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SPRING 2021 | VOLUME 13 ISSUE 01

IN CONVERSATION WITH BEEKEEPER


TRACEY SMITH... PAGE 4

PEAS ON EARTH: EXPERIENCE PASSED


DOWN THROUGH GENERATIONS... PAGE 9

ORGANIC AGRONOMY SHOPTALK... PAGE 10

CONNECTING WITH CONSUMERS AND


ADAPTING TO MARKETS IN 2021... PAGE 12

GOODBYE TO CANADA'S 'AVERAGE'


FARM... PAGE 16
SPRING 2021 VOLUME 13 ISSUE 01

MISSION: To represent and support


PRESIDENT'S REPORT
Alberta's entire organic industry.
VISION: A strong, sustainable and
united organic community in Ed, along with his wife Carol operate a

Alberta. 450-acre organic hay and grain farm 50


km’s west of Red Deer. After 42 years of
working off farm in oil and gas operations,
EDITOR/SUBMISSIONS
Ed has just retired and is looking forward
Cari Hartt
to being a full-time farmer. In the past Ed
587-521-2400
has also facilitated several “7 Habits of
cari.hartt@organicalberta.org
Highly Effective People” programs and
ADVERTISING
enjoys working with people in a
Cari Hartt
collaborative environment. Ed and Carol
587-521-2400
have four grown children, and five
cari.hartt@organicalberta.org
adorable grandchildren. Ed is looking
GRAPHIC DESIGNER 
forward to the networking and learning
Cari Hartt
opportunities of being involved with
587-521-2400
Organic Alberta.
cari.hartt@organicalberta.org
By Charles Newell, President
Pierre is a third-generation farmer in
BOARD MEMBERS
Donnelly, AB and after high school joined
Representatives elected by region: The Board of Directors announces Marilynn
the family farm that began in 1916. This
(N) North (S) South (C) Central Boehm's departure as Executive Director of
farm had its start as a mixed farm but by
(M) Member at Large Organic Alberta, effective April 13th, 2021.
this time had evolved into a conventional
President: Charles Newell (AB We wish Marilynn the best of luck in her
grain farm. At the age of 38, a diagnosis of
Federal Level): future endeavors and thank her for 2.5 years
cancer in the right eye became pivotal.
780-809-2247 of service to the organic industry in Alberta.
Pierre sought the care of a naturopathic
newellsfarm@gmail.com
doctor to help reverse the condition that
Vice Chair: Tracey Smith (M): Over the next few months, the Organic
brought on the cancer. From this, he soon
780-802-4073 Alberta team will be working to reorganize
realized the close connection between
northcookinglake@gmail.com and develop a plan forward. During this
human health and soil health and what
Treasurer: Becky Doherty (M): transition period, it is our priority to
clean, nutrient-dense food can do. Less
587-673-1077 maintain a stable and effective organization
chemical exposure for himself and his
info@stonepostfarms.ca and appreciate your patience and
family also became important, make
Secretary: Andrew Mans (S): understanding.
compelling reasons to eat and farm
403-360-5663 organically. The farm is now at three
ahmans@gmail.com We are hopeful and excited for the next different stages with 20% organic, 20%
James Thiessen (N): chapter of Organic Alberta as we continue transitioning and the rest to transition
603-480-1158 to represent, support, and grow the organic over a few years. Pierre now shares the
jkthie@telusplanet.net community in the province. If you have any joys and challenges of organic farming
Kirk Riste (S): questions or concerns during this transition with his wife and with his two children,
403-501-4692 process, please do not hesitate to reach out potentially fourth generation farmers.
kirkriste@hotmail.com to me directly at newellsfarm@gmail.com
Frank Maddock (M): We are looking forward to the future of
780-727-2333 The Annual General Meeting during our 2021 Organic Alberta and thank our board for
jaspersprings@live.com Virtual Conference and Trade Show saw all of their hard work.
Ed Szymanek (C): some changes to our Board of Directors.
403-350-2677 After 5 years, Heather Kerschbaumer has ORGANIC ALBERTA CONTACTS
eszymanek1@gmail.com timed out as a Board Member, and after 3 Programs: Iris Vaisman at
Pierre Fillion (N): years, Arnold Van Os has stepped down from iris.vaisman@organicalberta or Tierra
780-925-2909 the Board. Thank you, Heather and Arnold, Stokes at tierra.stokes@organicalberta.org
pjfillion@yahoo.com for your continued dedication to helping Communications, Administration, and
Organic Alberta grow through the years. Billing Inquiries: Cari Hartt at
cari.hartt@organicalberta.org
Summer 2021 deadline is Friday, We would like to welcome Ed Szymanek as Events: Sarah Preston at
June 4th. Please send comments, our new Central Region Representative, and sarah.preston@organicalberta.org
suggestions, ads, and/or articles to Pierre Fillion as our new Northern Region Young Agrarians: Dana Penrice at
cari.hartt@organicalberta.org  Representative. dana.penrice@organicalberta.org

