Broadening experiences

GRAINS IN ACTION INDUSTRY PROGRAM

WHEN GRAINS IN Action, Grain Farmers of Ontario’s leadership program, was formed, it was geared towards young farmers who would be taking over their family’s farm, with the intent to educate these primary producers on what happens to the grain they grow once it leaves the farm gate.

Upon seeing the success and growing interest in the Grains in Action program, it was suggested that a similar program be created for people working in the agriculture industry to teach them more about the sector they were so heavily involved in, who had perhaps little to no on-farm experience. With this suggestion, the first Grains in Action Industry Program took place in 2013 with 11 participants. This past September, the second Grains in Action Industry Program was held with 14 participants from various agricultural businesses attending and learning about all facets of the grain industry.

“I am originally from a dairy farm, but I was looking to learn (and did learn) more about the various uses of Ontario grains as well as some of the opportunities and challenges faced by the industry,” says Christine Wenger, policy advisor at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). “I would recommend the program to others even if they already have some knowledge of agriculture, because of the opportunity to see the inside of the various plants and facilities that you generally only get to see from the outside. It gave a great opportunity to see firsthand the scale of operations, the complexities involved, as well as the innovation and automation that is part of the system.”

Representatives from OMAFRA, Agricorp, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canadian International Grains Institute, Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, Yantzi’s Feed & Seed, and the Westland Corporation took part in the program. Over the course of three days, they visited a variety of grain facilities including a grain farm, Bunge, IGPC Ethanol, Hiram Walker, Thompsons, and P & H Milling.

A COMPREHENSIVE TOUR
Barlow Farms near Hamilton was the grain farm toured by the group. It was the second time owner Jeff Barlow had opened his operation up for a Grains in Action industry tour. The tour highlighted the use of technology and the wide range of skills farmers need to ensure they run a successful business. Participants were able to ask questions about practices and challenges that farmers face on a daily basis in order to get a better understanding of the many hats farmers wear.

At Bunge, participants were given a tour of the soybean crush facility and learned about production procedures and final products. The following day, tours of IGPC Ethanol and Hiram Walker educated the group on two different uses for corn: ethanol and whisky. On the final day, the Canadian Grain Commission spoke to participants about exporting protocols. From there, the group visited Thompsons to learn about grain handling and seed, including testing grain. The final stop of the tour was a visit to P&H Milling where participants were able to see flour in different stages of production, from initial intake of the wheat seeds to the final packaging.

“I wanted to learn about the operations and details of various grain farm product businesses,” says Morgan Howey, senior underwriting consultant at Agricorp. “It was especially interesting following the different paths Ontario grains follow on their way to the finished product; we began at a farm and proceeded to visit handlers and processors. They were excellent in showing the different uses for barley, corn, oats, soybeans, and wheat. I would recommend this to crop underwriters, analysts, adjusters, and management — with or without farm experience.”

Grain Farmers of Ontario runs the Grains in Action program for young agricultural leaders annually in the winter, and runs the Industry Program alternate years. For more information on either program, or if you would like to participate, contact Grain Farmers of Ontario at 1-800-265-0550. •