Producer has good experience with hemp

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

John Ackland heard all the jokes when he decided to try his hand at growing hemp on his farmland.

“The first time I grew it around here, I had lots of guys coming into the shop and laughing, ‘So, you’re growing marijuana, are you?’” he chuckled.

“Now it’s becoming a more common crop around here, and the jokes are long gone,” he said. “People are starting to understand that it’s actually a cash crop. Now, my phone bounces off the wall with people asking how they go about getting contracts to grow hemp. So they realize there is potential out there.”

Commercial hemp production became legal in Canada in 1998, although growers must still be licensed by Health Canada. In 2005, roughly 24,000 acres were seeded to the crop across the country – over one-third of it in Saskatchewan, equally split between conventional and organic production.

The seed from the hemp plant contains an edible oil used for cosmetics and cooking, which has many positive health benefits. It is low in saturated fats, and contains a mixture of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as gamma linolenic acid, a nutraceutical compound.

The fibre from the hemp plant is also very durable, and can be used for making clothing, paper and building materials, although this market is not well-developed in North America.

Ackland says there are a lot of things farmers should learn about producing hemp before they decide to get into it. “You definitely do not grow hemp without a contract to sell it with a company,” he noted. “You can get hung out to dry on it. You can end up with that product for years until there’s a shortage in the industry and they put out an advertised call for it.”

Ackland stated that the buyers from the processing companies also serve as excellent sources of advice for hemp growers. “They just don’t turn you loose without any support. They continue to provide you with support along the way, because it is a different crop. It’s not like you’re growing a different variety of wheat. It’s a lot different than that,” he said.

Ackland says there are plenty of surprises and learning experiences for first-time hemp growers. The height of the plant is something that will astonish most producers. “It grows tremendously fast. It will grow a foot a week. I have plants out there that are six or seven feet tall,” he noted.

Patience is also an important virtue for hemp growers. “The window of opportunity for seeding it is between May 15 and June 15, and it is much wiser to seed the crop well into June,” Ackland stated. “Even though it is listed in terms of days to maturity, that isn’t how it matures. It’s a photosensitive plant, so if you seed it too early, you just end up with an awfully tall plant.”

There are no insecticides, herbicides or fungicides approved for use on the crop. “In the spring of the year, you could do a burn-off with Roundup before you seed it, but once you seed it, you’re done,” said Ackland.

“Hemp is a very high nitrogen user, however, and unless you’re going organic, you have to put a lot of nitrogen and phosphorous in the ground. Otherwise, you end up with a disaster of a crop.”

Ackland pointed out that hemp can be very temperamental to harvest, requiring some specialized equipment or modifications to standard implements. “The plant tends to wrap around the shafts of a combine, and it’s a very tough fibre. Every time you stop to dump a hopper, you get in the habit of jumping off and cutting hemp off the external shafts of the combine,” he noted.

“When you take it off, you have to take it off tough. It’s not a crop you can go out and combine 150 acres a day, because you couldn’t handle the seed coming off. You have to air it down, you have to dry it.”

Despite these challenges, Ackland says his foray into hemp has been well worth the effort, and he will definitely be continuing. Although it’s a fairly new industry with some growing pains, Ackland says the hemp market is expanding, attracting greater interest from farmers.

At current prices, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food projects that break-even yields for conventional and organic hemp production are 10 and five bushels per acre, respectively. Ackland estimates his crop yielded 20 bushels an acre this year. “It’s the only crop I know of that has a decent profit margin,” he said.

For more information, call:

John Ackland
Phone: (306) 734-2246

New brand for Saskatchewan-grown tomatoes

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Saskatchewan Greenhouse Growers Association (SGGA) has created a new brand to give consumers a better chance to “buy local.”

The association is now rolling out that brand in the form of tomato boxes bearing a logo and the phrase “Saskatchewan’s Own Greenhouse Tomatoes” in bright green printing. The boxes will be sold to SGGA members and other growers, who will use them when marketing their greenhouse tomatoes.

SGGA President Rick Van Duyvendyk says the branded tomato boxes make it easier to identify product grown right here in the province.

“The brand, Saskatchewan’s Own Greenhouse Tomatoes, is something that will show the consumer that the product is grown right here in the province and that the growers are proud to be growing here,” said Van Duyvendyk. “It will give the consumer the option to choose to buy something grown in Saskatchewan.”

At this point, the size of the boxes is more suited for wholesale and retail display than individual purchase, but Van Duyvendyk says getting retailers to recognize the brand is a good start.

“It helps to grow the market. We grow a good product here, so when a produce manager or retailer sees it in a branded box, then they know to go after that product again because that’s what customers like. That’s what they have to keep putting back on the shelf,” he noted.

Van Duyvendyk says there is a further opportunity to expand the branded boxes to include other Saskatchewan greenhouse-grown products like cucumbers, peppers and lettuce, as well as to create smaller, consumer-sized boxes.

“Branding is huge, and it is the way you can make yourself stick out from the rest of the crowd,” explained Van Duyvendyk.

The cost of printing and the large size of the print run required have prevented growers from creating a branded box of their own in the past. However, Van Duyvendyk says that is one of the benefits of being a part of an association like the SGGA.

“When we come together, we can do things that we couldn’t do on our own because of the cost of the set up. Now you are making a large quantity, so you can afford to make a larger run because you can split the cost among a number of growers,” he said.

The greenhouse industry has no shortage of room for growth in Saskatchewan. Right now, less than one per cent of the tomatoes consumed in the province are grown here. Most are imported from Alberta, B.C. and Ontario.

Van Duyvendyk says greenhouses are an opportunity for producers to diversify into a high-value, low-acreage crop.

“For rural Saskatchewan, the bottom line is it’s a way to fuel the farm gate. A lot of these greenhouses are not in the city, they are out in the countryside. Wherever we can create more jobs and create more traffic at the farm gate, it’s a bonus for the province,” said Van Duyvendyk.

The tomato boxes, which hold 25 pounds of tomatoes, are 22 inches long by 18 inches wide and are available on a first-come, first-served basis to growers.

For more information, contact:

Rick Van Duyvendyk, President
Saskatchewan Greenhouse Growers Association
Phone: (306) 249-1222

Soil nutrient researcher at home in the lab and the field

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It’s been said that those who can’t do, teach, but Dr. Jeff Schoenau defies conventional wisdom.

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, he earned his undergraduate degree and Ph.D. in soil fertility at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture, but the classroom, the laboratory and the library never took him very far away from the land.

Today, Dr. Schoenau is the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Strategic Research Chair in Soil Nutrient Management, as well as a working farmer.

“The practical, hands-on experience helps me a lot in my research,” says Dr. Schoenau. Between research and teaching at the University of Saskatchewan, he also manages to farm about 1,600 acres near Central Butte. His production includes wheat, canola, barley and pulse crops. “I have a number of research trials right out there,” Schoenau said.

Dr. Schoenau’s research is part of the $16.5 million Strategic Research Program, funded by SAF to engage leading scholars in agricultural research and development specific to Saskatchewan producers’ needs. He leads research projects aimed at providing innovative solutions to soil nutrient problems, with the objectives of improving crop profitability and maintaining soil quality.

