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

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 »

Want the truth known? Help ag in the classroom broaden its influence

Sometimes, people who understand agriculture – farmers, for example – are reluctant to enter into a public forum to talk about the profession they love. Other times, they’ll stand up and speak voluntarily, as leaders of their commodity organization or farm group. But on at least one occasion, others still will actually pay for the… Read more »

Help consumers on their road to better health by explaining what you do

Yet more evidence is trickling out about consumers’ upbeat perceptions of farmers. And not surprisingly, once again, it’s good. This time the source is food consultant to the Royal Winter Fair, popular dietitian Lois Ferguson of Eating For Ecstasy fame. She’s released results of a survey conducted with more than 1,400 fairgoers last November, which… Read more »

If farmers are advocates for agriculture, should the media follow suit?

Are you up to speed on the Chipotle restaurant controversy? Briefly, Chipotle, a Mexican grill chain, teamed up with Academy Award-winning Moonbot Studios to create a sappy but incredibly popular animated video that takes a mean-spirited and unprovoked shot at commercial-scale agriculture.  It’s become an internet phenomenon, drawing six million viewers over the past couple… Read more »

It’s time to look for farm labour with a fresh set of eyes

Photo credit: Via Flickr, Paul Xymon Garcia, 2010 Thanks to automation and good management (and perhaps necessity), some producers can farm vast tracts of land themselves with minimal help. But not all farmers are so fortunate. Certain industries, fruit and vegetables for example, require an exceptional commitment to human resources – along with hard work… Read more »

Who Cares About Politics and Soybeans in Argentina? We Should. Here’s Why.

Owen Roberts is currently in Argentina, attending the IFAJ 2013 Congress. The photo above is courtesy Chuck Zimmerman. View the Flickr account here. Any export-intensive country for agriculture needs to be constantly tuned into global developments that influence what happens inside our own borders. Today, the search for those developments takes us to the backroads… Read more »

Stop Spewing Myths About Grain and Health, say Ontario Farmers

I think every farmer is tired of reading about activists saying agriculture is making Canadians unhealthy, especially when the opposite is true. From what I read and hear, it’s sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary choices that are leading to alarming rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, not the crops and livestock that ultimately become… Read more »

Fuel vs Food: Different isn’t Always Bad, But It’s a Tough Sell

When Bob Dylan appeared at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 playing an electric guitar, he was booed off the stage for being untrue to the genre. Ten years later, country awards named John Denver Entertainer of the Year – to the chagrin of presenter Charlie Rich (“Behind Closed Doors”), who, in front of millions… Read more »