Tuesday, July 31

Are trees the next canola

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

At Prince Albert’s Saskatchewan Forest Centre, the future is one in which we can see the forest, and the trees. The centre is working on research that may one day create an agroforestry industry that parallels our current conventional agriculture sector.

“We are optimistic that there will be new developments which will make trees a viable choice among the options in the farming system,” says SFC Business Development Manager Doug Currie. “It is reminiscent of the evolution of canola or pulse crops. When you look at the acreages in production of those crops today versus where we started, and how long it took, 20 years doesn’t seem like a long time.”

The 20 years Currie refers to is the current production horizon for hybrid poplar, the most common farmed tree species.

“If we could get the 20-year horizon on poplar down to 18 or 15 years, there would be a substantial change in the economics,” says Currie. “The economics we’ve studied suggest that, looking back at the past 25 years, a producer could make more money in poplars than in wheat.”

The Saskatchewan Forest Centre was created as a non-profit corporation in 2001. Its mandate is to promote the acquisition, creation and dissemination of knowledge to expand Saskatchewan’s forest industry in a sustainable fashion.

The centre’s core approach is to create partnerships that allow knowledge and technology to be brought to Saskatchewan and made available to companies and producers in the agroforestry sector. The SFC recently received a $100,000 sustaining grant from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

“We are an organization that is partner-based, and we have leveraged the partner expertise to improve our ability to bring technology here for producers,” says Doug Currie. “Our focus is growing trees on farms, to make money.”

Currie cites partnerships with groups like the University of Saskatchewan, the PFRA, the Saskatchewan Research Council and Ducks Unlimited as the kind of relationships that allow the SFC to foster scientific co-operation and information exchange on agroforestry to the benefit of Saskatchewan.

“We jointly released a strategy on agroforestry with the university,” says Currie. “It outlines the steps we believe have to happen to move the industry forward, including more dedicated research and development programs focused on the commercial aspects of tree production.”

Currie says Saskatchewan enjoys one huge advantage over most jurisdictions looking at commercial tree production: available land mass.

“You’ve got relatively low land costs, and competition for land is less,” says Currie. “Around any given point where a production facility is located, if, within a hour’s drive you plant two per cent of the land to trees, you can support an engineered wood plant. That might mean an industry creating 100 to 200 local jobs.”

In addition to farming trees for wood, new markets are opening up to use agroforestry for the production of biomass to create energy, and as a highly efficient carbon sink for the emerging world trade in carbon credits.

“Trees will sequester the equivalent of as much as five to eight tons of carbon dioxide per acre per year,” says Currie. “The value of that carbon sink could make the difference in the early years of a tree operation by providing some cash flow.”

The Saskatchewan Forestry Centre is currently associated with approximately 50 demonstration sites of tree farming throughout the province.

For more information, contact:
Doug Currie, Business Development Manager
Saskatchewan Forest Centre
Phone: (306) 765-2840

Canola powers Saskatoon transit system

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

After a two-year test project, the Saskatoon Transit System has decided to convert all of its buses to biodiesel fuel created with Saskatchewan canola oil. Effective this summer, all 112 buses in the fleet are running on a one percent blend of canola oil and diesel. Saskatoon Transit Manager Jeff Balon says they began exploring the conversion out of concern for the environment.

“At Saskatoon Transit, we pride ourselves on being stewards of the environment,” says Balon. “We realize that conventional diesel is not a renewable resource. There are some products out there that were worthwhile exploring.”

The initial study was funded by Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission and the Canadian Canola Growers Association. Over a two-year period, a team headed by University of Saskatchewan engineering professor Barry Hertz studied the impact of using biodiesel in four City of Saskatoon buses.

The study concluded that, over the two-year period, using biodiesel instead of conventional diesel had reduced fuel consumption by three per cent, reduced engine wear on the test buses by 20 per cent, and provided a seven percent decrease in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the buses.

Transit buses are very long-running vehicles, expected to log close to 1,000,000 kilometres during their operating life. A major overhaul of a bus motor costs an estimated $30,000, so the engine wear reduction is seen as an important means to reduce maintenance.

“The biodiesel provides extra lubricity for the engines and reduces engine wear, a major cost item for us,” says Jeff Balon. “All around, it’s a no-brainer; it’s a big winner for us.”

Saskatoon becomes the first jurisdiction in North America to convert its entire transit bus fleet to biodiesel, and they’ve sparked the interest of transit systems in Regina and Edmonton, as well as the Canadian Urban Transit Association, the national group representing all transit systems in Canada.

It’s no accident that the biodiesel being used in Saskatoon buses is supplied by Milligan Bio-Tech, based in Foam Lake.

“We always look for local suppliers,” says Jeff Balon. “Why wouldn’t we support our own farmers and industry?”

With the initial study in the books and the decision made to go one percent biodiesel, what’s next?

A further study to test a five-per-cent blend in four new buses.

“We’ve ordered two hybrid diesel-electric buses and two brand new conventional 40-foot diesel buses, to compare the use of the five-per-cent blend,” says Balon.

The latest study will take about a year, before a decision is made about increasing the biodiesel blend for the entire fleet.

For more information, contact:
Jeff Balon, Manager
Saskatoon Transit
Phone: (306)975-2630
E-mail: jeff.balon@saskatoon.ca
Website: www.saskatoon.ca

New leader in place for Saskatchewan meat processing industry

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Thomson Meats, the home of the Saskatchewan Toll Processing Centre, now has a new CEO in place to help advance its operations and build the province’s meat processing industry.

Paul Kowdrysh has been hired to lead the Melfort-based organization. Kowdrysh has had an active 20-year career developing and leading companies to profitability and success.

“Paul has worked nationally and internationally, really as a turnaround specialist helping organizations develop profitable ventures,” said Catherine Folkersen, the Food Industry Unit Manager with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. “He’s done that in Asia; he’s done that in North America; he has a terrific resumé in this area, and we’re feeling extremely fortunate to have him here.”

Folkersen says it was more than just an exciting challenge that attracted Kowdrysh to Saskatchewan from Ontario. “He looked at Saskatchewan as a positive lifestyle change for his family, and decided that this was an opportunity he was interested in.”

As the new CEO of Thomson Meats, part of Kowdrysh’s responsibilities will be to increase the client base for the Toll Processing Centre, expanding the province’s value-added meat industry at the same time.

The centre was established at Thomson Meats as part of the Government of Saskatchewan’s $3.3 million Meat Processing Strategy, announced in 2005.

Folkersen says the centre complements other services that are available to individuals and businesses with an idea for a new food product.

“Getting into the food processing industry can be very expensive,” she noted. “Our goal has been to help make that process a lot easier, a lot cheaper and a lot more feasible for people who want to take a raw commodity—grown or raised here in Saskatchewan—and turn it into a value-added product they can then market on the world stage.”

Folkersen says the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre in Saskatoon, established to help companies develop products and test them on the marketplace, is the first step in that effort.

If their idea is for a value-added meat product, the Saskatchewan Toll Processing Centre then provides them with the opportunity to have it processed into its final state without having to construct their own facility.

“It’s a federally registered plant, where entrepreneurs can get their products processed at commercial rates. So, rather than having to build your own plant, you can have it done here and instead focus your energy on further developing your markets,” Folkersen said.

“In this manner, you don’t have to make the major infrastructure investment required to set up your own facility until you’re absolutely ready.”

