SPECIAL AGRICULTURE EDITION | FRIDAY, MARCH 12TH, 2021
March 12, 2021
Inventor of early Versatile equipment By Angie Heise
My father, Gerhard Eschenwecker, worked his way up from the agricultural equipment manufacturing plant to the office, designing machinery. He was involved in almost every type of machine the Versatile Farm Equipment Company designed, making sure all possible flaws would be discovered before production. He was born Aug. 14, 1934 in Berlin Germany and experienced WWII first-hand as a child living in the city that was bombed and then occupied by the allied forces at the end of the war. Gerhard’s father and his sister were away to war, leaving him and his mother in Berlin. They lived in a small house in the “suburbs” which had fruit trees and a few chickens and rabbits that they could survive on during the war. But once Berlin was overtaken, food was scarce. Children attended school as long as possible even though many times school stopped at various points and stopped all together as Berlin came under attack.
School education was delayed by approximately a year due to the war. The school system was different in Germany as elementary was completed by their grade eight or nine year of basic education. The school weeks were longer in Germany with Saturdays included. By age 16, Dad was an accomplished entertainer, playing accordion and guitar in local bands. It was at this age he started his apprenticeship. Dad actually wanted to pursue a career in carpentry, due to his love of wood, but was dissuaded by his father. In Germany very little was done with lumber as brick and mortar was the main component used for building. He chose his career in tool fabrication and metals. He was fortunate to receive an apprenticeship as they were few and far between in post war Berlin. Exams, physical fitness and an entry test were all factors and only the top small percentage were allowed to proceed. Becoming a certified tradesman required four years minimum experience and possessing a Masters
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license. As the youngest apprentice, Dad had to arrive early to start the wood and coal-fired stoves for winter heating; load the container with carbide and water to produce gas for welding and silver soldering. Due to continued power outages, a foot petal sewing machine was converted to operate a grindstone. During those four years, Dad learned to operate every machine in the building which helped to create a foundation for becoming a Project Leader in Design Engineering and Certified Engineering Technologist later in life. He could build any machine due to his knowledge of metals ... how steel and iron was created, their strengths and weaknesses, weights and how they operated under physical pressure. He also learned how to draw plans freehand (accurate to the mm), for every component of the machine to be built. In March 1954, after three-and-a-half years of training, my father wrote the exam to become a journeyman, a process that took two weeks to complete.
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Gerhard Max Eschenwecker created the Versatile swather and many other pieces of agricultural equipment. PHOTOS/SUBMITTED
TO CANADA IN ‘54 Gerhard Eschenwecker met and married Christa Becker, also from Berlin. The married couple immigrated to Canada as newlyweds. Mom was pregnant with their first child. After several short-term jobs, Dad started his employment with Hydraulic Engineering in April 1958 on an assembly line. By spring of 1959, he was moved to the experimental department, building prototypes of the first four-
wheel drive tractor, Models 100 and 145, the pull-type combine Model 42 and Model 480 field sprayer. Due to his training in Germany, Dad was able to manufacture the dyes for all the required parts. In 1964, the company name was changed to Versatile Farm Equipment Company, and moved from north Winnipeg to Fort Garry. With this move, Dad was promoted to Foreman in charge of the sheet metal and spot-welding depart-
ment. The next year he was moved into the Tool and Die department and became Assistant Foreman. HISTORIC DESIGNS Dad was offered a salaried position in the Engineering Department in Tool Design in 1966. He designed tools, dies and welding fixtures for Versatile. He quickly moved to Production Design where he became involved in the design of early swathers, combines, sprayers, augers and Pg 3
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March 12, 2021
Pg 2 tractors. Sometimes taking over the project, fixing flaws in original designs. Over the course of the next few years, he was promoted to Senior Designer. By 1980, became Project Leader with his ow n depar tment and projects. He completed training on Production Management at the Manitoba Institute of Management in 1971 and also became a CET (Certified Engineering Technologist).
At that time, he designed an auger header for conditioning hay. In 1976 Dad designed the first 30-foot pull-type swather ever produced. Six years later, in 1982 he designed the new Model 3000 sprayer. Dad received Basic Terminal Training (CAD/ CAM) in ’84 and by 1986, was in charge of Standards Department, Checking and Cost Analysis departments, at which time he was given design problems to solve on various ma-
chinery. He tested every piece of machine design, checking for problems before the prototype went to production. He also gave seminars on Geometrical Tolerances and in Cost Saving Designs and Manufacturing Methods. His education was continual, and in 1988 he received training in Statistical Process control. When Versatile changed ownership over the years, Dad was offered opportunities to work in Italy with
Fiat, and in Pennsylvania with Ford New Holland. RETIRED, EVER CREATING Gerhard retired in 1999 after almost 41 years working with Versatile. Throughout his life, my father’s love for wood never left him. He built a cabin cruiser which resulted in summers spent cruising the Lee River and adjacent waterways. Other projects included small boats, a kayak, campers, hauling trailers and household projects to
name a few. With land purchased in the Lee River area, our family built a cottage that was to be their retirement home. I spent weekends and summers learning the fundamentals of carpentry. Unfortunately, due to Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. moving into the area, Mom and Dad made the painful decision to sell. They did not want to see the Canadian Shield used for research and storage of nuclear waste (the facility
is now shut down). Intarsia was also a passion to which Dad created many masterful pieces to be shared with his family. His ability to create from metal and wood resulted in a lifetime achievement that was to be his lasting legacy. This story was kindly submitted by Angie Heise, daughter of Gerhard Max Eschenwecker. Angie and her husband Kendall live and farm in the Isabella area, where they raised their two grown daughters.
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March 12, 2021
Food export a tail-wind industry By Anne Davison
As Canadians, we know we’re loved in countries around the world, but according to Canada’s Ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, Canadian producers can do more to promote their products and maximize on the respect for the Canadian brand. During the recent Agriculture Day Virtual Fireside Chat, hosted by Michael Hoffort FCC
President/CEO, Ambassador Barton painted an optimistic picture for the agri-food industry. “Agri-food is right in the crosshairs of the hugest tailwind sector in the world,” said Ambassador Barton. “You know, we’re going to double food demand from 2009 to 2050.” As the middle class grows around the world, so does their demand for protein. “Two-thirds of the global middle class is in Asia, 350 million
of that is in China.” And, he says there’s an opportunity for a greater shift toward value-added exports and innovative research and development in agriculture and the food products Canada produces. Barton acknowledges that our government has locked horns with China, one of our major markets, over the two Michaels, Kovrig and Spavor who are marking two years in separate Chinese prisons.
Bison enjoy lush grass last summer on Bison Spirit Ranch near Oak Lake.
But Chinese consumers look for Canadian food products. “Even when things are really rough and tough on the bilateral side,” Barton said, referring to strained diplomacy, “there are lineups outside stores that are selling Canadian products. I’m happy to talk about that. That gives me energy during the tough periods, to see that.” Hoffort asked about direct foreign investment
as a means to secure markets in China, India, Asia and Europe. Barton said it’s important to strike a balance between foreign investment into Canadian companies vs. selling the farm. He pointed out that minor share investment by business people from China, India or anywhere else is a good thing, and it goes the other way as well. It’s a good thing for Canadians to invest in companies in those nations. Hoffort pointed to China’s investment in a skim milk powder facility in Ontario, asking what that means for trade relations. Barton said, “It’s a core element of a deeper economic relationship between countries. I think we should welcome foreign direct investment from Asia in the Ag sector. It’s not about taking over Canadian companies, it’s about having a percentage interest. “If a Chinese or Singaporean, Indonesian, Indian [investor]… has eight to 10 per cent of a Canadian company, that provides a link, because they’re going to be fighting hard for that company
to do well in their market. We’ve seen this happening with other countries.” Barton also said that while Canadian companies can dominate the agri-food markets around the world, being among the top six or seven large marketers, there’s also plenty of room for medium and small enterprises. Just as technology in the communication industry opened the door for Manitobans to sit in on a virtual session with Canada’s Ambassador to China, IT communication also takes small and specialty business products to the fingertips of the most digitally integrated consumers in the world – the Chinese.
