IT’S ALWAYS INTERESTING for consumers and producers alike to learn how food is processed. For a farmer, it’s important to know what demand and uses there are for the crops they produce. There are a wide number of markets and uses for Ontario corn, soybeans, and wheat, and in February, 30 young agricultural leaders from across the province discovered what some of them are.
Grains in Action is Grain Farmers of Ontario’s agricultural leadership program for young farmers. Every year, farmers between the ages of 21 – 35 embark on a four-day trip to learn about the grain value chain and forge connections with other like-minded individuals.
“Grains in Action is an awesome experience to demonstrate the end use of our Ontario grains,” says Abbie Brander, a 2015 participant from Grain Farmers of Ontario District 11 (Dufferin, Simcoe, Halton, Peel, York). “It was a great experience networking with my generation of farmers and visiting where the grain on my farm is sold and processed.”
EXPLORING THE VALUE CHAIN
This year, Grains in Action participants enjoyed a redesigned tour with several new industry stops including Hiram Walker, Suncor, and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).
The tour began with an overview of Grain Farmers of Ontario followed by industry partner presentations by Agricorp, the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, the Ontario Agri-Business Association, and Synthesis Agri-Food Network. Participants learned about how each organization works with Grain Farmers of Ontario and what their role is within the wider grain industry. Presentations were followed by the popular whisky tasting with Spirits Canada, where participants could keep the conversation going and ask questions to the industry representatives.
The second day kicked off with presentations from Grain Farmers of Ontario staff on wheat marketing, research, and market development before boarding the bus for Suncor Energy and the Cargill grain terminal in Sarnia.
Participants toured the Suncor ethanol plant and then went on to Cargill, they were walked through the grain shipping process, learning what happens to the grain from the time it is dropped off at the facility to the time it is shipped, as well as what impact grain quality has on the process and the terminal’s ability to accept grain.
MAKING INDUSTRY CONTACTS
The program’s third day began in Windsor with a presentation by the Canadian Grain Commission regarding federal grain guidelines and procedures, followed by a tour of the ADM crush facility. Here, participants learned about the soybean crushing process and the wide range of markets available for the versatile crop.
The next stop was Hiram Walker & Sons Limited. The Windsor location is home to the largest distillery capacity in North America, producing 40 million litres of alcohol annually. It is the only “grain to glass” operation in the province. Following a tour of the fermenting and bottling facilities, participants learned about the history of whisky in Canada and the role they play in creating this world-renowned product. Dr. Don Livermore, master blender at Hiram Walker, highlighted the different flavours that can be created from using different grains and the link agriculture has to the whisky industry.
Participants also toured the Centre for Agricultural Renewable Energy and Sustainability (CARES) biogas facility at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus where Kim Vanoverloop, renewable energy technician, discussed and showed the biodiesel making process and the viability of biodigesters on a variety of farms as a good way to make use of waste products.
At P&H Milling in Cambridge, participants learned how flour is milled, what end use products their wheat is used for, and how consumer behaviour can impact what varieties of wheat the mill accepts.
The program concluded with a more detailed presentation from Agricorp, as well as additional information from Grain Farmers of Ontario staff about the functions of the government relations and communications departments. This enabled the young farmers to go home with a solid understanding of the grain value chain, in which they play a key role.
“Being involved in the tour of the different types of processors and grain handling facilities really brought into perspective why the quality of the grains we produce in the food and fuel chain are so important,” says Matt Beischlag, from District 6 (Haldimand, Brant, Hamilton, Niagara). “This program has excellent benefits as a starting step for anyone interested in getting involved with Grain Farmers of Ontario as a director, delegate, or an alternate in their district.”
Over the past five years, approximately 250 young farmers have participated in Grains in Action. The program has proven to be very successful in encouraging leadership and participation within the industry — to the benefit of Grain Farmers of Ontario, three participants have become directors and 43 have become delegates.
Anyone interested in participating in the 2016 Grains in Action program should contact Valerie Gilvesy at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (226) 979 5581. •