Mairlyn Smith Hosts the I Heart Farmers Retreat with A Real, Live Canadian Canola Farmer


Photo: Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola
*all activities and food were by Branding and Buzzing for this sponsored post, but, as always, all opinions expressed are my own


To celebrate I Heart Farmers, the fine people of Canola Eat Well invited a small group of city kids to join them for a day in the country for some apple picking, flower arranging and picnicking on delicious, heart healthy foods, all prepared for us using Canadian canola oil by cookbook author, nutritionist and living Canadian legend, Mairlyn Smith



Applewood Farm and Winery, where we all picked a peck of apples and threw down a shot or two of Boozey Apple Jack before hopping back on the bus

The first stop on this warm, sunny, fall day, was to AppleWood Farms for some apple picking and a cider tasting before making our way to one of the prettiest farms I have ever seen, South Pond Farms, to learn a bit about flower arranging and a lot about how canola is farmed, processed and turned into oil. Canola remains the most profitable crop in Canada and we continue to be the global centre for research as well as production and is as truly Canadian as maple syrup, poutine and a baby moose in a Tim Horton's parking lot.

Canola Fun Fact: 
The plant was bred by Canadian scientists, Dr. Baldur Stefansson and Dr. Keith Downey, who selected rapeseed populations when looking for a crop that would produce a healthy, edible oil product. Prior to canola oil, most of the oil Canadians used for food purposes was imported and people wanted a home-grown edible oil. Canola was selected from rapeseed through the knowledge and ingenuity of these prairie plant scientists.



The picturesque South Pond Farms was the stop for flower arranging and a picnic lunch







Winnipeg farmer, Will Bergmann, showed us how to test canola seed, in order to grade it, using strips of tape and a roller. First, he took a sample of the seed using a flat paddle with little divots to scoop them up, lay the tape on top and then used the roller to crush them to ensure that there are not too many green seeds in there. Finally, he flipped the strip to examine the quality of the oil residue left on the back of the tape. If there are more than one or two green seeds per strip of 100, the grade is lowered. 






Canola Fun Fact:1978 - The term canola was trademarked by the Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association (now the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association) to differentiate the superior low-erucic acid, low-glucosinolate varieties and their products from rapeseed. The "Can" in canola stands for Canada and "ola" means oil 




cheese from The Cheese Boutique, fresh bread and delicious salads that prove that nutrition and taste can go hand in hand
Photo: Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola

Photo: Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola
After doing a bit of flower arranging, which I am afraid might reveal more about my inner psyche than ten years of therapy, we settled onto picnic blankets to dig into our delicious lunch. Along with a glass or two of Del Gatto Vidal, Mairlyn whipped up two tasty salads full of grains and pulses, both using fresh, local ingredients. 

She also made four very different canola based salad dressings for us to taste and choose for our mixed greens. Not only is canola oil a great choice because it’s local and heart healthy but the neutral flavour makes it very versatile, allowing the other flavours to shine through. The most popular vinaigrette appeared to the one using birch syrup, something that I am seeing everywhere these days. Despite the fact that we were all adults, much stealing and hiding of that particular bottle ensued.

Canola Fun Fact: One serving of canola oil each day will deliver about a quarter of all the vitamin E you need. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects your body's fats and proteins from free radical damage. It may also help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and memory loss



Meet a Canadian Farmer: Will Bergmann

Will Bergmann and Mairlyn Smith 
Photo: Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola



The highlight of the day, for me, was talking to a young, super tech savvy farmer from Manitoba, Will Bergmann. This guy does NOT look like my idea of a Canadian farmer, and yet, there he is, looking like he would be just as at home on Toronto's trendy Queen West as he is out in the field. This articulate, passionate guy is the face of the modern, Canadian farmer.

Will not only uses social media, photography and video (the drone footage of his farm activities alone will make you consider moving out west and buying a yourself a combine) but his embrace of modern farming technology is truly game changing. He turns the footage that he films using cameras mounted on drones into beautiful videos and takes stunning photographs to document life on the farm and then shares them on his website and his instagram account.

