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

Germany sets out to improve 40:1 odds against a positive crop protection story

Think of an event covered by 5,000 journalists from 70 countries. The Winter Olympics? Superbowl XLVIII? A Justin Bieber court appearance? Think again – it’s actually an agriculture and food event, the biggest one in Europe, called Green Week. Now in its 79th year, this edition, staged every January, drew a record 410,000 people (mostly… Read more »

PEDv Crisis Underlines Need for Rural Vets

When new farm animal diseases rear their heads, one of the first questions asked is how they were discovered.  Overwhelmingly, the sleuth turns out to be a rural veterinarian, summoned by the farm’s concerned owner or operator. Although our society is becoming much more urbanized, rural veterinarians play a critical role. In Ontario, the Ontario… Read more »

Lessons Learned from my Ford Pinto about Food Trends

The last Ford I owned outright – and lived to tell the tale — was a 1972 Pinto. To me, at the time, it was a beauty, silver-grey with a thick black stripe along the rocker panels. I thought it was cool, but, in truth, I was an idiot to drive it. I was lucky… Read more »

Farmers Keen to Contact Politicians, And That’s Good News

When farmers aren’t busy farming, it turns out they’re busy lobbying the government with ideas, strategies and suggestions to keep farming vibrant. A new members’ survey by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the province’s largest general farm group, shows many farmers are dedicating time to contacting representatives at all three levels – municipal, provincial and… Read more »

Food Prices: Why Consumers Should Care About Accessible Rural Energy

Consumers want food that’s as cheap as possible. True, they want safe food, too, and all those other features such as wholesome, nutritious and environmentally sound food. But mainly, they want food cheap. The huge increase in grocery items at big box stores and discount outlets bears that out. Exceptions exist, particularly with the growing… Read more »

Wind Energy Producers Get Rural Canada’s Warning: Don’t be a Scrooge

Kinder, gentler wind energy producers are emerging, the kind that share the benefits from wind installations with their neighbours and their community. They’re wading into a maelstrom of discontent, but it appears their approach is striking a chord in some parts of rural Canada. Last week the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), an advocacy group… Read more »

Spending More Time on Management? You’re Not Alone

Farming has become a year-round state of mind. Seasonality is not as much of a management consideration as it once was, especially for crop producers. Planting season and harvest season still exist, but due to increased demands – including the need to constantly be working on public image — the farming season has become a… Read more »

Yell Into the Phone: More Support for Public Plant Breeding!

Public breeding (for plants, that is) is not something you’d imagine the public yelling into a telephone about, telling their elected officials support for public plant breeding must absolutely be part of the next federal or provincial budget, or else. But stranger things have happened. For example, who would have thought people would get so… Read more »

I Love Leamington: Turn the Hate for Heinz into Something Meaningful

I feel for the good people of Leamington as they struggle to prepare for life without Heinz. The company, which has been a huge part of their lives and their community for more than a century, will close next June. Some say they could see the end coming when Heinz was sold to Americans a… Read more »

Who needs Luke Skywalker to fight the Death Star when you have farmers as warriors?

If you’re among the many – including all the finalists in this year’s Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture competition – who believe a better understanding of modern farming should begin early and formally in schools, take heart. In early December, just prior to the Grow Canada meetings in Calgary, final steps will be taken to… Read more »

With “Friends” Like These, Agriculture Must Stay Vigilant

Agriculture is getting better at not ignoring or dismissing smear campaigns, just because it doesn’t like them (i.e. A&W, Panera bread). So in that light, it also shouldn’t roll its eyes at Friends of the Earth and its new survey that, according to the organization, shows Ontarians want “honey bee carnage” stopped. There are good… Read more »

Farmers Could Make a Difference in Food Waste Reduction Campaigns

Farmers could play a big role in the movement to turn food waste from a habit into a villain. In some circles, food waste is now being called the number one issue in the food business. It’s described as a major stumbling block in the drive to feed the world. According to this line of… Read more »

Take a Leap — Bioproducts are no Longer Just for the Bandwagon

Some people used to think farmers only could grow crops for food. Today, though, some think farmers only should grow crops for food. It’s a great debate, with, I suspect, the answer somewhere in the middle. Philosophical, theoretical, economic and even spiritual debates rage about farmers’ role in feeding the world versus growing crops for… Read more »

Want to help preserve and advance the family farm? Invest in research

Research is often seen as an investment in new technology development, in whirring instruments or the roar of equipment. That might make it easy to forget that new technology results from new knowledge. And knowledge is key to preserving and advancing modern family farms. That reminder comes courtesy of Mildmay, ON dairy farmer Ralph Dietrich. He’s the… Read more »

Strong leadership needed to double ag exports & build a strong Ontario job market

For a province that can seem overrun with highways and hi-tech interests (at least in its most southern regions), it’s significant that its premier, Kathleen Wynne, chose to name herself agriculture and food minister when she took over the reins. She had every other option. You name the portfolio and it could have been hers…. Read more »