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IN CONVERSATION WITH BEEKEEPER


TRACEY SMITH, BEANSTALK HONEY

By Trina Moyles, Rural Routes to Climate who helped me out at the beginning. RR2CS: What is supplemental feeding?
Solutions (Edited for length) One of my first contacts was with our How does your approach differ?
provincial apiculturist, Medhat Nasr. He Tracey: With supplemental feeding,
Tracey Smith grew up near North Cooking was really kind. I had already bought beekeepers start supplementing their
Lake in Strathcona County. In 2010, Tracey bees and realized I didn’t know how to be colonies with protein and sugar syrup to
got started on her family’s farm. She grew a beekeeper – there’s a huge learning jumpstart their bee populations in mid to
vegetables and kept a few hives, mostly curve in beekeeping. I took a workshop late March. This is several weeks to a month
just for pollination. But that first summer, with Medhat and learned so much about earlier than naturally occurring pollen
she struggled to sell her vegetables, various aspects of beekeeping. Two years flows. Beekeepers will build young hives
whereas, the honey sales flowed. That’s later, Medhat invited me to teach the from their larger colonies, and then import
when she decided to concentrate solely marketing course for the same workshop, queen bees from Hawaii to put into those
on honey. Tracey dove right into the world so it allowed me to take the course again younger colonies (because we can’t breed
of beekeeping, attending conferences and and again. Through repetition, I really queens that early in Alberta).
workshops, and talking to beekeepers learned.
whenever she could. She was thrilled to With my approach, I don’t typically feed
get into local farmer’s markets to sell her Another beekeeper and presenter, Tom early. Instead, I wait for the natural pollen
honey. “I just really focused my existence Hegan, was teaching about seasonal flows and it just naturally happens that the
on honey bees,” she laughs. management and a more self-sufficient bees start building their populations in time
approach to beekeeping. He was one of with the environment. Basically, I time the
Today, Tracey runs Beanstalk Honey and the early beekeepers who started population cycle with the natural
sells her honey at the Old Strathcona overwintering their colonies in Alberta. environment, which allows me to breed my
Farmer’s Market in Edmonton, and Beekeepers used to kill their colonies own queens.
through a new online market. She keeps every fall and buy new packages from the
bees without the use of antibiotics or States, rather than overwintering their RR2CS: Do most beekeepers get their
chemical synthetics, overwinters her bees, but in the 1970s, there was a queens from Hawaii?
colonies, and breeds her own queens. movement for more self-sufficient Tracey: Yes, Hawaii is one of the largest
beekeeping. They put more effort into breeders [and exporters] of queen bees to
Recently, we interviewed Tracey about her wintering their colonies, breeding their Alberta. Actually, right now Alberta
journey into the world of beekeeping, own queens in the springtime to replace beekeepers are concerned because Hawaii
learning about her approach to working their winter hive losses. is getting hit by a hurricane right now and
with bees, the advantages of queen they’re worried how it might impact queen
breeding, the value of biodiversity for I learned a great deal with Tom and a production.
nectar flows, and how changes in seasonal handful of other beekeepers in Alberta
weather patterns are impacting honey and Saskatchewan. As a result, my RR2CS: Does breeding your own queens
bees. approach is a bit different from many give you more “queen security?”
other beekeepers in Alberta. I don’t rely Tracey: I always thought if I’m breeding my
RR2CS: Can you tell us more about your on buying packages in the springtime. own queens here, I would have more
approach to beekeeping? Who were I’m more focused on queen breeding security than someone buying them from
some of your early mentors? and timing everything with natural Hawaii. Some Albertan beekeepers will do
Tracey: I had some really good mentors nectar flows, instead of supplemental both – a hybrid model. They import queens
feeding.

