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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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What you probably didn’t know is happening on our farms

Here’s a piece I wrote as a guest post for the Canadian Beef Blog.

Every day is Earth Day on the farm. This slogan has long been used by folks in agriculture to highlight how farming benefits the environment. The good news stories don’t get told is a common complaint I hear from the farmers and farm groups I work with. And that’s usually true.

It’s the bad actors that make the headlines and get the column space – manure spills, pesticide overuse and water contamination feed the sensationalism machine much more voraciously than a wetland preserved, an erosion control implemented or a strip of trees planted.

I’m not going to pretend that the bad things don’t happen. They unfortunately do, but luckily, they are the exception rather than the norm. Continue reading What you probably didn’t know is happening on our farms

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Reports on pesticide residue may be misleading

We’re in the middle of prime fruit and vegetable season. The heat and sun of the summer bring with them roadside stands, farmers markets and local food stores brimming with fresh, Ontario-grown produce. I, for one, as someone who supports local food production and values Ontario’s farmers, am in my element as I’m revelling in the seasonal bounty of our fields.

But this season also annually gives new life to the ongoing debate about whether or not we should be using crop protection materials in our food production. Earlier this summer, a U.S. activist group released its yearly list of fruits and vegetables they say consumers should avoid because they contain the highest levels of pesticide residues. Continue reading Reports on pesticide residue may be misleading

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Farmers take safe pesticide application seriously

Sometimes I wonder whether we’re actually hard-wired to be instantly attracted to bad news and shocking revelations. I see negativity often dominating our 24-hour news cycle, leaving the less sensational but equally important good news to fall by the wayside.

More and more people are now writing and reporting about food, farming, science and the environment. These are current, interesting topics that affect all of us on daily basis, whether we consciously realize it or not. And yet fewer people than ever have much of an in-depth understanding of them, affecting both the way we cover and the way we interpret news. Continue reading Farmers take safe pesticide application seriously

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Luxembourg’s green wines

The Moselle region of Luxembourg produces some fantastic wines – which we’ve been lucky enough to sample abundantly during our three day visit to the country this week. The tour was part of the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists (IFAJ) congress that is being hosted this week in Ostende, Belgium.

The wines of Luxembourg take many forms, but no matter what the colour of the drink, they’re all green as a result of a major shift in focus by wine growers, as we heard from our host and tour guide Stefaan, a senior member of Les Vins Moselles, a wine growing co-operative.
Continue reading Luxembourg’s green wines

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