Today, over 250 participants, with diverse expertise on food issues, are wrapping up a unique two-day Summit in Ottawa, marking an important step in the development of A Food Policy for Canada.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister, Lawrence MacAulay, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Yvonne Jones, and Adam Vaughan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (Housing and Urban Affairs), spoke to participants this morning, on the second day of the Summit.
The Minister and Parliamentary Secretaries highlighted the importance of hearing from Canadians, including experts and key stakeholders, in developing a food policy.
A Food Policy for Canada will be the first-of-its-kind for the Government of Canada and will cover the entire food system, from farm-to-fork.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Jean-Claude Poissant, and on behalf of Minister of Health, Greg Fergus, Member of Parliament for Hull-Aylmer, were on hand on the first day of the Summit to welcome participants from across the country.
Participants at the Summit included representatives from community organizations, academics, Indigenous groups, industry, stakeholders, and officials from all orders of government, who added their voices and contributed to discussions on a broad range of food-related challenges and opportunities in areas related to:
• increasing access to affordable food;
• improving health and food safety;
• conserving our soil, water, and air; and
• growing more high-quality food.
The Government of Canada wants to hear from Canadians about what is important to them when it comes to food opportunities and challenges.
Online consultations were recently launched at www.canada.ca/food-policy and remain open until July 27, 2017. Engagement on the development of the policy will continue throughout the summer and fall.
Canada’s potato gene bank, or Canadian Potato Genetic Resources, is part of an international commitment to global food security.
If disease or a natural disaster strikes and potato crops are devastated, researchers from anywhere in the world can turn to the gene bank to rebuild the stock.
Researchers can also call on the gene bank for resources to help them develop stronger, more disease-resistant and environmentally-resilient varieties.
"We preserve some potato varieties that are of unique value to northern latitude climates, varieties that are adapted to shorter seasons with longer daylight hours. Only certain star varieties are grown by the potato industry so in the interest of preserving genetic diversity, an important part of our role as gene bank curators is to back up our genetic resources," said Dr. Benoit Bizimungu, Gene Resources Curator, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Unlike other gene banks that preserve seed-propagated crops like grains, the potato gene bank is made up of live tissue cultures or tubers which are perishable and require- constant maintenance.
Plantlets are grown in aseptic conditions in test tubes that are stored in temperature-controlled growth chambers for six to eight weeks at a time. The collection is then refreshed,continuously monitored and periodically tested for contaminations.
Microtubers, or tiny potatoes about the size of a raisin, are also produced in test-tubes and preserved for up to a year as a backup. A duplicate collection of microtubers is kept at AAFC's Saskatoon Research and Development Centre.
"It's well worth it," says Dr. Bizimungu of the work involved in conserving high-value potato genetic diversity. "There are many potato varieties that aren't grown today that have traits that are of current or future interest to researchers and educators. Preserving these varieties ensures valuable attributes, and even those with known susceptibility to certain diseases, are kept for the development of future, better varieties."
The collection is comprised of heritage varieties, modern Canadian-bred varieties, as well as strains known to show differential reactions to certain diseases and breeding lines with specific traits scientists are interested in studying.
In addition to Canadian varieties, the collection also includes varieties from the U.S., Peru and many European countries including Ireland, the Netherlands and Estonia.
Canadian Potato Genetic Resource is part of Plant Gene Resources Canada (PRGC). The mandate of PGRC is to acquire, preserve and evaluate the genetic diversity of crops and their wild relatives with focus on germplasm of economic importance or potential for Canada.
We spoke to CIP sub programme science leader for integrated crop and system research, Jan Kreuze, and NASA Ames geobiologist and researcher, Julio Valdivia–Silva, about their otherworldly project.
Valdivia–Silva says the partnership between CIP and NASA came about through the organisations' mutual interest in growing crops under difficult conditions.
"The initiative came from CIP, with the intention of solving problems around cropping in desert areas as a result of climate change and desertification," Valdivia–Silva explains. "Meanwhile, NASA was interested in the project for the need to grow crops in future human colonies outside Earth."
But why potatoes? Kreuze says this is down to the minimal amount of water potatoes require per kilogram grown compared to other major cereals, as well as their ability to withstand a wide range of environmental conditions, their nutritional value, and their fast growing, high yield nature. READ MORE
Transparency in our food system is no longer optional; so farmers and ranchers through to the largest food companies need to know more on how to effectively earn public trust in our food and how it’s grown.
