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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Agvocating – Where do I begin?

Originally published in the November 2016 issue of Canola Digest 


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. In order to give them credible information, farmers and others in the ag industry need to speak up. Advice and workshops on advocating for agriculture, or ‘agvocating’, has been presented at many farm shows/conferences over the last year.

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CAST photo

Dr. Kevin Folta  is a professor, Chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida and winner of the 2016 Borlaug CAST Communication Award. “Recipients of CAST’s annual award are science/ag experts who demonstrate an ability to communicate through written material, public presentations, and various forms of media.” Folta does it all, and  does it exceptionally well. He speaks across North America and has a strong on-line presence. He offers this advice when discussing agricultural biotechnology with a concerned public.

 

DO:

  • Start with shared values and common concerns. “Like you, I want my kids to eat healthy food.”  “My family lives on the farm. I care about the farm environment. Here’s what I do…”
  •  Have honest conversations about what you know; speak to your strengths.  If you don’t believe it, don’t say it.
  • Disengage when attacks become personal, it is unproductive to continue.
  • Talk about ethics, your experience and your priorities. Remember you cannot fight fear with facts.
  • Sign up for social media accounts – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Follow other agvocates. Even if you don’t create content, you can have a tremendous impact by amplifying others’ messages. ie. share good work, making it more visible.  Signing up also ensures that you have control of your own name.

Don’t:

  •  Use the “feed the world” rhetoric.
  •  Dodge discussions on the limitations of genetic engineering/modification (GM). See Folta’s slide deck for more.
  • Ever claim GM is a single solution. It is not.
  • Discount other production methods or tools. All tools are needed going forward.
  • Discredit other forms of genetic improvement  such as mutagenesis.

Take-A-Way:

We have the safest, most diverse and abundant food supply in history. We also have immediate access to information — good and bad. If we engage incorrectly, we make the  broken lines of communication between consumers, scientists and farmers  worse.

To change the hearts and minds of a concerned public, we need to get involved in the conversation — in person, on-line or both. According to studies farmers are both warm and competent, so sharing our stories is critical to ensure and maintain access to ag innovation for everyone.

p1160076So begin with telling your story, your way. Don’t get bogged down in the science and terminology. Explain how precision plant breeding benefits your farm, the environment and food production.

Read, watch videos, listen to podcasts, learn from others, share their stories and practice telling yours. Remember if you don’t have the answer to someone’s question, it is okay to say, “I’ll look into that and get back to you.” Add your voice to the conversation — everyone’s is needed. If we don’t tell our stories, who will?


Kevin Folta resources:

Other Ag resources:

Weathering the Rain

Originally published in the Manitoba Cooperator October 6, 2016 

Reflections on the seemingly endless rains this past growing season. For many across western Canada, snow was added to the mix in early October and harvest continues to be an ongoing challenge for far too farmers.  Thinking of those who are struggling to get their crops from the field to bin and hoping everyone will soon be done with #Harvest16.  


facebook_1474855006708I used to be that girl, the one who would joyfully head outside when it rained. I loved everything about it. The rhythmic sound on rooftops. The patterns it made as it rolled down windows. The feel of rain on my cheeks. The way it would it soak through and soften my wild, curly hair. If the rain was coming down fast and furious, I was content to sit under the cover of the front porch and watch. But the best rains were gentle, light, perfect for walking. The air so fresh, the streets quiet and still. Those rains offered a refuge from troubles and worries. I can still see my younger self soaking in the peace and serenity of those walks.

Yet there I sat, staring at the computer screen, tears instead of raindrops, slowly rolling down my cheeks. A friend was embracing and enjoying that night’s rain. Her post on social media read, “Jammies, slippers, hoodie, book, veranda, rain! Wonderful combination. .oh yes..glass of wine.”  She was doing exactly what I believe in and strive for — embracing the moment. But instead of being happy for her, I was jealous. Not of what she had, or what she was doing, but of that feeling, that freedom, that joyful connection to the rain.

I had the comfy clothes, books and wine, maybe not the veranda to relax in; that wasn’t the issue. What really got to me was the fact that she was enjoying the rain — and I wasn’t. In fact, after almost 3 months of excessive rains, I was cursing yet another downpour that was downgrading our wheat and delaying the start of harvest.

You would think after 27 years of farming, I would be used to it, but that night the dismal weather really weighed me down. I missed being that girl and my past laissez-faire relationship with the weather.

