let's talk farm animals

Meet the face of November in the Faces of Farming calendar

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by Patricia Grotenhuis

Social media is becoming a useful tool for many people, and as a farmer, Andrew Campbell is no different.

Today, Andrew works alongside his parents on their Appin-area dairy farm, and he started using social media to share the farm’s story with non-farming Ontarians.  In addition, he is helping teach farmers and others working in agricultural about the value of social media on the farm.

Andrew Campbell is the face of November in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar

“I really enjoy doing this.  I’m not trying to convince people to do it (social media), but more trying to show them why people are doing it,” says Campbell.

Because of Campbell’s involvement in social media and efforts to educate others about farming, he is featured as the face of November in the 2012 Faces of Farming Calendar, published by the Farm Care Foundation.  His page is sponsored by the Farmers Feed Cities campaign.


Posted by FFC on October 31st, 2012 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Dairy cattle,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Future of Farming,Social media,Speaking out
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The dirty side of anti-GMO activism

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By Lisa McLean, Farm and Food advisor

If you haven’t noticed an increase in online dialogue about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) lately, you will. Next month, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, a controversial piece of legislation that, if passed, would require mandatory labeling on foods that contain GMOs and would influence labeling practices across North America. And as the voting deadline approaches, there’s an uncanny amount of “new information” being released about the supposed perils of consuming GMOs.

Most recently, a researcher in France managed to publish a scientific paper claiming to have discovered something that decades of private and public research has failed to produce: that GMOs cause cancer. According to the study’s researcher, rats that were fed a diet of GMO corn developed cancer and died at significantly higher rates than controls. Conveniently, the research was completed just in time for the final stretch of the Proposition 37 campaign.

The scientific community around the world has called into questionmany aspects of the study since it was released. Concerns include the conditions under which the results were released to media, the breed of rats used, the architecture of the study, and the troubling history of the lead researcher himself. And while the study’s results were quickly discredited in media outlets around the world, the damage is already done – particularly for consumers who are uninitiated to the dirty tricks used in campaigns such as this one. We can be certain anti-GMO activists will widely quote this “newly available” research. And, at least some consumers who have been safely consuming GMOs for years will buy into the fear mongering.

Anti-GMO activists use all sorts of tactics

But fights such as this one come at a hefty cost. The spending on both sides of the debate is getting out of hand, as proponents and opposition alike invest millions of dollars in campaigns around the issue. The consumer organizations and select food companies in favour of labeling are funded by a healthy dose of organic and so-called “natural” brands that stand to profit handsomely from further differentiation in the marketplace. Their opponents – large corporate food companies and suppliers – are likewise investing even larger sums of money playing defense to point out that their products have already undergone rigorous third party testing and have been proven safe for human consumption, time and again.

The truth is, most North Americans don’t give much thought to what approved scientific technologies were used to grow their safe, affordable food. And, consumers who take the time to educate themselves can opt to avoid foods containing GMOs, (if that is important to them), by choosing products that are labeled “certified organic.” But proponents of GMO labeling continue to turn up public pressure, and in all likelihood, someday soon they’ll succeed. It’s unfortunate that they feel the need to tear down trust in science simply because they don’t like what the science says. It’s unfortunate that, in an effort to scare others into agreeing with them – and in the absence of real evidence – they fabricate junk science to prove their point.

The real shame is that advocates on both sides of the issue are spending millions of dollars cancelling each other out on a noisy battleground. What if, instead of dirty tricks and PR stunts, companies on both sides pooled that campaign money and put it to better use – like investing in credible cancer research, or delivering healthy food programs to people in need?



Posted by FFC on October 22nd, 2012 :: Filed under Activism,Food,Innovation and technology,Research
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Myth buster: Bulls and red

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By Patricia Grotenhuis

Bulls are commonly shown attacking red objects, which has led some to believe the colour red angers bulls.

The reality, however, is very different. Bulls are, in fact, colour-blind.  For them, red is just another shade of gray rather than a colour which triggers aggression.  This is why you do not see bulls charging at red barns if they are out on pasture.

If bulls are colour-blind, why is red always used to depict something which makes them angry? Tradition is the main answer.  There are many examples in society where red and anger have a connection besides depictions of bulls, with the most notable being the expression “seeing red”. 


Posted by FFC on October 18th, 2012 :: Filed under animal handling,Beef cattle,Misconceptions
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How we make Earth Day every day on our farms

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4-H leader Jeanine Moyer asked her 4-H members this summer, how their families make every day Earth Day on their farm. All are members of the Eramosa 4-H Beef Club in Ontario. Here are the responses she received from these young environmentalists:

How we make Earth Day every day on our farms:

Members of the Eramosa 4-H beef club

Luke, age 14

We make every day Earth Day on our family farm by registering for an Environmental Farm Plan and by recycling all materials that are recyclable. There are just a few examples of ways we make our farm environmentally friendly.

Edward, age 19

A lot of our feed supplies come in plastic or cardboard containers and we recycle these each day.

