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LISA B. POT - MARCH 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 16 March 2015 09:09
A plate filled with mashed potatoes and roast beef in one hand, dessert in the other, I looked at the full tables in front of me, wondering where to sit.
A kindly fellow, casually dressed in a sweatshirt and workpants, pulled out a chair and beckoned me over.
Between mouthfuls we got to talking about the speakers and stories shared at Crops Day, one of eight information-packed theme days at the Grey-Bruce Farmer’s Week. Coming up on the agenda was a testimonial by Kristy and Chunk McKee. He survived being pulled into a corn harvester. You can read their story in this issue of The Rural Voice.
We got to chatting about farm accidents we’d heard about. It was a painful subject. We all know of people who have died or been maimed in farm accidents. It’s serious and I take it seriously so don’t be offended by what happened next. I share it to highlight one (not all) of the reasons farm accidents happen – errors in judgement.
My dinner companion, whose name I didn’t capture, started to chuckle. It was one of those inviting kind of laughs - warm and genuine. He also had excellent timing and an engaging demeanor. I regret that my recounting of his tale doesn’t do justice to his story-telling abilities.
My dinner companion said he had a friend, an amiable and handy guy always willing to help out. However, he seemed prone to mishaps. Recounting a few of his friend’s adventures, my dinner companion had set the comical tone before coming to the heart of his story which involved a neighbour’s barn roof, a modified ladder, and a mathematical miscalculation.
Before starting on the barn roof, the friend devised a plan whereby he took an extension ladder and pulled it apart. Tying the ends of the ladder together with a section of rope, he proceeded to toss one section of the ladder on the right side of the roof. He kept the other section on the barn slope he would be working on so he could use it as leverage while he nailed down the steel.
“Well, my friend, he didn’t get his math quite right,” said my dinner companion, now having to pause every few words because we were both edging into belly-laugh territory as the narrative took on a movie scene quality.
In what can only be described as a classic Chevy Chase move (watch Christmas Vacation), the friend was handily nailing down the steel when he felt his ladder slip. He hadn’t quite calculated the effect his body weight had on his contrived balancing system. There was no time to correct the problem. One can only imagine his facial expression when he slid straight off the roof. The story may not have had a comical ending if he hadn’t landed neck deep in, you guessed it, a manure pile.
Of course, there was still that second section of ladder which came whizzing down behind him. “Just missed him,” said my dinner companion, now in full-throttle laughter. What a story-teller! I had my first belly-laugh of the season, an unexpected gift albeit from sensitive subject matter.
Don’t take offense now! Obviously, I do not think loss of life or limb is humorous. It was his “funniest videos” take on the event that elicited the laughter in this case. Also, the relief that his friend survived without injury. Still...what a strategically inept approach! I tell this story because the risks farmers take should be taken seriously.
Farm accidents can happen for all sorts of reasons and there are many situations where the farmer isn’t the least bit culpable. There are also times when farmers are so intent on getting the job done, they just don’t think. They tackle a job without the right safety equipment; they rush and don’t pause to consider better options; they work all night and tiredness leads to mistakes.
We can shake our heads but are we any different? I jumped over a running power take-off (PTO) once because it was a shortcut into the barn. I made it but afterwards I got the shakes thinking about what could have happened. I never did it again.
When you hear about someone who doesn’t make the leap over the PTO, or  doesn’t walk away from a fall off the ladder, we are given the option to consider our own approaches...the chance to potentially avoid an accident if we just take a minute to PAUSE and THINK.
This is the reason why my dinner companion said I could use the story if it helps. It’s also the message Chunk and Kristy McKee were hoping to get across to the hundreds of farmers in attendance at Crop Day.
I love how willing Kristy and Chunk were to share their story. Chunk is not a careless man but in the rush of a wet harvest season, with deadlines looming, he made an error in judgement. He was busy, stressed and determined to keep on working so he kicked corn stalks into a running harvester and ended up with a leg so damaged, he had to give up his milk cows and will endure pain for the rest of his life.
He’d done it before without injury, why should this time have been any different?