Clients enter into a contract with the centre to have their products processed for a charge. Clients can provide the raw product to the centre if it comes from a federally registered facility, or the centre can simply procure it on their behalf. The client then arranges for the final product to be picked up when processing is complete.

Folkersen feels that Kowdrysh’s hiring is the boost the centre needs to take it to the next level. “I think this is a great opportunity for Saskatchewan people interested in getting into the meat processing industry, because there’s a very capable leader there,” she stated.

For more information on the services of the Saskatchewan Toll Processing Centre, contact Thomson Meats in Melfort at (306) 752-2802.

For more information, contact:
Catherine Folkersen, Manager – Food Industry Unit
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5768
E-mail: cfolkersen@agr.gov.sk.ca

A snapshot in time: assessing your pasture mid-season

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The health of your pasture is determined by its ability to perform important ecologic functions. The production of forage for livestock, the protection of the site from soil and water erosion, the cycling of nutrients and energy, and the capture and release of water are examples of the benefits a healthy pasture provides for society.

Maintaining a healthy pasture means sustainable grazing opportunities for producers. But it’s not something producers can simply take for granted. They will want to monitor their pastures from time to time and conduct health assessments to ensure they are properly managing the land to achieve its full potential.

According to Jodie Horvath, a livestock development specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), conducting a health assessment is like taking a snapshot of your pasture. It can help identify problem areas, such as patches of invasive weeds, uneven distribution of cattle throughout a paddock and damage to sensitive water sites.

“The first step in improving management is being aware of the issues,” Horvath said. “This allows a producer to make changes while it is still manageable. A quick survey of your pasture tells how your management has impacted a particular site.”

Take a closer look at your pasture. Are the types of grass you seeded present? In a tame pasture, you want the species you have introduced to be dominant. However, you can expect composition to change over time and with variable weather conditions. The SAF publication, Field Guide: Identification of Common Seeded Forage Plants of Saskatchewan, can help you identify the forage species that are in your pasture.

Take note of the weeds. What are they and how are they distributed around the pasture? Do you remember seeing them last year? Are they in solid patches or scattered throughout the field? Thriving weeds may be a sign that your seeded forage lacks the vigour to compete effectively against the weeds. Weeds are invasive by nature, so any bare ground provides opportunities for them to establish. Two SAF publications, FAQ: Identifying Weeds (Broad-leafed) and FAQ: Control of Selected Weeds on Pastures and Hay Land in Saskatchewan, can be found on the SAF website at www.agr.gov.sk.ca.

What do you see when you look down at the ground? The dead and decaying plant material from last year is litter. Litter performs an important function in your pasture by enhancing forage production through water, mineral and nutrient cycling. It protects the soil against wind and water erosion, and buffers against dry conditions by aiding moisture retention and reducing soil moisture loss.

It is important to monitor your pasture throughout the season, as well as from year to year. Identifying trends and patterns lets you know if the management decisions you made are working, or if you need to make some changes. For more information regarding the condition of your pasture, contact SAF’s Livestock Development Branch at 306-787-9112 or your nearest SAF Regional Office, or visit the SAF website. You can also contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

For more information, contact:
Jodie Horvath, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 786-1509
E-mail: jhorvath@agr.gov.sk.ca

Grant ensures testing of newest grain crop varieties

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan producers will again have the opportunity to evaluate and compare the newest grain varieties for production on their farms.

This opportunity is made possible by an industry/government partnership. For the third year, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) has provided the partnership with a $100,000 grant.
An entry fee system is then used in which variety owners or companies with the distribution rights to a particular variety pay a portion of the cost of having the variety tested. The Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association (SSGA) also makes a financial contribution to the program.

The committee that administers the program is the Saskatchewan Variety Performance Group (SVPG). The committee is composed of representatives from organizations with an interest in providing variety testing information. Public and private research institutions conduct the testing and compile the data.

“The program creates a database providing producers with independent, comparative information on the varieties they grow,” says Blaine Recksiedler, the Cereal and Organic Crops Specialist with SAF. “The published results, including data from the co-op trials (pre-registration), present information on yield and agronomics and on certain market-related traits valuable to producers. Comparisons are made to a commonly grown check variety.”

“It has been indicated that producers value third-party variety testing as an important source of information when making cropping decisions,” added Recksiedler.

Testing requires several steps. First, trials are conducted using uniform protocols and standard check varieties. Second, data are collected from as many sites as are available and statistically analyzed. Third, results are aggregated over a number of years and on an area basis.

Variety trials are designed to measure the yield differences that are due to genetic causes while minimizing variability due to non-genetic factors such as moisture, temperature, transpiration, weeds, diseases and pests.

SeCan Association will administer the funding for SVPG. As well, crop co-ordinators will manage the data and provide expertise in their respective crops.

The results of the testing are then reviewed by the Council on Grain Crops, which also updates disease and other agronomic information, and approves the data prior to publication.

Producers will be able to access this information in early January during Crop Production Week in the Varieties of Grain Crops publication, which is also found in SaskSeed, the SSGA’s seed guide.

Crops in the SVPG program include wheat, barley, oats and flax; however, the SAF grant also provides support to organizations that are testing other crop varieties, including canola, pulses, winter wheat, sunflowers and canary seed. Variety information for these crops is also provided in the Varieties of Grain Crops.

For more information, contact:
Blaine Recksiedler, Cereal and Organic Crops Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4664
E-mail: brecksiedler@agr.gov.sk.ca

Vision succeeding for Prairie Berries

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

With the addition of 100,000 new trees presently underway, Saskatchewan’s own Prairie Berries Inc. is on it’s way to becoming the largest saskatoon orchard in the world.

Currently, the orchard founded and operated by Sandy Purdy near Keeler has 10 acres of saskatoons; however, with an investment from an Alberta business partner, the operation will expand by some 120 acres.

“It has always been the company’s plan to expand,” Purdy said. “Our vision statement from the day we started Prairie Berries was to be recognized worldwide for the supply of saskatoons in the international market.” This expansion is certainly a step in the right direction.

Purdy outlined several factors that played a role in the decision to increase the company’s size at this point in time. “The market opportunities that are being presented to us by customers, both in the domestic and the international marketplace, have had a major impact in our decision,” she stated.

“With that in mind, these opportunities require a guarantee on our part to ensure an adequate supply to our clients year over year. The expansion was a strategy that we undertook to make sure we had a certain volume of supply that we knew we could count on every year.”

Prairie Berries currently pulls its supply from 27 growers across all three Prairie provinces. But Purdy says they needed to increase that in order to hit their targets throughout the next five years. The risk was that many of these operations were established as u-pick orchards, so the supply numbers were small and could fluctuate quite a bit from year to year.

“This situation was somewhat threatening to our supply guarantee,” she said. “By expanding, we are able to guarantee 40 per cent of our total supply using our own orchard. This brings the risk down considerably.”

Purdy feels that saskatoons have become more popular over the years for several reasons. First is an increased awareness brought about by the marketing initiatives of Saskatoon Berry Partners Inc., an organization Purdy formed in 2003 which amalgamates the efforts of over a dozen growers to increase supply and provide added value, both to the market and for the individual growers. Using a value chain management system, the growers are able to work together towards common goals.

Second, saskatoons hold health properties that are very attractive to consumers. Eating three-quarters of a cup (around 100 grams) of saskatoons provides 24 per cent of the recommended daily intake of fibre. “With trends in the marketplace for more nutritional foods, and demographics looking to change the way people eat, a diet high in fibre can have significant positive health benefits,” Purdy suggested.