When your income is dependent on Mother Nature, your relationship with the sun and rain becomes fickle.  Excess amounts of either, especially at critical times during the growing season, can cause anything but joy and relaxation. The hold the weather has on our lives, can at times, be tiring.

I’m rather embarrassed by my feelings that night; jealousy is not an admirable trait. And being jealous of a feeling — well, that borders on absurd. I confessed to my friend. She totally understood, but we agreed the next time that happens, I am to join her.

rainbowI spoke to another woman, who has long since retired from farming and asked her if concern for the weather ever goes away. She laughed, “No.” So I guess I’ll have to be content with my memories of that girl. Look back on her fondly and smile. Even when we no longer work the land, concern for farmers will always be there, and I will be that little old lady who politely asks, “So, was that a good rain?”

 


It helps to talk to someone who listens and understands. No matter the issue, you can contact the Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services. They offer free, confidential information and non-judgmental support, for anyone who lives on farm, rural or northern community. Call Toll-Free 1-866-367-3276 Monday – Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. After hours 1-888-322-3016

A list of nationwide resources in Canada can be found here

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest Meals – Tips and Tricks

Originally published on Canola Eat Well  blog on August 31, 2015 

Harvest is now underway, albeit in fits and spurts in many areas of the country as wet weather continues to hamper efforts.  Here are a few tips to help ease the stress when it comes to meals to the field. 


Preparing and taking meals to the field during harvest can be a challenge. Some people make it look effortless, but they will be the first to tell you lessons learned along the way helped them hone their skills. They also advise it isn’t always the idyllic picture of everyone sitting around the makeshift table on the tailgate of a truck, a beautiful array of food spread out, light breeze blowing, everyone happy, relaxed — and that’s okay. Here are a few pointers from the voices of experience.

Perry combining wheat 2

Harvesting  wheat – view from the combine cab    (P. Knight photo)

Food:
  • Become friends with your slow-cooker. Embrace stews, chili and casseroles. All-in-one-meals can incorporate each food group and are easy to transport.
  • Have a good supply of clean vegetables and fruit in the fridge for quick preparation.
  •  Take advantage of rainy days to bake or make freezer-friendly meals.
Leaving Home: 
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Photo Courtesy of Roberta Galbraith

  • Make a checklist, especially if you are travelling to a field several miles away. Food, drink, utensils, chairs etc.
  • Have a storage caddy filled with cutlery, napkins, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, cups and plates. Camping dishes are ideal to use if you have them.
  •  Old towels make great insulators for keeping food warm. They absorb any spills and are easy to wash.
Getting There:
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Harvesting Canola

  • Ensure communication is clear. Exactly which field are they working in? Especially critical if it is early in your marriage when you aren’t familiar with each field’s ‘name‘.  “We’re on Bill’s”, or “At the McLeod farm”, may be meaningless to you, especially if Bill or the McLeods haven’t owned that land for several decades…                                                                                                                                   Cell phones and road numbers have definitely aided in alleviating navigational struggles.
  •  When swarms of mosquitoes and flies are abundant, it may seem genius to borrow your in-laws motor home to deliver supper. However, ensure you park on stable ground as getting said ‘kitchen-on-wheels’ stuck is more a hindrance than help to harvest progress.
No Time to Stop:
  • Small coolers which hold both food and drink, makes for a quick and easy hand-off and eliminates spills. 
  •  Sandwiches and wraps are perfect for on-the-go eating. Just remember to advise if you have used toothpicks to help hold them together…
  • Quiche works too, either hot or cold, with a side of raw veggies and a bun or biscuit. “Real men don’t eat quiche,” they say? Why argue when a simple name change will do? Who can resist “Bacon & Egg Pie”? 😉

A little preparation, communication, flexibility and sense of humour all help at this busy time of year. May your harvest meals be made and delivered with ease, and any memorable moments shared and treasured for years to come.  Wishing you a safe and abundant harvest, from our farm to yours.

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.  

Out my backdoor

“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.”  ~ William Arthur Ward


You never know when actions will lead to opportunity.  This past March I found myself preparing for a photo exhibit.  When asked how long I’d been planning I replied, “I hadn’t.” It had never been a goal, ambition or something I’d ever remotely imagined doing.

But a simple “Challenge on Nature Photography” invitation — seven nature-themed photos in seven days — on Facebook in January opened a door.  Friends and family responded positively to the images I posted and persuaded me to “get busy framing” and show my work.  Even though it was in a small boardroom gallery, the thought was daunting, but I knew I would regret not taking advantage of the experience.

