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Caring for the Land

 By Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural enthusiast

January 4, 2021 - It is common for consumers to have questions about farming practices and a farmer’s care for the environment.  With an industry as diverse as agriculture, no one (not even those who work in it) can be expected to understand all aspects of it completely.  In addition, there are so many different ways to farm that no two farms are ever alike.

The vast majority of farms do have some commonalities.  Aside from managing large amounts of work with limited resources and always being expected to produce more from less, the most noticeable similarity is a farmer’s genuine care for his or her animals and for the environment.

Most farmers are continually trying to find ways to better protect their farm’s land and environment.  There will always be exceptions, but one bad apple should never affect the way people view an entire orchard. 

Many farmers in Ontario have been working to reduce the ecological footprint of their farm.  Farmers can complete Environmental Farm Plans which take them through a step by step process to show where they could make changes to protect the environment.  Government funding is then available to the farmers to make any recommended changes including building manure storage systems, capturing waste water, creating wildlife habitats, keeping animals out of waterways, and more.

Since the Environmental Farm Plan program was first introduced, over 70 per cent of Ontario farmers have completed one and have spent over $100 million of their own money making the suggested changes.  It is estimated for every dollar in government funding, farmers spend six dollars of their own money to implement changes (www.caringfortheland.com).  To complete an EFP, farmers are required to attend a full day workshop and complete a binder filled with evaluation sheets and plans of action.

There are many projects livestock farmers have been undertaking to reduce their impact on the environment.  Although it was once acceptable for animals to have access to streams and waterways, they are now generally kept out of the water to reduce possible sources of contamination.  In addition, the Nutrient Management Act has set strict guidelines on how manure is to be stored and handled to prevent runoff.

Farmers attend regular seminars and read literature about the latest research and advancements in the industry.  They will then implement any changes that are feasible and relevant to their business.

Because of concerns with pesticide use, farmers are required to attend a full-day course called the Grower Pesticide Safety Course, and write a test about what they learned there.  In the course, farmers learn how to properly handle and apply pesticides.  They learn ways to protect against spills, make sure the correct amount is being applied to the field, and how to protect themselves from the pesticides.  The license is mandatory for all farmers who purchase or apply pesticides and it must be renewed every five years.

Farmers are constantly making changes to their systems to ensure their land and animals are cared for as well as possible.  They will continue to make these changes as research comes available, and as new tools are developed for them to use.

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Posted by FFC on January 4th, 2011 :: Filed under Environmental Farm Plan,Farm life,Regulations,Research,Sustainability of the family farm
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One Response to “Caring for the Land”

  1. Ben Millson
    February 17th, 2011

    Great work Patricia! These are very well written. You have a knack for explaining farm practices and policies in detail while keeping them concise and easy to understand.

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