Monthly Archives: December 2013

Saik’s Agri-Treks, Russia: 240,000 Acre Farms, Sugar Beets & Dairy Cows in Town

When people talk about farming in Russia, I imagine a very similar to set up to Western Canada, just bigger. If this episode of Rob Saik’s Agri-Treks is any indication, I’m both right and very wrong.

See more: Tour Kenya, see where tequila comes from and more!

In this latest installment chronicling some of the farm-flavoured travel Saik has done this year, the president of Agri-Trend takes us to a small village 600 km south of Moscow where cows meander down a main street, to the machinery yeard of a 50,000 hectare farm and out into a ripe winter wheat field that’s just a tiny part of a 240,000 acre farm. Yes, really.

If you cannot see the embedded video, click here.

The 2013 Top 10 Posts of the Year

We’re wrapping up a fantastic year of covering the world of agriculture here at, and we couldn’t wait to see how the numbers played out for our top posts. There were a few, as we watched the Twitter shares and blog comments roll, that we knew would make the list, but there are a few stories we’re a bit surprised proved that popular.

By the time we had listed number 4, we saw a bit of a pattern — RealAgriculture doesn’t typically shy away from controversy, but as you’ll see below, it seems something as simple as food demanded so very much attention in 2013 (clearly, food is not simple, as we’ve learned). Last year, a parody video topped the list!

And so, here we are. The Top 10 stories on, as chosen by you (inadvertently, if you’re a regular visitor):

1. I’m done with A&W and I’m done fearing food: RealAgriculture columnist and dairy farmer Andrew Campbell put into words what many others were feeling as A&W launched its “Better Beef” campaign in early October, after moving to sourcing beef raised without growth promotants. In this column, Campbell takes A&W to task on their fear mongering tactics. Our readers responded — nearly 80 comments (at last count) follow the story.

2. An organic farmer walks into Monsanto, and this is what happened:  To say that Rob Wallbridge’s post went global is an understatement. In fact, this post, which chronicles an organic farmer’s (Wallbridge) tour of a Monsanto facility and his take on the challenges ahead for agriculture, both organic and conventional, has only been up on the site for two weeks and is squarely in the number 2 spot. The post has sparked much discussion, much of it very positive (which can be rare in the GMO debate) on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and has been shared all over the world.

3. David Suzuki gets challenged in Australia: Shaun Haney found this video clip of a lecture David Suzuki gave in Australia where Suzuki begins lamenting the safety of GMOs, and shared it with the RealAgriculture audience. While the source of the video clip raised the hackles of even Shaun, the discussion is an interesting one.

4. 10 Reasoned Responses to “10 Reasons we don’t need GMOs”: Perhaps by now, you’re noticing a theme. We may even crown 2013 as the year of the GMO debate. Either way, Cami Ryan’s guest post answering 10 common critiques of genetically modified crop benefits proved very popular. Tackling questions from feeding the world to reducing pesticide use and more, Ryan offers a counterpoint to many of the common lobs thrown at the technology.

5. One Earth Farms Ceases to Operate on Blood Reserve: Finally, a news story! This post went up in early March, when RealAgriculture learned that the farm manager operating One Earth Farms on the First Nations Blood Reserve near Lethbridge, Alta., had left and the office had been closed.

6. Poll: CWB Releases Steamy Ad:When the newly-minted CWB rolled out a risqué ad (well, according to some) to motivate farmers to “get off the fence,” we took to the Internets to poll our readers and followers on what they thought about this cowgirl on the fence ad. Check out the tally!

7. What is the future for Macdon Industries? News that MacDon industries was looking for a buyer surfaced in late April. While it was (and is) still a bit of a guess, we list the likely buyers. As of July, a few names were bandied about more publicly. The story has been quiet since.

8. A Vet’s Response to an “Investigative Report” of Canada’s Egg Laying Industry: Food, more specifically how food is produced, has become a very hot topic and likely joins this list of impolite things to talk about at the dinner table, given the tendency for a shouting match to break out. Like the “Better Beef” post, Mike Petrik, a veterinarian in Ontario, takes criticisms of agriculture and food production, in this case egg production, and offers balance to information supplied to consumers by mainstream media.

9. 10 Commandments of High Yielding Wheat: Ah, and now, a production post! Is it any surprise that it’s a Wheat Pete (also known as Peter Johnson, cereal specialist with OMAFRA) video? Those who follow along with our Wheat School know Pete as one of the most passionate extension specialists out there and he doesn’t disappoint in this video from FarmTech ’13. While his expertise is Ontario winter wheat production, many of his 10 Commandments fit just fine in western Canadian wheat production.