Third, the antioxidant properties of saskatoons also contribute to improved health. “Research studies that we have done in the past couple of years have proved that saskatoons are about two to three times higher in antioxidants than blueberries,” she stated. Although there are several ways to measure antioxidants, the study was done using the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scalar value.

Fourth, Purdy feels that proactive strategies aimed at changing people’s lifestyles and eating habits have helped to create an increased demand for saskatoons.

Purdy says she wants to see Saskatchewan become more self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables. She says that Prairie Berries hopes to contribute to that vision by being recognized as a major player in the overall Saskatoon market with respect to both supply and processing.

Prairie Berries currently has a primary and a secondary processing plant. However, given the projected demand, Purdy says these plants are not big enough to handle the required supply. The company’s ideal vision is to consolidate the primary and secondary plants into a single, centralized operation which can handle larger volumes.

With this centralized location, they will not only be able to support their own berries, but other growers who may have market opportunities if they are able to get their berries handled and processed in a federally inspected facility.

For more information, contact:

Sandy Purdy
Prairie Berries Inc.
E-mail: prairieberries@sasktel.net
Website: www.prairieberries.com

Clarence Peters
Fruit Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 788-2018
Phone: 306-787-4666

Low tech could mean big savings for hog producers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Managing the escalating cost of building hog barns to finish pigs is a real challenge for the pork industry. Construction of a swine barn in Saskatchewan costs $350 to $370 per pig-space compared to $300 to $320 in the United States. As a result, more weanling pigs are shipped to the U.S. for finishing, which has a negative effect on the profitability and long-term stability of the provincial industry.

Sask Pork and the Prairie Swine Centre are looking into low-cost swine housing, based on locally available low-cost building material, as a potential solution.

One promising approach they are investigating is building barns out of bales.

“We undertook a project looking at the possibilities of using contract finishing as a way to increase hog production in Saskatchewan. Through that project, we found that the cost of building a new barn is quite high, and we wanted to look at low-cost methods of producing a structure to house swine,” said Mark Ferguson, the Manager of Industry and Policy Analysis with Sask Pork.

“We were approached by a company called C and C Feeders that had a novel idea of using a hybrid structure consisting of flax bale walls and a regular barn roof.”

With funding from the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) program, Sask Pork is now testing the hybrid barn concept with a prototype building erected near Humboldt.

“The key is to find a structure that provides the same benefits as modern hog barns,” Ferguson said. “But you need to be able to maintain the feed efficiency and the feed conversions to be cost-effective. Instead of liquid manure, this barn uses a straw-based system.”

The critical factors that must be controlled in a finishing barn are temperature and humidity, according to Ferguson. With the bale structure, air flow is managed by opening and closing tarp covers at the entrances, and through the flax bale walls, instead by high-priced mechanical ventilation.

“The primary variable we are testing here is the temperature in the barn throughout the summer and winter, in terms of productivity, and how the hogs coming out of the facility measure up,” Ferguson stated. “The bales provide pretty good insulation. The question is the management of humidity, especially in the winter. Our theory is that moisture may be able to pass through the bales, which could be a very large advantage.”

The design of the flax bale structure suggests that its cost efficiency would be a substantial improvement over traditional hog barns. It has been estimated that , instead of $350 per pig-space, the cost of this new concept could come in as low as $150 per pig-space.

The Prairie Swine Centre is providing technical expertise and helping to measure the outcomes of the project. Funding allows for a two-year time frame, with the final report on the flax bale barn expected to be filed in 2009.

Ferguson says the hog sector has been growing steadily over the past few years. At last count, 2.6 million pigs were being raised each year in an estimated 430 Saskatchewan barns.

Sask Pork is aiming to find innovative approaches that will allow producers to finish more of their pigs here, rather than shipping them to out-of-province destinations. If the bale structure proves feasible, it could help reduce the capital costs of the barns, thereby reducing total production costs.

For more information, contact:
Mark Ferguson, Manager, Industry and Policy Analysis
Sask Pork
Phone: (306) 244-7752
E-mail: mferguson@saskpork.com
Website: www.saskpork.com

Agriculture still a key part of Saskatoon Exhibition

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Residents of Saskatoon and surrounding area are in for a treat the week of August 7 to 12. The annual Saskatoon Exhibition hosted by Prairieland Park will be in full swing all week long, with the promise of a pleasurable, fun-filled experience for all ages.

Mark Regier, the CEO of Prairieland Park Corporation, says the fair has been an institution in the city since 1886, even though it has grown and changed in many ways over its lifetime.

“It started out as a summer fair with a lot of different events focused around agriculture,” Regier stated. “Through the years, it has evolved to include many different types of attractions. Plus, we have a lot of exciting shows, showcases and activities, on top of the carnival and the midway. We always try to bring out the latest in entertainment.”

But Regier is quick to add that the exhibition has stayed true to its roots with a number of agricultural and prairie attractions. One of its most popular traditions is the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Races, a world-class competition that will be back again at this year’s event. “It’s a Saskatchewan favourite, and a very popular draw to our event,” he said.

Horse enthusiasts will also enjoy the Graham Sisters trick riding performance, a new feature for 2007. The Ken Jen Racing Pigs are another attraction that always provides audiences with a lot of laughs.

“We feel that we have programming for kids, teenagers and young adults, right through to seniors, so we are hoping that all ages will attend,” Regier noted.

“The fair is primarily a community celebration. It’s a chance to come out and see your friends and neighbours, and to celebrate your community.”

This year’s event features a cross-section of entertainment. Nickelback, a band with over 23 million records sold worldwide and numerous album, radio and video accolades, will headline opening night.

Country recording artist Corb Lund, as well as Kim Mitchell, Hedley, and the Doodlebops, a pop band for pre-school kids, are also set to perform over the course of the exhibition.

Other popular attractions include a first-class midway, a Saskatchewan youth talent competition, a strongman challenge, a demolition derby, a comedic hypnotist and the “Super Dogs” show.

Those who enjoy the arts and crafts will find entertainment at the Showcase of Arts, which features works of fine art, photography and creative home art.

“Plus, there are fireworks every night. We try to have a little bit for everybody here to see and do,” Regier stated.

To get in on the fun and excitement, Superpass tickets can be purchased before and during the exhibition. These include gate admission and midway rides for any one day, and can be purchased at any Safeway or Mac’s convenience store. Prices vary depending on the date purchased.

For more information regarding this year’s fun-filled event, visit the fair’s website at www.saskatoonexhibition.ca.

For more information, contact:
Mark Regier, CEO
Saskatoon Prairieland Park Corporation
Phone: (306) 931-7149
Website: www.saskatoonexhibition.ca

Grazing crop residue a good way to cut feed costs

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It’s only mid-summer, but it’s not too early for beef producers to plan ahead for fall grazing with their cattle herds.

In Saskatchewan, we produce massive amounts of straw and chaff each year after combining. Field grazing of these residues can provide very economical nutrition for beef cows during the fall and winter months.

When annual crops are grown and harvested for seed, the crop residue is essentially a by-product generated at no extra cost. The cheapest and easiest method of using these residues as cattle feed is field piling or field collection with an attachment on the combine, followed by field grazing.

A manufacturer in Alberta has taken the concept of crop residue bunching to a new level by inventing a tool called the “Whole Buncher.” The device looks somewhat like a giant pitchfork attached to the back of a combine. It collects the chaff and straw and dumps the material in piles approximately three feet high, four feet wide, and five feet long. The unit trips automatically and resets back into place with a counter balance weight.