Except this time, it was.◊
And it wasn’t funny at all.◊
FEW FARM ACCIDENTS HAVE A HAPPY ENDING
By Lisa B. Pot
A plate filled with mashed potatoes and roast beef in one hand, dessert in the other, I looked at the full tables in front of me, wondering where to sit.
A kindly fellow, casually dressed in a sweatshirt and workpants, pulled out a chair and beckoned me over.
Read more...
 
KATE PROCTER - MARCH 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 16 March 2015 09:04
Food can be an emotional topic for most people, whether they admit it or not. It’s not just about what nourishes and sustains us physically, food also plays a role in community and family, it is the glue that holds us together. It is rare for humans to get together in a room without having food involved in one way or another.
We use the term “comfort food” to refer to food that, for whatever reason, makes us feel better. There is an endless amount of information telling us foods we must eat and foods we must never eat. There are foods we eat to help us celebrate and mourn, foods to mark certain events, foods that highlight the varied and exciting cultures around the world. Increasingly, people use food to make a statement – vegetarian, local, organic, – they all say something if we adopt them as our own.
As farmers, we are passionate about food from an increasingly rare perspective; while everyone eats, not that many actually grow any more. Farmers make sure to tell consumers that “if you ate today, thank a farmer,” and that “farmers feed cities”. The reality is that we all need each other and a better understanding on both sides would benefit everyone.  While we know that we are producing the best and safest food in the world, we need consumers to support Canadian farmers so we can keep doing that.
Every year, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) calculates “Food Freedom Day”.  This is the day that the average Canadian’s income will have covered the grocery bill for the year. In 2014, Canadians spent 10.4 per cent of their income on food, so Food Freedom Day this year fell on February 6. Last year, it fell on February 7.  The CFA also reports that “In a 2012 comparison of food-at-home budget shares conducted by the USDA, Canada was found to spend the third lowest share of their total expenditures on food in the world, behind only the U.S. and Britain” (http://www.cfa-fca.ca/programs-projects/food-freedom-day-2015).
This year, CFA is using Food Freedom Day to highlight International Year of Soils, as designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).  FAO Director-General Jose Graziano de Silva, in proclaiming this the year of soils, referred to them as the “nearly forgotten resource”.
“The multiple roles of soils often go unnoticed. Soils don’t have a voice, and few people speak out for them. They are our silent ally in food production,” says da Silva.  http://www.fao.org/soils-2015/en/
This is important for farmers and consumers alike, whether or not they realize it. It is not surprising to note that 95 per cent of food grown in the world depends on soil.  Yet “according to Statistics Canada, between 1971 and 2011, Canada’s farm area decreased by 39 million hectares. The situation fares even worse elsewhere, as the FAO projects that up to 50,000 square kilometers of soil are lost every year around the world” (http://www.cfa-fca.ca/programs-projects/food-freedom-day-2015). Try to wrap your head around those stats.
As farmers, we are on the front lines when it comes to soil conservation. There are many things we can do to help preserve the awesome natural resource we have here in southern Ontario. Maybe the thought of switching to conservation tillage scares you. It is a big change and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. But you don’t have to go all or nothing. It doesn’t matter where you are in your operation ­– any small steps you can take toward reducing tillage and managing residue will help. Get involved with one of our organizations ­– you will learn from people who have been working toward soil conservation for many years.  Or get reading – there are lots of great resources available to help you.
While the topic of soil conservation is not new, many groups – locally, provincially, federally, and internationally – are using the International Year of Soils to highlight this important issue. Groups including the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario and Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association are hosting exciting and informative speakers to bring the latest research and innovation to farmers.
The University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Soil Science is celebrating this year by announcing “soils of the month” and by hosting several seminars and events. http://agbio.usask.ca/departments/soil-science/international-year-of-soils.php.