Through speaking with Will, I learned that in Canada, the majority of farms are still family owned and operated. Even if the number of actual farms has declined slightly, technology has enabled those farms to increase in size because now fewer people can farm more efficiently, cover more ground and increase their production.

willbergmann.com
Will's Instagram is a beautiful account of his life on the farm with his family

A third generation farmer, Will's family has been farming his land since 1925. His father farmed with his two brothers until five years ago, when Will bought one of the uncle's share in the farm, and now he works the land alongside his remaining uncle and and his father as none of the cousins or remaining siblings were interested in carrying on in the family business. They grow wheat, oats, canola, soybean and corn as well as raising pigs. Most recently, they have started growing vegetables for a CSA and some local restaurants.

He and his wife, Jen, hope to, someday, pass the farm on to their three young children aged 1.5 to 4.5 (it's so cute how young parent's still count the half years with their kids). He loves music, surfing and basketball - you know stereotypical Canadian farmer stuff!

Photo: Will Bergmann
I asked Will 5 questions and he answered from his "office" in the cab of his GPS guided combine:

1.  What is the biggest obstacle facing the modern Canadian farmer?

"So hard to give one answer to this. "The consumer" might be the biggest obstacle. Sounds kinda crazy, but consumer desires push quite a bit of ag policy and research. Regardless of being right or wrong, the customer is always right...and demands are placed on us. Misconceptions and misinformation spreads so quick these days and effects what we do. Rising costs of land, machinery, and inputs make the margins smaller... all these things are tied together"

2. Which type of modern tech has changed the way you farm the most drastically?

"That could be a toss up between bio tech, gps guidance, and communication." 

Which type of modern tech has your father been the most resistant to?

"This is seriously laughable because I didn't read the question ahead of time...but communication. The old man doesn't want to have a cell phone. Flat out refuses" 

What are the most common misconceptions that the public have towards GMOs?

"That they cause cancer. That there's a different make up of that product. Ie: an apple is still an apple...wheat is still wheat."

What tech do you predict will be the operating standard ten years in the future?

"At the rate that ag tech is developing, that's a very hard answer to predict. "Precision agriculture". Maximizing potential on land while using as little inputs as possible will be huge. Seed, chemical, micro nutrients and fertilizer cost so much."







Photo: Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola



Canola Fun Fact: Canada’s canola industry adds $13.8 billion in economic activity to the Canadian economy. The canola industry creates over 216,000 jobs in western and eastern Canada in production, transportation, crushing, refining, food development, manufacturing and service.

Photo of my friend, Ivy Lam and I with our peck of apples from AppleWood Farm: Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola






Canola Fun Fact: More than 43,000 Canadian farmers grow canola, largely as full-time farmers and in family farm businesses. 
They depend on canola to generate between one third and one half of their revenues. Ninety per cent (90%) of Canadian canola is exported throughout the world, bringing back more than $9 billion to the country’s economy.



"I wrote Homegrown along with recipes from the members of the Ontario Home Economics Association because I wanted to celebrate the foods that we grow, raise and produce in Canada including those hard working people who are responsible for bringing them to our plates. With roughly only 2% of our population producing our food we need to be celebrating these mostly family owned and operated farms from shore to shore. Buy Canadian when you have the choice, our standards are world renowned as are our foods. Try new Canadian grown or produced foods when you get the chance. Ice Wine Syrup from Niagara. Birch Syrup from Manitoba or Quebec. Hemp hearts and flaxseed from our Prairie provinces. The list of Canadian foods is full of possibilities in your kitchen. We truly are a melting pot of both food and cultures. Go hug a farmer, a bee keeper, a fisherman, a maple syrup tapper, a cheese maker, a bread maker, a wheat grower, a pulse grower, an egg producer, a beef producer, a chicken farmer, a vegetable farmer, a canola farmer, hug them all." Mairlyn Smith


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