“Really, it’s looking at ways to maximize nutrient recovery and minimize losses to maintain and improve the quality of the soil resource. Nutrients cost dollars, and become a potential issue in the environment when they escape,” says Schoenau.

Dr. Schoenau’s research team includes a full-time assistant, plus contributions from numerous graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan. They are currently working on subjects as varied as fertilizer distribution rate and placement, the use of organics such as alfalfa pellets for soil nutrition, liquid and solid manure qualities and the rejuvenation of forage stands with fertilizer.

The results of the projects are presented to various scientific journals, but more importantly to Dr. Schoenau, he is able to share the new ideas at producer and industry conventions.

He attends numerous such forums, including soil and crop workshops, direct-seeding meetings and Agriculture Canada field days. “I consider that a very important part of what I do. I do a lot of outreach activities,” says Schoenau.

Dr. Schoenau sees producers improving soil nutrient management more and more each year with techniques such as zero-till and crop rotation. “We have, over the past 15 years, done a great job of improving the quality of our soil,” he says.

It gives him great optimism to be teaching the new practices to the students who will go on to become leaders in agriculture and government.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, Jeff Schoenau translates academic research into action. “When someone asks me a question about some practice or process I have been looking at, I guess I can always answer with what I would do on my own farm.”

For more information, contact:

Dr. Jeff Schoenau, SAF Strategic Research Chair, Soil Nutrient Management
College of Agriculture, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-6844

Important tips for proper pulse crop salvage

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Pulse crops are growing in popularity among Saskatchewan producers. That paid off in spades this year, with some very high-quality crops. Processors report that over 90 per cent of lentils, peas and chickpeas in the province should be in the top two grades.

However, according to Ray McVicar, Provincial Special Crops Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), farmers need to follow proper storage techniques now that their pulse crops are in the bin, or they could be in for some unpleasant surprises.

“Pulse crops advanced rapidly throughout most of the Prairies in 2006,” McVicar noted. Because pulses (other than beans and soybeans) are often planted first, this year’s early spring conditions in areas other than north-eastern Saskatchewan saw early-seeded crops take advantage of warm soils and good rainfall in June.

Many pea and lentil crops matured quickly in the heat of July, and some were ready to be harvested in early August. In fact, drought conditions in south-western Saskatchewan resulted in a very early harvest in that region. According to McVicar, a lot of pulse crops were put into storage at high temperature, which makes them more prone to bleaching and oxidization.

“Monitoring stored grain during and after harvest is an important part of a grower’s day-to-day activities,” McVicar said. “The safe storage of pulse crops is important every year, and the key to avoiding mould and other storage problems is the use of aeration to cool and dry the seed.”

McVicar stated that testing with a moisture meter is something that farmers should carry out several times after the crop is binned. “Now that we’ve had some wet weather, producers should monitor their stored crops immediately to prevent any losses due to spoilage,” he said. “The risk of spoilage becomes greater if the crop was harvested following the wet weather. This risk is greatly reduced if foreign material is removed.”

Because of their large size, stored chickpeas and peas need time for the moisture to equalize throughout the seed. Chickpeas harvested at high temperatures will most likely sweat in the bin. This occurs as the moisture migrates within the bin.

For prolonged safe storage, pulse crops should be cooled to less than 15 degrees Celsius and dried to less than 14 per cent moisture. Seed that is cooled to 10 degrees Celsius will store well for long periods.

The Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Pulse Production Manual, found online at, contains a table outlining the number of weeks for safe storage of peas at specified moisture content and temperature. For example, peas stored at 14 per cent moisture and 10 degrees Celsius can be safely stored for about 95 weeks. Peas stored at 18 per cent moisture and 20 degrees Celsius have a safe storage limit of only seven weeks. Other pulse crops will be similar.

Different moisture content levels must be taken into consideration for red lentils. Red lentils are considered to be dry at 13 per cent moisture content. Red lentil buyers around the world prefer the crop to be at 13 per cent moisture content or lower, and growers should work to achieve that level. This year’s hot, dry summer allowed most lentils to be harvested dry.

Pulse crops at 12 per cent moisture or lower are more prone to chipping and peeling during handling, especially when the temperature has dropped below minus 20 degrees Celsius.

McVicar noted that a bin equipped with an aeration fan can provide both cooling and drying. But while cooling may be completed in one day, drying can take three to four weeks. To dry the crop, the aeration fan must have adequate power to provide air flow through the grain. “The recommended requirement for aeration drying of a pulse crop is about one to two cubic feet of air per minute per bushel, or about 2,000 to 4,000 cubic feet per minute for a 2,000-bushel bin,” said McVicar.

He added that crops that weren’t taken off before the rains may require supplemental heat-drying. “With pulses, air temperatures should not exceed 45 degrees Celsius to preserve germination, and the sample should not be dried more than four to five percentage points per pass through the drier,” McVicar stated. “The product should be allowed to temper in an aeration bin between passes.”

However, McVicar reminds producers that the augers within a grain dryer can increase seed coat peeling and cracking. He suggested that growers who use long-term storage to help their pulse marketing plan can also make good use of a belt conveyor. “Pulse crops often need to be given a rotation in the bin to prevent spoilage, and a conveyor can accomplish this with very little seed damage,” he pointed out. “Growers in the need of a new auger might want to investigate moving to a belt system.”

For more information on storing pulses, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

For more information, contact:

Ray McVicar, Provincial Special Crops Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4665

New format for Pork Symposium promises to deliver

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The twenty-ninth annual Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium is “Celebrating a World of Information” on November 14-15 in Saskatoon. This year’s theme is “Through the Crossroads of Competition,” and symposium co-ordinator Patty Martin says she wants attendees to know a brand new format has been introduced.

“We’re holding it over two days, but we’ve put in more information,” said Martin. “The first day, which was traditionally aimed at stock people, will still speak to them, but it also has some broader information for everyone.”

Featured speakers include the Honourable Mark Wartman, Minister of Agriculture and Food, and Michael H. McCain, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods. Martin says the symposium office has been taking a lot of calls about McCain’s appearance.

“He’s probably going to be the most popular speaker this year,” said Martin. “I know a lot of people will want to come and hear him, and he intends on being here.”

Other sessions include speakers addressing jobs in the pork industry, and the morning of day one is divided into several break-out sessions on topics such as breeding, farrowing or growing and finishing.

The afternoon of day one also features a “hot topics” panel discussion, moderated by Kevin Hursh of Hursh Consulting and Communications. Panel guests include Florian Possberg of Big Sky Farms, Ray Price with Sunterra Group, and Shannon Meyers of Fast Genetics. Day two features a bigger picture look at the state of the industry, with topics such as foreign trade and production costs.

Because of the switch to a two-day symposium, the banquet now happens on the evening of the first day, Tuesday, November 14. Minister Wartman is the keynote speaker for this year’s banquet.

Martin says that a wide variety of people who deal with the pork industry in some way can benefit from attending the symposium.