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from Hawaii early in the season, but RR2CS: Can you tell us more about how no nectar flow, which tends to confuse the
they’re also breeding their own queens you were involved in Alberta Agriculture bees, too.
later on in the season. and Forestry’s “Bee Health App”?
Tracey: Medhat Nasr invited me to help But if you want to talk about environmental
I think this hybrid approach is actually the with the creation of the Bee Health app changes, the biggest challenge is managing
most secure model. It’s good to not put all (designed to help beekeepers to detect, for cold and rainy summers. It’s a big
your eggs in one basket. If the weather is identify, manage and treat honeybee problem.
bad in Hawaii, breed here. But if the diseases and pests). As a team of
weather is bad here, import from apiarists, we listed the signs for different Historically, our Alberta summers were
elsewhere. This took me a few years to diseases and pests that affect honeybees. perfect for bees: there was a willow flow,
learn. I helped write up the content and followed by dandelion, then clover and
developed the algorithm for a sign canola, all spaced by a few weeks to help
RR2CS: How is the weather impacting checking component – where you can build up the populations of honey bees. But
your queen breeding in Alberta? check off different signs of ill-health in the fluctuations in temperature and
Tracey: If we have a late, cold spring, it will your hives and the app determines the humidity impacts when the plants are
delay the bees, and the populations won’t most likely pest. It’s a very cool resource blooming, which affects the bee’s natural
be very large. For example, the queens for beekeepers in Alberta. cycles, too.
need to fly out of their hives to mate with
drones. They meet in what’s called a RR2CS: What experience do you have in RR2CS: How are you and other beekeepers
drone congregation area. The queens disease identification? And what trying to adapt to these changes?
really only do one mating flight, more or diseases are beekeepers dealing with Tracey: I’m starting to think that
less, in their entire lifetime. They store today in Alberta? supplemental feeding could be an answer. I
sperm inside their bodies and fertilize the Tracey: As an undergrad student, I was manage my bees with the natural nectar
eggs as they’re laying them. It’s only a really good at bird identification. I’d see a flows, but if these flows aren’t going to be
week-long window that they’re mating, so flash of a bird in the woods and predictable anymore than supplemental
the queens rely on warm, decent weather. somehow, I’d just instantly know what it feeding is what I’m going to have to do.
In June and July over the past several was. I’ve realized I can see things –
years, the weather has been quite rainy moving things – really quickly. The same There’s a lot of interest in the beekeeping
and cold, so it’s been hard to breed the skill allows me to identify sick brood and industry right now on fine tuning what
queens. This is why Hawaii does well with bees really quickly. I didn’t think that was we’re feeding our bees and when. Knowing
queen breeding as their weather is more a unique skill until I was beekeeping in when to feed the bees can help us adapt.
consistently sunny and warm. If our Florida and spent time with a number of Another thing I’ve seen beekeepers doing is
weather patterns get out of sync with the beekeeping experts. I like to say that it’s shifting to wintering their hives indoors.
bee’s natural cycles, they start to develop my one unique ability as a beekeeper – I
many health issues. On the flipside, if the can really spot sick brood and bees I’m a bit small for an indoor wintering
weather is really hot in the spring, it can quickly, for whatever reason. facility, but many of the commercial
cause the plants to bloom too early. Come beekeepers are transitioning to
July, there’s no plants left for bees and it The number one pest you hear about in overwintering indoors because you can
can be a challenge to get them ready for the media all of the time is varroa mites, better control the climate. Neither of these
the winter. Over the past few years, the a parasitic mite that feeds on honeybees solutions are ideal from a sustainability
weather has been all over the place and (and results in a disease called varroosis). perspective, but if it’s what we need to do
bees are really susceptible to these It’s been an ongoing issue for beekeepers to keep bees alive and thriving in Alberta,
changes. that can devastate our colonies. well, then it’s an adaptation process.

RR2CS: What is the importance of But currently in Alberta, we’re seeing an Farm solutions are climate solutions and
many of them have multiple concrete benefits
biodiversity in beekeeping? outbreak in European foulbrood (EFB), a
that go beyond stopping climate change:
Tracey: Plants have different windows of bacterial infection that affects the
improving soil fertility; creating new economic
time when they’re producing nectar. digestive tracts of the larvae in the hives.
opportunities; protecting biodiversity; energy
They’re impacted by temperatures in the
independence and building resiliency against
day and at night, humidity, and so forth. RR2CS: How have erratic freeze-thaw
droughts and floods. It is a win-win strategy.
It’s important to have a diversity of plants cycles impacted overwintering your
Rural Routes to Climate Solutions is working
for bees to feed on. If you have only, say, hives? with producers and other members of the
canola, everything is riding on whether or Tracey: Up until 2016, I’d never really had rural community to put this win-win strategy
not it will produce nectar, and what major winter losses, but over the past few into action. By providing learning
happens when that canola flow is done? years, I’ve been getting walloped. I’m not opportunities to better understand climate
But if you’re in an area that has canola, sure if a freeze-thaw cycle in December solutions, we are empowering rural Albertans
clover, alfalfa, along with stands of aspen, makes that much of a difference. But a with the tools to reap the benefits of climate
willow, raspberries and wild roses, there cold spring (in April, for example) can be solutions for themselves and their
will always be nectar flow for the bees to really hard on the bees. In addition, we’ve communities. Visit their website at
feed on. been having really warm falls, but there’s www.rr2cs.ca to learn more.

