Editorial: Time for another Hay West?

Ontario farmers have many reasons to be thankful

Editorial: Time for another Hay West?

People look at me strangely sometimes when I make the case that Ontario is one of the best places in the world to farm.

There are always struggles in farming and when you deal with your package of farming challenges it feels tough.

Ontario has its issues — urban encroachment, expensive land and a unique group of insect, fungal and weed pains.

However, in the big picture, we have small variation in environmental conditions year to year compared to other places in the world. The moderating effect of the Great Lakes is like winning a lottery for people living in Ontario.

Farmer Shawn Schill recently posted on Twitter that we in Ontario really don’t have any experience with drought. He’s right. 

There are drier parts of the province. The Bruce Peninsula especially seems to miss moisture more than regions. Northern Ontario, closer to the Manitoba border, is feeling the edges of the severe drought on the Prairies. It’s been bad enough that the province and federal government recently announced measures to assist farmers.

But compared to what’s happening on the Prairies this year, southern Ontario has never seen a drought that causes crops to desiccate and die over millions of acres.

I talk regularly with my Glacier FarmMedia colleagues across the country and most of them are on the Prairies. They tell me there’s no end in sight to the clear, 30 C days. 

I feel guilty telling them about the creek through my farm running higher than normal for the start of August and the healthy crops found through most of the province. We’ve had too much rain in some parts of the province, especially in Lambton County and parts of Chatham-Kent.

There are heart-breaking stories of prairie farmers going to great lengths to find some sort of roughage for their cattle. Many acres of everything from soybeans to canola will be chopped or baled for feed this year. It’s likely we’ll see another reduction in the cow herd after some signs of increase in the West over the past few years.

Ontario farmers have opened their hearts and their wallets in the past to help get feed to the west. The Hay West campaign 19 years ago comes to mind when tonnes of hay were shipped to Western Canada from the east. It might be time for another Hay West. Forages are relatively abundant in Ontario this year.

Back to a bit of usual

Can you feel it? Things are starting to get back to normal as the pandemic wanes in Ontario, allowing people to return to some of the things that feed their passions, including those in the agriculture world.

Children are playing sports again. Organizations are holding in-person meetings.

The Ontario Summer Holstein show in Lindsay was recently held, with exhibitors able to get together, albeit with masks, and compete. It’s been a long time coming.

There are tractors pulls, which are exciting for aficionados of the sport. It can happen outside and safely.

Even governments have started to host press conferences in person. I was pretty tempted to drive all the way to Niagara for the first in-person federal funding announcement in more than a year.

Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show had to cancel its big in-person show. There wasn’t any way a government was going to allow 40,000 people onto one site over three days. However, the show has announced it will try some mini-shows for dairy and crops in late September that will provide a focused experience for producers in those sectors, with COVID protocols in place as required.

It will be great to see groups of farmers and industry suppliers in one place. I can’t wait.

Canada has so far missed the fourth wave of the pandemic now running through the United Kingdom. We must continue to raise vaccination rates. They are working. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 now almost exclusively involve people who haven’t been vaccinated.

About the author

Editor

John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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