Lorne Klein, a Forage Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), says the device offers a unique spin on the idea of using harvest remnants for feeding cattle. “Instead of the crop residue being baled and hauled to the cattle, the piles are left in the field for the livestock to graze on during fall and winter,” Klein explained.

“This reduces the amount of fuel that would ordinarily need to be burned in the feed production process. As a result, it’s a much ‘greener’ approach, and it reduces the input costs to the farmer.”

Klein points out that a producer in Saskatchewan has taken the same concept and built a unit to collect the chaff only. The chaff piles are approximately one foot high, four feet wide, and three feet long.

During fall and winter, the crop residue piles can be grazed exclusively or supplemented depending on the feed quality and the nutritional requirements of the cows. If the piles are properly managed and cleaned up, there is no problem with any residual field trash causing difficulties during seeding the following spring.

But Klein says there are a few considerations that farmers need to take into account before moving to a feeding system that includes crop residue grazing.

First, since cattle will be turned out to graze, the fields will need to be fenced, at least temporarily. “An electric fence is usually a low-cost option,” he noted.

Second, the field will require a water source. However, Klein says that, under the right conditions, snow can serve as an alternative source of water on fields without a creek, dugout or well. “It’s been scientifically proven that cows that have been properly conditioned can survive on snow, provided you have at least three to four inches of it and it’s relatively soft.”

Third, some form of shelter will be needed to protect the animals from high winds if they are to graze there through cold weather. Shelter can take the form of natural barriers like bushes, trees or a creek area, or a portable windbreak that the farmer puts up for protection.

Producers interested in obtaining more information on the Whole Buncher crop residue collector or on other approaches to field grazing can contact Lorne Klein at (306) 848-2382 or lklein@agr.gov.sk.ca.

For further information, contact:
Lorne Klein, Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 848-2382
E-mail: lklein@agr.gov.sk.ca

Fruit tour to discuss new markets and techniques

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Irrigation Development Branch of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) will be hosting a Fruit Tour in Outlook during the afternoon of July 31.

The event will outline potential markets and irrigation techniques to aid current fruit growers and recruit new growers to the expanding sector.

The tour comes at a time when new markets are emerging in the fruit industry and growers require knowledge in various areas to maximize their potential.

The tour is open to anyone with an interest in fruit. However, as Lana Shaw, an irrigation agrologist with SAF, explained, “The focus is on potential commercial growers and individuals who want to be in the business of producing or processing fruit.”

Many aspects of the fruit industry will be highlighted at the event. “The main purpose is to provide individuals who might be interested in becoming fruit producers with the information, tools and services that they need to do the job,” Shaw stated.

One of the foci is on commercial production, which entails using large-scale fruit production to make a commercial impact on the economy.

The event begins with a tour of the Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre orchard, which will feature strawberry crowns, saskatoon rejuvenation, sour cherries, haskap (blue honeysuckle), a fruit harvester demonstration, and research on fruit dehydration.

Growers will then tour the J.W.D. Market Garden, receive information on orchard irrigation, and view an agroforestry demonstration project.

“We will have information from a number of different production associations. The Canadian Cherry Producers and Haskap Canada will be represented, so growers will be able to get a snapshot of what is happening in the industry and where they might fit in,” Shaw noted.

“We are also going to be highlighting some of the government services that are available, both provincially and federally, to help people make the business plans and come up with the financing to start a new venture like this.”

A couple of important industry individuals will serve as guest speakers at the event. Larry White with the Saskatchewan Forestry Centre is involved in agroforestry using orchards. He will be providing an update on a trade mission that recently returned from Japan, where promising potential new markets for haskaps have been located.

Bruce Hill from the Canadian Cherry Producers Inc. will also discuss a study conducted for cherry primary processing plants and outline plans that are being considered for the industry’s future based on the findings.

The tour is expected to give current and potential fruit growers the opportunity to discover the latest developments in the industry, including new fruit markets and updated irrigation techniques.

More information is available at the Saskatchewan Fruit Growers website at www.saskfruit.com, or by calling the Irrigation Development Branch of SAF at (306) 867-5500.

For more information, contact:
Lana Shaw, Irrigation Agrologist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 867-5512

Saturday, July 21

Culture and tourism: getting it together

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Though culture and heritage organizations are regularly called upon to become engaged with tourism, a great many heritage organizations haven’t really established what they hope to gain from this business. Exploring the role culture and heritage play in the tourism economy, and how these sectors benefit from the industry, is precisely why the Federal Provincial/Territorial Culture/Heritage and Tourism Initiative (FPTTI) came into being, explains co‑chair Donna Dul.

Dul, who is also Manitoba’s director of the Historic Resources Branch, finds this to be easier said than done: “Is this a win/win collaboration? If it is, how do we develop it further, and if it isn’t, what can we do to create more support and understanding from tourism colleagues about the special issues the arts and heritage sectors face as tourism partners?" She points out that – almost a decade ago – a need for closer collaboration between tourism and the culture sectors was identified. There was a realization that many of the attractions developed across the country— whether they are museums, heritage sites or festivals—contribute to tourism. In many cases, ministers responsible for culture were also ministers of tourism, and yet, Dul says, "it seemed both those portfolios were operating in their own parallel (but isolated) worlds.”

When Dul and her colleagues started to look at more collaborative models, there emerged a set of principles grounded in respecting local processes. “We found, for example, that many of the guidebooks developed by the tourism industry aren’t quite the right fit for the culture and heritage context, and that more emphasis on working with local groups and training initiatives was likely to lead to successful collaborations.”

Dul soon realized many provinces have developed materials they make available to heritage and art organizations, but these focus more on how to market successfully: “Often,” she notes, “it is not the marketing angle that arts organizations need. What they need is to have a very clear sense of objectives that are, indeed, their objectives, and an understanding of the support tourism can provide them in achieving these. Sometime we find our tourism colleagues too focused on marketing, when they might spend a little more time discovering what culture and heritage organizations are about – finding out about their networks, their needs and clarifying who plays what role. There is a basic developmental process needed.”

Dul then moves to the area of economic analysis and outlines a concern with the return on investment for the contribution arts and heritage organizations make. “The tendency is to look at visitation statistics and assume that when visitation goes up, things are wonderful. But many arts facilities (and particularly heritage sites) are concerned about the wear and tear of increased visitation. How much is participating in tourism creating new demands on fragile resources? Are culture and heritage organizations getting support or new dollars to maintain the infrastructure they have?

These are delicate questions from an arts and heritage perspective that haven’t really been well articulated until the work conducted by the FPTTI, notes Dul. “It is easy to talk about a partnership – and we know what tourism gets out of it. But what do we in the arts and heritage sector get out of it? The simple answer we get from our tourism colleagues is ‘you know, if you get more people, that is a good thing. You can charge them an entrance fee.’ But that is usually a minimal amount which doesn’t cover the full cost of maintaining and operating heritage sites and parks, with all the kinds of conservation and interpretive programs that exist.”

The FPTTI stakeholders know this is an issue that cannot be solved simply by pressing for more funding directly from the tourism sector. Dul feels that now there is a growing recognition of the role culture and heritage play in tourism across Canada. “There is potential for much positive exchange, even if there are many small museums and heritage sites which are struggling to stay open and to maintain an adequate level of service. At that level, we still haven’t seen significant change, but when we look at the people who are involved in the policy end of things, there is increasingly a perception that the arts and heritage sectors need more support in order to be able to become full partners in tourism.

