Students learn responsibility "from seed to salad"

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

"Imagine...indoor gardens in classrooms where children work together to grow vegetables, learning responsibility and co-operation, from seed to salad!" That's the mission of a project called Little Green Thumbs, which has been adopted and promoted by Saskatchewan's Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) program.

"This past year, we piloted the Little Green Thumbs program and helped to set up indoor gardens in a handful of schools across Saskatchewan," said Sara Shymko, Executive Director of AITC Saskatchewan.

The program was offered at St. Maria Goretti and Cardinal Leger schools in Saskatoon, as well as schools on the Whitecap and Chief Poundmaker First Nations.

Growing vegetables was added to the regular curriculum of reading, writing and arithmetic. The students grew tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peas. "It was pretty amazing to see. The tomato plants grew to touch the ceiling. They were over 14 feet tall!" Shymko noted.

"The students were very excited to be a part of the agricultural gardening process."

Shymko says the Little Green Thumbs program has several benefits for the students who participate in it. "This particular project allows students to be a part of the entire growing cycle. They actually plant the seeds themselves, water, fertilize, and watch the plants grow. Then, they get to harvest the vegetables and eat them," she stated.

Shymko believes the hands-on learning experience the initiative provides allows the children to understand the effort that goes into what they eat, as well as the hard work and dedication it takes to make our food products.

In terms of nutrition, the program also benefits the children by getting them excited about eating vegetables.

The goal of the Little Green Thumbs project is to generate excitement among students about agriculture and food. "The program gets students to start thinking about what is involved in food production. Then, when they are eating something that their moms have packed in their lunches, they will recognize that someone has put a lot of work into getting that product on the table for them," Shymko noted.

Plans are in the works to expand the program to more schools across Saskatchewan in the coming years. "It's definitely one of my favorite projects. The results have been so fantastic," Shymko said. "I am currently looking for funding so that I am able to expand the program to at least 10 more schools this year. Ultimately, I would like a garden in every school."

The Little Green Thumbs initiative, which originated in Calgary, is built around a kit that includes a 1,000-watt growing light, seeds and a watering system. A teacher's manual for the project is currently in the works.

"I sourced the kit from the Little Green Thumbs organization in Calgary, where they are currently running the program in a number of schools. I know that Manitoba Agriculture in the Classroom is also looking to start the program this year," Shymko said.

The Saskatchewan version of the initiative is sponsored by AITC Saskatchewan, Heifer International, the First Nations Agricultural Council of Saskatchewan and the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.

AITC Saskatchewan was incorporated in 1994 with a mission to "assist Saskatchewan learners in the K-12 system to increase their awareness and understanding of the complexities and importance of agriculture, through partnerships with educators, agribusiness and agriculture organizations."

The group fosters a number of innovative programs, including an Agricultural Roadshow during the summer which provides professional development opportunities for teachers. "We take a group of teachers on a traveling tour of the agriculture and food industry in Saskatchewan. It gives them ideas on how to incorporate agricultural concepts into their classrooms," Shymko said. "This year, we had 14 participants."

The organization also supplies and distributes resources, such as lesson plans and videos, to teachers through their website, It is a regular participant in the Agriculture Education Showcase and the Career Expo at Canadian Western Agribition, in addition to four major agricultural shows through a partnership with the Prairieland Park Corporation School Tours Program.

For more information on the Little Green Thumbs program or the Agriculture in the Classroom organization, contact Sara Shymko at (306) 933-5224, or visit the websites and

For more information, contact:
Sara Shymko, Executive Director
Agriculture in the Classroom Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 933-5224

Winter wheat growing in popularity

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A winter wheat breeder and professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan feels that popular new varieties and an evolving agricultural industry are responsible for the rapid increase in winter wheat production over the past few years.

According to Statistics Canada data, winter wheat acres in Western Canada almost doubled between 2005 and 2006, to just over one million acres.

"One of the main reasons that it is becoming more popular, is that we have varieties that are now better adapted to Western Canada," said Dr. Brian Fowler.

Fowler says that old varieties were quite tall and readily lodged if they reached the 45 bushel-per-acre range.