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Humalite is a naturally occurring its natural form or can be screened We would also like to hear from you
humic substance containing organic to various sizes to meet agricultural about how we can tailor our
matter and high concentrations of and end user application product to suit your requirements!
humic acid. Humalite and humic acid requirements.
are soil amendments that can Contact the Sheerness Mine at:
provide benefits in the following Naturally occurring Humalite is (403) 854-5200 or by email at
areas: available for bulk pickup by the Humalite@Westmoreland.com.
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Enhance nutrient uptake and following sizes:
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Improve water retention Raw Humalite
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Screened Humalite < 0.04” (1mm)
Humalite is produced locally at the
Sheerness Mine, South of Hanna, Contact the Sheerness Mine to learn
Alberta. Our Humalite is recovered more about our Humalite and how
from shallow resources just below the we have created affordable soil
earth’s surface and made available in amendment options for all budgets. PAID ADVERTISEMENT

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PEAS ON EARTH: EXPERIENCE PASSED DOWN THROUGH GENERATIONS

By Michelle Yam, New Farmer Engagement them was relatively fast and within no It may sound like the process was relatively
Coordinator, Young Agrarians time, they found land North/Northeast of easy, but it definitely came with tough
St. Albert, where they farm today. The challenges. For one example, building the
Eric and Ruby Chen are a couple based land itself was not previously owned by greenhouses was described as a
out of Edmonton, AB, who have always organic farmers so it took them about 3 “painstaking process”. It took a lot of time,
had a passion for growing food. When years to be able to transform the land to money, and different skill-based resources
asked about their farming history, they a place where they could grow to get that going. Other considerations
explain that it “runs in the family”, with vegetables organically. included the acquisition of equipment used
experience passed down generations for the field and their washing/packing
originating from Laos. “We’ve always liked To finance their purchase of the land, stations, vehicles used to transport produce
growing things and raising animals”, Eric they reached out to three primary between the farm and the market, and the
explains. To the Chen family, it seemed resources: special insulation required for their food
like the natural path of choice to become A Beginner’s Farmer Loan from the storage. Luckily for them, they were able to
farmers themselves. AFSC (Agriculture Financial Services offset some of these costs by purchasing
used farming equipment from their
Corporation). This required a solid
They started out small, growing mentors, James and Jenny of Sundog
business plan and proof of experience.
vegetables part time on Eric’s parents’ Organic Farm, and Denis and Ruth of
A loan from their parents. They
property just North of Edmonton, selling Vriend’s Organic Garden.
wanted their parents to invest in the
to local markets. After 16 years of this, farm.
they decided it was time to fully emerge Part of the land has been sold off, some of it
Personal savings, which they built up
themselves and become full-time farmers. is rented, and the remaining 25 acres are
from their part-time farm sales.
In 2003, they began to look for land to call used for growing mixed organic vegetables
their own. sold through local markets, a CSA program,
and distributors like Organic Box. For the
When looking for land, they were after past few years, the Chens have also been on
two main things. First of all, they wanted the lookout for another piece of land in the

land North of Edmonton as their children area to expand their operations, although

attended school in the city. It was nothing has caught their attention yet.

important for them to be able to easily


This case study is a part of Young Agrarians
commute between the two places. Second
Alberta Land Access Guide, a toolkit for new
of all, they were looking for good soil to
farmers like YOU to help guide you through
grow their crops.
this big, rather intimidating step in your career
path as a regenerative farmer. It’s a collection
Eric and Ruby didn’t use the internet or a
of stories of wins, loses, and everything in-
realtor to find their land. They wanted to between. For land seekers, it will give you
get to know their land as close as possible ideas to explore when you are looking for land.
so in their down-time, they drove around For land holders, it will give you context
in their vehicle in rural areas just North of around what new farmers are looking for. Get
Edmonton, looking for signs of land for your free copy of the Land Access Guide at
sale that met their needs. This process for www.youngagrarians.org.