The Maitland Conservation Foundation, in our own back yard, is also recognizing the International Year of Soils by making this the theme for the 27th annual fundraising dinner and auction, which is being held on Friday April 24, 2015.  Money raised at the event will go toward several projects carried out by the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority that are focused on preserving soil and reducing erosion. You can get involved by donating to the auction, or buying a ticket to the dinner, and bidding on one of the many great items donated by local businesses. For more information, call 519-335-3557 or check the website at: http://www.mvca.on.ca/mcf_activities.php?event_id=102
When it comes to things that make headlines, or grab the public’s attention, soil might not top the list. However, it is vitally important to remember that we as farmers can all make a difference, one step at a time.◊
INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF SOILS A GOOD TIME TO PRESERVE NATURAL RESOURCES WITH SOIL CONSERVATION
By Kate Procter
Food can be an emotional topic for most people, whether they admit it or not. It’s not just about what nourishes and sustains us physically, food also plays a role in community and family, it is the glue that holds us together. It is rare for humans to get together in a room without having food involved in one way or another.
Read more...
 
KEITH ROULSTON - MARCH 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 16 March 2015 08:58
A recent issue of Canadian Business magazine featured 30 “big ideas” and “hot trends” as opportun-ities for 2015. The good news for food producers is two of them invol-ved food production. The bad news is that it’s the kind of food production few food producers will recognize.
Number 22 on the list was Next Millenium Farms, north of Toronto which is raising crickets for food – like honey-mustard-seasoned roasted crickets. Apparently there are 24 other companies like this across North America counting on people who want protein that doesn’t come from animals.
The bulk of New Millenium Farms’ sales, apparently is in a protein-rich flour made from ground-up crickets that can be added to food. I’m not sure when New Millenium Farms will find protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Crickets on its door-step, but it must be only a matter of time.
The other food item, one that rated a full-colour photo taking up an entire page, was for “Farms in the Sky”. Featured was “Urban Barns”, a Montreal company that’s growing lettuce, kale and assorted micro-greens for local restaurants. Plants are grown on vertical conveyer belts programmed to move automatically, ensuring vegetables receive enough water, nutrients and light from LEDs.
It was a couple of claims for the advantages of “vertical farming” that raised my eyebrows. The company’s CEO says production of his vegetables emits less carbon dioxide and consumes less water than traditional farming.
This “consumption” of water complaint about farming always gets me wondering. Anti-meat advocates, for instance, like to claim it takes 1,799 gallons of water to grow one pound of beef, counting the water it takes to grow the grain and pasture a cattle beast eats, the water it drinks and the water used in processing. Nobody seems to ask how this could happen: could the water disappear somehow? Does the rain not fall on a field if there are no cattle in it or there’s no grass or corn crop? Does the steer drink the water that never comes out?
The other advantage touted for vertical farming really got me wondering if anybody stops to think when they write these pieces: “indoor food production doesn’t rely on pricey farmland”. If farmland was expensive compared to urban land, there’d be no need for the province to freeze development to protect development on the edges of Toronto. As for building upward, I looked up the average per square foot of condominiums in Toronto: $545. I know a condo is finished more expensively but even at half the cost, a farm in the sky looks like pretty expensive food space. And has anyone taken a look at how many towers of farms in the sky would be needed to replace just the vegetable farms of the Holland Marsh?
These aren’t the first such “vertical farming” articles I’ve seen. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised: I’ve been in the news business more than 40 years, a business as addicted to the “new” as a heroin junky to his next fix.
It’s easy to have fun with the naivete of this urban farming dream but what worries me is that the separation between city and country has grown to the point it just seems normal for urban thinkers to want to take food production to a more man-ufactured state. For one thing, farm-ing seems so old hat – there must be a more modern way. For another, it seems to me there’s a certain mistrust of anything grown in an “uncontroll-ed” setting, which is why farmers have adopted quality control rules.
These schemes aren’t endanger-ing traditional, soil-based farming yet but how much damage to farm-raised food is being perpetrated by people flogging their “better” way?◊
URBANITES HAVE LETTUCE-IN-THE-SKY DREAMS
By Keith Roulston
A recent issue of Canadian Business magazine featured 30 “big ideas” and “hot trends” as opportun-ities for 2015. The good news for food producers is two of them involved food production. The bad news is that it’s the kind of food production few food producers will recognize.
Number 22 on the list was Next Millenium Farms, north of Toronto which is raising crickets for food – like honey-mustard-seasoned roasted crickets. Apparently there are 24 other companies like this across North America counting on people who want protein that doesn’t come from animals.
Read more...
