What if they ever divorce? 8 | Get income insurance that works 54
EAstern EDITION / COUNtrY-GUIDE.CA / APril 2016
Taking over a local
ag supplier 22
adapt organic 39
Their innovative plan transfers
management, not just
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AGCO’s series 4700 and 5700
tractors take on the world.
country GUIDE / VOL. 135 IssUE NO. 7 / APRIL 2016
39 Learning from
46 Watch out for
48 Pest Patrol
Take charge of stress levels.
62 nOt your same
Read this before you sign on.
65 Hanson Acres
A third of married couples
divorce, usually in their 40s,
so whether it makes you
uncomfortable or not, it
makes sense to talk about
how to protect the farm.
12 for rent
Rents wouldn’t be so
high if your neighbours
weren’t pushing them up.
28 findIng the right
Should farm groups
be pushing for more
It’s working in beef.
51 a new era begins
Robotic tractors will
and they’re coming faster
than you might think.
Many farm employees
are covered, so shouldn’t
you cover yourself too?
Preparing for takeoff
One farm, four children. Manitoba’s Parsonage family
shares their innovative approach to making it all work.
22 Taking over the shop
With farmers and business-minded locals in charge
of more farm supply outlets, sales are surging.
But this is not a game for the faint of heart.
32 Their head start
Supply-managed boards have their critics, but you’ve got
to hand it to them for helping young farmers get started.
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COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 3
A season for deciding on
new goals for the farm
fast as our
Farmers stand out in today’s culture for their
ability to make actual decisions, not just choices.
Now the rewards for choosing which decisions to
make are about to multiply
I know I’m a broken record on
this subject, and that I’m forever
saying that if there’s anything I’d
like consumers to really understand
about today’s farmers, it’s how they
excel at decision making.
It’s foreign to consumers, who excel
in their own way at making choices,
such as which pairs of jeans send
which signals, or which restaurant
is the right place to be seen in.
In such a context, choices are
utterly different from decisions. It’s
a difference that can be captured
by listing the attributes required for
effective decision making, including
courage, analytical capabilities, and
the ability to simultaneously hold
multiple factors in your mind so
you can anticipate how a change in
one part of your management will
integrate with all the other parts
of your operation when you begin
I admire too the ability of great
decision makers to know how to
stagger and pace their decisions.
Yet there is a also a change
underway in how top farmers are
managing that pacing.
Most farms have a work regimen
that uses the winter to ensure their
equipment, inputs and workforce
are all perfectly prepared for peak
performance the day they can hit
the field in the spring.
Now there’s a counterpoint in the
business cycle too. It emphasizes
using the summer to ensure
the farm is primed to make
maximum gains from its business
management opportunities once
the fieldwork slackens.
Today’s farms are evolving faster
than we are able to quantify. It isn’t
just a matter of acres or equipment;
there’s also the harder-to-measure
matter of business growth and
The speed of this evolution also
varies between farms, and I’m
reminded of a 2015 Ipsos study
that looked for commonalities
among farms with strong financial
performance. Ipsos found that such
1. Commit to continual learning.
2. Make decisions based on
accurate financial data.
3. Select and use excellent advisers.
4. Know their business plan.
5. Aggressively manage costs.
6. Understand and manage risk.
7. Set clear budget objectives.
Wouldn’t it be an interesting
exercise to key this list into
your phone and set it to pop up
periodically through the summer?
Then you could use those
reminders to ask yourself, which
three categories offer the most
room for growth on your farm?
What would be your action plan?
Whatever system they use, it’s
exactly the sort of process that
many farms will undertake this
summer, and every summer from
We’re all fond of quantifying how
our field productivity is steadily
climbing. Could you compete with
your neighbours for land if your
yields were still where they were a
And can you expect to compete if
your business productivity doesn’t
progress even faster?
Are we getting it right? Let me know
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Vol. 135 No. 7
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4 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
COUNCIL OF CANADA
SOIL CONSERVATION COUNCIL OF CANADA
CONSEIL CANADIEN DE CONSERVATION DES SOLS
The face and voice of soil conservation in Canada
NATIONAL SOIL CONSERVATION WEEK
SCCC pays tribute to soil conservation farmers
Soil conservation is not an act of
convenience. It is a responsible
and profitable way to manage crop
land. Soil degradation and loss of soil
health brings a huge cost to farmers
and Canadian agriculture – Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada numbers suggest
$35,000 per year of lost production for
the average farm.
The evidence of soil degradation
• Silt-laden streams and silty plumes
out into the lakes during spring
thaw and following storms.
• Summer algae in waterways and lakes.
• Increasing yield variability as
tillage continues to erode soil
and reduce organic matter on
hill tops – and those eroded areas
continue to increase in size.
• Tillage-induced hard pan and
compaction that interfere with
water infiltration and contributes
to surface water runoff.
• Wind and water erosion continues
on unprotected and degraded
soil – even on flat land.
These indicators would be unusual
on the well-aggregated soil of native
prairie or eastern woodland.
Much of the soil degradation
originates with land managers who
continue old habits, traditional
values and outdated practices.
Photo courtesy: OMAFRA
Many farmers have moved forward
improving their soil, the environment
and the natural areas that it affects. They
understand soil and are working hard to
protect and improve it. They understand
the importance of soil health and that
soil aggregation is an excellent indicator
of active soil biota, organic matter and a
water-air balance that is friendly to crop
root systems. For them, full surface tillage
has been abandoned. They use strategic
crop combinations, and extended crop
rotations to improve crop health and soil
bioactivity. Cover crops add to crop diversity,
compaction remediation and provide
added dormant season soil protection.
These farmers control wind erosion,
surface water and sediment runoff with
combinations of windbreaks, soil structures
(i.e. terraces, grasses waterways, check
dams), soil aggregation and undisturbed
crop residue. They recognize the soil
degradation and tillage erosion that
result from aggressive, direct-seeding
Photo courtesy: Ducks Unlimited
and high-speed planting. They know
the importance of good and frugal
nutrient management for use efficiency
and least risk to the environment (i.e.
4R Nutrient Stewardship system).
Because many of these farmers
adopted direct-seeding or no-till ahead
of the science, they learned and learned
well, the art of putting together a
successful soil management system. They
learned that each management change,
including tillage, must complement the
entire crop production system. They
also learned that biological and organic
matter (carbon) gains are lost almost
immediately if tillage is re-introduced. This
brings consequences for CO2 emissions,
water quality and soil productivity.
These farmers are found on all
soil types in all regions across Canada
and represent a wide range of crop
management demands. They are the true
leaders of the soil conservation movement
and SCCC applauds their efforts.
NATIONAL SOIL CONSERVATION WEEK
April 17-23, 2016
AGCO’s new MF utility tractors are
designed for worldwide appeal
By Scott Garvey / CG Machinery Editor
Back in early 1970, International
Harvester released two tractors
that made up what it called its
Worldwide Series. The idea was
to use shared platforms to build tractors
that could appeal to farmers in every market
where the brand had a presence. They would
meet a global need — or that was the hope.
Standardized platforms are a great idea
for saving millions in development, manufacturing
and distribution costs. Besides,
other manufacturers were already doing the
same thing by the ’70s. Ford had its 6X Series
and Massey-Ferguson had the 100 Series,
which were being sold nearly everywhere.
Today, AGCO executives are attempting
to recreate the global success of the old 100
Series by launching three new model ranges
of MF utility-class tractors. Together, they
are designed to have universal appeal, with
engine ratings that can be pushed up into the
A panel of 23 international judges at
Agritechnica in Germany last year was sold
on the idea. They pinned a “Tractor of the
Year” award on one of the new models, the
MF 5713SL, in the Best Utility class.
So, in those judges’ eyes at least, it seems
these new tractors apparently do have some
measure of global appeal.
AGCO launched the first model range in
this globally focused group of tractors with
the 4700 Series last year. But the series didn’t
make its first North American appearance
until the National Farm Machinery Show
in Louisville, Kentucky in February. And
alongside them at the show were their bigger
brothers in the 5700SL Series, also making
their U.S. debut.
The three “introductory” 4700 Series models,
i.e. the 4708, 4709 and 4710, cover the 80-
to 100-horsepower range. The three models in
the 5700SL Series push the horsepower offerings
to 110, 120 and 130, and eventually a 6700
Series will cap the worldwide group.
Adding to the international theme is
the fact all of these tractors will be built at
AGCO’s state-of-the-art facility in Changzhou,
China. The assembly process will use
a module-oriented manufacturing approach
that standardizes components and reduces
production costs, and that is intended to
improve product quality and performance,
according to AGCO.
The 4700 tractors get power from a Tier
4 Final, AGCO Power three-cylinder diesel
mated to a standard, synchro-shuttle or
power-shuttle transmission. The 5700SLs
get the turbocharged 4.4-litre, four-cylinder
engine with the same Dyna-4 powershift
carried forward from the previous
The engine emissions systems will use
a diesel oxidization catalyst system rather
than a diesel particulate filter, making them
maintenance free. The emissions system is
located under the cab steps on the 5700SL
tractors, which frees up space in the engine
compartment to allow for a sloping hood
that improves forward vision during closequarters
A 4709 on display at AGCO’s exhibit
during Agritechnica in November. The
“Tractor of the Year” award decal is
visible on the 5713SL behind it.
Photo: Scott Garvey
6 APriL 2016 / COUntry-GUide.CA
Top right: The 5700SL Series is the second range of
MF tractors built on a global platform, designed to
appeal to farmers all around the world.
Bottom right: Both the 4700 and 5700SL tractor
lines offer a deluxe option for greater operator
comfort. The cabs use narrow pillars to maximize
visibility, making loader work easier.
top photo: AGCO, bottom: Scott Garvey
Both series are available in a deluxe edition
that offers higher specifications and more
operator comforts. In the 5700SL Series, this
means factory-installed auto-guidance is also an
option, and buyers can opt for a suspended front
axle and cab too.
The 5700SL tractors get a standard hydraulic
flow rate of 57 l/min. (11 g.p.m.) to the rear
remotes, although an optional Twin Flow system
can boost that to 98 l/min. (26 gpm).
AGCO believes the new globally focused
models will appeal primarily to mixed farmers
and livestock producers here in North America.
“We are proud to introduce these tractors to
the North American market,” said Shaun Allred,
tactical marketing manager for mid-range
and high-horsepower tractors in the brand’s
press announcement. “Livestock producers
will especially appreciate these tractors,” Allred
continued. “After operating one, they’ll understand
why the MF 5713SL model was named
Tractor of the Year 2016 in the Best of Utility
Category at Agritechnica this fall.” CG
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COUNtry-GUIDE.CA / AprIL 2016 7
Divorce doesn’t have to get ugly, or to
destroy farms and people, but that’s what
it’s doing to more farming couples
By Maggie Van Camp / CG Associate Editor
“ Divorce is one of the biggest threats to farm
family legacy,” says Manitoba-based farm
adviser and coach Elaine Froese. “We need to
start talking more about how to prevent the
breakups and create more makeups.”
Farms and divorce can be a toxic mixture. Tradition,
culture, religion, isolation, community gossip, strong
families — they all come together to add to the stress,
which then gets top loaded with big assets.
Two Statistics Canada numbers are especially disturbing.
First, 41 per cent of marriages fail. Second, couples
most often get divorced in their 40s.
They’re disturbing because for farmers, that’s also
the point in their careers when their assets are starting to
solidify, grow and gather steam… much of it thanks to
the multiple generations of sweat, blood and brains that
the family has injected into the home operation.
That means it’s even more important to discuss how
assets, liabilities and growth will be divided among all
the parties if something goes wrong, especially as farm
sizes increase and new family members become a part of
the businesses, either directly or indirectly.
On many farms, succession naturally leads to discussion
about the four Ds, death, disability, disagreement
Even if you’re not doing succession planning, however,
creating a pathway for your business in case of
divorce should be done before problems arise, and it
should be guided not only by your caring and deeply
held family values, but also by good legal and accounting
advice. In this area, always insist on advice from a trusted
lawyer, someone who will consider all implications.
In the eyes of the law, after all, marriage is essentially
a legal contract dealing with the property rights of two
people. Divorce is a termination of that contract. For
farmers, however, that property can be worth millions,
and its emotional value is at least that great.
Keep in mind, too, that the specifics of separation law
vary from province to province, and the laws are complicated.
And of course, each case is unique. But the overall
legal framework governing divorce in Canada is based on
the belief that value created or property acquired during
the relationship should be equally shared on separation.
But farming has its own complexities, says John Mill,
succession expert and tax lawyer based at Windsor, Ont.
To begin with, all parties should understand that in
law, the term property means everything that can be
transferred, and that in a farm context, this can involve
things as complicated as shares of a family farm corporation
or quota, or land, inventory (think crop in ground),
equipment or homes, whether in your own name or part
of your farm corporation.
Then there are other layers of legal complexity. For
example, in Ontario any money received (or that you
have a right to get eventually) as a result of a personal
injury, like a car accident or money that you received
from an insurance company because someone died, isn’t
included as property, so it’s important that you be open
and candid with your lawyer.
But this isn’t the fundamental farm concern. “In a
family farm we’re trying to protect the family aspect of
the farm itself,” Mill says.
In fact, on the farm, you may want a specific agreement
to acknowledge that the family intends to keep the
farm in the family for generations.
The conversation can start by everybody knowing the
value of the property the spouses own on the date they
get married. Then everyone also needs to understand
that this foundation isn’t part of the property that would
be shared if the marriage doesn’t succeed.
8 APriL 2016 / COUNtrY-GUide.CA
Today, most divorces are settled by negotiation
between the two parties; they tend not to be settled by
Farmers need to know up front that while this has
advantages, it also has risks. Too often when marriages
break down, negative emotions carry the day and former
spouses are intent on trying to gouge each other, or
people just want out so badly they walk away without
their fair share.
Both can be avoided with some smart, caring preplanning.
That begins by learning how to talk with a positive
attitude to ensure fairness to spouses and to ultimately
take care of their children in a splitup. Don’t let your
default position be to hide behind the righteous ness of
keeping the family farm no matter what. Conversely,
don’t sign anything that might compromise your ability
to survive financially if the marriage does end.
Being realistic is being loving. “Marriage breakdown
is always a possibility,” says Barrie Broughton of Lethbridge,
who practises tax, corporate and estate-planning
law in the heart of the capital-intensive irrigated farming
area of Alberta.
Broughton says the law will not allow a person’s
legitimate interests to be ignored, so the goal is to look
at ways to accommodate those interests without causing
the farm to be split up, or imposing an unsustainable
financial burden. “We have a surprising number of
marriage breakdowns that are handled quietly and in a
respectful manner, maintaining a large degree of family
harmony,” says Broughton.
The following may mitigate the damage a divorce
could do to your farm. Although not totally comprehensive
or applicable to all cases, this list is a starting point to
launch your planning and thinking process.
The family home is an exception to rule that the growth
in property value will be equally split. The full value of
the family home must be shared equally, even if one person
owned the home before they got married, received it
as a gift, or inherited it.
This matrimonial home may include the land it’s sitting
on even though only a small part of the residence
was sometimes used for the business’s office.
If the farm property has been purchased with inherited
funds and kept separate from family members, however,
it might not be considered part of the matrimonial
home. Find out up front, and be aware of the potential
Another complication is that when money is put
into the family home, it must be shared. So the value
of renovations is shared even if that money came from
a gift, an inheritance or other property that otherwise
wouldn’t have to be shared.
To date, the rules for the matrimonial home do not
apply to common-law spouses. A common-law spouse
does not automatically have the right to stay in the
family home if it’s not in his or her name. Also, if one
common-law spouse owns the home they can sell or
mortgage it without the other spouse’s permission.
People often think they need a cohabitation agreement
when they move in with someone in a romantic relationship,
but the labelling around this often gets fuzzy.
Remember, living together for many years, having children
together, or referring to each other as “husband,”
“wife,” or “spouse” do not make two people legally married
to each other.
It can be hard to get everyone to see the benefits of
preplanning for something negative, i.e. for splitting up.
However, a cohabitation agreement can certainly clarify
roles and expectations around the relationship and the
home and farm.
Statistically, cohabitating is less stable than marriage.
No one wants to talk about divorce,
but being realistic is being loving,
farm lawyer Barrie Broughton tells
his clients. “Marriage breakdown is
always a possibility.”
In past, the matrimonial property act didn’t apply, but
the rules, definitions and precedents about cohabitating
have been changing.
Ask your lawyer what living together on your farm
might mean in your specific situation. For example, if
that person is going to work on the farm, should they be
paid and should their pay be documented?
You also should check with your accountant if you’re
going to move in together, since you’ll be considered
common-law for taxes after a certain period of time,
depending on where you live.
Prenuptial agreements are basically a way of negotiating
a divorce settlement ahead of time, before you even get
married. Each party must have their own independent
lawyer and many of those lawyers tend to tell the person
marrying the farmer to not sign the contract.
Basically a prenup agreement lists the assets each
party brings into the marriage with an agreed value, and
an agreement that if the asset increases in value, then the
increase will be divisible providing the marriage lasts a
specified number of years. A prenuptial agreement can
be modified if both partners agree, even after they marry,
or you can write one while married, called a postnuptial.
If you don’t want to have to sell off a particular parcel
of land to pay out the other spouse in case of a divorce,
Continued on page 10
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 9
then an agreement might be of benefit. When individuals
with large interests in separate assets are planning to
marry, prenuptial agreements can help achieve clarity and
trust, which helps dispel suspicion. On the other hand,
however, the discussions can sometimes be very hurtful
and add stress to new family relationships.
If the family farm corporation owns the home, or if it
is on a large property or the property has a barn or shed
on it, it can potentially be really problematic.
One way to make it seem a little fairer is to value the
matrimonial farmhouse, like a house in town, on the list
of assets and to have cash settlements for the spouse written
right in the agreement.
These agreements can help reduce the impact of
divorce, but if not handled properly, they can also cause
more problems. “The term prenup has too much baggage:
images of the gold digger versus the controlling patriarch.
A better name would be Family Farm Legacy Agreement,”
Michael Bondy, a chartered accountant in London and
national director of succession planning with Collins
Barrow, often recommends against transferring farms or
farm shares to a child until after marriage, and then for
the parents to gift the assets and do a gift agreement to
exclude the assets and the income from them from those
that qualify as marital assets.
“This and other reorganizations and structures may
remove the need for a prenup,” says Bondy.
Before you get married, also ask your lawyer to explain
the rules around inheritance. Under family law, if the
property was transferred as a gift or an inheritance during
marriage, it’s often excluded from being divided. However,
you have to be able to prove it.
This can get a little messier with property held in joint
names, even if it was inherited, so farmers again should
seek legal advice before transferring property.
To protect the farmland from divorce, instead of
building a house for your child on an existing farm parcel,
a “gift” might be better protected via a subdivided acreage
with an agreed value as of the date of the gift. Alternatively,
you might consider formally lending the funds to
buy land and letting the couple buy their own home so
everything is written down.
Similarly, a strategy that veteran farm accountant Mike
Bossy, president of BNG in Tillsonburg, Ont., has used
to potentially avoid spousal ownership problems is to
issue common (growth) shares to the parents, with these
then gifted to their farming son or daughter as “excluded
property.” This excluded property does not come under
the definition of net family property in a divorce because
it was gift from parents.
If that farming child dies at an early age, he or she can
bequeath those shares back to their parents. All of this
happens tax free in Ontario, says Bossy.
Although this method avoids the daughter-in-law getting
the farm assets, it doesn’t consider her contribution
or her future needs. With this plan, you might want to
include an insurance policy listing the spouse as the benefactor,
Farm financial adviser and succession specialist Len
Davies also favours the use of gift shares.
“The gifting of common shares after marriage is
always my first choice,” says the Ontario-based Davies.
But the overall agreement still needs to be fair if there is to
be an amicable divorce. “The gift after marriage protects
property,” Davies explains, “but what stops the departing
spouse from claiming their ex is actually making $150,000
per year when they may not be?”
Davies also always recommends an agreement regardless,
emphasizing fairness while protecting the farm.
A trust can be one of the strongest ways to protect the
farm assets from getting caught up in a divorce. Parents
put a farm’s common shares in a trust for their son or
daughter, making them the beneficiary of that trust. However,
the “child” doesn’t officially own the shares, so they
don’t have to give half to their spouses, even if they get
Generally, trusts are deemed to dispose of certain
properties at fair market value 21 years after the day the
trust was created, however. Also, they can be costly to
Unanimous Shareholder aGreements
Many farms use a corporate structure. In addition to
the other reasons to use a corporation, the unanimous
shareholders’ agreement can be used for a layer of protection
for the farm in the event of a marriage breakdown
or other unexpected developments. “With a well-crafted
shareholders’ agreement, divorce doesn’t necessarily have
to financially cripple the farm business,” says Broughton.