Valerie, age 18

We make our own feed for our 4-H calves every two weeks. To transport the feed from the mixer to our barn we put it into 40 kg feed bags. Since we don’t buy a lot of feed in 40 kg bags we reuse these bags for as long as possible, year after year. Not only do we use these bags for feed, but we also use them to collect garbage in the barn. Reusing these bags is something that we do on our farm to make everyday Earth Day.


Posted by FFC on October 12th, 2012 :: Filed under 4-H,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Beef cattle,Canada,Earth Day,Environment,Environmental Farm Plan,Farm life,Uncategorized
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Your Burger is Done at 71: Food Safety on the Homefront

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Guest blog by Lyndsey Smith

Lyndsey Smith is the editor of RealAgriculture.com, and based at Winnipeg, Manitoba.

I had a Twitter conversation yesterday, regarding E. coli contamination, that got me rather riled up. Because Twitter allows me to interact with so many people, it really does open my eyes to some of the major knowledge gaps the public has on food safety. As we discussed the XL Foods beef recall, some tweeted that they were safe because they bought their beef from a neighbour.

While not eating meat contained on the recall list is the right call, buying local will not protect you from E. coli. And that was just the beginning of the other ways people were “protecting” themselves from E. coli: others pledged to buy only organic beef, still more claimed being vegetarian would keep them safe.

To clear the air on a few points:

- E. coli can and is carried on vegetables as well as meat. Eating vegan or vegetarian alone will not protect you from the bacteria.

- Buying local will not protect from E. coli contamination. There is nothing wrong with supporting your neighbour’s beef farm but bacteria don’t care where you live. E. coli contamination may happen wherever slaughter occurs.

- Ditto for buying organically or naturally raised beef. Organically raised cattle still poop; there is still a risk.

Read the rest of the blog at http://www.realagriculture.com/2012/10/your-burger-is-done-at-71-food-safety-on-the-homefront/


Posted by FFC on October 5th, 2012 :: Filed under Beef cattle,Canada,Consumers,E. coli,Food,Food safety,Misconceptions,Uncategorized
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Defend agriculture by communicating

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Guest blog by Kari Doerksen

This commentary first appeared in the Western Producer

More farmers should share their stories to the wider world by using social media, says an agricultural expert.

I grew up in a small agricultural community, spent seven years in Canada’s best agriculture college at the University of Saskatchewan and was a research scientist for about eight years.

I do not consider myself an agricultural or scientific expert, but I do think agriculture, and the way we talk about it, is important.

The way we communicate and look for information is changing. More than ever, people are going to the internet for their daily news. When we want to know something, what do we do? We used to use an encyclopedia, now we use Google. This is a fundamental change and not a passing fad.

When the public, including policy makers and politicians, searches for biotechnology or agriculture topics on the internet, what do they find?

Unfortunately, they are not finding a balanced conversation about agriculture or science. Several anti-agriculture science groups have caught on to the power of social media and are using it to influence public opinion.

They are using successful ways to spread fear and half-truths about how producers treat their animals and land, and there is little opposing information to balance things out.

I nervously joined Twitter about two years ago. I quickly found a small but mighty agriculture community online — farmers, nutritionists and agvocates. How wonderful.

Social media is an important way to tell our story

But the community is small, most of them are from the United States, and there is a noticeable lack of agriculture scientists.

Producers and ag researchers need to get more involved.

Public opinion does affect government policy. Government policy does affect agriculture research funding and regulation. Research and informed public policy are keys to producers’ ability to provide safe and nutritious food in a responsible way and to remain competitive in the national and international marketplace.

So why does social media matter?

Because now, when the public, policy makers and politicians Google science and agriculture topics, these little things called blogs and tweets show up in the search results. What kind of information do you want them to see?

The question is where to start. I suggest getting involved, slowly if you need to. Bite the bullet. Use Google. Find trusted agricultural organizations. Read a producer’s blog (try Shaun Haney at www.realagriculture.com or @shaunhaney. Find farmers’ blogs at www.causematters.com). If you do not use the internet, tell someone else about it. Maybe they are interested.

Be a leader, and help others become leaders. The practice of leadership challenges us to listen to, understand and respect others, even if we have differences of opinion. Authentic leaders leave their egos at the door. Passionate, honest, humble and courageous people rarely need to sell anything.

We can rethink communication. In the science community we spend a lot of time discussing how we can make the public understand science. We say, “if only the people understood the science, all of our problems would be solved.”

I suggest emphasis could be less on making the public understand science and agriculture at a detailed level. Farming is complicated. Does the public want to understand this complicated subject at a detailed level? I think that most people don’t have a lot of time for this much in-depth learning.

But people, including me, are curious about you, why you do what you do and what you think about all of this controversy around food.

Tell your story. We’re listening.

Kari Doerksen is senior project manager for Valgen, a Saskatchewan-based  genomics research project.


Posted by FFC on October 2nd, 2012 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Speaking out
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