#FarmToFood: What Does a Crop Farmer Do in the Winter?

FarmToFood | www.canolaeatwell.com

“A party without cake is just a meeting.”

Since my job is growing food, I always pay attention to the words of famous chefs. One of my favourite quotes comes from Julia Child:  “A party without cake is just a meeting.”  I am sure that the reverse is equally true.  A meeting when lots of cake is served would actually be a party.

Grain and oilseed farmers spend lots of time at meetings with food during the winter. As soon as harvest is completed I begin my role of learner, knowledge seeker and information gatherer.  Farmers do not spend winter months dreaming of spring. Instead, they spend that time working and planning for the next crop year.  At agronomy meetings I learn about new crop varieties, diseases that my crops might face in the coming year, insect management and new crop protection products.

Always Learning

Roberta Tracy Learning in Harvest Field | www.canolaeatwell.com

Each February, the Canola Council of Canada offers a course called CanoLab.  Farmers attending this event have the opportunity to listen to the experts in canola fertility, macro and micronutrients. In the interactive sessions, you might see the parasitoid wasps hatching from a cutworm; or be reminded of the interrelationship between canola and bees; or learn about other beneficial insects. I always come home with lots of reading materials, and lots more to think about.

Farmers might also attend classes to improve their skills in other areas associated with farming.  For example, this winter I attended a conference seeking to improve my management skills with our employees and to gain a better understanding of Human Resources. Farmers face new responsibilities in this area as we are being challenged to compete in the world of social licensing.  As a result of my new knowledge I realized that I would need to develop new policy manuals and that I will need to schedule more employee meetings to keep everyone abreast of my farm’s mission.  (And I will serve ‘cake’ at those meetings because that always keeps everyone happier.)


Also this winter I have worked on improving my marketing skills by attending a Hedgelink course that was taught in Lethbridge. Yes, that was some distance from the farm, but it was essential to have alternate ways to reduce risk in the marketing of our crops. Watching the markets, making contracts, and selling our commodities are year round tasks. Global markets can very volatile, and I keep my eye on the prices every day, throughout the day. We work very hard on our farm to grow healthy crops and we want to be sure that we are as profitable as possible.

There is an old proverb: “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”. I disagree. Having my cake is selling my grain at a good price, and eating it too, if the satisfied feeling that I have done the very best both in producing a good crop and in helping people benefit from using heart-healthy canola oil.

Spring is Here!

Soil Temperature Spring Field | www.canolaeatwell.com

And before I know it, winter is coming to an end and the spring rush is beginning. Lots of decisions have to be made. All the knowledge gained from the winter meetings has to be evaluated, rethought and reflected upon. Individual farming plans are firmed up as the soil test results are studied, seed is ordered, and everything is organized for another year. Sadly, there is not time for tea, or cake now.

Eat Well…Elaine Bellamy

Elaine Bellamy | www.canolaeatwell.comElaine Bellamy, who farms near Rosebud Alberta, loves telling the real story of agriculture.

She considers her fields to be her ‘big’ garden where she plants canola and wheat – growing healthy food for people.

Follow Elaine on twitter @bellamy_elaine.

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