March 12, 2021
Escaping the city, to thriving honey business Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund and Farm Credit Canada (FCC) provide a leg up
Julie Shirley didn’t set out to ace the apiary business, but the success of her honey farm proves she’s got what it takes. Julie is the primary owner and operator of Blue Heron Gardens near Cudworth, Saskatchewan. The farm is dedicated to producing high quality, Canadian
Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) approved honey, in an environmentally friendly way. The quarter section Julie and her husband Jeff bought about a decade ago was intended as an escape from the city and a place for Julie to grow a market garden business.
Julie has started her own queen cells.
“In the beginning we were both working in the city, but we had a dream to buy some land and change our lifestyle,” explains Julie. After building a log home on the farm and spending their summers there, in 2014 they quit their city jobs and moved to the farm full-time with Jeff running his own tech business. When the market garden business proved challenging to earn a living off, the couple saw another opportunity buzzing around their farm. “We had planted fruit trees out here from the University of Saskatchewan’s fruit culture program,” says Jeff. “There are sour cherries and Haskaps. We originally had two beehives to pollinate them but that turned into 12, 20, 60 and so on.” Blue Heron Gardens now has 265 hives and produces about 50,000 pounds of honey each year. Julie also sells the beeswax that’s created from making honey to the hobbies and crafts market. “There’s very little waste in making honey and at the same time the bees are
Julie and Jeff Shirley on their honey farm.
pollinating crops and increasing farmer yields. They will fly about two miles from their hive. Farmers are usually happy to have you put bees on their land,” explains Jeff. “The bees create more food for the supply chain so it’s a very environmentally friendly business where you’re improving it and giving back to the earth.” MENTORSHIP MATTERS TO BUSINESS SUCCESS The science of beekeeping is something Julie is relentless in learning. She and Jeff credit their mentor and fellow beekeeper, Tony
Lalonde for giving them the knowledge needed to be successful and recognizing Julie’s talent, encouraging her to focus on that part of the business. “We were really lucky to have a good mentor with the bees, he’s helped us be successful,” says Julie. “I love to learn. During the mentorship I would take all the notes and try to improve everything.” “The bees are livestock”, adds Jeff. “No different than having 200 head of cattle we have 20 million head of bees. Julie applies her science training to the husbandry of the bees. She
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also has very steady hands. You need steady hands and good vision. She’s not scared of them. If you watch her work the bees, she’s in there with no gloves and the bees are crawling all over her.” SWEAT EQUITY Starting a business is a lot of work, especially a farm business on the windswept prairie. With Jeff ’s ag tech background, they are committed to innovation and technology. Still, the road isn’t easy. In the busy season from April to October, Julie puts in plenty of 16-hour days. All those Pg 8
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March 12, 2021
Strong roots, future of test station By Anne Davison
The Southwest Bull Development Centre is located just east of the extensive wetlands that surround Oak Lake. Here Ron and Kathy Batho, along with the Rimke family, carry on an operation that has been active in southwest Manitoba for nearly eighty years. Batho Farms Ltd. had its start in the Cameron District north of Minnedosa in 1942 when Ron Batho’s father, Everett, purchased his first registered horned Hereford female. Ron lived on this farm (which raised mixed grains, cattle, hogs, and hens) until 1952, when the family moved to Oak Lake to specialize in the cattle business. “My mum was raised in Virden,” says Ron. “I tell everybody, my mother was an angel. She was Hannah Angel, and my grandpa Angel had the butcher shop in Virden. Where T’s Dining Room is now, I think that was where Grandpa’s butcher shop was; this was actually home for her.” Giving a guided tour of the black, red and whitefaced yearling bulls on test, he explains Batho Farms
runs three purebred herds, black and red Angus and Herefords. “And then we have a commercial herd that’s a combination of those three breeds. So, we have a crossbreeding program as well as a purebreds.” Batho has always been a believer in using performance testing as a tool to improve herd genetics. His family was involved in the test station run by the Manitoba Beef Cattle Performance Association at Douglas. As the genetics of Manitoba’s cattle herd changed in the 1970s the Bathos determined that their operation should place a high priority on maternal characteristics, so they focused on purebred Black Angus, Red Angus and Hereford lines. “They’re easy doers and they make great mothers. So that’s why we went with them. The Herefords and the Angus are pretty compatible. Whereas if we went with some of the bigger breeds, the ration would have to be different.” Cattle breeders found the high-energy rations used to maximize performance in the larger framed European breeds, caused the British breeds to come off test
Ron Batho among the bulls on test.
carrying too much fat. Concerns for the problems that this might cause in the animal’s future life as a herd sire prompted Batho to start a test program on his farm, more suitable to the foundation breeds he was raising. “This ration they’re on is designed for them to gain three pounds per day. That’s a good growing ration, but
not a ration that they would get fat on. We need them to grow.” The complete ration is prepared at the farm: 47.5 per cent rolled oats (all done by weight) and 2.5 per cent supplement and the other 50 per cent is roughage. While the feed is a major factor in healthy bull development, Batho be-
lieves exercise also plays an important part. “This lot they’re in is about 9.5 acres and they can go right down to the road.” He says, “Even those days when it was really cold, about 4:30 in the afternoon … they’d be down there.” Batho Farms has been a family affair from the beginning and that is continuing with this generation. “It
is a family enterprise. It’s Kathy and I, our son-in-law and our daughter (Albert and Michelle Rimke) and two grandsons (Levi and Jay). Everybody owns cattle here and everybody works here.” The Rimke family operates AM Ranching. Together, under Batho Farms Ltd. the operation runs Pg 7
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March 12, 2021
Growing practical herd sires
Albert and Jay Rimke, Ron Batho and Levi Rimke in their workshop, with a cattle chute recently manufactured on the farm. PHOTOS/ANNE DAVISON
At Southwest Bull Test Station, the bulls are used to being handled.
Pg 6 approximately 450 cow/ calf pairs. Preparat ions are in place for the bull sale in April, and final test results on the bulls will be published in a few days. This includes an index of each animal’s
Batho explains, “Bull buyers will phone them and ask about a certain bull. They can’t give an honest opinion if they haven’t seen the bulls.” Batho’s granddaughter Samantha Rimke also has cattle. She works for Tundra Oil and Gas as a
so everyone pitches in on the busy days. “Jay does all the feeding; these guys do the clipping and we do the paper work. The consignors are pretty good. They come on days when we work with the bulls.” Levi will do the video
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remediation specialist and has a degree from the University of Saskatchewan in environmental and animal science. All the Rimkes grew up through 4H and through the Junior Hereford Association. The cattle industry is a family affair.
