let's talk farm animals

Idle hands are hard to find for this young farmer

(Winterbourne) - Ninety-eight percent of Canadian farms continue to be family owned and operated, but if you are looking for the definition of a family farm,  just look to Scott Snyder and his family.

Scott is a sixth generation farmer in Waterloo Region, working with his father, grandfather and uncle doing everything from producing eggs and grains to feeding beef cattle and boiling maple sap for syrup. “Idle hands isn’t something my family believes in,” says Scott.

Scott Snyder farms with his family in Waterloo Region.

Scott Snyder farms with his family in Waterloo Region.

Like a lot of Ontario farm kids, Snyder enjoyed growing up in an environment where he learned from his family to care for the cattle and chickens or help drive a tractor that was being used to plant a crop. “Growing up with it, being surrounded by it, meant I could appreciate it,” as Snyder thinks back to his childhood. “I had friends who didn’t grow up on a farm, but always wanted to come out to help. That helped me realize how lucky I was to grow up the way I did.”

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 25th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Beef cattle,Crops,eggs,Farm life,Future of Farming
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Lets Get Talking!

Jean L Clavelle

Alright.  I believe it is time to dust off the old soap box and step back on.

Many organizations reporters and marketing programs recently have expressed opinions about what is the “ideal” regarding animal production in Canada.  “Better Beef” from A&W, the W5 report regarding egg layer operations, PETA, HSUS throw around ideas and words intended to pluck at the strings of the consumer’s heart to show that they are better, that they care, that they are not the enemy while big business – agriculture – is trying to simply make an extra buck.  Phrases such as environmentally friendly, sustainable, humane, antibiotic free are tossed around like so much feed in a pig barn.

Although I group these organizations together, their underlining intent is often not the same.  PETA and HSUS want to eliminate the use of animals altogether, A&W wants to drive sales, W5 well I’m not entirely sure why a “news” organization would publish such a one-sided sensationalized commentary other than to increase viewers.  The common denominator is that they are all focused on currying the favour of society and the consumer at the expense of producers and livestock.

Deep down my dirty little secret is that I truly don’t have a problem with a company creating a marketing campaign that targets the needs and wants of the consumer or when a news article provides a balanced article detailing the pitfalls of a production system.  Where I do draw the line is when an organization does not support the Canadian producers that are purchasing their product, the people that have reliably supplied them with a safe healthy food product for decades.  For example the A&W campaign that openly sourced product from suppliers outside of Canada.  I suspect that had the lines of communication been open, Canadian beef producers would have happily agreed to provide whatever beef product A&W requested.  However to imply that the beef industry is not willing to adapt or evolve or cannot supply what is needed is simply erroneous.

Now, that brings me to the point of this story.  Why are the lines of communication not open?  Why are we not telling our story?  Why are we not working with our consumers to identify new trends and supply that product?

I am at a loss as to why livestock agriculture is so afraid to seek out the needs and opinions of its consumers.  Is it because we are afraid that we will not stand up under scrutiny?  Is it because we are afraid we will have to eat humble pie and acknowledge maybe we might have to change?  Agriculture by its very nature is the epitomy of adaption and evolution.  This should be something we in livestock agriculture are excitedly engaged in!

So come on agriculture.  Step up.  Let’s figure out what consumers and society wants.  If that means seeking out consumer’s opinions, and asking questions well then lets get asking!  If that means changing then we may just have to change to meet their needs.  I fear that if we do not, we (and therefore animals and society in general) are going to lose out because the misguided and misinformed may force us to go down the wrong path.

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Posted by FACS on February 17th, 2014 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal care,Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Future of Farming,Misconceptions,Speaking out
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Meet the faces of January in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar

Sarah Brien is a farm girl at heart. Raised on a sheep farm in Ridgetown, ON, she is a fourth generation farmer who naturally inherited her love for the land and animals as well as her sense of community spirit and involvement from her parents.

Erin McLean’s family moved to a farm north of Peterborough when she was five years old. Today, the farm’s offerings include strawberries, peas and raspberries, squash and potatoes, maple syrup and jams and more. They also sell at at local farmers markets and their own two stores.

Erin McLean (left) and Sarah Brien appear in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar.

Erin McLean (left) and Sarah Brien appear in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar.

And, while these two come from different types of farms in different parts of Ontario, they share a common passion for farming – and for sharing their farm stories with the public.

Both are members of a group of 10 young Ontario farmers sharing day to day experiences from their farms through the newly created Dinner Starts Here on-line initiative (www.dinnerstartshere.ca) And, they share a page in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. They appear on the month of January, 2014 on a page sponsored by the Farmers Feed Cities program.

