Even Heroes have to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 5, 2009 by grumblehillphoenix

Jessica Phoenix bounces back after losing her spot on the Canadian Olympic Team


  For the last eleven years Jessica Phoenix has been training to be an Olympic athlete.  In July 2008, the 24 year-old, Uxbridge native, realized her dream of becoming a member of the Canadian Olympic Team.  With only days to go until travelling to Beijing Jessica suffered a tragic blow and gracefully backed away from her chances of winning a gold medal for Canada.

After an intensive qualifying process for a spot on the Equestrian Three Day Eventing Olympic Team, when not only does the rider need to qualify but the horse does as well, the next major hurdle for Jessica was to raise the finances to go to Beijing.  In order to send Jessica and her horse Exploring to China, it was necessary for her to raise $49, 100.00, with the Canadian government matching that amount.  With a mere two weeks to fundraise, Jessica had received $67, 327.07 through sponsorship, auction events, and donations.

After meeting her financial obligations, Phoenix and Exploring traveled to Virginia for Olympic training camp. On the second day of training, a small injury to Exploring’s leg was discovered during a routine vet examination.  The prognosis was encouraging but it meant missing the Olympics a massive blow to Phoenix.  Immediately after returning home to Canada, a very advanced stem cell procedure was conducted on Exploring’s tendon.  The process meant that 40ml of marrow was extracted from Exploring’s sternum shipped to Prince Edward Island where the stem cells were separated and grown in a lab before being shipped back to Toronto and injected into Exploring’s tendon.   Over the next several months, exploring will continue to go through an intensive physical therapy and training to get him back to the Olympic level.  “Being so close to experiencing such a difficult dream and having it all crash down around you at the last possible second feels like the death of someone close to you”, says Phoenix.

With her drive more intense than ever, Jessica has decided to attempt to qualify with three horses at the 2012 Olympics increasing her chances to compete substantially. In early September, Jessica travelled to Kentucky to compete in FEI International Competition with each of the three horses finishing in the top five.  As a result, the up and coming Exponential is now qualified to compete at Exploring’s level in 2009, with Exuberant and Expression only one level below.  “I once heard that if you want to hear God laugh make plans, so I do, says, Phoenix.  I am a huge believer in God, and my faith was a large part of getting me through this.  It was amazing that so many people stepped up to help me get through.”  Phoenix’s goal is to win Gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, England.  

In order to get back on the circuit Phoenix will again be gaining experience against the best in the world.  The next two major events she will take part in are the 2010 World Championships in Kentucky and the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico but in preparation for these world class events Jessica and her team will compete in Europe this August against many of the Olympians she missed in Beijing.


Barack Obama, President-elect, promises major change for American agriculture and that means change for Canadian agriculture too

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2008 by grumblehillphoenix

Barack Obama, will begin his term as the President of the United States on January 20, 2009.  He is promising big change across America and since Canada is both a neighbour and a major trading partner “this change” will mean serious repercussions for Canadian agriculture.

President – elect Barack Obama wants to steer away from factory type agribusiness with huge yields and concentrated animal feeding operations, and bring America back to family farms – a friendlier, both socially and environmentally, way to do business.  In order to ensure economic opportunities for family farmers, the President-elect, will introduce a new system which involves the implementation of a $250,000 payment limitation, a cap on subsidies, which will invoke stability and predictability for small scale farms and discourage corporate agribusiness.  The notorious U.S. Farm Bill, known as the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, has placed intense pressure on the international agricultural scene. By placing a cap on subsidies, Obama, will have more money to give farmers below the $250,000 range in an attempt to stimulate the local economy in rural America which in turn will continue with the precedent set by the Farm Bill and which has lowered international pricing.

Following a more protectionist/Democrat approach it is likely that Obama will continue the Country of Origin Labelling, COOL, system.  This has already impacted Canadian livestock, particularly in the hog industry.  For example, American packers must properly acknowledge the birthplace of livestock that will enter the marketplace. Canadian born finishing hogs to be slaughtered and those that cross the border to be raised in America must go through the COOL system in order to be sold in the U.S..  American hog packers are trying to avoid costly labelling and handling and in order to keep the integrity of the system in the market place they will turn again to U.S hog farmers for their product.   

By choosing Hilary Clinton as the Secretary of State, Obama has also placed pressure on the issues surrounding Canadian cattle crossing the border.  As a Senator during the BSE crisis Clinton has been very vocal about the issues surrounding BSE and has maintained her opposition of the border being re-open to Canadian livestock.  This is an issue she regularly discussed during her time as candidate for the democratic leadership race and has continued on with even after the border was opened.   Canadian beef and dairy producers cannot afford another border closing.

