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KATE PROCTER - AUGUST 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 25 August 2014 16:03
In most areas of life, whether it is on a personal, business, community, or organizational level, success comes from using our strengths most effectively while addressing our weaknesses. No one ever became successful by dwelling on fears or shortcomings.
Over the past few years, rural Ontario has felt its share of blows. We’ve seen jobs fly out the window as our major employers close their doors and manufacturing moves to more competitive places. Our kids are moving to greener pastures and those of us remaining are fighting to keep the lights on and the hospitals open.
Huron County made the national news a few weeks ago because we have the highest percentage of obese adults. Over 37 per cent, in fact – more than twice the rate of adults in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, and more than the fattest province, Newfoundland, where 35.2 per cent of adults are obese.
These are some of the reasons that I was very disheartened to read recently that the Huron County Federation of Agriculture has voiced opposition to the proposed G2G trail, which will convert an abandoned rail line from Guelph to Goderich from wasted space to a trail. Volunteers – yes, people who are willing to work in exchange for not getting paid – are very keen to transform this into an opportunity for rural communities all along the trail.
Across North America, converting abandoned rail lines to trails has strengthened rural communities. Property values increase and jobs are created by small businesses, which form the backbone of rural communities. According to a report by the U.S. National Parks Service, increases in property values range from five per cent to 32 per cent.
The Bruce County Trail Network reports that current use of trails by residents and tourists contributes $24.5 million annually to the local economy.
All of us could use an excuse to be more active.
When I was in the Netherlands a few years ago, I had the opportunity to tour one of the largest hog slaughter facilities in the EU as part of an international ag journalism conference. I was a bit surprised when we rejoined the group to find that our colleagues, who had toured a large dairy processing plant, had severe restrictions – no cameras, no notepads, no recording devices of any kind. Yet at the slaughterhouse, where business makes for a less attractive photo op, we were welcomed to take photos, notes, whatever we wanted.
Why the difference? The slaughterhouse had been burned a few years back by animal rights activists. Instead of building bigger, higher walls to keep people out, the company realized that while they would never win over the few with extreme beliefs, they might win over the majority who were their customers. They adopted an open door policy – holding community barbeques and welcoming tours. They recognized that showing their customers that they were doing good things was the best way to counter the negative publicity.
In a similar way, pig farmers had constructed a special barn along a popular bike route, called “Pigs in Sight”. It was set up as a working barn, but had one end made into windows so the public could see and learn about modern pork production. As farmers, we have long been in the minority. We need to use every opportunity to tell our consumers our good-news story. We need them to know that we are doing a great job – environmentally, socially, and from a health perspective – so that they demand Canadian products when they go to the grocery store.
The G2G running through prime agricultural land provides a great opportunity to point out all the things we do on our farms to protect the environment. We could advertise how many trees we’ve planted, how we use conservation tillage to protect soil and water, and the many other ways that we protect the natural environment every day. We should be proud to show people that rural Ontario is full of diversity, wildlife, and clean air and water – contrary to the negative headlines that might be the only information people in the city get about us out here.
While the HCFA promotes environmental good works of farmers on its website, it is missing a beautiful opportunity to promote all the hard work and money spent on Huron County farms to improve things over the years. What if instead of opposing the trail, the HCFA worked with G2G folks to make sure farmers’ concerns were addressed and actually supported the trail by promoting Huron County farmers as awesome stewards of the environment who take that role seriously?
If our consumers want to walk out here and give us the opportunity to show them our world, we should embrace that and do whatever we can to promote positive relationships with not only our urban neighbours, but also the people next door – many of whom no longer have a real connection to agriculture.
Let’s be careful not to slam the door in the face of a golden goose for fear of spooking a few cows.◊
LET’S TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO TELL OUR STORY TO URBANITES
In most areas of life, whether it is on a personal, business, community, or organizational level, success comes from using our strengths most effectively while addressing our weaknesses. No one ever became successful by dwelling on fears or shortcomings.
Over the past few years, rural Ontario has felt its share of blows. We’ve seen jobs fly out the window as our major employers close their doors and manufacturing moves to more competitive places. Our kids are moving to greener pastures and those of us remaining are fighting to keep the lights on and the hospitals open.
Read more...
 
KEITH ROULSTON - AUGUST 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 25 August 2014 15:58
If there’s a clash between the rural way of life and the growing urbaness of our society, it can often be boiled down to the necessary practicality of the farm versus the “value-added” perks of a life lived beyond the basics.
Growing up, as I did, on a Bruce County farm in 1950s and early 1960s, the child of children of the Depression and in a community under the Scottish influence, practicality came first and foremost. As my parents and their neighbours scrambled to grind out a living, there wasn’t much room for “frills”. Going to a movie or on a picnic was a rare event to be fondly remembered.