You can watch a video interview with the two women at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hb5SVBRXxs&list=PLxl8ycqu125dgviFG5XoLXP_QPJTJD3IN or follow them on twitter @Mcleanberryfarm and @sarahlee516

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on January 27th, 2014 :: Filed under Faces of Farming,Future of Farming,Sheep,Social media,Speaking out
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Farming in Perth County for seven generations and planning for more

Bob McMillan, Julie Moore and their family appear as the faces of January, 2014 in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

Bob McMillan, Julie Moore and their sons Reid and Nolan appear as the faces of January, 2014 in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

by Patricia Grotenhuis

Bob McMillan and Julie Moore may have struck people as an unlikely pair when they first started dating. He was a farmer passionate about the land and his livestock. She was a self described city girl from Toronto who knew little about farming when they met.

McMillan’s family’s history is entrenched in the rural community near Stratford.  His ancestors bought the Perth County farm in 1850 when they came from Scotland, and it’s been in the family  ever since.  The farm has changed a lot over the years, but according to McMillan, that just adds to the history for future generations.

“The roots are something I take for granted.  There are interesting stories and the history is nice to have.  There have been lots of changes, but everyone gets to add something to the farm,” says McMillan.

Moore added, “We continue to call the original stone house our home. Under our roof, seven generations have been born, married, celebrated and inspired. Our home farm is truly a place where a family story begins.”

The two are appreciative of farm life and their community, something that Julie has especially appreciated coming from the city.  “I love the sense of community here.  It’s so different from larger, urban centres – everyone knows the history and has a sense of connection and belonging,” she said.

In 2013, the couple and their two young children Nolan and Reid appeared in the eighth edition of the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. The couple’s winning application was chosen from a field of 31 exceptional entries in a new contest launched to select one farm family to appear in the calendar.  In their application, Julie described her family as a “progressive, passionate and proud farm family”. She also said that she felt they “typify today’s farm family – active, educated, engaged, caring and committed to our families, our farms and our community.”

McMillan and Moore have expanded their business by purchasing a neighbouring farm. They’ve also built a new barn and added new corn storage/dryer facilities.
They’re doing their best to make sure they leave the farm in a better condition for the next person who works the land by implementing numerous environmental improvements. McMillan has switched to new tillage systems to help conserve soil.  He uses crop rotation to make sure nutrients are not being depleted from the soil, and to improve soil health by having crops with different root systems each year.  Crop rotations also lessen the insect and disease pressure on the plants.

To explore changes that could be made on the farm to improve the environment around them, McMillan completed an Environmental Farm Plan and implemented many of the changes the program suggested.  As part of a conservation project, the couple has planted 1,000 trees on their property.

“We plant for another day and another generation, so we can grow our rewards down the road,” says McMillan.  “It’s impressive to see the benefits now from past projects.”
McMillan is also devoted to caring for his livestock - pigs - and follows stringent guidelines on what the animals are fed and how they’re cared for.

They’ve also got a strong commitment to their community.  McMillan is currently Deputy Mayor of Perth East, sits on Perth County Council and is involved in other community boards and associations.

“I want to be a younger voice in politics, and I want to continue making people aware of farming through my politics,” says McMillan, who was first elected as a councillor in 2003 and is serving his second term as deputy mayor.

Moore is also involved in the community, serving as a school board Trustee with the Avon Maitland District School Board, volunteering with many projects at her sons’ schools and as a consultant to the South West LHIN.  She enjoys running, and has completed several half marathons.  Their two sons, Nolan (7) and Reid (3) enjoy everything there is to see and do on the farm.

Julie is using her newfound knowledge of farming to help educate friends and family from the city about where their food comes from, and the dedication of the people who grow it.

“I didn’t have an appreciation for my food, where it comes from and the work and skill that goes into producing it.  Farmers are highly skilled. They need to be to produce quality food. Food that is safe and healthy food for us to enjoy” says Moore.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on January 14th, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,Environment,Faces of Farming,Family vs factory farming,Farm life,Future of Farming,Pigs

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan pleased with the success of another ‘We Care’ Billboard Campaign!

By Jean Clavelle

TBillboard campaign June 16his year marks another triumph for the “We Care” billboard campaign initiated by the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS).  The program, which began in 1996, feature beef, bison, horse, chicken, egg and swine producers with their animals and are posted around busy thoroughfares of Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 20th, 2013 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal care,Beef cattle,Broiler Breeders,Canada,Chickens,Consumers,Dairy cattle,eggs,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Future of Farming,Horses,Media,Pigs,Pork,Poultry,Sheep,Speaking out,Uncategorized
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Meet the face of June in the Faces of Farming calendar

By Patricia Grotenhuis

Dancing in the barn, baking pies, catering and many great memories of farming alongside her husband Morley are just a sample of the stories Thelma Trask can tell.

This energetic mother of six and grandmother of 10 has been farming with her husband since their wedding 56 years ago, and before that, she taught school for two years.

For her long-time commitment to farming, Trask is featured as the month of June in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario.  Her page is sponsored by Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd.

