New Farm vs. New Science

By some remarkable bit of serendipity, two-page spreads started to appear in the local Innisfil Journal extolling the success of DeKalb GMO products among local farmers only a week after I published my article about the financial and environmental success of The New Farm near Creemore – as described in the book by the same name.

The local PR campaign for DeKalb by one of the largest and most powerful agriscience corporations provides us with an interesting comparison of two very divergent approaches to agriculture in Simcoe County.

Dekalb is a crop seed brand owned by Monsanto [$2.68 billion revenue, 2017], which also produces the controversial Roundup brand of “systemic, broad-spectrum glyphosate-based herbicide … Monsanto also produced seeds, which grow into plants genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate, which are known as Roundup Ready crops.” (Wikipedia). “In 2014, farmers sprayed 1.65 billion pounds of glyphosate — that’s enough to cover every acre of our globe’s cropland in about half a pound of the chemical.” (The Sneaky Place Glyphosate Is Hiding in Your Food, Emma Rose, January 2018)

Now, more concerns are being raised about health, safety, efficacy and financial impact. The industry rationale has always been that these interventions are needed to feed a growing world population – “it’s going to take a huge amount of innovation in order to double the world’s food supply.” according to a Monsanto Technology Officer. But some farmers are skeptical. “They’re locking in their profit and they’re cornering the market by getting bigger, not by creating new products,” says a Nebraska farmer. “They’re [Bayer & Monsanto] just choking out the rest of the competition. “

“If you look at how much of the farmers’ seed and pesticide dollars are going to these companies, Monsanto-Bayer [as] one company today — would be getting $1 out of every $3,” Connelly [agriculture analyst] says. “Dow-Dupont would be taking one out of every $4.” (The $66 billion Bayer-Monsanto merger just got a major green light — but farmers are terrified, Business Insider, May 2018) Continue reading

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Cannabis or Cannot?

Ontario municipalities have until January 22, 2019 to opt out of allowing any cannabis retail outlets. The inauguration ceremony for the new Town Council takes place today and it will ultimately make a decision on the issue.

In the meantime, residents are asked to share their opinion on this topic through an online survey which is accessible through the Town of Innisfil website (getinvolvedinnisfil.ca/cannabis). An Open House forum is also being held tomorrow, December 6 starting at 6:00 pm at Lakeshore branch, IdeaLab & Library to address any questions and hear public comments.

The Ontario government has estimated that there will eventually be 500 to 1,000 licensed cannabis retailers in the province. They will be licensed and regulated by the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission.

I have mixed feelings but don’t think that realistically, excluding cannabis retailers here would accomplish much. We already profit from gambling, alcohol and cigarettes. One of the surprising things I happened to witness when I first moved here more than 20 years ago was a police drug raid. Apparently there was a local market active enough to take the risks even then.

I have never smoked cigarettes so none of that appeals to me. I think e-vaping is especially annoying. But I have heard some positive things about medical cannabis. With a quickly aging population, some formulations, like topical oils, might offer an alternative to conventional pharmaceutical pain medications.

If we go down the ‘cannabis trail’ and decide later that unforeseen negative impacts outweigh the positives (i.e. tax revenue and removing the illegal market) can we backtrack and undo some of the licensing?

Share your opinions and comments online or at the Open House.

The New Farm – Regenerative Agriculture

I had the privilege of hearing Brent Preston, a Simcoe County organic farmer and author of The New Farm, give a talk in Barrie (Third Age Barrie) about the struggle that he and his wife made to build, after 10+ years, a highly productive and profitable agricultural business cultivated on twenty acres (out of 100) near Creemore. He is an engaging speaker and his book is an informative, entertaining, sometimes funny, and often painfully honest account of what they have learned and achieved. He speaks from genuine experience, having learned literally from the ground up after moving from Toronto.

Now Mr. Preston is on an urgent mission to promote the concept of Regenerative Agriculture – a system to restore and improve the natural productivity of farms without a crippling dependence on machinery and chemicals. Why? Because ‘sustainable’ agriculture – maintaining the status quo – just continues the current system of industrial agriculture that is degrading the environment, undermining the production of healthy food, impoverishing farmers, and destroying small family-farms. (Statistics Canada says the number of farms in Canada has declined by more than 10,000 over the past five years. – Sept. 2017)

Brent quotes one rural sage in his book who said, “Sustainable agriculture means a job driving a snow plow for the township in the winter, and a wife teaching school.”

He makes some very important observations: the crops grown locally in Simcoe County are primarily corn, canola, soy and wheat, used mainly for animal feed. There is nothing grown in area fields that is directly edible by humans. In comparison, The New Farm earns about 50 times more per acre growing organic vegetables than the roughly $840 per acre commodity price of corn. How can that be? Continue reading

Trigger Change – Ban Handguns

Update: About 1,500 more Ontario residents have added their names to the petition in the week following this article. Please continue to spread the word.

As a matter of conscience, I have to add my voice to the campaign to ban hand guns and assault weapons in Canada. A national media campaign called Trigger Change is under way to urge Canadians to sign a petition with this objective. It is a project of the Coalition for Gun Control.

This online petition is directed to the House of Commons on the Parliamentary web site. The petition is open until March 2, 2019. So far, more than 2,700 residents of Ontario have signed this petition after a brief mention in the news media.

Violence doesn’t know any boundaries. Increasingly irrational incidents involving hand guns and assault weapons are alarmingly more common. If you’d like to stand up to it and add your voice for sensible change, this is the time and the opportunity.

First Nations of Simcoe County

Innisfil is named in reference to its Irish settlers and was itself formed through the amalgamation of a group of smaller European settlements. But through the Friends of the Library I recently learned of a new online resource, First Nations of Simcoe County, which provides an introduction to the Indigenous societies inhabiting the geographic region that we call Simcoe County today.

The history of contact with First Nations has been tragic in so many ways. We are just beginning to learn about the reality of the last few hundred years of European settlement. I encourage everyone to visit this site for greater insight into the original inhabitants of this region.

RVH Wants to Know

It seems like awfully short notice but RVH (officially Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre) is asking for public opinion on five potential sites for a new “south campus”. An online survey is accessible until midnight on Wednesday November 7.

A site selection committee considered issues like access, public transportation, future development and servicing, and potential for expansion in arriving at a short list of five possible locations.

The areas under consideration are:

  • Highway 400 corridor
  • North Stroud area
  • South Stroud/Yonge corridor
  • South Alcona
  • 6th Line & Yonge St. (Cortel development area)

The facility would be developed in stages, beginning with ambulatory care and an outpatient centre “within the next decade”. A full-service hospital may follow in 20 years. The hospital has a web link at RVHPlanourFuture.ca.

Cortel Group ‘donated’ 50 acres in 2009 under the terms that Innisfil would be responsible for recruiting a hospital developer. In 2019 the land reverts to Cortel Group ownership for $1 if the land is not used for that purpose.