Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Technological progress

Enter any small town Canadian doughnut shop or café,

March 27, 2008  By Marg Land

Enter any small town Canadian
doughnut shop or café, corner an elderly-looking gentleman wearing a
farm equipment supplier ball cap, ask him about the history of
agriculture and you’re sure to get a story filled with back-breaking

Enter any small town Canadian doughnut shop or café, corner an elderly-looking gentleman wearing a farm equipment supplier ball cap, ask him about the history of agriculture and you’re sure to get a story filled with back-breaking work.

Tales of stifling hot weather, clouds of annoying insects, blister-caked hands, ornery work horses and pittance wages are usually the norm. Farm work was hard work.


Fast forward to current day. Farm work is still hard work but it certainly doesn’t compare to 50 years ago or maybe even 25.

During a recent potato field day in Ontario, growers crowded around shiny, new examples of the latest in potato production technology. They sported digital readouts, microprocessors, and global positioning technology. Located adjacent to these state-of-the-art field tools were examples from the past – rust speckled workhorses, some sporting steel wheels and seed hoppers made of wood. The growers ran their hands over the flecked paint, remembering younger days spent clinging to a cold, steel seat, ensuring every hill hole had a seed piece dropped into it. Or holding burlap bags at the chute end of a one-row digger. While a six-wheeled behemoth purred in a nearby field, antennas poking from the top of its cab like a 250-horsepower porcupine, growers recalled 35-horsepower B250s or Ford 8Ns, chugging through 50-acre fields.

There’s something romantic about agriculture’s past, the hard work, the sweat, the well-earned aching back. It’s a badge of honour to have lived through the humbling experience of gathering harvested potatoes by hand, dragging a bushel basket behind as you crawled down the row on hands and knees.

Of course, you’d be hard pressed to find a grower who wished to return to those days. Technology is attractive – the gadgets, the horsepower, the speed – all of it geared to making you feel comfortable while getting the work done better and faster and, hopefully, at a profit.

This issue of Fruit & Vegetable Magazine features some recent examples of agricultural technology at its best. Readers can travel to Nova Scotia and learn of a new tractor-mounted device aimed at eliminating the threat of sclerotinia rot in carrot production. Or visit W.P. Griffin Inc., a potato producer in P.E.I. with one of the most state-of-the-art  packaging and washing plants in North America. Or read-up about the newest development in vegetable plant propagation – grafting.

For those nostalgic for the days of old, this issue also features an article examining modern-day carrot production but without the current-day need for chemicals.

Enjoy this look at the future, with a brief glimpse back at the past.

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

I just thumbed through the latest (September/October 2006) issue of Fruit and Vegetable magazine out of curiosity about the cover story on apples.

One thing I noticed as I perused your publication was the lack of captions to accompany photographs to explain what I was looking at. As well, a lack of photographs in the cover story article (“Apple Growers Share Their Innovations”) made the suggestions put forth by the growers more difficult to visualize. Perhaps in this age of digital images it would be possible for the farmer to send a photo of what he is doing to accompany your story. On page 17, there is a photo of someone holding a bundle of root fibre with small white things attached to it – what are those? What is it that’s being held? A caption would help. On page 14, at the top of the page, there is a photograph and I can’t even tell what I’m looking at – obviously potatoes in the background, but what is that huge grey object in the foreground? How does that photo help the reader to understand more about what is in the article?

Photographs should always enhance the reader’s understanding of an article.

Simply showing some grass against a background of sky (page 15) doesn’t do that, but showing a photograph of one of the persistent weeds mentioned with a caption to indicate which one it is could at least cause a beginner (like myself) to think, “Ah, yes. I’ve seen that weed!”
Cindy Long, Ottawa, ON

Editor’s response

Dear Cindy,

Thank you for your feedback regarding Fruit & Vegetable Magazine. Photographs and illustrations are definitely important components of a publication and can be very helpful in explaining complicated processes and ideas. Fruit & Vegetable Magazine tries its best to include as many photographs, graphs, charts, and/or illustrations as necessary. Due to space limitations, it isn’t always possible.

Regarding your specific concerns in the September/October 2006 issue, the photo on page 17 shows nodules on the roots of field peas; on page 14, the photo shows a field of potatoes in the background with a portion of a tractor tire on the right-hand side (this photo was used to help illustrate the concern stated in the story that tire damage in wet conditions can lead to problems
at harvest), and the photo on page 15 shows quackgrass (a
perennial weed), which has gone to seed.

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