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Welcome to Caring for the Land - a blog about the Canadian farmers who spend every day growing crops and caring for animals. They're world leaders in the production of safe, high quality and low-cost food. And they do so in a way that protects the environment.

In fact, Canadian farmers lead the world in environmental initiatives. We're proud of how they care for the land - and want to tell you why. Our future depends on our ability to take good care of our land and water. It's a job that everyone who lives and works in agriculture takes seriously.

Through this blog, we'll explore many of the things being done on Canadian farms to help the environment.

Environmental focus key to Beverly Greenhouses

Biological pest controls and heat produced from waste wood chips By Melanie Epp From the outside, Beverly Greenhouses appears to be a modest operation. It’s not, though. With over 20 acres of greenhouses onsite, it is one of Ontario’s larger greenhouse cucumber operations. Third generation farmers and brothers Dale and Jan VanderHouts’ Dundas-based business is unique for a couple of reasons. First of all, they use tenable practices, like biological pest control and heat production using chips made from wasted wood. Secondly, they use what macroeconomists call a vertical integration strategy, which means they strive to control all levels of the supply chain, from growing to packing. (more...)

Ontario Pesticide Survey extended to include 2014 growing season

By Lilian Schaer for Farm & Food Care A confidential, anonymous survey asking Ontario field crop, fruit, vegetable, and specialty crop growers to record their crop protection use has been extended to include the 2014 growing season, and farm groups are encouraging their members to participate. Results from the Ontario Pesticide Survey will be used to demonstrate responsible use and support education efforts regarding future crop protection policy decisions. This includes minor use registrations, the Grower Requested Own Use (GROU) program, and product re-evaluations. Outcomes also help farm organizations push for new product and minor use registrations. The survey has been conducted every five years in Ontario since 1973. (more...)

Inside Farming: Playing in the Dirt

By Greta Haupt, CanACT member, University of Guelph Dirt: we walk on it every day without thinking much of it, let alone the value of it. But to farmers, soil is an invaluable resource and a crucial part of our operations. From forage crops to feed animals, to grazed pastures, to cultivated lands growing the high yielding grain crops needed to feed an ever growing population, it all starts with soil. A nutrient-rich and fertile soil is essential for growing the high quality product consumers demand, and therefore is one of the most carefully managed aspects of farming. (more...)

Our first spring

By Patricia Grotenhuis, sixth generation farmer Spring is a funny time on the farm. You know it is coming but you don’t know exactly when the weather will be spring-like. Regardless of the timing or conditions, you still need to be prepared. Through the winter, you work on cropping plans and fixing equipment. Cropping plans are what is created when farmers look at the fields they have available, what crops have been planted in previous years and what crops they want or need to grow in the current year and future years. The farmers will then come up with a plan of which crops will be planted in which fields and select the seed varieties they will be using. To help maintain soil health, farmers rotate their crops, planting a different crop in their fields each year. This prevents nutrient depletion in the soil, and allows different root systems to grow through the soil. Crop rotation is also a form of natural disease and insect control, since the diseases and insects that thrive on one family of crops will not thrive on another. Pasture plans are less complex, but just as important. Over-grazing the land can leave it barren, so farmers often use “rotational grazing”, moving the animals to a different pasture every few days. It gives pastures a chance to regrow between grazing periods. As snow melts, you fix fences and pick up supplies. And then you wait. Some years, spring comes early and there is a lot of good weather. Other years, a long, snowy winter delays field work, and then a wet spring delays it even further. Checking the weather forecast becomes more of an obsession than a daily chore, and the forecast changes as often as you check it. Whether a farmer is preparing for their first year on the land or their fiftieth, they wait with anticipation for the first day in the fields to arrive, minds whirling. What will the year bring? When the weather turns nice, will it hold long enough to get all of the fields and fences done? Did I make the right choices for crops to plant this year? Will we find ourselves in a drought, or will it be such a wet year we’ll have flooded patches in the field? Suddenly, the weather improves and the busy season starts. Even on a small farm, there is a lot of work to do. This year we planted our farm for the first time since buying it from my in-laws in January.  The succession makes everything a milestone on the farm during our first season. For a few weeks straight, we were either busy in the ...
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Innovative collaboration drives greenhouse project

By Blair Andrews, Farm & Food Care Greg Devries, a farmer from Chatham-Kent, is hoping to use innovation and a unique partnership to redefine the greenhouse vegetable industry. If successful, his efforts could also get people to think about tomatoes in a “greener" way. Devries is the president of Truly Green Farms, a company that is gradually building a 90-acre greenhouse complex across the road from the GreenField Ethanol plant in Chatham. In a first for North America, the greenhouse operation will be using carbon dioxide (CO2) and low-grade, waste heat from the ethanol plant to help grow the tomatoes. The concept is to take a greenhouse gas like CO2 that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere, and use it to produce a healthy food product. (more...)