“Producers, hog barn owners and managers, industry suppliers, government representatives – all are more than welcome, and they will all get something from the science and new research that’s being presented,” Martin noted.

The registration deadline for the symposium is November 6. Registration forms can be downloaded from the event listing at Early registration and booking of accommodations is encouraged.

The cost to register for the full two-day conference is $135 per person. One-day registration is also available for $70 per person, and those attending on the first day receive a banquet ticket along with their registration.

The symposium is a joint presentation of the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board and the Livestock Development Branch of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

For more information, contact:

Patty Martin, Co-ordinator
Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium
Phone: (306) 249-3512
Website: (under the “Happenings” heading)

Business picking up for feed grain and forage listing service

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A free “online bulletin board” maintained on the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) website can be a big help to provincial cattle producers who find themselves facing a shortage or an excess of feed heading into the winter.

“It’s a forum for farmers to advertise the sale of products and services,” explained Andre Bonneau, a Forage Conversion Specialist with SAF.

The Feed Grain and Forage Listing Service connects farmers looking to buy and sell forage and feed resources throughout Saskatchewan, as well as neighbouring provinces and states like Alberta, Manitoba, Montana and North Dakota – all at no charge to users.

The tool also provides postings for popular custom farm services such as grazing and feeding, cutting and baling, seeding, spraying, trucking, combining, grain drying and manure hauling.

The listing contains interactive maps that enable users to see, by rural municipality, where there are postings for available baled forage, standing forage, feed grain and various custom services. A complete listing for the entire province is also accessible.

Another valuable tool on the listing service is a summary of the baled forage and feed grain prices that sellers have posted on the site. “It’s a weighted average of the asking price for all the forage and feed listed, so it gives you a fairly good idea of what the range of prices are, and what the average prices are,” said Bonneau.

The Feed Grain and Forage Listing Service has proven to be one of SAF’s most popular and long-serving programs. According to Bonneau, “There's been a manual version, a hard copy, since the early 1980s, at least. The electronic version started up in the mid-90s. It became an electronic, self-service bulletin board about the time the Internet started getting popular.”

There are currently around 200 postings for available feed products and custom services listed on the site. “Usage is generally highest this time of year, both looking and selling,” Bonneau noted.

“We get probably anywhere from 15 to 20 calls a week with submissions for advertising. Because it is mainly forage and feed that are listed, it gets busier around this time of year. It slows down in the summer, when it is mainly things like custom work and standing forage that are offered for sale.”

To advertise a product or service, or to browse the available listings, Internet users can visit the SAF website at and click on the “Feed Grain and Forage Listing” link.

Farmers who do not have Internet access can call SAF’s Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 to have items posted for sale on their behalf or to have a copy of the listing sent to them. “Some RMs will also download the listing right off the Internet and post it in the RM office,” Bonneau noted, “so that might be another option for producers.”

For more information, contact:

Andre Bonneau, Forage Conversion Specialist
Agriculture Knowledge Centre
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 694-3721

Seminar offers help for those who are "sleepless in Saskatchewan"

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If you’re a farmer who’s spent a night or two looking out at the sheep instead of counting them, you know how important a good rest can be. An upcoming seminar in Regina, co-hosted by the Farm Stress Line, will take a closer look at sleep science – and how to make our snoozing have a positive impact on our waking hours.

“Sleepless in Saskatchewan” is a one-day forum that looks at the dynamics of sleep and how everyone can make sleep work more effectively for them.

Co-organizer Ken Imhoff with the Farm Stress Line of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) said the seminar can appeal to anyone. “Service providers, people experiencing difficulties with sleep, people who work with others in situations where sleep can be impacted – they would all benefit from the day,” he noted.

The agenda covers a wide range of sleep topics, including 21st century life and how it affects our body clocks; high stress and its impact on behaviour; career commitment and its relationship to stress; our daily routines and how they can affect sleep; the science of sleep; and extended work hours and their effects on our physical and psychological well-being.

The workshop presenter is Jon Shearer, who has been involved with sleep research since 1977. Shearer was a founding member of the Carlton University Laboratory for Sleep and Chronopsychology, and has since conducted studies and field work with the Atlantic Police Academy and the Canadian Subarctic Project. He is currently a professor of psychology, philosophy and cross-cultural relations at Algonquin College in Ottawa.

Imhoff has heard Shearer speak before, and says his easy, approachable presentation style makes the experience fly by.

“One thing about this presentation is you’ll never fall asleep during it,” said Imhoff. “It’s very energized and positive. Jon takes complex topics and makes them entertaining and easy to understand.”

One such topic is the “Science of Sleep” presentation, in which participants will learn about various methods science has shown to increase positive sleep – the kind of rest that truly does a body good. The topic also includes a discussion about how your diet can affect your sleep, beyond the obvious answers like cutting down on the coffee.

“Sleepless in Saskatchewan” is co-hosted by the Farm Stress Line of SAF and the Institute of Agricultural Rural Environmental Health based at the University of Saskatchewan. The seminar takes place from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., and the program starts at 8:45 a.m.

The cost for attending is $140 per person, which includes a continental breakfast at registration and lunch during the seminar. The event takes place at the South Albert Street Travelodge Hotel in Regina. Special room rates are available for those attending from out of town.

Anyone interested in registering for the seminar or learning more about the event can contact Ken Imhoff by phone at (306) 787-5196 or e-mail at

For more information, contact:

Ken Imhoff, Manager, Farm Stress Line
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-5196
Toll-free: 1-866-680-0006

New "STEP" for agricultural Exporters


Saskatchewan’s agricultural exporters will soon have new tools and services to help them reach the world with their products.

The Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) is restructuring to better serve existing members and attract new ones. Those changes include moving to a sector-based approach rather than a geographic approach.

The three sectors being focused on are manufacturing, technology and services, and agri-value.

The agri-value sector includes animal feeds and veterinary products, seeds, specialty crops, organic products, livestock and animal products, processed food and beverages, nutraceuticals and functional foods, and bio-fuels and bio-refining.

Approximately 50 per cent of STEP members are in the agricultural sector.

STEP President and CEO Dale Botting says the move is about strengthening existing tools and expanding the slate of services that STEP provides to its more than 254 exporting members and 122 companies who service exporters.

“The big change here is our focus on sectors, rather than basing our work on geographic locations. That means more streamlined service for our members,” said Botting.

“Another important component of this restructuring is the creation of the Export Services Division. The new division expands what we do for our members, well beyond trade development. It will co-ordinate all of our international finance and logistics counselling services, as well as expand existing programs and develop new programs and services,” said Botting.

The restructuring follows consultation with the STEP membership, staff and management. Botting says the changes are a direct response to that feedback.

“It’s important for STEP to respond to our members’ needs, as well as to attract new members. This restructuring gives us the tools to do just that. We feel we have done a good job in the past – now it’s time to be great,” said Botting.

The restructuring includes a more proactive approach to member contact and networking. One aspect of this new approach is now underway, as STEP begins a series of regional meetings.