For example, the shareholders’ agreement (SHA) can
stipulate that on leaving, a shareholder must give one
year’s notice, with payment over 10 years at zero interest.
Also, if the divorcing parents share the goal of preserving
the asset for the children, agreements can be written
so the departing spouse gets or retains shares, with the
shares ultimately ending up with the children of the marriage.
The SHA can ensure the decision control remains
with the farming spouse. Keep in mind that shareholders
can only vote for directors and dividends, and to succeed
in such a vote requires a majority. As long as majority
control remains with the farm family, it may not matter if
the former spouse owns some shares.
Sometimes, departing spouses need the security of a
steady cash income, and retaining shares instead of receiving
a cash buyout can be better for them. In those cases,
the separated and divorced spouses are quite content to
remain as a shareholder and receive the dividend income.
“In some cases we have spent generations creating a
viable farm, and a Unanimous Shareholders’ Agreement is
one of the tools we use to insulate the farm from adverse
events,” says Broughton. CG
10 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
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Too often it
seems you don’t
hear land is up
for rent until you
learn someone is
already renting it
By Gord Gilmour
CG Associate Editor
It isn’t like commercial real estate, or even
like housing markets where so much
information is available. If you’re interested
in a house, for example, your realtor
can tell you what the last six houses sold for
in the same neighourhood. If you want to rent
office space in downtown Calgary or Toronto,
finding out the prevailing vacancy rate and
rents is a relatively simple thing.
But if you want the same sort of information
on farmland rentals, you’ll have to
look long and hard for it, and you’ll likely
still be disappointed, according to one land
Ted Nibourg is a business management
specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
(AAF), and he spends a lot of time
talking to landowners and tenants about
“We just don’t have the same sort of metrics
in agriculture,” Nibourg says about the
dearth of information.
It’s not just an Alberta problem either.
This is the reality across the country, according
to Farm Credit Canada’s chief economist,
J.P. Gervais, who says it’s more art than
science when it comes to determining what
the rent on a piece of land will be.
“There is no clear repository of this kind
of information. You can really only get a bit
of a sense of it talking to individuals about
what they’re doing,” Gervais says.
Besides, Gervais adds, “A lot of different
information, often unique to each farm
operation, goes into the determination of
what they’re willing to pay to rent a piece of
Steady so far
It was hardly surprising that land prices and
land rents shot up over the past five years.
Both had stagnated through the commodity
doldrums of the 1980s and 1990s, and
when crop prices finally did advance to new
12 APriL 2016 / COUNtrY-GUide.CA
heights, land values got pushed up along
In 2016, however, this thinking would
tell us to expect rental prices to fall, since
crop prices have retreated from those dizzy
But there’s no evidence of it, Gervais says.
“Right now I would say rental rates are holding
steady to edging higher,” Gervais says.
In no small part that’s because the
devaluation of the Canadian currency has
shielded grain producers from so much of
the impact of lower international prices,
with the loonie losing nearly a quarter of its
value. When your grain is priced in U.S. dollars,
that math works for you. Prices might
be down, but nowhere near as much as
they would be if we didn’t have this built-in
“If 2015 — we only have the first nine
months data now — isn’t a record for farm
cash receipts in Canada, it won’t be far off it,”
Gervais says. “We don’t have any hard numbers
for 2016 yet, but it’s probably going to be
very good too, if our dollar remains where it
has been, around 75 cents U.S.”
That means Canadian growers who
signed long-term rental agreements at
healthy prices aren’t under the same pressures
as, say, their counterparts in the Iowa
countryside, where there is no currency
effect to soften the blow.
“In the U.S., there’s a significant softening
of the agriculture economy,” Gervais
says. “We’re not feeling it here in the same
way, and the reason we’re not is really a
Canadian dollar story.”
Land appraiser Ryan Parker, of Valco
Consulting at London, Ont., agrees there’s
little to no evidence that farmland rental
rates are dropping.
“In light of lower commodity prices,
that’s somewhat baffling,” Parker says.
He also stresses that any impressions of
rental rates from any observer are exactly
that — impressions.
“Some have a bit of paperwork involved,
many are just straight handshake deals,”
Parker explains. “There’s no way to find six
comparables for farmland renting. You’re
left with, ‘well, I heard these guys are getting
this, and those guys are getting that.’”
Impressions to date, however, do suggest
that the rental market for farmland is taking
a breather from rising rents, but continues
to hold its past gains.
“In a lot of cases I think farmers are
working on a cost-averaging model, though
calling it a true model might be a bit of a
stretch,” Parker says. “They’re combining
rental arrangements from today where they
might be paying more than prices would
justify, with a deal from 15 or 20 years ago,
where they probably paid a bit less than
In the short term, taking on more land
that won’t necessarily pay for itself might
still be a winner in the farmer’s eyes in that
light, especially if it allows them to spread
fixed costs and labour costs over a larger
land base. Maintaining a land base of a certain
size often necessitates that sort of decision-making,
It’s rolling forward a few years that
makes the picture murky. Land rental rates
tend to be sticky, but if the period of low
grain prices persists, farmers and landlords
may be forced to take that into account
Parker notes that land prices fell at one
point in the 1980s during the farm crisis
of that era. “What’s less clear — and I don’t
know if anyone has the answer to this — is
whether land rental rates fell during that
period as well,” he says. “I suspect they did.”
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Not just numbers
AAF’s Nibourg describes a good rental
arrangement that sounds a lot like a good
interpersonal arrangement of any kind.
It starts with respect for the other person
and understanding where they’re coming
from, and builds from there, going well
beyond just raw numbers. In fact, he says
one of the most common jobs these days is
educating landlords who might be a couple
generations removed from the farm on the
realities of the agriculture economy, and
disassociating them from a straight numbers
“These folks will come in with the mindset
that they want to see the same sort of
return on investment they’ll get somewhere
else, say five per cent,” Nibourg says.
“If they’re talking about land that’s worth
$3,000 an acre, that’s a cash rent of $150,
and they’re just not going to get that.”
Some come to understand that in agriculture
returns tend to be low — something
Hicham Fram, agr.
Continued on page 14
Adriana Puscasu, agr.
Valentin Baciu, agr.
G r o w i n g s o y b e a n c u l t u r e
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 13
Already, 40 per
cent of Canada’s
farmland is rented,
and that number
grow. For farmers,
it’s a staggering
in a largely
on the order of two per cent — and that the
real gains come in the form of increasing
land values over time. Others decide they
haven’t the appetite for this business and
would be better off getting out.
“I actually convinced a couple of ladies
to sell their land,” Nibourg says. “They came
to the conclusion that was just better for
For the ones who do stick around,
Nibourg recommends a few straightforward
starting points. The first is understanding
exactly what the true productive
capacity of their land is. In many jurisdictions,
including Alberta, a legal land
description can give the landowner crop
insurance data that gives a clear picture of
“Taking that information, I then look
at a four-year rotation — canola, maybe a
couple of years of wheat, and barley — and
look at what that would translate into as
cash receipts,” Nibourg says. “That can give
a pretty sound starting point for negotiations.
But just saying, ‘I have the best land in
the county,’ doesn’t really tell me anything.”
From there it’s a question of finding a
spot where a willing renter and a willing
landlord can come to an agreement. He
tells both parties when he has a chance
that the right answer is probably not going
to be scooping up every last cent. If you
want to build a long-term, stable renting
arrangement, a bit of empathy running in
both directions goes a long way.
“The people who tend to have these
long-term arrangements are people who
are willing to leave a little something on
the table for the next guy,” Nibourg says.
The intangibles also come into play.
For example, what is it worth to you to
deal with someone you know you can
trust? Quite a bit at times, according to
Nibourg. More than once a landlord has
gone through the exercise of pencilling
out the rental value, based on the land’s
productivity, and been a little surprised at
“They’ll say, ‘Well, that’s a bit more
than I’m getting now, but I’ve been doing
business with this person for 20 years, and
they’ve never ripped me off yet — I think
I’ll stick with them’,” Nibourg says.
As with so many things in agriculture
it’s partly a question of reputation. Consider
the way land tends to hit the rental
market. Sure, now and then you might hear
about a tender going out, or see an advertisement.
But the majority trades quietly,
with a landlord giving a prospective tenant
a call one evening and saying, “I have
a quarter section I thought you might be
“These are small towns, and there’s a
saying I like to remember: ‘If you don’t
know what you’re doing, somebody else
does,’” Nibourg says. “I know renters have
told me they’ll look around the hockey rink,
see the person who’s always shouting at the
referee, and think to themselves, ‘I don’t
know if I want to get involved in that.’”
One thing that is clear is that getting rental
arrangements right is becoming more
important with each passing year.
Recent FCC estimates peg rented farmland
at 40 per cent of Canada’s total acreage,
and on many of the largest farms, rented land
comprises the majority of their land base.
Gervais says growers frequently need
to walk a tightrope when making rental
arrange ments. Nobody likes to sign a deal
that won’t be immediately profitable, but
competition for land can be intense and
growers also can’t afford to either miss
opportunities or lose their land base.
“It really is a delicate balance that they
have to strike,” Gervais says.
One thing any renter should know is
just how big the range of rental rates are.
A 2012 study funded by the Saskatchewan
Ministry of Agriculture looked at nearly
1,500 cash rental arrangements and about
500-crop share deals, none between immediate
The company hired to do the survey
found an astonishing range of rental rates,
ranging from an almost unbelievable low
of $6.25 an acre to a high of $140.60 an
acre. On average, the rate was $35.65 an
acre across the province, with a significant
variation through the province’s agricultural
There also appears to be a significant
variation in length of rental agreements.
An Alberta study for 2011 and 2012 found
just under half of agreements were for a
single year. About a third were three-year
contracts, with five-year deals in place
on about a fifth of the contracts. After
doing their homework on what’s going on
around them, growers will need to look
within their own operation for answers,
Gervais says. “They will need to delve into
their balance sheet and their cash reserves
and decide just how much risk they’re
comfortable taking on, how much of a
‘premium’ they might be willing to pay to
rent that land.” CG
14 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
Believes in Regenerative Farming
“We’re a little more diversified than most folks
around here,” Sarah Singla says. On her 250-
acre farm in southern France, Singla puts in
nine acres of winter wheat, 57.5 acres of
triticale, 14 acres of flax, five acres of
sunflowers, one acre of buckwheat, 40 acres of
rapeseed, 40 acres of alfalfa, 41 acres of
spring peas, 1.2 acres of phacelia, one acre of
parsley for seed, one acre of dill and 14 acres
of sorghum. That’s 12 different crops.
Diversification allows her to use crops with long
tap roots like alfalfa, phacelia and sunflowers to
break up soil compacted layers and use up
water with other crops like parsley and wheat
that have shallower roots. Diversity also
encourages a living soil with earthworms and
their castings provide a perfect mix of nutrients
for the plants.
“Diversity doesn’t always mean adding more
species,” Singla said. It also means putting the
same crop in different areas of the farm to add
nutrients, depending on the needs of the area.
Peas can add nitrogen, and buckwheat can
unlock phosphorus. Buckwheat also has a
good effect on controlling weeds,” she said.
Singla said farmers need to think about what is
in the ground and what kind of crops will
address the soil issues. For example, wheat
has shallow roots, so a crop like rapeseed with
a taproot can help. Fava beans can bring
nitrogen to the soil, and cover crops can
include a variety of crops like vetch and
radishes that provide a lot of advantages to the
In 1980, Sarah’s grandfather went no-till. She
now manages her grandfather’s farm and
strives to constantly “look forward” and evolve
to not only be no-till but to constantly improve
and regenerate their soil with diversity and
other farm methods. Covered soil, direct
sowing and rotation of crops are all part of her
conservation tillage and regenerative practices.
What helps regenerate the soil? Singla says
light, air and water; biological available
nutrients; living material on the soil including
plants and animals and living materials in the
“Organisms in the soil can work for you if you
keep it covered,” she said. “Soil is meant to be
covered. We need to cover and rebuild the soil
to regenerate it.”
Some of the varieties Singla uses in her cover
crops are red clover, phacelia, guizotia niger,
mustard sarepta, sunflower, forage peas,
vetch, and oats. She will seed triticale directly
into cover crops to keep the soil covered with
residue at all times.
Sara’s on farm trials have shown her that bare
soil is too hot while covered soil stays cool. “If
the soil is too hot you are killing your fungi. You
are killing all the living organisms,” Singla said.
The cover crops also help with retention and
infiltration. “Water won’t infiltrate bare soil.
Instead, it runs off.” In addition, she says, “I’ve
found I can use less and less fertilizer when I
keep my rotations diversified and cover on the
soil” she said.
Sarah was a speaker at the Innovative Farmers
Conference on Feb 23 and 24, 2016.
Harold Parsonage was determined
to find a better way to open the
farm to future generations.
16 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
Preparing for takeoff
By Maggie Van Camp / CG Associate Editor
PhOTOs: sANDY BLACk
Four children in their late 20s and
early 30s, all want to be part of
this family farm and aerial
The Parsonage family transferred
ownership before operational
management. The parents had
used some of their capital gains
exemption earlier when buying
out of partnership, and about that
time created a trust containing
the farm corporation’s shares.
Each child now bought the farm’s
common shares that were held in
the trust, getting young farmer
loans to cover part of the cost of
these shares, and using some of
everyone’s capital gains
exemption. Now the farm
corporation has some additional
working capital, plus a multiskilled
young team all striving
toward the same vision.
The next step is to transfer
management of both the farm
and aerial spraying business to
the next generation.
Sometimes, we hear, succeeding a farm business can be
storybook simple. The parents roll the ownership of the
farm to one child while they switch their own attention
to travel or to a hobby. Occasionally Mom and Dad can
be spotted back on the farm helping out during harvest,
but often with the hint of a frown that shows how much they’re
actually enjoying their new independence.
Other times, succession is hard work. There are structures to create,
timelines to be met and miscommunication to deal with, not to
mention the all-too-real risk of emotional upheaval around every
These are the farms where the farm advisers get called in and they
start drawing those three overlapping circles — ownership, business
and family. The messy part, the advisers always say, is right in the
middle where the three circles overlap.
Harold Parsonage knows that overlap. Time and again, he has
lived and worked inside it. First, for instance, he and his brother had
a farming and feedlot partnership, although they split it up when
BSE wreaked its havoc on cattle markets.
After that dust settled, Harold followed his passion for flying. He
started an aerial spraying business and cropping operation with his
wife Jody about 50 miles southwest of Portage la Prairie, Man. But
then Harold’s father delayed any succession planning on the family
farm, which led first to uncertainty and then to some tension once
the early signs of dementia set in and it all needed to be sorted out in
Harold, after all that, was determined to do things differently. He
promised himself he wouldn’t put his children in such a position, so
he made sure he started the succession process sooner rather than
later. His clear goal was to have an ownership transfer plan in place
before health issues could be expected to have an impact.
That’s how, in January 2014, Harold came to propose a plan to
his four children, and it’s how, 10 months later the paperwork was
“The whole thing was Harold’s idea. Once the kids were on board,
Continued on page 18
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 17
For father Harold
here with son
to excel at
it happened fairly quickly, after a few
discussions of the plan and implications,”
recalls Jennie Parsonage, who
has helped her dad co-ordinate the
family’s succession process.
After earning a degree in economics
from the Royal Military College
in Kingston, Ont. and serving
as a logistics officer with the military,
coming back to the farm and
helping co-ordinate the family’s
succession planning began to look
achievable to Jennie.
Soon, she transferred to the
Reserve Force so she could remain
in Manitoba and take on the task.
It turns out, in fact, that it’s the
kind of role that can improve the
chances of success for almost any
Al Scholz, farm adviser and
executive director for Sask atchewan
Institute of Agrologists even calls the
appointment of a planning co-ordinator
“one of the primary success
factors” for farm families.
A planning co-ordinator is usually
a family member delegated to
make things happen. The co-ordinator’s
job is to stay focused on the
goal, and to keep pushing the rest of
the family forward.
The co-ordinator also collects
the information that the advisers
require so it’s consistent. “It doesn’t
require any experience to be the
planning co-ordinator,” says Scholz.
“In fact, common sense is all that is
needed... and a desire to be part of
The Parsonages were able to
leverage some Growing Forward 2
funding to cover about half of the
financial costs of the actual consulting
and professional services.
However, that doesn’t include their
family’s investment in time and
energy to get this done.
“One of the biggest costs has been
the time required for discussion,
research, and advisers,” says Jennie.
The Parsonage succession also
required some business smarts and
preplanning, however. In 2006, Harold
established and controlled the
Harold Parsonage Family Trust that
owned all of the 100 common shares
in Parsonage Farms Ltd. At the time,
the beneficiaries of the trust were
Harold, Jody and their offspring.
Eight years later, the kids had finished
post-secondary education and
all indicated a desire to be part of
the family farm. So in 2014, to transfer
ownership to the children, the
trust sold each sibling 24.75 shares
at fair market value and transferred
the remaining share to Harold.
The children each got partial
financing for the purchase price of
the shares, which included a promissory
note to Harold and Jody, forgivable
Then, the trust distributed the
capital gains realized on the sale
of the shares to Harold, Jody and
each of the four children, who were
able to each use a portion of their
lifetime capital gains exemption
(LCGE). The limit on gains arising
from sales of qualified farm property,
qualified fishing property or
Qualified Small Business Corporation
Shares (QSBC) after March 18,
2007 and before 2014 was $375,000
or half of an LCGE of $750,000.
The good news for farm succession
is that recently this has
increased significantly and now the
lifetime capital gains exemption
is $1 million for Qualified Farm
Property, which can include sales
of farm land, quota, and shares of a
“Also of interest to some people
is that even if they had used all of
their old exemption (for example
when it was $800,000) they still
have this ‘new’ $200,000 available,”
says Lisa Kemp, partner with BDO
Harold and Jody were able to use
the proceeds of the sale of shares
to purchase the home quarter and
another half section from Harold’s
parents, ensuring access to a
core portion of the operation. The
remaining cash was split four ways
and put back into the farm as shareholder
loans from each kid, providing
cash inflow to the farm.
It’s complicated but an ingenious
way to succeed ownership, defer
taxes and allow for growth. Their
accountant had never seen a plan
like this but couldn’t see any reason
why it wouldn’t work and he got the
nod of approval from a tax lawyer
colleague. The Parsonages were willing
to share it with Country Guide
to push the thinking a little further
about succession structures and to
motivate other farmers to look for
creative solutions for treating chil-
18 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
We need to
annual or semiannual
dren fairly and avoiding the potentially
massive tax burden of selling
Meanwhile, the Parsonage children
got approved for loans and the
family began a series of discussions
with their lawyer to come up with
a unanimous shareholders’ agreement.
This document addresses
what-if situations, such as anyone
wanting out of the farm, death of
a shareholder, marital separations
and the transfer of shares to the
“A key clause is a formula that
limits the value of the shares if any
sibling decides they want out in
the first 20 years, with the shares
eventually reaching an unrestricted
value,” says Jennie.
Harold developed a plan for how
they could transfer ownership, and
then asked his children if they were
interested. “The clear plan and early
ownership opportunity helped to
cement the interest and the plans of
the kids to continue farming,” says
But there was also more to it.
“Transferring ownership first was
seen as a motivating factor for the
next generation to become more
involved in operational and management
control,” says Jennie. “Plus
it facilitated an injection of capital
into the farm.”
Jennie and her common-law
spouse (Patrick) now farm with his
family close to where she grew up.
They also have three children, so
currently she only helps with Parsonage
Farms Ltd.’s year-end books,
plus filing corporate taxes and personal
taxes for the family and occasionally
doing some grain hauling.
At 59 years old, Harold is still
very involved in day-to-day operations
of the 1,800-acre farm, growing
canola, wheat, soybeans and
oats. He’s also the chief pilot of Air
Greenway Ltd., their aerial spraying
company that last year sprayed
40,000 acres using two Thrush S2Rs
and a Cessna AgWagon.
The only bump they’ve run into
is a common one. It’s the generational
divide on work ethic, where
Dad is a workaholic while the
younger generation wants some
time away from the farm to be with
their children. Getting Dad to slow
down and find hobbies not related
to the farm can be difficult, and he
sometimes feels that the kids aren’t
putting in long enough hours.
Although Harold still does the
majority of grain hauling and is still
involved in all decisions, he’s slowly
letting Sally (26 years old) and Riley
(28 years old) make some final production
decisions, including the
daily prioritization of work. And all
the children are involved in major
Harold has already transferred
management control for large decisions
— financing, crop rotation,
marketing — to his children, while
still providing his opinion and experience
in these areas. “He doesn’t
veto even if he disagrees with the
kids’ ultimate decision,” says Jennie.
