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MAY/JUNE 2012 COUNTRY GUIDE ROAD TRIP 2012 Join us for our fourth annual Cross-Canada Road Trip, capturing bucketfuls of insights from enterprising farmers who are putting the full vitality in Canada’s agriculture.
THE NEXT BIG THING Martin Entz has tested sustainable farming for 20 years. Now, all those plot results show why he predicts organic will become the new conventional.
WHAT’S DOWN IN CARTWRIGHT? In this Manitoba town, “holistic” isn’t an empty catchphrase. It’s a whole new community of farmers who otherwise couldn’t make their dreams come true.
WHERE CASH IS KING Farmers used to look over Tony Lang’s fence for tips on growing corn. Now it’s to manage their budgets and forecast their cash flow.
MINK REVIVAL With a new business model, these savvy Nova Scotia farmers are making mink the province’s lead farm commodity.
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
GUIDE LIFE — DOES YOUR KID HAVE WHAT IT TAKES? It’s great that your kids want to farm. The question is, is it smart to encourage them, or would you only be setting them up for failure?
EVERY ISSUE 6
MACHINERY GUIDE Hay and forages are sexy again, and the machinery manufacturers are responding with hot new options.
HANSON ACRES The SUV is packed. The family is buckling their seatbelts. So this is when reality would intrude.
GUIDE HEALTH The best cure for poison ivy is to keep away from it. Second best may be this oatmeal compress.
THE NAKED TRUTH ON EXPORTING So Scott Sigvaldason has a great new crop, a great new brand, and a marketing hook. Now he’s ready to export. Or is he?
GUIDE HR — EMOTIONAL AWARENESS You might think you aren’t emotional, but would the people you work with agree? It’s time to face the truth, and make your farm run better.
THE NEW NEIGHBOURS Canadian farms are gearing up like never before, with bigger acreages, bigger bins and bigger machines. What is it going to take to keep up?
WESTERN SEED TEAM On these Alberta seed farms, the future looks young, ambitious, and very different from the industry that their parents feel at home in.
THIS ROBOT CHANGES EVERYTHING Who says machinery has to be big? Insect-sized robots are already in prototype development, ready to revolutionize how you farm.
CONSUMER CAMPAIGNS Vancouver Humane Society’s Leanne McConnachie may not be the loose cannon you were hoping for. Here, she makes the case for taking her seriously.
PETUNIA VALLEY Along the Sideroad, the era of the farm dog isn’t over quite yet.
desk EDITORIAL STAFF Editor: Tom Button 12827 Klondyke Line, Ridgetown, ON N0P 2C0 (519) 674-1449 Fax (519) 674-5229 Email: email@example.com Associate Editors: Gord Gilmour (204) 294-9195 Fax (204) 942-8463 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Maggie Van Camp (905) 986-5342 Fax (905) 986-9991 Email: email@example.com Production Editor: Ralph Pearce (226) 448-4351 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING SALES Cory Bourdeaud’hui (204) 954-1414 Cell (204) 227-5274 Email: email@example.com Lillie Ann Morris (905) 838-2826 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Head Office: 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1 (204) 944-5765 Fax (204) 944-5562
Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine
Holding our farms back Farm business and economic research is paltry in Canada. Really, it’s even worse. It’s missing in action, and too many of us don’t even think we should try to rescue it. That’s a costly mistake. Once again for our June road trip issue, our writers have crossed Canada speaking to some amazingly impressive farmers, and again this year, we wish that average Canadians could appreciate how these farmers are betting on themselves in the face of a future that cannot be predicted, and how they are investing their net worth in the effort to boot. This year, we wish farmers would take a harder look too. The stakes in farming have never been larger, not only because farm and commodity values are so much higher, but because there is so much risk, and so much of the risk comes from new sources, ranging from the politics of developing countries to market speculation by the mutual funds and the surging productivity of our international competitors. Then stir in the ongoing shakiness within the global financial system for good measure. In this minefield, farmers are having to assess their businesses based largely on rumour, supposition and guesswork. We would never tolerate it if it was agronomic research that we’re talking about. Just consider how little we know about the scale of farming’s succession issue. How many acres should we expect to come up for sale in what regions, and what impact will this have on land markets? 4 country-guide.ca
Even the federal government has nothing but the vaguest of notions on what may — or may not — be one of the biggest periods of land transfer in Canadian history. The comparison is obvious. It’s like not knowing how many acres of canola or corn are being planted, or not knowing any of the market fundamentals for the coming year. Except, of course, it’s even worse. Or consider how little we know about our competitiveness. What is the real cost of production of wheat in Canada versus Australia or Ukraine, and what is it likely to be in five years? That’s like not knowing the yield results from fertility trials. We’re pumping costs — land, machinery, buildings — into our farms without knowing whether they’re actually good investments. Nor do we know the comparative risk and profitability of various management approaches, whether that’s how the farm is structured or how its growth strategy is shaped. It’s like having to compare no till versus conventional tillage without knowing the yields. You can see the costs, but you can’t accurately assess the outcomes. The fault lies with farm organizations. If farmers aren’t interested, why should Ottawa invest? And if farmers aren’t pushing for the research that matters, why should we be surprised that much university economic research seems so off topic? Are we getting it right? Let me know. I’m at email@example.com, or you can call me at 519-674-1449.
Advertising Services Co-ordinator: Sharon Komoski (204) 944-5758 Fax (204) 944-5562 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher: Bob Willcox Email: email@example.com Associate Publisher/Editorial Director: John Morriss Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Production Director: Shawna Gibson Email: email@example.com Director of Sales and Circulation: Lynda Tityk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation Manager: Heather Anderson Email: email@example.com Designer: Jenelle Jensen Contents of this publication are copyrighted and may be reproduced only with the permission of the editor. Country Guide, incorporating the Nor’West Farmer and Farm & Home, is published by Farm Business Communications. Head office: Winnipeg, Manitoba. Printed by Transcontinental LGMC. Country Guide is published 12 times per year by Farm Business Communications. Subscription rates in Canada — $33.60 for one year, $51.45 for 2 years (prices include GST). U.S. subscription rate — $35 (U.S. funds). Subscription rate outside Canada and U.S. — $50 per year. Single copies: $3.50. Publications Mail Agreement Number 40069240. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
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Call toll-free 1-800-665-1362 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org U.S. subscribers call 1-204-944-5766 Country Guide is printed with linseed oil-based inks PRINTED IN CANADA Vol. 131 No. 8 Internet address: www.agcanada.com
ISSN 0847-9178 The editors and journalists who write, contribute and provide opinions to Country Guide and Farm Business Communications attempt to provide accurate and useful opinions, information and analysis. However, the editors, journalists, Country Guide and Farm Business Communications, cannot and do not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this publication and the editors as well as Country Guide and Farm Business Communications assume no responsibility for any actions or decisions taken by any reader for this publication based on any and all information provided.
m ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
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By Philip Shaw
Hay and forages are sexy again, whether fed on farm or shipped into a host of newly energized markets. Quality and efficiency are as important as ever, however. Arguably, they’re even more so because of the higher crop values. Fortunately, today they can be easier to achieve with the myriad of available equipment options.
macdon d series draper headers MacDon is well known for innovative products, and their D Series draper headers are no exception, designed for a combination of higher capacity and superior operator productivity. The D Series draper headers can be used for harvesting cereals, oilseeds, grass seeds and edible beans, but according to MacDon they outperform most auger headers in hay and forage applications. The D60 draper header comes in six widths from 15 to 45 feet. With the addition of MacDon’s GC10 hay conditioner, the D60
becomes a high-performance hay and forage machine. MacDon’s operational double windrow attachment lets you stream up to 50 feet of conditioned crop. The D60 allows the operator to cut at significantly higher speeds. It is configured with either a five- or six-bat PR15 pickup reel, which has been engineered to maintain a close cutter bar-toreel relationship over the entire length of the header. This helps facilitate effective lift and sweep of material from the cutter bar. www.macdon.com
john deere 400 series windrowers John Deere’s 400 Series windrower comes in three models from 140 to 200 hp. Deere says each is engineered to operate at faster speeds, thanks to increased horsepower and an innovative suspension that gives a smoother ride and superior control. Deere’s 400 Series windrowers have a comfortable new cab with a streamlined look. The cab features updated controls plus the hydro lever, which delivers a comfortable operating experience for long days on the farm. These cabs are much like the John Deere forage harvesters and combines with a tilt and telescope steering column and Comfort Command air suspension seat, which adjusts to fit the operator. The 400 Series also features IntelliAxle, a speed-sensing rearsteering assist system. As your speed increases between four and eight m.p.h., hydraulic pressure builds on the rear steering arms to steady the wheels. Above eight m.p.h., the system is fully engaged for top stability. www.deere.com 6 country-guide.ca
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
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In an independent, side-by-side comparison, Brandt Swing Away augers moved up to 60%* more material than our competitors, in the same amount of time. But speed isnâ€™t our only advantage. Premium features like our low profile, self-leveling hopper and heavy-duty scissor lift provide maximum reach and safety while easy access cleanout doors and our patented chain couplers deliver industry-leading convenience and product longevity too. Think durability, ease of use, and premium quality. Think fast. Think Brandt. Thatâ€™s powerful value, delivered. * Based on an independent side-by-side comparison by Meyers Norris Penny LLP.
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case international forage harvester fhx300 Not everyone prefers a self-propelled forage harvester. For those looking for a pull type, Case International features the FHX300. According to the company, the FHX300 harvests crops quickly. The 1,000-r.p.m. driveline, heavy-duty components and wide crop heads harness big tractor horsepower and turn it into high-capacity harvesting performance. Crop flows smoothly from the moment it enters the three crop heads available. (Model HDX3r three-row corn head and Models HDX10P 76 and Model DHX20P 92-inch windrow pickups). These three headers are designed for low maintenance and easy hookup and removal. The FHX300 allows the operator to adjust for precise management of cutting length. Length of cut is controlled by changing feed-roll speed, adding or removing knives or by using one of five optional recutter screens. With all 12 knives, the length of cut can be three-sixteenth inch to seven-sixteenth inch. With four knives selected the operator can achieve a cut length of 1-5/16 inches. www.caseih.com
new holland h7150 haybine mower conditioner New Holland says its H7150 brings the large capacity of a selfpropelled windrower together with a highly manoeuvrable pivottongue package, plus easy adjustments to adapt to different crop and field conditions. The Haybine sickle header is at the heart of the H7150’s high capacity. It is the same header used in the New Holland selfpropelled windrowers, coming in 14-, 16-, and 18-foot widths. The header is gear driven from both sides, and there is also the 1810 stroke-per-minute sickle speed plus a three-inch stroke combine for fast, high-capacity cutting. The H7150 has a unique 20-inch floating auger with five-inchdeep flighting which delivers crop smoothly to the conditioning rolls. A slip clutch protects the auger and conditioning rolls from damage from foreign material, and a floor shield between the auger and conditioning rolls can be set wide or narrow, depending on crop or field conditions. www.newholland.com
mASSEY FERGUSON RK SERIES ROTARY RAKES Massey Ferguson RK Series rotary rakes are designed to help hay producers optimize hay quality. The RK Series consists of three models, the RK3824 with single basket and 13.5-foot deliv-
They also maximize leaf retention for optimum protein content and more valuable hay. Since these rakes gather hay versus roll it, the company says there is better airflow within the windrow so hay can dry faster and more evenly. The RK Series rakes are designed to deliver years of reliable
ery, the RK3855 with twin basket, 27.5 foot with either right-side
service. The ROTORFLEX Rotor Suspension system lets the rakes
delivery or two single windrows, and the RK3879 with twin basket.
follow the contour of your field for a cleaner job of raking, without
These efficient high-capacity models sweep hay or forage into a uniform windrow to match any baling or chopping operation. 8 country-guide.ca
getting debris into the crop. www.masseyferguson.com M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
Among farmers, it’s tempting to paint every animal welfarist as uninformed and extremist. But do such generalizations make us extremists too? B.C.’s Leanne McConnachie shares the view from the coast
By Gord Gilmour, CG Associate Editor
f you want to stir the pot down at the local ag
That sort of name recognition is a great thing for
supply store, say something less than critical
a business — until it makes you a target, like for
about urban animal welfare activists.
buying eggs from battery cage hens or pork from
Then sit back for the reaction. You won’t have
facilities with gestation stalls. That’s exactly what
to wait long. You’ll hear a voice — maybe many
began happening recently at Tim’s as the fallout of
voices — saying that while the welfarists may be
a campaign against perceived animal cruelty.
well intentioned, everyone knows they’re wholly ignorant of what it actually takes to produce food. You may even hear how welfarists are a bunch of pinkos and tree huggers who won’t be happy until we’re all vegetarians.
The campaign worked. The company moved quickly, and is now promising to favour suppliers who go further to meeting their customers’ animal welfare expectations. To better understand how this growing move-
But there’s a growing interest in paying closer
ment might affect Canadian farmers — and to
attention to the welfarist movement, not least
explore whether there’s room for compromise —
because they’re getting results. Take the case of
COUNTRY GUIDE recently spoke to Leanne McCon-
the Canadian icon Tim Hortons. The doughnut and
nachie, the Vancouver Humane Society’s director
coffee empire has become an emblem of Canada
of farm animal programs.
itself. For better or worse, politicians now think about how their pronouncements and policies will play “Down at Timmy’s.” M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
Continued on page 12 country-guide.ca 9
doinG more. UsinG less.
A series on being ready for the farming challenges ahead
Global financial markets: Today, grains and oilseeds are not necessarily traded on their own, but as part of a “basket” of commodities
WHeAT CAsH PriCes AT PrinCiPAl mArKeTs No. 1 Dark Northern Spring (13%) Minneapolis. Yearly average from 1970-71 to 2010-11.
Dollars per bushel
8 6 4 2 0
1970/71 1971/72 1972/73 1973/74 1974/75 1975/76 1976/77 1977/78 1978/79 1979/80 1980/81 1981/82 1982/83 1983/84 1984/85 1985/86 1986/87 1987/88 1988/89 1989/90 1990/91 1991/92 1992/93 1993/94 1994/95 1995/96 1996/97 1997/98 1998/99 1999/00 2000/01 2001/02 2002/03 2003/04 2004/05 2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10
ntil early 1972, it was a big day on the Chicago wheat futures market when the price moved more than a cent per bushel in a trading range of $1.50 to $1.60. In August that year, the nearby future jumped to $1.80. In September it was $2, which may not sound like much today, but it represented a one-third increase from a few months earlier. It just kept moving from there, topping $3 in July 1973 and then soaring to $6.31 in February 1974. That’s more than $30 per bushel in today’s dollars. Sounds like party time, and anyone who was farming then will probably confirm that it was. They will also tell you that parties are often followed by hangovers. That surge in prices at the time was due to “The Great Grain Robbery,” in which wily Soviet Union grain buyers made a series of individual low-priced purchases which in total cleaned out most of the U.S. grain supply. That was followed by another major world event when OPEC oil-exporting nations imposed an embargo in response to U.S. support of Israel, creating an “Oil Crisis.” The combination of higher petroleum prices and higher demand for the product put nitrogen fertilizer prices on a similar trajectory to grain. Urea prices which had been coasting in the low $80-per-ton range in 1972 reached $244 in early 1975. While they dropped after, so did grain prices. By late 1977, wheat futures were back down to the $2.50 range — a drop of 60 per cent from the peak — but urea had dropped only 30 per cent. There were brief grain price surges in 1980 and 1996, and anyone farming today knows about the wild markets of 2008 and 2011. They also know about that familiar pattern — when grain prices rise, so does the cost of the inputs. When grain prices fall — which they inevitably do — input costs don’t necessarily follow. Chicago wheat futures were recently trading around $6.25, or about the same as that peak in 1974, but U.S. urea prices are around $420. Things are not quite as bad as that comparison suggests. Improvements in genetics, agronomy and machinery mean that farmers can produce many more bushels per acre than 40 years ago. On the other hand, they’re more at the mercy of commodity
Source: USDA Economic Research Service
market fluctuations than ever. Grain and oilseed prices today aren’t only a function of supply and demand for those products, with traders in colourful jackets trading with each other by paper, pencil and loud voices. That’s been replaced by electronic trading, often by huge pools of capital in funds trading a basket of commodities, and with buy or sell decisions made by a computer program. A decision to sell copper or oil can also mean a decision to sell corn or canola, regardless of the fundamentals of those crops. That interrelationship is made even more complex by grain and oilseed crops becoming important sources of not only food, but energy. As any corn grower knows, higher prices due to ethanol demand are nice to have, but the cost of fuel and fertilizer to plant the crop is another matter. Recent markets have made for some of the best returns ever for North American crop producers, but also some of the highest risk ever as crop prices and input prices fluctuate wildly, often in different directions. The term “risk management” wasn’t heard much in the days before the Great Grain Robbery, but today it’s an essential skill in running a farm.