 
MABEL'S GRILL - MARCH 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 16 March 2015 08:55
“Thanks, you saved my life,” said Cliff Murray the other day when Molly Whiteside delivered his coffee at the morning session and Mabel’s Grill.
“You needed coffee that bad?” asked Molly.
“No, I needed a break from sitting getting my income tax stuff ready for the accountant,” said Cliff.
“You had that bad a year?” sympathized George McKenzie.
“No it was the sitting part not the income tax part,” said Cliff. “I saw this piece on TV the other day that said sitting will kill you.”
“Aren’t you sitting here?” wondered Dave Winston.
“That’s what my wife said when I told her I had to stop working on the income tax to come out for a coffee, but I explained the TV piece said you needed to get up and move around. If she really loved me and didn’t want me to die too early, she had to let me come out for coffee.”
“Hey Mabel, I guess you’re saving my life,” Molly called out to Mabel who was frying a serving of bacon and eggs at the grill. “You sure don’t do much sitting in this job,” she explained.
“Yeah, I’m saving you a trip to the gym,” Mabel called out. “Remember that added benefit of this job next time you’re thinking about asking for a raise.”
“I don’t know,” said George, “my granddad used to be on his feet all the time, walking behind the horses plowing, walking the fields stooking and then throwing sheaves onto the wagons at threshing. I remember him saying he was darned glad to get a tractor so he could sit down.”
“Bet he had real muscles on his legs with all that walking,” said Molly, with a twinkle in her eye.
“He did,” said George.
“And you guys got to big muscles on the part of your anatomy you use the most too,” she said with a giggle as she cast a glance at the guys posteriors before walking away.
“So what’s a guy supposed to do?” wondered Dave. “It’s not just the time you spend sitting on the tractor and the combine and the skid-steer, the business consultants are always saying you need to spend time in front of the computer keeping records so you can stay on top of productivity and your finances.”
“The piece I said showed people who have desks where they can stand up to work and walk on a treadmill,” said Cliff.
“I already feel like I’m on a treadmill when I’m doing the books,” said George. “Always running like heck and never getting ahead.”
“I got a friend who drives a grader for the township and they won’t let people stand up doing that anymore,” said Dave. “The labour ministry forced the grader manufacturers to make the cabs shorter on the equipment so the drivers couldn’t stand up because they liked working standing up and the inspectors thought they were risking their lives doing it.”
“So what, is the employer going to get in trouble now for endangering employees’ health because they have to sit down too much?” wondered George.
“Seems like whichever researcher can make the biggest noise gets to set the rules,” said Dave. “I mean one group of researchers is saying kids are getting fat because they sit on their fannies in front of television or computers or their phones but meanwhile in some towns, they’re banning kids from tobogganing in the parks because they might get hurt.”
“Bet the insurance companies are behind that one,” said Cliff. “Those guys will soon run the world.”
“How come nobody worried if we ran into something while we were tobogganing?” wondered Dave.
“Yeah, I never remember hearing about anybody being killed or paralysed for life, back then either,” said Cliff.
“Well you guys got harder heads than anybody I know,” said Mabel.
“And crash padding on the other end,” laughed Molly.◊
THE GANG AT MABEL'S SIT AROUND TALKING ABOUT THE DANGER OF SITTING
The world’s problems are solved daily ’round the table at Mabel’s Grill.
“Thanks, you saved my life,” said Cliff Murray the other day when Molly Whiteside delivered his coffee at the morning session and Mabel’s Grill.
“You needed coffee that bad?” asked Molly.
Read more...
 
LISA B. POT - FEBRUARY 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 13 February 2015 14:17
You can’t go wrong taking pictures of a Jersey calf. Doe eyes, delicate features, fawn-coloured hide and all the ‘ah’ factor baby animals elicit in humans.
But if you are a vegan on a mission to turn consumers off meat, such pictures are easy fodder for a negative campaign.
“When are you going to kill this baby,” was a comment I received on an Instagram I posted of a newborn Jersey calf.
It felt a bit like a slap in the face because the calf’s growth and potential were my focus, not her demise. A quick retort caused my fingers to twitch on the keyboard but I refrained. I have no wish to fight.
