Approach government with an extended hand, says Christian farmers

Major commodity groups have joined forces to try to counter claims that farmers’ use of neonicotinoids is wreaking havoc on bees. The full-page “open letter to Ontarians” has been featured in daily newspapers. In their plea for support, they say Statistics Canada data shows bee colonies are actually growing, and that field research does not support claims that neonicotinoid pesticides cause bee colony health issues. They believe Ontarians are not hearing their side of the story. So, they’ve put pen to paper to try to build support for their efforts.

However, one group that didn’t add its name was the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. In a recent weekly commentary, board member Peter Peeters noted that for the first time in a long time, rural Ontario is bereft of elected members inside the provincial legislature, working on farmers’ behalf. He says this means the legislature won’t farmers need to approach government with an extended hand, rather than a clenched fist. They need to engage in dialogue, adapt strategies and policies to capture decision-maker’s interest, and support scientific facts

Most farmers agree with Peeters on one thing: research-based decisions must be the order of the day. A key here is to be able to explain them clearly, without hysteria, and that responsibility falls on everyone. Reaching out to the public through the media in a responsible manner is a tactic that can help information get to those who want it and need it. From my perch, the government needs farmers more than ever. So do all Ontarians.

christianfarmers.org

christianfarmers.org

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Workplace health and safety no longer lost in translation

Mexico is a popular vacation destination for Canadian tourists. As more than 1.5 million Canadians step off the plane, more than 16,000 workers will step on (mainly from Mexico, as well as the Caribbean), bound for Canada as seasonal foreign workers. They’re an essential part of farming here, particularly for manual labour, and may stay for up to eight months from mid-February to the fall. And even though many come from farming backgrounds, especially those from Mexico, language can be an issue in communicating, especially about workplace safety.

In Ontario, that’s where Workplace Safety and Prevention Services comes in. Last winter, the Guelph regional office held focus groups with farm group leaders and employers, and members from the Mexican consulate, to discuss the kind of workplace safety collateral that would be effective for Spanish-speaking workers. The effort has resulted in a new collection of Spanish and English farm safety training tools, coming soon to wsps.ca. Included in the tools is a video in English and Spanish that gives viewers an idea of what they will be doing in the field and how to do it safely. There’s also 16 conversation guides that address specific hazards for supervisors to deliver awareness on-site, and a three-hour program with how-to visuals that employers can use to teach Spanish-speaking employees job safety measures regarding health and safety.

It’s a message all farmers could take to heart. This Spanish translation initiative makes agricultural workplaces safer for employers and employees alike, regardless of nationality. Workplace health and safety for farmers and farm workers alike is vital if Canada is to produce the high-quality products it’s known for.

Seasonal foreign workers are vital to the agriculture industry. Photo credit thestar.com

Seasonal foreign workers are vital to the agriculture industry. Photo credit thestar.com

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Pass those healthy peas, please!

The federal government recently spent $870,000 to fund research for pulse crops, like peas and lentils. It’s a good investment — for farmers, for the nation, and even for the world. Pulses are local, high in fibre and low in fat. They can reduce cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, and the likelihood of obesity. Canada is the world’s largest exporter of this superfood, providing nearly 40 per cent of the amount on the export market.

Make peas and lentils a part of your diet. Photo credit: saskpulse.com

Make peas and lentils a part of your diet. Photo credit: saskpulse.com

It can be difficult to get the word out about research commitments such as this. But one key to grabbing the spotlight is to highlight pulses’ influence on the health of Canadians, and others worldwide. Pulses are a preventive medicine. If you can make peas and lentils more a part of your diet and prevent high blood pressure and a potential stroke, why not? Peas and lentils won’t make people get up off the couch. Nutrition is a great start to a better health regime, but it can’t solve the dilemma of inactivity.

One way to increase any food’s uptake is making sure consumers know how to prepare it. Pepper them with recipes and other information. Part of the federal announcement about pulses involved marketing their health benefits and nutritional values. Hopefully that can be interpreted broadly enough to include preparation tips and recipes, so people will actually be interested enough to consume them.

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