70 WRITERS VISIT THE BURNETT FARM NEAR ORANGEVILLE
SINCE 2005, FARM & FOOD CARE Ontario has organized 22 food writer/media tours for approximately 400 participants in the Toronto and Ottawa areas. Participants have included journalists for media outlets like the Toronto Sun, National Post, Food and Drink and Canadian Living magazine as well as community newspapers, food editors, recipe developers, home economists, chefs, cookbook authors, bloggers, and more.
PHOTO: THE BURNETT FAMILY HOSTS INCLUDED: BACK ROW, FROM LEFT, ALEX, LINDA, JOEL, ANITA AND DARRYL. FRONT ROW: FROM LEFT, JADEN, LOGAN AND LUCAS.
These programs have helped to forge strong relationships between Ontario’s “foodies” and farmers, and have resulted in a much stronger appreciation of work that farmers put into producing food year round.
The tours provide participants with accurate information on modern farming practices, help to increase positive and accurate media coverage, and build relationships with reporters and influential people in the food community. By the end of the day, people have gained insight and perspective, and are inspired to share the information they have learned with their readers.
Each year, the tours visit farms specializing in different commodities. Tours in recent years have taken participants to greenhouses, orchards and agricultural research facilities as well as to dairy cow, goat, hog and egg farms. This year’s tour featured grain and beef farms.
The daylong program was supported by Foodland Ontario which assisted with a gourmet Taste of Ontario lunch in Mono Centre. Other sponsors included Grain Farmers of Ontario, Beef Farmers of Ontario, Canada Beef, the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program, and the Ontario Craft Cider Association.
This spring’s sold out tour was the largest yet. Seventy eager “foodies” boarded two buses for a full day of travelling to farms northwest of Toronto. The first stop was Burnett Farms near Orangeville and the second stop was at the beef feedlot owned by Schaus Land & Cattle Co. near Alliston.
The Burnett family manage a successful cash crop and custom farming business. They also manage a retail outlet selling crop supplies. They grow corn, soybeans (both GMO and Identity Preserved), wheat, canola, and seed barley.
Technology plays a huge role in the success of Burnett Farms and participants had the chance to see that technology first hand. A display of tractors, planters, a combine, and sprayer were featured in the farm yard and participants learned about changes in technology over the years that the Burnetts have farmed there and the role of each piece of equipment on the farm.
One of the highlights of the tour was the chance for the participants to meet three of the four generations involved in the farm today. Alex and his wife, Linda, their son Darryl, his wife Anita, and their four children Joel, Logan, and twins Jaden and Lucas, were all on hand to greet their farm visitors and answer questions about their family business.
Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Grain Discovery Zone was also on-site to engage with participants further. Speakers on the bus also complemented the program. Grain Farmers of Ontario staffers Meghan Burke, Manager of Communications, and Nicole Mackellar, Market Development Coordinator, gave bus presentations about the organization, the crops grown in Ontario, and international markets for Canadian grains.
At the conclusion of the day, participants were asked to evaluate the farm tour program and give feedback on their key learnings of the day. One food writer was particularly impressed saying, “Darryl, Anita, and their entire family did an amazing job at tackling some of the major issues currently facing agriculture, such as the use of GMO seed and pesticides. Their passion for what they do is incredible.”
Other participants commented that they learned more about the purpose of crop rotation, about farm practices such as equipment use, the effects of weather on farming, drying practices, the importance of genetically modified crops, and about the importance of science and technology on modern grain farming.
After lunch, everyone boarded the bus for the next stop at Schaus Land & Cattle Co. in Alliston. A highlight of the Alliston location is a steam corn flaking mill which is used to feed the animals and is the only one of its type in Canada. All the corn used is sourced from local farmers. Observing the mill in action was a great connection to the first stop on the tour. The steamed and flaked corn is used for both the Alliston and Walkerton feedlots which raise cattle for the Ontario Corn Fed Beef program.
PHOTO: PARTICIPANTS ON THE 2014 FOOD WRITER FARM TOUR ARE SHOWN IN FRONT OF THE BURNETTS’ COMBINE.
The media tour offered participants an eye-opening opportunity to witness the link between farming and food, and a chance to meet the people who make it happen. •