Harold, Riley and Sally work full
time on the family businesses and
an additional person steps in during
spray season and harvest. Often,
that extra work is filled by a combination
of Sally’s common-law
spouse Jeff, brother Dory (one of the
owners and an engineer and pilot
in Edmonton), Jennie or another
cousin. Also, Dory’s wife Adria Grewal,
oversees the advertising and
website for Air Greenway Ltd.
Riley, who has a diploma in agriculture
as well as his aerial application
licence, does the machinery
repairs, equipment management
and maintenance, and he works
with Sally to make crop production
decisions. His wife Rachelle, works
off farm and often feeds the crew at
Sally has completed an agri-
Continued on page 20
For Jennie (l),
and Sally, clear
roles and a
respect for each
other’s skill sets
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 19
Lending to grow
Launched in March 2012, FCC’s Young
Farmer Loan has grown to almost
worth more than
approved, as of the end of 2015.
The Young Farmer Loan provides
qualified producers, under age 40,
with loans of up to
to purchase or improve farmland and
buildings. The loan has a variable lending
rate of prime plus 0.5 per cent, offers
a special fixed rate and no loan
In 2014-15, FCC approved more than
in financing to farmers under age 40,
representing more than one-quarter of the
in disbursements last year to help
customers expand or start their
cultural degree in agronomy and did some
post-graduate work before deciding to farm
full time. She co-ordinates input purchases
and is becoming more adept at running
the administrative side of the farm. During
spraying, Sally is both ground crew and the
contact person for clients, but as the business
grows, she is focusing more on liaison and
planning with clients, providing the pilots
with GPS maps of the fields, and co-ordinating
chemical. Sally and Riley also end
up being the catch-all for all required tasks
when non-farming children aren’t there.
Last spring, Jeff decided he’d like to
be more involved in the farm and left his
job to be part of the ground crew during
spraying and a combine driver during harvest,
as well as helping with maintenance
and repairs and overseeing the computer/
technology for the farm. This January, he
returned to school to become a qualified
aircraft mechanic engineer.
Acres sprayed per year have been steadily
increasing with the addition of Riley as a
second pilot and larger planes. However,
the family must think about further expansion
to be able to financially accommodate
Currently the spraying part of their operation
is more profitable than growing crops
so the cash flows for buying larger planes
often look better than buying land, which
has increased in value dramatically in the last
decade. Having said that, the farm is always
looking for more land to buy or rent.
With so many family members involved,
they try to involve all of the shareholders
before making large financial decisionm like
debt repayments, land purchases, new rental
agreements, large equipment purchases, and
even to some extent, marketing decisions.
With one shareholder in Alberta and
everyone busy with young families, it’s not
always possible to have an in-person meeting
in a timely manner, so they get together
when Dory is home and often engage via a
group chat dedicated to farm business on
WhatsApp (a free messaging app available
for Android and other smartphones).
Hiring an adviser to lead succession
planning with all of the children and their
spouses helped non-farm background
spouses better understand the farm, and it
highlighted everyone’s expectations. “Working
with Backswath Management helped us
to better understand everyone’s perceptions,
values, interests, and goals, including personal,
family and business,” says Jennie.
Their adviser, Gavin Betker from Morden,
Man., says it certainly helped that all of
the siblings are fairly laid back, so flexibility
and harmony are not often an issue in decision-making.
Also, Dad and Mom (Jody)
mostly stayed quiet and listened during these
discussions. Although Jody has a career off
farm, she does have a vested interest in the
ability of her shareholders’ loan to provide a
future retirement income. “She (Mom) also
tends to stay removed from actual succession
discussions and decisions, but is always
listening,” says Jennie.
An emerging challenge is for the siblings
to come forward with their ideas, have some
discussion, and then drive them through
implementation. As they move away from
the intensity of succession, this stalling out
is starting to happen more. “We need to have
more productive annual or semi-annual
meetings, with agendas, notes taken, actions
assigned, minutes distributed and subsequent
followup,” Jennie says. “I think this
could help maintain momentum.”
They’re fairly unique in that the nonfarming
children own equal shares in the
farm as the farming children, says Betker.
As a result, there has been quite a bit of discussion
about how to fairly compensate
the farming children for their labour in a
manner that is somewhat tax efficient and
doesn’t drain all growth out of the farm. At
the same time, they need to recognize the
investment the non-farming children have
in the farm and ensure an acceptable rate of
return on those funds.
Recently, the group did establish baseline
personal compensation amounts for
Riley and Sally that the farm will always be
responsible for paying. After that, profits
will be retained in the corporation up to
an agreed-on rate of return for shareholders,
while in good years with excess profits,
bonuses would be paid to Sally and Riley and
kept in their shareholder loans.
So far, this arrangement is satisfactory,
but there’s the risk that in very profitable
years, the two of them will be bumped into
higher marginal tax rates.
Everyone was open with their career
goals during their planning session with Betker.
So far, they’ve managed to work their
personal goals into the business models, now
or at some point in the future. Given their
broad range of complementary skill sets,
interests and backgrounds, it was relatively
simple to allocate roles and responsibilities
in a way that made sense.
But having seen the success that structured
thinking can bring, Jennie says, an
organizational chart and job descriptions are
in their future. CG
20 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
By Lilian Schaer
The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement
Association (OSCIA)is continuing its
research into cover crops with a new
multi-faceted project. Headed by the
St Clair regional association, the work
also involves growers and sites in
the Ottawa Rideau, Quinte, Eastern
Valley and East Central regions.
Launched in 2015, it is building on a
previous project led by Soil Management
Specialist Adam Hayes of the Ontario
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and
Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) that evaluated
establishment levels and impacts of
two, three and six-way cover crop mixes
following winter wheat. Hayes is continuing
his involvement in the new initiative;
OMAFRA Soil Management Specialist for
horticulture crops, Anne Verhallen, is also
How is the research being conducted?
Activities in the three year project consist of
Multi-species mixes– small plot and field
length trials looking at mixtures including
three to 14 different species and grown
using various treatments to assess what
combination might give the best results.
Nitrogen (N) credits– although it is known
that red clover frost-seeded in winter wheat
will produce N credits for the following corn
crop, less is known about the impact of cover
crops involving legumes or other species and
with shorter growth periods. This work is in
conjunction with Dr. Laura Van Eerd from
University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus.
Phosphorous (P) implications –
investigating what happens to soluble
phosphorous released from cover crops
and possible management opportunities.
Dr. Merrin Macrae from the University of
Waterloo is leading this aspect of the project.
Insects and nematodes– Tracey Baute
and Albert Tenuta from OMAFRA are
investigating what, if any, potential
impacts cover crops might have on soil
insect and soybean cyst nematode
Demonstration sites– sites will be
established in various regions showcasing
different cover crop practices which will be
available for OSCIA tours, hosted learning
events, or self-learn opportunities.
What has the project found?
Although the project is only in its first year,
some initial results are available, says Hayes.
For example, cover crop mixes involving
three, six, nine and 10 or more species were
trialed on small plots, and biomass weights
“Having more species isn’t adding to the
amount of biomass produced as we really
didn’t see any increase in biomass beyond
six cover crop species in a mix,” Hayes
explains. “But there was a certain amount of
variability because of dry conditions, so we’ll
need to wait for two or three years’ worth of
numbers for more definitive outcomes.”
Crop Advances is an annual report that
summarizes applied research projects
involving the OMAFRA Field Crop team, in partnership
with commodity groups, industry and the OSCIA.
Go to the Research & Resources page at
Advancing cover crop systems –
studying soil health, nutrients, insects and nematodes
Some field scale plots of multi-species
mixes were also established, but showed
no increase in biomass beyond the six
species mix. A single field scale site had
the same mix applied but at different
seeding rates, and results did not show
any difference in biomass accumulation
beyond the base seeding rate.
“From an economic perspective, that’s
important because it shows you may
be better to start with a lower seeding
rate instead of getting into high rates,”
Who is funding the research?
This project is funded through a Tier
Two grant under the new OSCIA grant
structure introduced in 2015. Tier
Two grants are supported by OSCIA
and OMAFRA. Innovative Farmers
Association of Ontario and the
participating OSCIA regions are also
Where can I get more information?
Visit www.ontariosoilcrop.org for
information on this and other Tier Two
ONTARIO SOIL AND CROP IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION
Mission: Facilitate responsible economic management of soil, water, air and crops through development and communication of innovative farming practices
When the big chains consolidated their
outlets, business-minded locals and
farmers started up their own
independent farm supply businesses.
They’re succeeding too, but it isn’t simple
By Lisa Guenther / CG Field Editor
22 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
PhOTOs: RebECka bLOOm
Old habits were dying hard, even on a personal
basis. Here, about two hours west of Prince
Albert, Sask., the Canadian National Railway
abandoned the branch line that used to run
up from North Battleford, connecting the little towns
that had been my stomping grounds.
It happened just a couple of years after I finished
high school in Turtleford, but whenever I came home
from university, I would stop at the tracks before I
remembered I no longer had to look out for any trains
rumbling down those rails. The railway was just that
deeply ingrained in us.
But that was the least of the problems that the rural
communities faced with the closure of branch lines.
The elevator companies soon padlocked their sites too,
deciding it was time to pull out of the countryside.
Farmers still did big business with those line companies.
They bought inputs in the spring and sold grain in
the fall even as the companies started building big terminals
in larger regional centres such as North Battleford,
apparently confident the traffic would follow them to
their new sites.
But if that was the assumption, it was a miscalculation.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does business. In
the space left by the elevator companies, independent ag
retailers have started up and in many cases thrived.
Since 1995, market share has steadily grown for these
new local enterprises.
Cavalier Agrow is one of those companies. Started
by Martin and Monique Detillieux in 1999 at the ghost
town of Cavalier, it now also boasts locations in Medstead,
Meadow Lake, and Spiritwood, with 30 full-time
staff. The Cavalier location features a new office, shop,
and chemical warehouse, plus the first liquid fertilizer
facility in the area, something they saw a need for during
the dry years.
If you’d told Martin and Monique 20 years ago that
they’d one day be running a business this size, they
might not have believed you. Martin had worked for
the elevator in Cavalier for 13 years already. They were
raising their family, which would soon include four kids,
and were happy to be part of the tight-knit Meota/Edam
But then the elevator closed. Pioneer transferred
Martin to the Saskatoon area, and although the couple
started looking at acreages around that city, Monique
says it just didn’t feel right.
Martin agreed. “I gave it a try. I spent three months in
Saskatoon. And it just didn’t really appeal to us as much
as staying here in small-town Saskatchewan.”
It didn’t feel right to his customers, either. The Cavalier
site is nearly 50 kilometres northwest of North Battleford,
and farmers weren’t thrilled about driving farther
for inputs. Nor did they want to lose another rural business,
or give up on the idea of strong, local relationships.
In fact, relationships are so important that there’s now
a sign glued to the wall of their Cavalier boardroom: Our
business is all about relationships.
Cavalier Agrow isn’t the only independent ag retailer
in the area. If you drive 25 kilometres north on Highway
26, you’ll find Warrington AgroDynamic, which sits just
outside the town of Mervin.
John and Roger Warrington started out growing seed
and operating a seed-cleaning plant, then moved into
fertilizer. In the early ’90s, they saw a need for custom
spraying, and added that to their business. Today they
focus purely on inputs and agronomic services.
I’m reminded it’s a tight community when I meet in the
boardroom with Roger, general manager. Also at the table
are John’s son Greg, the location manager, and Ian Weber,
their sales manager. Greg and I had been in the same
graduating class, and I was in 4-H with Roger’s daughters,
and they always struck me as calm and confident.
Ian has been with the Warringtons for nearly 10 years,
but he easily recalls the exact date he started working
with them because of their different philosophy. He says
their whole business model is based on providing services
the big companies won’t.
“They were trying to force growers into doing things
that they didn’t want to do, like driving their grain an
hour and a half out of the territory,” says Ian. “They
forced them into doing that by closing the elevators. And
they figured their inputs and crop supplies would follow.”
But as the elevators left, the Warringtons’ business
expanded, Roger says. “When everybody else was leaving,
we were putting money back in.”
Continued on page 24
For Martin and
essential to the
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 23
say Greg (l),
All levels of
they point out,
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t tough decisions.
As farmers upped their use of fungicides, the Warrington
crew worried about the growing risk in their custom
application business. The acreage they needed to cover
was increasing. Their clients didn’t own sprayers, and the
application windows were very narrow. Ian says dealing
with sudden insect infestations was particularly stressful.
So the Warringtons moved out of custom spraying,
encouraging clients to invest in their own sprayers, and
they focused on inputs and agronomy.
Warrington AgroDynamic now boasts a new office,
with a neat bin yard and chemical warehouse. Greg
points to their 14,000-tonne dry storage capability,
which ensures product is there when farmers need it.
They’ve recently hired two new full-time employees,
too, and in spring, with their seasonal staff onboard,
they have 12 staff.
While customer relationships are top-of-mind at
both companies, supplier relationships are important
too. They’re not afraid to ask their suppliers questions
when they need more information about a product.
An important part of their job is to be the interpreters
between the farmer and the supplier, he explains.
Martin echoes that sentiment. He says their suppliers
have always wanted to see their retail business succeed.
Suppliers offered them credit for inputs when they were
starting up, and he’s worked with some of them for over
Human resources and other business
Ag retailers face some of the same business challenges
you’ll find in every industry. One of the big ones is finding
and keeping talent.
Greg says Warrington AgroDynamic doesn’t have the
brand or name recognition of a big company like Cargill
outside their trading area. They’re also a couple of hours
drive from Saskatoon, and some people hesitate to move
to a remote area. And, he adds, some people like the inhouse
training and perceived security of working for a
But others find working for smaller companies more
exciting and engaging, he says. Ian is probably the best
proof of that. He likes to have a meeting, discuss what
needs to be done, and then go do it. He found this more
difficult to do in the large company he used to work for,
where decisions coming from upper management didn’t
always make sense in the field.
So how did the Warringtons recruit Ian? He happens
to be best friends with Cavalier Agrow’s location
manager, who knew the Warringtons were looking for an
agronomist, and suggested Ian talk to Roger.
With new personnel about to join the company, the
Warringtons realized they needed to brush up on their
human resource policies. They’ve signed on with a Canadian
company that offers HR services through an online
platform and over the phone. Greg has talked to their
HR advisers, and says they’ve been pretty helpful.
24 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
“There’s a lot to HR,” he says.
The Detillieuxs don’t ignore their human resources
either. They look first for personality and passion for
agriculture, followed by paper (i.e. credentials), and they
recruit university and college students to their in-house
Field Scout Apprenticeship Program. About half their
permanent employees have come to them through that
They also have a personal development program that
is built into their bonus structure. Staff are expected to
take part in three levels of training. This includes training
that they send staff to and in-house training, as well
as training that staff ask to be sent to, such as the Canola
But there’s also a budget for personal development.
This can be work-related, but it doesn’t have to be.
Employees have used this money for gym memberships,
cooking classes, bow-making courses, and photography
Why would Cavalier Agrow pay for someone’s bowmaking
“Happy people make happy staff,” Monique says.
We want to keep opportunity here,”
says Roger Warrington. “We think
it lies with independent people, not with
Continued on page 26
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COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 25
Martin hopes that every time they draw a string on
that bow, they think, “Cavalier Agrow helped me do
this.” Besides, he points out, it’s less expensive to invest
in the staff you already have than to recruit new ones.
After we’ve finished the official interview, Monique
gives me a tour of the building. She shows me the
kitchen and lunch area where they all eat together
every day. Each location has a kitchen, she says, and
they all have catered lunches during the busiest seasons.
Cavalier has catered lunches for their staff yearround.
The lunches are so good that some staff also wanted
an on-site gym, so they added it when they built their
new office three years ago. Monique planned the gym so
their customers could use it as well.
Both Cavalier Agro and Warrington AgroDynamic
are also part of United Suppliers, a network of sorts that
negotiates better prices on behalf of its members.
It also offers training in the spring and fall to the
employees of independent ag retailers, and both companies
have taken advantage of that. Ian says the network
gives him a chance to talk to other managers and agronomists.
It also helps them source new products that work
and are a good fit for the area, he adds.
A foundation of sound agronomy
Of course, neither the Warringtons nor the Detillieuxs
have had success just fall into their laps. When opportunity
presented itself, they were ready to leverage it.
Sound agronomy that creates value for customers is
at the core of both Warrington AgroDynamic and Cavalier
Agrow. In fact, Martin has also posted this on the
boardroom wall at Cavalier, as a reminder during staff
This has turned into a timely policy as well. Once
the Canadian Food Inspection Agency dropped the efficacy
requirements for fertility products, farmers started
seeing and getting calls about new products with big
Sometimes the product claims are valid, Martin says,
but some sales reps are overclaiming.
“It’s turned into quite a sleazy market on the foliar
nutrition side of things. And we haven’t seen the end of
it,” Martin says.
Location manager Greg says that even agronomically
sound products don’t necessarily perform well in their
area. They only want to sell products that give their customers
a return on investment, he says.
“Just an example is canola seed. Varieties that perform
well in Lethbridge or Saskatoon are not necessarily
going to work in Mervin or Turtleford,” Ian adds.
For years, the Warringtons conducted on-farm trials
to try out new products and farming practices. Roger
says they used to weigh the results in the seed-cleaning
Once Ian joined the company, they implemented
protocols and repeatability to make the trials more scientifically
rigorous. They bought a weigh wagon so they
wouldn’t have to rely on suppliers to have one on hand
when it was time to harvest trials.
If you can show a product or practice has a consistent
return on investment, “it becomes a no-brainer,” says
Greg. It’s easier for farmers to pencil it in when it’s going
to give them a return, he adds.
Not every customer values the trial work, but Roger
says they’ve noticed the farmers who value the trials are
expanding their operations.
Cavalier Agrow has been running trials from the
beginning. They now run between 120 and 150 field
trials per year with farmers, and own a weigh wagon at
Martin says they wanted to quantify sound agronomy,
and their trials, branded agProve, are a way of
“sorting through the chaff.”
Running trials at each location is important, even
though it makes their business more complicated. What
works near Cavalier may not work in Meadow Lake,
Monique explains, whether because of growing degree
days, soil, or microclimates. “There are just so many factors.”
Ian says the biggest recent shifts in agronomy have
been around fertility and fungicides. They do a lot of
soil testing and can custom blend anything required by a
field. And fungicides weren’t common in this area just a
few years ago.
“Now they’re a big part of our business. They add
a lot of money to farmers. The return on investment is
huge,” says Ian.
Both companies see precision agriculture and data
management as the next big shift. But both were cautious
about aligning themselves with any one system,
preferring to do more research to identify their best
Martin is sceptical about using NDVI images and
sparse soil testing to create field zones. Instead, Cavalier
Agrow does extensive soil testing to create management
zones. They eventually settled on a precision ag and data
management platform called iFarm, which has gone over
well with their farmers.
They didn’t know how long it would take farmers to
see an economic return from the variable rate, but they
started seeing it right away, Martin says. But there’s also
value in the record-keeping aspect of the program, he
adds. For example, in the future, malt barley contracts
might require a few years of farming records.
“They have to start today to see the benefits in three
or four or five years… They have to get on the bus now,”
Warrington AgroDynamic has just chosen to align
with a company called Decisive Farming. It also offers
data management, precision farming, and grain marketing
to farmers who sign on.
The record-keeping aspect is also important to the
Warringtons. Greg points out there are already countries
where farmers face more regulation around how they
use inputs. Whether that will come into play in Canada
remains to be seen, he says.
“It’s better to be proactive and already have a system
in place,” says Roger. When the regulators come knocking,
you’ll already be ahead of them, he adds.
26 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
The Biggest risks
When I ask Monique and Martin what their biggest
challenges are, Martin lets out a long, low whistle.
Martin and Monique see risk and challenge a little
differently because of their individual personal
approches, and they have participated in a personality
test designed to help people understand each other better.
Monique is squarely in the cautious and sceptical
quadrant, which seems very appropriate since she’s the
director of finance. Martin is in the more outgoing and
Growth is necessary to stay in the industry, Monique
says. “But growth for me is scary, because I’m questioning
and sceptical, and he’s got all sorts of ideas, and I sit
back and say, ‘OK. What are the consequences of this?’”
For example, the bigger they grow, the more closely
they have to watch that they aren’t jeopardizing their
rules around sound agronomy, creating value for customers,
and focusing on long-term success, she says.
They also don’t want to jeopardize relationships with
current customers by growing too fast, says Monique.
“That’s what keeps me awake at night sometimes.”
