Behind the scenes on a large Ontario farm

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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

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Certified hay protects endangered birds

Many of Ontario’s species at risk – such as grassland birds – make their homes in farmers’ fields.

In honour of Earth Day this week, here’s a glimpse at a program that lets rural landowners do their part to protect those species.

Attempts to protect habitats for grassland birds can be a hard sell to farmers, especially if it involves taking existing fields out of production.

Credit Valley Conservation (CVC), however, is hoping for a more positive response to a project that it has just launched to expand habitat areas for endangered grassland bird species like the Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark.

That’s because it involves bringing former farmland back into agricultural production by linking non-farming landowners with local farmers who are interested in growing hay for horse or other livestock owners who want later-cut hay. Continue reading Certified hay protects endangered birds

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Ontario farm meeting rising demand for locally grown edamame

Jacob holding a bag of frozen edamameDemand for edamame, a type of soybean popular in Asia as a snack and vegetable dish, is growing in North America.

Most edamame sold here, however, is imported – something that a local Ontario farm family is working hard to change.

MacKellar Farms, near the southwestern Ontario town of Alvinston, is Canada’s only commercial supplier of edamame using a locally grown crop. Continue reading Ontario farm meeting rising demand for locally grown edamame

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Innovations protect fruit crops against weather, predator damage

A Life’s Work - Charles Stevens 2013 - photo by Courtney StevensNewcastle – Damaging weather and predators can mean the difference between a good year and a bad one on the farm.

No one knows that better than Charles Stevens, who grows apples and blueberries on his farm near Newcastle, east of Toronto.

He’s turned to technology and innovation to protect his apples against hail and frost – and to Mother Nature to help keep his blueberries safe from hungry wildlife. Continue reading Innovations protect fruit crops against weather, predator damage

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Young farmers reach out to consumers

A group of young farmers has taken to social media to share with Canadians how they produce food and two fruit and vegetable growers are right in the thick of it.

Erin McLean, whose family runs a pick-your-own berry operation near Peterborough and serves farmers’ markets and local grocers with fresh fruits and vegetables, and potato grower Stephanie Kowalski from the Alliston area are part of a recently launched initiative called Dinner Starts Here.

Central to the project is a website called, which features blog posts by ten young farmers as well as recipes, answers to frequently-asked farming questions and information about buying local. Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest will be used to share information and bring visitors to the site. Continue reading Young farmers reach out to consumers

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