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From rural Ontario to Alcatraz

Guelph grad leads garden restoration on Alcatraz 

AlcatrazI’ve long wanted to visit Alcatraz, the notorious prison island off the coast of San Francisco commonly called simply “The Rock”.

I didn’t make it there during my first trip to the area almost a decade ago; back then, I didn’t realize you had to buy tickets days or even weeks in advance during peak tourist season.

I was better prepared during a trip to California with my husband this past June.

During our visit to the island, which started as a military garrison and was ultimately converted to a civilian penitentiary in 1934 before being shut down in 1963, I was particularly fascinated by the many beautiful plants and flowers everywhere.

It wasn’t until I was home again that I learned of the Alcatraz Gardens’ connection to Bruce County and the University of Guelph. Continue reading From rural Ontario to Alcatraz

Behind the scenes on a large Ontario farm

The Burnett Family

Alex Burnett, and son Darryl with wife Anita and their four young children – all of Burnett Farms – hosted Toronto area food media on their grain farm recently.

I suppose some might consider what I visited several weeks ago a “factory farm”.

I’ve yet to actually meet someone who could give me a clear definition of what that term means when I’ve asked, but at first glance, the farm fits many of the notions people often tend to associate with that expression: a large, modern farm that uses science and technology – like pesticides and genetically modified crops – to produce food.

When you begin peeling back the layers, however, you start to learn the real story of Burnett Farms, of the passion of the multi-generational family that runs it – and how that negative misnomer couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s what I saw, heard and learned on my visit to Burnett Farms near Orangeville, Ontario as part of the annual Farm & Food Care food media tour last month. Continue reading Behind the scenes on a large Ontario farm

More cooking, better labelling can address food waste

I’ve written about food waste before: here and here, for example.

The statistics that are often used to quantify the shocking amount of food that we produce but end up discarding are staggering.

Not only are we wasting the actual food, but we’re also throwing out the water, energy and other resources we’ve used to produce it.

Various United Nations studies estimate that at least one third of all food produced by the global agricultural system doesn’t make it from the farm to the table.

In Canada, the Value Chain Management Centre has found that our food waste sits at approximately $27 billion a year. Continue reading More cooking, better labelling can address food waste

Happy cows don’t make headlines

Schaus Land & Cattle Company feedlot near Alliston ON Another undercover video of farm animal abuse – this time on a BC dairy farm – means another black eye for farmers in the media.

Those of us in farming know these terrible incidents are by far the exception and not the norm – but the many millions who see or read the bad news stories don’t.

What never makes headlines are the thousands of Canadian farmers who do the right things every day when it comes to raising their livestock.

I had the chance to visit one such farmer recently (whose barn is pictured above) as part of the Farm & Food Care annual media tour for food writers, bloggers and culinary professionals. Continue reading Happy cows don’t make headlines

Your chance to meet real Ontario farmers

Scott-SnyderDo you wonder who actually produces our food?

Would you like to learn more about who Ontario’s farmers actually are?

A website launched last fall by Farm & Food Care will let you do just that.

It was inspired by the organization’s popular Faces of Farming calendar, but also includes stories that have been written as part of other Farm & Food Care projects or by other farm organizations. Continue reading Your chance to meet real Ontario farmers