got before I was married was still in its place under the bench. Well, I guess it needed a new chain and it was a brute to start. A police car swung into the lane and a young constable got out. “What did they take?” he asked. “They generally go for the big-ticket items — do you have a four-wheeler, motorcycle, lawn tractor, that sort of thing?” I pointed to my lawn tractor. It was about 10 years old at that point, a Bolens, and the company had gone out of business about an hour and a half after I bought it. The officer shrugged and said, “It’s pretty hard to get parts for those things.” Then he asked if I had any farm equipment or livestock. I pointed to the 1959 Cockshutt manure spreader, the Massey sickle bar mower, the Champion oat roller and the Climax root pulper. “Pretty hard to flip that sort of thing in today’s market,” he said. “And it would take more than two guys to get them on the truck. Do you have any new stuff?” That stung a little bit. I pointed to the incubator, humming away on the tool bench with a load of Chantecler chicken eggs in their second week. “That’s neat,” he said “You made it yourself, did you?” He pointed to two empty Tim’s coffee cups sitting on top of the incubator. “It doesn’t look like they were in any great rush,” he said. He didn’t stay long after that. He didn’t even write very much in his notebook. The next day I did a careful inventory of the barn contents and found the intruders had taken absolutely nothing. I didn’t own a single thing of interest to a thief. I felt violated. People had looked over all my possessions and decided nothing was worth owning. But then I remembered the words of the French essayist and thinker Michel de Montaigne, who left the king’s service in Paris in 1580 and moved out to a country property in the southwest. The religious wars were raging at the time and the countryside was a dangerous place, full of roving militias and brigands. His friends were shocked when they learned he was not living in a fortified house. Montaigne assured them that the key to a secure life was to make sure you didn’t look like you had anything worth taking. Besides, he said, “a man ofttimes loses more by defending his vineyard than if he gave it up.” Montaigne lived completely undisturbed for the next 25 years. Here at the farm, it is much the same. Word has apparently gone around the burglar community that we are a dry hole.

M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 3


The Kuebler Family

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