STEP is a non-profit, membership-driven, government/industry partnership designed to promote the growth of Saskatchewan’s export industry. STEP helps provincial businesses realize global marketing opportunities through specially tailored services and programs. STEP pursues growth in existing foreign markets and opens doors to new ones. Members include both businesses that are experienced, and those that are new to international trade.

For more information, contact:
Dale Botting, President and CEO
Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership
Phone: (306) 221-1785

Growing interest in greenhouse and vegetable sectors

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Hundreds of producers will converge on TCU Place in Saskatoon on November 10-12 for the 2006 Saskatchewan Greenhouse and Vegetable Growers Conference.

The conference is a joint project of the Saskatchewan Greenhouse Growers Association and the Saskatchewan Vegetable Growers Association.

Glen Sweetman, Greenhouse and Nursery Crops Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), says the focus in on education for people in the industry and those who may want to get into the business.

“We’re bringing the world to our growers,” said Sweetman. “We have a world-class line-up of speakers, all of whom are leaders in their respective fields.”

The 19 speakers include the likes of Pam Wasson, the Vice President of Marketing for North America’s largest nursery; Ian Baldwin, a garden consultant renowned across North America; and Dr. Alan Hammer, a former Perdue University professor.

Discussion will include topics such as value chains and unusual or rare insects that endanger greenhouse vegetables. However, the focus is not just on production. There are a number of sessions on the sales and advertising aspects of the business.

The conference begins with workshops on the evening of November 10, and concludes on November 12. It is expected to draw well over 250 participants.

“The conference has a really high industry attendance,” said Sweetman. “One of the reasons is because the conference is a terrific value for its cost. The registration not only includes the speakers, but a trade show, two luncheons and a banquet. Most other shows of this nature only include the speakers for the same price.”

Joan Merrill, a vegetable producer with Robertson Valley Farms near Saskatoon, says the chance to network with other producers is extremely valuable.

“When you are a vegetable grower in Saskatchewan, there are not a lot of precedents to look to or rely on. So clearly, this is an opportunity to talk to people about what kinds of things they are inventing, as well as growing techniques,” said Merrill.

Sweetman says there are a lot of prospects for expansion for greenhouse operators and vegetable growers in this province.

“The industry represents a good opportunity for direct marketing in a rural situation as well as in the cities,” he noted. “For greenhouses, there are still growth opportunities in a number of areas of Saskatchewan. We have areas of specialization, such as vegetable and herb production, where the potential is not even close to being tapped yet. They are all growing. They are all developing. They are all maturing. It’s all in motion.”

Merrill agrees.

“Interest in farm diversification is growing. Direct-selling and vegetable marketing are just two of those diversification opportunities that more farmers could pick up on,” she said.

More information about the conference and details about registration can be found on the SAF website at

For more information, contact:

Glen Sweetman, Greenhouse and Nursery Crops Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-6606

Calvin Massier
Conference Co-ordinator
Phone: (306) 789-1438

Converting crop land to pasture takes planning

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

An increasing number of Saskatchewan farmers are looking at converting their crop land to pasture or forage, with crops such as alfalfa, timothy, brome and various grasses generating a lot of interest.

But according to Andre Bonneau, a Forage Conversion Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), there’s one key ingredient that producers can’t overlook in their efforts. “It’s planning,” he said.

“Generally, we tell people that, if they have the time and want to put in a perennial forage crop, they should prepare at least a year in advance, maybe even two years depending on where they are. That’s mainly to deal with perennial weeds.”

Bonneau added that it may be possible to prepare for the conversion over a shorter timeframe, but the primary factor is weed control. “Depending on the weeds, where you are and what your production practices are, you want to make sure your perennial weeds are taken care of at least by the fall before seeding,” he said. “So, if you’re planning on seeding forages next spring, it should be a priority that your perennial weeds, both your grasses and your broadleaf weeds, are taken care of before freeze-up.”

The emphasis on removing unwanted vegetation in advance is because it becomes increasingly difficult to dispose of it once the forage cover is introduced. “Often there’s a problem with a perennial weed growing in an alfalfa, grass or mixed crop. Perennial weeds are very tough to take out of a perennial forage stand. For example, dandelions are almost impossible to remove from an alfalfa stand,” Bonneau noted.

Bonneau suggested there may be a number of reasons for the growing popularity of converting crop land to pasture or forage, including the reduced input costs that go along with a perennial rather than an annual crop.

“It’s also been shown more and more that perennial forages have a really nice place in a crop rotation, for fertility and weed control. For example, alfalfa fixes a lot of nitrogen in the soil during its lifetime, so when you go into an annual crop after the alfalfa, it will be taking up a lot of that nitrogen,” he added.

“But I think, for the most part, it’s just a general shift in many areas of the province towards more livestock-based production and away from an annual cropping system. There seems to be more attention paid to livestock production right now, and either they’re producing forage for themselves or they’re producing it for their neighbours,” said Bonneau.

There is some assistance available to farmers interested in making a switch to forage. The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) has renewed its Greencover Canada program for one more year, through 2007. The program offers financial assistance for producers wishing to seed environmentally sensitive land to a perennial crop cover. Applications forms can be obtained from the PFRA website (which is presently being updated) or by calling 1-866-844-5620. The application deadline is January 31, 2007, for seeding this coming spring.

Bonneau stated there may also be more indirect help available through the federal-provincial Agricultural Policy Framework (APF). “Once a person goes through the Environmental Farm Plan, they have access to the Farm Stewardship Program through the APF. Basically, it’s money available to help correct any environmental problems the Environmental Farm Plan may have identified,” he explained.

“So if the problem is a riparian area where you need a perennial forage or a perennial species to help control erosion, or if it’s very poor land where wind erosion may be an issue, there may be money available to do that.”

More information about the process of converting crop land to pasture or forage can be found on the SAF website at, or by calling the SAF Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

According to Bonneau, “It’s been a popular subject for people calling into the centre, with questions ranging from species selection and fertility, all the way up to the economics and trying to plan a good sales strategy for forage crops. So it ranges quite a bit, and we can try to help producers with all those kinds of issues.”

For more information, contact:

Andre Bonneau, Forage Conversion Specialist
Agriculture Knowledge Centre
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 694-3721

Vegetable growers record "best ever" pumpkin crop

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

You might notice extra-big smiles on the faces of jack o'lanterns around Saskatchewan this Halloween.

That’s because vegetable growers in the province report harvesting the best crop of pumpkins many have ever seen.

The 2006 growing season will go down as a banner year for Saskatchewan pumpkin growers. Joan Merrill from Robertson Valley Farms, south of Saskatoon, is just one of the growers with more than a peck of pumpkins in the patch.

“I’d say it surpasses any crop we’ve had in the past 20 years,” said Merrill.

Robertson Valley Farms, a mid-sized pumpkin producer, is growing pumpkins on about five acres of land. The pumpkins are marketed directly to consumers. Merrill doesn't weigh the crop, but she says the size of the pumpkin pile tells the story about this year’s harvest. It is huge.

However, she says it is not just the quantity that is good, but also the quality of the crop.

“This year what we have is really good sizing on our pumpkins, plus they turned orange well in advance of harvest. They are in very good condition with hard orange shells, which makes the storability very good for us. So it is excellent quality in addition to quantity and size,” said Merrill.

