Tour puts spotlight on local farming successes

Nicholas Donaldson

The Rainy River Soil and Crop Improvement Association held its annual soil and crop tour last Thursday, featuring a day-long visit to local farms as well as discussion on agriculture in the district.
For RRSCIA chair John Sawatzky, one of the most noticeable aspects was the ages of the farmers the group visited.
“One thing that we did notice today is that a lot of the places we stopped at and toured, they were all younger farmers,” said Sawatzky, who also owns and operates Emo Feed Service.
“Harold Kelly, Jamie Beal–there were a lot of farmers from the younger generation, which I thought was encouraging.”
Sawatzky also noted the benefit of the older farmers going on the tour to share their ideas and help the next generation.
About 20-30 people took part in the tour as a group of vehicles following each other throughout the day, stopping in various fields to talk about planting, spraying, harvesting, and estimated yields.
The number of farmers fluctuated throughout the day as some met up with the group late or left early to get some work done on the hot, sunny day during hay season.
The first stop was at Harold Kelly’s soybeans east of Emo, then on to his sunflower field—something that hasn’t been seen in this area for quite a few years.
“It’s the first time this area has seen a field of sunflowers in 20 years,” noted Sawatzky.
Kelly, who moved to the area from southern Ontario a few years ago, said the sunflower seeds could be ground down for oil, but these most likely will be sold as bird feed and sold locally.
The tour then moved on to Sawatzky’s own soybeans, where the group heard from Blaine Epp, a representative from South East Seeds, a soybean and corn retailer based out of Manitoba.
He and Sawatzky explained how the field had been planted, what variety was used, and the importance of the nitrogen-producing nodules on the soybean plant.
The day continued with Jeff Pollard’s oats/peas mixture, Scott McNabb’s corn, Colin Romyn’s canola, and Donald Martin’s corn before finishing at Jamie Beal’s soybeans north of Stratton.
Discussions around each crop were aided by the expertise of Kim Jo Bliss, manager of the Emo Agricultural Research Station, and Meghan Moran, a visiting canola and edible bean specialist from Paris, Ont., along with a few other out-of-town visitors with knowledge to share.
Sawatzky said he always is pleased with the visitors they get on the crop tour and the attention it brings to the area.
“There is a lot in of interest in the area for more agriculture,” he remarked.
“Crops like corn, canola, soybeans–you see more and more of them.”
Sawatzky added the tour is great for local farmers, as well, because it allows them to hopefully learn something new, network with other producers, and perhaps be encouraged to try something new next season.
“A lot of times we tend to stay in our little circle of people and don’t get out or see what is actually happening,” he noted.
Sawatzky also cited the help it gives to new producers in the area and new ideas to the lifelong residents, making the tour a vital part of growing agriculture in the district.
“I think that is good because it brings different ideas, brings different experiences, and even though we’re young, it helps us to try things and we can talk and collaborate ideas,” he reasoned.
He noted that he is from Manitoba while both Kelly and Beal are from southern Ontario, coming here in the past few years to try farming in Rainy River District.
“Hopefully, those guys keep going, hopefully the markets are good, and so therefore their returns are good, too,” Sawatzky said.
As part of the local soil and crop association, Sawatzky said he always is looking to improve agriculture in the district—and help everyone see the importance and potential of the land here.
“There is so much land in this area that is not utilized–and it’s very good, fertile land,” he stressed.
“A lot of us young guys see that and say, ‘Hey, why is this land being idled for 10, 20, or 50 years?’
“My goal is to encourage agriculture in the area and, I think, on behalf of the soil and crop [association], that’s our goal collectively–to see agriculture in the Rainy River District do well,” he concluded.