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insight Country Guide: We’re seeing more of these Tim Hortons sorts of animal welfare appeals. Why are you using them more? Leanne McConnachie: They’re the natural extension of the growing interest we can see generally in consumers about how food is produced, about healthy lifestyle choices and about things like environmental sustainability. There’s also the Facebook effect — people can now be exposed, very quickly, to new information and this includes information about how their food is produced. A lot of the new information that they’re now getting is very different to the perceptions they likely had. Think about how food is marketed to them. It’s no mistake that the big food-processing companies put pictures on their products of rolling hills and happy livestock roaming fields — they know consumers like that. Now contrast that with a photo of a hen in a cage or a sow in a farrowing crate on Facebook. When people see that, they almost feel betrayed, like they have no control over their food.
CG: One response from agriculture can be boiled down to the “this is my business” school of thought. How do you respond? LM: I can’t think of any other segments of the economy where you’d say that to consumers, where you’d tell consumers they don’t know what they really want and not listen to their concerns. Consumers don’t like being told what they can or can’t have — they really don’t like that. I always find it a bit surprising when someone says, “I didn’t know animals are kept in cages.” How do they think you get a 50-cent doughnut? Once people do know, a lot of them are going to be motivated to make a change.
CG: Frequently people who have these concerns are painted as zealots who won’t be happy until everyone is a vegetarian. What’s your response to that? LM: I don’t think that’s fair. I think consumers are looking for different options that will let them enjoy the things they want, but without the same kind of suffering behind them. But I do think if the industry doesn’t give people these choices, they might force consumers to eliminate some of those foods from their diet. Take eggs for example. I personally can’t eat eggs from hens in cages. I just can’t do it, knowing what I do about the suffering that’s behind those eggs. However, I have the option of buying organic eggs that are produced under better conditions — and I should note that this producer sells them in supermarkets so it’s not some tiny little operation. Because I have that option, I’m still a consumer of eggs. If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be. 12 country-guide.ca
CG: Another industry response is, “You don’t understand that a lot of what you’re criticizing is necessary to protect the animals.” Do you understand why they say this? LM: A lot of what we do here at the Vancouver Humane Society in our animal agriculture work is based on scientific research by some of the top animal behaviourists, including people like Temple Grandin at Colorado State and some of the researchers at UBC, for example. Their research clearly shows that you can design environments that suit animals and allow them to pursue their basic biological needs — the need of a hen to nest, for example. These systems can be designed to be both safe for the animals and cost effective. But it does require doing things differently. I have heard producers say the current cage production facilities are easier for them, and I think there’s some resistance to doing things differently because of that. But I also think consumers are going to demand that things be done differently. And it can be done differently. Some of these things like cages for hens and farrowing crates are really recent developments — how did agriculture survive as long as it did without them?
CG: Many farmers would note that doing things differently will have a cost attached to it, and that it’s not fair for them to bear it. LM: I think that’s correct — this will require investing in new facilities, for example, and new technology. But I also don’t think it’s an all-or-nothing situation. I think the industry could work to transition to a better model over time, one that’s based on the animal’s biology and natural instincts. I think there are actually opportunities to work with consumer groups and animal welfare groups. I think we all accept this isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something we should be working towards.
CG: A lot of people in the industry wish folks like you would be quiet and go away. Should we assume that’s not going to happen? LM: When they wish that, they’re assuming that consumers are upset because we’re launching campaigns. That’s backwards. You can’t organize a successful campaign of any type if the issue doesn’t strike a chord with people. It’s only when the message resonates that people take action by signing a petition or contacting a company to complain. Most of these campaigns start very informally — someone begins sharing a picture on Facebook, for example. Sure, groups like the VHS may promote them once they’re started, but even if we were creating them from the ground up, they wouldn’t go anywhere if they didn’t tap into an existing consumer sentiment. It’s this sentiment that the industry needs to be aware of. CG M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
CA N A DA
WESTERN SEED TEAM
On these Alberta farms, the future looks young By Madeleine Baerg
ike many in the newest generation of farmers, these three sons followed their father’s footsteps into farming. But for Greg Stamp, Kevin Lefsrud and Lee Markert, it isn’t the same business as when their dads started 30 years ago. Maybe that’s always been true. Agriculture has always been in the midst of one revolution or another, but rarely have the stakes been so high, and the future so hard to predict. Yet these three clearly understand today’s high-pressure, big-risk reality, and what we want to know is, why hasn’t it scared them off? Articulate, thoughtful, passionate about the industry, and ultra-hard working, Stamp, Lefsrud and Markert are the type of guys you’d be proud to have as sons or brothers. And they’ve already tasted M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
success: Stamp has a bachelor of science under his belt, Markert excelled in business school; Lefsrud got an ag diploma from the University of Saskatchewan before becoming a fan favourite during seven seasons in the Canadian Football League. The world is open to them. They could excel anywhere, since they’ve got what it takes to be successful doing almost anything they want. Fortunately for the agriculture industry, what they want is to pull long, rough hours, eat bucket loads of dust, and take a gamble every year on the whims of Mother Nature. In short, they’re farmers, and they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. “None of us are doing this because we have to. We’re doing it because we want to,” says Lefsrud. “I know when my dad Continued on page 14 country-guide.ca 13
CA N A DA Continued from page 13
AGE: 28 VITAL STATS: Married with three little girls; farms with parents FARMING: Full time since 200 6 LOCATION: Enchant, Alta. COMPANY: Stamps Select Seeds
20+ years in business
FARM SIZE: 2,6 00 acr es und er irrig atio n, incl udi ng winter wheat, HRS wheat, barley, durum, flax; seed canola under con tract for Bayer CropScience and Dow; and specialty crops like faba beans. OUTLOOK: “I’m very excited. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Even if I thou ght I could make money elsewhere, agr iculture is the place to be. It’s about doin g something you’re excited about every day .”
PHOTO CREDIT: CHRIS YAUCK
was this age, the mentality was if you couldn’t make it as a doctor or a lawyer or anything else, you could always farm. Now, the mentality is, if you can’t farm, you can always become a doctor or a lawyer. In my dad’s generation, farmers were looked down upon; they were considered poor. That’s just not the way it is anymore. You can’t make it now unless you’ve got skills and business smarts.” That, and a willingness to work mighty hard. Busy doesn’t start to describe it. These guys work so hard that they’re almost impossible to get hold of. On day three of trying to connect with Stamp, I get lucky, catching him in an unusual few minutes of midday quiet as he drives home from buying equipment in Saskatchewan. Markert’s even tougher to reach. He thinks he might have a few minutes for me at 5:45 a.m., but doesn’t actually find time until quarter to midnight. Even then, he’s calling me from the cab of his seeder. Stamp, Lefsrud and Markert know all about the changes currently affecting agriculture. All three grow certified seed, working in a sector of agriculture that feels the shifts and pressures on the industry especially strongly. To survive as certified seed growers, they have to respond to changing government regulations, deal with encroaching multinationals, market to changing customer needs, and stay on top of growing end consumer demands. From the outside, certified seed growing looks awfully good. Premium pricing means certified seed growers can bring in more per bushel than a commodity grower. The less obvious downside, however, is that there’s a ton of extra risk in this game. The first hurdle is staying ahead of demand on varieties. Then come ultra-stringent quality and purity requirements, the possibility of contamination, the potential for unhappy customers, and the constant frustration of changing government regulations. In every case, seed demands extra work and extra cost, making it very certain that any financial premium is hard earned. “Today we did 100 acres of seeding. For most farmers, that would be a horrible day. For us that’s normal. And when you’re doing plots, you might only do 20 acres,” explains Lefsrud. And, he adds, “Most lay farmers, after the first five minutes of looking at the paperwork we have to do as certified seed growers, they’d throw their hands in the air and walk away. If I’d known five years ago when I started how much is required, it might have scared the hell out of me. It might have kept me out of this game.”
Continued on page 16 M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
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CA N A DA
th parents gaged; farms wi VITAL STATS: En rkert Ron and Louise Ma e since 2008 FARMING: Full tim n, Alta. LOCATION: Vulca rt Seeds COMPANY: Marke eeds.com
Continued from page 14 All three are aware that the skills they’ll need to succeed and the hurdles they’ll face during a lifetime of farming are a whole lot different than those of a generation ago. These big changes have been driven mostly because of the sudden bigness of agriculture. All of agriculture, from the acreage to the equipment to the debt load is multiples of what it was a generation ago. “They used to pack seed in 60-pound bags and ship out in 50s. Now we’re shipping out in 45 metric tonnes,” says Markert. “We have to think very differently than they did in my dad’s generation.” The growth has fundamentally changed every aspect of their business. Whereas their parents were 70 per cent 16 country-guide.ca
producers and 30 per cent businessmen, the tables have turned today and business acumen makes or breaks a seed grower. “We’re now managing the entire value chain of our business,” says Markert. “We have to have a sense of everything along the way from production to marketing. What’s happening with the wheat board is a prime example. There was a whole generation that didn’t want to worry about marketing. Then the next generation of farmers came along and said they could do just a good as job, if not better, (as the wheat board), and you can see what happened.” “Marketing is a huge part of our business today,” agrees Stamp. “If you’re not actively calling your customers and aggressively trying to get business, some-
one else will take it. The days of letting customers come to you are over. You have to think like you want to win customers all the time.” The new agricultural realities demand creative thinking and adaptability as well. “We always have to be changing and improving, whether that’s updating our machinery, improving our mill, or getting new varieties,” says Lefsrud. “If you don’t, you’ll be out of the business pretty quick. Especially for varieties, farmers like shiny and new varieties, so we’re always trying to stay at least a year or two ahead of the curve. It changes very fast now.” They all know they need to grow in order to survive. Already, Stamp’s farm size has doubled in the last five years and M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
PHOTO CREDIT: JANE RUSSELL
+ years. In business for 60 eat, barley, canola, acres including wh FARM SIZE: 3,900 gra , and ss seed. peas, special crops rvive in this busie who wants to su have to OUTLOOK: “Anyon e they’re going to ness has to realiz ain the int ma . You can’t adapt to change up and er th wi l u’l use yo status quo beca about ic istic or pessimist die. I’m not optim d to ste ere curious. I’m int the future; I’m next e th er ov e s will evolv see how busines it.” of rt pa be n ca w we five years and ho
CA N A DA though he talks about the importance of pacing himself, he anticipates it doubling again in the next five. Markert sees himself farming in the range of 8,000 to 10,000 acres in the next 20 years, though he’s not sure how he’ll balance efficiency against land that size. The likelihood is high that land they take on will be rented rather than owned, given today’s enormously high and growing land costs. Though renting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the ballooning price of real estate concerns all three. “When my dad first started buying land, it was a couple thousand dollars per quarter. Now it’s a couple thousand per acre,” says Lefsrud. “I’m definitely worried about how expensive it’s getting. Now, the government is getting involved with farm credit, offering opportunities
ee small kids) with wife Kyla (+ thr VITAL STATS: Farms en Ell d an and parents Edmund a. LOCATION: Viking, Alt Ltd. Seed and Processors COMPANY: Lefsrud blic/lefsrud/
years. In business for 40+ canola, HRS 00 acres including FARM SIZE: About 3,0 y, peas, flax. and HWS wheat, barle ha ve a me rs. Of cou rse we OUTLOOK: “W e’r e far doing be n’t uld wo positive attitude. We k. I loo out e itiv pos a d this unless we ha , two ing and I’m hop have three daughters the h wit ing som eth ma ybe all thr ee do p it positive, make kee to ing try I’m m. far so they want in.” d goo k the business loo
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
where you basically just pay the interest. When you start playing with that, you start seeing people paying half a million dollars for a quarter of land. Is that good for the industry? I don’t think so.” It’s not just growing along traditional lines that these farmers intend. Markert also plans to expand by contracting production out to other growers and distributing through multiple locations, and by more fully integrating his business every step of the way from production through sales. He also plans to collaborate more with other farmers. He’s not alone in that thinking. “As a group, we can do more than we can do individually,” says Stamp. “The idea of the lone farmer is not what I’m interested in. I’d much rather work with really exciting people and interesting companies, and together build something creative and beneficial for everyone.” To that end, Stamp, Markert and 12 other southern Albertan seed-growing companies have joined forces to create SeedNet. A group-run seed-growing company, SeedNet unites the growers so they can better compete with large companies, better serve their customers, and create a single, unified voice. The unified voice is particularly important, given the increasing presence and pressure of the multinationals. Understandably, the guys are nervous about Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and other giant companies taking their business. “We’re definitely worried,” says Lefsrud. “They took canola away from us. Now you try finding an open-pollinated, conventional canola and it’s almost impossible. They want to do the same thing with wheat. Then what? When you have people who are running the industry who aren’t farmers to begin with, things change and sometimes not for the best.” That said, Stamp thinks the big companies might even be a new opportunity. “If we can team up with some of those big companies and somehow be a link in their chain, maybe there’s an advantage to that,” says Stamp. “I don’t necessarily mind that other people — even the big companies — are making money as long as I’m part of that.” CG
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CA N A DA
THE NEW NEIGHBOURS Canadian farms are mobilizing. Like never before, your neighbours are buying machinery, building bins and expanding production capacity. And they’re nowhere near done yet
ed Williams knows why we called him. At 87, he’s one of the grey-haired ones who have been around long enough to understand how absolutely amazing the last two years have been on Canada’s farms. In fact, Williams tells us he’s only seen one other time that can even come close to touching it, when an army of young farmers came home to buoyant prices at the end of the Second World War and North America’s factories switched from building tanks to bolting together a whole new generation of tractors. “When I was a boy, the farms were typically a half section with sows, plows and cows,” says the octogenarian professor emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan. “They were self-sufficient units.” Like others his age, Williams over18 country-guide.ca
flows with insights about the dramatic evolution since then. Unlike most, however, he is also a prolific commentator, giving speeches, making radio broadcasts and typing articles and columns. Now, even Williams admits he’s not just in awe of today’s rate of ag investment, he’s perplexed too. And he doesn’t think he’s alone. When Williams was growing up, every farm was small, and every farm was pretty much the same as every other farm in how they worked, how they handled their finances, and how they saw the future. Not any more, Williams says. Today, most farms feel like they’ve caught the right wave. They’re sitting on enough to retire comfortably without really knowing which of their decisions put them on a relative easy street. But agriculture is diverse. Some farms
have hardly grown, while their neighbours need several sets of machinery. Some are sole proprietorships. Others are consortiums, even bringing in outside investors. Some are expanding, others are mushrooming. Plus, the impact of weather is more unequal than ever. Being sidelined by flood or drought in the last few years of strong prices has not only given other farmers a healthier bank balance and the freedom to spend a bit more on lifestyle, it has also given them what in some situations may become a critical competitive head start. “The point is that there has evolved a range of farmers differing economically, socially and politically — although governments try to design one policy that meets all their needs,” Williams says, shaking his head. Then he adds there is also a troubling new tension within the farm community. It’s one he sums up in a single word: “Envy.” M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
PHOTO CREDIT: DAVID STOBBE
By Maggie Van Camp, CG Associate Editor
Canadian Marketing 100 Yonge Street, 6th Floor Toronto, ON M5C 2W1
Size: 4.5’ x 10’ Colours: CMYK - 4 colour Publication: Country Guide - Western Edition Material Deadline: September 19, 2011 Insertion date: Oct 18
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More pRosperity Farm income has shot past historical records due to higher crop and improving livestock prices. For 2011, the farm-level average net operating income is estimated at $65,129, and net cash income of the sector overall reached $11.7 billion. Ottawa is forecasting that average total income of farm families, including non-farming income, hit $118,970 in 2011 and will climb even more, surpassing $123,000 in 2012. Wealth is soaring too. Average net worth per farm is estimated at $1.6 million in 2011 and is expected to reach $1.7 million in 2012. Nowhere have good commodity prices been felt as strongly as in Saskatchewan, with 40 per cent of the country’s arable land. Williams is thrilled farming is the epicentre of what folks in this province like to call Saskaboom. “Some farmers are walking around on a slant with all that money in their pocket,” he laughs. Part of that profit equation is the greater diversity of higher-value crops that farmers are now growing across Canada. Williams says farmers with three or four sections who had a quarter of it in canola last year were able to gross $1 million from their canola production. “When you talk diversity, the big “C” (canola) has made the biggest impact on rural Saskatchewan,” says Williams. But the diversification story doesn’t stop with canola in Saskatchewan. New crops are being grown across Canada, especially with expanded irrigation and variety development. In 2010, 3.7 million acres were in soybeans, a crop that is seeing a big jump again this year thanks in large part to its rapid expansion in Manitoba.