Despite that background, most of my adult life has been split between  the practical life of running a business that serves farmers and agriculture and a world that would have been frivolous to my ancestors: professional theatre.
There’s a tension in the movie The Monuments Men that neatly sums up the uneasy balance between practicality and the “finer things” of life. George Clooney and Matt Dam-on play art historians attached to the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, organized after the tide of war turned in favour of the allies, to preserve as many of the cultural treasurers of Europe as possible.
When they first encounter a commander of soldiers still fighting the Germans, they get an icy reception. The commander says he is not going to have his men killed because the Germans set up a machine gun in the belfry of a historic church he had been asked to preserve. The practicality of saving soldiers’ lives trumps the value of history and culture.
On the other hand, early in the movie Clooney’s character makes his case to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt about the importance of rescuing art treasures. “You can wipe out a generation of people, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still come back,” he says, “but if you destroy their achievements and history then it’s like they never existed.”
This summer the Blyth Festival, which I had the privilege to play a part in creating, is celebrating its 40th season.  During that time, it has presented 121 plays for the first time anywhere in the world. Many times those plays have been drawn from the lives of rural Ontario residents. There have been plays to make you laugh, like Ted Johns’ He Won’t Come in from the Barn, or celebrate achievements like Barndance Live!, the story of the CKNX barn dance.
Crossing the line between my everyday work informing farmers and telling their stories and my theatre world has resulted in some of the most moving experiences of my life. In 1986, together with my writing partner Anne Chislett, I helped tell the story of one fictional family going through the high-interest, low-commodity-price crisis of the early 1980s, that resulted in desperation, penny auctions and threats of armed violence. After they had seen Another Season’s Promise, many people approached us to thank us for telling their stories – for helping them feel they weren’t alone on their suffering.
Twenty years later, in Another Season’s Harvest, we returned to the same family as it went through the collapse of markets for beef following the 2003 BSE crisis. Watching people wiping tears from their eyes and saying thanks, as they left the theatre, remains one of the occasions when I have most felt I had done a service to people.
The world can’t exist without the simple practicality of growing food, building shelter, fixing the plumbing or the electricity, but once those necessities of life are met, the “frills” of storytelling, picture-making and other arts are also important in fully appreciating life.◊
JUGGLING PRACTICALITY VERSUS ‘FRILLS’
If there’s a clash between the rural way of life and the growing urbaness of our society, it can often be boiled down to the necessary practicality of the farm versus the “value-added” perks of a life lived beyond the basics.
Growing up, as I did, on a Bruce County farm in 1950s and early 1960s, the child of children of the Depression and in a community under the Scottish influence, practicality came first and foremost. As my parents and their neighbours scrambled to grind out a living, there wasn’t much room for “frills”. Going to a movie or on a picnic was a rare event to be fondly remembered.
Read more...
 
MABEL'S GRILL - AUGUST 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 25 August 2014 15:52
“So, are you going to get a holiday this year?” Molly Whiteside asked George McKenzie the other morning as she refilled his coffee.
“I figure I might get about two hours between taking off the third cut of hay and the beginning of soybeans,” said George. “If I get that lucky, I’ll probably have a nap under the maple tree in the back yard.”
“I’m sure your wife will love that,” said Molly.
“My wife’s after me to go with her sister and her husband on this tour to the Cotswolds in England,” said Dave Winston. “Only $4,000 apiece, she tells me. I told her for $8,000 I could get a new ATV.”
“Might do you good to get out and see a different world,” said Cliff Murray.
“That’s what my brother-in-law, the cat and dog veterinarian, told me, too,” said Dave. “I suggested if he wants to see a different world he could drive the tractor when I’m emptying the liquid manure tank.”
“I think I saw a story about that tour in the travel section of the newspaper,” said Molly. “From the picture it looked like pretty country.”
“Yeah but they want you to walk it!” said Dave.
“Walk?” asked George, astonished.
“For five days!” said Dave. “I figure for $4,000 you should at least get transportation!”
“Yes but imagine getting up close to all that history over there,” said Molly.
“That’s the other thing,” said Dave. “Some of the places we’re supposed to stay were built in the 1500s!”
“Wow, think of all the people who must have lived there in 500 years,” said Molly.
“That’s what my wife said,” grumbled Dave. “This is the woman who is always complaining there isn’t a straight corner in our 100-year-old house.”
“So I take it you will not be touring the Cotswolds,” said George.
“No,” said Dave. “Aside from the old buildings and walking for five days, I wasn’t up to spending all that time listening to my brother-in-law talk about how I really should take better care of my cats and dog.”
“I hear more and more people are staying at home or at least just vacationing nearby this year,” said Cliff Murray.
“I guess people are feeling a little short on cash this year,” said Molly.
