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Barn changes over the generations

 Barn changes over the generations

By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Sometimes I sit and think about all of the changes that have happened from the time my great-grandfather bought his farm until now, when my parents run it with the help of my siblings.

Back in 1934, Canada was in the middle of the Great Depression.  That seems to be a strange time to buy a farm, but Great Grandpa did it.  Some of the original buildings are still on that farm, with new buildings and additions  over the past 77 years.  These changes, in some ways, show the timeline of how agriculture has been evolving.
Take the original bank barn for example.  It is still large and impressive, but there have been noticeable changes made to it.  Different areas of the barn reflect different times.  There are the old stanchions which used to be used for the cows.  They’re rather small, and most have been removed.  In one corner, they are still intact, but are rarely used as stanchions anymore.  The rest of the barn has tie stalls now, which were used for the cows when I was young, before the milking parlour was put in.  Now, the tie stalls are used for calves before they are big enough to be in group pens.

In another corner of the barn, there is a track hanging from the ceiling.  At one time, that track was used to remove manure from the barn.  Eventually, it was replaced by a more modern gutter cleaner system.  The gutter cleaner was recessed into the floor and brought manure to a pump.  The pump would send the manure through a pipe into the manure storage pit outside of the barn.

Underneath the barn hill was once the milk house.  It was where all of the milk was stored before the milk truck picked it up.  This area was added on to, and later became a series of three loose housing pens.  When I was young, the pens were used for maternity pens and, in some cases, as sick pens.  Those pens changed and became housing for a wide variety of animals over the years.  In my lifetime, they have been used for veal calves, horses, sheep and goats.  If a pen was empty, it also housed rabbits when we were younger.

The freestall structure which my grandpa added to the barn, has been used for beef cattle, veal, heifers, and is now strictly used for milking cows.  Part of it was converted into the milking parlour.  During the summer, one end of the freestall is blocked off, and the dry cows (cows that are not being milked because they are close to calving) use it for shelter and for water access.  Both the dry cows and milking cows have pasture access from spring to fall.

The mow in the barn has always been partially used for hay and straw storage.  One area of it was also used for livestock housing a long time ago.  I remember being told there were chickens in one part of the mow when my grandparents were farming and my dad was young.  The floor was pulled up from one section of the mow, and used to make a wall so that one half has two storeys, although only half of a floor between them.  That section is used for cut straw in the main part of the barn.

The other part of the barn mow is wide open.  It was used for bale storage for years.  Right now, it is mainly storage of small tools and equipment, as rolling the large round bales into the mow is very hard to do with a limited number of people and we do not have small square bales any more.  In the mow, it is obvious that the barn is old.  Wooden pegs hold the beams in place, rather than nails.  In several places, you can see evidence of how the hay and straw used to be unloaded, although the equipment itself was removed long ago. 

That barn has seen changes from no electricity to electricity. It went from being a mixed farm (with several kinds of animals being raised on the property) to being a more specialized dairy farm. The farm has also gone from raising animals mainly to feed the family and some neighbours to producing enough for larger numbers of people
The treasured farm photographs that we have, dating back to the 1940s, tell a story when they are lined up…a story about Canada.  They show how farms used to be small, subsistence-style farms supporting low numbers of people.  In those days, there was a much larger percentage of the population who farmed, and almost everything eaten was local food. 

Now, the farm is modern and is larger.  The average Canadian farm produces enough food for 120 people, and only two per cent of Canadians are farmers.  Technology is needed to make the farm more efficient, allowing farmers to feed so many people.

The improvements made have led to a more safe food supply for Canada, and have made it possible for so many people to work in other jobs now.  I am sure if my great grandpa were here today and could walk around the farm today, and see how it has changed, he would be proud to see what it has become.

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Posted by FFC on January 12th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Barns,Beef cattle,Canada,Chickens,Dairy cattle,Farm life,Feeding the world,Innovation and technology,Manure,Sustainability of the family farm
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Harvest 4 Hunger

by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Hunger relief efforts by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank have been given a big boost by a group of farmers, who set a world record in the process.

