Farmers have had more than their usual share of challenges this year, as they work to feed us. While the rest of us chow down during Thanksgiving, many farmers will still be working to get their crops off the field. Unpredictable weather, tricky growing conditions, and plant disease have made production a challenge. Add in the Russian boycott of Canadian agricultural products and the debate over bees and pesticides, and it’s a tumultuous time. Normal conditions just don’t seem to exist anymore.
The unusual heat, then cold, then rain, then drought is prompting new policy-making discussions about climate change. And farmers want to be part of it. They want decisions to be research based. In Ontario, they’ve seen how research advancements from the University of Guelph have helped farmers adapt to new growing conditions and climates. The University of Guelph recently made a pact with the province to make agriculture and food one its top areas of specialization. Together with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, they are major players in Canadian agricultural advancements.
Newly installed U of G President Franco Vaccarino spoke of some of these achievements at his installation address, and the later at Canada’s Good Food Innovation Awards. He noted research at universities can help us get through tough times, and find the upside of uncertainty. He’s right. It’s that way among farmers as well. They never throw up their hands and give in, no matter what the challenge may be. Consider their fortitude as the holiday approaches, and give thanks for their determination.
Read more about Canada’s Good Food Innovation Awards here and watch the President’s address below.
The anticipated late harvest in Ontario this year has some farm safety officials worried. Farm safety problems peak during harvest in the fall, when farmers spend long hours getting their crop off the fields in a short amount of time. Powerful and potentially dangerous equipment and 18-hour days can be a dangerous combination. The late harvest this year has created a smaller window, resulting in longer hours for farmers.
Farmers worry about a late corn harvest. Photo credit eastgwillimburywow.blogspot.com
Dean Anderson, Guelph-based agricultural program manager for Ontario Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, says farm safety problems get worse when farmers are in a hurry to harvest. To prepare, he has spoken to groups about farm safety, emphasizing the importance of the farm safety plan. But lately, equipment has been getting attention. Machinery manufacturers are starting to affix maximum speed, which can range from 55-100 km/h, signs on equipment that travels on public roads to inform other drivers. The trouble is these machines also display a slow-moving vehicle sign, marking them as vehicles travelling 40 km/h or less. It’s difficult for passenger vehicles to know what’s right, and shows that farm safety problems aren’t always confined to the farm.
Anderson and other farm safety experts will be discussing these problems and others at a workshop in Bingemans in Kitchener on Oct. 27. Among the agenda items are tractor safety, electrical safety around the farm, working at heights and vulnerable seasonal and foreign workers. Farmers work long, hard hours feeding us, and they need our support and understanding to be safe. And this year, they need it more than ever.
Food Day Canada is this Saturday, and many Canadians are preparing by swapping all-Canadian menu ideas on the event’s Facebook page and discussing it on Twitter. The event is based on the hard work and ingenuity of Canadian farmers, and thanks to founder Anita Stewart, recognizes Canadian food and those who produce it. Social media helped Food Day Canada reach across the country; @FoodDayCanada has 26,000 followers – that’s a very impressive number, and is a prime example of contemporary electronic media being there to advance the agri-food sector.
But information sharing can be a two-edged sword, as about 300 participants at Cribit Seeds’ open house found out last week from an expert panel that included former University of Guelph crop scientist Terry Daynard, provincial cereal crop specialist Peter Johnson, and Grain Farmers of Ontario chair Henry Van Ankum. They discussed the best and worst of agriculture in the past quarter-century, and what they anticipated in the future. One major theme was communications; opinions ranged from calling Twitter a ‘remarkable’ development and a tool to challenge questionable information, to saying social media was one of the worst things to happen to agriculture, to discussing the opportunities for communication with consumers about what farmers do.
But there’s a long road ahead. The farm sector’s profile can be enhanced through social media, but relatively few are on Twitter. And since the public wants and needs to hear from farmers according to the panel, more should join. As Food Day Canada approaches, think about these issues, but don’t forget to remember how lucky we are to be blessed with amazing food, dedicated farmers, and progressive local farm-owned companies like Cribit Seeds.
Farmers gathered for Cribit’s Seeds anniversary event heard social media has been a curse and a blessing. Photo credit to Erin Calhoun.