“Funny thing is, the group that’s travelling the most, according to the article I read, is the millennials – the kids 18-34,” said Cliff.
“Aren’t they the ones who are always complaining that things are tough for their generation? That the odds are stacked against them so they can’t buy a house like their parents?” said Dave Winston.
“Yeah, but their parents stayed home and saved their pennies so they could afford a house,” said George. “They couldn’t afford to travel.”
“My kids don’t have enough for the things we always thought were most important at their age but they seem to have lots of money for things like cable and wireless,” said Cliff.
“Or pets,” said George. “We used to get any old mutt from a neighbour or cats people begged you to take but young people today spend a fortune on buying purebred this or that – the weirder the breed the better,” said George.
“And vet bills”, said Dave. “They get all guilty at the thought of putting a pet down so they’ll keep paying a vet enough that he can take a walking tour of the Cotswolds.”
“Yes, I was reading that vet bills are getting so expensive that the insurance companies are now looking at providing health insurance for pets,” said Cliff.
“Oh great!” said Dave. “Then my brother-in-law can charge more like the dentists did when people got dental insurance. He’ll be so rich he’ll want me to take that famous walk across Spain that takes weeks or months to finish!”
“I wonder if they’d let you use an ATV?” wondered George.◊
GUYS AT MABEL'S GRILL THINK A WALKING HOLIDAY IS NO HOLIDAY AT ALL
The world’s problems are solved daily ’round the table at Mabel’s Grill.
“So, are you going to get a holiday this year?” Molly Whiteside asked George McKenzie the other morning as she refilled his coffee.
“I figure I might get about two hours between taking off the third cut of hay and the beginning of soybeans,” said George. “If I get that lucky, I’ll probably have a nap under the maple tree in the back yard.”
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KATE PROCTER - JULY 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 July 2014 09:47
For anyone who regularly reads this column, you might pick up on a couple of themes that I seem to harp on – soil conservation and farm safety. Unfortunately, farming still makes the top-10 list of dangerous occupations, in spite of many efforts to change this.
Our own operation has changed significantly over the past few years. While I used to spend my time large-ly in the farrowing rooms where be-ing safe meant keeping out of the way of the sharp end of cranky ma-mas, things are different now. A few months ago, the guy with the nerves of steel who does all the climbing on our grain bins came in and asked me to pick up a belt for him.
“A belt, eh? What kind of a belt?” He was a bit vague about it – and I’m ashamed to say that I had no idea, so I started looking into it further. First things first, those grain bins that sit there, quietly not making a sound all year, may be one of the most dangerous things on our farms now.
While it seems tough to nail down any statistics from Canada, U.S. records show that grain bin entrap-ment is one of those farm dangers that has seen an increasing rate of reported fatal and non-fatal occur-rences. Purdue University estimates that 65-70 per cent of grain bin entrapments happen on farms, and 20 per cent of fatalities happen to people under the age of 16.  As farmers try to manage crop sales, more grain is being stored across Ontario and the bins are getting bigger.
The second thing I learned is that going out and buying a belt is not the answer to this complex problem. Having grain in good storage condit-ion is the number one consideration – if your grain is in good condition to store properly, there will be less temptation for people to enter the bin and risk their lives.  Since we don’t live in a perfect world where everything works out exactly the way we’d like, we also must consider the next steps to keeping everyone working on farm safe.
Since 1999, Wayne Bauer from Star of the West Milling, has been leading the Grain Entrapment Prevention initiative in the U.S. When they started looking into safety on their operation, they discovered that the equipment and knowledge they needed was simply not available so they had to develop it themselves.
The initiative has developed a list of best management practices to help people working with grain stay safe. These include: 1. Stay out if possible, 2. Never enter alone, 3. Never enter untrained, 4. Follow entry permit, 5. Shut down/lockout, 6. Secure lifeline, 7. Emergency preparedness.
The sixth point, a secure lifeline, is the point that got me started looking into this in the first place. A belt is not part of this solution and the required equipment is also different than equipment used for fall protection. “Maintain control of the lifeline, if you must enter a bin with grain in it. Your lifeline is useless unless it is secured properly. Ideally, it is attached to an overhead anchorage point. The restraint system must minimize the slack in the lifeline and be able to handle an unexpected 500-800 lbs. jerk on the line. Would you buy a family car without seatbelts? Well, why would you even consider erecting a steel storage bin in the future that could not provide a reasonable work restraint system with a properly secured lifeline?”
This is an important consideration when purchasing new bins as well as when looking at secure anchor points on your old bins. More information can be found at www.grainentrap-ment-prevention.com.
One of the biggest lessons for me in all of this is that proper equipment and training are important for keeping everyone safe. You can’t just walk into the local safety equipment place and pick up what you need. Every operation is a little different, and training is vital. Look for Bin Entry Kits and consider coming out to one of the sessions Wayne is leading in Ontario this summer.
