Growing plants for energy

Biomass is a promising emerging market in Ontario and farmers can learn more about growing and making money from these purpose-grown crops on a series of upcoming regional car tours. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) also showcased miscanthus (seen in the image at left) and switchgrass test plots at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show last week.

The plots are part of a larger research project in conjunction with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) that is evaluating the potential of biomass crops in Ontario, including establishing a business case and determining possible market opportunities. Continue reading Growing plants for energy

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New crops in local soils raising high hopes

Ontario lavender bunches

Lavender, hazelnuts and sweet potatoes are not crops we commonly associate with this province.

Yet they’re starting to emerge in Ontario’s south coast area, the fertile sand plains in Norfolk, Brant, Elgin, Middlesex and Oxford counties where tobacco used to reign supreme.

As the decline of the tobacco industry continued over the last decade, agricultural and economic development leaders in the area began grappling with key questions governing the future of their region, which is a key producer of many Ontario foods, including fruits and vegetables.

How can we bring new life and new value to this farmland? How can we keep farmers profitable and sustain the rural and regional economies? At the same time, is there an opportunity to bring new products to Ontario or to grow crops here that we’re currently importing from other places around the world? Continue reading New crops in local soils raising high hopes

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Greenbelt farmers saving energy, survey shows

A new study shows that energy saving initiatives by farmers in Ontario’s Greenbelt are conserving enough energy to power 1,788 homes annually.

And on-farm solar panel installations in the Greenbelt are generating enough electricity for an additional 170 homes, says the report completed by engineering consulting firm Agviro, Inc.

“Our study showed some really positive results related to energy conservation and energy generation on farms in the Greenbelt,” says Katie Gibb, a project manager with Agviro who worked on the report. “Through conservation measures and generation projects, Greenbelt farmers are able to off-set enough power sufficient for almost 2,000 Ontario homes every year.”
Continue reading Greenbelt farmers saving energy, survey shows

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New cluster promotes Ontario food and farming

Southwestern Ontario’s burgeoning agri-food sector received a boost earlier this month with the launch of the Ontario Food Cluster.

My alma mater, University of Guelph, along with the City of Guelph and others are partners in this new initiative designed to attract more foreign investment and creating more businesses in our agri-food sector.

In addition to being home to some of Ontario’s best farm land and farmers that produce a multitude of field crops like corn, wheat and soybeans, as well as over 100 different fruits and vegetables – not to mention a wide array of meat, dairy and poultry – the Greater Toronto Area, Guelph-Wellington and Waterloo Region together boast more than 2,500 food and beverage companies. Continue reading New cluster promotes Ontario food and farming

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Reducing energy use on the farm

Farms are, for the most part, pretty large energy users. Barns housing livestock, the use of sophisticated feeding or milking technology or climate control and water recycling systems in greenhouses – all require energy to keep going. So it’s no surprise, with energy costs on the rise, that many farmers are looking for ways to reduce or off-set their energy use.

Terry Reesor is one such farmer. I met him last summer when I interviewed him for an article I was writing about solar energy. Here’s his story. Continue reading Reducing energy use on the farm

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Decision to cut food research makes no sense

Most of us will agree that food – and the farming the brings us that food – are pretty essential to our quality of life. In fact, it’s one of the basic underpinnings of an orderly society. As we can see in other places around the globe not as fortunate as we are, hunger and high food prices lead to violence and protests.

We also know that our global population is rising – although the numbers vary slightly, most experts can agree that we’ll be in the range of nine billion inhabitants by the mid point of this century. All of those people will need food.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations last week raised concerns about a food crisis after reporting that its food price index had hit a historic high. According to their estimates, food production will have to increase 70 per cent by 2050 to keep up with demand. Continue reading Decision to cut food research makes no sense

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Healthy Ontario farms will help us as supplies decline

The crystal ball says we live in the best place in the world. Personally, I’ve long been convinced of it, having lived in this area for most of my life, but this is the opinion of a bio-economy expert who spoke at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre recently.

His perspective was a bit different from mine, though. While my ideas of why this is a great place to live are shaped by family, friends and lifestyle, his were focused on societal fundamentals, such as oil, water and food.

John P. Oliver says our conventional supplies of oil, food and water will be surpassed by global demand by 2050. Continue reading Healthy Ontario farms will help us as supplies decline

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