After opening new locations, Cavalier Agrow is now
focusing more on their current trade areas and their
core customers. That seems to be paying off. When
the new Cavalier office opened in 2013, they built five
extra offices for future employees. Those offices are now
Martin worries about the criticism farmers and the
ag industry face from outsiders. That’s part of the reason
they brought Rob Saik, CEO of Agri-Trend and
agriculture advocate, in to their Farm Forum. They
hoped Saik would open farmers’ eyes to how people
outside the industry view them. Sound agronomy and
record keeping are part of their defence against such
criticism, Martin says.
He also feels responsible for his customers’ success or
failures on the farm: “If the growers fail, we failed, even
if it’s because of the drought.”
Over in the Warringtons’ boardroom, there’s consensus
that they face the same weather and market risks
that their farmers do. But they don’t have the same risk
management tools as farmers. Greg says they try to help
their clients manage risk, in an effort to manage their
They also have very little in-house credit for that
reason, Ian says. Instead, they’ve partnered with Farm
Credit Canada to offer their farmers credit for inputs.
This works for farmers, too. Farmers can farm better
with proper credit in place, Roger says. “It’s part of a
business plan. You’ve got to have cash flow. Farmers are
way better at that now than they used to be.”
While no one can control the weather, it’s amazing
how well crops can perform these days under poor
conditions. Last spring was cold, with several late frosts,
and it was very dry right through June. Yet local farmers
pulled off good yields despite the early lack of heat or
moisture. Monique says it was one of their better years
Innovative HR is as crucial to the
success of rural independents as it is
for farmers, say Monique and Martin.
They’re convinced it’s less expensive
to invest in staff they already have,
than to hire new ones
Some of that comes down to new technology and
better varieties, but both businesses agree that farming
practices get a huge share of the credit. Farmers can
grow much better crops with very little moisture, due to
minimum tillage and better weed management.
“The soil quality has changed so much from when I
started. It’s so much better now,” says Roger. People outside
the industry think farming is doing so much damage,
“yet I think it’s way better than it was.”
Both companies not only employ local people, but
support everything from 4-H to hockey teams. Martin
says they’ve included community support into the company’s
code of ethics.
As for Roger, he says he’s always felt like he’s working
for the community. The community has invested in
their business, he says, so they have a succession plan
to ensure the company continues to work for their
Roger explains why that community connection is so
important. He used to play cribbage with his uncle John,
who homesteaded the farm after coming to the area
looking for, and finding, opportunity, he says.
“We want to keep opportunity here,” Roger says. “I
think it lies with independent people, not with multinationals.”
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 27
Should farm groups be pushing harder
to set up mentoring programs?
By Amy Petherick / CG Contributing Editor
Unfortunately for many of us, by the time
wisdom finally catches up with us, we are
already beginning to feel our age. There are
just so many things to learn on the farm,
and you only get so many chances to learn them. Every
spring is different, every barn is different, every market
But what if you were a young farmer smart enough
to realize this? Could you do something to put the odds
back in your favour?
Across Canada, more farmers are trying to do just
that. There’s a notable and growing appetite for mentorship
in agriculture, and seasoned farm managers are
responding to their call.
But is it paying off? Based on the people we talked to,
not only can it work for the young farmers, it actually
works for the mentors too, helping them on their home
farms as much as it’s helping the incoming generation.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) witnessed
this law of unintended benefits very quickly after
it launched its Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program in
2010. What started as a pilot in Alberta went national
in 2011, and by this August, a total of 84 producers
between the ages of 18 and 35 will have graduated.
Getting a little crop advice from a
neighbour from time to time isn’t
mentorship. Instead, a mentoring
relationship starts with specific
goals, specific time frames, and a
commitment to career building
Jolene Noble, the program co-ordinator, is expecting
60 to 75 applications again this year, yet she still finds it
humbling just to read about the individuals coming into
their program, even before they ever meet face to face.
“It’s just unreal what some of these people are doing
at such a young age,” Noble says. “These are some very
powerful young people.”
Meanwhile, however, Farm Management Canada
had to give up its STEP UP program in 2013 when it
couldn’t find matching dollars to trigger federal support
under the Growing Forward suite of programs.
Making it work
Hand-picking the best mentors to partner with its formidable
young candidates is more than one person can
handle alone, so the CCA has set up a selection panel to
get the job done right.
What’s impressive, however, is that when the panel
sends out a feeler to see if their mentor might be interested
in donating some time to help a young person
learn new skills, the mentor almost always responds
with a quick and resolute “Yes.”
Noble sees this as proof that people in the industry
really are supportive of the youth. They don’t just talk
the talk. They walk it too, turning down the opportunity
only when they just cannot free up enough time to commit
to making the relationship successful.
That’s even before they know what’s in it for them,
Noble adds. They’re pleased and often a bit flattered to
be asked, of course, but mostly they’re motivated by a
sense of wanting to give back.
Even so, the mentors almost always begin to report
that they’re getting some very real benefits from the
process too. “I get a lot of feedback from the mentors
saying that they get a lot from the program,” Noble says.
“Some feel like they’re the ones getting mentored.”
Heather Watson, executive director for Farm Management
Canada, says no one in her group had really
predicted how appropriate the tagline of their STEP UP
mentorship program would prove, with its emphasis on
“where experience meets enthusiasm.”
Sometimes the established farmer had brought experience
to their mentorship pairing and found that the
younger partner provided the enthusiasm. This wasn’t
unexpected. But then there have also been times it went
the other way completely.
“Sometimes the new entrant or young farmer came
with a bunch of new ideas or from another province
and they had all this different experience to bring,”
Watson explains, “and sometimes it wasn’t just the mentees
bringing enthusiasm to the partnership, it was the
mentors saying, ‘look how great this is,’ and were really
Watson says mentors themselves reported the experi-
28 APriL 2016 / CountrY-GuidE.CA
ence often helped them establish new friendships and
reduced the workload on their own operation, since the
mentees would come live on the farm for at least eight
weeks. More importantly though, she often heard that
they had gained a fresh perspective on their current
farm business management practices and were able to
refine their own strategies during the teaching process.
“One of the big things was taking time for the mentorship,
not just welcoming someone to the farm, put
them in a corner and say, ‘get to work,’” Watson says.
“It wasn’t just an add-on, it was a fundamental belief
that they have a duty to pass on knowledge. They took it
really seriously. The mentors who stood out really made
a place for mentorship as part of their everyday activities
on their farm.”
Keeping it real
That said, setting aside time as a mentor can be a significant
challenge, warns Mary Lynn McPherson of Strive,
a consulting firm. She has facilitated discussions among
Ontario farmers in the past, specifically about mentorship,
and most seem to agree that an ability to manage
their time well is one of the things all great mentors have
Really great mentors not only make room in their
lives for their mentees, McPherson says, they also avoid
distractions during these meetings.
“When you do get together, you want to be focused
and have identified, in advance, an area of untapped
potential that you are specifically working to improve
on,” McPherson advises.
Making preparations in advance of meetings helps
significantly. Watson, for instance, says their program
required formal learning contracts between the mentor
and the mentee to specifically define what the objectives
of the relationship included.
“I don’t know if any other mentorship program goes
that far,” Watson says. “We had to get serious because the
industry doesn’t readily think of farm business management,
especially when it comes to teaching how to farm.”
It’s like anything else, Watson says. If you don’t
write it down, then it easily slips away in the day-to-day
demands of running a business.
To be successful, she says, the mentorship plan needs
to specifiy a time period for achieving specific objectives,
describing the goals of the mentorship clearly, and outlining
not only how they’ll be accomplished but also how
progress will be measured.
Continued on page 30
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COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 29
“I like the idea of a formal mentorship
because it keeps people accountable and it
keeps the learning machine going,” Watson
says. “It’s nice to learn bits and pieces along
the way, but there’s no real goal in sight.”
Noble says that in their program, they
don’t have a contract but they do have a
road map. She hesitates to tell the program
participants that they can’t deviate from
their plan at all, because many young leaders
don’t have the exposure or experience
to know what they don’t know, and their
goals will evolve as they learn, perhaps even
including things that weren’t very visible at
first, such as lobbying and policy-making.
Indeed, the CCA program wants mentees
to have five learning objectives, but
program participants are encouraged to
choose only three of five learning objectives
for themselves, and to allow two others to
emerge through the advice of the mentor.
But Noble agrees it’s important for mentors
to do more than just talk. She encourages
everyone in her program to plan for
site visits where the mentee can observe
their mentor in action (since these program
participants don’t move in, like STEP UP
mentees did), in addition to attending conferences
or seminars together which pertain
to their shared interest, and arranging side
meetings for the mentee with other individuals
they know who have wisdom to offer
the mentor perhaps can’t.
“Networking is huge,” Noble says. “What
we really strive to do with our mentor selection
committee is to open doors that they
don’t know exist.”
That only works, however, if the younger
partner is ready to walk through those open
Ready to learn
Mentees who want to get the most out of
their experiences need to check their pride
at the door and focus on humility, Strive’s
McPherson says. “Having a teachable spirit
is one of the most important things,” she
says. “You’re going to have mentors who will
put out extra effort if they see their mentee
is coming to them with a sense of being
transparent and being willing to be human.”
“Fake it ’til you make it,” or, “never let
them see you sweat” philosophies don’t
make for great mentorships in her experience.
A good mentee must be willing to
confess that they’ve made mistakes and
admit to needing help in order to improve.
Which isn’t to say you must take all the
advice your mentor gives you. But don’t
ignore all of it either.
Some people just seem to have
a lot of wisdom,” says Mary
Lynn McPherson. “They’re just
very wise in how they thoughtfully
and intentionally engage in their
“It’s important to demonstrate that you’ve
heard and you’ve tried some suggestions,”
says McPherson, as a way to keep the mentorship
moving forward. If the relationship
doesn’t sustain itself in the long term, it’s
hard to say if it really ever was a true mentorship.
“Mentorship is more than a one off,”
she insists. “It develops when very technical
conversations start moving into business
management and more nuanced leadership
questions over a sustained period of time.”
In other words, getting a little crop
advice isn’t mentorship, but regular conversations
about how to get along better
with your boss, who’s also your father, might
qualify. McPherson says learning to deal
with these aspects of business, and life in
general, are far more involved than simply
having someone explain their planting practices.
Mentoring an individual through these
complexities requires talent, which is something
many mentors learn the more they
practise, and others come by it naturally.
“Some people just seem to have a lot
of wisdom,” McPherson says. “Even if they
haven’t mentored a lot of people, they’re
just very wise in how they thoughtfully and
intentionally engage in their interpersonal
In essence, mentors help you learn those
things that don’t often have clear directives
to follow. This is how mentors are different
than a business adviser or coach, although
many people would use those labels interchangeably.
Watson says unlike these other advisers,
a mentor looks beyond surface details and
the “whats” of a farm, to the “why” and the
“how” of an operation. “When you do these
mentorships, you get this awesome story
that fills in those blanks,” she says. “You need
that context to fully understand what you’re
Meanwhile in northern Ontario, RDÉE
Ontario has secured funding to launch its
own mentorship pilot project. It’s just not
specific to agriculture. Pierre Tessier, the
executive director, believes this program
can do a lot of good for businesses with
maybe one to nine employees because these
entrepreneurs, like many farmers, are having
to do everything themselves. Although
they haven’t received any interest from farm
business owners yet, Tessier would strongly
encourage them to consider a mentorship
outside of the agriculture industry.
“The key to mentorship is that it deals
with the well-being of the individual
as opposed to just looking at the technical
aspect of running that particular business,”
Tessier says. “You might find a person
from the farm business who’s maybe retired,
who’s gone all through the hoops of running
a farm, so the empathy will be there and
some of the knowledge but they will be limited
by their own experience. Someone from
another sector might say, “Hmm, interesting
how you’re doing that, but you might want
to try something a little different.”
Of course, this does depend on matching
the right individuals, Tessier says. His
best advice is to look for a person with the
right skills and attributes, but who is also
going to fit from a human relations standpoint.
This really shouldn’t be overlooked,
he says, because some of the most important
exchanges in the partnership will be sensitive
“Sometimes people will tell you things
you don’t want to hear, and the person being
mentored has to accept that this will be an
open relationship where things will be said
that may not be pleasing all the time,” he
Mentors with good bedside manner
understand that the process is one where
you’re building on the well-being of the person
themselves, he explains. Ultimately it’s
up to the mentee to come to terms with
their own sense of who they are and how
they should go about their business. No
matter what their experience is in business,
truly great mentors allow this process to
unfold naturally. CG
30 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
CHRISTIAN FARMERS FEDERATION OF ONTARIO
642 Woolwich St. • Guelph, ON • N1H 3Y2
Voice: (519) 837-1620 Fax: (519) 824-1835
Web site: www.christianfarmers.org
By Suzanne Armstrong
Family farming is one of the
bastions of family owned
and run businesses that
still survive and thrive in our
contemporary economy. Farming
creates a special opportunity
for family members to work
together, and for children to see,
and in many cases learn, what
their parents do for a living.
Many farmers say that they
love farming because it affords
them the opportunity to have
more meaningful relationships
with their family members, be
that children, parents, siblings,
We have had many tragic
stories of loss on farms in 2015,
and already in 2016 too, even
though we are only a few months
into the year. Every tragedy, be it
the loss of a barn, the loss of
farm animals, or the injury or
loss of a family member in a
farm accident, reminds us of
the vital importance of farm
safety for everyone living and
working on farms.
The Agricultural Safety website
out the different risks on the farm
for family members of different
ages. The website has many
resources to encourage family
farm safety, with special focus on
safety for children. Family farms
create special opportunities for
children to learn and participate
in the work of the farm. It can
also create risks that need to be
addressed to keep children safe.
Children have different
personalities, and, as the website
points out, it is important to keep
in mind things like assigning
tasks and responsibilities
appropriate to a child’s
personality, age and physical
ability. Children are not always
able to problem solve if something
goes wrong, or to think through
the possible consequences of
doing something risky. For any
child learning a new task, it is
important to make sure they are
confident with the task under
supervision before they are left to
work on their own.
The Workplace Safety and
Prevention Services website
aspx) also has a lot of farmrelated
safety information and
resources. One that is particularly
family-related addresses the risks
of having extra riders on farm or
lawn mowing equipment.
Farm safety is important every
day of the year. Take advantage
of the many resources available
to help keep the whole family
safe on the farm. As you ramp
up for spring, it may be a good
time to review farm safety on
your own farm, be that to remind
every one of the rules and safety
procedures, or to check the safety
of equipment or workspaces on
the farm. We wish everyone a
safe farming year ahead.
A professional organization of entrepreneurial farming families
Among supply management’s successes are
its programs to help young farmers get established
By LISA GUENTHER / CG FIELD editor
We’ve got a lot of young people
coming in,” says Tim Lambert,
CEO of the Egg Farmers of Canada.
Like others, he credits board programs
that give young farmers preferential
access not only to quota, but to training
in business leadership, and management.
Yet underpinning it all, says Lambert, is
income security. “They earn a reasonable
living doing it.”
Blake Jennings is the fifth generation on
his family’s egg farm overlooking Cobequid
Bay, a branch of the Bay of Fundy in Nova
Scotia. The view from his kitchen window
is enough to make anyone envious, with
the bay gleaming behind the old egg-laying
barns that still stand on the farm.
Walking into those barns is like walking
into a time warp, Blake says. The old
barns never had glass in their windows, for
example, so Blake’s grandfather, Cecil Jennings,
had to be slow and gentle whenever
he opened a door. If he scared the hens, off
they’d fly out the windows and he’d have to
round them up all over again.
All that has changed, of course.
“My grandfather, when he walks in the
barn, he looks at the computer and just
shakes his head. He wouldn’t have a clue in
the world how to run that thing,” says Blake.
The owner’s manual for the climate controls
is three inches thick, Blake says. Hen
feeders are on timers. Windmills power the
layer barns. Those windmills have worked
well since the Jennings family installed
them in 2007, but Blake says they’re already
becoming outmoded technology now, and
he can’t buy parts for them anymore.
Blake’s pet project is a new barn, which
he plans to build in the next five years. He
thinks it will be solar powered, but the technology
changes so rapidly there’s little point
in researching it until you’re about to break
ground, he explains.
Technology is only part of what’s changing
on this and other supply management
farms, however. The newest generation
of farmers must also be financially astute,
politically savvy, and socially conscious.
And they must obtain quota.
But young farmers like Blake, and like
Gilbert and Stacy Matheson on the other
side of the Bay of Fundy, aren’t deterred,
largely because of what the supply management
sector is doing to help its young
farmers, and what those farmers see in their
It’s not easy to start farming in any sector. It
requires a significant capital investment to
line up land, buildings, and equipment. And
of course, if it’s supply management, you
must have quota.
Continued ON pAGE 34
Photo: LIGht & LENs PhotogrAPhy
Photo: CANDACE snowdon photogrAPhy
32 APRIL 2016 / COUNtrY-GUIDE.CA
certainty to Blake
and Gilbert and
But there was still
the question, “How
do we afford quota?”
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 33
For Gilbert and Stacy Matheson, young-farmer programs helped make it feasible to shift their New Brunswick farm from beef into dairy.
The Mathesons farm near Kars, New Brunswick. In
between raising six kids, they run a dairy as well as flocks
of chickens that produce table eggs and hatching eggs.
Hatching eggs come from layer breeders, in this case
Bovans. Their chicks become commercial layers.
The Matheson farm sounds as picturesque as the
Jennings homestead, with views of nearby Belleisle Bay.
Gilbert, now in his 30s, took over the farm from his grandparents
years ago. At that time, it included beef cattle.
“But after BSE, prices were always kind of poor,”
Gilbert says. The birds were making money, but he was
paying for the cattle most years. He has a saying that he
doesn’t mind working for nothing, but he does have a
problem paying to work.
Stacy grew up on a dairy farm, and the Mathesons
were always interested in having their own herd. The
Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick were loaning quota to
new entrants, so Stacy and Gilbert ran the numbers and
applied for the program in December 2007.
Within a year they’d obtained their quota, built a
46-cow, free-stall barn, and started milking. In 2009 they
bought more quota, and today they produce 36 kg of butterfat
Under the new entrant program, the Mathesons
purchased 12 kg of quota, and the board loaned them
another 12 kg. Five years after lending the quota, the
board starts removing quota in small increments — a
tenth of a kilogram per month in the first 10 months of
the year. The farmer can either buy quota to replace it, or
let it go, Gilbert explains.
Gilbert says the program, which he compares to an
interest-free loan, has worked well for them. “It gives you
that initial cash flow to get things going.”
A provincial new entrant program for egg producers
has similar benefits. In 2011, the Mathesons applied
and were granted quota as a licence for 3,200 birds. After
10 years, that licence becomes quota just like any other
quota, Gilbert says.
Both programs have helped the young couple build a
viable business for themselves and their family. If any of
the kids want to farm someday, Gilbert says, “there should
be a decent little living for them at some point.”
While some heap criticism on supply management,
both Gilbert and Blake are quick to defend the system and
its benefits to their businesses. It gives farmers a predictable
market and guaranteed payback, Blake says.
Agricultural lenders understand supply management
too, says Gilbert. “They know what you’re going to get
It gives you that initial cash
flow to get things going,” Gilbert
Matheson says of the dairy sector’s
young-farmer program. It helps at the
bank too, he adds. “They know what
you’re going to get paid.”
paid. They know what your market is and it’s guaranteed.
And you never have to chase money. It just arrives in your
account each month.”
Quotas and markets aside, farmers in supply-managed
industries still need sharp business skills to stay viable.
The biggest thing today is “to know where your money is
going to and where it’s coming from,” Gilbert says.
Managing costs is key, just as in other sectors. Gilbert
and other dairy farmers have formed a management
group to compare expenses and see what the averages are
and where the top and bottom farms sit. Gilbert keeps a
close eye on his variable costs.
“It’s all the little things that add up over the course of a
year that really make the biggest difference,” Gilbert says.
One of the biggest risks Gilbert faces is the weather,
which will certainly be familiar to other farmers. Too
PhOTOs: CANDACE sNOwDON phOTOGRAPhy
34 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
much rain affects forage quality, which has been a problem
in the last few years.
“If you don’t get good-quality forage, you don’t make
as much milk,” he says.
Blake meanwhile faces risks of his own. Disease is
the big threat. Avian influenza can wipe out a flock in a
single day, he says.
The Jennings have strict biosecurity measures to manage
that risk. If Blake has been off farm, he changes his
clothes before entering barns. He has a pair of boots that
stays on the farm, and a different pair that never leaves the
barn. Boots are disinfected before entering the barn. Any
off-farm visitors sign in and wear full Tyvek suits when
going into the barn.
Signs of sickness show up in behaviour and egg quality,
so the Jennings do three thorough checks each day,
plus additional walk-throughs, Blake says. The birds get
used to the people contact, and inspectors tell them they
have the calmest birds around.