“The CCFI Public Trust Summit is not ‘just another meeting.’ It’s an experience for you to come and learn from the entire food system,plus help shape the path forward for earning trust in Canadian food and farming,” says Crystal Mackay, Canadian Centre for Food Integrity.
This year’s theme “Tackling Transparency — the Truth About Trust” kicks off with a full day of Experience Alberta farm and food tours on September 18th, capped off by an evening celebrating the “Science of the Six-Pack.”
Brew masters will be on-hand to walkthrough how local barley, hops, yeast, and water combine to make pints of beer.
The second day’s highlights include:
- Release of the 2017 CCFI public trust in food and farming consumer research
- World class speakers with a variety of perspectives and insights on transparency and trust
- A lively consumer panel of millennials sharing exactly what they think about food and farming
The inaugural CCFI Public Trust Summit, held last June in Ottawa, sold out with an incredibly diverse representation from food companies, retail and food service, government, academia, farmers and food influencers, like bloggers and dietitians.
Read Fruit and Veg Magazine’s coverage of the 2016 Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, Public Agriculture Summit: https://www.fruitandveggie.com/marketing/its-a-matter-of-trust-20066
For more information, visit: www.foodintegrity.ca
The report can be found at:4R Nutrient Stewardship Sustainability Report
For more information, visit: http://fertilizercanada.ca/
But wineries can only use so much. Each year, California wineries produce more than 100,000 tons of pomace. Now, that waste is being turned into everything from cooking oil to cosmetics.
Chris Simmons is a biological systems engineer and assistant professor at University of California, Davis. His lab is studying how food-processing waste products might be used, other than as compost in the vineyards. READ MORE
Recently released CAHRC research indicates the gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past 10 years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. The industry is in need of effective mechanisms to address skills gaps, train farm employees and track training progress.
AgriSkills is a training program that meets this need. It is a program delivered through national and provincial commodity and farm organizations that want to offer their members meaningful workforce training support. It includes structured on-the-farm training courses and employee tracking tools to support effective performance for new and existing workers. Research is currently available to customize the AgriSkills program for: aquaculture; beef; swine; sheep and goats; broiler hens; grains and oilseeds; potatoes; apples; mushrooms; sod; and apiculture industries.
The AgriSkills program includes training resources for both workers and their managers. On-the-job, self-guided activities help workers learn how to do their job safely and efficiently, while e-learning and online videos offer more in-depth information on the theory behind the practice. For managers, AgriSkills provides on-the-job training guides, checklists, tracking tools and other resources to help them support and manage their worker training requirements.
“The purpose of the AgriSkills program is to help producers train their workers in a consistent, efficient and effective manner, that documents all results,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of CAHRC. “The system recognizes the importance of on-the-farm instruction, and gives employers an effective tool to ensure workers are taught how to perform their jobs successfully and safely.”
The core content of AgriSkills was developed with the help of experts, producers and small-business owners from a wide range of agriculture commodity groups. Their input enabled CAHRC to create a set of National Occupational Standards that reflects the work conducted on farms at various levels. By using training materials based on these standards, employers can ensure their workers have the skills they need to meet national standards of safety, competency and productivity – skills that reduce waste, minimize loss, and support business success.
AgriSkills is one of several tools that CAHRC offers to help modern farm operations manage their workforce. CAHRC also offers the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business; Agri Pathways – promoting careers in agriculture; and Agri Talent – a national database of learning opportunities in agriculture.
The AgriSkills program was funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.
If you work on a farm where pesticides are used, you need to know how to work safely around pesticides. The information in this manual explains how farm workers can work safely on a farm that uses pesticides.
It can be downloaded from their website (5 MB). For those without Internet access or with a need for a print version, you can request the manual from OPEP at 1-800-652-8573 (Ontario only) or 519-674-2230.
A Spanish version will be released very soon.
Please ensure that all your farm workers are familiar with the information in this manual.
Researchers looked at 15 farms in central California, some of which grew only strawberries and some of which grew strawberries along with other crops like broccoli, raspberries, and kale. They found that several different bee species buzzed around the diversified farms, whereas only the European honeybee pollinated the strawberry-only ones. READ MORE
"Agriculture really is at the cusp of a new industrial revolution...This is Canada's moment to take advantage of a huge opportunity," Evan Fraser, the head of the University of Guelph's Food Institute, told CBC's The House host Chris Hall. READ MORE
June 20, 2016, Morell, PEI – U.S. food blogger Alyssa Rimmer says a visit to a P.E.I. blueberry field was all it took to cure her fear of bees.