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ORGANIC AGRONOMY SHOPTALK

By Cari Hartt, Organic Alberta Previously farmed by Matthew’s Soil Conservation


grandparents, then later his father and Soil conservation is another big part of their
We often hear that our members are uncles, the farm was transferred to values. The farm incorporates green
inspired and moved by the work of other Matthew and other family members in manures and cover crops and limits the use
producers, so we knew that hearing December of 2019. They are now of manure. Additionally, they focus on light
directly from an organic producer was an continuing to build on the foundations equipment and traffic control to decrease
opportunity to learn further afield and their predecessors laid in terms of on- compaction.
hear what’s going on in the organic farm testing, innovation, and
community in Canada. Matthew Dewavrin diversification. Biodiversity
is an agronomist and third-generation The farm supports biodiversity in various
owner of Les Fermes Longprés, an organic Objective, Values and Mission ways including through organic
field crop operation located an hour west certification, integrating shelterbelts, strip
of Montreal. The Dewavrin family has been Self-Sufficiency cropping, and preserving and enriching
farming since 1977 and now grow about Self-sufficiency is a core value of their animal habitats.
1500 acres of land with soil conservation, business. They grow their own seed for
self-sufficiency, and vertical integration in soybeans and wheat, have seed cleaning Vertical Integration
mind. During our 2021 Conference, capabilities, take on machinery design Vertical integration is an important part of
"Revitalizing the Farm Web: Cultivating and maintenance (manure spreader, their operation. Their flour mill brings
Crops and Community", Matthew shared a seeder for intercropping, and more), revenue stability, and their marketing to
bit about his farm and some of the market themselves, and build their farm the Greater-Montreal area and Vermont is
practices they employ, and discussed the infrastructure. based on traceability, transparency, and
challenges and opportunities of being an environmental preservation.
organic producer today.
Equipment and Practices
Review of Rotation, Weed Control,
Fertilization, Tillage System and Grain Ridge Till
Marketing Les Fermes Longpres differs from many
organic producers in Quebec with their use
Les Fermes Longpres is approximately of ridge tilling. Utilizing an RTK GPS
1500 acres on the shores of the Saint guidance system, they create ridges in corn
Lawrence River in Montreal, Quebec. They and sunflowers, or after cereals. It’s a great
mostly grow corn, soybeans, hard red no-till production system that allows them
spring wheat, hard red winter wheat, to get great cover while minimizing
green peas, sweet-corn (bonduelle), oats, plowing and soil disturbance at planting,
and forage peas. They process their own helps dry their fields faster in the spring,
wheat and produce 750 tonnes of flour and saves time and money (no plowing, no
annually. They mostly farm heavy soils, soil prep in spring, and saves on operational
with 60% being heavy clay, 35% clay-loam, costs when compared to conventional
and 5% sandy-loam. tilling).

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Strip Cropping Double Cropping producers work continuously to overcome.


Another technique employed on the farm Double cropping is a good way to Matthew explained that the challenges
is Strip Cropping, used to prevent insect harness the agronomic potential of short experienced at Les Fermes Longpres
and pest outbreaks. They consistently season crops without affecting the include perennial weeds, GMO
split the field into 18 and 36 m strips. By bottom line. The farm seeds about contamination, seed availability, land value,
repeating the border effect, they create 170kg/ha of spring wheat with 60 kg/ha urban expansion, and climate change.
more diversity in the beneficial insect of yellow peas. They are also doing wheat
population and synchronize better the and lentil trials. Opportunities
presence of beneficial insects versus the Despite the challenges facing organic
peak outbreak. Seed Production producers today, Matthew believes that
The farm is self-sufficient for soybeans there are also various opportunities. There
Growing Corn Without Manure and wheat seeds, with seed cleaning is a social appetite for food autonomy,
In the Quebec farming landscape, there is capabilities and selection in the field. transparency, short supply chains, organic
a big phosphorus pollution problem, and However, there is a need for genetics food products, and regenerative agriculture.
therefore the use of manure has been adapted to their production system, so Quebec specifically has very ambitious
regulated since the 1990’s. Soil tests are the farm has been working with Dr. government initiatives and subsidy
required every five years, an annual Martin Entz of the University of Manitoba programs for organic producers and
phosphorus use report submitted, and on his Participatory Wheat Breeding processors. There is also strength and
their fertilization plan overseen by an Program. For other crops, they are highly opportunity in collective marketing,
agronomist. Les Fermes Longpres relies dependent on input providers for corn as diversification, and direct consumer sales.
exclusively on green manures to grow there is only untreated conventionally
corn, which results in increased produced seeds available, and GMO Les Fermes Longpres is currently
autonomy, long term durability, and contamination in the bag. Coop AgroBio participating in numerous projects,
decreases soil compaction. du Quebec is assisting with GMO testing including organic corn hybrid performance
of seeds and have an alliance with testing network, pollinator habitat
The farm has been running side by side Austrian Farmers Coop (SAATBAU) to enrichment, a long-term soil health
trials for the past 15 years to confirm yield import organic corn seeds and reduce monitoring network, and more. We are very
differences, and they’ve seen that manure the dependence on input providers. excited to see what innovations Matthew
application in corn is not necessary when and his farm team continue to bring to the
a good green manure crop is grown the Challenges sector as they harness the opportunities
year before. There are many challenges that organic available to organic producers today.