"I have seen that Canada is falling behind internationally in attracting new visitors because of the lack of cultural product. How do you develop cultural products with no new strategies on where to invest? How do we do this in such a way that we are selecting the best, most authentic, unique products?”

The quest for common ground is on‑going, but it appears there is a new, more open, dialogue.

Campers often demand wireless internet service

(Originally published in TOURISM)

It seems consumers don’t necessarily want to get away from it all when they hit the campgrounds these days. A growing number of campgrounds offer free wireless internet service as part of the camping fee package. No longer are campers just happy to find out the service is available when they show up; they actually request it at the Niagara Falls KOA, according to general manager Lisa Thompson.

“People choose to stay here because we have a Wi‑Fi network. We know how popular it is especially when there are service interruptions. When that happens, right away we have guests in the front door telling us they can’t get connected. That is how we really know how many people are using it.”

Amy Raposo and her husband Tony own the KOA in Barrie, Ontario. They have witnessed pretty much the same trend: “Usually when guests arrive, the third question they ask is 'do you have wireless internet'. We do, and we put in a tower on‑site along with repeaters to make that possible.”

Kyle Newell is the network administrator at KOA's head office in Billings, Montana. He has been asked more than once to give advice to campground owners looking to offer campers wireless internet capability. “The first thing I tell them is they have to have good connectivity to the internet. This can be challenging because not all campgrounds are located in metropolitan areas. Then you need good wireless equipment. Over time, we have identified reliable companies called Wi‑Fi providers who will come in and install their equipment; they will help provide support to the campground as well as the campers, and they will monitor the network to ensure the camper has a good Wi‑Fi experience.”

These firms have this down to a science. They will ensure there are enough antennas and devices installed to provide adequate coverage, Newell explains: “They can look at a site or a satellite picture of a campground (and if they know where all the trailers, trees and buildings are located), they will achieve coverage for the entire park. My advice is ‘don’t do it yourself’. Make sure you work with a Wi‑Fi company that has dealt with campgrounds before because there is a world of difference between setting up a Wi‑Fi in a coffee shop and in a campground with rigs, trees, hills and buildings.”

In the end, Newell believes, campgrounds shouldn’t need to have computer experts on staff. They are in the campground business; they are not an internet service provider. Some things, it seems, are best left for experts in the field.

Culture and tourism partnerships need municipal support

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Saskatoon was selected as a Cultural Capital of Canada for 2006, along with four other communities across Canada, under a national program to recognize and support Canadian municipalities "for special activities that harness the many benefits of arts and culture in community life."

The goal of the national program is to promote arts and culture in Canadian municipalities through recognition of excellence and support for special activities that integrate these values into overall community planning. Funding from the federal government (up to $2 million for a city the size of Saskatoon) is to enable communities to invest more in arts and culture, increase and improve cultural services, and strengthen connections with other communities through shared cultural experiences.

Internal research to develop a cultural tourism strategy for the city involved a two‑part series of focus group sessions to generate broad‑based community input. Participants represented a wide range of cultural organizations, as well as representatives from the business, education, municipal government, and tourism sectors.

Tourism Saskatoon took the innovative approach that staff would not participate in these sessions, feeling this would help ensure a fully-open dialogue between the players. Participants discussed their vision for cultural tourism, the challenges and opportunities in developing and implementing a strategy, and their views on creative elements that should be incorporated into the visual identity. (The process was managed by Fast Consulting, Terry Schwalm and Associates, and the Marketing Den.)

Saskatoon City Council voted to accept the finished report (Cultural Tourism & Marketing Strategy Saskatoon, March 2007) without further action at this time.

Putting a business focus on Aboriginal tourism

Daniel Paul Bork

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Put together spectacular landscapes, unique experiences, and a vibrant living culture and you have a remarkable opportunity to thrive in the tourism business. Nowhere can this be more true than with Aboriginal tourism products, of which there are stunning examples across Canada. Aboriginal Tourism Canada's (ATC) new CEO, Daniel Paul Bork, has a vision to ensure these products reach into the marketplace to achieve the success they deserve, and to increase Canada's portfolio of these market-ready tourism experiences.

Bork, president of Manitoba‑based Cook Consulting, was appointed CEO of ATC this spring. He told TOURISM that Canada's Aboriginal tourism file has gone through a growth spurt, accompanied by a re‑focused mandate. In the past, the regional Aboriginal tourism associations were heavily represented on the ATC board of directors. The principal mission used to be to advocate for the interests of those associations while they were developing regional strategies, but now – at the request of funding agencies as well as some of the board members – the new mission is to enhance, facilitate and support the Aboriginal tourism industry to get market‑ready product into the marketplace.

To get things moving, Bork has embraced a very specific goal: to identify 25 internationally significant Canadian Aboriginal tourism products and get them into the marketplace. "We want to market those at the international level and have an impact with consumers who are interested in coming to explore Canada, getting them to include Aboriginal product when planning their itinerary."

Bork acknowledges there will be challenges dealing with regional imbalances when it comes to the availability of market‑ready product. "There are regions of the country where organization has been lacking – notably Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta as well as in the Maritimes," says Bork. "They have struggled trying to organize owner/operators to market their Aboriginal tourism product, which seems a bit strange especially on the Prairies where there is a very high Aboriginal population and some good product. But there has been a trend there to look at the success of the individual operation rather than at the industry as a whole to develop a strategy to get products into the marketplace."

"Marketing is both an art and a science," continues Bork, "and some marketing initiatives in the past have been less than effective. It comes down to experience, and hiring people with experience." Bork notes that – using BC as an example – Aboriginal operators tend to work well with their provincial marketing organization (Tourism BC) which is a very good marketing machine, and have been more effective than those operators in some other jurisdictions that have not embraced marketing partnerships.

Bork emphasizes that – under the new ATC mandate – product development for Aboriginal tourism will stay with existing regional (Aboriginal) tourism associations. "What we would like to do, from the ATC point of view, is facilitate product development where there is a move toward ecotourism, matching existing Aboriginal tourism specialists with effective strategies. That would be our role, but development won't be one of the things we do." The ATC has been contacted by the International Ecotourism Society, which is working on an ecotourism strategy for Aboriginals and has some 15 operations that concentrate on ecotourism; Bork sees an opportunity to match that expertise with developing Aboriginal product in Canada.

"We have noticed," says Bork, "that the Aboriginal economic development sector and the businesses themselves tend to work in isolation. My role is to bring them out of isolation and get them working together with mainstream partners to broaden their consumer base. A lot of this is based around building relationships."

Bork sees a burning need for better research, a facet of ATC's new mandate in which he hopes to engage the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). "We have already decided to move forward with research into the German market, starting in the next couple of months. And, it will be important to disseminate the results of this market research and educate the tour operators and regional tourism associations, making the connection between the owner/operator – the product – and the tour operators. The research has to be accessible to ‑ and utilized to the benefit of – Aboriginal tourism products across Canada."

According to Bork, presentation is a key component of Aboriginal experiences. Too often, he feels, visitors have been encouraged to attend an attraction or an event, then provided with only a brief overview of what is going on and left to their own devices. Visitors want – need – to be engaged and fully informed about what they are seeing and doing from an Aboriginal perspective if they are to have a truly rewarding experience. As he points out, it is no longer (if indeed it ever was) good enough "to plop someone in a canoe and ride around all day" and consider it an Aboriginal experience.