Continued on page 20 M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
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ca n a da Continued from page 19
“The big hog barns are beginning to fill again,” says the University of Saskatchewan’s Red Williams. “But the 200sow farmers have virtually disappeared.” Stronger prices are slowly driving hog population growth, although several factors including high feed prices are dampening the height of the new enthusiasm. Reports at the beginning of this year indicated two million hogs, up 1.1 per cent from the year before. For labour-intensive livestock operations in some parts of the country, that means battling for employees. Williams has even seen this stress affecting Hutterite colonies, the backbone of the Prairie swine industry. To start 2012, Canadian farmers had 12.5 million cattle on their farms, up 0.5 per cent. This increase in the Canadian cattle herd follows six consecutive years of declining inventories and it’s still 16 per cent lower than the peak level of 2005. The number of beef cows on Canadian farms fell about one per cent, continuing a downward trend that started in January 2006. Since the BSE crisis, the number of beef farms decreased 17 per cent and average herd size in Canada has grown to 129 head last year. Also, the national distribution of beef cow inventories shifted over the last decade, increasing in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec and decreasing in Ontario and Alberta. According to a recent Statistics Canada’s report, Ontario’s productive beef cow herd declined 18.4 per cent in eight years. “A recent trend in Ontario has been the consolidation of beef cow numbers and associated land into fewer, larger operations,” says LeAnne Hodgins, Ontario Cattlemen’s Association. “Larger herds may be mainstream but alongside this is the resurgence of the small mixed family farm with a variety of livestock, poultry and garden product,” says Brenda Schoepp, market strategist, BeefLink. “Both are growing, but mid-size herds are not.” An increase in independent herd size has required better handling facilities. On many farms the old barn has been replaced or added to. Feed is often delivered on the ground now, rather than in feeders. The shift to extended grazing really took hold post-BSE as producers focused on reduced costs, says Schoepp. “We see less in the bale yards and more cattle fed out in the field,” she says. “They may be swath grazing, bale grazing or any sort of extended grazing to reduce costs.” She says today’s handling systems allow herds to be matched to extensive data and benchmarking systems. From hair pulled for genomic testing to pregnancy testing with an ultrasound machine with the reader attached to the glasses the vet wears, cattle producers are adopting technology to their operations. “Chute side there will be scanners, computers or cellphones with apps to handle the inventory or event,” says Schoepp. “That information can be in house or fed via a web-based application to the owner for analysis.” Although technologies like these are being adopted by dairy farmers, new expansion has been hobbled by limited quota rules in some provinces and between them. The ceiling on quota prices on provincial auctions, $25,000 in Quebec and Ontario (while the unregulated price in B.C. exceeds $40,000) has created a situation where would-be sellers do not want to sell and as a result very little quota is being traded, says Bruno Larue, ag economist at the University of Laval. “Supply management farmers are dynamic and know about new technologies, but it is very difficult under the current system to expand in a significant way,” says Larue. In dairy farming, there are huge economies of scale benefits as per unit costs go down significantly as production goes up. The point at which average cost no longer decreases as the farm expands is somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 cows, yet the average dairy herd in Quebec is around 60. “We have an important farm size deficit in dairy,” says Larue. “This is problematic because the system is based on cost of production.”
Why did the farmer cross the road? In 2011, it was often to buy the farm next door. In mid-April, Farm Credit Canada reported that during the second half of 2011, the average value of Canadian farmland increased 6.9 per cent, following average increases of 7.4 per cent and 2.1 per cent in the previous two reporting periods. Although some areas have seen non-farmer investors, most sales are to other farmers. Saskatchewan had the highest average increase at 10.1 per cent, followed by Ontario at 7.2 per cent. Alberta and Quebec experienced 4.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent increases respectively, followed by Nova Scotia at 3.2 per cent and Manitoba at 1.9 per cent. Prince Edward Island saw values rise by 1.5 per cent and in New Brunswick land increased by 1.3 per cent, followed by British Columbia with a 0.2 per cent increase. Farmland values were unchanged in Newfoundland and Labrador. To expand, more farms have duplicated their equipment lines. Pods of efficient production were replicated. The 3,000- to 5,000-acre-crop farms jumped to 6,000 or 10,000 acres by doubling up equipment. According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ December 2011 report, sales for 2011 were up 7.3 per cent for selfpropelled combines and 5.5 per cent for tractors in Canada. “Over the past five years, unit sales in Canada for large-acre products has increased annually, led by self-propelled sprayers, 4WDs, and combine harvesters,” says Barry Nelson, marketing manager with John Deere’s Ag and Turf Division. Farmers are also investing in new technology to improve productivity and allow for expansion. “John Deere FarmSight, precision guidance, telematics, and machine automation will continue to help farmers gain even more efficiencies in their overall operations,” says Nelson. Warren Bills, AgriTrend precision technology coach, estimates at least three-quarters of Canadian farms already have at least one precision agriculture tool, and about 60 per cent of those farms have autosteer of some sort. More change is on the way, Bills says. “Less than five per cent of farms have moved into VRT.” As an emerging trend, Bills sees unmanned aerial vehicles (also called drones) becoming common for crop scouting, decision-making, and in-season applications. You might want to keep that one in the shed. 20 country-guide.ca
Continued on page 22 M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
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ca n a da Continued from page 20
More bins Red Williams is uncertain how the changes to the Canadian Wheat Board will impact farms but is concerned about logistics during harvest as the industry deals for the first time without a CWB mandate. Across the whole country, Canadian farmers have been busy building oilseed and grain storage capacity to its highest level in two decades. “Our sales of on-farm storage have certainly increased in the last year,” says Glenn Horst, vice-president of operations and sales for Earl Horst Systems Ltd. in Ontario. “In fact, throughout the past five years, we’ve seen significant increases on an annual basis.”
What happens without the CWB? “Come August, we’re going to find out how this will work,” Williams says. “Or not work.” “Without a question, there’s a trend toward larger bins,” says Horst. In the mid-’90s, a 50,000-bushel bin for on-farm storage was normal. Today 100,000- to 200,000-bushel bins are quite common, with commercial operators choosing tanks much larger. As bins become larger, grain management becomes crucial. Monitoring systems are becoming quite critical for the larger systems. As bins get bigger, hopper bottoms become impractical for most applications. “In our experience, hopper bottom bins are only used when required, for example with temporary storage of wet corn prior to drying, loading bins,” says Horst. The wait times depend on how organized and prepared the bin suppliers and construction crews are but generally the increased size and complexity of storage systems today means that projects do take longer.
More energy In the last five years, one of the changes on many farmyards has been the addition of alternative energy sources. From geothermal to biodiesel, and from biodigesters to windmills and solar electricity this path is riddled with stories of success and failure, plus divided communities. Renewable energy in Canada depends largely on provincial government policy. Support and initiatives vary wildly. In Ontario, the green transformation has been pervasive and controversial, spurred on by legislation and then pulled back with changes to the rates and rules. Of the 12,000 microFIT projects approved and built, about 6,000 solar photovoltatics panel projects are on farms, says Ted Cowan, research person with Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “There are about 1,300 wind towers, almost all on farms,” says Cowan. “And about 25 operating manure digesters making power.” That breaks down to about one in nine Ontario farms invested in solar and wind energy, all in about five years. Comparatively, anaerobic digesters costs are up about 10 per cent over the last two years and large 2mW wind towers still cost over $5 million. Solar (PVs) are arrays of cells containing a material that converts solar radiation into direct current electricity. Then the inverter converts it to AC power to feed into the grid. The microFIT program is for renewable energy with projects having the capacity to produce 10 kilowatts (kW) or less and the FIT program is designed for larger projects.
More biotech Canada’s farmers bought $1.5 billion in crop protection products in 2010, down 23 per cent from 2009. About three-quarters of this was herbicides, although that number fluctuates depending on crops, pest cycles and moisture. Cheaper generic brands are taking up more of the market, fields are cleaner with seeds stacked with chemical resistance and there’s the impact of variable-rate technology. “Application technology is already a game changer,” says Pierre Patelle, vicepresident of chemistry for CropLife Canada. Generally, there’s been an increase in fungicide use over the last few years, although it depends on moisture levels. Some exciting research is emerging about how fungicides have a secondary positive stimulating effect on the plants, beyond protecting against disease, says Patelle. Also in the pipeline now are new products aimed at glyphosate-resistant weeds, as well as new kinds of herbicide tolerance, such as soybeans that can be sprayed with dicamba. There’s also a trend toward tote usage and a new program to pick up and recycle empty chemical containers called Clean Farms. The containers are then recycled into farm drainage tiles.
More pickups Other than land and equipment, what do farmers buy when they have some extra jingle in their jeans? It turns out they buy new pickup trucks. According to Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, truck sales continue to be a source of sales growth. In January 2012 sales were 7.4 per cent over January 2011, with 58,342 units sold last month across Canada. More telling is that 2011 sales of both heavy- and light-duty pickups increased more than 100 per cent in Saskatchewan. New heavy-duty sales in Canada’s farming hub rose to 1,493 from 94 last year. CG M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
CA N A DA
THE NEXT BIG THING Is Martin Entz “the best agronomist in Canada?” By Gord Gilmour, CG Associate Editor
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
he language of agriculture is a battlefield language. We have an arsenal of herbicides, we fight diseases, we defend against insects, we declare war on yield loss, because even though farmers don’t like to think of themselves as being in some sort of winner-take-all competition with nature, we all know that if you just let nature run its course, there wouldn’t be much of a harvest. Or would there? It’s a controversial topic in the developed world, where we’re used to just one way of producing crops. But could we get better results by trying to better understand some of the basic biological processes, and by considering how we might put those processes to work for us? It’s a school of thought that’s gaining credibility — and gaining ground too — and if you want to learn about it in a Canadian context, your very first stop will probably be the University of Manitoba. That’s where you’ll find Martin Entz, the plant science professor at the University of Manitoba who
has become the leading Canadian exponent of this school of thought. Before anyone gets their antenna twitching for signs that Entz is just another moonstruck back-toearther, though, take a hard look at his plots, and then take a hard look at Entz too. Yes, he admits to being environmentally minded, but he’s also had a long-running attachment to production agriculture. “I also love the smell of diesel,” Entz tells me. “When a bus goes by I smell that diesel fuel, it brings back so many memories. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t just like walking in the woods. I’m OK with tractors and stuff.”
“The smell of diesel” That said, Entz doesn’t think diesel is the smell of farming’s future, or at least no so much diesel. To understand what he and a handful of others around the world are proposing, he tells me we have to take a little time to understand their overarching view, Continued on page 24 country-guide.ca 23
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“Mess with nature just enough to get the job done.” — Martin Entz
Continued from page 23
also enormously productive when you consider the animal life it supported.
which starts with what a farmer’s field is, and what was there before it. A farmer’s field is one of the most unnatural landscapes you’ll ever find. It’s a rigidly controlled monoculture of annual plants that are all established and harvested at the same time. You will never find anything that looks like it in nature. It relies on crop inputs to remain productive, and in their absence it would almost certainly fail quickly and completely. Perhaps the best way to characterize it would be as a pyramid that’s been stood on its head, with fertility products propping it up on one side and crop protection products shoring up the others. If either were ever removed, it would almost certainly topple over. By contrast, the natural habitat and the ecology it replaced formed a traditional pyramid with a broad base that was self-supporting. It had a diversity of plants and animals and it existed for 10,000 years, i.e. since the end of the last ice age, with no artificial inputs. It was
“Get the job done”
There’s no going back to the days of the buffalo. But could we look at how that system remained productive, learn from it, and apply those lessons to the farms of today? Entz is convinced this is the next great knowledge wave in agriculture. “There’s a quote from the world of organic farming that I think we could all learn from,” Entz said. “It’s ‘Mess with nature just enough to get the job done.’” A major part of Entz’s research program is the Glenlea Rotation, at the U of M’s Glenlea Research Farm just south of Winnipeg. It’s where Entz and senior technician Keith Bamford and countless students have been looking at how different cropping systems stack up against the conventional way of doing business since 1992. It’s the longest-running rotation of its kind in the country and it has revealed some very surprising results. It’s shown that when carefully managed, these rotations can deliver close to the same
productivity, albeit with a much higher management requirement. It’s also shown that economically they can be competitive, although they do include different products, such as high-quality forage, that must be marketed through new channels. One former colleague of Entz’s described the work as something that has informed his thinking about agriculture ever since he first encountered it. In the 1990s Rene Van Acker was a plant science professor at the U of M. These days he’s a professor at the University of Guelph and associate dean of external relations with the Ontario Agriculture College. “That rotation was a real revelation to me,” Van Acker says. “When Martin showed me that rotation for the first time, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is what it’s all about.’ It’s classic public good research.” By that Van Acker means it’s the sort of research that would only be done at a publicly funded organization, because while there may be economic benefits to doing it, they’re not the sort of benefits that are Continued on page 26 M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
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ca n a da Continued from page 24 easily captured by the marketplace because they’re knowledge based, rather than product based. It’s all about understanding the farming system better and making it work better for farmers, rather than about developing products from research that can then be marketed to farmers. Van Acker says the central themes are classic questions of agronomy such as making crops more competitive, ensuring adequate plant nutrition and other familiar themes — but with the key difference of looking at it through the lens of leveraging natural processes, rather than ignoring or at worse fighting them. He says this work has placed Entz ahead of others in his field. “I think Martin is the best agronomist in Canada,” Van Acker says.
