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

Farming’s Social Licence: It’s an Agreement, Not an Order

Does agriculture have its own social licence, its own special bond with the public? I wondered that last week, thinking about the energy sector. My thoughts were prompted by the terrified look on Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre’s face, when he unwittingly found himself between a protestor (described by the media as “burly”) and participants at… Read more »

Deep, Dark Ag Banking Secrets…From an Ex-Banker

For 32 years, Rob Hall worked in agricultural banking in Ontario – sometimes at the very top of the food chain, and always on the management side of the desk. Now, he’s switched sides. He’s on the farmer’s side. And he’s eager to talk in plain language. In February, Hall launched BankSpeak, a business finance… Read more »

When Virus News Goes Viral: Ontario Deals with Rabies Outbreak

Producers can take heart in the approaches underway by provincial authorities to get a handle on two rabies outbreaks in southern Ontario. The outbreaks, involving terrestrial rabies (not bat rabies) have officials turning to proven control methods — and social media, through the Ontario Animal Health Network (OAHN) — to keep the disease in check. They… Read more »

Teens Taking Chances with Food Safety — And We’re All Affected

Safety is one of the key selling points that agriculture uses to promote food produced on Canadian farms. It’s often mentioned in the same breath as freshness, wholesomeness and nutrition, mirroring what consumers say they value (besides local). Farmers take many on-farm measures to keep food safe — using sound environmental practices, and federally approved plant and animal health… Read more »

Situation Critical: Canada Loses Jobs, Ag Struggles to Attract Workers

Has anything received more talk and less action than Canada’s chronic farm labour shortage? The nagging disconnect between unemployed Canadians and job openings in agriculture hit me this week when Statistics Canada announced that the country had lost more than 31,200 jobs in July. The figure was a surprise to everyone. Economists had predicted a… Read more »

Farm Groups Try New Leadership Approach for Public Support

When your back’s against the wall, and talking and reasoning isn’t working, sometimes a 1-2 punch seems like the only forward. For example, in recent times, some Ontario farm groups — grain farmers, in particular — have used what appeared to be a pretty tough approach in dealing with pressure over neonicotinoid pesticides. People in… Read more »

Online Booze Sales and Broadband Expansion: It’s a Banner Day in Ontario

In one of those rare, happy coincidences, Ontario has made booze available online and said it will increase broadband access in rural areas…on the same day. That day was Tuesday, and the news came in separate announcements less than one hour apart. Both announcements should be good news for rural Ontario, and not just for… Read more »

A Tale of Two German Dairy Farmers, Making a Buck When They’re Down on Their Luck

The chips are down for milk producers in Europe, who are struggling to hang on as the continent deals with another milk glut. The European Union dropped its quota on milk production last year. When that happened, dairy producers upped their production. Now, Europe is swimming in the stuff. Farmers say they’re getting about 10… Read more »

Keeping an ‘i’ on Ketosis

Ketosis, a negative energy balance problem, dogs dairy producers almost everywhere. It affects up to 40 per cent of dairy cows in Canada, and can lead to reduced milk yield, impaired reproduction, weight loss and fever. As well, it puts affected cows at increased risk of developing other health conditions, such as metritis and mastitis…. Read more »

Say Hello to Canadian Dietitians, Some of Your New Best Friends

You can’t be everywhere at once. You can‘t be in the field, in the barn, on the road and, at the same time, talking face to face to consumers. You need some help, some friends. And more and more, those friends include professionals in related fields, such as butchers, retailers and dietitians. Dietitians’ role is… Read more »

National Survey Shows Farmers Need and Want Mental Health Help

No one is saying farmers aren’t tough. But when it comes to mental illness, it turns out they have the same vulnerabilities as everyone else – and more. A mental health literacy training program and mental health emergency response model for Ontario farmers are being created now, following early results of a study that shows… Read more »

Lambsquarters Tops Farmers’ List as Ontario’s Worst Weed

More than 300 Ontario farmers consider lambsquarters Ontario’s worst weed. Results from a months-long online survey show lambsquarters narrowly edged out Canada fleabane by a half-dozen votes to take the title. “They were neck in neck,” says survey coordinator David Bilyea, weed specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in Ridgetown…. Read more »

Agriculture and Technology: They Need Each Other to Feed the World

Recent research findings from the new Canadian Centre for Food Integrity could leave farmers scratching their heads. It showed that the public highly regards farmers, which is great. But it also showed 90 per cent say they know little or nothing about farming. Fortunately, 60 per cent said they want to know more. “I think… Read more »

Who is a Farmer? A Crucial Question for Creating Farm Policy

When University of Guelph agricultural economist Alfons Weersink told me he was tackling the question “Who is a farmer?”, I immediately thought of the late Paul Harvey. He’s the broadcaster whose 1978 Americana classic, “So God Made A Farmer,” was brilliantly revived in a 2013 Super Bowl ad for Dodge trucks. In it, Harvey praised… Read more »

Guelph Stakes Its Claim as Canada’s Dairy University

If there’s any question about the University of Guelph’s commitment to the country’s $6-billion dairy sector, just check the inscription on the institution’s new, specialized logo unveiled last week. It leaves little doubt: Guelph has branded itself “Canada’s dairy university.” The university decisively, ceremoniously and logically planted its flag on Canadian dairy at a teaching… Read more »