Do consumers really want to know?

Originally published in Western Producer, August 2020

There’s a prevailing notion in agriculture that we must get consumer and public “approval” for modern farming practices and that we need to build “social licence” among consumers.

We have responded and invested significant resources and money into winning hearts and minds.

Lately, I have been increasingly wondering if this a strategically sound effort and a worthwhile investment. I’m not sure, for a couple reasons.

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What it’s like to be a new mom during the COVID-19 pandemic

Originally published by CBC Sask, April 2020

People keep asking me how I’m doing through all of this.

My second daughter was born mid-February. People assume I must have higher-than-usual anxiety around COVID-19 because I have a tiny baby at home.

But since going on maternity leave, my life really hasn’t changed much. In fact, being at home for long stretches of time worrying fanatically about the safety of society’s most vulnerable humans is exactly what maternity leave is!

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Why I’m grateful for all my pregnancy losses

Published by Today’s Parent, February 2020

I remember the moment it happened one year ago.

I was washing dinner dishes in my window-surrounded kitchen, embraced by the dark cave that is the Canadian winter in the dead of January, when I felt the gush.

I tiptoed to the bathroom, trying not to disturb something I knew I had no control over, pulled down my pants, and confirmed it—bright red blood.

My head dropped into my hands and despair clutched my body.

Another miscarriage.

At that point, my husband and I had been doing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for almost two years. Little Embryo Number Eight, currently clinging to life inside of me, was our last one.

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‘Sustainable’ is a trendy word in the food industry — but farmers aren’t getting enough credit for it

Originally published by CBC Saskatchewan, November 2019

While grocery shopping the other day, I counted the word “sustainable” on product packaging too many times to count.

This led me to consider how interesting it is that a word with so much marketing power is so vaguely defined and understood.

One of the more commonly used definitions of the word, created by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

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Everyone’s responsibility: Don’t let emotion influence how health information is acted upon in the digital age

Originally published by CBC Saskatchewan, October 2019

I recently came across a headline on my Facebook page saying that early research suggests a possible link between processed foods in pregnancy and autism. I hate these types of headlines.

I know I should be grateful to be alive at a time when we have easy access to so much valuable information. Instead, I feel overwhelmed, especially as a pregnant woman and a new mom.

Since becoming pregnant with my first child three years ago, I have questioned many of my daily product choices, especially food. I constantly wonder if these products will one day be linked to harmful effects in my children.

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A special connection: Farmer reflects on the importance of the grasslands and how livestock production helps the environment

Originally published in Farmers’ Voice magazine, May 2019

For Don Connick, farming means having a special connection to, and appreciation for the land.

His family’s farmland, located just south of Gull Lake on the first rise of land into the Cypress Hills, has a long and rich history – not only for the Connick family, but also for Canada.

Don’s grandfather homesteaded the land long before Don and Norma took it over in 1977, and Don remembers spending many afternoons as a young boy dreaming of how these native grasslands may have looked before the settlers came.

“There’s a tremendous historical and recent heritage here,” he says. “The remnants of the Old Dollard Trail are still visible in our pasture. We are a pretty young country and I think a lot of people identify with that. It’s part of who we are as a nation.”

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Help wanted: New program helps farmers address labour shortages

Originally published in Farmers’ Voice magazine, May 2019

The Canadian agriculture industry has long been challenged with labour shortages.

And the problem appears to be getting worse instead of better.

In 2014, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) reported that the job vacancy rate within the Canadian agriculture industry was 7 per cent, the highest of any Canadian industry. And preliminary findings from new labour market information research (to be released in June) show that agriculture’s job vacancy rate and the labour
gap is increasing, says CAHRC’s Janet Krayden.

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Root rot research and management options

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2019

Dry weather caused problems for many Saskatchewan farmers last growing season, but it also brought benefits, including a drop in the amount of root rot that had been observed in fields for the last five years. “We see some improvement in dry years,” says Dr. Syama Chatterton, who has been studying root rot for several years. “The dry cycles are helping.”

Chatterton, a Research Scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), conducted field surveys across Western Canada between 2014 and 2017 and found that Fusarium root rot had been present in about 50 per cent of pea fields and 60 per cent of lentil fields, on average. Another 50 per cent of pea fields and 40 per cent of lentil fields tested positive for the presence of Aphanomyces (the most destructive form of root rot), on average, over the same amount of time. These percentages were closer to 60 to 80 per cent in wetter years.

Chatterton cautions however that dry weather alone does not completely alleviate the many concerns over this potentially devastating soil-borne disease. For one thing, dry weather seems to affect peas more than lentils.

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Market access to India remains at pulse industry’s forefront

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2019

Saskatchewan pulse growers have had to deal with a lot of difficult news regarding tariffs and fumigation regulations affecting exports of Canadian pulses to India in the past year.

There is a silver lining, says Mac Ross, Pulse Canada’s Manager of Market Access and Trade Policy, as these issues have reinforced, and put into gear, priorities for expanding global markets for pulses.

“Our big focus moving forward is diversification,” he says.

For example, Pulse Canada has set the goal to have 25 per cent of Canadian pulse production going into new uses by 2025, and the organization is working hard with partners now to fulfill this mandate.

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New pulse developments with India

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, December 2018

As Saskatchewan growers contemplate their seeding options for another year, market access issues for pulses are surely top of mind.

In the past couple of years growers have faced severe export restrictions for pulses to India, Canada’s largest market. This includes tariffs on peas, chickpeas, and lentils, and ongoing regulations that require Canadian pulse exports to be fumigated with methyl-bromide.

Some progress has been made in addressing and mitigating these restrictions, says Mac Ross, Pulse Canada’s Manager, Market Access and Trade Policy.

Pulse Canada has long been working to alleviate these issues on behalf of Canadian growers, but recently they have seen several new developments.

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