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CONNECTING WITH CONSUMERS AND ADAPTING TO MARKETS IN 2021

During our 2021 Virtual Conference and Sales System Considerations audience. What character do you present
Trade Show, “Revitalizing the Farm Web: When is payment due? Directly upon to your community? The goal is to create
Cultivating Crops and Community” we ordering or is there flexibility in value for people to engage in. Consider
were joined by five producers who shared schedule? what values you incorporate in your space
practical tips on diversifying your direct How are you taking payment? Credit and how these values shape your business.
marketing through retail sales, social cards are used widely but carry fees. If What content will you be sharing? Break
media, crafting a marketing campaign, you’re accepting e-transfers, be sure down your processes and share each step
and sharing your farm story sustainably. to set up auto deposit! using various methods like ASMR, How-To’s,
We’ve pulled the key points from each How does the system allow you to Vlogging, etc. How will you communicate?
presentation and put together this article communicate with customers? Be vulnerable, share your process, and work
to help you connect with consumers and How are your customers getting the to educate (it is the responsibility of
adapt to markets in the ever-changing product and when? Delivery or pickup growers to educate consumers) and build
landscape of 2021. from farm? Does the system allow you your social credit and trust with your
to charge delivery fees? audience. And finally, consistency is key.
Online Sales What kind of data do you want to Post each week to create a pattern for
Field Sparrow Farms direct markets grass- collect? consumers to latch onto (Mondays,
fed beef, pastured pork, and pastured Wednesdays, and Fridays are statistically
chicken, and is run by Sarah Bakker. From Other Recommendations and Advice the best days to post).
2009 to 2019, 80% of their sales revenue Build your email lists – having control
came from farmers markets, with the of your data is so important. Social Media Key Considerations:
remaining revenue coming from Build relationships with others in the
wholesale. When the COVID-19 pandemic farming community to supplement Everything You do is Valuable
hit, Field Sparrow Farms had to adjust your offerings. Document your processes.
their sales to an online delivery system Don’t wait to make it perfect! Content comes from the smallest acts
and picked up some helpful tips along the and ideas.
way. Social Media Marketing Write those ideas down as soon as they
Smarter by Nature is a regenerative, come to you.
Online Delivery Key Considerations: small-scale farm in Northern Florida, run
by Angelique Taylor and David ‘Kip' What’s Old to You is News to Them
Product Line Complexity Ritchey. Angelique and Kip share their There’s always someone wanting to learn
Do you have a few products with a journey and connect with their local and what you know.
large inventory? Are you able to online communities. Their presentation Teach in cycles and with the seasons.
produce more quickly? A simple model gave practical tips about how to use Continuously share as if the content is
will be easier to track and provide you social media platforms (Instagram, new.
with savings. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to grow
For more complex and wide variety, and engage with online audiences and Engage With Other Profiles
coming in at different weights, customers. Interaction and engagement are
something more robust may be rewarded with community.
required (Square, Shopify, Grapecart, Consider the 4 C’s of social media to Comment, like, and share posts from
and Local Line, just to name a few). build trust between your brand and other people in your community.

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Follow Who You Want to Follow Build Your Team Sharing our Stories Online:
Follow people who inspire you and Expert friends.
learn from them. Unpaid board. “Nobody can tell your story the way you can
Trade goods and services. tell your story” – Danielle LaPorte
Use Keywords (SEO) With Tags Hire a consultant. There are
Titles and descriptions help users find professionals for a reason! We live a life that not many have the
your content. opportunity to live.
Hashtags help you expand your Do Your Target Market Research General public has an interest in where
audience. Your marketing goal is to interact and their food comes from.
connect with customers. People seek connection in different
Use Tools Like Stories, Carousels, Reels – What makes you different? ways. Consumers want a deeper
They’re There for a Reason! Who is your customer? How do they understanding of how their food was
The more you use the features of the make decisions? Draw a customer raised and grown.
platform, the more your profile will be roadmap. If we’re not the ones sharing our stories
rewarded in the form of more traffic. in agriculture, someone else will.
Each feature is an opportunity to be Marketing Campaigns
seen by your audience. Traditional marketing doesn't work Community Over Competition
like it used to. Agriculture can be extremely isolating.
Tell Your Story Build targeted campaigns based on Help consumers find competency in our
Don’t just post a picture with a short your target markets. industry.
caption. Content is more than just a Create and test small batch plans. Build and expand your community to
photo! Ask your customers what they want. include diverse backgrounds,
Your story is how your audience and experiences, and methods.
customers will get to know and trust Other Considerations and Advice The best businesses are concerned with
you. Bottom up or top down pricing? how best to serve their customers.
Product development is expensive if
Retail Sales and Marketing you want to be in numerous stores. Preventing Social Media Burnout
Andrew Rosychuk, a city slicker turned Think about scale and distribution. Identify your goal for using social media.
haskap fruit farmer, has grown his 27-acre Use the platform(s) your ideal customers
orchard north of Edmonton since 2016. Sharing Your Farm Story Publicly and community use.
Andrew’s initial goal was to get into Katelyn Duban, born and raised in Don’t compare yourself to others.
wholesale, but as Rosy Farms grew, Southern Alberta, married into Set boundaries.
Andrew’s focus has shifted from agriculture in 2016, and continues to You are more than your farm.
production to processing. His journey into develop her skills as a grain farmer on
wholesale taught him some valuable and off the field. She started sharing her
lessons, which you can consider when journey online through social media to Thank you to the “Revitalizing the Farm
getting into retail sales. connect with others in agriculture. She Web: Cultivating Crops and Community”
quickly found a common trend amongst presenters for sharing these practical tips
Retail Sales Key Considerations: producers; mental health and wellness on diversifying your direct marketing
was not a high priority. through retail sales, social media, crafting
There are Many Steps Involved a marketing campaign, and sharing your
But tons of support networks. Katelyn continues to do the work to help farm story sustainably. We hope that their
end the stigmas surrounding mental stories and suggestions will help you
Easy to get Into Stores but Difficult to health as well as sharing the good word connect with consumers and adapt to
Market and Sell of agriculture through her blog, social markets in 2021.
Ask your neighbourhood store media platforms (@WildRoseFarmer) and
manager for advice. on The Rural Woman Podcast. Katelyn To view this presentation and others from

