AALP Class 18 - Seminar 2, Farm Tours
Date: March 30, 2021
Author: Phil Nywening, AALP Class 18
The second seminar for class 18 took many class members through a snowy adventure across Ontario into Cornwall. While the trip to Cornwall was tense, the lessons learned while there were worth it all. On our third day, we travelled to the Pork Council of Canada to hear from four different lobbyists about the groups that they represent and the tactics they use to help ensure that farmers and the agricultural businesses of Canada have a voice in parliament. Though many people think that the words lobbyists, or lobbying, are bad, the four representatives had a very different perspective. While asking questions and hearing what they did we learned that they play a role in getting to know government officials and their staff. Their job might bring them to an MP, or to the MP’s assistant or even to the speaker of the house, and they all said that each of these people are equally as important to get to know. It is important to foster relationships and earn the trust of every single person so that they can draw support and help people understand what the agricultural sector is fighting for or against.
After having lunch at the Pork Council of Canada, we ventured out to two very different and yet similar farms. Our first farm stop was at the Beking Chicken Farm. This farm is a layer farm that produces and grades its very own eggs for market. They are about adding value to the product they grow so that they can sell it directly to the consumer. This direct relationship allows them to hear what their consumer wants and react to it directly instead of being told by a third party. This has prompted the Beking’s to build a carbon friendly, potentially carbon neutral, organic layer barn. Their customers liked that their original offering of eggs was free range, but the demand was high in the organic side and they were able to build a barn and start supplying this demand. It was very interesting to see this side of farming as not many farmers market their own eggs.
The next stop was a dairy farm and creamery. Not quite the same as a chicken farm, but very much the same in the way they took their raw product and added value to it. The Upper Canada Creamery is a dairy farm that instead of selling its raw milk takes it and makes dairy goods. The farm consists of 50 organic grass-fed cows with twelve different breeds and a mix of these. This is to help with disease and to help get what they want out of the milk, which is better fat content. With the milk that is produced, Josh and Ellen, add value by processing it into cheese, yogurt, and whole milk. These products are then sold either through their own farm store or other markets around the area. Their products are reaching out to more than a couple hours drive in every direction from the farm, but their hope is to expand further. On a personal note I believe it will as the cheese I sampled was delicious.
In conclusion, it was a great day of learning from the complexities of government lobbying to how to make value added products right on the farm. I hope that if you get a chance to visit upper Canada creamery or see Beking eggs on the shelf in your grocery store that you will take the chance to support two of the many small farms that make Ontario and Canada what it is today.