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for their online sale this year but he is also learning how to apply the data that is collected. In January he travelled with a sale management outfit, TBarC. In two weeks they covered 10,000 kms. around Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba.
gain, taken from their weight per day of age to end of test weight. Using ultrasound, back fat marbling is measured and the animals are assessed to ensure breeding soundness. Running the bull test station is a lot of work
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March 12, 2021
Taking care of bee business
Pg 5 hours didn’t add up to a profit in the early years so financial help was a must. Julie received a grant through the Federal government’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund. She also worked with Farm Credit Canada (FCC) to finance a new honey plant on their farm. “We would not have been successful without FCC. We built a brand-new facility which helped streamline everything and it was so much easier this year,” says Julie. Jeff added, “The new honey plant is creating cash flow in honey for the bee
business, it’s allowed Julie to have a wonderful career here at the farm,” says Jeff. Christa Galaura, FCC Relationship Manager in Saskatoon saw the potential in their plans. “They are in good shape for the honey production they need and there’s room for expansion.” “They want to create jobs in the local community, they’re very open to mentorship. Not only learning from mentors but starting to mentor others. They keep learning and it delivers results. This year’s crop sold at a premium because their quality was so good.” Julie has started her own
queen cells, which means she doesn’t have to import the queen bees from outside the country. That’s another step along with becoming CFIA registered and approved that supports the premium product customers are looking for. “Becoming CFIA approved means our honey can be sold in stores and internationally. Means more market and a better quality product and a better price for pound selling it. It’s not a backyard quality, it’s kitchen grade, ready to go to the food supply market,” said Jeff. While the market garden still holds a special place in
Julie is suited up and working with her bees.
her heart, Julie has grown to love beekeeping. “It’s more than just a job, it’s something you are com-
mitted to and you love. That’s why you put all your hours into it and all your effort. I’m a nurturer and
I like taking care of things so that’s why it’s a good fit for me.” Submitted by FCC
ACC’s Prairie Innovation Centre expanding
Mid-Plains Implements has contributed $50,000 to Assiniboine Community College’s campaign to expand agricultural training. The campaign to build the Prairie Innovation Centre aims to support the demand for skilled and experiential agricultural training in Manitoba. “Manitoba’s economy is based in agriculture, and our company deals directly with the needs of
agricultural producers,” said Fokko Buurma, owner and sales manager at MidPlains Implements. “The Prairie Innovation Centre will ultimately give back to the economy and help local industry production, so it’s important that we get involved.” In Manitoba, it’s projected that one in five jobs in agriculture will go unfilled by 2025. The Prairie Innovation Centre is Assiniboine’s
made-in-Manitoba solution. “The college plays a critical role in strengthening the labour force by expanding traditional programming to meet current and emerging demands of the ag sector,” said Mark Frison, president at Assiniboine Community College. “The Prairie Innovation Centre will help answer the call for this developing sector and ensure this crucial contributor to the Manitoba economy can
reach its full potential.” The Centre will be located on the college’s North Hill campus. The project aims to expand seats in agriculture, environment and related technology programs from less than 300 to more than 800 students to keep up with the needs of the growing sector. “We’ve been fortunate to see the benefit of Assiniboine’s agriculture training first-hand as all of our em-
ployees have come through Assiniboine at one time or another. So, supporting this project to expand ag training locally is the perfect fit for us,” said Buurma. The Prairie Innovation Centre campaign officially launched in fall 2020. “Raising money for a worthy project becomes much easier when the people you approach see the value, but this process becomes self-driven when people
are insightful enough to see the value in investing in not only the project but the positive effects in our community, in our province and in the future,” said Barry LaRocque, owner of AtomJet Group, who is a member of the Prairie Innovation Centre campaign cabinet. “It is generous organizations like Mid-Plains Implements that are investing in our community and our future and we thank you.”
March 12, 2021
Work to halt spread of crop diseases like clubroot COVID-19 health measures parallels with Bio-security in your ﬁelds By Brenda Hunter
Considering the ongoing pandemic, not only farmers, but society as a w hole has a b etter understanding of how practicing due diligence and following proper precautions can make a huge impact in controlling the spread of disease. In fact, the similarity between COVID-19 and crop disease management is startlingly relatable. The transmission of pathogens and the methods used to mitigate the risk draw a strange but familiar parallel. There are many common factors regarding crop disease and COVID-19. L i ke human infectious agents, it is known that transmission from host to host (field to field) is largely due to direct contact resulting in contamination of an otherwise “clean” field. Whether it be soil borne crop disease, insect species or weed seeds, movement of soil between fields can easily transport these unwanted hitchhikers between fields. “Biosecurity on grain f ar ms i s b e c om i ng a much larger topic for discussion,” said Justine Cornelsen, Agronomy Specialist with the Canola Council of Canada bas e d out of Virden, Man. “Grain farms are starting to create their own biosecurity (and/ or sanitation) protocols.” There have been significant studies done on soil borne crop diseases like clubroot and verticillium stripe (affecting canola) and soybean cyst nematode (in soybeans), and it is a known fact that strict sanitation practices do lessen the risk of transmission. “With our short grow-
ing season here, sanitation is often overlooked as it is a lot of work to clean equipment between fields when there is such a small window to sow or harvest a crop,” said Cornelsen. “Trying to knock off big clumps of soil can help to reduce the risk significantly ; washing and/or sanitizing helps to completely reduce the risk of pest spreading.” As an agronomist, Cornels en is required to follow a strict sanitation protocol, much like we are currently practicing with COVID-19. She is required to wear disposable booties (cover your cough or sneeze) in every field she enters, clean and sanitize any equipment (disinfect surfaces) used between fields, and her vehicle (travel restrictions) never enters the field. The new normal. “With soil borne plant diseases, it does not matter the crop at the time, they can remain in the soil waiting for a host crop to continue on their life cycle,” said Cornelsen. She also mentioned that clubroot resting spores c a n s u r v i v e t h rou g h the digestive tract of animals and be distributed through manure, although this does not pose near the risk that direct transmission does. Knowing the current risk, whether it be COVID-19 or specific crop disease in the immediate area, is crucial to protecting yourself and your crops. “Producers should be in communication with neighbors and retailers of the area to be aware of the presence of some of these soil-borne pathogens, and resistant weed species to keep an eye in their own field for them,” suggested
Scouting for blackleg, a canola disease, with Justine Cornelsen in 2018 at canolaPALOOZA, a three-day event for canola education. PHOTO/BRENDA HUNTER FILE PHOTO
Cornelsen. “For example, knowing that clubroot is in the area should change some of the management practices used by producers within the area, like deploying a clubroot resistant cultivar.” Like Coronavirus, the risk of being infected with pathogens like clubroot is relatively low in this area, but it still exists. “Clubroot spores exist in our soils, but at extremely low levels with no plant symptoms from the disease b eing reported within the area to date,” reported Cornelsen. “Clubroot and soybean cyst nematode have only been confirmed in a few RMs across Manitoba.” However, like COVID-19, crop pathogens do mutate and develop resistance, meaning con-
tinuing education is required to stay on top of new developments. In summary, the same rules apply to dealing
with the spread of crop disease as COVID-19: Know the risk – is it in my area? If so, take extra precautions to protect yourself and your crop. If you knew your friend, neighbor or family member had COVID-19 or clubroot, you’d probably be more diligent at taking precautions. Minimize the risk Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, disinfect surfaces and don’t touch your face equals wash your equipment between fields (especially if the incidence is high in your area) or at least try to remove soil clumps paying special attention at field approaches (mouth, eyes, nose) Perhaps you’ve recently bought a piece of equipment. How do you know for sure where the equipment has been and if it’s been exposed? Take the precaution and make sure it’s clean. Practice physical distancing = Practice crop rotation by eliminating the host (crop) for appropriate intervals to lessen the risk of transmission Proactive screening (esp. if you have trav-
eled or been in contact) = regular scouting either by yourself or a qualified individual who is following the necessary precautions to prevent transmission, like wearing booties. B oost immunity/get vaccinated = especially if you know you’re in an area where a disease is prevalent, sow resistant varieties. Stay home – wanting to give your neighbor a hand? Be sure to heed the advice above or you may end up being more of a hinderance than a help. Follow the advice of professionals – for COVID-19 it’s found at the Manitoba Government website www.gov.mb.ca/ covid19/index.html Your agronomist is your source of information and guidance for crop dis eas e. Agronomists deal with crop science every day and are there to help protect you. But they can’t do it alone; they need your help and compliance. Disease is disease. No matter the species, and the same principles apply.