Wayne will be speaking at Lockie Farms, Zephyr, Ontario, on July 10 – contact Daryl Rush, 905-473-2361 for more information. This event is being held in memory of Daryl’s brother, Gary Rush, who was tragically killed in a grain bin accident near Cambridge in March, 2014. Gary had over 30 years of experience with grain – if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.
The Emergency Services Training Center in Blyth will also be hosting Farm and Agriculture Emergencies and Rescue training August 22 to 27. Topics include Farm Families – First on the Scene, Farm and Ag Emergency Training for First Responders, and Farm and Industry Preparedness. Contact Stephanie Currie at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more details or call 226-523-9500, ext. 200.◊
TAKE SPECIAL CARE WORKING IN GRAIN BINS
For anyone who regularly reads this column, you might pick up on a couple of themes that I seem to harp on – soil conservation and farm safety. Unfortunately, farming still makes the top-10 list of dangerous occupations, in spite of many efforts to change this.
Our own operation has changed significantly over the past few years. While I used to spend my time large-ly in the farrowing rooms where be-ing safe meant keeping out of the way of the sharp end of cranky ma-mas, things are different now. A few months ago, the guy with the nerves of steel who does all the climbing on our grain bins came in and asked me to pick up a belt for him.
Read more...
 
KEITH ROULSTON - JULY 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 July 2014 09:39
Whether it’s concern from the public about the danger to bees posed by neonicotinoid seed treatments or the requirement under the new code of practice calling for group housing of dry sows, the answer for opposing farm groups these days seems to be to ask for science-based proof before any action is taken
Science today is like religion was in the past – it’s the ultimate, unas-sailable answer to any question. But just as religion is not absolute, with different denominations basing their version of Christianity on different portions of scripture, so scientific “proof” depends on who you listen to – and we often listen to the scient-ists who tell us what we want to hear.
So, for instance, a large majority of climate scientists say human activity is causing the climate to change in ways that are detrimental to humans and animals. If you don’t want to have to change what you are doing, however, you’ll use the opinions of the minority of scientists who say there’s no problem. They are to be believed; the majority have it wrong – and perhaps even has a hidden agenda.
How many smokers died an early death because they preferred to ignore scientists who said smoking tobacco was potentially deadly, listening instead to scientists who were shills for the tobacco comp-anies who claimed the evidence that smoking caused cancer was flawed?
Society was fortunate in the case of the smoking issue that we had a robust government-funded research program looking into the true medical effects of smoking tobacco. Imagine if the tobacco industry had been conducting the only research that was being done?
That’s the situation that we’re in today due to cuts in government-sponsored research. An academic who hopes for funding for research these days usually needs to get a commercial backer before getting matching government dollars, meaning the research that getting done is gener-ally that which will benefit large companies.
Meanwhile there are areas of research that might benefit farmers and society in general that don’t get done because no commercial company will benefit. No corporation benefits, for instance, for research on bees. That’s the kind of research that would have been done when we had stronger government research.
When major corporations come out with a new product, they’re quick to emphasize the benefits and generally farmers are quite happy to believe they’ve done their homework on all side-effects. Farmers become so wedded to a product they’ve only had for a few years, like neonico-tinoids, that they believe they can’t live without it.
So they believe the seed company scientists saying neonicotinoids are harmless, and disbelieve scientists like those in western Canada who found levels of the pesticide in the water of sloughs that were strong enough to kill insects.
Over and over again farmers say that, of course, they care about bees, but they want scientific proof that pesticides are the problem behind massive bee deaths before any action to ban or restrict use of  neonico-tinoids. That might be easier to believe if they actually showed their concern. At Crops Day during Grey-Bruce Farmers’ Week back in Janu-ary, when OMAFRA cereal crop specialist Peter Johnson asked how many of farmers had ordered any seed not treated with neonicotinoids in order to test how much they were needed it on their land, only five hands went up in a room of nearly 200. Meanwhile, an article on how to protect bees on our own website had only 20 hits in six months while other articles had hundreds.
Sorry, guys, but by your actions you are demonstrating that you’re using science as an excuse for not considering anything you don’t really want to do in the first place.◊
IS SCIENCE THE NEW RELIGION?
Whether it’s concern from the public about the danger to bees posed by neonicotinoid seed treatments or the requirement under the new code of practice calling for group housing of dry sows, the answer for opposing farm groups these days seems to be to ask for science-based proof before any action is taken
Science today is like religion was in the past – it’s the ultimate, unassailable answer to any question. But just as religion is not absolute, with different denominations basing their version of Christianity on different portions of scripture, so scientific “proof” depends on who you listen to – and we often listen to the scient-ists who tell us what we want to hear.
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