“The next big thing” Probably the best example of this sort of knowledge revolution in Canadian agriculture would be the advent of zero-till and minimum-till production systems. Whether you’re in the East or the West, they’ve all but replaced tillagebased continuous-cropping systems, and their development was largely driven by a handful of public researchers working closely with farm-based innovators who took the research out into the field. In many ways that movement was the first step in rebuilding something that more closely resembles the pre-farm ecology, where roots were left in place to protect the soil against the stresses of wind and water. Then those roots broke down and augmented the organic matter in the soil, which had been gradually depleting since the first plow broke up the sod. There are other examples emerging in other sectors of agriculture. One is from
The Glenlea Rotation The Glenlea Rotation study is a complex side-by-side comparison of conventional and organic production systems. Its website is more than worth a look: http://
www.umanitoba.ca/afs/plant_science/ glenlea/glenlea.html. The University of Manitoba has also recently launched a Natural Systems Agriculture program. More information is available here: http://umanitoba.ca/outreach/naturalagriculture/.
the world of livestock, where rotational grazing has begun to replace conventional pasture practices. Under conventional pasturing, cattle for example were turned out on pastures in the spring and largely left to their own devices. They consumed all the available forage, frequently right down to the dirt. Under a rotational grazing system smaller paddocks are used and livestock are removed before depleting all the forage, allowing it to recover more quickly, produce more in a given season and — perhaps counterintuitively — allowing at times higher overall stock numbers on the same number of acres. Again it’s an attempt to more closley mimic how animals might graze in nature. Prairie bison herds didn’t spend the entire season sitting on one patch of grass, they roamed widely and sought the highest-quality forage. That obviously won’t work these days, but something that takes the basic ecology and biology of it and adapts it to modern agriculture appears to be winning the day. “I think this whole thing, no matter what you want to call it — natural systems agriculture or biodiversity or bioagriculture — is the next big thing,” Entz says. “I think it has the potential to be like zero till and I think here and there you find innovative farmers who are experimenting with it, doing things like intercropping.” One Manitoba farmer who is viewed as an early proponent of this line of thinking is Portage la Prairie’s Ian Wishart. He’s a past president of the Keystone Agricultural Producers, the province’s general farm organization, and while still actively farming, he has also embarked on a second career as a member of the provincial legislature where he’s a member of the Progressive Conservative opposition and holds responsibility for the water stewardship file.
“A logical way”
During a recent discussion with Country Guide, Wishart said looking at natural agriculture systems seemed like a sensible thing for an industry that fundamentally deals with biology and ecology, albeit with a price tag attached. “As a farmer, this was very appealing to me,” Wishart says. “What we’re really talking about is how to identify things like the nutrient cycle, the natural systems that are in place, and then take advantage of them. To me this has always seemed like a logical way to do things.”
In Wishart’s case one of the key components was growing forages and keeping livestock, which has always been part of the operation. But at the same time he was expanding into new areas like potato production, which actually fit nicely into the system as a whole, garnering some of the biological benefits of other facets of the operation. “One of the fertilizer dealers in Portage once told me that of all the potato growers in the area that he dealt with, I had the lowest nitrogen bill,” Wishart says with a chuckle. While Wishart says taking a more biological approach on his farm worked for him, he concedes it might not be for everyone. Indeed, when pressed a bit on the pros and cons he says that where cost savings are found, there’s frequently an offsetting requirement for greater management that might not fit on larger grain operations, for example, which are very time sensitive and frequently short of labour.
“When they’re in their 40s” Martin Entz isn’t expecting any fastforward button on this one. If a more biologically based approach to agriculture does become more commonplace, it won’t be overnight. Even the widespread adoption of modern farming technology took the better part of a generation, and the first zero-till innovators were easily 20 years ahead of their time. “They say there’s about a 40-year adoption curve for research,” Entz says. “I’ve been doing this for about 20 years now. So really I’m doing research that I hope the students I’m teaching right now will be adopting when they’re in their 40s.” Entz also concedes it unlikely that farmers are going to adopt organic production practices across the board, especially not in one of the great grainexporting countries of the world, but he insists that’s not really the point of this research. Instead it’s about learning more insights into how the biology of farms actually function, and it’s about providing farmers with better knowledge to make their decisons — something that might become increasingly important in coming years with growing weed resistance and evermore expensive inputs. “What I always tell people is that we have ideas here that you can borrow,” Entz says. “You don’t have to do it all, but there are ideas here that will probably fit your farm.” CG M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
C e l e b r at i n g
In celebration of our 35th Anniversary we have teamed up with Polar Spas, who have kindly donated a HOT TUB as our gate prize.
ballots available at the gate and can be droped off art the Polar Spa booth
www.myfarmshow.com A Production of
June 20 - 22, 2012
Evraz Place, Regina, SK, Canada
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WHAT’S DOWN IN CARTWRIGHT? Something new is happening in Cartwright, Man., and it’s sure got these young farmers fired up By Angela Lovell
amily isn’t enough. It is essential, of course, especially these days when the rising costs of farms is making it evermore difficult for young farmers to get their start. Without family help, the odds are too long to even think about. But family isn’t enough. If it was, Cartwright wouldn’t be so special, and it wouldn’t be bristling with new farms being led by young farmers who used to wonder if they’d ever make their farming dreams materialize. Tucked in the province’s southwest just a few minutes from the North Dakota border, Cartwright can strike an outsider as a long way from anywhere. Portage is an hour and a half northwest. Brandon is the same distance northeast, and Winnipeg is a long three-hour drive. Maybe those outsiders are pointing their telescope the wrong way, however. Today, under-35s near Cartwright are adopting holistic management — still a bad word in some farm circles — to build farms that are strong enough to ride out volatile commodity prices and high land costs. The other remarkable thing — and you’ll have to read further to really understand why — is that despite being a very diverse lot, or maybe because of it, these young farmers are all focused on building a stronger sense of farm community. On one edge are farms like the new operation set up by Michelle Schram and Troy Stozek, with its focus on direct marketing of local food. After spending several years in Winnipeg heavily involved in the local food movement there, Michelle and Troy came back to farm and live on Michelle’s grandmother’s old farm site. “The time we spent in the city was a good investment for us because now we can tap into the networks that we built there to sell our market garden produce,” says Troy. “I think that’s one of our strengths as farmers out here compared to others who have never spent time in the city.”
Their city years gave Michelle Schram and Troy Stozek market insights that are helping them grow their new farm. Other new farms have their own stories. Riley and wife Lee-Anne Kemp returned from Alberta three years ago, and in addition to their new farm, both have off-farm, professional careers. “The ability to work for ourselves and not somebody else is very appealing to us,” admits Riley, who is a teacher. Lee-Anne is a physiotherapist and they juggle their jobs, farm, livestock and 11-month-old daughter, Lexi, who is probably the main reason they do it. “One of our biggest goals it that we want to spend more time with Lexi and future children, hopefully,” says Riley, who just turned 30. “We are trying to make the farm work so we don’t have to do two jobs, and have more time for everyone else in our lives.” Also new is Caitlyn Bourn, who returned to fulfil her dream of farming with her dad and uncle last year. “I simply love the lifestyle,” says Caitlyn, who says she can’t imagine anywhere better for her threeyear-old daughter, Meadow, to grow up. “I just want to be able to live off the farm instead of having M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
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to work away from it, and for it to be here when Meadow grows up, if this is what she wants to do.” Caitlyn works as a cook at the personal-care home in nearby Cartwright and runs a home-based, equine and small-animal chiropractic and massage business. Multiple income streams is a thread common to most young farmers, many of whom work off-farm jobs that satisfy cash needs but also provide another spur to make the farm work. Through the ups and downs, the region’s holistic management group helps keep them moving forward. The HM club, as they call it, has evolved into a strong group of like-minded farmers who can support and encourage each other. The club usually attracts around 18 people to its monthly meetings. “It’s been really good and it keeps you on track,” Riley Kemp says. “It’s easier to stay focused when you meet once a month and see how everyone is progressing. I find that aspect of HM really valuable.” These young farmers are starting out in slightly different ways and incorporating different ideas and practices, and their reasons for wanting to farm are individual to each, but all share the common goal of wanting to make themselves, their families, their land and their communities healthier and sustainable into the future. What kick-started this process for most of them was a holistic management (HM) course, which nine young farmers, all under the age of 35, took together this January. Holistic management is a whole-system approach which aims to improve and maintain the viability and sustainability of the farm by achieving a balance between healthy land, healthy people and healthy finances. The course was taught by Don Campbell, a longtime HM practitioner and educator from Saskatchewan. One of the first things he taught these eager new farmers was to set themselves a goal and then figure out how to achieve it. It’s a concept that isn’t entirely alien to a goaldriven generation that has very different expectations than their parents or grandparents. Indeed, the co-operative nature of HM helps explain why it is so attractive to a generation raised with a high degree of social interconnectivity. It’s a generation too that likes to think and act outside of the box. They enjoy sharing information and networking in ways that previous generations never had the opportunity to experience, and they are knowledgeable about linking to resources that help them question established norms. Through networking they access, share and benefit from the accumulated knowledge of experts and their peers and do not necessarily accept some of the barriers that held their parents back. They’re less afraid to try something new, for instance, and they believe they have the luxury of time to prove out their theories and make a few, small mistakes along the way. M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
His university research convinced Riley and Lee-Anne Kemp that holistic management and local sales offered a realistic path into farming. They also have the support of local mentors, including Wayne McDonald and his father Jim, who was an HM pioneer in Manitoba more than 20 years ago. They remember how it was far from a foregone conclusion that Wayne would follow in his dad’s footsteps on the farm. Eventually, however, Wayne’s vision of supplying good, wholesome food through direct marketing brought him back in 2002. “I want to grow food and I want to feed people,” says Wayne. “I don’t want to just grow products that get passed on to be processed somewhere else. It’s nice when you go out on to the pasture and you look at a cow or a pig and you don’t see a product, you see food on somebody’s table.” Wayne’s marketing efforts began modestly, delivering two pigs to the Hotel Fort Garry in Winnipeg. The restaurant there had seen his listing on a Manitoba government website and wanted to try his pastured Berkshire pigs as a local menu item. Since then the McDonalds’ farm has gone from scrambling to find buyers to being hard pressed at times to keep up. They quit advertising two years ago and they have built up a steady trade of urban customers, largely in Winnipeg, via word of mouth, buying clubs and a website that has incorporated e-commerce for online ordering from its inception in 2006. Meanwhile, Cartwright’s new farmers are also getting support from other groups, including Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Manitoba Forage Council, which has helped to establish 30 grazing clubs in the province with groups of rotational grazers who work together to improve the management of their pastures. They arrange workshops and farm tours with HM practitioners that allow producers to learn about HM and see it in action. Continued on page 30 country-guide.ca 29
CA N A DA Continued from page 29 “Holistic management helps producers align their goals with what they need to do as producers to produce good, nutritious food,” says Michael Thiele, Manitoba grazing clubs co-ordinator. “It is great to see so many young farmers in one area interested in exploring new ideas. We have definitely seen an upsurge in interest in HM over the last 10 years.” That history of HM has helped many Manitoba farmers to adopt holistic practices, which in turn means that the Cartwright HM club has a pool of experienced, long-established farmers in the area to act as mentors for those just starting out. As noted, the Kemps came back to farm three years ago and although they own and rent some land of their own and have slowly built their own cow herd up to 50 head, they still farm co-operatively with Riley’s parents, and they admit it would be impossible to do what they are doing without their family’s help and support. Caitlyn Bourn, who farms with her dad and his brother, agrees. “It’s much easier for me because I do have the support of my family, but I also think that the way we are doing things makes it easier too,” she says. “I don’t have to go out and buy a tractor and new machinery to farm this way, because I am using the animals to improve the land. It’s more cost effective just in fuel alone. A little bit of fence and some time and that’s it.” In some ways, that family support feels new and exciting. Just a decade ago, many parents were encouraging their kids to leave, get an education and pursue off-farm careers, in the belief that farming couldn’t be profitable. Now, with more optimism on the back roads, parents are starting to support the next generation and instead of thinking in terms of an exit strategy
”The way we are doing things makes things easier,” says Caitlyn Bourn. “I don’t have to go out and buy a tractor and new machinery.” 30 country-guide.ca
Wayne McDonald stopped advertising two years ago. He can’t meet demand. for themselves, are staying on the farm and helping to prepare an entry strategy for their kids. That has also helped create another new dynamic. Since the kids are going to take over, the parents are also more willing to embrace the ideas of the next generation. Caitlyn’s dad had decided to try bale grazing before she even took her HM course, and the benefits of that change alone have convinced him of the value of what Caitlyn wants to do. “The bale grazing has made a huge difference,” she says. “I used to spend five hours a day doing chores and feeding the cattle in the corral, and now it takes me just an hour every four days. The cattle are cleaner, healthier and more content.” The next step for Caitlyn is to move into planned grazing, a cornerstone of HM, which lends itself very well to livestock production. Planned grazing takes the idea of rotational grazing one step further and uses animal impact and optimized cycles of grazing and recovery time to improve soil health and animal nutrition. “Things need to be done differently because our pastures are getting worse and worse because they have been conventionally grazed for so many years,” says 24-year-old Caitlyn. Riley’s dad, Kim, also took the HM course with his son and daughter-in-law this January. It was an eye-opener for all three of them. “The course really helped us figure out where we wanted to go and how to get there,” says Riley. “We got better much at sitting down together and communicating what the plan was and identifying what was holding back profits. And we made better plans, so it was really beneficial for us. Without a doubt, in the past four months since we took that course we have made more strides towards our own goals than we made in the last three years.” Riley came back to the farm convinced that HM would be part of the solution. While away at school, he completed his master’s thesis on the effects of the BSE crises on Prairie ranchers, and one of his major M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
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conclusions was that those practising HM were more resilient to the crisis than conventional grazers. It was what prompted the couple to take the HM course when they decided to start their own small beef herd, which they hope to also direct market to their customers. What’s been a huge surprise, though, has been the local response to their community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. They have exceeded their expectations by signing up 35 customers, proving wrong the naysayers who told them it would be a hard sell in rural Manitoba. Ironically, marketing local produce locally has often been a tougher sell than selling to a distant urban audience. In rural areas people have been more reluctant to buy from their neighbours, whether it’s because they can grow their own or perceive a price barrier that they can beat by shopping around. Michelle and Troy seem to be turning that trend on its head, reflecting perhaps the present realities of rural demographics. Many of their CSA customers are empty nesters or older people who don’t have the ability to garden for themselves anymore or working families and couples who simply don’t have the time. It would seem, however, that they put enough value on good-quality, locally grown food
to commit to supporting the people who produce it. Could this be yet another one of those paradigms starting to shift? Trying to narrow the urban-rural divide via education and awareness about food and the way it connects rural and urban people is another objective for Troy and Michelle. “One of my goals in coming back here was to work with young people,” says Michelle, who runs a summer program aimed at high-schoolage kids called Homegrown Leaders. “It’s mainly workshops focused around local agriculture and food, which celebrates positive things that are happening and educates about some of the alternative methods of growing food and marketing.” Ultimately these young holistic farmers, through their efforts and their dreams are not just creating viable farms, they believe they are also creating community. That is the real strength of what they are doing. “The HM group works at lots of levels because we are all from the same community, so it also brings up other concerns or things going on in the community,” says Riley. “That’s part of the whole holistic approach,” adds Lee-Anne. “You are always thinking about the people and your community and how to make a better life for everyone.” CG
UCVM Beef Cattle Conference Pushing the Frontiers of Beef Cattle Health June 14th – 15th, 2012 • Coast Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre, Calgary Topics to be discussed include: Parasite Resistance to Deworming Medications Dr Lou Gasbarre, U.S. Department of Agriculture Dr Craig Dorin, Veterinary Agri-Health Services Dr John Gilleard, UCVM
Infectious Disease Transmission, Detection, and Control Dr Calvin Booker, FHMS Dr Pat Burrage, Burrage Veterinary Services Dr Jennifer Davies, UCVM Dr Mary Brown, University of Florida Dr Karin Orsel, UCVM Dr Mathieu Pruvot, UCVM Dr Claire Windeyer, UCVM Dr Steve Hendrick, WCVM
Genomics, Genetic Selection and Health
Dr David Bailey, Genome Alberta Dr Troy Drake, CCHMS Sean McGrath, McGrath Consulting Dr Ty Lawrence, West Texas A&M University Greg Appleyard, Cattleland Feedyards
For the full program and registration package, please visit our web site or contact us at:
Web: vet.ucalgary.ca/beef2012 • Email: firstname.lastname@example.org • Phone: 403-210-7309 M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
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Imagine you’re Scott Sigvaldason with an innovative product, a marketing strategy, and confidence in your brand. What now?
