Agvocating through art

Originally published in the July 13, 2017  issue of the Manitoba Cooperator


As farmers we don’t often have the opportunity to celebrate and showcase the crops we grow. So, when the opportunity arises, why not take it?

Earlier this year, our local arts centre asked for exhibit ideas for their boardroom gallery. Considering 2017 is canola’s 50th anniversary, I suggested a display of pictures, products and facts to celebrate. It was built around a blog post from last July entitled, Simply Canola, and inspired by the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum in Ottawa. The museum is commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday and Canola’s 50th anniversary with a nation-wide travelling exhibition, “Canola: A Canadian Story of Innovation” as well as an on-site exhibit, “Canola! Seeds of Innovation.”

Leanne Campbell photo

By far, canola is one of the most recognized crops we grow. There is no doubt it is the shining star of agriculture across western Canada every summer when it blooms. It isn’t unusual to see people stopping alongside the road to snap a picture, or take a ‘selfie’ against its gorgeous sea of yellow. Even those of us who grow it, are taken in by the allure of those bright and beautiful blossoms. Case in point – my extensive collection of photos from 2016.

With less than two percent of Canadians living on farms, there is a huge disconnect between food producers and consumers. Surveys show consumers want to learn more. We’ve been advised to tell our story, our way. So why not tell it through art? Especially when you can celebrate a crop many people are familiar with on a visual level.

Simply Canola is a pictorial diary of the canola we grew on our farm last year. Twenty-six photos, displayed in date order, give a tour from emergence to harvest, from close-ups to landscapes to sunsets. I’m hoping they convey the pride we take in growing this iconic prairie crop. A display case with canola, a sample of products made from it and bright yellow note cards with canola facts add an element of education to the display.

Jennifer Dyck photo

Canola is so much more than a pretty backdrop on the prairie landscape under the summer sun. The impact it has had in Canada and around the world in just 50 years is astounding. As the world’s only “Made in Canada” crop, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to agvocate and celebrate it with my photography in our local community. To date feedback has been positive and encouraging, both from consumers and those in the ag industry.

If you are in Portage la Prairie, please stop by and enjoy our farm’s views and vistas of Simply Canola. The exhibit is on display at the Portage and Districts Centre (11 2 St NE, Portage la Prairie, MB) from June 20th – August 5th in the Boardroom.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 11:00am to 5:00pm     Click here for directions.      (Note: Boardroom Gallery closed Wednesdays 12:30pm-3:30pm)  


Comments on “Simply Canola” 

“Who knew? Well done!”

“Beautiful, picturesque and educational.”

“Thank you – for this great contribution to the industry.”

“Excellent way to capture beauty and education.”

“I learned so much about canola!”

“Beautiful memories of home.”

“Lovely…and educational.”

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Do farmers add value to trade missions?

Originally published in the March 2017 issue of Canola Digest 


Sandi Knight photo

Canola is Canada’s top agricultural export to China, accounting for 40% of canola seed exports. Maintaining this market is essential for the canola industry and the 43,000 Canadian farmers who grow it.

Jack Froese, a farmer from Winkler, director and treasurer of the Manitoba Canola Growers Association and now Chair of the Canadian Canola Growers Association, visited China last November. He was part the Team Canada Trade Mission led by the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Left to Right:  Jack Froese; Barry Senft – Grain Farmers of Ontario; Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Jim Smolik – Canadian Grain Commission; Jim Everson – Soy Canada.

Froese attended meetings and seminars as well as a food show, which hosted over 72,000 trade buyers and 2,350 food companies from 66 countries and regions. The enormity of this show highlights the importance of the growing Chinese market and the competitiveness of countries rivaling for export business.

Producers attending trade missions are seen as a trusted, credible source of reliable, accurate information. When exporters have questions about agronomy and specific farm practices, such as crop rotation or pesticide use, farmers can address those queries. This helps build relationships and confidence in crop quality.

Froese states it is also an opportunity to find out what competitors are doing. You see the intricacies of the whole system in getting our crop from the bin to the plate. You find out how easily a market can disappear with changes in governments, their food policies, legislation, currency, transportation or stance on biotechnology. When we export 90% of our canola, awareness of the challenges in the global marketplace at the producer level is crucial in adapting and being prepared to comply with changes as they happen.

Whether it be trade missions, meetings at home or abroad, Froese has found his involvement in with the MCGA, CCCA and other farm organizations to be very rewarding: seeing firsthand the ripple effects of what happens beyond the farm gate, gaining a better understanding of trade, policy and transportation, being part of a team responsible for getting Canadian products to customers around the globe. It has broadened his awareness of safety net programs, sustainability, marketing, food integrity, storage, environmental and social sciences issues that impact his farm and those of farmers in Manitoba.