The Jennings usually have about 21,000 birds on the
farm, and that means a lot of cleaning. Mondays and
Thursdays they haul manure and also sweep and blow
They also raise their own pullets from day-old chicks,
which means cleaning the barns whenever they bring in
a new flock. That’s a day of blowing down and sweeping
the barns, followed by about three days of pressurewashing
“It’s a full-time job.”
An ‘A to Z’ education
It’s one thing to master the daily labour that goes into
running a farm. Blake has grown into that role, learning
to run equipment and complex technology. He also still
appreciates the hands-on work — he likes to manually
place eggs in trays, even though that can be automated,
and he is willing to do it at six in the morning.
But the industry also needs young farmers who
understand the business, politics, and social implications
of farming. And for that, they need to get off the
farm. Blake, for instance, jetted to the Canadian Young
Farmers’ Forum in Vancouver this winter. It’s an annual
conference that draws young farmers from every sector
and every part of the country.
Blake has been a regular at these forums since 2014,
when he enrolled in a young farmers’ program created by
the Egg Farmers’ of Canada. In a way, it’s Blake’s vacation,
his chance to get off the farm. It’s a sentiment that might
Continued ON page 36
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COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 35
Farming will continue to be a marriage of technology and the human touch, Blake believes.
seem strange to some Canadians, but is likely
familiar to many farmers.
According to Tim Lambert, CEO of the
Egg Farmers of Canada, their young farmers
range in age from 18 to 40 and typically the
program pulls them in to three events each
year — the Young Farmers’ Forum, an Egg
Farmers’ of Canada summer board meeting,
and the groups’ AGM.
They’ll usually do a day of educational
sessions as well, Lambert says. For example,
they did a recent session on how to make
the most of meetings with politicians before
bringing the young farmers to a “Breakfast
on the Hill” event with the federal ag minister
and other parliamentarians.
Blake counts the Breakfast on the Hill as
one of the program’s highlights. “They even
convinced me to put an apron on and cook
Typically it takes a young farmer two
years to go through the program. It’s taken
Blake a little longer because he frequently
has to hold down the fort while his father,
Glen, is gone. Glen is on the Egg Farmers of
36 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
Canada board and is gone 30 to 40 per cent
of the time for related work, Blake says.
But Blake has already been building networks
and learning about the business side
of supply management. The program has
also opened his eyes to how farming works
in different sectors and different parts of
Canada. He’s had media training, and seems
at ease throughout the interview.
The Young Farmers’ Program also presented
a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
when Prince Charles visited Nova Scotia in
the spring of 2014. The prince wanted to talk
to a young Canadian farmer, and his royal
tour organizers found Blake through the
Blake talked to the Prince of Wales about
how his family cares for their birds, and
learned about agriculture on the other side
of the pond. He credits the Young Farmers’
Program for giving him the knowledge and
confidence to speak about Canadian agriculture
in a broader sense.
Continued ON page 38
Tim Lambert, CEO of the Egg Farmers of
Canada, worked 10 years in the pork
sector and eight years in beef. He’s now
got 12 years in the egg sector, giving him
a wide perspective on both supplymanaged
and open-market sectors.
Lambert in particular is anxious to
debunk what he calls the three big
myths about supply-managed eggs.
1. The idea that supply management
inflates egg prices is “simply not true,”
says Lambert. Consumers in Australia
and the European Union, which don’t
have supply-managed eggs, pay more
than Canadians, he says.
“People will often say, yeah but it’s
cheaper in the U.S. Well sometimes it is
and sometimes it isn’t.” Besides, he
says, that’s true of everything from cars
to clothes because of American
economies of scale.
2. The charge that supply management
blocks Canada from signing trade deals
is also unfounded, Lambert says. He
points out Canada has managed to sign
dozens of trade deals with minimal
impact on supply management,
including TPP. “And they still are able to
get additional access for pork, beef and
3. As well, there’s the argument that
being part of supply management
means farmers must cede their freedom
as business people. Lambert says this is
“not true at all.” Farmers in most other
commodities are price-takers, he says,
because they have few buyers. Supply
management gives farmers a “fair share
of the consumer dollar. It doesn’t set the
consumer price but it sets the wholesale
PhOTO: LIGht & LENs PhOTOGRAPhy
THE ONTARIO AGROLOGIST
Don Lobb, P.Ag.(Hon), was an innovator and leader in soil, water and
environmental management during the 36 years he farmed in Huron
County. In recognition of this, OIA made him an Honourary Life Member
in 1991. He remains active in agriculture. A conversation with Don brings
focus to the sustainability issue.
What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable agriculture requires the
protection of soil from irreversible
alternate use and the care of soil in
a way that maintains or improves
its capacity to grow crops without
compromising the surrounding
How can this be achieved?
Sustainable soil care must begin with
measures to control degradation and
erosion by tillage, water and wind.
But much more is needed. We have
learned through experience and
scientific discovery that support and
care of soil biota gives soil its capacity
to produce, regenerate and be
physically stable. Because most biota
are damaged or destroyed by soil
disturbance, tillage must be minimized
or eliminated if sustainability is to be
achieved. Furthermore, precise soil
moisture management is critical to soil
biota survival, crop root development,
nutrient retrieval and water availability.
A healthy balance of air and
moisture must be achieved through
combinations of drainage, irrigation and
crop residue management. Soil biota
populations can be fed and organic
matter levels can be increased with
the use of cover crops and careful
choice of crop types and rotations. All
of this is critical to soil health and crop
production efficiency. While we know
that our scientific understanding of soil
health and the soil ecosystem is not
complete, we do know that they are
complex and must be protected and
nurtured in sustainable agriculture.
On our more fragile soil and where
soil improvement is attempted, deeprooted
perennial forage crops provide
significant benefit. By processing
forages through ruminant livestock,
food can be produced as meat or milk.
Forages and ruminants are the key to
extending food production to fragile soil
in a sustainable way.
To be truly sustainable, we must control
carbon loss to the atmosphere and
sediment and nutrient loss to our
waterways. All nutrients, regardless of
source must be used responsibly and
efficiently because supply is limited.
Nutrient lost to an off-site fate brings
unnecessary agricultural cost and
Why is this important?
Farm business models that endure
must be built around sustainable soil
management because all agricultural
production and activity begins with
the soil. Benefits can be realized in
many ways as healthy soils produce
more stable yields and the productive
potential of the soil improves.
“Intensive”, health-focused soil
management must be the new
frontier for agriculture as it meets a
rapidly growing demand for food on a
declining land base. Intensive is the only
alternative to agricultural exploitation of
fragile and Natural Heritage lands. We
must now carefully implement the very
high levels of science and management
required to ensure that intensive
agriculture is sustainable. Professional
Agrologist support will be important as
we move forward.
“I guess I was a shy guy before,” Blake now says.
Lambert says the program is creating a pool of
young leaders. Young farmers not only get an “A to Z”
education, they also rapidly build networks. They come
in with fresh ideas, and the industry veterans are learning
as much as they teach.
Since the program began in 2014, 10 farmers have
finished it and 18 are enrolled for 2016. Each province
puts forward one name, and the Egg Farmers of Canada
picks up the cost. But some provinces nominate two
farmers, and share the cost of sending the second person.
Lambert says husband-and-wife teams are now
The Egg Farmers of Canada originally intended to
educate the next generation on how supply management
worked and the history behind it, Lambert says.
But the program found its own life, he says, and has
exceeded expectations. After starting the program, they
thought they should have done it years ago.
“Any commodity that isn’t doing it really needs to
think hard about the value in it, because it truly is an
Lambert is also vice-chair of the International
Egg Commission. That organization is starting
a young leaders’ program for the entire egg
value chain. The Egg Farmers of Canada is sponsoring
a young farmer to be part of that group,
so they can gain an understanding of global issues,
Blake is looking forward to buying more quota, building
that new barn, and expanding in the future.
Thinking about how much farming has changed
since his grandfather started, it’s hard to know what
farming will be like by the time he’s ready to retire. “I
don’t know what to expect for the future because the
technology is coming out faster than I can find it, really.”
As for Lambert, he says young farmers are coming
into a growing industry. The volume of eggs sold in
Canada has grown about 22 per cent in the last nine
years, he says. Part of that is due to the cholesterol myth
being debunked, and consumer preferences shifting to
protein over carbs.
Consumers want more choice these days, and Lambert
sees more opportunities in specialty egg production
in the future. The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal will
create stability in the industry, he also believes, so overall,
it’s a good industry to be in, with a fair return for
farmers, stable prices, and growth.
But it will take excellent farmers. Technology skills
must be strong, as must their business management,
and it will also mean adjusting to social expectations,
Lambert believes. The next big opportunity and challenge
throughout the food chain is “maintaining and
enhancing our social licence and public trust,” he says.
Young farmers “will need to understand that environment
and make sure that they’re doing the right things
the right way and for the right reasons.” CG
Things that drive
young farmers crazy
Country Guide asked both Gilbert Matheson, top, and Blake Jennings what they
wish older farmers knew about young farmers. Both had pet peeves that young
farmers in other sectors can probably relate to.
Gilbert despises comments from older farmers such as: “Well, you can’t afford to do
that. I couldn’t do what you’re doing, so you can’t afford it.” Sometimes the critic
assumes someone, such as a father, has given the younger farmer money, when it
really comes down to management, he says.
Such farmers have the mindset that they can judge new farmers based on how
they’ve been operating for decades. Their criticisms can include any kind of
on-farm investment — even young farmers buying quota or building a barn.
Such criticism isn’t helpful to people starting out, Gilbert says. He adds he knows
forward-thinking older farmers who don’t take part.
As for Blake, he’s tired of the perception that his generation just sits around. At one
conference, a speaker told young people to get off their phones and do some hard
work. Blake and a couple of other young guys “had quite a talk with him
afterwards,” says Blake.
“You can’t farm nowadays unless you have the technology,” he says.
38 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
PG. 46 Scientists are already
scouting for the next
big threat… Old World
PG. 48 Check tender crops for
cereal leaf beetles
PHOTOS: JEFF BROWN
Agriculture is always in search
of the next innovation, but as
most growers learn — some,
the hard way — there is no
silver-bullet solution. If you’re going to
change things for the better, it’s going to
take time, effort and likely a departure
from the norm.
Yet with lower crop prices, growers are
also more open-minded about change,
plus there’s a renewed interest in soil health
and sustainability, driven partly by soiltest
studies that reveal fertility and organic
matter are dropping in many parts of Eastern
So all sorts of questions are back on the
table, including some unexpected ones.
And perhaps most unexpected of all is,
can conventional row-crop growers learn
anything useful from organic production
The quick and easy reply is, “Yes.” The
more in-depth reply is, “Yes, but it depends
on what you’re trying to accomplish.”
In fact, some organic strategies have
already made the crossover. Cover crops,
for instance, were mainly a holistic strategy
a generation ago, one of the simpler
choices from the list of organic practices
that includes composting, mechanical
weed management systems, trap cropping
and the introduction of bio-control agents
such as predatory or beneficial species.
To learn more, Country Guide sat down
with the operators of two farms, one an
organic operation, and another that began
incorporating a more organic approach
two years ago.
Dave Hunter and Bob Kerr
Kerr Farms and Wolfe Creek Organic
Farms, Chatham, Ont.
Few farmers have a keener knowledge
of conventional and organic
production systems than Dave
Hunter and Bob Kerr, who operate both
a conventional and an organic farm just
outside Chatham, Ont.
It’s a definite advantage, they agree, that
Continued on page 40
Learning from organic takes
patience and an open mind,
says Dave Hunter (l) and
Bob Kerr, but there’s
a payoff in richer soils.
These conventional farms are adapting techniques
from organic agriculture — with a little time and care
By Ralph Pearce / CG Production Editor
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 39
they’re primarily a horticultural
operation. They’ve been producing
fruits and vegetables in the Chatham
area for decades. In fact, they made
the transition to organic for part of
their production in 2000, renting a
field in 2001 from a neighbour who
had been growing organic already,
and then they built from there.
At the time, prices on conventional
crops were low, which spurred
their search for a way to differentiate
the farm’s production and to generate
“It was an opportunity to produce
more vegetables in our fields,”
says Hunter, adding that the operation
was already growing tomatoes.
“We had an opportunity to grow
more tomatoes organically for our
customer, and they were valueadded
and we were looking to create
At the time, revenues in organic
markets were more stable than conventional,
and Hunter says prices
for organic ran more on their own
merit. There were also small numbers
of people converting to organic
with a steady growth in demand,
and the outlook seemed positive.
Today, he still says that organic
production isn’t for everyone, nor
is it always feasible for growers in
traditional row-crop regions of
Ontario and Eastern Canada to add
a horticulture crop as a stepping
stone to organic.
Even so, there are opportunities
to add non-chemical or non-synthetic
practices to a farm’s operation,
and Kerr maintains that it’s a
step in the wrong direction to look
at conventional and organic as an
“either/or” choice. He asks why
growers can’t apply the best of both.
“We do try to apply as many possible
methods from organic into the
conventional — because our heart is
in organic,” says Hunter. “But we do
have some opportunities with some
contracting and things where we’re
staying conventional, so there are
many practices that we use in both
like cover crops and composting. We
look at the biology of the soil and
feeding the soil, as well as IPM and
managing a few products that we
can use organically.”
There are products for Hunter
We do try
to apply as
organic into the
Dave Hunter, Kerr Farms and
Wolfe Creek Organic Farms
and Kerr to use in their operations.
although they obviously aren’t
always the same products. The synthetic
ones for their conventional
acres are more effective than the
organic products but again, that
doesn’t mean there aren’t shared lessons.
For example, in conventional
production, Hunter notes they only
band-spray what they need in order
to deal with the issue at hand. They
don’t cover the whole soil surface.
They also use variable rate technology,
including RTK in their tractors
for both conventional and organic.
And they use cover crops everywhere
One of the trends that’s been developing
in the past two years is the use
of mechanical weed management
tools. Some might align those closer
to organic production, but there are
cases where row-crop producers are
using them in an organic setting.
One is an abrasive weeding or “weed
blasting” system being tested by the
University of Illinois (see below).
At Kerr Farms and Wolfe Creek
Organic Farms, they use a Flame
Weeder, a device they run between
rows that will chemically “flame” or
burn emerged weeds, but there is
also a hand-held or unmanned aerial
vehicle (UAV)-mounted sensor
being tested at North Dakota State
“It’s non-selective — it’ll kill any
weeds that are underneath the canopy
of the actively growing crop,”
says Hunter. “It controls the weeds
in the row and we row-crop cultivate
between the rows.” He adds that
they use it at different stages of plant
growth, namely prior to crop emergence
and after emergence, depending
on the crop being flame-weeded.
In certain instances, they can also
use it for insect control. “We can
use it both organically and conventionally,
but it’s less selective — you
can injure the crop with a Flame
Hunter and Kerr do express their
frustration with the seed, trait and
chemical side of the industry, especially
since the advent of GMOs
and the increasing role of fungi-
Continued on page 42
To Bob Kerr (l) it’s
a mistake to look
at organic and
choice. The goal,
he says, should
be to use the
best of both.
40 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
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cides. Yield has become foremost, and it is
vital, they agree. But a single-minded focus
on yields can create problems that growers
recognize, like herbicide resistance, as well
as other problems that may take longer to
become apparent, such as damage to what
Hunter calls the soil-food web and its importance
for healthy crop growth.
Organic may start with adding cover
crops, but it doesn’t have to end there,
Hunter and Kerr also emphasize.
“There could be opportunities in the
future to sequester carbon for carbon credits,
with the use of conservation tillage or
cover crops, and by building organic matter
in the soil,” says Hunter. “Long term, we
do reap the benefits of more water-holding
capacity in the soil, with higher organic matter,
more of an ability to hold and retain
nutrients. And hopefully with cover cropping,
you keep the soil covered so you’re not
washing your phosphorus and nitrogen into
the lakes, especially in the Great Lakes area,
where we know we’re getting these phosphorus
Buying into organic
Among the other organic practices available
to growers, use of manure and composting
comes after cover crops, although in Kent
and Essex County, the availability of manure
can be a challenge, given the scarcity of
nearby livestock operations.
“But there is more composting going on,
and there’s more interest in biological inoculants
— increasing the naturally occurring
benefits that we can be applying to the seed,
whether it’s in soybeans or other crops,” says
Hunter. “It’s a natural biology and some of
those are becoming more mainstream.”
As with most changes, adding an organic
component to a farm operation takes
patience and open-mindedness. That said,
there is a determination that is shared by
most innovators and early adapters. They do
all they can to see the change or a new system
succeed on their farms, and the same is true
with organics. It will take time, patience and
a determination to make small, necessary
adjustments to management practices.
“You have to have a toolbox of implements,
so it’s going to cost some money and
there’s a big learning curve,” says Hunter.
“You’re not going to solve all the problems
at once because you’re going to find new ones
come along all the time,” he adds. “If you
think you have it right this year or next year,
there’ll be something else will pop up. So you
have to be willing to adapt and change.
“It is tough, but in the end, you’ll benefit
by building soil organic matter, and even on
our conventional side, we use less nitrogen
than most of our neighbours do, just because
we’re using some of our organic methods to
build the soil and get more natural nitrogen
with cover crops.”
Belan Farms, Oil Springs, Ont.
Some 25 years ago, Mike Belan
decided to cut costs on his farm
by moving to no till. As he went
along, however, the Lambton County
grower determined he needed to accelerate
the building of soil organic matter, so
he opted for the organic practice of cover
What started out as an economic strategy
turned into an environmental one —
trying to better the soil’s characteristics.
“Indirectly, our goal will be for financial
gain, producing a higher yield with
fewer inputs and less environmental instability
as we progress and build our soils,”
says Belan, who favours the concept of
working more with Mother Nature. “It
pertains to using organic practices with
conventional farming so that we can limit
our need of herbicides for weeds and
chemicals for crop protection from pests.
It’s also to have the ability to control and
limit the need for synthetic fertilizers by
working the soil biology and building our
soil organic matter to efficiently and effectively
use, maintain and keep our applied
fertilizers for our cash crops.”
Belan’s ideal practice is to plant a cover
crop that will stay green during the winter
months and easily terminate to leave the soil
covered with a thick mat of residue, so the
There is much
farmers to learn
how to build
soil and soil
42 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
It pertains to using
organic practices with
conventional farming so that we
can limit our need of chemicals.”
Mike Belan, Belan Farms
> Empty Pesticide Container Recycling Program
There are many
reasons to rinse.
Only rinsed containers can be recycled
only thing capable of coming up through it will be the cash crop
that’s seeded into that residue.
This not only protects the soil from the harsh environments
but limits the need for pre-plant burndown treatments and
in-crop applications if the residue keeps weeds at bay until the
crop leaves canopy and shades out the weeds. It’s also ideal if the
cover crop takes a secondary role, that of a companion crop that
provides a nitrogen boost.
Asked about the percentage of growers who are using a
form of organic farming in their operations, Belan believes the
frequency is rather low. In fact, he sees a pendulum swing in
his region towards increasing tillage and plowing, particularly
cultivating between soybean harvest and winter wheat planting,
a practice he just doesn’t understand.
“Bottom line, these organic practices are, in my opinion, relevant
and necessary in every type of farming practice, especially
Continued on page 44
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10901A-CFM-5Reasons-QRTPage-CountryGuide.indd COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA 1
/ APRIL 2016 4/2/14 43 11:59 AM
with row-crop growers,” says Belan. He adds
that at the very least, there’s no reason for
not using cover crops. “We are depleting the
soil organic matter and growing less and
less diversity all the time, and many growers
don’t even realize it’s happening.”
There are many objections levelled by conventional
growers towards organic practices,
which Belan has a hard time acknowledging.
One of the more common myths Belan
encounters is that use of a cover crop will help
the development of weed pressure — or continued
growth of the cover crop — that will
hinder the cash crop’s growth. Or there’s the
concern that a cover crop that has overwintered
too well will cause planting issues in the
spring. It means it will take another level of
management to deal with these issues.
Organic still bears a stigma, notes Belan,
and that comes from the years of conventional
agriculture, with its emphasis on
high-priced equipment, clean fields and
In his eyes, however, a strong return on
investment is better than high yields, especially
if a grower has to “buy” those yields.
With the use of cover crops, Belan
believes there is a definite swing in the way
farmers are farming, and in his view, cover
cropping and the reintroduction of grazing
those cover crops is a unique hybrid of the
organic/conventional row-cropping methods
The bottom line is that growers need to
shift their approaches, if not their mindset
when considering changing practices on
Nothing happens overnight, says Belan,
echoing Hunter and Kerr. And that may be
the hardest concept to grasp, especially in a
day and age where most growers forget the
lessons learned two, three or five years ago.
“A farmer definitely needs to take it slow
so as not become overwhelmed with it,
especially with incorporating cover crops on
their farm,” says Belan, suggesting a grower
try cover crops on a piece of his best land
and a piece from his worst.