Although there were several date changes due to the weather forecast, on October 5, 115 farmers combined a 160 acre soybean field simultaneously in Perth County, Ontario in an event called “Harvest 4 Hunger”.  The crop was harvested in 11 minutes and 43.9 seconds, according to the release sent by the organizers.  Although it was not fast enough to beat a Manitoba wheat harvest record as the fastest harvest ever, it was a great effort.

More importantly, though, it raised approximately $250,000 for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to use towards fighting hunger around the world, exceeding the $200,000 goal set by event organizers.

Following the harvest, an auction was held to sell the soybeans.  The release also states the first bushel sold to the public brought $1000, and the first two lots of 1,600 bushels sold for $36 per bushel to the grain trade, which is well above market value.  It is estimated the yield was 8,000 bushels.

In addition to the crowd of approximately 3,000 people who watched the event, there were also two fixed wing aircraft, three helicopters and many video cameras documenting the harvest. 

Once the final weights of grain are known, organizers will have a more accurate total for the amount of money raised.  On the day of the event, lunch was available by donation to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and the public can “donate a bushel” for $20 on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website. 

The link for the website is: https://secure.peaceworks.ca/cfgb/donate/donation_make_form?notes=Donate%20a%20Bushel to donate a bushel.

Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of Christian churches and Christian-based agencies.  It is active in hunger relief efforts in developing countries.

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Posted by FFC on October 12th, 2011 :: Filed under Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Farm life,Feeding the world,Food,Media,Sustainability of the family farm
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The Myth of Meatless Mondays – Alleviating the consumer’s conscience without affecting climate change

The following is reprinted with permission from the Animal Agriculture Alliance in the United States (www.animalalliance.org). For its full collection of Meatless Monday resources, visit  http://animalagalliance.org/current/home.cfm?Section=Meatless_Monday&Category=Current_Issues.

The Myth of Meatless Mondays – Alleviating the Consumer’s Conscience Without Affecting Climate Change
Judith L. Capper, PhD, Washington State University

In July, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report claiming that everybody should eat less meatand dairy products in order to mitigate climate change. It was an interesting report, not least because it recommended that if consumers were going to eat meat, they should choose “meat, eggs and dairy products that are certified organic, humane and/or grass-fed as they are generally the least environmentally damaging”. Working within the sustainability arena, I firmly believe that any production system has a role within agriculture provided that it is environmentally conscientious, economically viable and socially acceptable. However, the EWG’s promotion of organic or grass-fed systems as having a low environmental impact is ironic given that such systems actually have a greater carbon footprint per unit of meat or milk produced compared to their conventional counterparts.

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Posted by FFC on October 6th, 2011 :: Filed under Activism,Beef cattle,Feeding the world,Global Warming,Meatless Monday,Misconceptions,Organics,Sheep,Vegetarian
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Combining for a cause

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

It isn’t only wealthy benefactors and government agencies that help with hunger relief. Farmers help in many ways too. On September 30 at 12 noon, Ontario farmers will jump on 100 combines on a Perth County farm to set a world record soybean harvest. Five farmers from the Listowel/Monktonarea have planted a 160-acre field of soybeans with a goal of harvesting all 10,000 bushels it in less than 10 minutes. Their hope is to raise $200,000 by auctioning the soybeans at the site right after the record-breaking attempt.

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Posted by FFC on September 20th, 2011 :: Filed under Crops,Faces of Farming,Feeding the world,Food
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Educating yourself on calorie intake

by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

When talking about global food production and global food requirements, calories are often used as the unit of measurement.  You may hear statements such as “there are enough calories produced to feed the entire world”.
How are those calories distributed, though?  On average, North Americans eat more calories than they require…a lot more.  In other countries, people eat a lot less than their body requires, which leads to hunger problems.  Even if they were distributed equally across all countries, simply looking at calories is not enough to gauge whether or not people will be getting what they need from food.

Malnourished used to be used strictly to refer to people who were going hungry, but now, it can also be applied to people who always have enough to eat.  Why?  It is all in the calories we consume.  If a person eats prepared foods or fast food on a regular basis, they may obtain an entire day’s worth of calories in one meal!  If just calories are considered, it looks as if they are doing quite well.  If you start looking at the rest of the Nutrition Facts labels for the food they ate, you will see a very different story.  None of the other nutrients are being consumed in the proper ratios.  Fat, sodium, carbohydrates and sugars are often high, while fibre, vitamins and minerals are low.

