Let’s celebrate Canada’s farmers

It’s Ontario Agriculture Week here, and in Saskatchewan it’s Agriculture Month – both are held to celebrate the hard work of farm families in producing food and agricultural products. Farmers and how they bring food to our tables simply don’t get enough attention.

We hear about massive factory farms and somehow we’ve been led to believe misinformation– often through sensational films, news reports and the like – that farmers only care about money at the expense of animal safety, care and food quality.

In Canada, nothing could be further from the truth.

I recently had the privilege of visiting a number of farms and ranches on a Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan tour*  where I met a number of different farmers and saw first-hand what Canada’s farmers are all about. They told us their stories of their passion, pride and commitment in bringing safe, affordable and nutritious food to our tables while protecting their land and investments. Our group included dietitians, nutrition writers, chefs, industry professionals, journalists and even a film maker or two.

We learned about sustainability, pesticides, animal care, food product development and innovation and more. The tour showed me just how much I did not know about agriculture and how misinformation has formed our collective opinion about farming. In fact, according to an Ipsos-Reid survey, 93% of Canadians know little or nothing about farming.

We listened to Shawn Colborn at Colborn Farms, a fifth generation farmer, tell us of the history of the family farm (which currently involves three generations), we also heard about the importance of their children growing up and carrying on these traditions. While we may take our food for granted, consider that only 3 % of our population is involved in food production. We learned about the changes that have taken place since the farm’s beginnings in 1910. Their operation now includes a poultry and grain farm along with a cattle ranch.

Now to where misinformation comes in and how issues are not what they seem. Many people believe pesticides and GMOs are bad for the environment yet we heard from Shawn how these products saved their farm and their arable land. In order to control weeds, they used to have to first till their soil but because of the nature of that soil, when it was dry, the wind simply blew it away. Now they spray (in amounts shown by science to be safe), instead of tilling, and then plant the seeds directly into the soil. That top layer of soil now remains and is rich with nutrients and worms. Definitely a plus for the environment.

Animal treatment and care is another area fraught with misinformation. At Elkrest Farms, we learned about and saw firsthand the three Kornelius brothers’ dairy operation and how important the cow’s welfare is. Cows that are not fed well and their physical wellbeing not considered, including their teats or environmental stress , will produce a decreased amount of milk.

 

 

Even the milking conditions are considered. The milking parlour (the carousel where cows are hooked up for milking) is actually something the cows want to go on. It was funny to hear that the Jersey cows get a second ride on the carousel as they enjoy the ride (they’re only milked once on the ride!).

As we travelled through the area, also visiting other venues such as Star Egg, an egg processing plant and the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre, we were accompanied by farmer Clinton Monchuk, Executive Director, Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan. Any questions we had, Clint provided detailed and understandable answers about every issue. We also went to a few fabulous eateries that focus on local farm products.

It was an eye opening experience to visit and learn about these farms in person. It certainly dispelled many myths for me but also gave me an appreciation of how hard farmers work to put food on our table. As I hear about the weather on the prairies, the rain and snow (in the autumn!), I now listen and think about the consequences for their livelihood and feel for these farmers.

If you can, take the opportunity to visit a farm. Find out where the food on your table comes from.

*I was a guest of Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan but the opinions expressed above are all my own.

Tags: , , ,

Categories: Food Safety, Food Security

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Let’s celebrate Canada’s farmers”

  1. Pat Orsak
    October 3, 2018 at 7:36 pm #

    Thank you for this. I have worked with farm familes for 30+ years, & our family farms as well. In almost all cases the pride & passion farm families have in their operations & the care that they take to produce food safely & sustainability is beyond measure. We really appreciate that you took the time to learn more, and there are many farmers more than glad to answer any questions that you may have – mine included.

    • October 4, 2018 at 11:43 am #

      Pat, there’s no need to thank me! After visiting these farms and spending time with the farmers, I now realize how much we need to thank all of you!

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