Defining Aboriginal tourism products can be problematic. There are hotels and airlines in several parts of Canada which are entirely or partially Aboriginal‑owned, but may seem to have a connection with Aboriginal culture that is tenuous at best. "This can be a balancing act," says Bork, "because the tourism product or service that is 51% Aboriginal‑owned, for example, will want to be promoted and marketed along with other – perhaps even better – non‑Aboriginal products and services. And, there are products such as casinos and golf courses which are not traditionally Aboriginal experiences but are, in fact, fully Aboriginal products by any definition."

Given the challenges ahead, it is not surprising the ATC's new CEO emphasizes the concept of partnerships. The partnership inherent in the location of the new ATC office is a case in point: the office will share space with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada in Ottawa. "We want to align ourselves much more closely with mainstream industry, stepping out of our isolation and working in areas that are in all of our best interests.

King Pacific Lodge a trailblazer on carbon footprints

Photo: Claude-Jean Harel

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Dealing with the carbon footprint of tourism operations is a complex undertaking at the best of times. When someone takes the lead, a significant amount of corporate soul-searching has been invested before arriving at a solution, especially if the steps taken cut deeply into the bottom line. One of those industry leaders is BC’s King Pacific Lodge, a distinctive floating fishing lodge which has earned rave reviews around the world.

Moored in the shelter of Barnard Harbour on Princess Royal Island (south of Prince Rupert), it offers every luxury one could hope for in a wilderness setting. It is accessible only by float plane, and in close proximity to the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest intact temperate rainforest left on Earth. Imagine how strongly a place like this should feel about its carbon footprint!

King Pacific Lodge recently announced plans to reduce its carbon footprint by half over the next five years. It has committed to offsetting the carbon emissions of all lodge operations and employee travel, while also offsetting guests’ air travel to and from the lodge – creating what the company promises to be a truly carbon‑neutral vacation.

If journalists and environmentalists have been quick to point out that the lodge remains a relatively small player in the carbon footprint equation, King Pacific Lodge president Michael Uehara is inspired by something, perhaps, more fundamental. He and his team will look at everything from using more efficient light bulbs, to their recycling practices, even to installing a river‑hydro plant and solar panels for the lodge’s power needs. They will also look at using suppliers who conduct their own carbon reduction programs.

“It is really about an evolution in attitude that we are fostering, about hiring people who think in a similar vein; about associating with companies and creating a network of partners that are like‑minded," says Uehara. "You spread the notion of the need to reduce your carbon footprint and it influences your approach to social and environmental responsibility, even your perception of what are equitable practices.

“We sent a letter to every one of our suppliers telling them what we were going to do, and the letters we got back were incredible. Here are these companies that for years had been taking these small steps, unbeknownst to us. Yes, it is true that we are a small company offsetting our carbon – it is not like reducing emissions at a coal‑fired power plant on the shores of Lake Ontario. It really is more about harnessing our collective actions, and I am surprised at how quickly this catches on.”

According to Uehara, King Pacific Lodge has teamed up with Ecotrust Canada, an organization which focuses on building what it calls the “conservation economy” while raising and brokering capital among communities and businesses to achieve this. Ecotrust connects conservation entrepreneurs to each other.

“They are bringing about ten other companies in a carbon offset program,” notes Uehara, “which will involve the Pembina Institute, a non‑profit organization which is mandated to create an elaborate carbon footprint measuring tool to make it possible to assess the carbon footprint of companies and figure out ways to reduce it.”

When reminded that tourism is frequently referred to as one of the industries that contributes significantly to carbon emissions, he offers the following comment:

“We all have a definition of hospitality and of tourism; they exist for a reason. For me, they are absolutely necessary. They are about taking people outside of their world and introducing them to a new world. It is somewhat akin to providing an intensive course in the authentic lives of other people, in an authentic setting that you are not familiar with. It expands your mind and gives you a greater appreciation for all sorts of things in life.

"Of course, there is a cost; everything has a cost. When a baby is born, there is an environmental cost. Should we stop engaging in tourism activities? Is tourism worth the cost? In my mind… absolutely! We all need that sense of recreation. We all need to be exposed to hospitality. In many ways, it goes to the core of our human existence since the beginning of time.”

Evidently, the soul‑searching still goes on at King Pacific Lodge.

Vaughan Mills as a 'shoppertainment' destination

(Originally published in TOURISM)

There is no denying that shopping is one of the most powerful travel motivators – ever – and studies report shopping to be one of the most common activities engaged in by travellers while on holiday. How important, then, is it for businesses focused on marketing shopping experiences to differentiate what they offer from the experiences offered by their competitors? Very!

And that is what Vaughan Mills (just north of Toronto) is all about, with 250 stores configured inside and outside a loop – somewhat like stores lining a racetrack. Imported from the US, the Mills concept does away with the typical series of anchors, explains marketing director Jamie MacLean: “Instead of an anchor store at either end of the mall, which is the traditional format for a shopping centre, we are looking at 14 major tenants like Winners and HomeSense. We also wanted to bring in a number of first‑time stores to Canada. We have the first Designer Depot in Canada, and Children’s Place. Bass Pro Shops/Outdoor World has a surface area of over 140,000 square feet; it is a fishing and hunting destination in itself, with a 40,000 gallon fish tank where you can catch fish feeding throughout the day and also take fishing lessons. The tank also provides habitat for 15 species that are native to Ontario.”

At Vaughan Mills, gone is plain old shopping and in comes “shoppertainment”, a term the Mills claims to have coined where the emphasis is on a richly‑textured high‑quality shopping experience. MacLean emphasizes how the entertainment component helps impart destination status to the Mills:

“We have the NASCAR SpeedPark for the first time in Canada, featuring indoor and outdoor race and go‑kart tracks. We also have the Lucky Strikes Lanes (upscale bowling) from Hollywood. We have the world’s largest Tommy Hilfiger store. Pro Hockey Life is opening the largest specialty hockey store in Canada; it will have a themed, interactive environment with an indoor ice pad, providing opportunities to try out the merchandise before committing to a purchase.”

So, shopping thereby becomes even more of an experiential journey. “40% of our shopping centre is based on the outlets concept (Holt Renfrew Last Call, Lacoste, Browns Outlet, Calvin Klein Underwear). So it is the combination of standard fashion, large‑scale retail formats, outlets, dining, and the entertainment components that make a difference for us.”

To refine the experience even further, the shopping centre is broken up into six neighbourhoods and six transition courts, themed to expose visitors to meticulously conceived architectural environments at six entrance ways. MacLean explains that the over‑arching theme is “Discover Ontario” with neighbourhoods themed for lakes, nature, rural, small town, city, and even a "fashion neighbourhood". “So as you move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, the Discover Ontario theme makes the beauty and diversity of the province more vivid. The total mix we offer elevates the shopping experience to a new level. Vaughan Mills is not just about shopping; it is about adventure and the emotional connection. It appeals to all the senses.

“Back in the 80s and 90s, it was a big deal to go to a shopping centre as a destination and to spend the day there. Over the years, that idea faded away because there wasn’t anything unique about the shopping experience.”

The West Edmonton Mall was a Canadian pioneer in destination shopping complexes, MacLean acknowledges, but he feels Vaughan Mills is also a pioneer in its own right: “We are the largest single level shopping centre in Canada. We are a significant attraction in Ontario because of the Discover Ontario theme, and we think it also provides a sense of education for tourists – something that they can take back with them.”

Last but not least, Vaughan Mills has developed extensive partnerships with the tourism industry through a standing package promotion with seven local hotels and 70,000 coupon books distributed annually to tourists. The Vaughan Mills Shop and Stay program has helped sustain the attraction’s success in the travel trade, where management feels it belongs.

Culture and heritage key to success

(Originally published in TOURISM)

by Ernest Labrèque

Despite the existence of such powerful icons as the Cirque du Soleil, Canada ranks no higher than 18th in culture and heritage overall, in terms of international perception, according to the 2005 Nation Brands Index (Simon Anholt).

Will Canada one day be perceived as a destination which can offer its millions of visitors a rich cultural experience? How will we be able to ensure that museums, festivals and cultural institutions do not become critically under funded? How can we keep the major heritage sites – so beloved of tourists – from deteriorating to the detriment of the international competitiveness of our country?

These are real issues. The results achieved by two national co‑operative initiatives involving the tourism, culture and heritage industries are worthy of our attention, even though they start out with different perspectives on the issues. One of them is the CTC’s now‑completed Packaging the Potential and the other is the Federal‑Provincial‑Territorial Culture/Heritage and Tourism Initiative (FPTTI), a unique joint effort involving Canada’s 13 departments of culture and heritage.

Did you know that the FPTTI, which started in 2003 and was renewed in 2006, provides cultural organizations with extremely useful tools which are accessible on line?

  • A model for the analysis of tourism spin‑off for cultural sites, useful for working with decision‑makers to obtain funding;
  • 23 case studies (tourist attractions) of successful collaboration between tourism and culture;
  • a complete survey of domestic and international market studies in this field.
These reports, and many others, can be consulted at www.pch.gc.ca/pc-ch/pubs/tourism/index_e.cfm

The 2000‑2005 business strategy which was prepared by the CTC and adopted by its board of directors does, in fact, present a number of resources and new marketing models:

  • Canada: Destination Culture, which came out of a symposium where international buyers presented their expectations with regard to Canadian cultural product;
  • innovative partnerships as part of tourism trade shows and specialized forums aimed at cultural products, such as Bienvenue Québec and Sharing Manitoba’s Culture with the World;
  • the “Learning Travel” tourism product, which sets forth a selection of more than 320 certified educational experiences suggested for international buyers;
  • research on US and Canadian tourists interested in entertainment events, art, museums and heritage.
Ernest Labrèque was a culture tourism specialist with the CTC until 2006, and is currently head of film and television for International Cultural Relations, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

Vancouver gallery works with travel trade

(Originally published in TOURISM)

In a bold move, the Vancouver Art Gallery is offering a major exhibition of works by modern masters from the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art this summer. “From Monet to Dali” is the largest showing of historical European art ever presented at the gallery, with works by Picasso, Gauguin, Cézanne and Manet, among others. It will run until September and is the major revenue earner of 2007 for the institution which has tapped heavily into the travel trade to ensure the endeavour’s success, according to director of marketing and communications Dana Sullivant.

“It is extremely important for us not only to attract our local audience within BC’s Lower Mainland, but we also have a wonderful opportunity to bring visitors to the city as well. It has been shown time and time again, on both sides of the border, that a major exhibition with impressionist works by the European masters has the potential to bring tourists. We have probably for the first time ever for the gallery developed a larger campaign where we are working with our local DMOs. We are actually spending dollars in other markets to invite visitors to enjoy everything that Vancouver has to offer.”

Sullivant says the initiative started about 2 years ago when the gallery approached Tourism Vancouver and Tourism BC, which has led to a compelling outdoor campaign inspired by images from the exhibition. In addition, the gallery has promoted its project through the travel trade at Rendez‑vous Canada and Canada’s West Marketplace.

“At all of our major shows, we featured Monet to Dali with tour operators, with consumers and travel agents," Sullivant says. "We have individual packages and group packages available. We have covered all our bases.”

But this didn’t happen overnight, explains Sullivant: “Before 2005, the Vancouver Art Gallery never had a dedicated tourism program. Its efforts were focused mainly on the local market and on taking whatever tourists happened to wander around and come into the building. We now have ticket partnerships with the Vancouver Trolley Company, Grey Line and with a number of entities around town. So we really started two summers ago with ground level tourism initiatives that are now yielding results.”

The gallery saw a virtually untapped potential in its visitation numbers. Survey results indicate 44% of the gallery visitors are from the Greater Vancouver area, 23% are from elsewhere within Canada, 20% from the US and 13% from countries other than the US. A total of 33% of our gallery visitors according to those figures are from outside Canada.

A few factors work in the gallery’s favour: It is located in a heritage building in the heart of downtown, and there has been a major shift in the gallery’s attitude to tourism and revenue diversification, according to Sullivant, brought about at the board level through the leadership of director Kathleen Bartels, who came to the gallery from the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

“There is now recognition that tourism is a virtually untapped gold mine for the Vancouver Art Gallery,” confirms Sullivant. “Our visitation has been climbing incrementally ever since Kathleen got here in 2001; there is no reason why Vancouver shouldn’t be one of the top cultural destinations in North America. As time goes on and we spend more of our resources singing the praises of this beautiful city and its artistic riches, this will surely come to fruition."

Priceless Index offers an insight into Canadians’ preferences

(Originally published in TOURISM)

A new poll conducted by Environics Research Group for MasterCard Canada yields new insight into what is most "priceless" to Canadians. With a look at cities, best places to camp and favourite events, the 2007 MasterCard Priceless Index (conducted in honour of Canada Day), surveyed over 2,000 Canadians and found that nearly one in five (19%) Canadians chose Vancouver as the number one Canadian city tourists should not miss. Québec City came in a close second with 18%, followed by Montréal (14%), Toronto (13%) and Ottawa (8%).

Atlantic Canadians love Toronto, with 15% ranking Toronto first, followed by Québec City, Ottawa and Montréal (all at 11%). Twenty‑six percent of Ontarians chose Toronto, over Vancouver (14%), Ottawa (14%) and Québec City (13%).

Residents of Manitoba/Saskatchewan ranked Vancouver (21%) top on their list, followed by Montréal (13%), Ottawa (10%) and Toronto (8%). It is no surprise Albertans and British Columbians ranked Vancouver first, but both provinces also ranked Montréal (30%) second. Québecers sure love home! Québec City is their city of choice (43%), followed by Montréal (30%).

When Canadians were asked the best place for a road trip, six in ten Canadians (59%) chose the Rocky Mountain region, followed by the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island (14%).

The survey also highlights pride in regional identity, as a whopping 81% of Albertans chose the Rocky Mountain region as the best part of Canada through which to drive.

British Columbians and those from Manitoba/Saskatchewan also ranked the Rocky Mountain region first (79% and 73% respectively).

The survey asked Canadians which of Canada’s national parks is the most priceless. Alberta’s Banff came first (19%), followed by Ontario’s Algonquin second (15%) and Alberta’s Jasper third (7%). Atlantic Canadians chose Newfoundland’s Gros Morne (15%) as the most priceless national park, followed by Banff (13%).

More than a third of Ontarians (37%) chose Algonquin as the most priceless, followed by Banff (15%). Quebeckers love their own Laurentian Park (11%), followed closely by Banff (10%).