Storability is important for pumpkins, especially for those that are destined to adorn doorsteps on Halloween. Merrill says many people buy their jack o'lanterns early in the season, then store them in the basement until a day or two before Halloween. A hard shell means the pumpkin can be transported safely and last until their big night on October 31. In past seasons, rain in late summer has resulted in disease that caused the shells to break down. But not this year.

According to Merrill, quality plus quantity adds up to a better bottom line for the pumpkin grower.

“It makes for a good pricing on our pumpkins,” she noted. “We direct-sell to the public and we go by size, so the larger the pumpkin, the more it costs.”

Merrill says there were a number of factors that contributed to the good growing year.

“We had a number of things. We had a mild spring. We had a lot of rain in June, so we had excellent germination. Then it turned very hot in July, so there are a lot of heat units,” she stated.

“Pumpkins require a lot of heat, so those heat units in July and into August really helped contribute to a tremendous crop this year.”

There is, however, one downside to a bumper crop in the pumpkin patch at Robertson Valley Farms – some heavy lifting. Merrill says their operation does not use equipment to harvest. Each and every pumpkin is picked by hand and moved to a pile before being loaded onto to a trailer, and then unloaded onto a larger pile indoors.

That’s a lot of pumpkin piling – but Merrill says when the crop is as good as it is this year, they don’t mind.

For more information, contact:

Joan Merrill
Robertson Valley Farms
Phone: (306) 382-9544

New Markets Emerge for Saskatoon Berry

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan’s budding saskatoon berry industry took another step up the ladder this year with the delivery of fresh berries to the European market.

Sandy Purdy, founder of Prairie Berries near the central Saskatchewan community of Keeler, has pioneered new developments in Saskatchewan’s fruit industry for years. But 2006 will be remembered for the unprecedented step of packaging and shipping fresh berries to Germany.

“We had a contract to deliver fresh berries into Germany for six weeks,” Purdy stated. Her company packaged and shipped Saskatchewan-grown berries onto airplanes twice per week. Although some growing pains limited this year’s experiment to four weeks instead of six, she said the door is now open to a new market, as the German broker has indicated he wants to import saskatoon berries again next year.

Despite being the first year that any significant volumes of saskatoons have been shipped to Germany, Purdy says the market has already become somewhat diversified. For example, saskatoon tea proved to be a popular item with German consumers this year.

Although the introduction of Saskatchewan-grown fruit to Germany is a memorable event, the 2006 berry crop was certainly not a record breaker. At best, Purdy says this was an average year for berry production. For producers in some parts of the province, the wet spring – particularly in early June – resulted in some minor fungus outbreaks which reduced overall volumes.

“I wouldn’t say it was a great year, but it was a good year,” she noted.

Production volumes aside, however, the industry continues to grow, with new producers and expanded orchard acreages coming on stream. Purdy’s Prairie Berries operation, for example, enhanced its internal handling capacity and added a colour sorter, which made it possible for her processing plant to handle three times the volume it traditionally accepted.

By expanding the infrastructure within the industry and adding new markets, Purdy believes the industry is poised to continue on its rapid growth track.

“This is the start of where we need to go,” she said of the industry’s expansion across the Atlantic.

For more information, contact:

Sandy Purdy
Prairie Berries
Phone: (306) 788-2018

U of S professor pioneering agricultural research

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Having seen many parts of the world in his academic life, Dr. Peiqiang Yu chose the University of Saskatchewan as the place to build his distinguished career in animal feed research and development.

Today, the professor in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science is a highly respected researcher, with over 100 scientific publications to his name and dozens of speaking engagements at national and international conferences.

“I first came here in 2000 doing my federal NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Council) postdoctoral fellowship in the field of animal metabolism and physiology,” said Dr. Yu.

He quickly built a reputation for his work, and not long after was named the Chair for Feed Research and Development under the Strategic Research Program (SRP) administered by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF).

The SRP is a five-year, $16.5 million program that funds 17 research chairs in areas of strategic importance to the province. The goal of the program is to engage bright minds in agricultural research and development in Saskatchewan, adding value to the province’s farm and food industry, improving its competitive position and furthering commercialization opportunities.

Given the importance of the livestock sector to Saskatchewan’s overall agricultural economy, Dr. Yu’s kind of expertise was a perfect match.

He now leads a research team of seven, studying areas such as feed science, processing and chemistry, ruminant nutrition and nutritional biochemistry. “My research includes two types of research – basic research and applied research,” he said.

Basic research is part of Dr. Yu’s mandate as an academic, building the body of knowledge in his field of study. For this part of his work, an invaluable tool at his disposal at the University of Saskatchewan is the Canadian Light Source synchrotron.

“We use the synchrotron for feed nutrition research,” he stated. “We can use it to check things like protein change or structural change at the molecular level. Without the synchrotron, we can’t do this kind of work.”

The device has enabled Dr. Yu and his group to pioneer research in the field of animal feed and nutrition. “We are the only group in Canada to do this work, so it is quite unique. Each time I do a project, I try to find literature from other people who have done similar studies. For many of the types of work I’m doing, I can’t find papers. When I get a result, I want to compare it with other people, but there are no published results out there.”

Applied research includes the scientific work that is often requested and funded by the agricultural industry or producer groups. “We now have six feed companies that have asked us to help them develop new products or assist them to evaluate the products they have previously developed. These products are then marketed provincially, nationally and internationally. So we help them to investigate and capitalize upon commercialization opportunities,” said Dr. Yu.

He offered an example of how his research as an SAF Chair can benefit the average Saskatchewan producer. “We do research to increase the protein availability in feed. Protein digests very fast in ruminants. When we use a certain treatment in the feed, we can reduce the protein degradation in ruminants. So we can do calculations on how various treatments change our results, and we can formulate the ruminants’ diet accordingly,” he said.

“The result is that we can produce a higher grade of feed, meaning less feed will be required for the same nutritional value, and the producer’s feed costs will be reduced.”

Dr. Yu’s work is a prime example of how industry, government and universities can partner together to advance the entire agricultural sector.

“The government builds a position, then research funding comes from the industry, comes from the provincial funding agency, comes from the federal funding agency,” said Dr. Yu. “Without the SAF chair position, I can’t do this kind of job. So I think it’s a very important and very useful investment for the whole province.”

For more information, contact:

Dr. Peiqiang Yu, Research Professor and SAF Chair for Feed Research and Development
College of Agriculture, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-4132

Interprovincial deal on agricultural trade good news for producers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A new agreement to improve the trade of agricultural goods among six provinces and territories will be good news for Saskatchewan producers, processors and manufacturers.

Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon all signed on to the pact to liberalize interprovincial agricultural trade.

Although national consensus couldn’t be reached among all provinces and territories, the six jurisdictions that formally agreed have shown some leadership in the process that may pave the way for future expansion of the deal to involve other provinces, notably larger jurisdictions like Ontario and Quebec.

Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Wartman signed the agreement on behalf of Saskatchewan. “It is important that, as we continue to work towards harmonization and improved trading relationships internationally, we do what we can to remove barriers in our own market,” he said.

