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

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 »

Nothing to Hide? Then Join the Conversation and be Transparent About Technology

Editor’s note: This is Owen Roberts’ Real Talk, Real Action column. Each week, Owen will offer his insight into how farmers and the agricultural industry can participate in the rural- and ag-related discussions going on around them. Contact Owen at owen@uoguelph.ca or on Twitter at @TheUrbanCowboy. Transparency – that is, being forthright, ethical and proactive… Read more »

“Just Trust Me” Didn’t Work for Science & Won’t for Farmers, Either

Good reasons exist to better understand what sustainability means on the farm – and a lot of them have to do with consumers. It’s vital for farmers themselves to know how to best care for the land, water and air in which they produce food. No smoke and mirrors. Unsustainable practices mean trouble in the… Read more »

Irradiated Beef Will be a Tough Sell for Farmers

With the recent flooding that’s plagued Alberta, cattle producers understandably have other things on their mind besides new technology. But at some point, when the situation settles down, they’ll find themselves in a delicate position – that is, heading for the front lines of science, promoting irradiation for beef. Irradiation would help kill nasty E-coli… Read more »

Feds Deserve Kudos for New Research Facility, but Who Will Staff It?

I’m wondering how federal research scientists and agriculture department personnel feel about Ottawa doing a drum roll to officially open the new $10-million state-of-the-art greenhouse facility at the federal Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre in London, Ontario. In the big picture, I imagine they feel some sense of pride in the facility. The… Read more »

Selling Local? Consumers Need to See Your Face

As farmers continue to look for ways to capitalize on the local food movement, some new hints were offered up earlier this week from researchers at the University of Florida. In the southeastern U.S., Florida is considered the state with the greatest diversity of what most people would typically call local food, particularly fruit and… Read more »

Farmers Can Choose to Play a Leading Role in Endangered Species Protection

Editor’s note: This is Owen Roberts’ Real Talk, Real Action column. Each week, Owen will offer his insight into how farmers and the agricultural industry can participate in the rural- and ag-related discussions going on around them. Contact Owen at owen@uoguelph.ca or on Twitter at @TheUrbanCowboy. Score one for agriculture. In Ontario, the province is proposing… Read more »

Farm Group Calls for Streamlined Border Access

It’s great to see farm groups take a public position. Their members want to hear from them, and increasingly, so does the public, especially when these groups are represented by real farmers. Even better yet is when a farm group’s concerns mesh with the public’s understanding of the status quo – such as border crossing… Read more »

New Mycotoxin Discoveries Underline Need for Research Support

Editor’s note: This is Owen Roberts’ Real Talk, Real Action column. Each week, Owen will offer his insight into how farmers and the agricultural industry can participate in the rural- and ag-related discussions going on around them. Contact Owen at owen@uoguelph.ca or on Twitter at @TheUrbanCowboy. So you’ve done your homework, tested your feed for mold… Read more »