Thelma Trask and one of her famous pies

Thelma Trask and one of her famous pies

Trask and her husband, who met at a corn roast during her tenure as a young teacher, have shared many good times. “When we got married, Morley couldn’t dance.  So, I taught him how to dance, during chore time, between the rows of cows in the barn,” she recalls with a laugh.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 10th, 2013 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Dairy cattle,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Future of Farming,Innovation and technology,Sustainability of the family farm
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Common myths about agriculture – even at the University of Guelph

Guest blog by Rudi Spruit, dairy farmer

Rudi Spruit is a student at the University of Guelph and wrote this response to an article that appeared in the university’s newspaper, The Ontarion.

About four weeks ago, I read an article in The Ontarion about Meatless Monday. As an agriculture student at the University of Guelph, I take a keen interest in anything agriculture-related, especially if it is published in the University of Guelph’s independent student newspaper.

I can see some reasoning behind Meatless Monday, including some health benefits. I don’t know this for a fact, but with the obesity rate where it is in the United States, I can see how eating less protein and more veggies might help the North American diet.

The concern I have is in some of the wording used.   The one problem that set me off with this article was the writer’s lack of understanding about farming in Ontario, evidenced when she mentions, “Others are concerned with animal cruelty; by opting for a vegetarian diet, individuals show they no longer support the conditions many factory farm animals are raised in.”

Nothing could be further from the truth, and the Meatless Monday campaign does nothing to help animal welfare. The concern with animal cruelty is great to everyone, especially farmers. Farmers choose to work with animals because they enjoy it. Caring for animals properly is a matter of doing the right thing.  Contented animals are also more productive animals and lead to higher quality food products. Like any animal owners, farmers must also follow laws for humane treatment, and neglect and abuse of animals of any kind (pets or livestock) is against the law.

In Canada, 98 per cent of all farms are still family owned and operated. It is true that farms are bigger than they used to be, but they’ve had to accommodate a growing world population and a declining farm population.

Fifty years ago, one in three Canadians farmed. Today, it’s one in 47, yet Canadians still want affordable, local food, so we need to produce more – and more efficiently – if we’re going to feed our growing population.

Let me tell you about my family’s dairy farm. We’re the proud caretakers of 370 cows who live in the barn throughout most of the year. There is a reason for that – and that reason will hit us all in about two months: winter. Cows don’t like it. We keep them in the barn for the same reason your pets live in the house: for comfort, fresh feed, fresh water, and safety.

In the summer, cows are often too hot and a lot of them, if outside, could risk facing heat stress and death. So our barn is designed to cool those animals down. Even when they are given a choice of going outside, they pick the barn 98 per cent of the time.

Larger farms came about because approximately 100 years ago, half of the population farmed, whilst now only two per cent do. That means two per cent of the population feeds the remaining 98 per cent. To do that, farms have to get more efficient at producing quality product in large quantities with minimal labor input.

My grandfather milked 60 cows with the help of his family of nine, which created enough income for one family. Today, my dad milks 200 cows with my mom and no other help except for the occasional weekend assistance by me, which creates enough income for all of us.

Today, there are tens of thousands of Canadian farmers like my dad, providing the same amount of care, with the same amount of detail and the same amount of animal welfare. Most farmers care greatly for their animals and take the utmost pride and care in their animals.   If you have any questions about the modern food system and animal agriculture do not hesitate to contact Farm & Food Care Ontario. It’s an organization created to answer the public’s questions about their food and farming supplies.

Also, if you want to enter a modern farm facility without leaving your desk, just visit Farm & Food Care’s website at www.virtualfarmtours.ca to tour a number of Ontario farms, including dairy farms like mine.

 

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Posted by FFC on December 7th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Canada,Dairy cattle,Feeding the world,Future of Farming,Meatless Monday,Speaking out,Summer,Sustainability of the family farm,winter
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Meet the face of November in the Faces of Farming calendar

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.

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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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Farming for six generations - or more

By Patricia Grotenhuis

I’ve always known farming is in my blood.  Recently, I found out how far it goes in my bloodline is while my parents were going through the family tree.

In two lines of the family tree, one from Mom’s side and one from Dad’s side, I am the sixth consecutive generation of Canadian farmers.  In all likelihood, if you were to go back further into my family history and look at what type of work my ancestors did before coming to Canada, my family’s farming history could go back even further. 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 12th, 2012 :: Filed under Canada,careers,Family vs factory farming,Farm life,Feeding the world,Future of Farming
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Stewardship

Guest blog:  By a  B.C. dairy farmer

To me, the word sustainable has become a buzz word,or marketing doublespeak. As an all encompassing management practice, I prefer the term stewardship. And I try to put this into practice in all areas, not strictly agriculture. As a Christian, I have a biblical mandate to manage what I have been given.

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Posted by FFC on March 19th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Dairy cattle,Future of Farming,Sustainability
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