The pact stems from the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) that aims to remove obstacles to interprovincial trade, promote non-discrimination on goods that travel across provincial boundaries and enhance the right of entry and exit of goods between jurisdictions in Canada.

In 2005, a federal/provincial/territorial committee on agricultural trade policy established a working group to review the Agricultural Chapter of the AIT. A report presented by that group to Canada’s Agriculture Ministers in March 2006 led to the agreement in place today.

“When we were unable to reach a full national consensus on the recommendations of the working group in March, we felt it better to move ahead with an interim agreement,” Wartman said.

“We will formalize our domestic relationships through the (AIT) over the long term, but in the short term, this agreement allows us to begin that process without needing the full agreement of every province and territory in Confederation,” he added.

“The six supporting provinces and territories will now apply the spirit of the AIT to our agriculture and food goods as we continue to work toward a formal, national agreement on interprovincial trade in agriculture.”

For more information, contact:

Scott Brown, Director, Communications Branch
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4031

Proposed organic product regulation open to public comment

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is calling for comments from interested parties on proposed regulations to govern the use of a federal organic logo and accreditation/certification requirements for organic agricultural products.

According to the CFIA, the purpose of the regulations is to establish a system by which the agency can regulate the use of the “Canada Organic” agricultural product label. The proposed regulations were developed after a process of consultation with stakeholders between 2004 and 2005.

The new regulatory framework would use standards as developed by the Canadian General Standards Board called “Organic Production Systems General Principles and Management Standards.” The intent is to create a single Canadian standard for organic products, which would be offered for international recognition in an effort to ensure continued access to export markets, and to provide consistent labeling for the protection of consumers.

Under the new program, existing certification and accreditation bodies would have the opportunity to continue to deliver services by meeting the CFIA’s prescribed criteria. In effect, the food inspection agency will accredit the accreditation agencies, which will accredit the certifiers, who, in turn, will ensure that the national standard has been followed.

The proposed new regulations have now been published in the Canada Gazette, which began a 75-day period for comment. That period ends November 16, 2006.

Detailed information, including the actual language of the regulations and a “Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement,” are available online through the CFIA website at (under “Recent Amendments”), or on the Canada Gazette website at

According to the latest statistics available from the Canadian Organic Growers, there are 1,245 certified organic producers in Saskatchewan (representing around 34 per cent of total organic producers in Canada) farming an estimated 720,000 acres of land. There are some 99 certified organic processors and 13 certified handlers and traders of organic products in the province, as well.

Blaine Recksiedler is the Cereal and Organic Crop Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. He noted that, in terms of the development of regulations for their product, “the organic sector has always felt it is important for their members to be part of the process. Participating in the comment period is an opportunity to continue in that role.”

He noted that all comments on the proposed organic products regulations must be submitted in writing to:

Dr. Bashir Manji
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
59 Camelot Drive
Ottawa, ON
K1Y 0Y9
tel: 613-221-7154
fax: 613-221-7294

Comments must be received by November 16, 2006.

Recksiedler stressed that, although the new regulations are a federal—not provincial—government process, he would welcome calls from industry stakeholders wishing to discuss the national program.

For more information, contact:

Media Relations
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Phone: (613) 228-6682

Blaine Recksiedler, Cereal and Organic Crop Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4664

New biofuels program to help farmers take ownership

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Producer groups in Saskatchewan have the opportunity to diversify Saskatchewan’s economy while contributing to Canada’s supply of renewable fuel alternatives by applying for funding through the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI).

BOPI will be administered in Saskatchewan by the Saskatchewan Council for Community Development (SCCD) Inc. Saskatchewan’s share of the program will be $591,180, of which a group can apply for as much as $300,000 per project.

“The BOPI program will allow producers the opportunity to be closely involved in the production of biofuels, giving them more ownership of the process and increasing their share of the benefits from renewable fuels production beyond delivering feedstock,” said SCCD Biofuels Advisory Group Chair Murray Purcell.

The Government of Canada is committed to requiring, nationally, an average of five per cent renewable fuel content in transport fuel by 2010. Environment Canada is leading the development of the overall strategy to implement the goal, with support from Natural Resources Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

AAFC wants to ensure that the five-per-cent target is implemented in ways that result in the greatest possible benefit to the agriculture sector, including significant ownership of biofuels production facilities by agricultural producers.

In order to provide as much benefit as possible, the objective of the initiative is to help agricultural producers in the development of sound, well-documented business plans for projects that have significant producer ownership (greater than one-third), as well as aiding to undertake feasibility or other studies to support the creation and expansion of the biofuel production capacity.

Application forms for the BOPI program are available through the SCCD website at The application deadline is Friday, October 13, 2006, with the SCCD Board of Directors to adjudicate project applications on November 22, 2006. Projects are not eligible if started before November 22, 2006.

The Biofuels Advisory Group of SCCD will include the following members:

* Murray Purcell, Board of Directors, SCCD (Chair of Biofuels Advisory Group)
* Dr. Ashley O’Sullivan, Board of Directors, SCCD
* Dr. W.M. (Mike) Ingledew, Department of Applied Microbiology and Food Science, University of Saskatchewan
* Grant McVicar, Director of the Office of Energy Conservation, Saskatchewan Research Council
* Mark Stumborg, Section Head, Applied Science and Technology Transfer, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
* Judie Dyck, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association
* Dwayne Moore (Producer Representative), Rosetown

The BOPI program is administered under the existing terms and conditions of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) Program.

For further information, contact:

Dallas Carpenter, Communications Officer
Saskatchewan Council for Community Development
Phone: (306) 975-6856

New test centre a boost for biofuels industry

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A new test centre established by the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) will benefit biofuel producers in the province and throughout North America.

The SRC’s Biofuels Test Centre was officially opened on September 21. The Regina facility will provide the biofuel industry with more timely access to independent testing, a key component for producers who are required to meet international standards.

Biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel represent a huge opportunity in Saskatchewan, where feedstock, including grain and canola, is readily available. There are a growing number of biofuel producers in the province.

Weyburn and Lanigan are home to established ethanol facilities, and a new plant has just opened in Lloydminster. Milligan Biotech Inc. (MBTI), one of three commercial biodiesel producers in Canada, currently operates a plant in Foam Lake. Demand for biofuel is increasing in Europe and the United States. There are 50 biodiesel plants currently under construction in the U.S. alone.

These producers require testing of their product, so the potential demand for the lab’s services will be North American-wide. The lab will use a special container that will make shipping biofuel samples from anywhere on the continent quick and simple.

Milligan Biotech Executive Manager Zenneth Faye says the test centre is a state-of-the-art facility. “Having SRC’s Biofuels Test Centre located in the province will greatly improve turnaround times and our accessibility to their independent, third-party testing verification, which MBTI requires to meet customers’ needs,” said Faye.

The SRC lab is the newest biofuel test centre in North America, and builds on the SRC’s 20-plus years of experience providing testing services for the petroleum industry.

The facility is a member of the Canadian Association of Environmental Analytical Laboratories, and is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada for specific tests registered with the council.