Using mulch to improve strawberry and raspberry crop maintenance and plant vigour is nothing new to berry growers. What is, however, is the growth in development and use of biodegradable mulches in berry fields.
A trial of five mulch treatments took place in Mount Vernon, Wash., during the 2014 day-neutral strawberry growing season while a non-scientific study was conducted by raspberry grower Randy Honcoop of Lynden, Wash. The findings of both tests were certainly not conclusive and more research is needed, but there are definitely more than just hints and nudges that biodegradable mulch use could be beneficial to berry crops.
Biodegradable mulch is one that will degrade into the soil upon incorporation. This is different from compostable mulch in that the biodegradable mulches are of starch or cellulose based materials that will shatter after continued exposure to the elements and will break down into the soil.
Lisa Wasko DeVetter of Washington State University (WSU) in Mount Vernon spoke about the Mount Vernon trial at the recent 2016 Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, B.C. She noted that traditional mulches present a significant plastic waste issue in the U.S., and this issue is likely similar in Canada. The objectives of her study were to identify if biodegradable mulches are suitable for day-neutral strawberries and see if these mulches have any issues with chemical migration.
Chemical migration is a potential issue because mulches do not currently require the same handling procedures as other food contact materials. If chemicals can leach from the biodegradable materials into the soil or onto the plants, this presents a potential risk.
“There are questions as to whether biodegradable mulches have the potential for chemical migration,” Wasko DeVetter said. “They are not currently treated as a food contact substance.”
Five mulch treatments were trialed in Wasko DeVetter’s study: 1) corn-starch based biodegradable mulch, 2) experimental fermentation based biodegradable mulch film, 3) cellulose based biodegradable mulch, 4) standard black plastic (polyethylene) and 5) no mulch.
“My thought was it would create a greenhouse and it did,” Wasko DeVetter said of the mulch’s impact on early results she witnessed in the study.
As expected, yields were comparable for all mulched crops with the un-mulched crop yield being lower. However, there were some other differentiators at this early stage of study.
“Number 2 [experimental fermentation based] broke down way too fast,” Wasko DeVetter said.
She added that the third product – the cellulose based paper-like material – may need different installation practices to be most effective. It is important to note that while biodegradable mulches are approved for organic growing in the U.S., the standards imposed are so rigid only one product meets them.
“The paper-based product blew off multiple times,” she said.
In her summary, Wasko DeVetter noted: “We need more research to understand how this can be applied.”
In another Washington field, Honcoop explored with a trial of biodegradable mulches in his raspberry fields to create a better environment for his tissue culture plug planting.
“I wondered: ‘How can I develop a system that is feasible, manageable for me to use these tissue culture plugs?’” he said during his presentation.
He had two basic criteria at the start of the installation. Honcoop wanted to avoid using black plastic and he needed something to control the weeds that would impede the growth of the tissue cultures.
“I did not want to place polyethylene sheeting in my raspberry field because it does not go away unless you remove it,” Honcoop said.
He ordered 4,000-foot long and 36-inch wide rolls of film from Organix Solutions, a company dedicated to eliminating waste to landfills. It was late May when the process of installation began.
“I was really late in the game,” he said, “but I really wanted to give this a try.”
Through experimentation with equipment, he developed a tool to punch through the plastic while planting the tissue culture plugs. The beds were created at about five inches above grade with 18 to 20-inch wide tops. Drip tape was installed under the film.
“The plants seemed to establish very well. There was minimal shock,” he said. “The moisture control is fantastic. With the film on there, I think I probably used a third of the amount of water.”
The control row he planted with tissue culture plugs has a lot of weeds, prompting Honcoop to determine the film “did a fantastic job on weed control.”
Given the process of installation, wind did not affect the film, which was snugged under the soil at the edges.
While yields are obviously not available yet from Honcoop’s trial, he felt there was more growth on the cultures in the mulched rows than in the non-mulched control row.
“I think there might be a future for this in our industry,” he added.
As I write this editorial, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a recall for a blend of frozen berries and cherries sold exclusively through Costco stores in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia plus Newfoundland and Labrador. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 13 people have contracted Hepatitis A, some becoming sick after eating the frozen fruit.
In light of the recall, Costco Canada is offering free Hepatitis A vaccinations for anyone affected by the product recall.
Why am I sharing this?
Well, also as I write this editorial, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is gearing up promotion of its Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), described as “the most sweeping reform” made to the country’s food safety laws in the past 70 years. And, according to David Gombas – the United Fresh Produce Association’s senior vice-president of food safety – Canadian growers, packers and processors who export produce to the U.S. will be facing the new rules as early as Fall 2016 (see article on page 16).