PHOTO CREDIT: DAVID LIPNOWSKI
By Anne Lazurko, CG Contributing Editor t’s true. Appearing on the “Dragons’ Den” television show doesn’t hurt, says Scott Sigvaldason, the creator and entrepreneur behind Cavena Nuda — the naked oat product he calls the “rice of the Prairies.” But if like him, you’re thinking of jumping from the domestic to the export market, there’s much more to it than that. In fact, it can feel like leaving solid ground and landing in the sea — literally and metaphorically. Instead, in Sigvaldason’s experience what matters more than any television appearance or product placement is what’s going on in your own head, or as he paints it, being crystal clear about your vision while also being infinitely aware of the growing pains you’ll need to survive to see it achieved. Sigvaldason grew up at Wedge Farms near Vidir, about an hour and a half north of Winnipeg. The farm has been in the Sigvaldason family since 1903 when Jakob Sigvaldason walked 40 miles from the capital of “New Iceland” at Gimli to claim a homestead. “My family has had 109 years of growing nothing but food and never making enough money to feed the family,” Sigvaldason says. “I realized no one can do anything about it but me.” While he searched for new crops and innovative uses for them, Sigvaldason kept coming back to hull-less oats but couldn’t find a seed variety that worked. Then he crossed paths with Vern Burrows, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada plant breeder who’d developed an AC-Gehl variety that is both hull-less and hairless. Hull-less is good because it saves the time, transportation and storage costs of dehulling. Hairless is good because it saves the farmer from the trichome hairs on regular oats that jab into your skin and make for bizarrely itchy work conditions. Trust me, I know. M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
Sigvaldason gave the oats the name Cavena Nuda (naked oats) and did the research to be sure the variety is also easier and cheaper to grow than earlier hull-less varieties. Then Sigvaldason went further, turning Cavena Nuda into a sort of nutritional H-bomb in the battle that’s raging for the title of the world’s most “natural,” healthy and nutritious food. The oats contain twice the protein, 10 times the fibre and eight times the iron of white rice. Then they do even more. Cavena is also high in Beta Glucen which lowers cholesterol, and it provides a wheat-free alternative for those who are gluten intolerant. High protein and low glycemic levels mean the oats digest slowly, which is good for diabetics, and they are high in lysine which is a key component in building and repairing muscle mass. The message from dietitians is simple. If you want to get jacked, eat Cavena. Indeed, Sigvaldason has nutritionists from both the Toronto Maple Leafs (don’t blame the oats!) and the Winnipeg Jets recommending it to players. Naked oats cook and taste like rice, but are also used in salads, soups, stews etc. and chefs across the country are having a look as patrons search for healthier alternatives.
STARTING OUT AT HOME While he was well received on “Dragons’ Den” in 2009 and secured an investment offer from Jim Treliving of Boston Pizza fame, Sigvaldason says it was the exposure he was really after. And with exposure came new opportunities. Campbell’s Canada became aware of the nutritional value of the oat variety and used it in 100,000 cans of Nourish soup that it distributed to food banks across the country last year. “It was a huge validity thing,” Sigval-
dason says. “The company saw potential for the product. It perks the ears of any other company that might be interested.” But with the exposure also came other demands, including marketing. “The hands-on stuff like processing, figuring out the nutritional value — the physical stuff — is all easy compared to marketing,” Sigvaldason says. “Marketing is a strange beast.” It’s also time consuming. Sigvaldason found himself faced with a choice. He sold some land and rented out the rest, giving up farming to work full time on developing his product and markets. “Producing and marketing are so unrelated in the end. You think they are related, but they are two different worlds. It doesn’t matter that it’s food and you happen to be growing it.” In the same breath, he provides another cautionary note to farmers in particular. Make good decisions about where and when to build infrastructure. “Anything you build, don’t do it on the farm,” he says. “Make sure it’s in a place that you can sell and walk away from. You need a site that’s appropriate in terms of transportation and human resources. And you need to think about all of this early on in the process.” Sigvaldason manages supply through a small number of contracted growers in Manitoba. It requires a great deal of coordination to ensure a seed supply and growers so enough product will be on hand for expansion. “It’s a food product that’s unique in that way because we can have a crop failure. You can’t tell them (buyers) you won’t have product for 18 months. You can’t expand production quickly like you can in some other industries.” Sigvaldason is also blunt about distribution. “It’s a nightmare,” he says. You have Continued on page 34 country-guide.ca 33
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TO 6 STEPS SUCCESSFUL EXPORTING “The statistics tell us — if your first experience is bad there is a 90 per cent chance you will never do it again.” — Justine Hendricks, Export Development Canada
ost first-time exporters learn the hard way. Scott Sigvaldason admits it. A lot of what he has accomplished has been by trial and error, which he agrees isn’t exactly an efficient way to climb the learning ladder. It doesn’t have to be that way, at least not always. While Justine Hendricks at Export Development Canada can sympathize with new exporters and the maze they have to navigate, she does suggest an exporter might follow some basic steps to heighten the chances of a successful foray into exporting. “The minute you have a product in the market, or an email address that’s not .ca, you are an exporter,” Hendricks says. And at that minute you need to consider the following steps to aid in your success. 1. FINDING THE RIGHT REPRESENTATIVE: Whether the exporter or an agent represents the product, the critical element is what the face of the product will be and how it will be presented in a marketplace that might be quite different from the domestic scene, Hendricks says. 2. FINDING CUSTOMERS: Hendricks suggests exporters leverage trade commission and embassy services which can help to identify customers. Try to access partners whose mandate is to promote Canadian products so you can piggyback off their trade missions and also get help with applications and research. 3. CHECKING BUYERS AND MANAGING RISK: There are services available to check the credit profiles of potential buyers and coverage available to warrant everything from accounts receivable insurance to political risk insurance. 4. SETTLING THE CONTRACT: “So much effort is put into business development but you need to be sure of what the deal needs to look like and how to protect yourself,” Hendricks says. While EDC has a two pager on the details, here are a few highlights. Be clear and precise, and at minimum ensure the contract describes the legal entities, validity conditions, goods or services to be provided and their price with details about payment, inspection and delivery. Outline warranty and maintenance terms, security requirements, remedies if a buyer defaults, provisions for mediation or arbitration of disputes and the contract completion date. 5. COPING WITH SHIPPING AND CUSTOMS: Check the EDC website for resources 6. KEEPING YOUR CUSTOMERS: “What after-sales support can they (an exporter) offer?” It’s a question customers will want answered, Hendricks says. An exporter’s ability to follow through and help customers be successful with the product can differentiate them from their competitors. “As quick as you make a reputation, you can break it,” she says. “So ensuring the success of your own product is vital.” Hendricks uses the example of how Canadians have differentiated themselves from the rest of the world in livestock breeding excellence because they follow up for six months on a sale to Russia, making sure their product is successful. Some businesses fall into exporting, and some have a goal, Hendricks says. If you’ve got a goal, you’re probably putting more thought into the process and you understand there are a lot of moving parts to the export business. That, in turn, may be the best way to become more than just a statistic.
Continued from page 33 to find stores to carry and sell your product, which requires efficient distribution. But before you can convince them to carry your product they want proof of market demand. “It’s such a big world to learn,” he says. Demand is something he works hard every day to increase. Designing both marketing and product toward an increasingly hot whole grain and health sector, his timing is impeccable, but Sigvaldason has also decided he needs to let others take his product where it needs to go. “The real money is in other companies using it as an ingredient in their product,” he says. “Other companies are good at it. We have to allow them to do their job.” To this end, Sigvaldason actively searches out venture capital. “It’s amazing how much venture capital is out there. Accessing it is the hard part.” Yet he’s also picky. “Monies aren’t enough,” he says. “We need other compatibilities. We are looking for them (investors) to have knowledge of the retail business, marketing savvy, and to provide vertical integration opportunities.”
A FORAY INTO EXPORTS While Sigvaldason focuses on increasing domestic demand, make no mistake, he’s after something much bigger — export markets — and he’s doing a lot of things right, according to Justine Hendricks, vice-president of business development resources and light manufacturing with Export Development Canada. Hendricks admits the Canadian market is small and that different stages of a company require different venture capital, making it paramount to have a clear understanding of where you are in the cycle. A company in its infancy that hasn’t yet reached commercial production must be realistic about who will be at the table, she says. A bank won’t be there. “You have to align yourself with the right players at the right point.” While Sigvaldason searches out investors appropriate to entrepreneurial goals, he must also sell his product by conveying how it is unique, Hendricks says. She believes that pitching the gluten-free and nutritional aspects of naked oats is the right approach. “As the average consumer wealth builds (around the world), the ability and interest in accessing better and healthier products grows, so he should position himself in those theatres to broaden out as those markets develop,” she says. It is essential to convey to an international buyer the value-added nature of the product and how it will add to the global value chain, but this is difficult with a new product, Hendricks says. “You have to prove that the applications are such that you bring a net competitive advantage. It’s not easy because it’s new, but really understanding the value you bring to the market is critical.” Cavena Nuda hasn’t yet established itself in export markets, with Sigvaldason citing only “dribs and drabs” of interest. He’s resigned to the glacial speed of dealing with everything from food safety protocols to potential distribution channels. But he’s also confident. He’s travelled the globe on trade missions and junkets to learn all he can about the people, companies and cultures he wants to sell to. It’s the right approach, Hendricks says, because in the export market things can go from glacial to light speed in M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
CA N A DA says. “We advocate that entrepreneurs participate. It’s an investment in having this kind of captive audience where all the players are there, and in information to develop your strategy. “He could also leverage the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada experience to identify key markets,” she says. But Hendricks also advises caution. “We advocate starting small and growing,” she says. “Some entrepreneurs can become victims of their own success with so much happening they don’t know where to focus their energy.” Sigvaldason isn’t talking about export success yet. He’s still on a very steep learning curve as he travels the world, but he’s employing some of Hendricks suggestions, working with Manitoba trade and development, making connections with European and Asian companies and investors. It’s a lot of talking, and a lot of time and money. And he admits he’s made mistakes along the way. “I call it tuition,” he says. “You have to make mistakes in order to really learn.” Maybe 95 per cent of his efforts might go nowhere, he says, but he’s confident
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that contacts make all the difference. “You never know where a connection will go,” he says. “It might be two months later in a hotel in Shanghai and you’ll chat with someone who knows someone.” Sigvaldason isn’t sitting around waiting for that someone. The company is currently focusing on the whole grain market and pursuing a precooked frozen option which will reduce cook times, currently “long” at 40 minutes. “We have to get it as close as we can to hot on a plate,” he says. He’s enlisted an Edmonton processing facility connected to BPs to help with this and has a very large European manufacturing company researching a preprocessing method to bring final cook times down. In the immediate future Sigvaldason will focus his company’s efforts on product and market development. But he’s got a much bigger vision in his head. And when he talks about it, you just want to believe him. “Do you remember in the ’70s,” Sigvaldason asks, “when canola producers talked the same way and people thought they were crazy?” CG
a hurry. Assessing Sigvaldason’s product, she sees a niche global market available to him. “If he does his homework, it could grow exponentially and very fast. It’s unique. A new rice. But he’s marketing to traditional cultures so he’ll need time to get their attention. That has to be back of mind when tackling that market — the regional and cultural differences even within Asia.” Hendricks suggests he leverage trade commission or other embassy services. Their role is to understand markets and identify customers of interest. A lot of the legwork can be done before an entrepreneur arrives. She also sees huge value to piggybacking on trade missions and suggests he use agencies such as the Canadian International Grains Institute whose mandate is to tell the world of the different applications of our grains. Just having the chance to travel with and learn from the experience of fellow exporters as to “how they got the glacier to move” is invaluable, she says. EDC trade shows are a start. “We task ourselves with matchmaking international buyers and exporters,” Hendricks
Join Canada Beef Inc.’s Board of Directors, staff and industry partners as we review our first year of business and the market in which we are working. At the Annual Forum you will hear from our board, marketing team, partners and others on many topics including: • market development and research • opportunities at home and abroad • our plans for the coming year The Annual Forum is open to everyone. We hope you will join us as we plan for the future. Thursday and Friday, September 20 - 21, 2012 Sheraton Cavalier, Calgary Alberta
September 20 - 21, 2012 Thursday, September 20, 2012 Experts from all sectors of the beef production cycle will provide insight into the business of Canadian beef during a full day of presentations and information sessions including plenty of time that evening to socialize over dinner in the hospitality suite. Friday, September 21, 2012 Friday morning is the business portion of the Forum, including a review of the company’s performance and the election of the new Board of Directors.
For more information visit www.canadabeef.ca/producer
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
CA N A DA It’s proof the tide really is turning on the farm. More producers are listening to Ontario farmer Tony Lang… for his business skills By Maggie Van Camp, CG Associate Editor ou can almost hear the measured, methodical grinding of the thoughts behind his deep voice as Tony Lang explains why he believes budgeting and monthly cash flow projections are so empowering to him as a farmer. “Knowledge is the single biggest key to success,” Tony says. Generating cash flow projections with “what-ifs” and knowing their financial position on every given day has helped Lang Farms survive and thrive over the last four decades, and sharing that information with their management team and their banker has allowed them to quickly evaluate and take advantage of opportunities. Lang Farms now includes a public elevator, farm supply retailer, seed dealership and an identity-preserved export business, plus thousands of acres of soybeans, edible beans, corn and wheat. Lang quickly injects some perspective as to how far they’ve come, and the financial toughness that was required to operate on low margins for most of those years. “For 30 of those 40 years, we would not have been able to obtain operating loans for inputs without this information,” he says. According to the most recent federal survey of farm management practices, no matter where you look in Canada, only about 40 per cent of farmers write cash flow projections. Tony isn’t only part of that 40 per cent, he has become a sort of leader of them, often called on for his insights into financial planning on the farm. In fact, you can see him talk about how important financial planning has become by going to the Agriculture Management Institute’s website, www.takeanewapproach. ca. Look for the video called Road Map: Planning for the year ahead. The growing demand for the insights of farmers such as Tony may be the best 36 country-guide.ca
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ca n a da indication that agriculture really is embracing the benefits of business thinking at its very core. Tony for one hopes that it’s true, at least partly because he fears what may happen to farmers who aren’t prepared for falling commodity prices.
“Anybody can do it” When the snow settles on Chepstow, Ont. and the year-end is completed, Lang, a general certified accountant, starts crunching numbers. He does it in the winter, when there’s more time to think things through, and he says anyone can — make that “should” — do it. “If you’re too busy or not as proficient at it as other things, hire someone to do it with your input,” says Lang. “But go over it and understand it.” Then the Lang Farms team, which includes Tony, his son Joe, and Andy Dale reviews the previous year’s financial statements broken down by different enterprises and crops so they can take a close look at whether each is meeting the projections they set the previous year. These reviews have also become a communication tool. The next genera-
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tion asks questions to better understand the business, they see the results of their hard work and mistakes, and they learn to objectively review the margins in each area. “Reviewing what went on in a positive manner allows us to change what we’re doing,” says Lang. Next the management rolls up their sleeves to get into budgeting. Using an Excel spreadsheet, they create an overall financial projection for the coming year based on history and crop budgets. (Most provincial extension services have crop budget available online or in hard copy. Regarding the Ontario Ag Ministry’s crop budgets, for instance, Lang is straightforward: “Everybody should use them.”) Finally, they review Tony’s monthly cash flow projections based on the annual budget and taking into account the team’s plans and discussion of potential bumps. Actually, Tony creates two cash flow statements for the farm enterprise. The first one is what he personally thinks will happen, including “what ifs” and based on his observations, history, and the general world economy. The second is a more conservative one he gives to the
banks, along with their previous year’s financial statements and an overall financial budget for the coming year. A projected cash flow statement lays out all the cash forecast to flow in and out of the farm business. The year is broken down into smaller time periods, i.e. monthly or quarterly, to indicate times of cash surplus or deficit, so the statement is integral to the process of planning how to smooth out cash flow and maybe even reduce operating loan requirements. A cash flow statement shows liquidity while an income statement shows profitability. Again, most of the provincial ag extension websites have standard forms to print or download, but most are embedded in bigger documents, so they can be tricky to find. For example, Ontario’s monthly cash flow statement is in the Farm Financial Analysis and Planning Workbook at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/busdev/download/wkbk_ffanalysis.htm. As well, some financial software generates cash flow reports, such as Farm Credit Canada’s AgExpert. Continued on page 38
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For their grain elevator business, Lang Farms also reviews the previous year’s performance and does an annual budget. During the year Tony reviews Lang Farms’ projected cash flow for the next month so they can make adjustments, forecast the impact on their cash position, and let the banker know beforehand how the situation has changed. “I can call our bank 30 days in advance and make adjustments,” says Lang. Knowing when they’re going to need to make payments allows them to make selling and buying decisions. “It helps us keep on top of what’s actually happening throughout the year,” says Lang. Lang Farms also never uses operating loans for capital purchases. “Never jeopardize your cash flow for a capital purchase,” says Lang. Having budget and financial statements on hand and sharing them with their banker has allowed Lang Farms to seize opportunities at times when margins were tight, including buying and improving land. In fact Lang Farms is located in the 38 country-guide.ca
“Shortly — next year or in the next few years — we’re going to have to market in tighter margins again” heart of an area of crop expansion. Traditionally a cow-calf area, Bruce County’s marginal ground has been tile drained, its fences have been removed and its pasture and hay land have been converted into field crop production. Between 2003 and 2010, soybean acres doubled in this county. One motivator has been the premiums available for non-GMO soybeans. Several identity-preserved bean exporters play in this part of the province, and Lang Farms is one of them, as a grower, handler and exporter. Having strong I.P. soybean varieties developed by both public and private breeders has enabled the growth of this business.
“Better sorry sold than sorry kept” Over the years, a big part of the profitability and sustainability of the Lang Farms’ niche business and their commodity production has been centred on disciplined pricing according to their situation
and client demands. With cost of production as a baseline, sales are still triggered as needed by their cash flow statements. “Better sorry sold than sorry kept,” says Lang. “That’s what my father used to say.” Lang predicts it won’t be long until we’re back in a commodity market territory when selling triggers will again be based on cost of production. “Shortly — next year or in the next few years — we’re going to have to market in tighter margins again,” says Lang. Even in higher, stronger market situations, this disciplined approach provides a baseline and Lang continues to use a multiple-selling-points approach to marketing. With land rent and prices on an astronomical incline, Lang is concerned that some farmers won’t have kept up the budgeting ability to manage through less robust commodity prices. Says Lang: “You still have to make that principal payment, no matter what the market does.” CG M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
Photo credit: David Charlesworth
Continued from page 37
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Mink revival By restructuring their business approach, these Nova Scotia farmers are growing mink into their province’s biggest ag commodity By Kim Waalderbos ur sector has doubled in the last 10 years,” proud Dan Mullen tells me from his farm at Waterville, where he raises 3,500 females and is president of the Nova Scotia Mink Breeders’ Association. “Fur is fashionable and no longer taboo. The world’s top designers are using fur in their collections, and fur garments are a soughtafter status symbol for wealthy customers in China, Russia and South Korea.” More than the market has changed, however. Mink farmers have also injected big doses of science into their farm management, they’ve adopted strict animal welfare codes, and they’ve restructured how they do business, so farmers can focus on what they do best… farming. Nova Scotia has 152 licensed mink farmers on 125 sites, which may not sound huge until you compare it to the dire predictions of past decades. At current growth rates, mink is already vying
Higher pelt prices and advances in production efficiency are making mink a top choice for N.S. farmers like Dan Mullen 40 country-guide.ca
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ca n a da with dairy as the province’s No. 1 farm sector, and the future looks good. Even at current rates, the province’s farmers are producing 1.4 million pelts a year, generating $140 million in farm gate receipts. There’s another big reason for the sector’s growth. Mink from N.S. farms ranks among the world’s best for quality. Mullen says the region’s climate and fish-based diet produce a desirable pelt that’s dark and has a short nap, and that looks and feels like silk.
On the market Mink ranchers can sell their raw pelts privately to buyers or market them on consignment through fur auction houses. There are four such auction houses in the world: Seattle, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Toronto. Nancy Daigneault is director of communications for Toronto’s North American Fur Auctions, the only auction house in Canada that sells ranched mink. NAFA handles both ranch-raised and wild mink pelts on consignment from farmers and trappers in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. The furs are sold to designers and manufacturers at week-long auctions in February and May. Auctions held in February saw a record-breaking 530 buyers bid for 3.2 million mink pelts, plus other fur pelts from wild and ranch-raised animals. Daigneault says demand has been very strong, leading to record prices. The predominant buyers come from China, Russia, South Korea and Eastern European countries. N.S. mink farmer Dan Mullen reports that male pelts currently average $115, with smaller female pelts at $80, although he also says the past hasn’t always been so rosy, with lows dipping to $35, putting farmers below their cost of production. Nova Scotia produces half of Canada’s ranched mink. On a world scale, however, Canada lags behind China which produces an estimated 20 million pelts a year and Demark at 15 million. However, Mullen says the local capacity for growth has expanded because of increased co-operation and restructuring of the supply chain.
The new business model Most Nova Scotia mink production is concentrated near Digby in an area that used to be dominated by fishing and forestry. Ranch sizes range from 1,000 breeding females to 45,000. “We’ve been catching up by emulating M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
the system in place in Denmark,” Mullen says. “They’ve had co-operative feed kitchens and pelting plants in place for decades.” The infrastructure and labour needed to prepare feed and to pelt mink had been holding the Canadian industry back. Individual farmers had to invest in all the equipment needed for each production step. “Grinders, mixers, coolers, storage bins, it all added up,” Mullen says, adding it left little money for investment in cages and breeding stock — which slowed expansion. However, in the last 10 years, small groups of mink farmers have banded together to invest so these functions could be centralized. Today, farmer-shareholders have built two large feed kitchens (Sea Crest Fisheries Ltd. and Nova Feeds Ltd.) that develop feed using state-of-the-art equipment for the majority of the province’s mink ranches, as well as the 340 Ranchers Co-op Ltd. that pelts the majority of mink. With these tasks centralized, farmers can focus on the minks themselves.
Animal care Animal care is as important in mink farming as any other livestock sector. “The healthiest animals produce the finest furs,” Mullen says. Like other livestock, mink farmers follow a national farm animal care code specific for raising fur animals. Mink raised according to the code can then be sold as Origin Assured. Despite all the science, there are still challenges, especially from Aleutian disease (AD), a hardy, highly contagious parvovirus with the ability to mutate and spread widely among mink populations. AD can decimate reproductive performance, reducing litters to just one or two kits. Infected animals are also more susceptible to E. coli and influenza. Critically too, infected animals develop undesirable cotton under fur (white fur) which harms pelt quality. Research has focused on finding a vaccine, but the complexity and strains of the virus make that difficult. Now, the effort is switching to the indentification of genetic markers in mink that may confer natural resistance. In the meantime, the only effective method for controlling the disease has been to depopulate (pelt out) and repopulate herds with clean stock annually. Mitch Filmore is one of a handful of mink breeders who specializes in developing that clean breeding stock. His operation with 45,000 breeding females is in Kings county, which is still AD free.
Did you know? • Every part of the mink is used. In addition to the fur, farmed mink provide oils used in skin-care products and for waterproofing, compost for organic fertilizers, as well as other products. • Fur is organic, long wearing and renewable (www.furisgreen.com). • There’s a national farm animal care code for fur farming. • Pelts from mink that are raised according to the code can be labelled as “Origin Assured,” giving buyers added confidence. • More than 65,000 Canadians work in the fur trade. • The fur sector contributes $800 million annually to the national economy, including more than $300 million in exports. • The average age of an N.S. mink farmer is early 40s.
“We have to be top notch with our biosecurity protocols,” says Filmore. Strict controls are kept on how people, equipment and livestock are moved to and from the farm. For example, at Filmore’s ranch, livestock only leaves via his own trucks and drivers. As well, an 8,600-foot-perimeter fence made of 2x6-foot concrete surrounds Filmore’s entire ranch and serves to keep escaped mink in and unwanted animals such as raccoons and feral mink out. The fence is checked daily for gopher holes and other breaches. “We try to mitigate the risk of disease by minimizing contact points,” says Filmore. “It comes at a cost, but it’s critical to our business.”
A mink production cycle Mink production is based on a litter per year. The weight and condition of the female mink (mothers) is important, with farmers adjusting rations from December to March to slim the female mink down for breeding season. Breeding takes place the first three weeks of March when males are matched with the females in their individual cages. The average gestation period is 45 days. The females then whelp (give birth) in the last two weeks of April. Litters can be as big as 10 kits or more, but the overall farm average is typically four or Continued on page 42 country-guide.ca 41
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N.S. farmer shareholders have built two feed “kitchens,” helping make mink competitive against other farm livestock options.
Photo credit: Light and Lens Photography
On today’s mink farms, feed is scientifically balanced and multiple performance criteria tracked closely.
five kits. At birth, kits are approximately the size of a human adult’s baby finger. By 21 days of age the kits will weigh 100 to 150 grams. The kits will stay with their mother and nurse until weaning at around 45 days of age. They’re then separated for their growing phase into groups of two to three kits depending on available cage sizes. This growing phase is very labour intensive as kits are accustomed to new feed, trained to use automatic waterers, and vaccinated. Vaccinations are typically given for distemper, enteritis, botulism and pseudomonas (pneumonia). Mink are extremely sensitive to daylength. Breeding is triggered by longer spring days, while in fall, shorter days encourage the mink to “prime up” by developing a full winter coat. Mink will by fully primed by early December when pelting takes place. During pelting, mink are humanely euthanized on farm in mobile chambers using carbon monoxide for a process that is quick and painless. Some animals will be selected as live breeders for the coming year and not pelted out. This selection is usually done in early fall. Both female and male mink can reach reproductive maturity by the following breeding season when they’re a year old. Good females will typically produce three to four litters. Record-keeping is an important part of mink farming. Farmers typically record data such as birth dates, kit weights, litter sizes, male:female ratios and deaths to track which animals in the breeding herd are most efficient in developing quality offspring and pelts. Mink are fed diets high in protein and balanced for fat and other nutritional components. Fish, particularly herring, from the local fish plants forms the base of the N.S. mink diet. It can be rounded out with chicken, cooked eggs, some beef as well as extruded barley, corn and some small cereals. “If we wouldn’t eat it we don’t feed it to our animals,” says mink farmer Mitch Filmore. “You can’t cut corners with the feeding program, it all impacts on the growth and quality of the end product.” At the end of the process, buyers are waiting. “It’s really something to see,” says Nancy Daigneault at the Toronto fur auctions. “Hundreds of buyers come from all over to inspect and choose which pelts they want to buy.” CG M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
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This robot changes
The insect-like Prospero is a window on tomorrow’s entirely new, low-cost approach to automated crop production
By Scott Garvey, CG Machinery Editor
magine managing your fields on a plant-by-plant basis. To say this would be a leap forward from today’s crop production model is an understatement, but how else could you express the huge technological revolution that this would represent? The betting is that it could easily make today’s high-tech, variable-rate application systems as antiquated and outmoded as the horse. There’s a real chance it could even usher in a surge in productivity like nothing we’ve seen in our lifetimes, and that maybe no farmer ever has seen. If the discussion of such a paradigm shift seems like pie in the sky, you haven’t heard about Prospero, which may represent the real cutting edge of farm robotics development. Prospero is a concept robot under development by Dorhout R&D LLC. of Des Moines, Iowa. “We’re brand new,” says David Dorhout. “I started the company with my wife about a year ago and built Prospero.” And while Dorhout estimates the robot is still five or six years away from being commercially viable, the concept it represents is already creating waves. “Today, farmers have to make decisions on a field level,” explains Dorhout. “What I see robots like Prospero doing is letting farmers take a step back to concentrate on the business and science of farming. Then you have robots you send out into the field to make planting decisions literally on a seed-to-seed basis.” The individual robots would be programmed to
plant a single seed at a time, but they would also be capable of choosing what variety of seed to place in any particular spot after deciding which genetics would do best in that location. “I can imagine in the future, versions of Prospero would have five or 10 different varieties of seed (on board),” Dorhout says. Field productivity would be significantly increased with that sort of attention to microclimate, soil and topographical considerations. Essentially, it would make today’s monoculture cropping system obsolete. “What’s really exciting about this (potential) is so far we’ve been talking about farming that’s not too different than what we do now — the monoculture,” says Dorhout. “You could actually do intercropping, which isn’t currently possible because how do you harvest corn and soybeans together?” Suddenly, the face of agriculture starts to look altogether different than it does now. But what exactly is this Prospero robot, and how does it work? Prospero is a multi-legged robot that goes about its business from a completely different perspective than technologies like auto-guided, high-horsepower tractors pulling broad-acre implements. So far, the major manufacturers’ efforts around robotic development — at least those they are willing to discuss publicly — revolve around complex autonomous operation of large-scale equipments. Dorhout’s approach is the exact opposite. He is striving for simple, small-scale machines that work M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
machinery together. “I want to take that tractor, break it into 100 pieces and have each one capable of making decisions,” he says. That approach also virtually eliminates the liability risk equipment manufacturers are currently afraid of, should an unmanned 500-horsepower tractor and implement go berserk. Prospero is meant to be one of a “swarm” of small, light robots that work through a field the same way an infestation of bugs might attack a crop. There is no linear GPS guidance program moving them straight across a field in military precision. Again, it’s just the opposite. These machines will look like they’re moving almost randomly, utilizing what scientists call swarm behaviour. “There’s no central command-and-control system,” Dorhout says. Each Prospero robot communicates with others through an infrared communication system rather than sophisticated radio signals. They are programmed to keep their distance from each other. “It sends out a signal to repulse other robots around it,” explains Dorhout. When they set out to plant a field, after each seed is placed the robots mark the spot in a way the others can recognize. The current prototype simply sprays a little white paint on the ground for that purpose. When other robots encounter a marker, they move away a predetermined distance before placing their own seed. If you haven’t guessed it by now, David Dorhout’s background is in entomology, not robotics. Little wonder, then, Prospero looks more like a giant spider than what most people would expect from a sophisticated farm robot. And simplicity is his mantra. “We just want it to be simple,” Dorhout says. “Why complicate things? Simple is cheaper and that way farmers can just look at it (Prospero) and understand what’s going on. They can troubleshoot, modify or fix it.” In order to make intercropping truly viable, Prospero must be capable of much more than just planting. “The final version of Prospero would be a robot that’s able to plant and tend the field,” Dorhout says. “It would be able to mechanically destroy the weeds, in which case you wouldn’t have to worry about herbi-
cide resistance. It would be able to perform a mix of chemical and mechanical disruption.” Once again, the concept would be to do field tending on a plant-by-plant basis. The robots could eliminate weeds by using a much wider variety of herbicides than is possible with conventional field sprayers. If the chemical was applied in tiny amounts directly to the problem plant, the adjacent crop would be unaffected, meaning any herbicide could be used in any crop. “You don’t have to worry about killing your crop because it just applies a tiny dab (of chemical),” Dorhout says. And the robot could even mix mechanical cutting of the weed with applying herbicide to the soil. The quantity of herbicides used would be tiny by current standards, resulting in a significant reduction in input costs. At the end of the growing season, the robot still uses its plant-by-plant approach to maximize yield. “Instead of looking at a field and thinking 90 to 95 per cent is at the right moisture content so go ahead and harvest it, you’re able to harvest plant by plant,” Dorhout says. That means the robots bypass immature plants, taking only those that fit ideal harvest parameters. So what would power Prospero robots? “They would probably be a gasoline-electric hybrid,” Dorhout explains. “Filling a tank is the fastest way to get them back to work.” A larger, automated tender robot could handle that task as well as refill seed compartments or empty hoppers full of harvested grain. Dorhout’s company is also working on a smaller variant designed for greenhouse operations. “We should be able to bring that to market a lot sooner,” he says. But work on the Prospero project will continue with a next-generation prototype planned for field trials next year. “The second version of Prospero will probably look quite a bit different than the first,” Dorhout adds. Prospero has been a work in progress since 2007, when Dorhout came up with the concept. “It just sort of popped into my head all at once that you could have a swarm of robots making decisions on a foot-by-foot basis (in a field),” he says. “It’s a new way of farming.” CG
TRIPLE or PRESSURE-RINSE your empty pesticide containers Only clean containers can be recycled. Take the extra step: rinse before you return.
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Being emotionally aware is the foundation of healthy business management By Pierrette Desrosiers, psychologist and coach
harles is heading for the barn. He notes that, yet again, his employee has arrived five minutes late. Annoyed, Charles tells himself, “I shouldn’t have to take this anymore.” He heads toward his employee, and in the heat of anger, he uses words that are stronger than his true feelings. After letting off some steam, Charles returns to the field. Twinges of remorse, guilt and shame bother him, but he justifies his action. “After all, he did deserve it,” Charles tells himself in order to feel less guilty. Later though, he goes back to the barn to mend fences, but he finds his employee gone. That night, the employee calls him. “I’m coming to pick up my pay. I’ve found another job.” Charles is discouraged. It is the busy season. He needs to be in the field spraying and not in the barn, and it must be admitted, except for being late, the employee did do good work. Could Charles have avoided losing his employee? Absolutely. Poor emotional management has just cost him an excellent employee. In fact, we underestimate the role emotions play in daily life. As managers, we like to tell ourselves that our decision-making is completely rational. However, our actions, words and choices are strongly influenced by our emotions. In fact, the problem is not only that Charles got carried away but also, as he told me, that he lost control. He did not feel his anger mounting, and it got the better of him. Nor was this a completely isolated case. “He often acts impulsively,” his discouraged spouse tells me. It seems obvious that Charles has not developed his emotional awareness sufficiently. Emotional awareness is “being able to recognize our emotions, distinguishing between different emotions, understanding why we have these emotions (cause) and 46 country-guide.ca
clearly perceiving the effects of our emotions on ourselves and those around us.” Emotional intelligence prepares us to manage our emotions, but first we must be aware of the emotions that we do have. We cannot manage or control something of which we are unaware. The danger, of course, is that the things we aren’t aware of can in fact control us. Such emotions range from sadness and anxiety to guilt, shame and anger, and they are all at one time or another a part of us. However, how they affect us depends on us. To become more aware of emotions: 1. Recognize that we all have emotions and that they influence daily life. 2. Take your emotional temperature several times a day: 0 (meaning) no emotions and very calm, and 10 meaning at the maximum (extreme anger, distress, anxiety, euphoria). 3. Identify your areas of sensitivity or your “hot buttons” (subjects, individuals or situations that affect you). 4. B ecome aware of the physiological signs that accompany emotions (butterflies or tightness in the chest, tension, shortness of breath, etc.). 5. Become aware of your internal dialogue, “it is terrible, I can’t take it anymore, I don’t deserve it...” 6. R eflect on the causes of your emotion. Ask yourself, why does this situation bother me so much? (I do not feel respected or recognized, or I have high expectations that are not met.) 7. Name your feelings. Tag your emotion, or put an image on it. That one step on its own can contribute to decreasing the intensity. 8. Consider the consequences this emotion has and may have if it is not managed (mood, effectiveness, quality of decision-making, relationships, financial etc.). 9. Commit to finding solutions to manage the situation better. Finally, we need to accept that we are
ultimately responsible for our emotions. When we get emotional, or act out our emotions, it isn’t because something happened to create the emotions in us, it’s because we let the emotions take control. In Charles’ case, believing that it was unacceptable for the employee to be late, and then letting it heat up, so it seemed even outrageous that he was late, is the reason why Charles got so upset. Another person with different expectations or at least with different stress strategies would have acted very differently and gotten different results. Emotionally aware leaders will recognize when they are tense, frustrated, hurt, envious or excited. They also recognize the source of their emotions, and they acknowledge how their emotions can interfere with many aspects of their effectiveness, from decisionmaking to their relationships with others. This is why they strive to manage their emotions more effectively and thus, their business. We have little or no influence on many events in our life. However, what differentiates great leaders from average leaders is how they decide to react to those events. Remember this. Micro changes in yourself will bring macro changes in your business. Everything starts with selfknowledge and self-awareness. Finally, the more competent you become at being aware of your emotions, the more competent you will also become in reading others’ emotions, which is the basis of positive relationships, employee motivation, and influential leadership. 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: email@example.com. M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
w e at h e r NEAR NORMAL
MILDER THAN NORMAL
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Sc a t/st ttere orm d s NEAR-NORMAL TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL
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Isolated heavy t/storms
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WARMER AND DRIER THAN NORMAL
June 17 to August 18, 2012
June 17-23: Seasonal. A few hot days in the interior. Sunny with scattered showers. June 24-30: Settled and pleasant apart from spotty showers or heavier inland thunderstorms. July 1-7: Sunny, seasonal west with a few showers. Hot east with isolated thunderstorms. July 8-14: Sunny and warm with isolated showers. Often hot and dry in the Interior. July 15-21: Sunny, 20s west, 30s east. Scattered showers or thunderstorms. July 22-28: Sunny and occasionally hot. Passing showers or inland thunderstorms. July 29-Aug. 4: Sunshine prevails but with isolated showers or thunderstorms. Aug. 5-11: Sunny and warm. Hot in Interior. Sporadic showers, thunderstorms. Aug. 12-18: A bit cooler. Mainly sunny but with scattered showers, inland thunderstorms.
June 17-23: Sunny, warm with heavier thunderstorms on a couple of days. June 24-30: Warm and quite dry days are interrupted by a few heavy thunderstorms. July 1-7: Often hot. Sunny overall but with scattered thunderstorms, chance heavy. July 8-14: Mainly sunny aside from a couple of scattered, heavier thunderstorms. July 15-21: Passing heavy thunderstorms on hotter days, otherwise sunny, seasonal. July 22-28: Mostly sunny and seasonal but showers or thunderstorms on a couple of days. July 29-Aug. 4: Pleasant overall aside from a couple of hotter days with heavier thunderstorms. Aug. 5-11: Sunny and warm with showers or thunderstorms on two or three days. M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
Aug. 12-18: Slight cooling brings some shower activity, otherwise sunny, seasonable.
June 17-23: Sunny. Warm. Unsettled with showers or heavy thunderstorms on one or two days. June 24-30: Warm and sunny most days aside from scattered thunderstorms, some severe. July 1-7: Seasonal to hot. Sunny with scattered thunderstorms, some heavy. July 8-14: Sunny and often hot. A couple of humid days bring heavy thunderstorms. July 15-21: Sporadic heavy thunderstorms. Otherwise sunny and often hot. July 22-28: Sunshine and seasonal temperatures most days. Scattered thunderstorm activity. July 29-Aug. 4: Pleasant overall apart from passing heavy thunderstorms in a few localities. Aug. 5-11: Warm, mostly sunny. Scattered shower or thunderstorm activity on one or two days. Aug. 12-18: Sunny, seasonal but some cooling brings a few showers or thundershowers.
June 17-23: Sunny, seasonal but a couple of unsettled days with showers, thunderstorms. June 24-30: Sunny with two or three hotter, humid days setting off thunderstorms, some severe. July 1-7: Mostly warm and sunny. Hotter more humid days bring heavier thunderstorms.
July 8-14: Often hot and sunny. Passing thunderstorms on a couple of occasions. July 15-21: Seasonal to hot. Sunshine prevails but heavy thunderstorms occur here and there. July 22-28: Mainly sunny. Seasonal with a couple of hotter, humid days and thunderstorms. July 29-Aug. 4: Variable temperatures. Sunny aside from scattered showers or thunderstorms. Aug. 5-11: Isolated thunderstorms on a couple of days, otherwise sunny, seasonal. Cooler north. Aug. 12-18: Sunny but slightly cooler air brings a few showers or thundershowers.
June 17 to August 18, 2012 NATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS Frequent hot, dry spells are expected to scorch much of central and Eastern Canada this summer. The main zone of warm, dry weather is likely to fall across the southern Prairies, Ontario, southern Quebec and the Maritimes. In spite of the relatively dry weather, expect a few severe thunderstorms from time to time in all areas. In British Columbia and the more northerly parts of the country, temperatures and rainfall are apt to hover closer to long-time average values. The only exception may be in Newfoundland and Labrador where a cool flow off the Atlantic will set up cool, showery weather.
Prepared by meteorologist Larry Romaniuk of Weatherite Services. Forecasts should be 80 per cent accurate for your area; expect variations by a day or two due to changeable speed of weather systems. country-guide.ca 47
By Leeann Minogue
Putting it all on wheels he trip was off kilter even before they got their suitcases into the SUV. Just as Dale opened the hatch to load the first bag, their dog slunk around the corner, hanging his head and whining. “How would I know where he found a porcupine?” Dale snapped at Donna when she came out to see what was taking him so long. By the time Dale and Donna pulled the quills out of the embarrassed dog, their son and daughter-in-law Jeff and Elaine had walked across the yard, pulling their suitcases and herding a singing toddler. “Thought you were picking us up at eight,” Jeff said. “We thought it’d be more fun to spend the morning playing vet clinic,” Dale growled. “Why don’t you get Dad on the phone and tell him we’re running late.” “Already did,” Jeff said. “Grandpa said he was bored waiting at his condo. We can pick him up and his bag at Wong’s café.” The entire Hanson family was on their way to Alberta. Eventually. 48 country-guide.ca
It had taken them awhile to decide to go. Dale had wanted to stay home and scout for wheat midge. “I can’t go gallivanting all over Canada while a bunch of bugs eat our profits,” he’d complained. Elaine and Jeff usually looked forward to a few days off the farm. Staying in a hotel was normally a treat, but their new house had been delivered to the farm just a month ago. Moving the last of their things out of Jeff’s grandparents’ old house seemed more compelling than a 10-hour drive to Calgary in an SUV with a two-year old and Jeff’s grandfather Ed. Donna had finally convinced them all to go. “Getting away is good for stress management,” she’d said. “And this is a good opportunity. The Canadian Seed Growers don’t have their annual meeting within driving distance of here every year. It’ll be good for Elaine and Jeff to have a chance to do some networking and learn more about the seed business.” “It has to be fun,” Jeff said. “Look at the conference title — ‘Seedology: A Wild Ride.’ And there’s tours and the stampede rodeo to boot. M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
“I suppose it’s a tax writeoff,” Dale said, when he was finally ready to give in. Ed had started off declaring that he wasn’t riding in the car for two days just to sit on a chair at some meeting. But then he’d mentioned his sister in Medicine Hat at least once a day, until finally Donna suggested they could drop him off so he could spend a few days visiting. Ed wouldn’t admit he was excited about taking a vacation, but the rest of the family did notice a spring in his step. (Dale pointed out that Ed was likely looking forward to finding brand new things to complain about.) Finally, in mid-July, after a last-minute phone call to warn the neighbour who’d promised to check in on the yard that the dog had a few extra scabs, the Hansons were off. First, Elaine spilled her coffee. “Those travel mug lids never work,” Jeff said helpfully. She talked Dale into stopping in Weyburn so she could pull some dry clothes out of her suitcase. They got to the counter at the Swift Current Esso before anything else went wrong. That was when Dale realized he’d left his wallet on his bedroom dresser. Jeff paid for the fuel, Donna paid for lunch and Ed snickered for the next 40 minutes while Dale cursed quietly. He wasn’t quiet enough. The toddler learned a new phrase, and shouted it gleefully for 10 minutes running while the rest of the family tried not to laugh, because “that’ll encourage him,” Elaine said. “If we ignore him, maybe he’ll nap.” He did fall asleep, but then Ed had to go to the bathroom for the second time since Swift Current, and the two-year-old woke up when they stopped in Maple Creek. Nobody was in a great mood when they finally reached the outskirts of Medicine Hat. Jeff reached into the glove box for the Garmin so they could hook it up to find Aunt Gladys’s new house. “Oops,” Elaine said. “I took it out when I took Donna’s car to Winnipeg for that meeting a couple of months ago.” Dale started swearing again, and the toddler joined in from the back seat. “People don’t even know how to read maps anymore,” Ed grumbled from the back seat. “We can read maps. We just don’t have one,” said Dale, U-turning into the nearest gas station, pretending not to notice the other drivers glaring and honking. Eventually, they settled in for the night with Aunt Gladys. Her three cats insisted on sleeping with Donna and Dale in the basement room, and Jeff and Elaine would have bruises for four days from the springs poking out of the hide-a-bed. Only the toddler, who snuggled on the floor under his parents’ bed next to Gladys’s poodle, and Ed, cosy in the guest room, slept through the night unharmed. M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
The next morning, after they ate Gladys’s eggs and cold toast they stopped at another gas station for a map of Calgary. Dale picked out a good one and got to the front of the line at the counter before he remembered he didn’t have his wallet and had to holler at Donna to come and pay. Dale, Donna, Jeff, Elaine and their son were finally on the road by 10. “Tour of the Big Rock Brewery, here we come,” said Jeff.