For further information, contact:

Carol Reynolds, Corporate Relations Specialist
Saskatchewan Research Council
Phone: (306) 933-7089

Food label seminar a must for small business

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Those little labels on food packages that tell you how many calories are in that chocolate bar or bag of peanuts may be tiny, but they hold a lot of important information.

As many food processors and manufacturers are aware, nutritional labelling is about to be mandatory in Canada for everyone from the smallest processor to the largest factory.

That’s why the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre Inc. is holding a Health Claims and Nutritional Labelling seminar in Saskatoon on October 17.

Shika Agblor, Senior Food Scientist with the Market Development and Food Branch of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, says smaller food industry businesses may also be in the label game already if they supply large retail stores.

“The large retail deadline for these labels has already passed, so if you supply a large chain store, you have to be compliant already,” she said.

What if you just sell your snacks at the local “Mom and Pop” operation? Mandatory nutrition labelling will come into effect in December 2007 for all food providers, but Agblor says it will be much easier on your business to find out how to use those labels now.

“Some manufacturers may view this as just a technical responsibility, but it’s important to remember that the manufacturer is responsible for the product,” she said. “If the retailer receives a complaint or concern about the nutritional information not being correct, the manufacturer is liable.”

The Food Centre seminar will deal with a number of topics about labelling that affect people and businesses across the food industry, including association members, academics, food researchers, retailers, manufacturers and even those who design the labels for products. Agblor says the seminar has very wide appeal as a result.

“This seminar is also of interest to dieticians, nutritionists, health and food service workers – pretty much anyone who deals with the food supply chain,” she noted.

The basic how-to and technical information will be covered in detail for those who need to find out how to label their products. Seminar speaker Jyoti Sahasrabudhe formerly worked with Health Canada on reviewing the Canadian Nutrient Database (CND). The CND is the national system that records the nutritional values of all foods. Sahasrabudhe will explain how that database is used with chemical analysis of a food sample to determine the values we read on the label.

Other seminar speakers may help producers and manufacturers add value while they go through the labelling process. A University of Saskatchewan Food Science Specialist will explain how to properly have a sample of your product analyzed for labelling, and there will also be representatives on hand from federal and provincial programs to help producers determine if there is any industry assistance available to help companies make the label transition.

The Health Claims and Nutrition Labelling seminar runs October 17, 2006 at the Travelodge Hotel in Saskatoon. Pre-registration (prior to October 17) is $106 per person (GST included) to attend, and on-site registration is $130 per person. Interested parties can register by calling the Food Centre at (306) 933-7555, or e-mailing

For further information, contact:

Shika Agblor, Ph.D., Senior Food Scientist, Market Development and Food Branch
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5769

CN and U of S team up to reduce agricultural injuries

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

During the past 10 years, 1,200 adults and children have died in farm-related accidents in Canada, and almost 15,000 have suffered disabling injuries.

The Canadian National Railway Company, better known as CN, decided it wants to do something about these bleak statistics – and it is putting its money where its mouth is.

The corporation has announced a $500,000 donation to the University of Saskatchewan to establish the Agricultural Injury Control Program (AICP). The program will be managed by the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture (CCHSA) on the university campus.

The objective of the AICP is to help reduce agricultural injuries and fatalities by bridging the gap between research and education. It will provide essential information to farm families and agricultural workers about air, food and water contamination, as well as adverse working conditions.

Dr. Jim Dosman, Program Leader and Director of the CCHSA, said, “Through this partnership with CN, we hope to see a 20-per-cent reduction in agriculture deaths in Saskatchewan and Canada over the next five years. I applaud CN for leading the way in this world-class Canadian-based health and safety initiative.”

CN has been working with the University of Saskatchewan to promote health and safety in agriculture since the early 1990s, when it helped to establish the university’s Centre for Agricultural Medicine, the forerunner of the CCHSA.

“CN has strong ties to the province of Saskatchewan and agricultural communities across Canada,” said E. Hunter Harrison, CN’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We’re happy to announce a significant donation to this farm safety partnership with the University of Saskatchewan.”

CN has a wide-ranging rail safety program, and also supports several national and provincial community safety associations. The CCHSA’s overall research and development program is supported by the University of Saskatchewan, the Government of Saskatchewan, the Government of Canada, the private sector and Saskatchewan rural municipalities.

For further information, contact:

Jim Feeney, Senior Manager, Public and Government Affairs
Canadian National Railway Company
Phone: (780) 910-0098

Dr. James Dosman, Director, Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-8286

Improving ag sales skills the subject of training seminar

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

For the first time ever, the University of Saskatchewan Centre for Continuing and Distance Education (CCDE) is offering an intensive training seminar in sales skills specific to the agriculture industry.

The program, entitled “Skills for Sales Success for Agriculture Professionals,” will be held October 24, 25, and 26 at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

According to Kari Nicolas, the Program Co-ordinator for Agriculture Programs at the CCDE, “Anyone with a sales component to their job [can benefit from the course]. It deals with core sales competencies that are applicable to almost any position that involves even partial responsibility for sales.”

The Skills for Sales Success program will involve approximately 25 hours of classroom work over a three-day period. It is an intensive version of a 13-week program that has previously been offered by the centre.

“We designed the program to fit over a weekend because we’ve found that people simply can’t afford to be away from their desks for more than a couple of days,” said Nicolas.

The facilitator of the course is Fred Matiko, a Certified Sales Professional who has facilitated the longer version of the program for the department for nine years, and has taught an agricultural economics class offered at the university.

Nicolas said she also encourages agricultural producers to take the training course. “With diversification and the pursuit of new markets, producers are becoming their own sales people,” she noted. “The skills being taught through the program are applicable to all aspects of business.”

The course includes training in a number of important competencies, including consultative selling, relationship building, communications, strategic planning, time management and personal development.

The course curriculum has been approved by the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists as a professional development opportunity for agrologists and agricultural technologists. The registration fee is $424, which includes all course materials, lunches and refreshments.

Since this is the first time the three-day version has been offered, Nicolas said she is anxious to see how participants evaluate the program. “We will be checking with them throughout the course to make sure that we are providing what is needed, and they will be asked to provide a written evaluation to help guide us in the future.”

She suggested that the course may become an annual offering if the demand is present.

Information and registration forms for the Skills for Sales Success for Agriculture Professionals course are available online at, or by calling (306) 966-5539.

For further information, contact:

Kari Nicolas, P.Ag., Program Co-ordinator for Agricultural Programs
University of Saskatchewan Centre for Continuing and Distance Education
Phone: (306) 966-5592

Canola crushing plants the tip of the iceberg

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The past-president of the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association says the recent announcement of two canola crushing plants being constructed in Saskatchewan is a boon to both the canola industry and the future of biodiesel in Canada.

Brad Hanmer greeted the news that James Richardson International (JRI) and Louis Dreyfus plan to build crushing plants in Yorkton with something just short of jubilation.

“I am just absolutely delighted that this is happening,” he said. “To see this kind of investment in our industry and in Saskatchewan and, more importantly, in a crop that I believe is the future for us here on the farm – I’m just ecstatic.”