However, without his son running the day-to-day operations of their family farm, along with a nephew and three other employees, Froese knows he wouldn’t have the time or flexibility to contribute. He encourages producers to take on active roles – at whatever level their operation allows. He admits while does take time away from the farm, “If I didn’t have a passion for it, I wouldn’t be there.”

Show. Share. Connect.

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Canola in bloom east of our farmyard

Recently I had the opportunity to host the Manitoba Canola Growers booth at an Ag Awareness Expo. Not having done this before, I was a little nervous. But I was advised to, “Be you. Be authentic. Listen for common ground.”

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“It’s what in the inside that counts”

As people stopped by, conversations began to flow and it wasn’t long before nervousness transformed into enjoyment and ultimately, gratitude.  Parents watched and listened as their children exuberantly ‘crushed canola’ and saw for themselves how it’s possible for those tiny black seeds to make clear yellow canola oil.

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“Shaken not stirred”

Youngsters and adults alike enjoyed picking out ingredients to create and customize salad dressing following the simple 2:1:1 ratio – 2 parts canola oil, 1 part acid (vinegar or citrus), 1 part emulsifier (mustard or honey), adding herbs if they wanted to kick the flavour up a notch.

These hands-on activities led to a variety of discussions on food and farming:

  1.   p1170714The patience a farmer needs to wait for the canola to ripen.
  2.  Bees – how they love canola and so many of us love honey.
  3. Half your Plate– how kids custom-creating their own dressings can lead to trying and consuming more salads and veggies.
  4. Canola meal – how the ‘leftovers’ after the oil are crushed and used in livestock feed, and help dairy cows produce more milk.
  5. Baking and cooking – using canola oil to make cakes, cookies, fries or even grilled-cheese.
  6. Ag in the Classroom – some students had done one or both of our activities at their school though AITC but were either anxious to repeat and/or encourage their sibling or parent to do the same.
  7. The variety of Made-In-Manitoba products and booths around us – using honey, jam or beet juice in a dressing. How quinoa can be used instead of greens for a salad and how lucky we are to have so many prairie fruits to add to flavour to our salads in the summer.

ag-expo-portageThe majority who stopped by were genuinely interested in conversation, with many sharing how they use canola oil in their kitchens. This gave me the opportunity to say, “Thank you,” and, “As a canola grower, I appreciate you using a product we grow on our farm.” Something happened in this moment.  A connection was made. Many did a double take, perhaps surprised. When our crops are sold directly to a grain company or processor, there is no contact with the end-user. I’m not sure I’ve ever had the opportunity to directly thank a consumer, but it felt good.

While hosting this booth was a little out of my comfort zone, I’m glad I accepted the opportunity to show, share and connect. It was enjoyable, gratifying and a reminder to express thanks whenever the opportunity presents itself. While I truly value the sentiment behind “Thank a farmer”, appreciation should flow both ways.

So whether you’re a home cook, chef, baker, dietitian or home economist who chooses canola oil, from our farm to your kitchen – thank you.

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Canola field at sunset

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

If you are looking for a hearty, healthy, flavourful, pumpkin muffin recipe — this is it!  Perfect for breakfast, snacks and dessert too! These muffins are family favourite and always a welcome addition to university care packages.

 Adapted from a recipe found on food.com several years ago. 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 – 398 ml can of pumpkin puree (1 2/3 cup)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole barley flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/3  cup mini-chocolate chips

Directions:

  1.   Pre-heat oven to 375°F (190ºC)
  2.   Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin with large parchment baking cups.
  3.   Whisk together canola oil, sugar and eggs.
  4.    Fold in pumpkin puree and milk; mix thoroughly.
  5.   In separate large bowl, combine flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda,     salt, spices and mini-chocolate chips. 
  6.   Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stir just to combine.
  7.   Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop the mixture evenly into    the muffin liners.
  8.   Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until toothpick or cake tester inserted into the     center of a muffin comes out clean.
  9.   Set tins on cooling rack for 5 min. before removing muffins to cool    completely.

Notes:

  • Be sure to use pure pumpkin puree, not canned pumpkin pie.
  • Check out the amazing health benefits of barley flour here.
  • Don’t have any  barley or whole wheat flour? Substitute with all-purpose flour.
  • Feel free to switch out the mini-chocolate chips with raisins or nuts.

Storage:

Can be stored in a covered container for 2 to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. If the kids are home or company drops by, you likely won’t have to worry about that though…

From My Corner of the Prairies – Canada In A Day

September 10, 2016 was Canada In A Day. We were asked to film our lives — whether it be a special occasion or a simple moment. The resulting video compilation will be used to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday next July.

Instead of a film, my story is one of pictures, reflections and simple gratitude for being a Canadian who has the privilege of living and farming on the vast and beautiful prairies.

Life is made great by the million little things that piece together our days and weave into their way into the tapestry of our lives.

Here are the pieces which made #CanadaInADay special to me.

Waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, pouring a cup and enjoying this view.

 

Wandering through my yard, taking time to notice the little things, like the bees enjoying my sunflowers.

Wandering through my yard, taking time to notice the little things, like bees on the towering sunflowers in my garden. 

 

 

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The satisfying job of chopping garden-fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions and celery, followed by aroma of simmering salsa wafting through the kitchen .

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Listening to the consistent ‘snapping’ on the jars of the finished product, knowing they are properly sealed and preserved for the months ahead.

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Having the combine come out of the shed to finally resume harvest after a week of rainy weather.

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Enjoying the delicious, fresh, crisp crunch of a B.C. Honey Crisp apple for a snack.

 

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A leisurely afternoon walk with our dog.  She stopped briefly by this freshly cultivated wheat field.  We work the straw into the soil to improve organic matter and soil health. 

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“Pure joy! ” Watching my  trusty side-kick , having a blast running through a wheat field. Here the straw has been baled to be used as bedding for cattle this winter.

 

 

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Appreciating that I can walk for miles on quiet country back roads without seeing a soul.  It doesn’t  necessarily mean my presence isn’t noticed though…The dog and I obviously piqued the interest of the neighbour’s cattle!

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Seeing these hives is a reminder that a delivery of fresh honey will soon arrive at our door.  A fellow farmer keeps bees in the shelter of an old yard-site on our farmland. The bees love the canola and alfalfa we grow, and we love the honey they produce!

 

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Walking to the marsh that borders part of our farm and capturing the beauty of the bulrushes and wildflowers blowing in the wind.  The marsh provides a unique and diverse ecosystem for a wide variety of plants, animals and birds.

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Riding alongside my husband in the combine, enjoying his company and the view as he harvests a field of canola.

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Taste-testing the fresh-made salsa for an appetizer. So good!

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Watching this bald eagle overlook the field we were harvesting. They aren’t usually this close to our yard, but hunting was easy as rodents scurried away as the canola swaths were picked up.

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Being thankful for a south wind that kept the moisture at bay as clouds rolled in later in the day.  Once the grass is wet with dew in the evening, it often makes the crops too ‘tough’ to harvest. Here the combine is unloading canola onto a grain truck so it can be hauled to our farmyard and put in a storage bin.

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Taking the time to savour this view at the end of our farmyard as the sun set. The end my tribute to #CanadaInAday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearty Harvest Meals

These meal ideas are fabulous — no matter where your ‘kitchen table’ is at this busy time of year.  Originally published on the Canola Eat Well blog on August 24, 2015.

Harvest is now underway, but for many of us at a snails pace as high humidity and frequent rainfalls persist.  Last night in our area, it was unusually quiet after another 21 mm of rain fell — the chirping of crickets the only sound in the evening air. Here’s hoping for a good, long stretch of warm, dry days ahead so combining can resume. 


IMG_20160821_233418For many the end of summer brings a twinge of sadness. Not so for farmers. Usually it’s an exhilarating time filled with excitement, gratitude and relief. Another growing season is behind us and it’s finally time to reap the rewards.

The hum of combines is music to our ears. Country roads are bustling as trucks roll up and down hauling crop from fields to bins. Eyes are always to the sky as we hope for ideal harvest conditions. This is our final ‘dance’ with Mother Nature for the year and we hope it’s a smooth one.

The days can be long and hectic, so keeping the harvest crew fueled with healthy, nutritious meals is key. Thankfully, fresh local produce is abundant whether it be from your garden, the farmers’ market, a roadside stand or the grocery store.

Simple recipes packed with vegetables, which can be prepared ahead of time, are perfect for harvest. Convenience is key – whether taking meals to the field or looking for something which warms up easily if your crew prefers to keep working until weather conditions shut them down.

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Apple Galette – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

Beef Braised and Vegetable Stew fits the bill perfectly, using onions, carrots and rutabagas. Stew gives you the versatility to change up the vegetables if you wish. Corn-on-the-cob is a quick, easy side and Cheddar Baking Powder Biscuits are ideal to mop up your plate. Pie is always appreciated for dessert but is something this cook has never mastered. This simple, no-fail, fuss-free Apple Galette is every bit as good!

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Spice It Up Paste for Chicken Legs – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

On those really hot days your may prefer more picnic-like fare. Pasta salads are always a hit and an easy way to add more veggies to a meal. Put your own twist on Angel Wings Pasta. It pairs perfectly with chicken pieces seasoned with Spice-It-Up Paste.  If you have an abundance of greens to use, Roasted Beet Salad is fabulous.

 

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Jenn’s Chewy Granola Bars – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

‘Grab and go’ desserts are convenient and can do double duty for lunch boxes and snacks. Have a bumper crop of zucchini or a neighbour dropping it off on your doorstep?  Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake or Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins make a perfect finish with fresh fruit. Jenn’s Chewy Granola Bars are another great option and handy to have on stock in the freezer.