10. Poll: Starbucks vs. Tim Hortons: In a fight of epic proportions and incredible significance (ahem, not really), Shaun decided to it was imperative to settle, once and for all, which was better: Starbuck’s or Tim Hortons. (We’re all about hard hitting news here).


Wading Through Corn Trial Data — Think Local

If you’re like most, you spend a good chunk of the winter planning variety and hybrid selection for the next planting season (if you don’t, maybe do?). But if you look at the stack of shiny brochures all claiming to have the top variety, which do you choose? How do you know which is truly the top variety?

The truth is all of them could be …or none of them, depending on your own farm, field and management. In this video, Shawn Brenneman, with Syngenta Canada, offers four key ways to sort the potential top winners for your farm and save yourself the disappointment.

Brenneman runs through selecting plot data that’s representative of your farm’s soil, climate, tillage and rotation, how to weed out some of the to-good-to-be-true yields, double checking population numbers and the importance of asking questions and for more information. All that and more in the video below.

If you cannot see the embedded video, click here.

Beef Straw Man Recommendations Report Published

The Beef Straw Man trio published a recommendations report at the end of December, 2013, based on the outcome of meetings held over the last year. The report signals the end of the Beef Straw Man process and provides recommendations based on three strategic priorities: industry profitability, competitiveness, and synergy and alignment.

Learn MoreBeef Straw Man Attempts to Facilitate a Canadian Beef Industry Strategy

The first recommendation published in the report is the creation of  a “Council of Beef Leaders,” comprised of recognized individuals and organizations, including the Canadian Beef Breeds Council, Canada Beef Inc., Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, National Cattle Feeders Association, Young Cattlemen’s Council, three beef packers and an independent executive chairman. 

With the beef straw man process coming to an end, this recommendation, and the others listed in the report, are the responsibility of the cattle industry. The straw man team has retained a Council Convener to initiate, chair and administrate the first meeting of the Council of Beef Leaders, to facilitate a smooth transition.

“The straw man process was industry-led and built on a foundation of inclusion and engagement,” said John Kolk in the Beef Straw Man news release.  “Hundreds of people from all sectors of the industry eagerly participated and provided their thoughts and ideas…. There is strong agreement that Canada has all the ingredients for growth and success, and now is the time to seize the opportunity.”

The final report can be found on the Beef Straw Man website or by clicking here (downloads as a PDF): Building a Stronger Canadian Beef Industry: Recommendations from the Straw Man Process

Soybean School: Where Did Soybeans Muster this Big Yield From?

It seems the 2013 soybean crop defied the odds and managed to pleasantly surprise a number of farmers with decent yields. The final provincial average tally is yet to come in, but it will likely settle somewhere around the 45 or 46 bushel per acre mark. Not too shabby, considering a tough season of untimely rain, root rots, thin stands, insect pest and disease pressure and a lengthy harvest season (though not nearly so bad as the corn crop, some of which is still standing).

See more: Why testing for soybean cyst nematode is a must in 2014

Horst Bohner, Ontario provincial soybean specialist, walks through the growing season with Ontario field editor Bern Tobin, highlighting where soybeans could have gone wrong, but didn’t. There are two key messages in the video below: one, big yields use soil nutrients and soil levels of potash and phosphorus are being mined quite low in some areas; and, variety selection based on the weak points of a field (rather than the high hopes of what may be possible) is likely the best place to start. Watch the video for more.

Need help choosing an appropriate variety? Visit

If you cannot see the embedded video, click here.

Viterra Announces Purchase of Lethbridge Inland Terminal

Viterra has reached an agreement to purchase certain assets of Lethbridge Inland Terminal Ltd.  (LIT), including a high throughput grain elevator with a capacity of 42,000 metric tonnes, the company has announced.

The deal is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals and the approval by LIT shareholders; LIT’s board of directors are unanimously recommending its shareholders approve the transaction with Viterra. Financial details were not disclosed.

Kyle Jeworski, Viterra’s President and CEO for North America said in a press release, “This high quality terminal is ideally located and an excellent fit in our overall asset network. Darcy Heggie, LIT’s President and Chairman added, “The Board of Directors and staff of LIT are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time in a very competitive and mature southern Alberta marketplace.”

In November, Viterra announced it is spending over $34 million in Alberta through an expansion and upgrade to its facility in Grassy Lake, as well as building a high throughput terminal in Grimshaw.