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March 12, 2021
Good fences make good neighbours By Anne Davison
Spring fencing, summer fix-ups and fall cross-fencing is an expected routine in the livestock industry, but there are some situations when farmers, industry or homeowners need to call a professional to get the job over and done. PWR Custom Fencing Ltd. is often booked well in advance of spring thaw, so the time to call Shaun Anderson is now, to see what PWR can do for you. Anderson’s perfectionist tendency means his
company leaves a mighty fine fence behind them. Maintenance-free is the aim. He says that for a few years, friends in the coffee shop would ask if he was still doing ‘that fencing thing’. He chuckles about that. After he was 15 years into it, that question went away. Now, 21 years later, with a truckload of experience, PWR has made a name for itself. Not resting on his laurels, Anderson is ever looking for new efficiencies and ways to make the manual labour
One of PWR’s solar powered, electric fence energizer installations, with a protective electric strand around it, so livestock won’t rub on the energizer itself.
easier. This spring, he has a specialized self-propelled post pounder on order from the UK. This new machine is not only self-propelled, but the pounding mast finds level, with the push of a button. The automation, says Anderson, will enhance productivity, freeing up one of his usual three-person crew to do something else. Shaun Anderson didn’t grow up imagining himself running a fencing business. It was a niche industry, there was a need and he found the means. “We were farming in partnership with my dad, my brother and sisterin-law, but there wasn’t enough there to support three families. “We started this fencing business up and it just kind of evolved from that. It was in 2005 when we left the ranch and took over the custom fencing business and for a couple of years that’s all we did.” Shaun, his wife Tina, and their family made a move from the Lenore area, and now live between Virden and Oak Lake at Routledge, where they raised three children, Alec, Zane and Anisha. As well as running PWR, the Andersons custom graze
in the summer. “That’s kind of my golf game,” he jokes. “I get paid to golf, that’s the only difference.” When it comes to lining up fence construction, in order to get the best results for the customer, Anderson likes to see the big picture - the purpose of the fence and possible future plans. That starts with a phone call. “Between Google Earth and a conversation with the landowner, we can get most of it figured out. If something jumps out at me, then I’m going to go look at the job.” PWR builds all kinds of fences. Right after BSE hit the beef industry, a summer full of jobs evaporated. Anderson rustled up some oilfield fencing to fill that summer and that started a different stream of contracting. It was a timely switch and for about eight years, industry fencing provided up to 60 per cent of PWR’s contracts. Yard fencing projects come along as well. He says chain-link fence provides a much longer lasting, maintenance free fence for less money than board fencing. But, for those who want wood, Anderson has found a supplier in Saskatchewan
PWR’s diagonal brace on a hi-tensile field fence (paige wire). PHOTOS/SUBMITTED
for Western red cedar, a high-quality product he is happy to install. A practical livestock fence is the electric system. “We are a Gallagher dealer, and the company has been around since 1938. Gallagher reinvests 10 per cent of its gross sales into research and development, so this is a large volume of money that they’re putting into R & D every year.” Mineral rich soil and vegetation with a good root system provides the best shock. “There’s some science behind electric fencing to achieve peak performance. Our experience has given us that know-how.” Anderson says it’s a psychological fence. When an animal has been safely shocked by it, they quickly
learn not to challenge the fence. When electric fences are built to industry standards, along with proper animal training, it is a more effective and affordable option than other wire fence designs. “Electric fence is 45 to 55 per cent cheaper, strand for strand, over barbed wire. Not only is it far more affordable, it’s a tool, because, if you have your property perimeter fenced with electric, now you can cross fence where ever you desire.” PWR is a dealer for Gallagher Animal Management (electric fencing products), Roblin Forrest Products (treated posts), CAP Solar Pumps Ltd (solar water pumps) and Wallace & Wallace (chain link fencing).
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March 12, 2021
Organic, naturally grown food is a thriving enterprise By Anne Davison
In the diversity of the Canadian Prairies there are areas ideal for grassbased food production. Some farm families have chosen a model that fits nicely with grass agriculture and what they call naturally raised livestock, and some have taken it a step further, growing organic produce or grass-fed certified stock. Scattered throughout Manitoba there are farmers dedicating their acres and their efforts to fill a growing niche, the demand for naturally raised and organic produce. You may question if it matters how our food is raised. Growing naturally raised food is generally a more hands on operation and the products usually cost a little more to purchase. The Manitoba Grass-Fed Beef Association is among many groups who say it does matter. They point to research conducted by universities in Canada, the USA, Argentina and Brazil supporting the claim that grass finished beef, for example, contains higher concentrations of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA’s) than conventional beef. In fact, research suggests that it may be as high as three times that of conventional grain-fed beef. Even so, fatty fish are the real heavy hitters when it comes to
increasing Omega-3 in our diets. But there are other reasons to choose grass-finished over feedlot finished beef. On well-managed pastures, natural and organic beef are raised without hormone growth stimulants and anti-biotics. Studies suggest grass-fed beef contains increased concentrations of beta-carotene and alpha tocopherol - important anti-oxidant nutrients for our diet, along with a range of other proteins and nutrients. Organic certification means that the farm or ranch adheres to a set of growing conditions and is inspected yearly to ensure those practices are being followed. There are many organic organizations throughout Canada. Organic Producers Association of Manitoba (OPAM) is one such organization that is, itself, accredited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Organic certification is a meaningful distinction that you can find on the label of produce. The OPAM organization started up in southwest Manitoba in 1988, with 14 individuals interested in farming without chemicals. Now, some 33 years later OPAM’s office in Miniota serves a multitude of producers from Alberta to Ontario. OPAM certifies farms producing cereals, oilseeds, pulse and forage
Rotating, treating and moving cattle are done mainly on horseback. The cattle are trained to be comfortable with a horse and it allows Thomas and Felicity to maintain their “cowboy” lifestyle. PHOTO/NATURALLY MANITOBA
Hodgins children in 2019: Carrie is riding and Chase is walking, moving sheep on Hodgins Farm. PHOTO/HODGINS FARM
crops, dairy farms, honey production, herb growing and even tree syrup production. Locally, in an area from Hartney to Beulah, Elkhorn to Kenton and Oak Lake there are some 20 families engaged in growing OPAM certified products. For many local producers and their customers, certification is not necessary. These producers pledge that they raise a natural product and offer it for sale as such. From farm to fork, their goal is a healthful wholesome product. Oak L ake ranchers, Thomas and Felicity Hagan, are among those who have chosen grass-based, natural agriculture. Committed to producing grass finished beef, in one sense, they are living an old-fashioned farm family lifestyle, raising a family off the land. However, they are armed with current findings and an understanding of the ecosystem and sustainable pasture management. Hagans’ grass-fed agriculture, Naturally Manitoba, has a website where you can learn more and find out how to purchase their products. Cameron and Lisa Hodgins, are the owners of Hodgins Farm. These
Lenore farmers are also raising their children to enjoy interacting with animals, and doing daily chores. A holistic management course that Cameron and his father took instilled in them a view of the entire farm as a connected system, one where every aspect is reliant on the other. “It helped us ask ourselves why we are doing this – improving the land has become just as important to us as making a profit.” The Hodgins are not accredited organic grow-
ers either, but continue holistic, regenerative farm production as is evident when you visit. There you will find pastured pork and chickens as well as sheep and cattle. Down the road to the west is Bison Spirit Ranch owned and operated by Trevor and Jodie Gompf of Oak Lake. Their enterprise has earned top awards at shows and competitions throughout North America. Since its inception in 1997, Bison Spirit Ranch has focused on producing quality animals and tasty
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bison meat. These historic prairie plains animals are well adapted to the conditions. The Gompfs say, “We take pride in raising animals free of additional growth hormones or antibiotics.” Manitoba Grass-Fed Beef Association offers certification for producers raising beef without a grain ration. The association has strict protocols and verifies that members are raising their cattle without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones or genetically modified feeds. MGFBA website provides a list of restaurants where Manitoba grass fed beef is served, and markets where grass-fed beef can be purchased. There’s also a list of producers who can be directly contacted. From consumer health benefits, to soil regeneration - natural grass farmers add carbon sequestering to their reasons for what they do and how they do it. According to beefresearch.ca, grasslands where beef cattle graze represent an important storage of carbon and may contain up to 200 tonnes of carbon per hectare.