The haters are persistent. There has been a targetted campaign on Twitter by some members of the vegan community to vilify farmers tweeting their anecdotes and photographs of farm life under the #farm365 hashtag. It’s downright nasty from the vegan side but seems to have united farmers across the country as evident by a surge in positive posts.
I had just returned from Dairy Day at the Grey-Bruce Farmer’s Week when I read the negative comment on my Jersey calf picture. I found myself wishing veganfortheanimal1 could have attended. She would  have witnessed farmers who are committed to creating a healthy, comfortable environment for cattle to live longer, more productive lives.
Over two hours were dedicated solely to bedding. Farmers discussed whether sand, peat moss on rubber mats or composted manure was the ideal option. Cost factored in, as is logical in any business, but the primary focus of the three dairy farmers presenting was cow comfort.
It’s not likely that vegans would attend such an event. It’s geared toward farmers who happily ate roast beef and drank chocolate milk at lunch.
I felt at a loss how to respond to veganfortheanimal1. There were a few things I did want to say. First, of all, I respect her decision not to eat any product of animal origin. I’m so thankful to cooks who have elevated vegetables to haute cuisine and shared their recipes.
I’m not immune to her pain either. Animal death is hard to witness in nature and on the farm.
But farmers feed people and that’s something to celebrate. There’s no shame in the stewardly use of animal resources. So how do farmers respond to the negativity?
The easiest option is to avoid the fight and ignore the comment. However, I don’t advocate a fundamentalist dogma that labels farmers the enemy when we work  hard to care for animals that feed so many people. There is a time to challenge false belief systems.
I came across an interesting blog by Don Schindler, a social media trainer for industries, who posted ‘How do you win an argument: In Three Steps.’ based on criteria by fellow blogger, John Carlton.
Schindler suggested these approaches.
Step 1: Never argue back when your goal is persuasion.
Most of us are hard-wired to defend our position and  strike out when we feel threatened. We like the adrenaline rush. However, it can lead to rancor and missed opportunities when it denigrates to disrespect of other people’s life choices. Our approach is significantly modified when we choose persuasion.
Step 2: Define what ‘win’ means to you.
Schindler describes this as a “big boy, big girl” step where you replace instant reaction with pause. In that space, you take the time to question your motives and your purpose. If there is no larger goal, then step away;  particularly in the social media world where you are arguing in front of an audience.
The goal in the Jersey calf situation isn’t to escalate the comment into a fight, denounce her decision to be a vegan or be a self-righteous farmer on a mission. My goal is to share with her, and everyone who sees my pictures on Instagram or Twitter, the pleasure and care responsible farmers take in their animals.
Step 3: Use “yes, and” to reframe for the win.
If you have decided to engage and respond to a comment, the goal is to disarm the anger and reframe the context.
“You ignore irrationality, and because you are so clear on your goal, you take your ego out of it. Use the old improv theatre tactic of never being negative yourself–say, ‘yes, AND...’ while moving things toward the discussion you actually want to have.”
Excellent advice for anyone who relates to people at work, in life and particularly via social media.
I simply responded to  veganfortheanimal1 comment with this statement: “She’s going to grow up to live her potential as a milk cow, cared for all the way.”
I don’t suspect it will negate veganfortheanimal1’s  negativity toward farmers but I feel a ‘win’ choosing to be positive and courteous.
It isn’t easy to remain composed when we feel unjustly attacked. We all have reactive emotions and negative comments often unleash the desire to argue, fight, win!
But in the face of negative campaigning, being ‘big boys and girls’ is a conscientious choice as we strive to be understood while focussing on excellent stewardship of the animals in our care.◊
RESPONDING TO NEGATIVE COMMENTS WITH PERSUASION
By Lisa B. Pot
You can’t go wrong taking pictures of a Jersey calf. Doe eyes, delicate features, fawn-coloured hide and all the ‘ah’ factor baby animals elicit in humans.
But if you are a vegan on a mission to turn consumers off meat, such pictures are easy fodder for a negative campaign.
“When are you going to kill this baby,” was a comment I received on an Instagram I posted of a newborn Jersey calf.
Read more...
 
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