Author: Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as

Federation Wants Public to Adjust Driving Habits for Bigger, Faster Farm Equipment

Who’d have thought drivers on public roads would ever be warned to beware of faster farm vehicles? Not me. Traditionally, people have moaned about getting stuck behind slow-moving farm gear, prompting the ag sector to plead for patience and try explaining it’s just doing its job, getting from one farm, or from one part of… Read more »

Animal Care Codes of Conduct Are More Than Busy Work

With all the red tape and busy work farmers already face, who wants more? No one, I’m sure. Not even people who kind of like paperwork. But I’m hoping an effort underway to have farmers create an animal care code of conduct will be seen by most as more than a nuisance. In Ontario, an… Read more »

Straight Talk from Africa: Our Help is Welcomed

Many people have opinions about what developing countries need to prosper in food production. Some insist on more local autonomy for farmers, and less Western influence.  After all, people in what are now considered developing countries survived for thousands of years before Western wisdom arrived, they say. Such thinkers  believe we should turn back the… Read more »

New Approaches to Crop Protection — This Time, Let’s Beat Activists to the Punch

Sweeping changes are taking place in crop protection, especially when it comes to traditional chemicals. I believe these changes are for the best, but they’re going to take some explaining to consumers. Here’s what’s happening. At the BASF media summit in North Carolina this week, the company announced it was introducing an eye-popping 20 new… Read more »

The sun sets on Farmers Feed Cities

If you have any Farmers Feed Cities memorabilia hanging around, treat it with respect. As of Monday, it became collectible. Just as the first ever Local Food Week was getting underway in Ontario, Farmers Feed Cities, one of the most successful agriculture awareness programs in recent memory, wound down. The Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO),… Read more »

Hold Politicians to Account Post-Election, Rural Voters

You see them at election time, in particular — politicians jockeying to get a photo op with a farmer, diving into a plate of homegrown food or trying to support agriculture in some other camera-friendly way, such as driving a tractor. Politicians should be a friend to agriculture every chance they get, not just at… Read more »

High Caliber Diets for High Caliber Animals — The Role of Animal Nutrition in Human Health

When it comes to nutrition, it’s safe to say modern farmers are diet conscious about their animals. Farm animals have a whole industry looking after their best interests. Professionals such as animal nutritionists make sure livestock don’t make bad nutrition decisions. How many humans can say the same? Granted, that option’s mostly taken away from… Read more »

Shock Abuse Videos on the Minds of Livestock Producers

Not long ago, farmers thought their main opponents were environmentalists, bent on preventing them from implementing modern techniques and technology. Some considered it a battle against corporatism. But new research suggests that thinking has changed. In Ontario, results are emerging from a poll last winter of 400 farmers by Farm and Food Care, a group… Read more »

Rural Priorities Are Vital to Urban Ontario, Too

Is rural Ontario unique – or indispensable? Some would argue both. And a new poll designed to eek out rural priorities suggests they’re right. The poll in question, which opened after the provincial election was called last week and closed yesterday (May 7) at 5 p.m., was led by the Rural Ontario Institute. And while… Read more »

Local Food & Wine Convergence is a Great Opportunity for Ontario Farmers

The devil is in the details of a new two-year pilot program in Ontario designed to bring local food and wine together in farmers’ markets. But if the agri-food sector has enough patience to see it through, I believe everyone involved – farmers, wineries and consumers – can come out on top. Starting tomorrow, Ontario’s… Read more »

Success in Partnership: Re-Inventing Vineland

A sea change takes some impetus. In horticultural research in Ontario, that change happened eight years ago when the Vineland research station reinvented itself as the partner-driven Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. And it got a boost earlier this week when Ottawa and the Ontario government announced they were combining forces to give the centre… Read more »

Coal is a Dirty Word in Ontario — Let the Biomass Love-In Begin

Ontario isn’t letting politically charged energy issues such as the ongoing gas plant cancellation controversy get in its way of its clean air policy development…and neither should farmers. Regardless of what party is in office after the next election, over the past couple of weeks it’s become even clearer the future of energy production here… Read more »

Stop the Farmer Guilt: Pesticides Play an Important Role in Food Production

Despite efforts to explain pesticides’ role in modern agriculture, confusion still reigns supreme in the eyes of the public. And no wonder. Pesticides get blamed for a lot of things; most recently, for wiping out bees. That accusation caught the Province of Ontario’s attention last summer and fall, when wildly fluctuating accounts of bee mortality… Read more »

Real Talk, Real Action: Raw Milk is Not Worth the Risk

Some of you reading this have likely either consumed unpasteurized milk, or know someone who has, and been perfectly fine for the experience. Ditto for University of Guelph food scientist Prof. Art Hill, a leading authority on milk safety. Some 50 years ago on the family dairy farm on Manitoulin Island, he drank unpasteurized milk… Read more »

Sustainable Food Production Comes in Many Forms, Not Just Organic

My daughter Kate and I headed out last Sunday afternoon to Kitchener to hear about a new – and what I consider very different – food service being debuted at the storied Walper Hotel. Up the staircase through the doors of the second-floor terrace ballroom, 250 curious guests were lining up at more than a… Read more »