Put the test area right in the middle of
the farm so you can compare the two, he
recommends. “And stick with simple cover
crop mixes to begin with. That way you
can still maintain control of it in the spring
before you plant your cash crop. And don’t
expect large returns right away, but over the
long term.” CG
Weed blasters and flame weeders
Here are two pieces of technology that are gaining advocates across North America in a
variety of organic and some conventional operations, although they are not necessarily
suitable for every farming operation.
The weed blaster is a hand-held unit being tested by
University of Illinois researchers with a particular focus
on organic growers. The technology sandblasts weeds
using a gas-powered air compressor, which is hauled
down crop rows by a walk-behind tractor. Preliminary
studies indicate weed control of 69 to 87 per cent
compared to non-weeded checks. University
researchers have been testing “sand” composed of
walnut shells, granulated corn cobs and soybean meal,
among others. Used at the optimum plant growth stage,
the force of the propelled grit can damage both the stem
and the leaves of weeds.
There are two primary concerns in the use of this
particular unit. First, the speed: the grit is propelled at
better than Mach 1 (1,227 km/h), so protective eyewear is
strongly advised. And since the technology has no
electronic sensing to distinguish between a plant and a
weed, it’s very possible to damage the crop.
The Flame Weeder is a technology that employs extreme
temperatures to scald or overheat the weed plant’s
tissues, effectively cooking the protein of the plant. It is
another system that is used primarily in the organic
sector, and comes in four- and five-torch configurations.
Like the weed blasting technology, it’s hand-operated,
running across a seed bed that is prepared and marked
for planting roughly two weeks prior to the actual
planting date, allowing weeds to germinate and emerge.
Once the treatment is complete, the desired crop can be
The key to the Flame Weeder is timing: like the weed
blasting technology, the Flame Weeder cannot
distinguish between weed and crop, and it is possible
to damage the plants at the same time as scalding
44 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
The Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA) Inc. is a national,
non-profit professional umbrella organization dedicated to assisting farm families
and businesses by increasing the skills of farm advisors and consultants.
“Don’t be an Idiot: Get on a Rocket Ship”
by Liz RobeRtson, CAFA
Agriculture is changing rapidly.
Successful farmers need to be
be on top of technology and
production, but more importantly, need
to clearly understand that it is the business
management decisions that will determine
the success of their farm.
The Ipsos “Dollars and Sense”
study commissioned by the Agrifood
Management Institute and Farm
Management Canada highlighted seven top
management practices of successful farms.
The top three were continuous learning,
making decisions based on accurate data
and hiring professional business advisors
These three practices cannot be
emphasized enough. Following are quotes
on each of these practices (selected from
• Continuous learning: “Education
is the key to self-development and
empowerment” – Lailah Gifty Akita,
“Think Great: Be Great!”
• Accurate data: “What gets
measured, gets managed.”
— Peter Drucker
• Hiring professional advisors: “If you
think hiring a pro is expensive, wait till
you hire an amateur.” — Red Adair
Farm business is changing rapidly.
You need to hire the best advice for your
farm. CAFA is an umbrella organization of
farm professionals — if you need qualified
advice for your farm on succession, HR,
marketing, taxation, business structures,
etc.,contact CAFA. You may not have
the expertise, the time or the desire to
actively plan and manage certain aspects
of your business. You may benefit from an
objective, third-party perspective on what
are often emotional, difficult decisions. It
is beneficial to have a farm advisor make
sure you stay focused and follow through
with your business plans.
Successful farm advisors also adhere to
best management practices. Through
CAFA, they have access to continuous
farm-focused professional development
Our “Farm Succession Update: Three
Circle Model” will be held May 18 in
Guelph. On June 2 in Woodstock, Ont. we
will have our “Farm Management Update:
Building the Rocket Ship.”
“Don’t be an idiot. Get on a rocket
ship. When companies are growing
quickly and they are having a lot of impact,
careers take care of themselves. And when
companies aren’t growing quickly or their
missions don’t matter as much, that’s when
stagnation and politics come in. If you’re
offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask
what seat. Just get on.”
Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave that
advice to Sheryl Sandberg, current COO
of Facebook, in 2001.
If you are a farm advisor or farm
manager, get on board and stay current
through CAFA’s Farm Update Series.
CAFA also has Farm Succession Updates
planned for November 3 in Saskatoon and
November 10 in Niverville, Man., with
more in the planning stages for Alberta
To find out more about CAFA or how
to register for these events, contact me at
1-877-474-2871 or email@example.com.
FaRm manaGement upDate:
BuIlDInG the Rocket ShIp
June 2, Quality inn, Woodstock, on
Heather Watson, Farm Management Canada
michael Bossy, Bossy Nagy Group
Chartered Professional Accountants
Rob Hannam, Synthesis Agri-Food Network
Doug Berchtold, DB Consulting Ltd.
Lisa gilvesy, Jenkins & Gilvesy Law Firm
John Lanthier, Market Smart Inc.
Debi sanderson, Desiderata Group Inc.
gerars seijts, Ivey Business School
steve mcQueen, Emerald BloAgrlculture
Bernard tobin, Synthesis Agri-Food Network
FaRm SucceSSIon upDate:
the thRee cIRcle moDel
november 3, smiley’s Buffet, saskatoon, sK
chris corbett, FarmLink Marketing Solutions
Jim snyder, BDO Canada LLP Agriculture
Don mccannell, My Farm Group
mel Annand, Annand Law Office
mike pylypchuk, Saskatchewan Agriculture
paul Hammerton, MNP LLP
Kim gerencser, K.Ag. Growing Farm Profits
morgan Janzen-Knezacek, AgVantage
crystal taylor, Felesky Flynn LLP Tax Counsel
Kelvin shultz, Wheatland Accounting
stuart person, MNP LLP
Toll free: 1-877-474-2871
PO Box 270 • Seven Sisters Falls, MB • R0E 1Y0
Follow us on Twitter @CAFANET
Watch out for
Old World bollworm may be a severe threat to
agriculture in North America
By Ralph Pearce / CG Production Editor
Asian soybean rust, aflatoxin in corn and
Palmer amaranth are but three examples
of disease and weed species that have
made huge news in the U.S. but haven’t yet
crossed the border into Canada in a big way.
It makes it difficult to issue a credible alert about a
new pest threat called Helicoverpa armigera or Old World
bollworm (OWB). It’s a little like forecasting a severe
storm, in fact. If you don’t warn people, they can be
caught off guard with disastrous results. If you do warn
them, and if the storm doesn’t appear, they can stop listening
to future alerts.
Scientists are already concerned that their alerts
about soybean rust, aflatoxin and Palmer amaranth are
producing yawns, not action.
Despite the alerts when Asian soybean rust landed in
the Gulf States late in 2004, for instance, soybean growers
in Eastern Canada rarely see the disease, and when they
do, it’s usually so late in the season that there’s little if any
Similarly, aflatoxin remains mostly a concern in
drought-prone regions of the western Corn Belt in the
U.S. and Palmer amaranth is having a tough time establishing
itself against more prevalent species such as Canada
fleabane and giant ragweed.
Now there’s OWB, the latest South American import
which could have an impact on Canadian growers,
depending on weather conditions from year to year.
According to Dr. Bill Hutchison, an insect specialist
at the University of Minnesota, H. armigera is a lepidopteran
species, similar to the European corn borer
(ECB), and poses a wide range of concerns for growers as
well as for entomologists, advisers and retailers.
OWB is a broad-based threat because of its diverse
dietary preferences including corn, soybeans and wheat,
along with sorghum and cotton, and even tomatoes and
In all, OWB can feed on nearly 200 plant species in at
least 45 families, according to a report from the Florida
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Hutchison, as well as researchers with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and universities in
Australia and Brazil, issued a report in the spring of 2015
on the moth’s advance. Among other findings, researchers
estimated OWB could cause $843 million a year in
crop losses, just in its optimal climatic area. If it migrates
beyond those borders, total losses could soar to near
But could bollworm have that kind of impact in
Ontario and Eastern Canada? That depends, says Hutchison,
pointing to one pest assumption that did turn out to
affect Ontario: the western bean cutworm has become a
major economic pest in the province.
Another consideration, says Hutchison, is how often
Ontario grain and sweet corn growers are forced to deal
with corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) — a very close
relative of bollworm that can also migrate considerable
“(Earworm) is well known to not likely overwinter
in Ontario, and must therefore reach your growers
each summer by long-distance migration, which it actu-
One of the
corn ear worm,
Photo courtesy of Dr. Pat Porter, Texas A&M University
46 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
ally does quite well and consistently,” says
Hutchison. “And it reaches your corn in late
July to early August, when much of your
corn may still be tasseling and silking and it
is most attractive to corn earworm.”
In September 2014, OWB was detected in
the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. In response,
extensive trapping was conducted on the
island with the capture of 193 additional
moths to date. With the expected establishment
of the pest in the Caribbean, there is
an increased risk for natural movement of
OWB into the continental U.S.
Three OWB moths were trapped in Florida
in early summer 2015, but no additional
moths have been seen since then.
Once OWB is confirmed as “established”
in the southern U.S., the risk to Ontario
growers will depend on the number and
magnitude of migratory flights northward
each summer. With Asian soybean rust in
early 2005, it was said that it would take
one severe storm system born in the Gulf of
Mexico to “blow up” rust spores into the U.S.
Midwest and Ontario. Although that has yet
to happen with any severity with soybean
rust, the bollworm moths are capable of flying
to high altitudes, particularly if and when
food is scarce in one region.
“Because of migration, they indeed have
the potential to easily cover the entire growing
region of a given state or province,” says
What makes OWB particularly daunting in
an if-and-when scenario is the difficulty that
goes with identification and the fact that
the species has developed resistance to most
chemical pesticides. On a purely visual level,
bollworm is identical to corn earworm in
all stages of its life, and is differentiated only
by dissection or genetic identification. The
worms of the bollworm are also similar in
appearance to the tobacco budworm and
some species of armyworms, although those
can be distinguished by colour patterns.
Based on what growers in Europe, Africa
and Asia have encountered, insecticides do
not work very well on bollworm: the species
is capable of developing resistance very
The other concern with a North American
arrival is the pest’s potential “hybridization”
with corn earworm. The hybrid moths
would produce larvae that could be difficult
to manage, as they would appear to be corn
earworm, yet potentially carry higher levels
of resistance to insecticides or Bt corn.
And that would complicate options for rapid
identification and managing the pest.
One measure that seems to show some
level of control comes out of Australia, where
Bt cotton has proved useful. It’s believed (but
has yet to be confirmed) that Bt technology
used in corn hybrids and soybean varieties
may also prove valuable. CG
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COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 47
with Mike Cowbrough OMAFRA
Are there any new insect
pests that we should be
The following information
was provided by Tracey Baute,
field crop entomologist, OMAFRA.
Cereal leaf beetles feed on wheat, oat,
corn, forages and grassy weeds. Spring
plantings are most attractive, particularly
late plantings, though some winter
wheat can be infested in the spring. Both
adults and larvae cause damage by chewing long
strips of tissue between the leaf veins, leaving
the top layer of the leaf intact (Image 3). This
creates a window-pane or “skeletonizing” effect.
Most of the injury is caused by the larvae in
June. Heavily damaged fields appear silver.
The cereal leaf beetle adult is a metallic, bluegreen
beetle, approximately five mm in length,
with a reddish-orange head and legs (Image 1).
The larvae are six mm in length when
mature and yellowish in colour, but this colour
is obscured by a black deposit of fecal material
making it slug-like in appearance (Image 2).
Control is warranted if an average of three
larvae per tiller are found before the boot stage.
One cereal leaf beetle adult or larva per stem
warrants control after boot but prior to heading.
If significant feeding is taking place on the
flag leaf in the early heading stages, control may
also be warranted. Malathion 500 EC is the only
insecticide registered for the control of cereal
leaf beetle in wheat, barley and oats. CG
IMAGE 1: Cereal leaf beetle adult.
IMAGE 2: Cereal leaf beetle larva and feeding “scratches.”
PhOTO: J. SmITh, UNIvERSITY of GUELPh
PhOTO: T. BAUTE, OMAFRA
Have a question
#PestPatrol on twitter.com @cowbrough
or email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE 3: Cereal leaf beetle damage on wheat.
PhOTO: D. CamPBELL, AGRONOmy AdvANTAGE
48 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
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Crops GUIDE weather
MILDER THAN NORMAL
Snow / rain
A LITTLE MILDER AND
DRIER THAN NORMAL
May 1-7: Sunny, blustery in the south May but with rain 1 May 15-21: to Blustery June with seasonable 11, to warm temperatures.
Mostly sunny apart from showers or thunderstorms
on two or three occasions, chance heavy in places.
Warm but cooler near lakes. Seasonable in the north on a couple of occasions. Frost threat in the north.
May 1 to June 11, 2016
with periodic rain, some frost.
May 22-28: Temperatures lean towards the warm
May 8-14: Warm, sunny days are interspersed with side. Mainly sunny with scattered showers or thunderstorms,
some heavy with strong winds.
showers or thundershowers, some heavy. Fair central
and in the north with scattered showers, patchy frost. May 29-June 4: Sunny and warm but a couple of
May 15-21: Windy with variable temperatures trending
to the warm side. Sunny apart from showers or derstorms. Unsettled, cooler and wet in the north.
cooler, windy days bring some rain and heavier thun-
thunderstorms on a couple of days. Nighttime frost June 5-11: Sunny skies are interspersed with clouds
in the north.
and showers or thunderstorms on two or three days
May 22-28: Pleasant weather and warm temperatures
in southern regions. Passing heavy showers
this week. Humid at times. Warm to seasonable.
or thunderstorms. Seasonable with occasional rain Atlantic provinces
in the north.
May 1-7: Fair but rain occurs on a couple of days,
May 29-June 4: Considerable sunshine in the south mixed with snow in some inland areas. Seasonable
and seasonable but a few humid, warm days trigger
showers and heavy thunderstorms. Unsettled, May 8-14: Milder days will interchange with wet, cool
to mild but frost patches inland. Occasionally windy.
showery in the north.
and foggy days. Chance of snow east and north. Blustery.
Some lows approach zero inland.
June 5-11: Sunshine dominates with warm temperatures
but look for hit-and-miss showers and thunderstorms May 15-21: Fair apart from heavier rain on two or three
with higher humidex values throughout the province. days. Seasonable to warm but a risk of snow/frost
in a few inland and northern locations. Brisk winds.
May 22-28: Sunny, warm west with scattered showers
May 1-7: Windy with variable temperatures. Sunny but or thundershowers. Cooler elsewhere with periodic
rain or thundershowers on two or three days, heavy heavier rain and fog, risk of snow in Newfoundland.
in some areas. Seasonable central and in the north May 29-June 4: Sunshine dominates aside from
with occasional rain and frost.
rain and gusty winds on a couple of days this week.
May 8-14: Warm and sunny in the south but expect Temperatures trend to the mild side.
two or three showers or thunderstorms this week, June 5-11: Changeable as pleasant, warm days interchange
with wet, windy weather and cooler tempera-
risk heavy in places. Scattered rain central and north,
pockets of frost and snow.
tures. Chance of heavy rain in places.
Fluctuating springtime weather is
anticipated throughout Canada as
warm, pleasant conditions are replaced
by cooler, wet spells from time to time.
These changeable conditions will be
accompanied by a variety of weather
ranging from frost and snow in May in a
few regions, to rain and thunderstorms
later in the season. As usual, some
thunderstorms will have the potential of
causing heavy rain, strong winds and
hail for short periods. In spite of these
inclement weather occurrences, nearto
slightly above-normal temperatures
are likely as a result of the weakening
El Niño. With the milder conditions,
precipitation is expected to be lighter
than usual in most areas, except
perhaps in far northern and eastern
areas of the country.
Prepared by meteorologist Larry
Romaniuk of Weatherite Services.
Forecasts should be 80 per cent
accurate for your area; expect variations
by a day or two due to changeable
speed of weather systems.
50 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
The U of R AgBot
(l to r): Joshua
A new era begins
We’re living at the dawn of the robot as hired farmhand
By Scott Garvey / CG Machinery Editor
Photos: sCott Garvey
friend has been keeping me posted by
email about her trouble finding a full-time
employee for the family farm in Saskatchewan.
If it didn’t represent such a serious
problem for the operation, the details would actually
be pretty funny. A few — how do I say it? — less-thanadequate
applicants are all her efforts have netted so far.
Two days before her last email, I was in the small
garage above, tucked behind a house in Regina, and
I was looking at what could become the long-term
solution to her HR problem. It was a compact tractor
matched to a special two-row corn planter, with both
of them wrapped in a network of electrical cables and
It made me think of Hewlett and Packard inventing
the computer era in their own garage, because this
is no average tractor and planter. Instead, they’re the
foundation for a general-purpose farm robot that will
be entered in the upcoming AgBot Challenge to be held
in Illinois this May. The winner of that event will need to
prove their machine can work entirely on its own.
In this case, that means the robot must be capable of
loading its own seed and planting a series of corn rows
in a field, all without human intervention.
The small group of industrial systems engineering
students from the University of Regina who were busy
working on that little tractor and planter in their urban
workshop were urged by their professor to enter the
competition as their final-year class project.
“The driving force for students has been the excitement,”
says Mehran Mehrandezh, associate professor in
industrial systems engineering at the U of R. “If they see
Continued on page 52
COUntry-GUide.CA / APriL 2016 51
The team is basing its autonomous planting entry on a Kubota tractor and custom-built Vaderstad planter donated by corporate sponsors.
The day of bigger
and bigger farm
machinery is about
to get shoved
aside by swarms
of small robots that
all know how to
parts that needed to be assembled on the
workbench. The same is likely to be true for
the first wave of on-farm robotic control
But unlike those home computer kits,
which didn’t really have a clearly defined
purpose in the early days, on-farm robotics
may fill an immediate need for manpower
“Will there be (robotic control) kits
available?” Mehrandezh wonders rhetorically.
He also sees a parallel to those early
days of the personal computer.
“Right now it’s a community of hackers
that are buying these cheap components and
working in garages,” chimes in Sam Dietrich,
one of the students on the team. “There’s
nothing on the market yet, which is kind of
surprising, I think.”
“A lot of people are able to get these
components, use open-source libraries and
do stuff like this,” adds Joshua Friedrick,
another team member.
Maybe, but putting together an entry
with all the sophistication to make it a consomething
exciting, they go for it. We can
make this very exciting and at the same time
Of course, the US$50,000 first prize
in the AgBot Challenge helps add to that
Autonomous systems have been appearing
with increasing frequency at farm shows
lately. And as I stood among the budding
engineers in that Regina garage, joined by
their mentor and a farmer who has actually
put robotics to work on his farm, it seemed
unstoppable; general-purpose robots in
agriculture are about to hit a critical mass.
Major manufacturers all quietly acknowledge
they could put an automated tractor on
the market tomorrow, and even though they
aren’t yet willing to do so, efforts like those
of these students are proof the future is getting
The widespread adoption of farm robotic
systems may actually be poised to mimic the
initial phase of the home computer. In the
1970s, the first personal computers came
as DIY projects made up of a box full of
52 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
Components like this Lidar sensor mounted on the tractor to detect hazards are becoming
increasingly inexpensive, which is removing the cost barrier for building robotic systems.
tender in the upcoming AgBot Challenge
required getting some sponsorships. In this
case, a local Kubota dealership provided a
26-horsepower tractor for them to modify.
And Saskatchewan-based Seed Hawk, an
implement manufacturer, custom built a
two-row planter for it to pull.
“Technology and robotics are all becoming
very mainstream in agriculture,” says
Edward Lambert, vice-president of R&D
at Seed Hawk. “It will get to a tipping point
where the next phase is automation. A lot of
our customers are excited about new technology
and what we’ve come up with. They
can see there’s going to be another leap in
the future as well.”
And Professor Mehrandezh wants his
team to ensure this leap is a big one.
“I told these guys, let’s not just move forward
this much,” Mehrandezh recalls, holding
his fingers an inch or two apart. “Let’s
have a quantum leap. Let’s go to swarm
farming so we’ll be ahead of everybody else.
Taking this to the next level of swarm farming
is not that difficult.”
The swarm idea refers to having a group
— or swarm — of smaller machines working
together in a field.
“If we can make this navigate off a GPS
signal, it’s just an extra 20 lines of code to
make it follow another tractor,” agrees Friedrick.
“It’s very easy for us to just expand it
into a lot of different areas.”
That’s an idea that Lambert thinks has
“I don’t like the word swarm, especially
in agriculture,” he says with a laugh. “But
it’s something a lot of companies are working
on, to get multiple machines in the field
working together. I think one of the trends
going forward is faster machines and smaller
machines, because not everybody can handle
a 100-foot-wide implement. I think we’re
probably getting to the limit of how big tools
and tractors will be.”
