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Preaching to the Unconverted: Farm and Food Care goes on Tour

Attendees of the Love Sask Food Tour learn about cattle.

Attendees of the Love Sask Food Tour learn about cattle.

I recently attended the Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan “Taste the Land of the Living Skies” farm tours last week and I was very impressed with what I saw. This tour was set up to attract chefs and food bloggers from the more populated parts of Canada.

I was asked to do a half hour presentation on soil conservation on the second morning of the tour. I was excited about this and also a bit nervous. I have done lots of presentations like this but always to farm groups so I was “preaching to the converted”. These people are the audience we really need to get to in order to help them understand that we are doing great things in Agriculture. Using modern farming methods to create quality, affordable, safe food while taking good care of our land and animals is what so many of us strive toward every day, and I finally had the chance to get this message across!.

Prior to my presentation, Adele Buettner CEO of Farm & Food Care SK asked if the crowd had any comments or questions about the previous days’ tour. I was pleasantly surprised at the great response they had to the farms visited the previous day which included a grain and cattle farm. The farmers must have left a great impression on these people because you could tell they got it! Why wouldn’t you use vaccines on your cattle, they are like children in your care so you are obligated to do what is best to keep them healthy. This makes A&W’s campaign now look bad to them now: why would you not use modern medicine to take care of your animals? They got the same message from the poultry producers they heard from right after my talk.

This discussion prior to my presentation made me feel much better about the message I was about to present. Canada and Saskatchewan have a great record for using conservation tillage. I explained to them how important it was to maintain healthy levels of organic matter in our soils and this can only be done by reducing tillage and using glyphosate for weed control. I showed the positive long term impact switching to no-till has had on the prairies. I explained to them that the United Nations declared this the Year of the Soil and yet no one hears about that. We just hear about the negative press about modern farming. I showed them the great job our farmers are doing but they don’t get any recognition for this and that is very unfortunate. I talked about how huge the business of Anti-Science is by showing Green Peace’s most recent financial statement with donations coming in at 74 million euros/ year. Even the United Nations can’t compete with that. I talked about the United Nations calling on the rich countries to help the poor countries to switch to conservation farming methods because they can’t afford to do the research and development themselves. Instead the rich countries are being misled by the anti-science movement and getting pressure to ban conservation products like glyphosate and GMOs. This makes it almost impossible to see how poorer countries will ever be able to start saving their soils.

The group of food bloggers were very receptive to all this. They asked lots of questions and seemed almost shocked to hear such a logical other side to the modern farming story.

Participant Mairlyn Smith enjoys some farm fresh foods as part of the Farm and Food Care Tour.

Participant Mairlyn Smith enjoys some farm fresh foods as part of the Farm and Food Care Tour.

I went on to say that the real environmentalists of the world are the no-till farmers. They are the ones who have taken the risk to change and learn and they did it with their own money, not by asking for donations! This was very well received.

All in all the Farm & Food Care did a great job getting the right audience out for the tour and they clearly got the message. I was so fortunate to be a part of this valuable learning sessions. I even learned a few things myself about how receptive the public can be to the logic and reason of our arguments. Well done Farm and Food Care!!

To find out more abourt Farm & Food Care, follow @FarmFoodCareSK and use #loveSASKfood hash tag or visit https://farmfoodcaresk.org/

I invite your comments. Please tweet me at @PatrickBeaujot or @NOTILLville

Photos courtesy of Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan

 

Comments:

Good food is the way to everyone's heart, and head! Great idea to capture attention for the positive truth about modern agricultural.

Submitted by: Cheryl Roberts

1. What about weed herbicide resistance? Weed resistance has been a part of agriculture from the beginning. Even walking the fields and pulling them out by hand develops a resistance towards plant that have roots that break off underground and grow back. Back in the tillage days there were many weeds that became good at surviving tillage. My dad would have us cultivating on a hot sunny day so the weeds didn’t get a chance to re-root. Sometimes we would harrow after cultivation in the hope of dragging up plants that stayed partially in the soil. Controlling weeds in a back yard is hard enough let alone thousands of acres that is your livelihood! Certainly when the same herbicides is used over and over again natural selection will develop a plant that can resist that specific herbicide. From the beginning of herbicide use in the 50s to now we have learned a lot and a tremendous amount of effort goes into making sure that farmers consider all their options in order to avoid those conditions. That is the very reason we must allow the scientist keep developing new options for the farmers weed control tool box. GMO crops that are resistant to a specific herbicide is another great tool for farmers to avoid these resistance issues. If society misunderstands herbicide and GMOs use and starts taking tools away from farmers weed resistance will become a much bigger problem. 2. How much more/less herbicide is used in no-till compared to conventional? I think no-till may use slightly more herbicide than tillage farming but very little. As I said some weeds are resistant to tillage so many tillage operators still use a herbicide pass prior to seeding to get rid of those weeds. The one thing that has reduced the use of pesticides most significantly is GMO crops. These crops have a built in natural resistance to insects or fungus etc. so they have reduced the use of insecticides and fungicides very significantly in North America. 3. Can SOM be build with cover crops in some-till (i guess organic growers have to do some tillage) systems? Good organic farmers use cover crops and companion crops a lot to help control weeds and build organic matter in the soil. Those farmers face a difficult challenge trying to grow crops without depleting the soil of nutrients and organic matter. Any time you haul a crop off of a field you are taking away nutrients that can only be replaced with fertilizer or in their case manure. Nitrogen can be replaced by growing legumes but phosphate, potash, sulfur etc. have to be put back onto the field eventually or we are just glorified miners. It would make more sense to me if organic growers could use synthetic fertilizer and GMO crops with built in resistance. With those tools organic farmers may eventually find a system that could be reasonably productive and good for the soil. I doubt that will happen any time soon. My whole career has been about helping farmers be as efficient at growing good safe food as possible while taking good care of the soil. Food produced by modern agriculture has been proven time and time again to be safe and the most efficient cost effective way to produce food for the masses. There is a huge misconception out there that organic food is safer but there is no scientific evidence to support that. So I don’t understand why we take good land and knowingly reduce the output of that land. That is not logical from an environmental point of view since more land, water and other resources will be needed to feed the same number of people. I feel with the small amount of good agricultural land we have to feed over 7 billion people we should be obligated to do our best to keep the soil in good shape and produce as efficiently as possible on it.

Submitted by: Pat Beaujot

Hi, I wanted to answer via twitter, but it would be too long :) 1. What about weed herbicide resistance? 2. How much more/less herbicide is used in no-till compared to conventional? 3. Can SOM be build with cover crops in some-till (i guess organic growers have to do some tillage) systems? Thank you!

Submitted by: Filip Cakl

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