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

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] or on Twitter at @TheUrbanCowboy. So you’ve done your homework, tested your feed for mold… Read more »

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 »