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March 12, 2021
Stone school a beloved rural landmark By Anne Davison
This stone building once rang with young voices and teacher’s instructions. The building was one of the many country schools serving the farming population at the turn of the 20th century Kelly Taylor owns the building and has protected it as a landmark. “We’ve resurfaced the stonework and done some reshingling,” he says. There was a time in the 1960s he says, when closed school buildings were offered to municipalities for their
value as buildings. But this one, made of stone, couldn’t be easily moved like many of the wood frame school houses. So, the Taylors purchased it. Taylor said it was the Arsenault School as it was erected on the property of a Metis farmer named Arsenault. He was one of the first school board members as well. With school district consolidation the school was renamed Pleasant Plains School. However, by late in the 1920s students began to attend school in Oak Lake
instead and the building was no longer used as a school. However, it became a Mennonite church. Taylor recalls horse and buggy outfits bringing people to worship there. Eventually the church also moved to a new location along Hwy 1 near Oak Lake. Construction of the stone school began in 1894 and it was first used in 1895. According to Mr. Kelly’s notes the contractor was paid $414 for his work. (Teachers of the day worked for a salary of $35.) Stones from the Lenore area were loosened up in the
This landmark school, circa 1894, is located just a couple of miles north and east of Oak Lake, photographed in November 2020. PHOTO/ANNE DAVISON
fall and in the winter, were brought across the frozen Assiniboine River to the
school site. Although the windows are gone and the open door
is weathered, the building stands square as ever, 125 years later.
How grasshopper infestations impact crops in Canada By Anne Davison According to John Gavloski, extension entomologist with Manitoba Agriculture, “We’ve been doing grasshopper surveys in Manitoba since 1931.” Crops in Canada face many weather hazards, including drought, flood, freezing temperatures, and hail. The Prairie Provinces also feature a different kind of hazard: grasshoppers. A single grasshopper can eat a square foot of crop in a season, and they enjoy the cereal grains that dominate the cropland.
There are more than 80 species of grasshoppers in the Canadian Prairies, but only a few are pest species—and some of those will attack only certain crops. The following are not pests: • grasshoppers flying before June • grasshoppers with hind wings highly visible in flight (i.e., red, yellow, orange or black) • grasshoppers that sing, call, clack, clatter, or make other similar sounds, either in flight or on the ground A common method of rat-
ing fields for grasshopper risk is to estimate “foot-square” counts. These are done by walking in a field to disturb the grasshopper nymphs (immature grasshoppers with no wings or small wings) and counting how many jump from an area of one square foot. A sample average of one or more grasshoppers per square foot could be a risk to crops, while lower numbers could damage seedlings or flowering crops. Both chemical and cultural control practices can be used for grasshoppers.
Chemical control includes insecticides and poisoned bait—such as trap strips to attract grasshoppers to small areas that can then be chemically treated—whereas cultural control methods include: Crop and cultivar selection for grasshopper-resistant strains Early seeding so that plants are larger and can withstand more grasshopper damage in summer Weed control to discourage egg-laying in the fall and remove potential food sources for young grasshoppers
Grasshopper populations are highly dependent on weather conditions. The
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March 12, 2021
Community pasture watered, scrubbed RM of Wallace-Woodworth & MFGA wrap up two-year Conservation Trust pasture enhancement project.
Kirkella Community Pasture is a unique tract of land in the heart of Wallace-Woodworth municipality, it’s 3,280 acres of unbroken land supplying grazing for over 1200 head of cattle and an important wildlife ecosystem. Conservation Trust, a Manitoba Climate and Green Plan Initiative saw this large landscape as a perfect place to invest in support of a symbiotic relationship – grazing and environmental enhancement. Years ago, the municipality (originally RM of Wallace) had the foresight to protect this marginal land as an asset for the flourishing livestock industry, creating a volunteer board of local producers that included two municipal councillors. Sitting prominently near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border just north of the Trans-Canada Highway, the Kirkella Community Pasture project was one of the first announced by the Conservation Trust in 2018. The project was led by the Rural Municipality of Wallace-Woodworth
and Manitoba Forage and Grasslands Association (MFGA), who partnered to match the generous project funding with inkind work necessary to make the $200,000 project a reality. “The Kirkella Community Pasture is a municipallyowned tract of land that… includes grassland, wetland and woodland habitats,” said Garth Mitchell, Wallace-Woodworth’s Chief Administrative Officer. “Thanks to The Conservation Trust, we saw a great opportunity to undertake improvements to the pasture for the purpose of enhancing grazing opportunities as well as the environmental benefits that result from more effective grazing and landscape management practices.” The pasture project erected fencing to benefit the pasture health for cattle grazing and biodiversity, and installed three dugouts for better water quality and access for cattle. A major undertaking of the project was an extensive mowing program to control woody species. MFGA had also provided
Using horses, Alistair Hagan, Kirkella Community Pasture manager, checks and moves the cattle. PHOTO/ALISTAIR HAGAN
the project with a pasture review report by experts in rangeland health and from the local Assiniboine West Watershed District who walked the pasture and suggested actions and recommendations around pasture enhancements. According to Alistair
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Hagan, Kirkella Community Pasture manager, the project was discussed at length within the Kirkella Pasture Patrons committee before settling on the course of action. “We wanted to improve the environmental benefits to the habitat within
this unique property surrounded largely by grain land and also improve our grazing management to provide better results for our patrons,” says Hagan. “In short, we were looking for the best and longest lasting pasture benefits that would also be preparing for future possible drought cycles with the hopes of holding our current grazing numbers. Grazing land is constantly harder to find in our area and we are trying to do the best job we can to create the best financial returns for our cattle owners.” Three strategicallyplaced dugouts, each with more than one-milliongallon capacity, are key improvements. Hagan explains, “The dugouts are extremely low maintenance, low risk water sources that also provide great water sources for the local wildlife. Once the dugouts were established and full it allowed us to build additional cross fences to better graze and rest the native prairie.” The dugouts were followed up with the massive mowing process to set
back the shrubbery and open up large amounts of previously non grazed acres. The dugouts and new cross fences coupled with the ability to rotate the steers all in one large mob will help hold the regrowth of shrubs by creating new grazing pressure in these before unused acres. “This whole project, we feel, will not only help the local habitat but also our cattle owners as well,” says Hagan. From MFGA’s project perspective, that is exactly the harmony and balance that Larry Wegner, MFGA chair, wants to hear. “These kinds of projects are a strong fit with MFGA’s mission and vision…” says Wegner, who also farms near the Virden area. “With the expertise of our producer-led board, we are able to identify and align with the business aspects around the pasture decisions. We know the Kirkella Community Pasture enhancements will be great for conservation and we also fully understand the economic side of the enhancements will be valued and necessary too.”