What does this mean for Canadian growers?
It means that if you’re shipping produce over the U.S. border for resale, you may need to become verified under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), a program that insures “that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards.”
When you visit the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act information website – fda.gov/FSMA – be prepared for page after page of legal gobbledygook containing fuzzy bureaucratic words like “stakeholder,” “reasonably foreseeable” and “potential hazard.” The FSVP section of the website is particularly dense with them, the sort of reading only a legal-type or someone really keen on filling in forms and jumping through regulatory hoops would enjoy – not that there’s anything wrong with that. But this editor knows when she’s reached the limit of her legalese translation skills and bows to the much wiser experts available out there.
One thing that is possible to glean from the reams of information available is not every Canadian grower exporting to the U.S. will be required to become verified under the FSVP. According to the FDA, very small importers and importers of food from certain small suppliers – defined as a sales ceiling of $1 million (US) annually – will only be required to meet “modified” FSVP requirements. Farms that average $25,000 (US) or less in annual produce sales will also only be required to meet “modified” FSVP requirements. It’s not clear what those “modified” requirements might be but one example cited is: “certain importers would not have to conduct hazard analyses and would be able to verify their foreign suppliers by obtaining written assurances.”
Clear as mud, right?
Visit fda.gov/FSMA for more information.
Stay informed and have a safe, prosperous 2016 growing season.
March 28, 2016, Charlottetown, PEI – If the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance has its way, the province's most grown potato may eventually be a spud of the past.
The provincial environment department has been hearing submissions on what a new provincial Water Act should look like. In its presentation to the department, the Watershed Alliance targets Russet Burbank potatoes. READ MORE
I love books. I love the way they smell, the way they feel in my hands, how the pages sound as they turn, even the inherent way books tend to stack in tall, teetering towers.
My home reflects my love of the published word. There are bookcases everywhere. And, where bookcase space is at a premium, there are piles – piles and piles of stacked books. Even the attic is full of books, boxes carefully filled with titles outgrown by the offspring or read and set aside to be donated later. Unfortunately, later hasn’t arrived yet.
My husband, who is also an avid reader but thankfully born without the hoarding gene, started off humouring my book obsession. But now, as the piles of first editions continue to push further and further into his personal space, he’s finding the situation frustrating.
“This is not sustainable,” is his favourite gripe, usually muttered while redistributing a stack of biographies or mysteries in a bid to gain access to an unoccupied electrical plug.
Sustainability – based on my book accumulation habit, it would appear I’ve always struggled to understand the meaning of the word. And I’m not alone in my confusion. During a recent sustainability conference I attended in London, Ont., one roundtable group gave up on reaching a consensus on the definition of the term. Instead, they agreed to disagree, believing it was more important to have a continued dialogue about the idea than get bogged down in the details.
Sustainability has become the new agriculture buzzword and, while it used to be attached to the idea of environmental sustainability, its definition is ever expanding, encompassing everything from economic feasibility to workers’ rights.
During its 2015 annual conference, the Canadian Horticultural Council formed a working group tasked with developing a sustainability plan for Canada’s horticultural sector. Admitting the issue is “broad and complex,” Anne Fowlie, executive vice-president of the CHC, recently penned a message in the council’s Autumn 2015 Fresh Thinking publication. She described the working group as “our opportunity to create a plan that will bring positive results now and into the future.”
Because that really is the key element to the sustainability issue – the future. It’s widely believed that by 2020, about 9.5 billion people will populate the earth and food production will need to increase by 70 per cent to feed those people. According to the United Nations, sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Admittedly, some groups are further ahead in identifying and meeting those production needs. As highlighted by the CHC, Canada’s greenhouse growers are already well started on addressing their long-term sustainability goals. It will be interesting to see in the coming months and years what goals the CHC working group sets.
As for my own pressing sustainability issues, I’ve been forced to examine my book hoarding habits and search out different ways of meeting my reading goals. The answer – electronic books. I wonder how sustainable virtual hoarding is?
September 22, 2015, Gainesville, FL – Sanjay Shukla looked out over row upon row of tomato and pepper plants and had an idea: What would happen if he made the compacted soil rows taller and more narrow? Would the plants need less water, fertilizer and fumigation? Would the plants grow as tall? Would the plants produce as many vegetables?