Without customer interaction, shared some tips on what she has our 2021 conference, email

marketing and graphic design are key. learned through her agricultujourney. info@organicalberta.org.

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GOODBYE TO CANADA'S 'AVERAGE' FARM

Republished with permission from Country- Coincidentally, the land he began farming the implications for agriculture as farm size
Guide. Written by Lorraine Stevenson. in 2008 is just down the road from where and structure become much more diverse.
his grandfather once took a crack at
What does an average farm look like in farming. The drop in farm numbers has been going on
today’s Canada. If there is such a thing for generations, says Weersink. But what he
these days, there’s a good chance it looks a “He had a short-lived farm, you could say,” has discovered is that the erosion hasn’t hit
lot more like Scott Beaton’s farm than you says Beaton. “It was kind of to be his all farm sizes equally.
would ever have thought possible. retirement, but he had to quit in the mid-
1980s.” The trend goes back to the end of the Great
Beaton didn’t grow up on a farm, or think Depression. In 1941, there were approximately
he’d ever have one of his own, but if being Beaton, now 33, is just getting started. And 733,000 farms in Canada. Now there are fewer
interested counts, his roots in agriculture he’s serious about trying to do something than 194,000 farms run by 272,000 farmers.
do run deep. “As a kid I always helped this different, paying close attention to
neighbour family out,” he recalls. “That’s markets, niches and trends. Importantly, the decline has occurred mainly
kind of all I remember of summers as a kid.” among mid-sized operations. “The drop has
Meanwhile, though, more and more of been particularly significant in the mid-size
Today that family is helping him as he Canada’s productive capacity is at the category resulting in a ‘hollowing out of the
endeavours to farm the few hundred acres opposite end of the farm spectrum. It’s middle,’” Weersink says.
he now rents from them. owned and operated by the country’s
largest farms. Also striking is the increase in the absolute
Along the way, Beaton earned his number of farms in the largest farm
agriculture degree at the University of If it’s boom times for small farms, it is for categories, and an increase in their share of
Manitoba and worked a few years in the our biggest farms too. So where does that Canada’s farmland. On its own, that won’t
industry, too. But his first foot in the door leave our in-between farms, and the farms surprise a lot of farmers. But there’s
came in 2012, while working with a that we used to call average? That, as they something else that probably will.
conservation group helping farmers say, is a horse of a different colour.
develop environmental farm management An Unexpected Trend
plans. He met a local landowner and More Farms Then Researchers are finding something surprising
somehow as they talked, they had a Canada’s farm scene looks vastly different in the census numbers.
meeting of minds. Without a successor of than 40 years ago. Not only were there a
her own, she agreed to a rent-to-own lot more farms than there are now, but “There has been a steady decline in the
arrangement with Beaton for an 80-acre they were also a lot more similar to each number of farms for the last 70 years (around
parcel of her land. other in size and structure, too. By 1.5 per cent per year),” Weersink says. Okay, so
contrast, today’s farms are increasingly no surprise there.
And that’s how it happened. Another differentiated, including by size.
neighbour loaned him equipment, and “But the sector is actually much more
Beaton got his start. More recently he’s also Alfons Weersink, an agricultural economist dynamic,” he goes on to say. “Around one-
begun to rent an additional 200 acres from at the University of Guelph, has explored quarter of census farms are new entrants.
another farmer who wants to step back a these changes, looking not only at the They were not in operation in the previous
bit. statistics, and the reasons for them, but census.”