"Now, the development of winter-hardy, short-straw, semi-dwarf varieties has opened up a whole new management area," he stated. "Farmers are able to go in and apply proper management techniques to their winter wheat. They are able to fertilize for optimum yield, and have limited residue to deal with afterwards, especially in some of the higher moisture areas."

The widespread switch to minimum-tillage seeding equipment is another factor that Fowler believes has played a part in the crop's resurgence. "Direct seeding is compulsory [for winter wheat], because you must have standing stubble to hold the snow for winter production. Otherwise, the crop runs a higher risk of winter-kill," he explained.

At the same time, strong growth in the feed market has spurred greater demand for the product, to which farmers are responding. "A lot of winter wheat goes into the hog industry, for example," Fowler said. "Now, with the ethanol industry on the rise, high-yielding, low-protein wheat will most likely be one of its major feedstocks. This fits right in with winter wheat."

But producers not accustomed to planting winter wheat can make a few common mistakes, according to Fowler.

"First-time growers sometimes handle winter wheat as if it were a spring crop, except sown in the fall. Unfortunately, winter wheat production is not that simple, and most of the mistakes are made before the crop goes in the ground," he stated.

For the best results, Fowler says it is important to get the crop into the ground during the optimal seeding period, which usually falls in the first two weeks of September. "One of the biggest difficulties is getting the previous crop off early enough," he observed. This can be facilitated by planting spring crops that mature earlier on the fields targeted for winter wheat seeding in the fall.

"Farmers should also make sure they have their seed and equipment in place and ready to go, because the seeding period for winter wheat is a very busy time, with the harvesting of spring-sown crops creating a big competition for labour," he added.

Fowler suggests that producers looking to grow winter wheat for the first time should talk to an experienced grower, since it requires a few different management practices. Winter wheat is priced lower than hard red spring wheat, so producers will want to make sure they are managing the crop for optimal yield.

Fowler says the yield advantage of winter wheat has been quite significant in recent years, especially when there has been good moisture in the spring.

"Once the crop is in the ground, and assuming the optimum seeding date, a shallow seeding depth and sufficient snow cover, then winter wheat is pretty easy to manage," he stated. "Farmers will only have to worry about getting their nitrogen fertilizer on in the early spring and controlling winter annual weeds."

For more information on the qualities and production of winter wheat, visit the Winter Cereal Production page housed on the University of Saskatchewan's website at

For more information, contact:
Dr. Brian Fowler, Professor
Department of Plant Sciences, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-4973

Sleep seminars to be reawakened

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A popular seminar series on the power of proper sleeping habits will be returning in December.

The "Sleepless in Saskatchewan" workshops are offered by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food's Farm Stress Unit and the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan.

The series was created in part to respond to concerns from those involved in agriculture about the impact of sleep loss due to seasonal work cycles and the stresses of farm life.

"The workshop is about gaining an understanding of the dynamics of sleep, and how to make sleep work more effectively for us," said Carol Smith with the Farm Stress Unit.

The seminar is presented by John Shearer, who has done extensive research on the effects of shift work on various categories of workers. Shearer co-founded the Carleton University Laboratory for Sleep and Chronopsychology.

He is a veteran presenter, having talked to more than 800 groups and organizations over a 28-year career, including the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Saskatchewan Trucking Association and numerous private corporations.

"Participants learn about reducing stress and fatigue, managing shift work and extended hours, and easy, inexpensive ways to make sleep more effective," Smith stated.

She says Shearer uses humour to make the material more interesting and easier to understand. "Having attended myself, I highly recommend it as an experience for couples."

Previous editions of the Sleepless in Saskatchewan seminars have attracted audiences that range from farmers to police officers.

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

During his "Science of Sleep" presentation, Shearer teaches about the various methods science has shown will increase what he calls "positive sleep," the kind of rest that truly helps heal and revive body and mind. The discussion also provides information on how diet can affect sleep, beyond the obvious of cutting back on caffeine intake.

"The whole point of the seminar is to learn how to get sleep to work for you," Smith said. "The goal is to sleep better to help you face your daily challenges."

The Sleepless in Saskatchewan series will begin again on December 4 in Saskatoon. Additional seminars will be scheduled in various locations throughout the winter months. As dates and locations are confirmed, an updated listing will be available through the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture website at and through Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food's Connections Service Directory toll-free line at 1-866-680-0006.

For more information, contact:
Carol Smith, Connection Service Directory Co-ordinator
Farm Stress Unit, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-5114

Canola growers should beware of aster yellows

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A disease that causes strange malformations is showing up in greater concentrations in this year's canola crop.

The disease is called "aster yellows," and it is caused by something called a phytoplasma - a micro-organism somewhere between a bacteria and a virus.

Penny Pearse, the Provincial Plant Disease Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, says, for the past six years, the incidence of aster yellows has been at trace levels of less than one per cent, but the number will be much higher this year, with some crops experiencing up to 10 per cent infection.

"We have received more reports of aster yellows in canola from both growers and agronomists, and it appears to be quite wide-spread across the province," she noted. "What makes this disease look so unique is that it causes malformations in the plant, so the plants are often taller, discoloured, and have malformed pods and flowers. The infection may look worse than it actually is, since the symptoms are so dramatic, so we recommend that growers do a count of infected and healthy plants to determine the actual incidence value."

Pearse says the phytoplasma causes the disease, but it needs a helping hand.

"A phytoplasma will not survive on its own, so it gets transferred from plant to plant by an insect vector. In this case, the most common vector is the aster leafhopper," she stated.

"When an insect feeds on an infected plant, it will pick up this pathogen and transfer it to healthy plants. So, in a year when we have more leafhoppers, we tend to see more aster yellows."

The damage done by aster yellows is complete and irreversible, with the yield loss dependent on the number of plants affected.

"Most of the diseases we have in Saskatchewan are caused by fungi, which can be controlled through the use of a fungicide. Whereas something like aster yellows, once it is in the plant, there is nothing you can do... the damage is done," Pearse said.

"We don't know a lot about this disease," she said. "Leafhoppers have been found to over-winter in Saskatchewan and can keep the phytoplasma alive from one season to the next. In addition, some of the perennial crops that we grow here - meaning crops with root systems that over-winter - offer a way for the pathogen to over-winter. Crops like echinacea and caraway are also at risk," Pearse stated.

A survey of canola fields was conducted this summer to look at aster yellows and other canola diseases. Aster yellows was present in all surveyed fields, ranging from trace levels to as high as 15 per cent infection. The overall average infection level in 2007 is approximately two per cent, which is similar to 2000's levels. It is likely that this summer's heat amplified the aster yellows symptoms. In addition, the phytoplasma multiplies more quickly in the plant under hot conditions.

For more information, check out the aster yellows fact sheet on the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food website at It can be found in the "Production" section under "Disease."

For more information, contact:
Penny Pearse, Provincial Plant Disease Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4671

Body condition scoring a helpful tool for cattle producers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but cattle producers whose incomes depend on the quality of their animals might prefer a more technical approach.

Body Condition Scoring (BCS) can be a valuable management tool for estimating the amount of energy reserves (body fat) an animal is carrying. Body condition can be used to adjust feeding programs throughout the year to optimize efficient use of available feed, to maintain herd fertility (the likelihood of cows cycling and breeding on time) and, indirectly, to maintain calf weaning weights.

In a sense, BCS adds scientific calibration to the experienced eye of the cattleperson. Although it is still somewhat subjective as a hands-on determination, the practice is more accurate than visual appraisal alone.

Adele Buettner, the Executive Director of the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS), says BCS is important because even experienced producers can have difficulty picking more than the extremes of very thin or very fat animals in a herd with a mixture of body types.

"Through discerning and managing the in-between scores of the majority of the cow herd, the good cattleperson can make a difference in controlling feed costs while maintaining productivity," Buettner stated.

To give producers more information on the practice of Body Condition Scoring, FACS has devoted one of its many Cattle FACS fact sheets to the subject.

"The information we provide through these fact sheets has been developed by committees of cattle care experts with specific knowledge in each of the topic areas covered," Buettner said. "FACS offered to co-ordinate the effort, produce the material and make it as widely available to producers as possible."

The FACS fact sheet discusses the Scottish Body Condition Scoring System, which is widely used in Canada. This system allocates a score between one and five for a cow, although half scores are also allowed.

"It is said to be an easy system to learn, and anyone can do it with a little practice," Buettner noted.

A BCS score is assigned by estimating the body fat content of the animal. This is done by applying thumb pressure on the end of the short ribs over the loin area between the hip bone (hook) and the last rib. There is no muscle at the end of the short ribs, so any padding on the ribs is fat cover. The estimated BCS score is then corroborated by visually appraising fat cover around the tail head and hips.

A score of BCS 1 indicates a cow that is "severely emaciated." An animal marked as BCS 2 is deemed to be "moderately thin." A BCS 3 cow is viewed as "optimum." BCS 4 signifies an animal that is "moderately fleshy," while a cow scored BCS 5 is determined to be "very fat."

"The experts suggest that herds should ideally be body condition scored at weaning, at calving, and 30 days before breeding," Buettner said. "Each cow should be scored, and records kept from year to year. In a large herd, scoring a percentage of cows might be a sufficient indicator."

According to the fact sheet, for optimum efficiency of winter feeding and rebreeding following calving, mature cows should go into winter with a minimum BCS of 3.0 and not drop below BCS 2.5 at calving or during the breeding season. First- and second-calf heifers should not drop below 3.0 at calving and during the breeding season.

Nutritional management strategies which focus on maintaining these BCS levels are said to result in lower winter feed costs, faster post-calving return to oestrus, a higher percentage of calves born early in calving season, and higher weaning weights.

The Cattle FACS fact sheet on Body Condition Scoring can be obtained from the council's website at or by calling (306) 249-3227.

FACS is a membership-based, non-profit organization that represents the livestock industry in advancing responsible welfare, care and handling practices in agriculture. It endeavours to raise producer awareness of the economic and ethical benefits of animal welfare and help consumers achieve a greater understanding of animal care issues.

For more information, contact:
Adele Buettner, Executive Director
Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan Inc.
Phone: (306) 249-3227

FNACS Spurring First Nations Interest In Agriculture

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A provincial funding contribution of $150,000 will enable the First Nations Agricultural Council of Saskatchewan (FNACS) to continue building and promoting educational programming that fosters agricultural development in First Nations communities.

Deanne Kasokeo, FNACS Youth Education Program Co-ordinator, says the council's intent is to increase agricultural awareness and appreciation among First Nations youth by making it a focus of their school curriculum.

"We're trying to encourage First Nations youth to go into agricultural careers by exposing, educating and making them aware of the agricultural industry here in Saskatchewan," Kasokeo said.

"FNACS acts as a liaison between the 86 First Nations schools in the province. We have a number of educational resources that we are able to provide to them, and we send out materials as requested on various topics, which then become part of the curriculum in those schools."

Kasokeo says FNACS regularly collaborates with the Saskatchewan branch of Agriculture in the Classroom, an industry-sponsored organization that provides tools and supports to enable greater agricultural programming in the education sector.

"We partnered to introduce a ‘Little Green Thumbs' project for First Nations students around the grade five level to grow indoor gardens," she stated. "It was a terrific project, very educational and very well received by the kids."

Kasokeo says the provincial funding is a big boost to FNACS, and will be used by the group to support the provision of further education, training and development programming.

"The Traditional Knowledge Curriculum is one of our programs that we're currently researching and developing," she noted. "Through it, we intend to incorporate traditional First Nations knowledge about land, resources and the environment for our youth to access."

For Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), the good work of FNACS made its funding decision fairly easy.

"The Government of Saskatchewan is very interested in the development of youth and the development of First Nations and their capabilities in the agricultural area," said Lyle Stavness, SAF's Manager of Farm Business Management Services, "so it's a natural fit for us to provide some funding support to the programs that FNACS is organizing to promote that kind of development in the sector."

Kasokeo says FNACS will keep working hard to achieve its mandate of "developing a strong, viable and sustainable agricultural sector both on and off the reserve for status Indians in the province of Saskatchewan."

In her view, "That includes educating young people and making them aware of opportunities on the land. It includes delivering programs and services right to the First Nations communities in areas like renewal, environmental farm planning and co-operative development. And it includes working with the Saskatchewan 4-H Council to continue establishing clubs in First Nations communities across the province."

More information on the First Nations Agricultural Council of Saskatchewan can be found on the group's website at

For more information, contact:
Deanne Kasokeo, Youth Education Program Co-ordinator
First Nations Agricultural Council of Saskatchewan Inc.
Phone: (306) 978-8872
Website :

Lyle Stavness, Manager of Farm Business Management Services
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4323

Sweet Smell of Garlic Means Expansion for Food Processor

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If you are a garlic fan, you would probably love to meet Dave and Krista McBain. They are the owners of M and M Garlic, an operation which grows and processes vegetables on the McBain farm in the White Fox area near Tobin Lake .

After nearly a decade in business, they are on the edge of a major expansion.

"We started out about nine or 10 years ago, just growing garlic and trying to sell it as a raw vegetable," said Dave McBain, "but we found we were too far away from the markets. So we started processing some powdered and pickled garlic. We've been processing for six years, and now we're doing other vegetables like asparagus, tomatoes, peppers, beans and cucumbers."

The McBains plant about 10 acres in vegetables, including a single acre of garlic that satisfies all of their commercial needs. They also operate a six-quarter grain farm with the assistance of their two children who still live at home.

The M and M Garlic product line includes pickled versions of just about every vegetable imaginable, including garlic, carrots, asparagus and even their own line of salsa. The processed garlic comes in many forms, such as Crunchie Pickled Garlic, Dill Pickled Garlic, Fresh Minced Garlic, Hot and Spicy Pickled Garlic, Sweet and Spicy Garlic, and, for the truly adventurous, a preparation known as The Fire Escape.

"We got a couple of recipes from other people, but we mostly just made them up as we went along," McBain said of their specialty foods. "Right now, our fresh minced garlic is our best seller."

The processing operation is currently located in a 30-foot by 40-foot building which is federally inspected to meet international standards. It includes storage areas for both raw vegetables and finished product, as well as the main cooking area.

"The work is manual. It's like a big family kitchen," McBain said. "The biggest food preparation container will produce about 90 jars of finished product."

Dave and Krista do most of the work themselves, with some assistance from neighbours during the busiest periods.

Finding the market for their pickled goods has not been difficult, but getting the product there is a little more challenging.

"If we go to a trade show with a new product, everybody buys it," McBain stated. "We have people phoning and ordering because they've used it and they want more. One woman buys cases of product to sell at a stand on the Trans Canada Highway. She always sells out."

The products of M and M Garlic are available at about 20 retail locations in Saskatchewan and two in Alberta. They can also be purchased online at the Saskatchewan Made website,

Success has led to the need for more space, so the McBains have begun construction of a new 50-foot by 80-foot building.

"We bought a garlic peeler and a cracker which cracks the bulbs into cloves," McBain said. "It's a pretty big machine that requires a special power supply, so we needed a larger building. We also needed more covered space to dry the garlic crop."

According to McBain, the biggest challenges as a food processor are the strict labelling and inspection requirements, and getting the product to market. He is proud of the business he and Krista have built through their hard work, and the results have only encouraged the couple to invest in growth for the future.

For more information, contact:
Dave McBain, owner/operator
M and M Garlic
Phone: (306) 276-2518

Safe Community Program Extends Into the Country

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A Safe Communities Program in Saskatchewan plans to focus special attention on one of the province's most injury-prone occupations: farming.

The coalition "Safe Communities Humboldt and Area" was formed in 2003 to better co-ordinate activities aimed at preventing injuries to infants, children and youth. Its members were initially drawn from the police, ambulance, fire, education and health service sectors.

Over time, the organization received support and funding from the Saskatchewan Safety Council, the Saskatoon Health Region, Canadian National Railway, SGI and Safe Kids Canada, as well as local businesses, municipal bodies, service clubs and other community-based organizations.

"The injury prevention initiatives this group has fostered have steadily increased over the years," said Collette Lessmeister, the Program Co-ordinator for the organization. Among its successes have been bicycle helmet awareness and passenger safety promotional activities, a Safe Watch newsletter and a pilot project entitled P.A.R.T.Y. (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth), which was initiated in 2004 and expanded every year since.

There are now 10 different partner groups that work together on safety initiatives for the community of Humboldt and the surrounding area, aided by many volunteers and sponsors who make the programs possible. The program co-ordinator position was created to help organize the group's efforts to make the region a safer place to live, learn, work and play.

"Like most Safe Community Programs that start up across Saskatchewan, the reach of the Humboldt and area group extends far beyond the city's borders," Lessmeister said. "It has grown to become a very effective and very beneficial promoter of safety initiatives that are important to the surrounding region in areas like agriculture and rural development."

The coalition plans to step up its efforts in the countryside by forming a Farm Safety group made up of local producers, which will help to develop and deliver farm safety training programs to both rural and urban residents. It also plans to hold a Farm Safety Day in the spring in which local schools will be involved in interactive farm safety demonstrations.

"Our group has always recognized agriculture as an important part of the community, and we know that developing safe working habits at a young age pays off well into the future," Lessmeister said.

"The impact of farm injuries sometimes has more than just a short-term result. It can often affect a producer's ability to earn an income for years to come, and that's a situation we want to prevent."

Statistics show the group may have its work cut out for it. In an average year in Saskatchewan, there are 18 farm-related fatalities and 200 injuries requiring hospitalization. Those numbers put farming and ranching very high on the list of the province's most hazardous occupations.

It's a daunting task, but if past performance is any indicator, Safe Communities Humboldt and Area is up for the challenge.

More information on the group and its safety initiatives can be found online at or by calling Collette Lessmeister at (306) 682-0705.

For more information, contact:
Collette Lessmeister, Program Co-ordinator
Safe Communities Humboldt and Area
Phone: (306) 682-0705
Website :

Constructed Wetlands Help Protect Water Sources

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Increasing environmental concern has generated a greater focus on water quality across Canada, and many industries are making an effort to better protect water sources.

The livestock industry is a vital part of the Saskatchewan economy, and Jared Ward, an Environmental Engineer with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), says the sector is likewise taking a leading role in safeguarding water sources. One approach that is gaining interest is the "constructed wetland" concept.

"Rainfall and snowmelt draining from livestock facilities can pick up manure, bacteria and nutrients, which can potentially end up in downstream water bodies, streams and groundwater sources," Ward said. "Constructed wetlands can offer an effective and low-maintenance option for the treatment of this runoff water."

A constructed wetland is a shallow, earthen basin planted with rooted, emergent wetland vegetation. It can clean and purify wastewater by incorporating microbes, fungi, algae and wetland plants that either reduce or transform pollutants.

Constructed wetland technology has become an established treatment method for municipal and livestock wastewater in many provinces in Canada. Ward says Saskatchewan has gained experience using this type of technology in the municipal waste industry.

"One example is the SaskPower constructed wetland built in 1994 near the City of Estevan," he noted. "This wetland purifies the city's secondary sewage wastewater, eliminating the semi-annual release of the lagoons to the environment. It also provides marsh habitat for a variety of wildlife."

Hoping to duplicate the successes achieved in the management of municipal wastewater, SAF, in conjunction with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), is developing a pilot constructed wetland project for the treatment of livestock waste. The project will provide valuable information on the design and operation of wetlands for Saskatchewan's livestock sector.

"We're very optimistic that constructed wetlands can offer a cost-effective treatment of livestock runoff water," said Serena McIver, an Environmental Engineer with AAFC. "They've been shown to reduce nutrients and suspended solids, bacteria, viruses and heavy metals by 70 to 90 per cent."

McIver says constructed wetlands have the potential to deliver many benefits, including nutrient reduction, odour control, water quality improvement, wildlife enhancement and aesthetic improvement. They can also provide economic benefits by reducing maintenance and labour costs, and decreasing the required land application area.

Costs associated with constructing a wetland depend on a number of factors, most importantly the volume of water to be treated and its initial quality.

For more information, contact:
Jared Ward, Environmental Engineer
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4692

Serena McIver, Environmental Engineer
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Phone: (306) 780-5152

Ethanol and Feed the Focus of Western Nutrition Conference

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The rapidly expanding demand for ethanol feedstock and the impact this growing market will have on animal feed is at the centre of the 2007 Western Nutrition Conference.