As consumers, we have to start educating ourselves on how to read the nutrition information on our food labels and learn how to make healthier choices.  Talk to a registered dietician or your doctor about making simple changes in your eating habits to stay healthy.

It is a hard adjustment to make.  I have been trying for years, especially since becoming a mom.  Even though I know how my family should be eating, I find myself longing for those chocolates or, the odd time, picking up prepared foods because they seem so fast.  Our society is so dependent on these prepared foods that it can seem impossible to cut them out completely.

If we are going to improve our health and combat malnutrition, we have to find ways to make the necessary dietary changes, though.  It could be as simple as not walking down the junk food aisle at the grocery store so you will not be tempted to buy any, or replacing your regular afternoon snack with some fruit and yogurt, but we have to start somewhere.

While looking for good, wholesome foods, reach out to the farmers in your area.  No one can tell you better about what is in the food you are buying than the person who raised the crops and animals.  Take advantage of local food maps, farmers’ markets, and on-farm stores to begin fighting malnutrition.  You might just find a new favourite food or learn about agricultural practices in the process!

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Posted by FFC on August 19th, 2011 :: Filed under Feeding the world
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Bill Gates gets it right on biotechnology

By Leslie Ballentine, Farm and food commentator

Genomics is a touchy subject, whether we are talking human or plant and animal. That is why the biotechnology debate can get so heated. In my opinion, and in the opinion of most in the farm and food sector, biotechnology gets a bad rap in these debates.

To use an old cliché, biotechnology is just one tool in the tool box whether it is used for food production, medical advances or to help the planet. It isn’t perfect all of the time but in my experience, the end results are rarely dangerous and usually beneficial.

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Posted by FFC on August 2nd, 2011 :: Filed under Animal health,Chickens,Feeding the world,Innovation and technology,Research
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Changing markets for changing times

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate
In recent years, interest in local foods and what farming practices are being used has created a shift.  Consumers are starting to seek out farmers who sell direct through farmers’ markets and on-farm stores, and farmers are spending more time connecting with consumers.

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Posted by FFC on July 22nd, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Chickens,Consumers,Farm life,Feeding the world,Turkeys,Wildlife
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Our contract with pigs

by  Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural ambassador

A number of conversations between a father and his son about why they follow the specific farming practices they did led to the writing of a fable which stretches back to the times before animals were domesticated.

Bob Hunsberger, a pig farmer from Ontario, and his son Kyle, decided to write an explanation showing the evolution of farming practices which have lead us to where we are today.  Writing the document has helped the Hunsbergers answer questions they are asked about animal agriculture and about the farming practices being used with pigs.

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Posted by FFC on June 17th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Farm life,Feeding the world,Pigs,Pork,Sustainability of the family farm
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Food prices are up – but what’s to blame?

by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Food prices are drawing a lot of media attention lately. It seems everything is increasing in price, both at grocery stores and at restaurants. Many different factors have been blamed for these price increases, but regardless of the reason, the outcome is the same. In some cases, food prices rise at the store without any increase for the farmer.

A Manitoba study showed the cost of a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four rose by $6.01 from 2008 to 2009, but farmers received $0.86 less. In 2009, beef farmers received $2.05 for the 600 grams of sirloin tip beef that cost you $9.15 in the store. In 2008, by comparison, the farmer also received $2.05 for the same cut of beef, but you only paid $4.61.

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Posted by FFC on April 19th, 2011 :: Filed under Economics,Farm life,Feeding the world,Misconceptions,Sustainability,Sustainability of the family farm
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What is sustainable anyway?

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

The concept of sustainability has raised a flurry of definitions, expectations and actions in recent years. The difficulty is that the definition is often determined by whoever does the defining. “Sustainable agriculture” has been a long time tenet of food producers. Retailers and foodies and special interest groups of all strips are now attaching new attributes to “sustainable food”. The result, unfortunately, is that “sustainable agriculture” doesn’t always mesh with “sustainable food”.

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Posted by FFC on February 23rd, 2011 :: Filed under Consumers,Feeding the world,Organics
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