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Percentage of Total Sales Canadian hog farmers tell a much Land for Rent
Beyond farm size, there’s a more telling different story. Major structural changes The amount of farmland rented is also
measure of the changes over the last four in the late 1990s and early 2000s took growing, and one of the reasons is because
decades. This is the percentage of total place in their sector as a result of low farms are getting larger. “The growing
sales generated by different farm size prices, the emergence of hog loops, and share of the large farms in total production
groups. packing plant changes, says Weersink. means that transferring operations
between generations of such farms is
In 1981, one-third of the farmers had sales Average farm size has increased by becoming even more complicated,” Kahn
between $100,000 to $250,000, approximately 10 per cent between says.
representing about one-third of all census years for farms in Saskatchewan
agricultural sales. and is now 1,784 acres, points out “A consequence is more land is likely to be
Weersink. It has increased by half that held in trust by the next generation rather
By contrast, in 2016, over half of all sales rate in Ontario, where average farm size than attempting to farm it. In addition,
came from farms selling more than $1 is now 249 acres. farmland continues to be an attractive
million, and they represented around 15 investment for outside investors. The net
per cent of the farms. Other signs of growing heterogeneity in result is more farmland available to rent,
the farm sector are what farms specialize which increases the opportunity to farm
This accounts for what at first seems a and focus on, where their markets are regardless of size as not as much capital is
contradiction. As noted above, the and what their ownership structures look required.”
number of small farms continues to grow, like. The major drivers behind it have
but the average size of a Canadian farm been technological innovations and The bottom line is that it’s becoming a lot
continues to grow as well. And again, this consumer demand, combined with more difficult to define an “average” farmer
bears little resemblance to the kinds of information technologies, which has nowadays.
trends a generation ago. fostered the growth in niche markets.
These niche markets have arisen due to Implications of Heterogeneity
In the 1980s, farms were operated by a the growing heterogeneity among And that’s where the implications of
single farmer and they supported a single consumers, adds Weersink. increasing heterogeneity in the farm sector
farm family. The operator worked full-time lie, says Weersink.
on the farm, too, and these farms tended Notably, what’s been happening in the
to be diversified with multiple crops farm sector is mirrored across other parts Obviously, it’s going to be more complex to
and/or livestock species. As many readers of the agri-food industry, too. design agriculture policy. Improving the
will also remember, though, those farms livelihood of farmers and their families
tended not to make much money. More Specialization through farm price supports and extension
It goes without saying that farm programs made sense when most farmers
Now, farm structure is much more expansion across all sectors is driven by were those single operators supporting
complex with a farmer having multiple owners seeking economies of size and their one single family on the farm. Now we
operations or with multiple farmers scale to boost profitability and clear a have multiple operations and multiple
involved in a single farm with off-farm path to bring adult children on board. farmers on a single farm, and off-farm
income playing a growing role. income is also playing an increasing role.
These larger farms now regularly support
All of this developed steadily over time, of more than one generation of the family, “So now it is difficult to determine the
course, although the pace varied and individuals are often in specialized objective of farm food policy and to whom it
depending on events and prices. roles, says Len Kahn, head of Kahntact should be targeted,” Weersink says.
Marketing, based in Guelph, Ont.
Commodity and Regional Variation And, again, increasing diversity changes
The story varies from commodity to “There’s more and more specialization on something else too. Average numbers from

commodity, and region to region. the farm,” he says. “One guy is more on statistics used to be representative of the

the agronomy side. Someone else might typical producer a generation ago, but this

For example, changes that have come to be more focused on the finance, and is less and less so as the middle continues

the dairy sector are relatively less someone else may be more focused on to hollow out.

pronounced compared to other livestock machinery.”


sectors, says Weersink. Dairy is still It all means that assessing the economic

comparatively more homogeneous Kahn says they are also seeing more conditions for farmers now requires looking

relative to other commodities, he says. examples of larger commercial farms beyond the average numbers, Weersink

“There has been obvious growth. But it adding smaller niche production into says.

has been limited by the ability to get their operations, although it’s too soon to
quota, and, in comparison to other supply suggest that is a trend. These farms are
This story has been edited for length. Find
management sectors, very small herds are also renting more land as they bring
the full article on the Country Guide
infeasible compared to small flocks of another generation of the family into the
Website at www.country-guide.ca.
chickens or hens.” business.

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