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March 12, 2021
Riding Kirkella range By Anne Davison
Alistair Hagan figures the best way to manage about 1200 cattle ranging on 25 sections of bush, with a few rocks, holes and sloughs thrown in, is on horseback. He’s a practical minded, modern day cowboy. That’s how he manages Kirkella pasture and there’s a good reason for it. “It’s a terrible place to drive a quad across,” says Hagan. “I run that pasture, it’s like my cabin at the lake.” But he doesn’t work alone when he can involve likeminded cowboys to enjoy a day on the range. “The people that I invite are cowboys at heart, but they have other jobs.” Everything from checking the fences, cattle’s health and wellbeing, to moving them from paddock to paddock is all done from the back of a horse. Kirkella pasture is 66 kms from Alistair and Erin Hagan’s own Virden area ranch where they run 450head of cattle and 60 head of performance horses. They don’t keep cattle on Kirkella pasture, nor does Alistair live there. “There’s not enough
money in the budget to pay a guy to be there fivedays-a-week. You have to have reliable water, otherwise you’re in trouble,” he says, thankful for the three large new dugouts recently installed at Kirkella. These yearling steers come from a number of different patrons. Most won’t have seen a horse and rider. “We spend a lot of time getting them trained to horses. When they come off the truck, they’re rattled, so we give them a chance to settle. There’s a good corral. We contain them. “It t a k e s a b o u t 4 5 minutes, and they come around. Once they do, and they get a drink of water in those corrals, you give them that 45 minutes and don’t bother them, they’ll settle down. “Then we introduce the horse. They’re curious. Usually, one or two come to look at you. You ride in and one or two come to look at you, and you ride away.” It’s a tried and true ‘pressure and release’ tactic often used in horse training, as well. “We won’t quit until the
whole pen is curious.” They work about 200 head at a time, circling the pen with cattle following the horses. “Then we open the gate, ride out to grass and the cows follow. You do that a couple days in a row and pretty soon they think that the horse gives [them] grass.” Combining work with pleasure, Hagan calls in friends for the big roundup in the fall for what would be considered a high-priced vacation, by some. “We go there, we camp for a week… for round-up.” It’s a calendar event. “By May 1st, we’ll set round-up (date) and they’ll all book their holidays around that.” For some of the shorter stints, the cowboys bring their families along. “These guys are a great help. We eat well, we visit lots… we’re right there to get a good job done for the patrons. It’s an all-round good fit.” Joe Wright, a Virdenborn friend who now works in Brandon is one of Hagan’s long-time helpers. “He comes out every two weeks and rides with me. He’s a cowboy at heart. We always have a joke, we
Campfire time when the work’s all done on Kirkella range.
say, ‘I wonder what the poor people are doing?’” Pasture cattle have to be checked regularly. “We treat for foot rot, pink eye. It’s not near as safe to go by myself. My wife comes, and the kids, or it’s Joe.” Some days they treat up to a dozen head. “We rope them, lay them down and doctor them. We want them to be healthy and blemish free.” In the grazing system, the yearling cattle are rotated through the pasture paddocks. “I pick a little
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bigger crew if we’re going to bump them around because there’s 1200 in a group.” During fall round-up, the cattle are brought into the corrals where the sorting is done by horseback, before the owners come to load them up. In the spring, those young cattle arrived at Kirkella pasture with their owner’s brand. That’s important for identification. “Give me a chance and some quiet time and I’ll figure it out,” says Hagan.
It’s his preferred way. Out of 1200 cattle, there might be a half-dozen that are tricky to identify. Then it comes down to a count or even a haircut to show up the brand more clearly. Along with the cowboy way of working, there’s patron history attached to Kirkella pasture. “It was set up for Wallace people,” says Hagan. “I think there’s a lot of pride in the fact, for the people on the board, that either their father or grandfather helped establish it.”
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March 12, 2021
AWWD rolls out wetland agreement
Assiniboine West Watershed District (AWWD) has reached the first successful Shallow Wetland Incentive Project (SWIP) agreement with Zack Koscielny a Strathclair area farmer. The program targets the
protection of class1 and 2 wetlands on cultivated farmland and pays landowners annually to maintain these important ecological features. These wetlands are small in size, shallow and often can be farmed through in
“normal years”. Unlike class 3, 4 and 5 wetlands which are often larger, more permanent and now protected with increased provincial regulations, class1 and 2 wetlands are still vulnerable to loss. These wet-
lands provide important flood and drought protection, habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife and can have an impact on local weather patterns. The SWIP program simply pays landowners not to drain or fill these important wetland features. There are no other land use restrictions; you can farm the land the way you have always done. and Epicauta species of blister Payments are based on beetles, all of which feed on the land’s agricultural class grasshopper eggs, were quite and most lands around the noticeable in some locations watershed will receive $75 of Manitoba in 2020. per acre per year to leave The risk of economically these wetlands intact. So, significant. populations of on dry years, the producer grasshoppers developing receives the payment with in 2021 varies, depend- no real impact to farming on location. Over- ing operations and in years all the risk is generally low where yields suffer in these to moderate in most areas, small potholes, the payment but there has been an increase compensates for the loss. in higher counts in surveys The Assiniboine West Waover the past three years. tershed District is home to If weather is favourable for 30 per cent of the province’s grasshopper survival and class1 and 2 wetlands and development there may be is an important flyway for areas where grasshoppers are waterfowl in the Canadian a concern to crops in 2021. Prairies. The Province of When they have the op- Manitoba invested 50 milportunity, farmers and lion dollars to support this agronomists are encour- program specifically and aged to monitor grasshopper the interest earned on this populations along roadsides, investment, housed in The field edges, and other areas Winnipeg Foundation, will where populations tend to be be managed by Manitoba concentrated or at high levels Habitat Heritage Corporaearly in the season. tion and provided to Wa-
Hoppers on the increase
Pg 13 preceding years of hot, dry summers —which can reduce the population of birds and rodents that prey on them—and warm autumns, which allow mature grasshoppers more time to feed and to lay eggs. Cool, wet summer weather, on the other hand, hinders grasshopper development and increases the possibility of grasshopper diseases. GRASSHOPPER FORECAST FOR 2021 This forecast is based on counts of grasshopper populations in August (which estimates the egg-laying population), weather data (which helps estimate whether those female grasshoppers present are capable of laying their optimum level of eggs), and recent trends in grasshopper populations. In some years, natural enemy populations may significantly affect the number of grasshopper eggs
that survive and hatch, and such data may be pertinent to the forecast as well. Counts are generally done in or alongside crop fields in Manitoba. The goal is to estimate levels of the four species of grasshoppers that have potential to be pests of crops in Manitoba. Grasshopper levels have increased over the past few years. Whether populations continue to increase will depend on factors such as weather and natural enemies. Grasshopper levels should be monitored carefully, beginning in late-May or early-June in 2021. Grasshopper populations do well in dry years and generally increase more over a series of dry years. Conditions for egg laying in late summer were generally good. Our pest species of grasshoppers all overwinter in the egg stage. Populations of bee flies, field crickets,
Zack Koscielny of Strathclair and AWWD Manager Ryan Canart. Koscielny has just signed on to the Shallow Wetland Incentive Program. PHOTO/SUBMITTED
tershed Districts to fund the program long term. AWWD GEARS UP IN 2021 The conservation district is gearing up for a busy year. Shelterbelt orders still trickle in, funding is secured to build at least eight small dams with more funds pending. Other programming will help producers add forage to their crop rotations, protect water sources for livestock, address soil erosion and overall soil health. Protection of water quality in recreational lakes and drinking sources is another area of activity for the district and AWWD will be offering another well water testing day later this summer. Lastly, the conservation
district has the ability to help local governments collect and manage asset data such as culverts and community owned utilities, as well as manage surface water flows. Recent gathering of LIDAR data completes the information for the district. ABOUT LIDAR Light Detection and Ranging is a remote sensing method used to examine the land surface. It is highly accurate elevation data and is used to plan and manage water flows. Topographic lidar typically uses a near-infrared laser to map the land, while bathymetric lidar uses waterpenetrating green light to also measure seafloor and riverbed elevations. Submitted by Ryan Canart
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March 12, 2021
Heritage Family Farms
A new quarterly feature in the Empire-Advance celebrating local long-running family farming operations
We are looking to share your family’s history. Contact Anne today to see how you can have your family farm’s story told in one of our upcoming Heritage Family Farm special features.
If your business is interested in advertising in the new Heritage Family Farm feature, contact Candice today for more information. Only 7 advertising spots are available. This new 4-page pull-out feature will run March, June, September and December in the last edition of the month.
Candice McLauchlan email@example.com 204.512.0289
Anne Davison firstname.lastname@example.org 204.412.0050
March 12, 2021
Weston Family Foundation supports grassland
The Weston Family Foundation has launched a five-year program to protect grasslands in the Prairies. Nearly $25M has been committed to five organizations to accelerate the implementation of sustainable practices and achieve landscape-level impact. That funding is going to Nature Conservancy of Canada along with four other groups. Each organization will provide matching and in-kind donations for a total of $70M going toward this collaboration. It aims to increase the amount of land protection in the prairies, improve species at risk habitat, en-
able wildlife movement, and ultimately increase long-term ecological and economic stability. It is an investment not just in the grasslands, but in Canada’s ranching communities and the health and well-being of Canadians. It is about ensuring a sustainable future. To t hat end, t he Nature Conservancy of Canada will be working directly with ranchers as part of a stewardship incentive program to help them improve grazing and land management, while at the same time conserving land, water, plants and wildlife. There are more than 11,000 producers using Canada’s Prairie grasslands to graze
livestock. They are predisposed to protect the places on which their livestock and livelihoods depend. Their actions and impact, in turn, will encourage other private landowners to achieve greater protection of the grasslands. Another of the organizations involved, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) will work collaboratively with prairie farmers, ranchers and other landowners to protect grasslands and wetlands over the next five years. Grasslands and wetlands are essential to a resilient landscape, and it is through these partnerships that producers can be compensated for their ongoing conservation ef-
PHOTO/COURTESY NATURE CONSERVANCY CANADA
forts. “DUC has been working on the Canadian Prairies since our organization was established more than 80 years ago,” says Karla
Guyn, chief executive officer for DUC. “We have a strong relationship with, and a deep respect for, the farmers and ranchers who steward the lands that
support biodiversity in Canada. Working together, we can unite the needs of conservation and agriculture on this important working landscape.”
Province’s second protein summit a resounding success
More than 650 individuals from across the globe attended the Manitoba Protein Summit, hosted by the government of Manitoba and the Manitoba Protein Consortium, Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen announced on Feb. 25. “The protein industry is driving new investment and opportunities for Manitoba in both plant and animal
protein,” said Pedersen. “Since the first summit and the release of the Manitoba Protein Advantage Strategy, we’ve seen an additional $680 million in new investment in the protein industry, creating close to 600 jobs.” The virtual event hosted a mix of international, Canadian and Manitoba presenters that covered key information on the protein industry, lessons learned for
the industry through the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of producing protein in a sustainable manner. “Events such as Manitoba’s Protein Summit open doors for Manitoba companies and help connect them with global stakeholders,” said Pedersen. “Providing these opportunities will ensure Manitoba will continue to be a leader in protein
innovation.” Manitoba’s Protein Advantage Strategy is a bold approach to attracting new investment in the animal and plant-protein sector, creating new jobs, increasing protein production in a sustainable manner and positioning the province as a leader in protein research and innovation, the minister said. The strategy will continue to maintain the
Manitoba government’s focus on creating an environment for investment attraction while supporting research and innovation, and reducing red tape, he added. “This event directly aligns with the work being undertaken by the Manitoba Protein Consortium and the Sustainable Protein Design Team to develop the Sustainable Protein Action
Framework, and how we as Manitoba’s protein industry should take collective ownership of this Framework and move it to action,” said Dickson Gould, chair of the Manitoba Protein Consortium. “Our goals are to elevate Manitoba’s economy through sustainable protein innovation, value chain collaboration and to foster a culture of stewardship for our environment.”
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March 12, 2021
White mould research at ACC
BRANDON, Man. (February 5, 2021)— Assiniboine Community College has received $41,850 from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) Ag Action Manitoba Program with matching funding from the Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG) for a total $83,700 for the research project. The funding, to come in April 2021, will support research focused on managing white mould in dry beans grown in Manitoba’s climate. “White mould is a serious threat to many Manitoba crops, including dry beans,” said Dr. Baljeet Singh, researcher at Assiniboine, who is the principle investigator on the project.
“To prevent crop losses to white mould, we will work to provide real-time disease risk warnings for Manitoba growers.” The project, officially titled “Weather Based Fungicide Application Decision Support Tool (FADST) for Managing White Mould in Dry Beans in Manitoba” will be carried out in three phases over two years, starting with optimizing a disease severity model, then developing and releasing a weather-based FADST that Manitoba producers can use to manage white mould in dry beans. The FADST will combine information surrounding weather data, white mould
Dr. Baljeet Singh teaches a group of 1st year Agribusiness students in the field
severity and agronomic practices to assist Manitoba producers in making informed fungicide application decisions. “This important research will ultimately enhance Manitoba producers’ abil-
ity to optimize yields in dry beans,” said Tim Hore, Dean of the School of Agriculture & Environment at Assiniboine. “We thank the CAP Ag Action Manitoba Program and MPSG for recognizing this
need and supporting this research. “Dry beans represent an important, growing market in Manitoba,” said Dr. Daryl Domitruk, Executive Director of Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG). “Research partnerships such as the one MPSG has with Assiniboine Community College to tackle the issue of white mould are vital to ensuring our farmers are as supported as possible and vital to establishing dry beans as a viable crop option in multiple regions of Manitoba.” The Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s Ag Action Manitoba Program supports industry-driven
applied research. This research contributes to the development of agricultural knowledge and skills and improves competitiveness and sustainability in Manitoba’s agriculture, agri-food and agri-product sectors. “We’re happy to support this important research initiative with the Assiniboine Community College,” said Blaine Pedersen, Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development. “White mould can be detrimental to bean crops, severely reducing their yields. Manitoba producers will greatly benefit from the research being undertaken by the college.”
Carbon tax legislation progresses
OTTAWA – Parliament voted in favour of Bill C-206 at second reading, which will provide a full exemption on all farm fuels, including natural gas and propane from the Liberal carbon tax. The legislation received bipartisan support, other than the Liberal government, who voted against the bill.
