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

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 »

Make Beef, Not Price, the Centerpiece of Canadian Food Quality

When I buy beef from my neighbourhood butcher in Guelph, I don’t chisel him on price. He sells excellent beef, and he and his suppliers deserve decent money for connecting with the cattle farmers who produce it. If I have to cut corners, I’ll save on some other part of the meal — for example,… Read more »

Dirt Cheap Dairy is Not in Our Best Interest

Call me old fashioned, but I’m siding with dairy farmers in the latest attack against supply management. And I hope any farmer who feels the same way will take action and let their elected officials (particularly at the federal level) know how they feel. Over the past couple of weeks, a fight has emerged between… Read more »

Farm Safety: Let’s Talk About It

Farm safety leaders are convinced talking is as necessary as safety equipment and training in preventing farm injuries. So maybe it’s not surprising the theme for this year’s Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, which runs March 9-15, is Farm Safety: Let’s Talk About It. Dean Anderson of Guelph, Ont., the agricultural program manager for Workplace Safety… Read more »

There’s No Apology Necessary for Canada’s Vibrant Farm Economy

I suspect there will be a lot of angst over the new federal farm review and forecast – even though statistically, it’s a good news story. The report, released last week, showed farmers produced 96.5 million tonnes of grain in 2013. That’s a major leap over the previous year’s relatively dismal 76.7-million tonne crop, which… Read more »

Feds deserve support for Made In Canada branding campaign

The words “Made in Canada branding campaign” had hardly dried on the page of federal finance minister Jim Flaherty’s Economic Action Plan last week before marketing experts started taking shots at it…even though they didn’t know what it was about. They couldn’t know, because the government itself didn’t — all the budget contained was one… Read more »

Why agriculture should get $100 million for research from Ontario budget

It’s stated twice, in 2007 and 2012: the $58-million research partnership between the University of Guelph and what is now the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Rural Affairs has an annual economic impact of more than $1.1 billion on the province. That’s a $58-million annual investment, and a $1.1-billion return. Anyone… Read more »

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 »