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The ups and downs of sharing life on social media

LS-OF-Social media panel Carrie Mess
Carrie Mess aka @dairycarrie speaks at the Farm & Food Care Ontario annual meeting.

Milton ON – There’s no doubt that the advent of social media has changed how we communicate.

With a few taps on a tablet or smart phone screen, you can share images, information, and opinion with pretty much anyone, anywhere.

That has both advantages and disadvantages, as three farmers active on social media shared at the recent Farm & Food Care annual meeting as part of a panel discussion looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the online world.

Carrie Mess is a dairy farmer from Wisconsin who has added blogger, tweeter and all-round agvocate (advocate for agriculture) to her resume since launching her blog, The Adventures of Dairy Carrie, in 2011. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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Plenty of room to grow Ontario’s beef herd in the North

Thunder Bay (3)
Beef cattle in northern Ontario – photo courtesy of Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance

The price of land is a big barrier to growing the province’s beef cow numbers, but northern Ontario may offer a solution for farmers seeking new opportunities.

“Northern Ontario, where land is cheaper and could work for cows, is a logical spot. There are 16 million under-used acres in the Great Clay Belt,” Beef Farmers of Ontario Vice Chair Matt Bowman, himself a cattleman from the North, said at the 2015 Beef Symposium.

“Beef production has been shrinking in Ontario over the last 10 years. The decline has slowed down if not stopped, but we need more numbers to support our beef industry infrastructure like feed mills and packers,” he added.

Concerned about the future of their industry, Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) launched a project about 18 months ago to identify what’s needed to keep the sector going and where growth opportunities lie.

The goal: to increase Ontario’s cow herd by 100,000 animals. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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