And so, instead of planting rows that were normally six to eight inches high and about three feet across, the University of Florida professor planted them 10 inches to a foot high and 1.5 to two feet across. Instead of needing two drip lines to irrigate each row, they required only one. In addition, they needed fewer square feet in plastic mulch covering. He calls it “compact bed geometry” or “hilling.”
Shukla, who specializes in agricultural and biological engineering, was astounded by the answers.
Not only did the tall narrow rows grow the same amount of vegetables, they retained more fertilizers – reducing what would have leached into groundwater – and they would need half the amount of water. In addition, he cut fumigation rates for pests by as much as 50 per cent.
He estimates the revamped rows could save farmers $100 to $300 an acre, depending on the crop, the setup of their farm and how many drip lines they use per row; with a 1,000-acre farm, that can add up to a $300,000 savings. If used statewide, the potential cost savings for vegetable growers who use plastic mulch, could run into millions per crop per year.
“I’m looking at a business solution – you do this, you save money,” said Shukla, whose primary interest is water quality and supply issues. His location at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s Research and Education Center in Immokalee puts him at the northern edge of one of the most delicately balanced environments in the world – the Everglades. “And oh, by the way, it’s better for the environment.”
By using less water and plastic, he explained, fields will be less flooded and, thus, water contaminated with fertilizer is not being discharged into nearby lakes, streams and rivers.
Several farms have already adopted Shukla’s tall, narrow rows, including a 2,000-acre tomato farm. Chuck Obern, who grows eggplants and peppers at C&B Farms in Clewiston, has switched 140 acres of eggplants and estimates he has saved at least $500 an acre on the cost of drip tape for irrigation, fumigation, and the pumping of water and fertilizer.
“His experiment was in a production field and they were side by side with our crops,” Obern said. “His experiment used half the water and half the fertilizer as our crop, yet you couldn’t see any difference. It told us we were wasting half our water and fertilizer.”
Obern said he is excited to see what Shukla can do for his pepper crop in the fall.
Shukla’s discovery is vital, as Florida is already struggling to provide enough water for an ever-increasing population. The state has seen a 32 per cent increase in population since 2005 and, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state will likely not be able to meet the demands for water – 31 million cubic meters per day – by the year 2030.
Shukla says his next step is to explore if the compact bed geometry will work elsewhere. If it does, it has the potential to help improve agriculture globally.
“I’m hoping to go to California and Georgia to learn about their production systems and see what can be done at a larger scale,” he said.
June 23, 2015, Fort Worth, TX – Come join the competition! The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) has posted its 2016 sustainable winegrowing application on its website and is ready for downloading by wineries wishing to compete in BRIT’s 2016 sustainable winegrowing competition.
The award attracts progressive and passionate wine organizations from around the world that are taking a leading role in “ground to glass” sustainable programs. The competition is based on the continual improvement of the three tenets of sustainability – environment, economic, and social – and wine taste.
The competition begins July 1, 2015, with a submission deadline of October 25, 2015. The winners will be selected and notified in January 2016. Platinum, gold, silver, and bronze-level medals will be awarded to top-placing wineries.
The competition’s overall winner will be presented with BRIT’s International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing during the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival scheduled March 31 to April 3, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The sustainable winegrowing application is comprised of 18 high-level self-assessment questions focusing on the three tenets of sustainability: environmental, social, and economic aspects, plus a 19th subjective assessment – wine taste. The judging committee values a balance between all the criteria.
Among the 18 criteria judged are seed selection; agricultural and winemaking protocols for saving water; soil conservation; saving energy; packaging protocols for waste reduction; programs for reducing carbon (CO2 e) emissions; social responsibility programs; and plans for continual improvement.
Applicants must describe their organization's conservation efforts in the vineyard and in operations: how waste is avoided, how it is reclaimed, and how the winery extends conservation efforts to its customers. They must also detail the practices established by their organization to maintain environmentally sound, socially responsible, and economically feasible winemaking principles. A bottle of wine must also be provided for a tasting by the judging committee.
Previous award recipients include: LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards (2014), Yalumba (2013), Trefethen Family Vineyards (2012), Parducci Wine Cellars (2011), and HALL Wines (2010).
The 2016 Sustainable Winegrowing application may be downloaded at the BRIT website: 2016 International Sustainable Winegrowing Application.
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Alberta Potato Industry Association Burgers & BeansWed Jul 05, 2017 @ 4:00PM - 08:00PM
2017 Potato Growers of Alberta Golf TournamentThu Jul 06, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Dead Weeds TourWed Jul 12, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
18th Annual Enology & Viticulture Conference & Trade ShowMon Jul 17, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM