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


Conventional farms

adapt organic 39


Takeoff FOR

Their innovative plan transfers

management, not just

ownership 16

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Global design

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

50 Weather



60 HR

Take charge of stress levels.

62 nOt your same

Old board

Read this before you sign on.

64 Health

65 Hanson Acres

66 Reflections


8 common-sense

thoughts on


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

mentorship programs?

It’s working in beef.

51 a new era begins

Robotic tractors will

transform agriculture,

and they’re coming faster

than you might think.

54 income



Many farm employees

are covered, so shouldn’t

you cover yourself too?



SucceSSion planning:

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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A season for deciding on

new goals for the farm

Can our



grow as

fast as our

crop yields?

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

now on.

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

decade ago?

And can you expect to compete if

your business productivity doesn’t

progress even faster?

Are we getting it right? Let me know

at tom.button@fbcpublishing.com.

1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1

(204) 944-5765 Fax (204) 944-5562


Editor: Tom Button

12827 Klondyke Line, Ridgetown, ON N0P 2C0

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Associate Editor: Maggie Van Camp


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Associate Editor: Gord Gilmour

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Arlene Bomback

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Glacier Farm Media President:

Bob Willcox


Publisher: Lynda Tityk


Associate Publisher: John Morriss


Editorial Director: Laura Rance


Production Director: Shawna Gibson


Circulation Manager: Heather Anderson


Contents of this publication are copyrighted and may

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and Farm & Home, is published by Farm Business

Communications. Head office: Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Vol. 135 No. 7

www.agcanada.com ISSN 1915-8491

The editors and journalists who write, contribute and provide

opinions to Country Guide and Farm Business Communications

attempt to provide accurate and useful opinions, information

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Guide and Farm Business Communications, cannot and do

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The face and voice of soil conservation in Canada


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

is clear:

• 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.


April 17-23, 2016




Global design

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

mid-horsepower category.

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

5600 Series.

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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Maybe it’s more land, new equipment, higher-value crops or other ways to grow.

Our agriculture banking specialists have expertise and financial products to help

you carry out your plans today and build the farm business you want tomorrow.

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COUNtry-GUIDE.CA / AprIL 2016 7




on divorce

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

and divorce.

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

a judge.

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.

Matrimonial Home

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.

Co-Hab Agreement

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

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



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,”

says Mill.

Inherit property

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.

Gift Shares

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,

says Bossy.

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


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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

rental specialist.

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

farmland rentals.

“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

with them.

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

shock absorber.

“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

market rate.”

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,

Parker explains.

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

Eastern Townships

and Montérégie

Hicham Fram, agr.

514 771-3831

Continued on page 14


Adriana Puscasu, agr.

514 770-2627


Valentin Baciu, agr.

514 208-6639

Central Québec

Guillaume Vincent

819 818-7853

G r o w i n g s o y b e a n c u l t u r e



Already, 40 per

cent of Canada’s

farmland is rented,

and that number

continues to

grow. For farmers,

it’s a staggering


in a largely


and unreported


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

them personally.”

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

the results.

“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

interested in.”

“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.’”

Growing issue

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

family members.

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


soil matters………..www.ifao.com

Sarah Singla

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.




Preparing for takeoff

By Maggie Van Camp / CG Associate Editor


Case study


Four children in their late 20s and

early 30s, all want to be part of

this family farm and aerial

spraying business.

First Step

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

a rush.

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



For father Harold

here with son

Riley, succession

has involved

learning how

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

farm succession.

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 solution.”

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

on death.

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

farm corporation.

“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-


We need to

have more

annual or semiannual


with agendas,

notes taken,

actions assigned.”

Jennie Parsonage

dren fairly and avoiding the potentially

massive tax burden of selling

the farm.

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

next generation.

“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


Management transfer

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

financial decisions.

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

harvest time.

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

have helped

make quick

progress on




Lending to grow

Launched in March 2012, FCC’s Young

Farmer Loan has grown to almost

6,000 Loans

worth more than

$1.3 Billion

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

processing fees.

In 2014-15, FCC approved more than

$2.4 Billion

in financing to farmers under age 40,

representing more than one-quarter of the

$8.6 Billion

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


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

five components:

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

populations, respectively.

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

were taken.

“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,”

he adds.

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

providing support.

Where can I get more information?

Visit www.ontariosoilcrop.org for

information on this and other Tier Two

OSCIA projects.


Mission: Facilitate responsible economic management of soil, water, air and crops through development and communication of innovative farming practices




over the


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


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



running an

independent ag

supply demands

big business



jeopardizing the

tight local


that are

essential to the

area’s success.



Small size

means an


can deliver

better service,

say Greg (l),

and Roger

Warrington and

sales manager

Ian Weber.

All levels of

management in

the company,

they point out,

are firmly

grounded in

the field.

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

20 years.

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

large company.

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.


“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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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

each location.

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,”

he says.

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.


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

fast-paced camp.

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

own risk.

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

for yields.

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.”




Finding the

right mentor

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

is different.

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

in common.

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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“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

interpersonal relationships.”

“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

in nature.

“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



642 Woolwich St. • Guelph, ON • N1H 3Y2

Voice: (519) 837-1620 Fax: (519) 824-1835

Email: cffomail@christianfarmers.org

Web site: www.christianfarmers.org

Agricultural Safety

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,

or cousins.

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


keeping-kids-safe.html) points

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



head start

Among supply management’s successes are

its programs to help young farmers get established


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


Getting started

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


Supply management

gives income

certainty to Blake

Jennings, above,

and Gilbert and

Stacy Matheson.

But there was still

the question, “How

do we afford quota?”



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

per day.

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



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

down barns.

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

and disinfecting.

“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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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

some eggs.”

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


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

on supply

management myths

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

grain producers.”

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




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

environmental concern.

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

participating too.

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

important thing.”

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,

he says.

The future

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.


PG. 46 Scientists are already

scouting for the next

big threat… Old World


PG. 48 Check tender crops for

cereal leaf beetles



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.

Learning from


These conventional farms are adapting techniques

from organic agriculture — with a little time and care

By Ralph Pearce / CG Production Editor


crops Guide

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

higher revenues.

“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

some stability.”

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

many possible

methods from

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

they can.

Mechanical weed


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

conventional as

an “either/or”

choice. The goal,

he says, should

be to use the

best of both.


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crops Guide

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.”

Mike Belan

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

for conventional

farmers to learn

from organic

growers about

how to build

soil and soil

organic matter,

Belan says.


crop management

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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crops Guide

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

high yields.

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

of farming.

The bottom line is that growers need to

shift their approaches, if not their mindset

when considering changing practices on

their farms.

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.

Weed blasting

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.




Flame Weeder

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

the weeds.



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

exeCutive DiReCtoR

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

and consultants.

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.

Upcoming meetings

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

and B.C.

To find out more about CAFA or how

to register for these events, contact me at

1-877-474-2871 or info@cafanet.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

Management Group

crystal taylor, Felesky Flynn LLP Tax Counsel

Kelvin shultz, Wheatland Accounting

stuart person, MNP LLP

Toll free: 1-877-474-2871

Email: info@cafanet.com

PO Box 270 • Seven Sisters Falls, MB • R0E 1Y0

Follow us on Twitter @CAFANET

crops Guide

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

US$80 billion.

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

challenges with

Old World

bollworm is

it closely


corn ear worm,

pictured here,




Photo courtesy of Dr. Pat Porter, Texas A&M University


corn production

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


Identification and

control issues

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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Crops GUIDE#pesTpatrol



with Mike Cowbrough OMAFRA

Are there any new insect

pests that we should be

alert for?

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.”



Have a question

you want


#PestPatrol on twitter.com @cowbrough

or email Mike at mike.cowbrough@ontario.ca.

IMAGE 3: Cereal leaf beetle damage on wheat.




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Crops GUIDE weather









Snow / rain










at times


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.



The U of R AgBot

Challenge team

(l to r): Joshua

Friedrick, Assoc.

Professor Mehran


Caleb Friedrick,

Sam Dietrich


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

work together

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

and efficiency.

“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

very useful.”

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


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

market-ready system.

“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

engineering map.

“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






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

farmers ignore.

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


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

another story.

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


replacement plans

are complex,

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

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when you are!

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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.






SoIL-borne DIseases



Commercial Name aCtive iNgredient

European chafer


Loose smut



Dwarf bunt

Dwarf bunt

Common bunt

Common root rot


Seedling blight (Pythium)


Powdery mildew


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

Commercial Name

aCtive iNgredient


Seedling blight

Covered smut

Loose smut

Seedling blight (Pythium)

Root rot

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


wheat / oats / Canola / Barley / rye / soybeans / corn

canola Insect pests Diseases

Commercial Name

aCtive Ingredient

Flea beetle

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

Commercial Name

aCtive Ingredient

European chafer


Seed rot and seedling blight

Covered smut

Loose smut

False loose smut

Root rot

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


2016 Seed treatment Guide updated





Commercial Name

aCtive Ingredient


Seedling blight

Seed-borne Septoria

Common bunt

Dwarf bunt

Seedling blight (Pythium)

Root rot

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

Commercial Name

aCtive Ingredient

Soybean nematode cyst

Seedcorn maggot

Soybean aphid

Bean leaf beetle


Phytophthora rot

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


wheat / oats / Canola / Barley / rye / soybeans / corn

COR N Insect pests Diseases

Commercial Name

Active Ingredient

Corn rootworm

European chafer


Seedcorn maggot

Black cutworm

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 - - - - - - + + - - -


Insect pests

Genetic traits against insects added through genetic engineering

Commercial Name

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 + - - - + + + - +

Corn rootworm

European chafer


Seedcorn maggot

Black cutworm

European corn borer

Western bean cutworm

Corn earworm

Fall armyworm



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

high stress?

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.

For example:

• 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:











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By Helen Lammers-Helps

Not your

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

leadership skills.

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

status quo.

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.



“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

Board Practices.


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.



By Marie Berry / lawyer & pharmacist



Dementia is a chronic and

progressive deterioration

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

may resolve.

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.

Next IssUE

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

Hanson Acres

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?’”

Jeff laughed.

“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

Helen asked.

“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

‘Cabri’ inside.

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’

seed-cleaning plant.

“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

little thin.”

“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



“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

a tractor.

“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

pressed “End.”

“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

an umbrella.

That’s FAITH.

When you throw a baby in the air, she laughs because she knows you

will catch her.

That’s TRUST.

Every night we go to bed, without any assurance of being alive the

next morning, but we set the alarm.

That’s HOPE.

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.

That’s LOVE.

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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