CCSCIA prez says youth returning to farm

KINBURN – It was an afternoon tour to see emerging seed technologies and taste the results of those seeds’ fruit.

The Carleton County Soil and Crop Improvement Association (CCSCIA) brought about 40 interested members of the agriculture community on a five-stop Craft and Crop Tour last Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 13), and it was a chance to see the mid-season results of some seed research projects, and enjoy some of the local end-users’ products.

The tour made stops in both Lanark County and West Carleton kicking off with a distillery tour of Vodcow Distillery in Almonte. After that it was an early supper at Cheeky Chippy Fish and Chips before going on a crop tour at Panmure Farms. The crew then headed to Kinburn and Farmgate Cidery. The trip ended in Ashton at the Ashton Brewery Company.

Many in the tour were leaders in the local agriculture industry and were taking advantage of the opportunity to tour and taste the local facilities.

West Carleton Online caught up with the tour at the Hudson family farm, Panmure Farms. There, farmer and Maizex Seeds Eastern Ontario territory manager Leigh Hudson would show those on the tour, up close and personal, some of the research she is doing on the family farm.

We arrived a bit before the bus and had the opportunity to speak with current CCSCIA President Terry Davidson, a farmer with land near Kinburn. He says he’s noticed a real youth-movement in agriculture over the last several years.

“We try to do something every year,” Davidson said from the tailgate of his truck in the middle of the Hudson’s corn field. “It’s all about technology transfer. We hold about two events a year and our annual general meeting. Leigh has a bunch of plots here where they have some technology set up. We’re working on the four Rs here. Reduce, reuse, recycle, at the right time.”

Davidson says he and Bruce Hudson are the elder spokesmen on the CCSCIA board and now there is a big age gap and a strong contingent of young members dominating the board. And that’s a good thing.

“It’s the young guys that organized this event,” he said.

Davidson is happy to see the agriculture industry, in eastern Ontario anyway, trend to a younger demographic. He says there is a generation missing between the new, young farmers and those that have been a member of the CCSCIA for 28 years – 30 for Bruce Hudson.

“There was a time when young people dropped post-secondary education because money was good in farming,” Davidson said. “The early 2000s. Bruce and I have had this conversation a few times. Now they are staying in school and studying agriculture. The younger kids, there’s a big gap between them and us, they’re keen, they’re smart and they have a varied background. Right now, we seem to have a lot of keen people.”

One of those keen, young people is Leigh. She’s a farmer, a seed rep, a 4-H leader and alumni and calls herself an “agvoccate.”

Tour participants get a look at the Hudson's new, very tall sprayer able to be used much later in the growing seed allowing the Hudson's to apply products like a fungicide later in the season when the plants need it. Photo by Jake Davies
Tour participants get a look at the Hudson’s new, very tall sprayer able to be used much later in the growing seed allowing the Hudson’s to apply products like a fungicide later in the season when the plants need it. Photo by Jake Davies

She is leading the discussion on the crop tour. In one section of the massive corn field, Leigh is doing some research and working on projects.

The project she is showing to the tour members is ‘Forced Uniformity.’

“We’re trying to force a more uniform plant,” Leigh said.

She has three rows she’s using including a test group, a row cut down to the ground by hand and a treated row. At the end of the season, they will hand-harvest the crop and have a look.

“We have another small site at Winchester,” Leigh said. “They’re all small samples because who would want to hand-harvest on a large scale?”

She says plot results will be publicly posted in the fall.

It’s been a challenging year for growing in eastern Ontario. Spring was so wet farmers couldn’t get their equipment on the fields. There was a lack of sun with all the cloud cover. Know, the water has dried up, but there has been very little rain for weeks. Sweet Corn wasn’t ready until this week. The stands are just in their second day of operation and the Hudsons had to pull out of the Carp Farmers’ Market Garlic Festival this year – the first time in many years.

“It’s two weeks to the day late this year,” Bruce said. “We try to plant enough to get through the first 10 days.”

Bruce says the late start has created other issues as well. The birds have been waiting.

“The birds are destroying our crops right now,” he said. “Bird bangers don’t work, I can tell you that.”

Bruce is hoping the canopy “thickens up,” and that will slow down the winged predators.

“The corn’s too good,” a farmer jokes from the tour.

Bruce says they have $20,000 invested in sweet corn seed alone. He credits the hard work of the neighbourhood youth that accept the arduous job of picking the corn.

“I think if we had to hire offshore, we’d quit,” Bruce said.

It seems every year is a challenging growing season this century. Record flooding and tornados the last three years. Seemingly warmer summers. The weather is changing, and crop growing is changing too.

“We went from wet to dry – one extreme to the other,” Davidson said. “Planting wasn’t ideal. It would be nice to get one ‘normal’ growing season to see what it looks like.”

But that’s why the youth movement and the research is so important.

“Companies are working on drought resistant crops,” Davidson said. “A lot of research goes in to it. Continuous humidity is not good. It brings disease. Bruce and Brian are so interested in new technology and Leigh’s role. They’re willing to try things. They’re good stewards of the land.”