In his campaign, Obama concentrated on three significant areas of rural America.  Obama and his government will ensure economic opportunities for family farmers, they will promote value added initiatives by providing capital to those who are able to develop farmer owned processing plants, cooperatives, etc., and the Obama government will make changes to the administering of health care, improve education and upgrade infrastructure in rural areas.  There is the potential for great things to happen in North America with the environmental, economic and social change Barack Obama has promised will occur in the United States and that change takes time.  

“We need to set priorities that reflect our values,” says Obama.  “we’re putting family farms first, we’re putting conservation of our land and water first, we’re putting tough choices for CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations] first and if there’s going to be a hog lot in your community then the community gets a say about where it goes.” While the implementation of these policies in rural America is admirable and probably necessary, in the short term, the result may be collateral damage to Canadian agriculture.




Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2008 by grumblehillphoenix

To my classmates – I was showing my measly posts to my parents only to realize they are hidden and not visible on the site – awesome.  Here they are and I will write more frequently!

For those producers who consider themselves great innovators, provincial recognition may be just an application away

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2008 by grumblehillphoenix

Innovation has been the cornerstone for agricultural evolution throughout history.  The development of agricultural technology and the implementation of unique sector ideas that increase efficiency and production is the ultimate reward for farmers.  For those producers who consider themselves great innovators, provincial recognition may be just an application away. 

Launching in 2006, the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation  Excellence, is a 2.5 million dollar initiative, developed  to acknowledge new technologies within Ontario’s agriculture sector.   Now in its third out of five years, the programme strives to encourage innovation throughout the agri-food sector and creates awareness within the agri-food community, Ontario and on a global scale. In the programme’s outline there is a deliberate attempt to “foster innovation that affects the farm level.”   The programme has received over 350 applications outlining the creative ideas Ontario’s agri-food innovators.

There are several different categories for innovation with particular focus on important trends like addressing health and safety within the agriculture industry, education and alleviating environmental issues.

 The award programme has three different levels.  Up to fifty five regional members are chosen by two independent review panels using “uniqueness and originality, development, operational benefits, adoption and/or commercialization and broader impact or benefits” as criteria. Regional winners receive $5000 from the award fund.  The Minister of Agriculture and the Premier will choose two recipients one for the Minister’s Award , the winner receiving up to $50 000 and  an overall winner for the  Premier’s Award receiving up to $100 000.

Lang Farms Ltd. one of the regional recipients of the 2007  Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence was awarded for their innovative “traceability system” used in their operation.

Anthony Lang, the patriarch of the Lang family began farming with 100 acres of crop land in 1972.  From its quaint beginnings, Lang Farms Ltd. has turned into a highly functioning Agri-business venture with over 5500 acres in crop production with an average of 1800 acres in corn and 1600 acres of soybeans with additional acreage in other crops.  The operation includes fertilization facilities, seed production and distribution facilities and an 1800 000 bushel grain elevator.  Innovation has been crucial to the operation’s expansion and to its high level of success.

Lang Farms Ltd. has developed a non- genetically modified crop traceability programme for on the farm use and for their contracted growers to use. The traceability system emerged as a request from an important contract with one of Canada’s major distilling companys to provide evidence that non-GMO was the corn product they were purchasing.  The non –GMO corn goes through a highly detailed documenting process where it  is tested, conditioned and  stored with each stage adding to the depth of tracing information.  The record keeping begins at the seed level determining where the seed came from. The testing of field lots, field contaminates and third party auditing works with Lang Farms Ltd., to ensure the clients needs are being met and demonstrates the  measurability of the system. Lang farms Ltd has approximately 100 grower contracts each providing signed declarations that they are meeting the standards necessary to produce a non-GMO crop.  Random and non-random testing is done throughout the entire process   A test strip determines if certain fertilizers and pesticides like Round Up Ready, Liberty Link, Herculix and BT are present.  Lang Farms Ltd. constantly researches how to make the strict testing more inclusive and efficient as new products are introduced into the marketplace.  The operation also uses DNA sampling and analysis to confirm genetic I.d.’s of corn crops.


The traceability system is in constantly evolving and has assisted Lang Farms Ltd. in their pursuit of international non-GMO certification as well as becoming certified PROTERA.  The use of  traceability systems demonstrates social, environmental and economical responsibility to its consumers from producers  and ultimately the agricultural industry.

