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

Growers Drive the Agenda When No One Has the Answers

Ontario ginseng is the class of its field. The species grown here, called American ginseng (versus Asian ginseng, the other popular variety) is the apple of ginseng exporters’ eye. It now generates $130 million in export sales annually, and it’s growing every year. That’s great news for farmers who work the unique sandy soils in… Read more »

Cheers to the Barley Council for Making Research and Innovation a Top Priority

The new Barley Council of Canada gets it: research and innovation, that’s what makes a difference to farmers. The Calgary-based council, formally incorporated last month, lists research and innovation at the front of its top five priorities. Others include best crop production practices, market development, market access and (I especially like this one) communication within… Read more »

The Right to Food Must Include the Right to Farm

I saw a placard earlier this year around the University of Guelph declaring food is a right. Well, if that’s the case, then those who produce food better have rights too, rights that are shared with the public, clearly understood and widely accepted. A step in that direction takes place May 14, 2013, at the… Read more »

Smile for the camera, eat your pulses, love the environment

We should all steal a page from Pulse Canada’s inventive approach to market expansions. The organization’s new Meal Planning for 9 Billion People video campaign pushes just about every button imaginable. First, the positioning. It sounds elementary, but feeding the world with meals as Pulse Canada suggests rather than simple saying “food” is brilliant. It… Read more »

Food Charter is a Positive Way to Link Consumers to Farmers

Food and farming wise, I like what’s going on in agriculturally rich Waterloo region, where people have rallied to create the region’s first food charter. It was accepted by the regional council’s community services committee there Monday. The charter’s sponsor, the Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable, calls the five-point document “a statement of values and… Read more »

Support GM Alfalfa? You’ll Have to Let Someone Know

On Tuesday, April 9th, a widespread day of protest will be held against – of all things troubling our country – GM alfalfa. Activists will be gathering at about 20 locales, including 12 in Ontario, to show their opposition to its pending arrival. The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a relatively benign group with agricultural ties… Read more »

Stable markets with more producers: A $10-million boost for Ontario corn-fed beef

It was high noon in steamy Windsor, Ont., when the Ontario Corn-Fed Beef Program was launched at a lunchtime steak BBQ back in the summer of 2001. Given the heat, you could have grilled the corn-fed beef directly on the strip mall parking lot where the sweltering event was staged, and skipped the middleman –… Read more »

Customize local food opportunities for farmers

Everyone wants in on the local food craze. Some believe formalizing its place in society through local food legislation or institutionalizing it would open doors for farmers who now feel left out. That thought prompted a University of Guelph research team to look into local food for hospitals and long-term care facilities. On the surface,… Read more »

Whodunit? The villain in this bee kill thriller remains at large

With the public eye increasingly fixed on agriculture, twitchy farm policy makers may be inclined to act first and ask questions later. And that has farmers worried. For example, last spring in Ontario, more than 200 bee kill incidents were reported. No question about it, that’s a problem. Thousands of hives were affected. What’s the… Read more »

Grower Perception “Moving the Needle” on Herbicide Resistance Awareness

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 [email protected] or on Twitter at @TheUrbanCowboy. What’s spreading faster in Canada — herbicide-resistant weeds, or growers… Read more »

Find Unique Ways to Say “Be Careful and Stay Safe”

Farm safety took on a new meaning for me when I first met Alberta farmer Cliff Breitkreuz Jr., on his meticulously kept farm near Onoway. That’s going back a few years. Cliff had typed me a letter (on a manual typewriter) and then surface mailed it, inviting me to his farm to talk about politics… Read more »

The Farmer Identity: Tired Stereotype or Celebrated Hero?

In an effort to gain respect, agriculture has long fought the public image of farmers as salt-of the-earth types, more at home in the barn than the boardroom. But recent high-profile media events involving farmers have captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people…and suggest maybe image isn’t a problem after all. First, long… Read more »

Let’s Blow our Own Horn about Canadian Beef

Almost 10 years ago, Canada got its global butt kicked when news broke about a lone case of BSE in Alberta.  Naysayers everywhere – competitors and anti-corporate activists, among them — were lurking in the weeds, waiting for an opportunity to discredit our food system. The agriculture minister at the time, Lyle Vanclief, tried hard… Read more »

Take the Time to Remind Consumers They Benefit From Food Freedom

Editor’s note: This is Owen Roberts’ first 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 [email protected] or on Twitter at @TheUrbanCowboy. Food Freedom Day in Canada arrives next week… Read more »

Agriculture is getting dropped from our vocabulary

Each year my agricultural communications students prepare university-level speeches to compete with others from across the country in the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture contest, held annually in early November at the Royal in Toronto. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they don’t, but at the very least they get an all-too-rare platform to stand up… Read more »