The 28th annual edition of the conference will take place from September 25 to 27 in Saskatoon.

The conference always attracts a diverse audience, according to one of its co-chairs, Dr. Murray Drew.

"It's primarily one of the meetings that brings together industry people with university people. A lot of researchers at western universities will participate," Drew said.

The 200 to 250 delegates expected to attend the conference will examine and discuss the impact of increasing ethanol production on animal feeding from a number of different perspectives.

"We've tried to put together a program that addresses a wide swath of issues in terms of how this is going to affect the feeding of animals," Drew noted. "We think of ethanol as something that goes in cars, but of course what's going to happen is that the wheat and barley we used to feed to livestock will also now be going to ethanol production, so we're going to have to deal with byproducts of ethanol in a bigger way than before."

Sessions addressing that topic include: Competition for Food, Feed and Fuel - The Great Opportunity with the Biorefinery Concept; The Impact of Changes in the Ethanol Production on the Nutritional Value of Wheat Distillers Dried Grains; and Wheat Based Distillers Grains for Growing and Finishing Cattle.

"I think that it's going to be very interesting in terms of the ethanol production," said Drew. "We've brought together a significant number of speakers from both the U.S. and Canada on the topic."

The conference will be kicked off with the J.M. Bell Memorial Lecture, which this year will examine "The Role of Research in Advancing Animal Agriculture in the 21st Century." The lecture will be delivered by Dr. John Black, who, Drew notes, has had an illustrious career in animal nutrition in Australia.

"We sometimes feel that we do research forever and it never really amounts to anything," Drew stated. "(Black's) talk is going to be on how research has directly affected the way that we feed animals and produce meat."

Among the many technical sessions are quality assurance in the feed industry, feed mill management strategies, taste aversion in grazing animals, and new developments in feeding high performance pigs and chickens.

"We've got some interesting speakers coming from across North America and around the world, so I think it will give people a different perspective than they normally have on the way we feed animals," Drew said.

The Western Nutrition Conference is a joint project of the University of Saskatchewan and the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada. Complete information on the 2007 edition is available at

For more information, contact:
Dr. Murray Drew, Associate Professor
Department of Poultry Science, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-2367

Chonda Pierce in Concert Oct. 12

Christian Comedian Chonda Pierce will be in concert Friday, Oct. 12, at the Williamson County Pavilion as part of a benefit for the Williamson County Child Advocacy Center.

Tickets can be purchased in the Williamson County Tourism Bureau's office at the Pavilion from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

General admission tickets are $15, Preferred Seating - $20 and Artist Circle Seating - $25. Tickets can also be ordered online ($1 processing fee added to each ticket).

General Admission - $16 each

Preferred Seating - $21 each

Artist Circle Seating - $26 each

Marion to St. Louis Air Service to Resume Nov. 4

The Southern Illinoisan is reporting that air service between the Williamson County Regional Airport and St. Louis' Lambert Field will resume November 4. This will end eight months of no flights to St. Louis after the Federal Aviation Administration shut down RegionsAir.

Great Lakes Airlines took over the contract in June but was unable to secure the planes necessary to make the flights.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin made the announcement yesterday.

Besides the service to St. Louis, Williamson County also hosts flights by Mesa Airlines to Chicago Midway.

New Developments Break Ground

Marion's west side continues to develop with nearly $8 million new building projects breaking ground this summer.

JWL Properties broke ground late last week for a new strip shopping center immediately north of the old Barnett Furniture building between Wal-Mart and the Illinois Centre Mall.

This is a $1.3 million construction project that should provide about another 20,000 square feet of retail space and possibly another restaurant. The address will be 2801 Civic Circle Drive on the inside loop around the mall.

Building permit applications show $4 million for the new Marion Toyota dealership on Route 13 across from Heartland Regional Hospital. The dealership will move the Toyota operation to the new site and keep the other automotive lines at the existing location.

On West Main Street the Bank of Herrin's new $1.8 million facility has started on the the steel work above ground. The new bank is beside its current facility (the originally TCBY building) across from Pepsi Mid-America and next to Comfort Suites.