He isn’t alone in that thinking. Another
industry insider I spoke to recently confided
that he believed the trend to bigger implements
is about to reverse itself, in large part
due to the potential offered by automation.
“The next phase going forward, it may
be five years or 10, I don’t know the time
frame just yet, but autonomous vehicles will
be something farmers will go for,” says Lambert.
“I think it can be produced in a very
economical way and provide value to the
farmer. It’s not too far away. I can see it happening
within my career.”
For Manitoba farmer Matt Reimer, a
robotic tractor he can put to work is no longer
a pie-in-the-sky idea. He has already
created a robotic control system to use on a
high-horsepower tractor on his farm.
“There are definitely some people who
think what I’m doing is nuts,” he says, but
many others have expressed genuine interest.
The quality and durability of a wide variety
of the electronic components and sensors
necessary to create robotic systems has
grown exponentially in recent years, while
their cost has fallen at an almost equal rate.
The U of R team’s little tractor takes
advantage of that. Relatively inexpensive
components — that are becoming progressively
cheaper as time goes on — are what
make up the bulk of the team’s autonomous
system. To keep things simple, a computer
controls off-the-shelf actuators that manipulate
the manual controls on the tractor just
as a driver would.
“Our main goal right now is to interface
all our components with the controls
that are already there,” says Friedrick. “What
we’re focusing on is the software and control
system. Most of our time is spent programming.”
Reimer took the same approach to automating
his tractor. Although he had no formal
training in computer programming, he
was able to find an online course to get some
basic skills allowing him to write the software
code he needed, borrowing much from
free, open-source programs available online.
The U of R students will be busy over the
next two months getting their robot ready
for the upcoming challenge. Lambert thinks
the work they’ll do will help the industry
overall, even if they don’t end up creating a
“As manufacturers, we don’t always have
the opportunity to take something right
from the grassroots,” he says. “To get the
university to help us with that is really a
The team also thinks of the tractor as the
start of a legacy project that future students
can build on and develop further.
“We’ve actually started a club at the U of
R, an agricultural robotics club,” says Dietrich.
“We kind of see it as being a lasting
piece at the University of Regina.”
Mehrandezh thinks the team’s efforts
could be a significant stake in the ground,
putting the U of R firmly on the robotics
“I want to make this like a centre of
excellence, headquartered at the University
of Regina,” he says.
For Reimer and his farming operation,
the benefits of robotics are already here for
the taking. Having his driverless tractor pull
a grain cart during harvest last fall freed up
manpower to tackle other jobs that needed
to get done.
Says Reimer, “I had the best fall I’ve ever
had in terms of getting things ready for this
coming spring (with a robotic tractor in the
field). We’re not going back.” CG
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 53
During their careers, one in three Canadians
will be sidelined for 90 days or more by
injury or disease. Are you prepared?
By Gerald Pilger
Most farmers insure their
buildings, vehicles, equipment
and other farm assets.
Many insure their crops and
livestock. Increasingly, farmers use risk
management strategies to insure a price
they will receive for the commodities they
However, few farmers insure what may
be the biggest risk to the farm; the inability
for the farmer to work or manage the farm
as a result of an accident, sickness, or disability.
While loss-of-income insurance is often
included in part of a wage earner’s benefit
package, it is something many self-employed
Mark Hardy, senior manager with RBC
Insurance, says farmers should carry some
form of disability insurance, particularly
since the farmer is the lifeblood of the business,
both in their roles as manager of the
farm business and in many cases as primary
Disability insurance not only covers salary
and the withdrawals an injured or disabled
farmer had been earning from the
business, but it can even cover a business’s
overhead costs including repayment of business
loans and a loss of business income as a
result of an accident or disability.
But Hardy also emphasizes an important
point: “Disability insurance is a complicated
topic. You need to speak with a professional
insurance adviser to get a policy which will
protect your income and your business.
There are a lot of factors to consider, and it
will take time to review.”
When it comes to disability insurance,
there really is no “one-size-fits all” policy.
Income replacement by insurance can start
the day after a disability or not come into
effect for months or even years. The benefits
can range from a few hundred dollars
a month to an amount equivalent to the net
income you were earning from the business
before the accident.
Similarly, the benefits an injured party
receives rarely last a lifetime and could even
end after just a few months. Disability payments
might continue until you can do
everything you had been doing before the
accident or may end (or decrease) if you
are able to work in any job; even non-farm
It all depends on the policy and the
premium you are willing to pay. The more
comprehensive the policy, the higher the
Comparing Disability Plans
When seeking disability insurance, the first
question to ask is what constitutes a disability.
Is coverage only for accident or injury, or
does it include illness that prevents you from
working? Are there any exclusions? Is coverage
24 hours per day or only if the injury
happens at work?
The second question should be what the
benefit is if you become disabled. Is it a fixed
dollar amount per month or a percentage of
your income/wage when you became disabled?
Most policies provide a maximum
benefit of two-thirds of gross employment
income, although this is not a fixed rule.
When the policyholder is self-employed,
this calculation of benefit is even more critical.
The question to ask yourself is, could
you live on that benefit amount without any
other source of income and without dipping
into savings? Furthermore, you need to ask if
the benefit has a cost-of-living option which
adjusts payments in step with the inflation
rate. This could be very important if faced
with long term disability.
Third, what is the elimination period?
Policies with benefits that start the day after
an injury are much more expensive than
those which do not pay for the first 30, 60,
or 90 days after an injury. If you can live off
savings for the first couple of months when
disabled, you can significantly reduce the
The other way of reducing the cost of
disability insurance is to limit the duration
of benefits. Lifetime disability coverage is
very rare. Most policies pay for a set term of
54 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
years (often just two or five years) and after
that time, you are on your own. Some plans
pay until age 65, but as you might expect,
these are much more expensive.
Be very aware of how long an income
replacement policy will provide a source of
income after a disability occurs.
Besides these main points, there can be a
lot of differences in the policy fine print that
also needs careful review.
If you are unable to farm, but are
employable in another job or industry, do
you still qualify for disability benefits? Does
the policy insure you until you can return to
your own occupation or only until you are
employable? If you can work part time, will
it pay a partial benefit to top up the wage you
can earn part time to the benefit amount?
What happens if you return to work
but then the disability flares up and you are
forced to stop working after a short time
back at work? Is this a continuation of the
initial claim or will this be considered a new
claim and you are subject to another elimination
Does the disability policy cover any costs
of health care or rehabilitation services, or
will you have to pay these new costs out of
the benefit you receive?
What is the claims procedure? Too often
it is very easy to enrol in disability insurance,
but collecting the benefit can be quite
Finally, and unfortunately, the place
where many farmers start their comparison
of disability insurance policies is what the
plan will cost rather than what insurance it
provides. Disability insurance is not cheap
and the lowest price is not necessarily the
best. To compare plans just on the cost of the
premium would be equivalent to a farmer
deciding to only the cheapest crops to grow,
without looking at what the market would
pay for those crops.
In any case, it’s a good idea to stop putting
it off. This insurance can be vitally
Statistics reveal one in three Canadians
will be disabled by injury for 90 days or more
at some point in their lives. CG
so be forwarned.
It will take time
and effort to find
the right plan for
your farm at the
right price. But
without it, farming
is just too risky
the country guide
mobile app is ready
when you are!
Keep up to date on all the latest agriculture news that
matters to you with the new Country Guide mobile app!
INSTANT ACCESS TO:
• Daily regional news
• Daily market news
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• Machinery tips & reviews
• Plus much more!
Scan the code to
get the app – or
Available for Android
devices, iPhones and iPad.
Part of the
More great agricultural apps available!
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 55
2016 Seed treatment Guide updated
There were some product omissions and some application errors in some tables in the
Seed Treatment Guide in the March 15 issue. Rather than running corrections to individual
tables, we’re reprinting the whole guide so it will be in a more convenient format.
Commercial Name aCtive iNgredient
Common root rot
Seedling blight (Pythium)
Allegiance FL metalaxyl - - - - - - - - - - + - - -
Apron XL RTA metalaxyl-M - - - - - - - - - - + - - -
Cruiser 5 FS thiamethoxam + + - - - - - - - - - - - -
DB-RED L maneb - - - - + - - + - - - + - -
Dividend XL RTA difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M - - + + + + + + pc pc + + - + 1
Intego Solo ethaboxam - - - - - - - - - - + - - -
Maxim 480FS, Proseed fludioxonil - - - - + - - - - - - + - -
Nipsit SUITE Cereals clothianidin + metalaxyl + metconazole - + + - + - - + + - + + - -
Nipsit Inside clothianidin (insecticide only) - + - - - - - - - - - - - -
Rancona Apex ipconazole - - + - + - - + pc - - + - -
Raxil PRO tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole - - + + + - - + pc pc + + - -
Raxil PRO Shield imidacloprid + tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole - + + + + - - + pc pc + + - -
Stress Shield for cereals, Alias imidacloprid - + - - - - - - - - - - - -
Vibrance Quattro difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane + fludioxonil - - + + + + + + pc pc + + - + 1
Vibrance XL difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane - - + + + + + + pc pc + + - + 1
Vitaflo 280 carbathiine + thiram - - + - + + - + + - - + - -
Note 1: Winter wheat only.
Oats Insect pests Diseases
Seedling blight (Pythium)
Allegiance FL metalaxyl - pc - - + pc
Apron XL RTA metalaxyl-M - pc - - + pc
DB-RED L maneb - + + - - -
Dividend XL RTA difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M - + + + + pc
Intego Solo ethaboxam - - - - + -
Maxim 480 FS, Proseed fludioxonil - pc - - - pc
Raxil PRO tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole - + + + + pc
Raxil PRO Shield imidacloprid + tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole + + + + + pc
Stress Shield for cereals, Alias imidacloprid + - - - - -
Vibrance Quattro difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane + fludioxonil - + + + + pc
Vibrance XL difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane - + + + + pc
Legend +: recommended pc: partial control -: not recommended
56 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
wheat / oats / Canola / Barley / rye / soybeans / corn
canola Insect pests Diseases
Seed rot and seedling blight (Aspergillus)
Seed rot and seedling blight (Fusarium)
Seed rot and seedling blight (Rhizoctonia)
Seed rot and seedling blight (Alternaria)
Seedling blight (Pythium)
Allegiance FL metalaxyl - - - - - + -
Apron XL metalaxyl-M - - - - - + -
Dynasty 100 FS azoxystrobin - - - + - - -
Fortenza cyantraniliprole + - - - - -
Gaucho 480 L imidacloprid + - - - - - -
Gaucho CS FL imidacloprid + carbathiine + thiram + - - + + + +
Helix Vibrance co-pack thiamethoxam + metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil + difenoconazole + sedaxane + - + + + + +
Helix XTRA thiamethoxam + metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil + difenoconazole + - + + + + +
Intego Solo ethaboxam - - - - - + -
Integral Bacillus subtilis, a natural bacterium - - pc pc - - -
Lumiderm cyantraniliprole + - - - - - -
Maxim 480 FS fludioxonil - + + + - - -
Nipsit SUITE Canola clothianidin + metalaxyl + metconazole + - + + - + +
Nipsit Inside clothianidin (insecticide only) + - - - - - -
Nisso Foundation Lite iprodione + thiram - - - + + - +
Poncho 600 FS clothianidin + - - - - - -
Prosper Evergol clothianidin + penflufen + metalaxyl + trifloxystrobin + - + + + + +
Rancona Apex ipconazole - - + + - - -
Vault acetamiprid + - - - - - -
Barley Insect pests Diseases
Seed rot and seedling blight
False loose smut
Allegiance FL metalaxyl - - pc - - - pc
Cruiser 5FS thiamethoxam + + - - - - -
DB-RED L maneb - - + + - + -
Dividend XL RTA difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M - - + + - + pc
Intego Solo ethaboxam - - + - - - -
Maxim 480 FS, Proseed fludioxonil - - + - - - pc
Rancona Apex ipconazole - - + + + + pc
Raxil PRO tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole - - + + + + +
Raxil PRO Shield imidacloprid + tebuconazole + metalaxyl + prothioconazole - + + + + + +
Stress Shield for cereals, Alias imidacloprid + + - - - - -
Vibrance Quattro difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane + fludioxonil - - + + + + +
Vibrance XL difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane - - + + + + pc
Vitaflo 280 carbathiine + thiram - - + + + + pc
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 57
2016 Seed treatment Guide updated
Seedling blight (Pythium)
Allegiance FL metalaxyl - pc - - - + pc
Apron XL RTA metalaxyl-M - pc - - - + pc
DB-RED L maneb - + - + - - -
Dividend XL RTA difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M - + + + + + pc
Intego Solo ethaboxam - - - - - + -
Maxim 480 FS, Proseed fludioxonil - + - - - - pc
Rancona Apex ipconazole - + - - - - pc
Vibrance Quattro difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane + fludioxonil - + + + + + +
Vibrance XL difenoconazole + metalaxyl-M + sedaxane - + + + + + pc
Vitaflo 280 carbathiine + thiram - + - - - + pc
soybeans Insect pests Diseases
Soybean nematode cyst
Bean leaf beetle
Phomopsis seed decay
Seedling blight (Fusarium)
Seedling blight (Rhizoctonia)
Seedling blight (Pythium)
Acceleron for soybean with insecticide imidacloprid + fluxapyroxad + metalaxyl + pyraclostrobin - + + + + + + + + +
Acceleron for soybean with fungicide fluxapyroxad + metalaxyl + pyraclostrobin - - - - - + + + + +
Agrox B-2 diazinon + captan (TS) - - - - - - - - - -
Agrox CD diazinon + captan (TS) (PRE) - - - - - - + + + -
Allegiance FL metalaxyl - - - - - + - - - +
Anchor carbathiine + thiram (TS) - - - - - - + + + -
Apron Maxx metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil - - - - - + - - - +
Apron XL metalaxyl-M - - - - - + - - - +
Clariva pn pasteuria nishizawae + - - - - - - - - -
Cruiser Maxx Vibrance Bean thiamethoxam + metalaxyl-M + fludioxonil + sedaxane - + + + pc + + + + +
EverGol Energy penflufen + metalaxyl + prothioconazole - - - - - + + + + +
Intego Solo ethaboxam - - - - - + - - - +
Maxim 480 FS fludioxonil - - - - - - + + + -
Stress Shield for cereals and soybean, Alias imidacloprid - + + + + - - - - -
Vibrance Maxx metalaxyl-M+ fludioxonil+ sedaxane - - - - - + + + + +
Vitaflo 280 carbathiine + thiram - - - - - - + + + -
LEGEnd +: recommended pc: partial control -: not recommended
58 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
wheat / oats / Canola / Barley / rye / soybeans / corn
COR N Insect pests Diseases
Corn flea beetle
Seedling blight (Fusarium)
Seedling blight (Rhizoctonia)
Seedling blight (Pythium)
Ear rot (Aspergillus)
Blue-eyed mould (Penicillium)
Acceleron for corn clothianidin ( 0.250 mg a.i./seed)+ ipconazole + trifloxystrobin + metalaxyl - + + + + + + + + + +
Acceleron for corn without insecticide ipconazole + trifloxystrobin + metalaxyl - - - - - - + + + + +
Agrox B-2 diazinon + captane (TS) - - - + - - + - - + +
Agrox CD diazinon + captane (TS) (PRE) - - - + - - - - - - -
Allegiance FL metalaxyl - - - - - - - - + - -
Apron XL metalaxyl-M - - - - - - - - + - -
Cruiser 5 FS thiamethoxam (0.125-0.250 mg a.i./seed) - + + + - + - - - - -
Cruiser 5 FS thiamethoxam (1.250 mg a.i./seed) + + + + - + - - - - -
Dynasty 100 FS azoxystrobin - - - - - - - + + - -
Fortenza cyantraniliprole - + + - + - - - - - -
Gaucho 480 L imidacloprid - - + - - + - - - - -
Intego Solo ethaboxam - - - - - - - - + - -
Maxim 480 FS, Proseed fludioxonil - - - - - - + + - + +
Maxim Quattro azoxystrobin + fludioxonil + metalaxyl-M + thiabendazole - - - - - - + + + + +
Nipsit Inside clothianidin (insecticide only) + + + + + + - - - - -
Poncho 600 FS (250) clothianidin (0.25 mg a.i./seed) - + + + + + - - - - -
Poncho 600 FS (1250) clothianidin (1.25 mg a.i./seed) + + + + + + - - - - -
Rancona 3,8 FS ipconazole - - - - - - + + - + +
Vitaflo 280 carbathiine + thiram - - - - - - + + - - -
Genetic traits against insects added through genetic engineering
Agrisure CB/LL - - - - - + - - -
Agrisure GT/CB/LL - - - - - + - - -
Agrisure 3000 GT + - - - - + - - -
Agrisure Viptera 3110 - - - - + + + + +
Agrisure Viptera 3111 + - - - + + + + +
Agrisure 3122 + - - - + + + - +
Agrisure Viptera 3220 - - - - + + + + +
Agrisure Duracade 5222 + - - - + + + + +
Agrisure Duracade 5122 + - - - + + + - +
Herculex 1 and Herculex 1/ RR2 - - - - + + + - +
Herculex XTRA and Herculex XTRA/RR2 + - - - + + + - +
Genuity Smartstax ( Monsanto) / Smartstax ( Dow) + - - - + + + + +
Genuity VT Double Pro - - - - - + - + +
Genuity VT Triple Pro + - - - - + - + +
Optimum AcreMax / Optimum Intrasect - - - - + + + - +
Optimum AcreMax Xtreme + - - - + + + - +
Optimum AcreMax Xtra/ Optimum Intrasect Xtra + - - - + + + - +
European corn borer
Western bean cutworm
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 59
GUIDE LIFE hR
By Pierrette Desrosiers / psYChologist and coach
Are you stressed?
We’ve studied stress in the
workplace for years to try
to mitigate it. Organizations
like Forbes and Careercast
have even published their Top 10 lists of the
most stressful jobs. The careers on these lists
include firefighters, police, airline pilots, and
surgeons, which makes sense because people
in these jobs after all are responsible for lives.
Teachers, broadcasters, and social workers
also make the lists. Farmers do not.
However, a survey by Ginette Lafleur, a
doctoral student at the Universite de Montreal,
indicates that farmers are under stress
like never before, and that this stress has
increased dramatically over the last 20 years.
Her research was based on Quebec farmers,
but my experience tells me the story
across the country is quite similar. So,
should farming be rated as a Top 10 job for
Of course, a variety of factors causes
workplace-related stress, some of which are
inherent to the job, while others are related
to the conditions of an individual workplace,
and still others are linked to the personality
of the employee or business owner.
For instance, I love to speak at conferences,
but my husband, who is a farmer,
would be an insomniac if he had to speak in
public. But then, I’d go crazy if I had to work
as an accountant or a nurse, while some people
find those professions deeply fulfilling.
So let’s take a look at 10 of the more
common reasons we might call a job “stressful.”
Remember, these can apply to your
employees, and not just you and your family
1. The person who calls the shots is a
jerk, idiot, or bully: If you have to work
closely with such a person, they will impact
your job satisfaction and stress level. Why?
They are the ones who give you feedback,
support you, promote you, and evaluate you.
Your relationship with your “boss” is highly
predictive of your happiness in your work.
2. Long hours: An inability to maintain a
work-life balance can be a major source of
3. Impossible deadlines: If you feel like
you can’t meet important deadlines, performance
and job satisfaction decrease.
4. Conflicts with peers: Peer conflict can
be as draining as conflict with a boss.
5. Too much travel: Lack of consistency
and difficulty establishing an appropriate
work-life balance can be a consequence of
too much travel.
6. Bureaucracy: Too many rules and regulations
can prevent you from doing the most
important aspects of your job.
7. Micromanagement: Too much supervision
can be interpreted as a lack of trust on
the part of your supervisor.
8. Lack of growth potential: We don’t
work just for the financial return — we crave
growth as a person.
In the same profession, some are satisfied
and others are highly stressed. It seems it’s not
always the job itself that causes stress
9. Working conditions: Dangerous or
uncomfortable work environments can
exponentially raise stress levels.
10. Emotional labour: It can prove difficult
when you are required to always keep
your emotions concealed.
Still, many common farm stres ses don’t
appear on this list, such as having to deal
with weather, thin profit margins, a lack
of employees, and a next generation that
doesn’t want to take on the farm, plus
high debt and the lack of clear boundaries
between work and family life, not to mention
the perception of the public that sometimes
seem to believe farmers are doing it all
Some of these stress factors have been
there forever, but some are quite recent and
are making farming more stressful.
However, we have to remember that the
picture is not black and white. The negatives
of farming are sometimes counteracted by
the most satisfying aspects of the industry.