No matter the meal-time choices, this time of year your efforts are always appreciated. Taking a break is good for mind and body, it enhances farm safety and gives you time to connect with your family and friends. Everyone is always happy to sit down to a hearty meal.

I sometimes think back to the days of wood stoves, no refrigeration and large threshing gangs that needed to be fed three times a day. I admire the hard-working women who labored from dawn to dusk to get the job done. It makes me grateful for modern conveniences, the ease in which a meal can be prepared and many choices we now have.

Wishing you well as you transition your ‘farm table’ from the kitchen to the field.  May you have a safe and bountiful harvest!

Simply Canola

There is no denying  canola has been the shining star of agriculture across western Canada this past month — as it is every summer when in bloom.  It isn’t unusual to see people stopping alongside the road to snap a picture, or take a selfie against the gorgeous sea of yellow this crop provides. 

Even those of us who grow it, are taken in by the allure of those bright and beautiful blossoms and have been know to take a picture, or two, perhaps more… I’ll admit I may have gotten carried away this year, but the opportunity was irresistible and right out my backdoor. 

We are proud to be one of the over 43,000 Canadian farmers producing this heart-healthy, versatile, edible oil. These are a few of my favourite shots taken on our farm from June 22nd to July 18th. I hope you enjoy my 2016 canola pictorial diary.  

*Click on the pictures for additional description and information.  

Learn. Create. Eat. ~ Spicing it up with Chef Raghavan Iyer

When the Canola Eat Well team asks you to volunteer for an event, there is only one answer, “Absolutely!” You are guaranteed to learn along with the participants and will always leave feeling inspired.

2016-06-09 15.57.08On June 9th I had the opportunity to assist at an extraordinary workshop held at Kelburn Farm, just south of Winnipeg. The Manitoba Canola Growers hosted over 100 guests in conjunction with the Dieticians of Canada conference.

One of the my favourite highlights involved food, which for those of you who know me is no surprise! My taste buds were taken on a tour of India with a divine meal prepared by the award-winning Chef MJ Feeke and her incredible team. It was inspired from Chef Raghavan Iyer’s cookbook, “Indian Cooking Unfolded.”

2016-06-09 19.07.03Indian Slaw, Truck Stop Beans, Sweet Scented Pilaf, Cardamom Fennel with Firm White Fish along with Corn Bread & Mustard Greens were plated beautifully and served ‘family style’ at our tables. Every single bite was delectable.  No one passed on second helpings when the bowls of food made another round.

Indian cooking is not in my repertoire, nor did I think it ever would be. But as we ate our meal, Chef Raghavan and Registered Dietician, Patricia Chuey broke it down, banished a few myths and made me believe that I too, could bring this fabulous cuisine to my kitchen table.

Chef Raghavan & Patricia Cheuy, RD - dynamic duo with seamless, informative & hilarious banter.  Courtesy of Canola Eat Well

Chef Raghavan Iyer & Patricia Cheuy, RD – dynamic duo with seamless, informative and entertaining banter. Photo courtesy of Canola Eat Well

As I savoured the delicious meal, I also gathered a few key take-a-way points from Chef Raghavan’s conversation and demonstation with the practical, adorable and comedic Patricia Chuey.

2016-06-09 16.24.101.   “Curry is not a flavour, it is an entity”. In India, curry has nothing to do with spices, it is about sauce but spices form the backbone to the many sauces.

2.   Do not ask if food is ‘spicy’! Ask if it is ‘hot’ – heat is a component of spice.

P11600263.   Chef Raghavan loves canola oil because, “It takes a backseat to the diva of Indian food, which is spices.” It is perfect for cooking as it has no flavour and a high smoke point.

4.   Body language plays an important role in cooking.      Do you want saltiness without too much salt? Don’t get so close to your food! Sprinkle salt from higher above, you will use less and get the desired effect.

5.   Searing is important. When searing fish, give it time.

6.   Cooking spices changes the flavours. To cook them without burning, coat them in a little canola oil first.

Indian Slaw - Shel Zolkewich Photo

Indian Slaw – Shel Zolkewich Photo

7.  Always ask yourself, “Does your recipe ‘sing’?”

8.   Presentation, presentation, presentation! “If it looks like s#*t…” Remember we eat with our eyes too!

9.   If you haven’t tried cooking Indian food before, start with one of Chef Raghavan’s all-time favourites, Turmeric Hash Browns aka “Shredded Wonders.”

10.   Don’t be afraid to unfold the flavours. Experiment. Enjoy. Celebrate.

P1160027It is never too late to learn and learning in the kitchen never gets old! Now with my own copy of Chef Raghavan’s “Indian Cooking Unfolded” it’s time to get started and meld some new and fascinating flavours to spice things up at my farm table!