At the corner of Route 13 and Halfway Road, Newcomb Oil Company's new $770,000 convenience store is will on its way as well. They buried the fuel tanks last week and the building will soon be fully enclosed. It's a very impressive design so far.

We're hoping there will be some more announcements soon as well, particularly in the travel side of the business.

Meanwhile what we do know is that Farmers State Bank is still presumably looking at building a new facility in front of Wal-Mart (they bought the land last winter) and Russell Oil Company may be looking at a new station on East DeYoung St. They took out a building permit earlier this year on a $285,000 project at 309 E. DeYoung, but haven't started construction.

Developer Still Eyeing Perry County

Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting today that the proposed Branson-like development targeted for Perry County appears to still be on the way.
Some state lawmakers have expressed concern at the continued lack of hard information from the enigmatic company. But political leaders around Pinckneyville — a rural community of 5,400 about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis — remain optimistic.

"I really believe it's going to happen. They've spent so much time and money already. ... This is really going to go,'' said Perry County Board Chairman Jim Booker. He said company president Anthony Watkins met with him in nearby Du Quoin last week to assure him the company was still pursuing the project.

The company wants to build a $100 million convention resort complex in the vein of Branson, Mo., which would include music venues, golf, a BMX bike-racing facility and other amenities. The project could ultimately involve 5,000 acres of land — roughly 10 times the acreage of Six Flags amusement park in Eureka.

Meanwhile the only official news release on the company's website dates back to Oct. 4, 2005 when the titular Toney Watkins was about to make a presentation to the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce on his MetroEast development project.

Sign's Messages Shine Bright

The new sign for the Williamson County Pavilion is up and working at the intersection of Route 13 and Williamson County Parkway.

This was one of those projects that took a whole lot of effort over a very long period of time. Most of the credit goes to two of the board members of the tourism bureau and the Williamson County Events Commission, the entity that actually owns the Pavilion.

Jeanette Sollami took on the long-delayed project last fall when she served as the bureau's interim director. Bruce Troutman, the treasurer for the commission (as well as the county), stepped in when it came time to secure the land for the sign. Kudos for both.

Of course, none of it would have been possible without the generosity of Steak 'n Shake which donated the few square feet necessary in a lease in order for us to have a place to erect the sign.

We still have a few minor items to complete around the base of the sign before it's finished but most importantly the message board is working.

I did a quick check of the traffic count on IDOT's website Some 21,200 vehicles a day pass along that stretch of Route 13 in front of Steak 'n Shake.

By the way, the website also showed that more than 11,000 vehicles get off Interstate 57 every day at Marion; 8,500 use Exit 54 at Route 13 and 2,650 use Exit 53 at Main Street.

Right Attitude in Murphysboro

Last Thursday's Southern had a good article on state Rep. Mike Bost's recent presentation to the Murphysboro Chamber of Commerce where he talked up tourism and the region's growing wine industry.

Midway through the article Adam Testa inserted a quote by Barbara Dallas, Murphysboro's Tourism Commissioner, who noted that while help from the state was appreciated, "local relationships need to be improved before tourism can reach its full potential."
"We need to get over Friday Night Fever," she said. "We need to realize it's not Murphysboro versus Carbondale versus Marion. The only way we're going to build tourism is regionalization."

She's right on target!

New Owners Serve Up Lick Creek General Store

This week's Carbondale Times has a nice story on the old Lick Creek General Store off of Interstate 57 at Exit 36, 18 miles south of Marion in northeastern Union County.

The store had been transformed into a unique restaurant some years ago, but had closed. Carbondale Councilman Lance Jack and Emily Taylor reopened the restaurant earlier this spring, but have held off on their grand opening until today for their Labor Day Party.

"Up until now we have been relying on word of mouth and calls from the past," Jack said. "We have done no advertising whatsoever until this past week. We have been passing out fliers. We were working on a soft opening to make sure that we had all of our ducks in a row. Emily and I have known each other for years now but we want to make sure we could work together.

"We have come to the conclusion that we can work together without killing each other," he joked. "She likes to call me the best husband she's never had."

The restaurant is known for its unique nine course meals.

For more information contact them at 618-833-6360. They are located 1/8th of a mile east of the interstate on Lick Creek Road.
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