• You feel a real sense of accomplishment.
Your work is meaningful and important.
That sense of meaningfulness might compensate
for a boss who acts like a jerk or a
brother-in-law who is always critical.
• You feel you are competent and have control
of your job, which might compensate
for the long hours.
• You have meaningful relationships at work
and can joke together about the bureaucracy
at the bank.
Of course, our personality — the way we
think, feel and act in daily life — influences
the way we respond to the positive and negative
conditions of our jobs. And our accumulated
actions, feelings and thoughts make a
huge difference over time. This explains why
some farmers are more stressed than others.
Some have made choices that result in negative
consequences, a few should not be farmers
at all, some have developed resilience,
and others have cultivated good habits and a
philosophical approach to work and life.
At the end of the day, it’s important that
the person fits the job. Is your temperament
compatible with your surrounding environment,
workload, and people?
Being a farmer isn’t easy. I have lived my
whole life on farms. As a psychologist and
coach, I have spent my whole career with
farmers. Over the years, external conditions
have changed — and not always for the best.
However, in the same profession, some are
satisfied and others are highly stressed and
unhappy. It seems it’s not always the job itself
that causes stress.
You can make a difference in your own
stress levels. Can you bring something to the
equation that will alleviate the effects of the
stressors of farm life? CG
Pierrette Desrosiers, mps, crha
is a work psychologist, professional speaker, coach
and author who specializes in the agricultural
industry. She comes from a family of farmers and she
and her husband have farmed for more than 25
years. Contact her at:
60 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
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By Helen Lammers-Helps
same old board
Today’s farming is increasingly sophisticated.
Now its boards are too, which is good news all around
Agricultural boards are under pressure. They
can no longer do business the way they
always used to, says Rob Black, chief executive
officer at the Rural Ontario Institute, a
charitable organization in Guelph, Ont. that helps build
This time, though, the pressure is coming from their
farmers, and especially from the farmers they want to
attract as board members.
Those farmers are different than they used to be.
They’re insisting that their time be respected, for one
thing, and perhaps even more importantly, they also
have a new and growing sense of how much can be
Farm boards are under
intense pressure to put
more tools in the hands
of their farmer members
achieved by a good board. In other words, today’s farmers
have less and less patience for simply maintaining the
But there’s another side to consider too, because the
available pool is shrinking. Farmers are busier and the
younger generation does not seem to be “picking up the
mantle,” says David Hartley, a Toronto consultant who
has worked extensively with boards.
Farm organizations have been responding to this
shift by creating their own leadership training programs.
Working with Black, for instance, Beef Farmers
of Ontario (BFO) started offering a multi-day leadership
training program five years ago.
“We found fewer people were stepping up to participate
in boards at the county, provincial and national
levels,” explains David Stewart, BFO general manager.
Beef Farmers of Ontario brought in professional
facilitators to do governance training, covering the roles
and responsibilities of board members, reading financial
reports, communication, understanding leadership
styles, and strategic planning.
Called BUILD Leadership, the program was open
to anyone in the industry who might have an interest
in serving on a board someday, and Stewart says it was
meant to give young people the skills and confidence to
come forward to serve on boards at all levels.
And it worked, he says. “People weren’t feeling
equipped to put their names forward. The training helps
people to know what’s expected of them.” As a result, he
says they’ve seen a very noticeable increase in the number
of people who are running for boards.
The benefits go beyond the beef industry, Stewart
believes. These skills are useful for any board that a person
might be involved on, even non-farm boards such as
the local soccer or hockey association.
Four organizations in the Ontario dairy sector came
together to offer a similar training program to anyone
in the dairy industry who might be interested in serving
on a board in the future. CanWest DHI, EastGen, Dairy
Farmers of Ontario and Holstein Canada, with funding
from the Agricultural Adaptation Council, have created a
pool of about 70 people who have undergone the Future
Leaders Development Program in the past two years.
62 APRIL 2016 / COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA
“As the industry shrinks, decisions become increasingly
important so it’s even more important to have the
right people on boards and to have them well trained,”
explains Neil Petreny, general manager of CanWest DHI,
one of the driving forces behind the program. “A good
board can attract good people,” says Petreny. “Likewise, a
bad board can repel people.”
A similar leadership development program is now
being offered by Alberta Milk, the non-profit organization
that represents Alberta’s dairy farmers.
Director training helps boards tackle the issues that
can leave a board foundering. Often, for instance, a lack
of clarity around roles and responsibilities crops up, says
Hartley. What is the board’s mission? What is the role of
the board versus the role of the executive director? Some
boards are too involved while others are simply rubber
stamps, says Hartley, who is fond of saying that “boards
need to keep their noses in and their fingers out.”
Many boards also struggle with getting everyone pulling
together and speaking with one voice to give direction
to the staff, says Mary Lynn McPherson, a consultant
with Strive, a Guelph company that supports leaders to
achieve high performance.
Farmers are independent thinkers but they don’t all
think alike, McPherson says. Board members need to be
curious, diplomatic, and skilled communicators so they
come to agreement without simply opting for the lowest
common denominator, she says.
Sometimes the formal language of the agenda and
minutes can also be a turnoff to would-be board members.
Hartley recommends streamlining the minutes and
the agenda. Unless there has been a motion, one sentence
is all that’s needed to describe the discussion. Agendas
should focus on the most important matters to be discussed.
Topics should be framed as questions so board
members will be prodded to think about them before
coming to the meeting.
The expectations placed on Canada’s ag and rural
organization boards are increasingly demanding. However,
organizations that invest in leadership training for
their board members are seeing a payoff, says McPherson.
Board members need a broad base of skills, plus the
opportunity to put them to good use. “Boards need to be
more proactive and less reactive, more intentional and
less passive,” McPherson says. “The board must balance
protecting with directing.” CG
Imagine Canada is a non-profit that provides programs and
resources that help strengthen charities and their
NonProfit Help, David Hartley’s consulting company, has
links to Canadian sources of information on risk
management, insurance, strategic planning and Best
Should you say ‘yes’ to a directorship?
Always, says board consultant David Hartley, ask yourself if you are
passionate about the organization’s mission.
Will you be willing to give of your time to work on task forces and
Do you even have the time? With everyone so busy, burnout is a real
problem, says Hartley.
Mary Lynn McPherson says some boards are more strategic in their
operations, while others are working boards. Are you someone who
prefers to think about long-term planning, or are you a ‘doer?’
What kind of board is it? Is it a good fit for your preferred style?
Ask for the orientation package ahead of attending a meeting, advises
McPherson. Get the terms of reference and a year’s worth of minutes and
financial reports. Is there someone on the board who can act as your
mentor and answer your questions?
To get a feel for the culture and dynamics of the board, Hartley
recommends attending a meeting. Is it a one-person show? Is it a toxic
environment? Talk to people in the parking lot afterwards, he suggests.
Hartley says the best boards have a diverse membership. Do the board
members have different backgrounds and different skill sets? Do you have
something unique to offer?
Then when you do sign up and attend a meeting, show up prepared, says
McPherson. Treat everyone with respect and kindness, and leave personal
agendas at home.
The Gay Lea example
For the past 10 years, Gay Lea Foods, a dairy co-op with 1,200
farmer members, has invested heavily in their leadership
development. It offers four types of training:
• For those who may be interested in becoming one of their 60
delegates (15 from each of four areas) they offer a six-module
Foundation Program to improve capabilities in financial
analysis, communications, governance and strategic planning.
• For young people aged 20 to 35, Gay Lea offers the
Co-operative Leadership Program, a one- or two-day skillsdevelopment
• Advanced Leadership Development provides intensive training
for delegates and directors using case studies representative of
situations a dairy co-op may face.
• Board members sit down with the chair annually to discuss their
Individual Development Plan.
Board chair Steve Dolson says they have seen their investment in
leadership development pay off. Many people are vying for the
delegate and director positions and when someone does join the
board “they are ready to go Day 1” instead of waiting and watching
for a year before contributing.
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 63
GUIDE LIFE health
By Marie Berry / lawyer & pharmacist
IS IT REALLY
Dementia is a chronic and
of mental capacity, and
you have probably heard
of Alzheimer’s disease, its most
common form. In Canada, about 15
per cent of people 65-plus years old
are affected, and with the growth
of this age group, the numbers of
people affected are sure to increase.
Dementia is not just ordinary
forgetfulness. For example, any of
us might forget where we left our
gloves, but with dementia you forget
how to put your gloves on, or even
that you should wear them when
it’s cold outside. It is a progressive
disease that occurs gradually,
and mental capacity is irreversibly
diminished. By the time a dementia
diagnosis is made, the disease has
had decades to develop.
Too often we put
off getting our
checked out, but
it may not be
A disease that tends to affect
older people, dementia can be the
result of genetic factors, environment,
or even diet. Early onset
Alzheimer’s disease does indeed
have a family tendency, and genetic
testing is possible. More women are
affected than men, but that may be
because women tend to live longer.
The symptoms of dementia can
include memory loss, difficulty performing
familiar tasks, problems
with language, disorientation to
time and place, poor or diminished
judgment, problems with abstract
thinking, mood or behaviour
changes, personality changes, and
loss of initiative.
While dementia symptoms are
devastating, sometimes an underlying
condition or medication may be
the cause for the symptoms. And,
the good news is that some of these
underlying causes can be treated.
Trauma such as a head injury or
a tumour can produce symptoms.
Treatment and even surgery in the
case of a tumour may be helpful.
Vascular dementia can occur secondary
to circulation diseases
such as strokes, and treatment can
be useful. Infections such as HIV
or even something as common as
a urinary tract infection can cause
symptoms, and treatment with antiinfective
agents may alleviate them.
Severe vitamin B12 deficiency is
manifested by dementia, and correction
of the deficiency may help.
And sometimes the symptoms may
be linked to poor vision or hearing,
which eyeglasses or hearing aids
Any medication that affects
cognitive functioning can result in
confusion, memory loss, and psychological
changes, all of which
may be mistaken for dementia. The
most commonly implicated drugs
include benzodiazepines used for
insomnia and anxiety, narcotic pain
relievers, and tricyclic antidepressants
such as amitriptyline. Elderly
people who are more commonly
associated with dementia are also
more often affected by these adverse
effects. Older individuals are more
likely to have multiple medical conditions
and to take multiple types of
medications, meaning they are more
at risk. Then, by the very nature of
their age, their bodies don’t work as
well as they once did, meaning that
drugs can accumulate with more
profound effects. A “drug holiday”
may identify the dementia as medication
You may not notice dementia
symptoms, passing them off as “normal
aging,” and if the symptoms are
noticed they may not be investigated
because of the fear of being admitted
to a nursing home. However,
if you, a family member, or friend
is experiencing forgetfulness, it is
a good idea to have the symptom
checked, as it may be something easily
remedied. In the meantime, make
sure you are doing everything that
you can to keep your brain healthy.
Uncontrolled blood pressure,
high cholesterol, and poorly controlled
diabetes can contribute to
dementia. Always wear protective
head gear to prevent head trauma.
Drug and alcohol abuse can damage
nerve cells increasing susceptibility,
and there is some evidence that
smoking can be a contributing factor
in some people. Much like exercise
to keep your muscles in shape,
use your brain in new challenging
activities. Obviously, you know what
you should be doing, don’t wait,
start now! CG
Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist
interested in health and education.
You probably take your nose for granted, but you shouldn’t. You breathe with it and it is essential for your sense of smell. Next
issue, we’ll look at normal nasal functioning and conditions like the common cold with its nasal congestion that affects your nose.
64 april 2016 / COUNtry-GUIDE.ca
By Leeann Minogue / grainews editor
When Mark was 20
minutes late for
work on Tuesday
morning, none of
the Hansons who were out in the
shop said anything, although Dale
did make a point of taking a good
look at his watch and Dale’s father,
Ed, would definitely have said
something if he’d been there.
On Wednesday, Mark was 25
minutes late. Dale bit his tongue,
looked at his watch again, and
looked pointedly at his son, Jeff. Jeff
looked back at his father, shrugged,
and gave Dale a “what-am-I-gonnado-about-it?”
type of look. Dale
frowned, and pointed at his son, as if
to say, “you’re the boss now.”
Then Dale and Jeff both looked
over at Mark, who had been watching
them and grinning.
“My turn to guess?” Mark said.
“Movie title? ‘Shawshank Redemption?’”
“We’re not playing charades,”
Dale said. “We’re trying to figure
out whose job it is to tell you to
show up on time.”
“I’m sorry,” Mark said, sounding
sincere. “I had to give a friend a ride
to work. I’ll stay late.”
Yesterday, Mark’s excuse was that
he had to pick up some medicine for
his girlfriend. One story, they could
live with. But another?
“Don’t worry, I’ll show up on
time when seeding gets going.”
“I hope so,” Jeff said. Jeff didn’t
care much if Mark showed up
exactly on time, but he hoped it
wasn’t an indication of any other
problems. Hiring was risky. Mark
already knew where they kept the
keys for the vehicles and buildings
and what was in all the bins. Some
days Mark would be alone in the
yard with Jeff ’s wife and kids. Jeff
needed someone he could trust.
Other than the time troubles,
Mark’s first month on the job was
going well. The weekend before, the
whole Hanson family had held an
informal performance review while
Just one more
Why is that new hired man always so late?
And what’s with those excuses?
they were waiting for their Easter
ham to cook and were sitting around
the table, pooling the promotional
stickers they’d brought home from
the Co-op grocery store to see if, collectively,
they’d earned enough of
the right-coloured stickers to win a
“Does anyone see any more
orange stickers?” Ed’s girlfriend
“I have three yellow ones marked
‘Swan River,’” Jeff said.
“No good,” Helen said. “If we get
an orange one that says ‘Cabri’ we
can win a $50 gift card.”
“For a kid from the oilfield,
Mark’s all right,” Dale said, ripping
open another ticket and not finding
Jeff didn’t bother pointing out
that Mark wasn’t a “kid,” he was only
three years younger than Jeff.
“He… picks things up pretty
quickly… for a city kid,” Dale’s
father Ed said in his new post-stroke
slow-talking style. “He puts his back
into a job,” Ed went on. “Not what
you expect… from somebody from
An Alberta oil company had
transferred Mark to a rig in southeast
Saskatchewan a couple of years
ago. When oil prices fell and he was
laid off, Mark wanted to stay in the
area. As he admitted to Dale and Jeff
at the job interview, “Well, there’s a
girl. And she doesn’t want to leave
Weyburn.” Ed was sold on Mark
as soon as he heard the details. Ed
knew the girlfriend’s family. “Anybody
who can get along with that
bunch… has to be all right,” Ed said.
“There was a learning curve,”
Dale said, gluing green stickers into
the booklet and remembering how
long Mark had taken to figure out
the augers and legs at the Hansons’
“He shovelled the spilled oats
himself,” Jeff said. “And he hasn’t
made that mistake twice.”
“He was good with Connor the
Ha,” Dale said. “Do you want to hear
my story or make jokes?” But he didn’t
wait for an answer.
other day,” Elaine said. The little boy
had escaped from the house when
his mom thought he was napping.
Mark had piggybacked him safely to
the house before he got hurt.
“He tells good jokes,” Donna
“You only hear the clean ones,”
Dale said. “That kid can turn the air
in the shop blue. I like him. I just
wish he’d show up on time.
“I think he’s been late more than
he’s been on time,” Dale said. “And
some of his excuses are getting a
“If that’s the biggest problem, it’s
going to work out fine,” Elaine said.
“Jeff, can you take a look at that orange
sticker? Are you sure it isn’t ‘Cabri?’”
Continued ON page 66
COUNTRY-GUIDE.CA / APRIL 2016 65
“He can’t just show up any time whenever he wants
when we’re seeding,” Dale said. “And what about harvest?”
“Well, let’s hope for the best,” Donna said. “Can you
clear away those stickers and set the table, Dale? The
ham’s finally ready.”
So the week after Easter when Mark had arrived late
on Tuesday and late again on Wednesday, everyone was
silently relieved when he pulled into the yard at 7:59 on
Thursday morning. But when Mark still wasn’t there at
8:40 on Friday, Dale spoke up.
“What sort of excuse do you think he’ll come up
with this time?” Dale asked.
When Mark showed up at 8:50, he didn’t offer an
excuse. “Sorry,” he told the Hansons. “I couldn’t help it.”
Jeff was at a loss. He liked Mark. And he needed the
help. Ed was able to drive now, but he could barely get
in and out of his truck since the stroke, let alone operate
“Let’s talk about it later,” Jeff said. “The trucker
from Estevan should be here any time to pick up that
durum seed. Why don’t you move the auger so we can
load him up?”
Dale’s phone rang almost as soon as Mark left the
shop. Dale took the call, then shook his head when he
“You won’t believe it,” he announced. “It was Brian
“I believe it,” Jeff said. “He calls all the time.”
“Ha,” Dale said. “Do you want to hear my story or
make jokes?” Dale didn’t wait for an answer. “Brian ran
out of gas out on the highway. Mark picked him up
when he went by and gave him a ride to town to get a
jerrycan-full of gas.”
“Why didn’t Mark just tell us that?” Elaine asked.
“We’d never get angry with someone for helping a
“Brian asked Mark to keep it quiet,” Dale chuckled.
“He should be embarrassed. What kind of grown man
doesn’t check the fuel gauge? But then Brian changed
his mind. Thought he’d better call and tell us, keep the
kid out of trouble.”
Jeff let out a sigh of relief.
Mark came back into the shop. “Going to need
booster cables to charge the battery before I can move
that auger.” He picked up on the vibe in the building.
“Sorry if I interrupted something.”
“No problem,” Dale said. “Brian Miller just called.
Told us you helped him out.”
Mark grinned. “He came clean? Wasn’t sure he
would. He was pretty embarrassed.”
Then he turned to Elaine. “Did I hear you say you
were collecting those damn Co-op stickers? They gave
me one this morning when I bought a coffee, while
Brian was filling up his jerrycan. You might as well take
it. I’m not playing that game.”
Mark picked up the cables and headed back outside.
Elaine opened the Co-op ticket. ‘Cabri.’
Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews, a playwright and part
of a family grain farm in southeastern Saskatchewan.
by Rod Andrews
retired Anglican bishop
man is walking alone at night. He falls over a cliff. Luckily
he manages to grab hold of a bush near the top. As he
hangs precariously, he shouts into the blackness:
“Is anybody down there?” After awhile a big voice responds:
“Yes, I am down here. Let yourself go. You can trust me. I will catch you. I am
God.” The desperate traveller pauses for a long time, thinking about his
situation. Then he shouts: “Is anybody else down there?”
I admire the faith of farmers. Dropping seeds into the ground and
leaving them to the ravages of nature is an act of faith. While much of
society takes their food for granted, farmers know our very existence is
dependent upon a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains. Farmers
and gardeners sow seeds believing God is good, the rains will come,
the sun will shine, and the seeds will grow.
I also admire the patience of farmers. I think it is human nature
to want to solve problems immediately. We live in a society that wants
instant results. We want to fix things quickly. Growing crops does not
happen quickly. Patience and time are required. When we pray “Give
us this day our daily bread,” we recognize we are partners with God in
creating the bread.
Over the winter I set out to clear the storeroom in our house. It is
a discouraging task. I have books I want to read but never find time to
open. I have many papers collected over the years. I wonder if I will ever
finish. Your situation is different from mine but you may have similar
feelings as you prepare for seeding. “So much to do and not enough
time to get it done.” Realistically we can only do so much. We can only
solve one piece of a puzzle at a time.
An ancient Chinese parable tells of old Tan Chang who had a small
farm overshadowed by a towering mountain. One day he got the notion
to get rid of the mountain. With the help of his wife and sons, he began
to hack at the rock around its base. A neighbour walked by and scoffed,
“You will never finish the job, old man! There are not enough days in
the year for you to do this.”
Tan replied confidently, “I am not as foolish as you think, my friend.
I may be old and feeble, but after I am gone, my sons will continue to
peck away at the mountain. Then their sons and their sons’ sons will do
the same. Since the mountain cannot grow, someday it will be level with
the ground, and the sun will shine upon our land.” Jesus gives some
advice: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries
of its own.”
After a long drought, the village elders called the residents together
to pray for rain. Everyone gathered for prayer, but only one boy brought
When you throw a baby in the air, she laughs because she knows you
will catch her.
Every night we go to bed, without any assurance of being alive the
next morning, but we set the alarm.
We plan big things for tomorrow, in spite of zero knowledge of the future.
We see all the suffering and evil in the world, but still we get married
and have children.
Suggested Scripture: Genesis 2:4-15, Matthew 6: 25-34
Rod Andrews is a retired Anglican bishop. He lives in Saskatoon.
66 April 2016 / coUntrY-GUide.CA
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