PosterThose who encouraged me lent a helping hand and “Out my backdoor” was soon on display.  The photographs shown can be seen here.  All twenty-five images are unedited and were taken within a mile radius of our home with a simple point-and-shoot camera.

The positive feedback and appreciation was overwhelming. My initial nervousness was soon replaced by gratitude for the chance to share my view of the prairies.  Someone commented, “You see what we may miss.”

Sun, moon and sky wall

When I head out for walks with my camera, I do so because I truly enjoy capturing images and moments in time, whether bright and bold, or small and subtle. No matter the season, every day offers something to make me pause and appreciate my surroundings.

Flowers and plants

After living on the farm for almost 28 years, perhaps I take my vantage point for granted. I didn’t realize so many others would enjoy “seeing through my lens”.

As a bonus to the whole experience, almost half the pictures sold. It is rather humbling to know my work will be hanging in new homes. Previous to the exhibit, I had never framed my photos, only shared them on social media — a trend that will now change.

I am grateful I pushed past my initial fear and trepidation, didn’t wait and let this opportunity pass. It was thoroughly enjoyable sharing the view ‘out my backdoor‘.  Now to ponder the question, “What’s next?”

2016 Photo Exhibit

“Out my backdoor”

 Portage & District Arts Centre Boardroom Gallery Photo Exhibit 2016

l truly enjoy capturing images and moments in time, whether bright and bold, or small and subtle. No matter the season, every day offers something to make me pause and appreciate my surroundings. 

These unedited images were taken with a simple point-and-shoot camera.  Mother Nature provides the settings – all I have to do is be in the right place, at the right time. I like to share exactly what I see when I look through the lens. 

*Click on the pictures for additional description.  

 

 


See a picture you like?  8×10 prints are available $40 CDN.  Fill out the form below. We’ll send an invoice to the email you provide. Once payment is received via PayPal or credit card, your prints will be shipped.  ($5 shipping charge anywhere in North America.)

What is a Farm Woman?


To celebrate International Women’s Day, I am sharing a toast written for the 29th Manitoba Farm Women’s Conference  ~ November 16, 2015 


What is a farm woman? According to dictionary.com “a woman who operates a farm or cultivates the land; a woman who lives on a farm.” That’s fairly straightforward.

20151108_120146Urban dictionary paints a more creative definition of a farm girl, “independent woman. can ride horses and four-wheeler’s. can drive anything with four wheels. loves to drive trucks and tractors. they are lovers and fighters. raised up right. can wake up at anytime of the day and can stay out all night. tears up old dirt roads and speeds down gravels. they usually have big hearts and sometimes care too much. animals are a main love in their lives. special in various ways.”  Well now, that certainly paints a commanding presence!

Are these definitions reflective of today’s farm women? Depending on who you ask, “Yes”, “No”, “Maybe…”, and even a resounding, “Absolutely not!”

So what does define a farm woman in today’s world? Agriculture is ever-evolving and so are we. We are a diverse group with various backgrounds, abilities and strengths.    It is no longer expected that as farm women, we only have one role, or that over the years, it has to stay the same. We can choose a job we love, a job we are good at, a job we want and do it in a way that suits our lives – whether it is on or off the farm.

There is no single, set description that encompasses us all. Whether you define yourself as a farmer, farm partner or farm wife, every position on your farm ‘team’ is important and valued.

P1120941For me, this conference has always been a celebration of our diversity and our strengths as well as a time to learn and grow. No matter my role in our farm operation, I have always felt supported, uplifted and celebrated by being here with you.

So tonight, I am honoured to propose this toast. By choosing to do what you love, you do it well. You contribute to your family, your farm, your workplace and your community in a variety of ways. You continue to learn, grow and push boundaries.

You may or may not be able to ‘drive anything with four wheels’ but I believe you have been ‘raised up right’. You may or may not be able ‘stay out all night’, but you have a big heart and care deeply. You are most definitely ‘special in various ways’.

You deal with a multitude of challenges and can adapt to change. You take nothing for granted and find the positive in every day. You inspire those around you. You are strong, capable, determined. You are beautiful inside and out.

20160213_172335Never doubt your abilities or your capacity to learn. Believe in yourself as others believe in you. This morning Carol Ann Fried asked, “What is your dance?” No matter your style, embrace it – and be sure to use the whole dance floor! Take Jill Officer’s message to heart and always “Go your own way!” Here is to celebrating you, and continuing to support, encourage and uplift each other on this amazing, ever-evolving journey as farm women.