The two plants combined will have the ability to crush over 1.5 million tonnes of canola per year; something Hanmer says will help boost canola prices.

“We grow around seven million metric tonnes of canola a year. These plants are going to take a huge chunk out of that. Right now, we crush half and export half of the canola we grow. Having this kind of crush capacity on line will change that,” said Hanmer.

“Once you put bricks and mortar in the ground, you have to keep these plants full. So we are going to see some appreciation of prices at a local level just on that front alone.”

Hanmer says market factors beyond Saskatchewan’s borders are driving demand, as American and European demand for biodiesel adds to existing demand for canola oil within the food industry.

“The world is absolutely hungry for vegetable oil,” he stated. “Biodiesel is playing a huge role in that, but also the healthy aspects of canola oil are really starting to take hold.”

Biodiesel is where Hanmer’s infectious enthusiasm for the future of canola really starts to kick in.

“We in Canada have a window of opportunity that is narrowing, and that’s for us to have a biodiesel industry here. We need to catch up to the rest of the world to put a renewable fuel strategy in place, like the Americans, like Europe,” he said.

“Every other major agricultural jurisdiction in the world has got a plan in place to integrate biodiesel and ethanol into the fuel system. We don’t here in Canada yet.”

Hanmer is encouraged by the new possibilities the increased crushing capacity will bring to the province, and more specifically to canola producers.

“We’ve got a bright, bright future here to be the world’s leader in canola processing technology, as well as the hub of the canola industry for the world,” he stated. “This announcement in Yorkton is absolutely fantastic, but it is the tip of the iceberg for reinventing our vision for agriculture. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be a part of that right now.”

Winnipeg-based JRI says construction of its plant will be completed by mid-2008. Construction on the Louis Dreyfus plant will begin this month, and it is also expected to be operational in 2008.

For more information, contact

Brad Hanmer, Past-President
Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association
Phone: (306) 668-2380

Banner year for beekeepers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It’s shaping up to be a sweet year for Saskatchewan’s beekeepers.

The harvest is now wrapping up on what has been a good year for both honey production and price.

Tim Wendell, the President of the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association, said most producers are pleased with the honey crop this year.

“I think the year went pretty well,” Wendell said. “We had an early spring for a change. We had pollen coming in early April and the bees went full speed ahead pretty much since then. It’s been a pretty good year all in all.”

Wendell indicated that Saskatchewan has over 130 commercial beekeepers (beekeepers with more than 300 colonies) and another 1,000 beekeepers who are “hobbyists.”

That adds up to a lot of honey.

While Wendell did not have figures for Saskatchewan, he said that Canadian beekeepers produce between 70 to 75 million pounds of the sweet stuff annually. Of that total, 50 to 55 million pounds are consumed domestically, and the balance is exported.

Increased production is just one aspect of a banner year for beekeepers. Price is the other component, and Wendell said things are looking good there, too.

“It’s inching up a little bit. Producers are fairly optimistic there are a number of things that are pointing to an increase in price, including a shortage of crop in some of the places in the U.S. and some of the other things happening around the globe,” explained Wendell.

For example, yields are down in Argentina and China, the latter being a key competitor.

Wendell said honey from China has cut into Canada’s domestic market in the past, sometimes by being blended with more expensive, higher quality Canadian honey.

“It’s a bit of disservice to the industry when a packer has built a reputation on Canadian honey, and then starts substituting cheaper foreign honey and selling it on the reputation that he’s built with Canadian honey,” he stated. “It’s a disservice to producers, and I think it’s really a disservice to the consumer.”

However, Wendell is optimistic that an even better year is on the way.

“I think most beekeepers in Saskatchewan are happy with the way the year has gone,” he said. “I hope we go into the winter with our colonies strong and disease-free, and next year gives us another good year, and the price continues to move in a positive direction.”

You can learn more about the beekeeping industry in Saskatchewan at

For more information, contact:

Tim Wendell, President
Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association
Phone: (306) 742-4363

Agriculture knowledge centre prepares for busy season

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

As producers wrap up harvest and get ready to ease up the pace, the province’s Agriculture Knowledge Centre (AKC) is actually preparing for the pace to pick up.

The AKC, located in Moose Jaw, is often the first point of contact with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food for farmers with technical or general inquiries.

The centre is staffed with resource agents and specialists knowledgeable about the farm industry and able to provide information and technical assistance on a broad range of agricultural topics. There are specialists in beef cattle management, ruminant nutrition, grazing and forage management, soil and nutrient management, crop and pest management and production economics.

Rick Bjorge, the AKC manager, says call volume is actually likely to increase after harvest.

“Normally during the harvest season, the call volumes are lower, and then when freeze-up and snow comes, we get more and more questions about the year ahead,” he said.

“We get more questions about decisions that producers have to make about the year ahead – the profitability of certain enterprises and certain things they would consider doing differently in the year ahead – so that kind of all kicks in once winter starts. Livestock feeding and nutrition calls also increase as winter approaches.”

The AKC handles about 17,000 calls a year, although Bjorge predicts that number will continue to rise.

“Based on our feedback, we know that we are getting first-time callers all the time who weren’t previously aware of the services that we have to offer,” he noted. “We think that we have a good service to offer. We have talented and knowledgeable people, and the more we can get that message out—that this is a good place to call for agriculture information—the more our numbers will continue to grow.”

The AKC was established when the province’s network of 31 Rural Service Centres was consolidated into nine regional offices in 2004. As with any change, there were those who were concerned about the impact of that transition. However, the experience of the past two years has changed more than a few minds.

Adair Ramsell runs a cow/calf operation near Paradise Hill in the northwest part of the province. He admits he was initially a skeptic, but says he’s now a believer.

“My experiences have been good,” said Ramsell. “I’ve used [the Rural Service Centres] for years and years, and I was pretty much against it when they started [the Agriculture Knowledge Centre]. I thought I was going to lose contact with the experts I need. That proved not to be the case.”

Ramsell says it’s the quality and speed of the advice that makes him appreciate the service.

“They are always there and I always get to speak to the people who have that information right on the tip of their tongue,” he said.

“This morning I called them because I needed a water test on my well, and I was under the impression that there was a place in Lloydminster that I could ship the sample to rather than sending it all the way to Regina. Sure enough, there was, and they were able to get me the address right away.”

Back at the AKC, Bjorge says this past year saw the number of calls vary considerably, with a peak number of inquiries in July.

“Depending on what issues there are, the calls can be higher or lower on any given day,” he explained. “For this summer, the top number of calls was around 130 a day. I think that was right around the time of the Bertha armyworm outbreak, and in amongst that time there were also anthrax concerns, as well.”

Bjorge says some people may not know that the AKC is open over the noon hour, or that the service is also available via e-mail.

“That could be quite convenient for people in off-hours when we are closed. Send us an e-mail and we’ll get back to you the next day,” he noted.

The e-mail address for the AKC is The toll-free number for the centre is 1-866-457-2377.

For more information, contact:

Rick Bjorge, Manager
Agriculture Knowledge Centre
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 694-3813
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