Larry Maguire, MP for Brandon-Souris, seconded C-206, and has been working with his colleagues to get the bill through Parliament. This is the second Conservative led bill to recently pass second reading that will positively impact Westman farmers, as Maguire’s own bill to lower taxes on family farms and qualifying small
business transfers has now been sent to Finance Committee. “I was elected to get results for the people of Westman and exempting farmers from the Liberal carbon tax is at the top of my list,” said Maguire. “After an incredibly wet harvest in 2019, farmers have been asking the Liberal government to exempt
them from the carbon tax and the Liberals ignored them every step of the way.” Since the Liberals imposed a carbon tax, numerous Westman farmers have contacted Maguire to outline how they had to dry almost all their grain from the 2019 harvest and as a result, had to pay the carbon tax. As there are no substitutes for propane
or natural gas for drying grain, the only way to provide relief will be to change the legislation to exempt them. Now that C-206 has passed second reading, it will be sent to the Agriculture Committee to study the legislation. Witnesses and stakeholders will be able to present evidence on how the carbon tax has
impacted farmers and the agricultural sector. Maguire concluded, “Having farmed, I understand the challenges facing producers. Instead of waiting for the Liberals to table legislation to fix this, I will continue to work with my colleagues to get this legislation through Parliament and enacted into law.”
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March 12, 2021
Minding mental health helps farm operation By Brenda Hunter
Without a doubt, the most important components of a farming operation are its people. “In agriculture, we always hear about the latest advances in technology and innovation, and we forgot about our people,” said Lesley Kelly, co-founder of Do More Agriculture Foundation, an organization specifically founded to deal with mental health issues facing farmers. “We should’ve been talking about this years ago.” Farmers face a unique set of challenges and living rurally provides a lifestyle choice that is different than the mainstream population. “The issue is more surrounding the sheer nature of this lifestyle,” said Adelle Stewart, Executive Director of Do More Ag. “The unpredictability, volatility, and uniqueness of the sector; to remain in this space, a certain level of heightened resiliency needs to be part of the make up of the producers. The “toughness” of that shell, is what I believe can contribute to the stigma and reluctance to seek help sometimes.” This message is echoed by
Katey Darr, a young woman living near Tantallon, Saskatchewan who has been involved in farming for as long as she can remember. Diagnosed with severe childhood depression at a young age, she is no stranger to mental illness. “As people are becoming more aware that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, they are more open to understanding these issues and how they can affect anyone. The typical mentality is that farmers are supposed to be tough, strong and unbreakable, so in a way it created a barrier and in turn no one wanted to open up (or didn’t know how to bring it up) when they were having a tough time. I think a lot of people were made to think that you couldn’t admit that you weren’t okay, that you just had to ‘get over it’ and keep going.” She is thankful that she was diagnosed with her mental illness at a very young age, as she developed an awareness that has carried through to her adult life. It has taught her to deal with her symptoms early before they become a much larger problem. “I had to find ways to
manage my illness and still live a regular life,” reflected Darr. “It made me become more self-aware about how I’m feeling and if I am starting to feel something’s off, I know I need to start working on it.” Kim Hyndman-Moffat, a counsellor with the Manitoba Farm, Rural and Northern Support Services (MFRNSS) toll-free phone line (formerly known as the Farm & Rural Stress Line) believes the stigma surrounding mental health is lessening although there is still a long way to go. A rural resident herself and former farm partner, she has experienced firsthand the many challenges of maintaining a viable farming operation. She, as well as her colleagues, have noticed a real shift in producers’ willingness to open up with someone that they can trust and has an understanding as to the issues facing farmers. “In the 20 years I’ve been doing this, we’ve seen a lot more discussion and a lot of changes,” said Hyndman-Moffat. “It’s like a big ship turning around; it is slowly happening but it’s slow going. I feel more hopeful now than any other
time that the attitudes towards reaching out for help are changing. The benefits of talking to someone outside the situation in a safe and confidential way can sometimes make a big difference in one’s ability to move through their problems. There is no problem too big or too small to discuss on the line.” “Farmers are reaching out more and more which is very positive,” agreed Stewart of Do More Ag. Darr also feels that the tide is changing for the better; that awareness and education around mental health challenges facing farmers is creating more conversation. “When one person speaks up, others listen and they begin to share their story, in a way creating a movement,” she said, adding, “I am a strong believer that awareness around mental health is creating a safe place for those suffering to speak up, no matter their gender.” This is why Darr has chosen to share her experience. “Mental health should be something that is a regular conversation piece, something that everyone
can talk about openly. You never know if your story can inspire someone else to find help or even for them to know that they’re not alone in how they may be feeling.”
“As we focus on mental health in agriculture and use real stories from farmers, we can continue with the awareness so that no one has to feel that they are alone.”
Read to relax By Anne Davison Robert Kennedy Bell’s book series: Newfield House Homesteaders on the Canadian Prairie takes the reader back to the land, to a time before tractors – when Beulah had a general store, Birtle was a trading center and the distant town of Virden was putting down roots. In the genre of historical fiction, Bell’s ancestors were claiming their property, clearing a garden patch with an axe and rolling the sod out of the way. They made friends with Birdtail Sioux families and a neighbour’s help was critical. Feel the joy of a young dad on his first prairie
holding near Miniota, when he receives news that his wife, back in Pickering, Ont. has delivered their second child. “I’ve got a daughter, and we’re calling her Annie…” The Newfield House books are available through online bookstores and are also sold by Bernice Still as an Isabella Museum fundraiser.
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March 12, 2021
Fall soil moisture survey gives insight for spring By Anne Davison
Uncertainty is uncomfortable when cropping decisions need to be made, and on the prairies moisture is always uncertain. The amount of moisture within the root zone prior to freeze-up provides a good indication of what can be expected in the spring. With snow cover and freezing temperatures, soil moisture content remains relatively stable throughout the winter. This is especially true in frozen moist soils whose pores become “sealed off ”. For maps made prior to 2019, Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development collected soil samples from about 100 sites across AgroManitoba during the last week of October and the first week of November. Each soil sample was classified based on its similarities to well-characterized soils around Manitoba. From there, soil moisture by weight was converted to percent soil moisture by volume. The available soil moisture as a percent of water holding capacity was calculated. In 2016 a new data gathering system was introduced. Theta-probe sensors
were installed at about 107 weather station locations within the agricultural region of the Province. This system ran parallel to the existing system for three years. The 2018 fall moisture survey was used as a baseline to compare ground sampling and data from sensors. The results were comparable and digital observations from the sensors were used to make the fall soil moisture maps from 2019 and onward. J.L. (Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He’s a columnist for Grainews, and recently finished a second printing of Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water, a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Henry specializes in interpreting data for practical use on the farm, and believes that context is critical. He says, “It is obvious the person interpreting the data must know the soil involved and other management practices and environmental conditions that affect moisture use.” For example, at one site the moisture content was
IMAGE COURTESY LES HENRY
much higher than nearby sites. The factor was a hail storm that cut off water use by the crop. It is not only the data but also the knowledge and experience of those interpreting the data that makes it useful in guiding farm management decisions. The first soil moisture maps for 1978 and the 1980s were essentially a “top-down” survey. The first step was to make rainfall maps that covered the fall recharge period, start-
ing about mid-August. Henry says that with the increasing use of digital sensors “farmers with soil moisture probes installed, maintained and interpreted by an agronomist, will have exactly that type of data and will be able to make very informed decisions based on facts, not probabilities. Water in the ground is a fact; rainfall is a probability.” In Manitoba fall rains for soil recharge were almost non-existent in
2020. Managing around a very dry soil depends on the type of farm. On a multi-generation family farm with much land paid for, considerable financial depth and good operating relationships the manager could decide to go ahead and pour in the fertilizer as if there is going to be above-average rain. If it stays dry, nitrogen fertilizer is going nowhere. It will be sitting there ready to go to work when it does rain. The second scenario is a
young farmer, highly leveraged with most of the land cash rented at high-per-acre rates. For that situation, it is probably best to cut the rate a lot and be prepared to dribble band liquid nitrogen fertilizer, if the rains suddenly kick in. One possible drawback of mid season banding is that in order to benefit the crop the nitrogen application must be followed by timely rain. Les Henry reminds us “not many have the connections to make that happen.”
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