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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

Pilot school program uses Ontario produce to raise funds, promote healthy eating

Fresh from the Farm logoIt’s a new initiative that’s a win for farmers, students and healthy eating.

Fresh from the Farm is a pilot program being launched this fall in select school boards that will let students fundraise for their schools by selling Ontario fruits and vegetables.

Modeled after a similar program in Manitoba, the Ontario initiative is a partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF), Ministry of Education, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA) and Dietitians of Canada. Continue reading Pilot school program uses Ontario produce to raise funds, promote healthy eating

New label makes soybutter safe solution for peanut-free schools

A new approach to labelling a locally produced soybutter is making it easier to use in Ontario’s peanut-free schools.

The toasted soy spread looks and tastes so much like peanut butter that some schools weren’t allowing it, says Scott Mahon, President of WOWBUTTER Foods, a family-owned business in the Stratford area.

To address this challenge, the company has introduced a new peel-off label with individual “Made with WOWBUTTER” stickers underneath that can be applied to school lunch containers identifying their peanut-free status.

It’s a unique system that has just won WOWBUTTER Foods a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

Continue reading New label makes soybutter safe solution for peanut-free schools

Apple grower featured in Faces of Farming calendar

She was the winner of the Golden Apple Award for industry service and leadership at the 2011 OFVGA annual meeting. Now, in 2012, Cathy McKay will also be a calendar model.

She is the first-ever apple grower to be featured in the popular Faces of Farming calendar, produced annually to promote awareness of food and farming in Ontario. Thirteen Ontario farmers or farm families are featured in the calendar every year, nominated by the project’s sponsoring organizations. Continue reading Apple grower featured in Faces of Farming calendar

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