Somewhere between Medicine Hat and Calgary, the Hansons learn again that planning is great until weather, family and real life get in the way Then Dale’s cellphone rang. “You take it,” he said, pulling the phone out of its holder and passing it over to his son in the passenger seat. Jeff shook his head and said “yup” a lot while he listened. Then he handed the phone back to Dale and said, “There’s bad news, worse news, and terrible news. What do you want first?” They started with the terrible news. Hail. “Forecast called for just a shower,” Dale said. Brian Miller figured the Hansons’ durum field had at least 80 per cent damage, and he hadn’t taken time to check out their fields to the south. “Guess that would’ve happened whether we were home to watch it or not,” Dale said. “What else?” “The dog went back for another round with the porcupine. Brian figures we’re going to need to take him to the vet.” “Oh dear,” said Donna. Jeff went on. “And Brian says he saw Rick Brown out spraying for midge last night.” “We probably have some too,” Dale said. “S**t.” The toddler liked that word too, and started singing it over and over again, to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Dale put his signal light on and got into the left lane of the divided highway, waiting for his chance to turn back toward Medicine Hat. “Pass the phone back, Dad,” Jeff said. “I’ll call some buddies. Maybe I can sell those rodeo tickets. And I’ll phone Grandpa and tell him we’ll pick him up on our way by.” “Wait!” Donna said. “No need to change all of our plans. Ed can catch a bus as far as Regina in a couple of days. At least we’ll get something like a vacation.” CG country-guide.ca 49
Does your kid have
what it takes? Wanting to farm is no longer enough. Today's kids need to be driven to succeed
our 18-year-old has been spending his whole afternoon bolting some flashy new bit of chrome to the pickup, and when you look up, he’s walking across the lane, both hands in his pockets, his shoulders slouched, kicking at a stone. Your daughter is on the phone — again — talking with her friends about where to go shopping next. In other words, they’re good kids, and really, they’re just like you were at their age. But sometimes today you really feel the weight of farming, and you’re more aware than ever of the huge commitment it takes. So the thought crosses your mind again, even when you don’t want it to. Have your kids really got what it takes to farm? Your parents took a chance on you. In fact, it hardly seemed a question at all. It was more like they considered it their duty to make room for you. And you don’t want to judge the kids, or divide the family. But there’s just so much at stake these days. You aren’t alone. Parents all across the country are watching their kids and wondering if they have what it takes to be trusted with the family farm. Sure, the interest may be there, but farming has gotten a lot more complicated and the financial stakes have never been higher. And let’s not hide anything here. You’ve put in the years. You and your spouse said no to yourselves while your relatives in town took the big trips and lived the big life, and now you feel you’ve earned the chance to enjoy your retirement without having to worry about whether your nest egg is going to go up in smoke when your children take over. Besides, sometimes it seems you would never have gotten as far as you have without some luck along the way. Are you going to bet your retirement on your children finding their share of luck too, especially in a world that is getting harsher by the year? According to the experts, you’re right to wonder. It used to be that a willingness to work hard was enough to make it in farming, but not anymore, says David Irvine, a Calgary family business specialist who grew up on a farm and works mostly with farm families. “A production attitude was all you needed,” Irvine 50 country-guide.ca
says. “Now that’s still necessary but it’s not sufficient. You also need an attitude of contribution.” An attitude of contribution? “You have to want to add value and have a commitment to growth,” Irvine says. So how do you know if your 18-year-old has what it takes to follow in your footsteps? “You can’t,” says Don Campbell, who owns and operates a 600-cow beef ranch in Meadow Lake, Sask. “There’s no way to know if they have what it takes at 18,” Campbell insists. They may have an interest but that’s all you can tell at that age. Campbell believes it’s critical for kids to spend five to seven years away from the farm. Then when they come back they’re making a conscious choice. “They come back as equals, and with confidence,” Campbell says. “You must move from the parentchild relationship to equal partners.” Campbell speaks from experience. His father also insisted he take time away from the ranch after high school. Campbell got a veterinary degree at the University of Guelph and returned to the farm after practising as a veterinarian for five years. Campbell also coaches other farm families through intergenerational transfers, and his own sons came back to the ranch in their late 20s after working on other ranches. He admits he still struggles with the parent versus co-owner role, but it’s easier if they’ve been away, he insists. Irvine agrees with Campbell on the importance of having the kids spend time away from the farm. He suggests kids leave the farm for at least five years after high school. When they come back you can assess their skills and then they can spend the next five years in a kind of apprenticeship, gaining the skills and experience they need. “If there’s time, it’s a 10-year process,” Irvine says. Like Irvine, John Anderson stresses the importance of assessing the potential successor’s skills. Anderson has helped many families with the succession process through his work as a financial adviser with Collins Barrow in Kingston, Ont. “You also need to develop a skill profile for a fully qualified farm manager,” says Anderson. M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
photo credit: stefanie harrington
By Helen Lammers-Helps
“There’s no way to know if they have what it takes at 18,” says Don Campbell, who recommends they work off farm before coming back
Identify skill gaps and develop a plan of action. What kind of training is needed? Where is it available? What will it cost? These are the kinds of questions that should be answered, says Anderson. If the plan is for the retiring parents and the successors to work together for a while, Anderson also recommends all the parties involved do a SWOT analysis to ensure their skill sets are a good match. What are their Strengths, Weaknesses/Limitations, Opportunities, and Threats? Can everyone get along? All the experts seem to agree that communication is critical at every stage of the succession process. Irvine says he often gets calls from lawyers and accountants involved in an intergenerational transfer. “They call me because the parties involved are no longer speaking to each other,” Irvine says. Typically, it’s because the parents have set a standard of open communication. It’s important for both generations to outline their goals, expectations and aspirations, Irvine continues. Parents need to be clear about how they envision their retirement. When do they want to retire? What are their goals? Do they want to get away from the farm completely or do they want to stay on as a hired hand? M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
These things don’t have to be set in stone but there needs to be ongoing communication throughout the process, says Irvine. “Don’t wait until your child has worked for you for 20 years to have this conversation.” But there’s an even more important step that has to happen first. Before talking to the kids, spouses need to communicate and get on the same page with each other. “Sometimes the wife wants to get away from the farm and move to Arizona while the husband is thinking I’d like to die working on the farm,” says Irvine. Likewise the kids need to make their aspirations clear. Do they just want to be involved in production, like a hired hand? Do they want to be a manager and supervise production? Do they want a leadership role where they have a vision for the future of the farm? Do they want ownership? Both Irvine and Campbell stress that no kid has a right to the farm. Kids need to be told early on that it is up to the parents to determine what will happen to the farm and to set their own retirement goals. Irvine adds that it is also the parents’ responsibility to communicate those intentions to the kids. Campbell says there’s nothing wrong with parents asking their kids if they’re interested in the farm or the kids asking their parents if there’s a place for them on the farm. Anderson also cautions parents not to overlook daughters in the succession process. Old attitudes and habits can be slow to change and sometimes daughters aren’t listened to. Once Campbell’s sons and daughters-in-law had indicated they wanted to be involved in the farm, the family spent two weekends away from the farm with a facilitator developing their shared vision for the ranch. This vision has anchored them during the transition period, he says. The Campbell family hired an independent facilitator even though Don and his wife help other families with intergenerational transfers. “I knew I couldn’t be completely objective,” explains Campbell. The facilitator helped us to clarify and communicate, he says. “Poor communication causes hurt.” Does your kid have what it takes to take over the farm? There’s no easy answer to that question but by putting systems in place and keeping the lines of communication open, you’ll learn what you need to know. CG country-guide.ca 51
h e a lt h
Poison ivy’s oatmeal remedy By Marie Berry oison ivy dermatitis is an allergic skin reaction produced by contact with urushiol, which is the technical name for the sap produced by the poison ivy plant. You are affected when you come in contact with poison ivy outdoors when you are camping or hiking, or if you’re a farmer, when you’re working. Poison ivy’s Latin name is Toxicodendron radicans, and by knowing what it looks like you can avoid the plant, the urushiol and the skin reaction. It is widespread across North America and has a characteristic grouping of three leaves around a long middle stem. Adages like “leaves of three, let them be,” or “longer middle stem, stay away from them,” help identify poison ivy. The plant can look like a bush or creeping undergrowth or even a climbing vine. The leaves are green in summer, but red in spring and red, orange, or yellow in the fall. A great idea is to obtain a colour picture from a textbook or even from the Internet so all members of your family and work crew know what to stay away from. It is the foreign substances or allergens in urushiol that cause poison ivy dermatitis. When poison ivy’s leaves or stems are damaged — for example you walk on them or brush against them — the clear, liquid sap leaks out. As it dries, it becomes oily. This is urushiol. Upon contact, the urushiol is able to stick to your skin and penetrate into it. Your immune system recognizes these allergens as foreign to your body, and attempts to get rid of them, causing what you know as an allergic skin rash. With repeat exposures to poison ivy, your skin symptoms become more severe because your immune system recognizes the same allergens and responds more quickly and more severely to them. For the same reason your first, second, or even third exposure may not result in a skin rash. However, mangos, cashews, and ginkgo have similar allergens. Thus if you are allergic to these you also will be allergic to poison ivy. If you are affected, you are not alone. It is estimated that 70 per cent of Canadians are sensitive! You’ve heard about oxycodone in the news recently with stories about reformulated tablets and addiction, and may wonder what the big “fuss” is. Next month, we’ll look at some narcotic pain relievers including oxycodone and why the change in tablet design.
Obviously, avoiding poison ivy is best. Wear shoes, long pants, long sleeves and gloves. Tuck your pants into your socks. Soap and water will remove the allergen, but compounds from the urushiol start sinking into your skin within an hour of contact, so you need to be fast. Animals, including pets, may have the urushiol stuck on their fur and you may need to wash them. If your clothing becomes contaminated — including items such as shoelaces and footwear — it’s important to quarantine and wash them. Also think about objects that could become contaminated like garden tools, camping gear, picnic blankets and coolers. If you are burning the plant or anything that could have the oily sap on its surface, be careful because the smoke will contain the allergen, which you could then inhale. Skin symptoms include rash, redness, itching, swelling, and blisters, and they can begin within one or two days of exposure, or they may be delayed up to a week. While bothersome, most cases can be managed with remedies like calamine lotion, cool compresses, non-prescription hydrocortisone cream, and oatmeal or baking soda baths. Some skin products that are promoted for treating poison ivy contain ingredients like perfumes, alcohol, anesthetics, and antihistamines that can irritate the skin and worsen skin symptoms. However, oral antihistamine tablets may be useful to limit the symptoms (although they are most effective taken at the earliest possible time in order to reduce the allergic reaction). A home remedy that works well is placing about a cup of oatmeal in the foot of an old pair of pantyhose. Wrap several more layers of pantyhose around the oatmeal, then wet it thoroughly. Gently rub this oatmeal compress over your affected skin. A gellike substance will squish out of the panty hose and remain on your skin to soothe it. Most cases of poison ivy clear in one to four weeks, but if the symptoms are severe or if the rash seems infected, you will want to have it checked. Poison ivy skin blisters do not contain the allergen, so contact with the weeping rash will not cause the skin symptoms in another person. But if your clothing or other objects are contaminated, someone else can get poison ivy from touching them. Avoidance is best! Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist interested in health care and education. M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
Phil has a pilot’s licence. He wants to improve his qualifications by learning to fly a twin-engine airplane. When he asks me to be his instructor, I quickly accept. Today’s lesson begins with a review of procedures to follow if an engine fails, or the landing gear does not extend. Phil inspects the airplane, completes the before-takeoff checks and gets us airborne. As the aircraft climbs, he selects the landing gear lever to the up position. Three wheels fold into the fuselage with a thud. The departure is routine but our flying skills will soon be taxed to the limit. “Something is wrong with the landing gear.” Phil’s declaration catches my immediate attention. A light on the instrument panel indicating “gear up” should be amber, but it is dark. What is wrong? I suggest putting the gear down, then bringing it up again. Phil tries but nothing moves. The wheels are stuck in the up position. If we cannot extend them, the aircraft will be damaged on landing, and we may be injured. I take control while Phil follows the checklist for “Emergency Extension of Landing Gear.” As we orbit over the North Saskatchewan River Phil checks circuit breakers, then unfolds a lever and places it in a socket between our seats. The next step is to ease the lever forward. This will manually extend the wheels. Phil struggles. The lever will not move, even when pushed with all the force we can muster. I calculate the fuel remaining. We can stay in the air for three more hours. Trapped in a tight space a few thousand feet above the earth, we are left to our own devices. As the situation becomes grim, Phil presents an unusual idea. He offers to move to the back seat and use his foot to get extra leverage. The idea is novel, but our situation is critical. Phil unbuckles his seatbelt and climbs behind me. He puts his foot on the lever and we both push with our hands. The lever, our last hope, will not budge. “Let’s try one more time.” Suddenly the lever moves forward. The airplane shudders as the wheels fall down. Neither of us says much as the green “landing gear safe” light comes on. Phil gently lands the airplane, and it rolls to a stop on the runway. We are bombarded with questions at the flying school. Someone asks, “Do you feel like you won the lottery?” The question reminds me of a sermon by Eric Muirhead, a Presbyterian minister. “Many suffer terrible anxiety before getting on an airplane, yet line up to buy lottery tickets. This in spite of the fact that if you were to board a plane for a routine flight in a commercial carrier every day, the statistical odds are it would be 26,000 years before you were involved in a crash. If you buy a Lotto 6/49 ticket every day, the odds are it will be 38,000 years before you win the jackpot. And you’ll probably have to share it with someone else!” Another person says, “God looked after you because you go to church on Sunday.” The assumption is if you follow God you will be protected from danger. In the time of Jesus many people believed that God protects religious people. Jesus looked at life in a different way. He did not say to the crowd gathered on a mountain, “Blessed are you because you have become my followers.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and, “Blessed are the meek.” Suggested Scripture: Psalm 37, Matthew 5:1-12
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Rod Andrews is a retired Anglican bishop. He lives in Saskatoon. M ay / j u n e 2 0 1 2
Va l l e y
Whither the farm dog? Dan Needles is the author of “Wingfield Farm” stage plays. His column is a regular feature in Country Guide
ILLUSTRATION: RICK KURKOWSKI
e lost a dog on the Sideroad this week. He was an old dog so it wasn’t unexpected. But it was still hard for a lot of us because he was a farm dog, maybe the last farm dog on the Petunia Valley Sideroad. He was given the highest honour that a farm dog can achieve in this neighbourhood. He was assisted into the next world by Dr. Justin Purvis, a young man who runs a largeanimal practice out of his truck. Justin is the last vet within 40 miles who will do a farm call. He’s a large-animal-only man and has no connection to any of the canary heart transplant clinics that have sprung up all over the countryside. Justin will have a look at your dog if you ask him, but you have to make it very clear to him that you understand the difference between a farm dog and a town dog. The distinction has been very clear to me since I was a kid. The canine control officer of my youth, Mr. Dodds, loosely
supervised dog ownership in our township, cruising the dusty concession roads in his old Pontiac to collect the annual $2 tax. To Mr. Dodds, farm dogs were tax exempt, and he had three questions to establish eligibility: “Did you pay for that dog? Has he ever been in the house? Has he ever been to town?” If you answered “no” to all three questions, he would bid you “G’day” and drive on. Those were the days. This year the dog tax in Petunia Valley hit $30 a snout and the program brought in more revenue than the development tax on new subdivisions (of which there have been precious few since the meltdown of 2008). There are no distinctions between a farm dog and anything else. A dog is a dog and if you don’t bring a rabies certificate you won’t get your tags or your burn permit either. A farm dog used to be more of a type than a breed. The type was known as a borderline collie. He was a fat, cheerful dog with fleas and a way of curling
up his lip in a toothy grin that would scare the daylights out of people who didn’t know him. When you drove in he would say woof! about four times and flop back down in the flower bed that the missus had pretty much given up on since he was a pup. If you patted him you were careful just to pat the top of his head because if you touched him anywhere else your hands would smell bad. He went to the barn twice a day and, if he was exceptional, he might bring the cows in. The rest of the time he sat by the house chewing on a dead groundhog and snapping at flies. He lived on table scraps and sour milk and slept in the wood shed. On the coldest days of the year he might be allowed in the summer kitchen, but he was never, ever allowed to cross the threshold into the main house. He never got into town and he wasn’t interested anyway. He got nothing for his health but a rabies shot every spring, administered by his owner, and usually lived to the age of 15 without once receiving the undivided attention of a vet. Then one day, his back legs would seize up and he’d stop eating and he would go for a slow walk to the bush with his owner and only one of them would come back. An uncomfortable silence would hang over the farmstead for a few weeks and then a new puppy would appear on the veranda. Where is that farm dog of yesteryear? My neighbour Vern Bunton, the last mixed farmer in Petunia Valley, lost his Lassie last week. Lassie would have passed Mr. Dodds’ test with flying colours. Vern says he was the sixth Lassie he has owned. But Lassie’s range has been overtaken by dogs like mine: expensive, purebred, overhoused, overfed and stretched across the middle of the master’s bed. If my dog dies and I want to replace it, the kennel owner will want me to submit references and submit to a home visit. But there is hope. Vern’s going up to Pluto Township in a couple of days to see a Mennonite about Lassie No. 7.
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 2
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