Joe Lang, pictured receiving the regional award said “It was a great honour to be recognized with the 2007 [award winning] group.  The industry can be overlooked because in the past agriculture’s reputation was that it never really changed.  The award shows that we’re doing new stuff too!”

Premier Dalton McGuinty stated in a message stemming from the 2007 award winner announcement that “in today’s competitive global market, agricultural innovation is essential to our province’s success.” While innovation has been a hallmark of Ontario agriculture throughout its history, their good ideas and best practices are being supported and recognized by the provincial government.

For additional information on award criteria visit the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website at  www.omafra.ca and nominations for 2008 innovators can be submitted by December 1, 2008.

Canadians love biotechnology????

Posted in Uncategorized on November 8, 2008 by grumblehillphoenix

 Discussing genetically modified organisms among the public was once a provocative way to get Canadians talking.  Not long ago, GMOs or biotechnology, was considered another major threat to public health that was inescapable and promoted fear. It now appears that Canadian’s, concern seems to have gone by the wayside.

The Canadian Government defines biotechnology as “the application of science and engineering in the direct and indirect use of living organisms or parts or products of living organisms in their natural or modified forms.”  BIOTECanada, created in 1987, is an institution that creates awareness and promotes these applications in the health sciences, in food development, in the environment and in agriculture throughout the country.  The institution’s mission says that BIOTECanada is dedicated to the sustainable commercial development of biotechnology in Canada and “to serve as the voice for industry leadership to build a sustainable environment for our community of researchers and innovators.”   BIOTECanada is industry funded.

 A recent national poll commissioned by BIOTECanada reveals that a significant number of Canadians, 9 out of 10, not only believe that biotechnology is important economically to Canada, but 81% want the government to support it as well. This is a major attitude shift from believing this technology was a public threat.

Critics may still have valid concerns and wish to question the results in light of the change in attitude of Canadians, however, the poll was conducted by the NANOS Research group, a Canadian organization with a diverse portfolio in surveying and research.  In its fourth year, the national survey was conducted in September 2008 an involved 1000 Canadians with an interesting response.

 Canadians value the contribution of biotechnology  to their health care, their food and their environment.  “Biotechnology is important in Canada and we don’t have to apologize for it” says Peter Schwab, Vice-President  of Industry Relations for BIOTECanada.  “It is an integral part of the agricultural industry and the Government.  It plays a major role in crop development by reducing tillage, changed the way some use pesticides and herbicides, has increased yields within sectors and ultimately has improved many producers bottom lines” says Schawb.  In fact the survey revealed that the majority, 80% or respondents thought that biotechnology is beneficial for agriculture in Canada. 

Peter Morton, a cash cropper, with  a 1500 acre farm in Peterborough, Ontario, is pleased to hear about BIOTECanada’s survey results.  “With so many Canadians on board with us, cash crop farmers no longer have to feel guilty for using the latest technology, in order to make a living.  We’ve gotten the message across and we’re in this together,” says Morton.

With these national poll results it appears the Canadian Public has caught up to Industry and in particularly the agricultural industry, in its ability to adapt to the use of biotechnology and see what happens.  Though biotechnology is still relatively young in its long term testing stages, the positive impact it has already had on society has made it easier for acceptance and far more ethically acceptable.  For further information about biotechnology and the recent survey results go to www.imaGENEnation.ca

Out of the ashes

Posted in Uncategorized on September 30, 2008 by grumblehillphoenix
As a recent University graduate, the last five years have been like combining up the side of a mountain – many trials, tribulations and excitement came my way as I made it through each semester. Through the scholastic and personal turbulence which peppered my existence I found tremendous solace in cows . I used bovine therapy to cope with anxiety and maturation angst. Bovine therapy involves the physical connecting of a large dairy cow or cows, and the human patient. The many times with adrenalin coursing thorough me I could be found in an embrace with Marielle a 1600 lb Holstein. Cows are so still, beacons of strength with eyes, deep black pools of calmness, that absorb all pain and heartache. They sense all levels of upset and take it all away.
 Last November we sold our herd of cows – a familial decision which was painstaking and necessary. As I am over the initial aspects of this injurious episode and my depths of despair , I realize now that I have risen out of the ashes – just like the mythological Phoenix, trying to find a new way to live my life coping like bovine absent people.
Surviving such trauma just means more fodder for my tell -all.