When asked which Canadian event or attraction would be the most priceless for a tourist, 37% of Canadians chose the Calgary Stampede. All regions surveyed ranked the Calgary Stampede as the number one do‑not‑miss event. However, while all seemed to agree on what is number one, there was not as much consensus on what number two should be: Atlantic Canadians ranked whale watching as number two (29%); Ontarians recommended tourists lace up their skates on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal (18%); British Columbians and those in Manitoba/Saskatchewan also ranked whale watching as number two on their list (29% and 11% respectively).

This national survey of 2,006 Canadians 18 years of age and over was carried out by telephone between May 24 and May 31, 2007. Results from a survey of this size can be considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Saskatchewan agri-food meets the world in Chicago

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A group of Saskatchewan companies and organizations will be showcasing the province’s agri-food industry at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) conference in Chicago at the end of July.

The IFT gathering, called “FoodSmarts,” brings together researchers, executives, marketing organizations and buyers from around the world for four days.

The Saskatchewan delegation is being co-ordinated by Ag-West Bio Inc., the member-based organization that works to create new value in agriculture, food, health and bio-based products in the province, with sustaining support from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

Lisette Mascarenhas, Ag-West Bio’s Vice President of Health and Nutrition, says the IFT show is the largest of its kind.

“It’s a science and research exchange, education meeting and trade show all in one for people involved in the agri-food business,” Mascarenhas stated. “They learn about each other’s products, any new developments in the market and people who are trying to plug in to the market.”

Literally thousands of people from around the world will attend the conference, and Saskatchewan’s display will be part of a trade show that boasts over 2,000 exhibitors. The delegation, known as “Solutions Saskatchewan,” will include private companies such as POS Pilot Plant Corporation, CanMar Grain Products Ltd., FarmPure Foods and Mustard Capital Inc. There will also be representatives of Ag-West Bio, the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“We will talk about Saskatchewan as the home to 40 per cent of Canada’s arable land, and our position as the largest grain producer,” Mascarenhas said. “We have top quality ingredients and technical expertise, right from basic research and product research to commercialization and venture capital. Our cluster includes everything needed to make it ideal for a company to come to our province.”

According to the IFT, some 70 per cent of those attending the conference are there to find new products, and 87 per cent of the visitors either make the buying decisions or have significant influence over the buying decisions of their companies and organizations.

Mascarenhas says those delegates will hear a lot about a very well-integrated agri-food industry in Saskatchewan.

“If you want cutting edge research in the agri-food business, you have that represented here,” she stated. “If I was looking from the outside, I would want to know what complementary and enabling technologies Saskatchewan offers, in addition to providing capital and research experience. People should be proud of the fact that we go right from basic research to product launches here in the province.”

The trade fair at the Chicago meetings includes displays organized around the themes of organic food ingredients, health food ingredients, food safety and quality, and international suppliers like the Solutions Saskatchewan group.

Mascarenhas says her group will be exploring some very large potential markets for the province’s products. “For instance, as a producer of oats, partly processed oats and wheat, or finished grain products, I would want someone perhaps from Kellogg’s or Quaker to buy my product,” she noted. “If you are into mustard processing, Dijon and French’s and various large mustard companies will be there. There are companies such as Unilever, Kraft and Nestlé who will all be looking for ingredients. We will be talking to their leading-edge food technologists.”

Mascarenhas says, while actual contracts may not be signed at the show, relationships will begin which may see two-way visiting between Saskatchewan agri-business players and major international companies, and eventually representatives of those companies coming here to see our industry cluster at work.

“If you are looking for a channel to connect to the rest of the world, here is an opportunity,” she stated.

The IFT conference in Chicago runs from July 28 to August 1.

For more information, contact:
Lisette Mascarenhas, Vice President of Health and Nutrition
Ag-West Bio Inc.
Phone: (306) 668-2692
E-mail : lisette.mascarenhas@agwest.sk.ca
Website: www.agwest.sk.ca

Saskatchewan manufacturer develops world's largest air seeder

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

An innovative new machine produced by Langbank-based implement manufacturer Seed Hawk Inc. lends credibility to their slogan as “The Emerging Leader” in the agricultural equipment sector.

The company’s new 84-foot air seeder is the largest in the world, adding to Saskatchewan’s reputation as a global leader in agri-business innovation.

Seed Hawk co-founder and president Pat Beaujot says the project has been several months in the making. “We have a very talented professional engineer, Dave Hundeby, who has about 35 years of experience designing cultivator frames. We put him to work on this specific project about a year ago,” he stated.

“When the design process began, we had certain parameters set. We wanted to try to keep the design under 17 feet high, and we succeeded at that. The transport width is wider than we would have liked, but to get an 84-foot machine down a road can be quite difficult. It ended up being 24 feet across the bottom and 27 feet across the top.”

This particular unit differs from a standard-size seeder in several ways. Hundeby beefed up the hitch to accommodate pulling the machine along with large carts and product. All of the hinge points were also redesigned for improved strength, and replaceable bushings were added to the hinge points on the wings.

“The biggest model we used to make was 66 feet as a five-plex design, but with the increase in width to the new seeder, we had to go to a seven-plex design. We have added a third set of wings, but it is still our standard depth from front to back,” Beaujot noted.

With an 84-foot toolbar, the new unit can seed 50 acres an hour traveling at five miles per hour, making it possible for a producer to comfortably seed 640 acres in a single day.

The seeder was designed to address a growing demand in the industry. With the average farm size increasing and labour becoming increasingly difficult to find, Beaujot says producers are seeking larger equipment.

“Timing is everything in the spring, and certainly if farmers can get their crops planted in the window between May 1 and 15, they will get a much better crop,” he noted. “If it takes farmers three weeks to seed their crops, and they don’t get three weeks of good weather, then they will be giving up some yield.”

Beaujot says it is important to stay innovative with respect to equipment design in the agricultural industry, because farms and demands are constantly changing.

“Technology is evolving every day, and new innovations such as GPS and auto-steer are being incorporated into tractors, making it easier to seed with an 84-foot drill and be within a foot of accuracy. Years ago, farmers wouldn’t have been able to seed with that many feet and do it accurately, but nowadays, things are changing rapidly, and the agricultural industry is no exception,” he stated.

“Seed Hawk has to feed industry demands and be more creative then ever before in order to help our customers become more profitable. If our customers are more profitable, then we’ll be more profitable, too.”

Beaujot says Saskatchewan has a lot to be proud of when it comes to its very resourceful and inventive agri-business industry, and he’s happy to be a part of it. “Saskatchewan has by far the most innovative bunch of seeding equipment manufacturers in the world. Seed Hawk has grown to become one of the top competitors in the market,” he stated.

“It has been our company philosophy from the start, and we are certainly on top of it. We want to be the leader, and we clearly are the leader in many areas with regard to seeding equipment.”

More information on this and other Seed Hawk products can be found on the company’s website at www.seedhawk.com.

For more information, contact:
Pat Beaujot, President
Seed Hawk Inc.
Phone: 1-800-667-4295
E-mail: pat@seedhawk.com
Website: www.seedhawk.com

I canola ready for the crown?

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Wheat may still be king on the Prairies, but a new prince is vying for the crown.

This year, Saskatchewan farmers seeded a record numbers of acres of canola. Statistics Canada has revealed that 7.2 million acres of the oilseed are in the ground. That’s an increase of 20 per cent from last year.

The trend is similar across the rest of the Prairies, with over 14.5 million acres of canola seeded in all three provinces – an increase of 17 per cent.

At the same time, spring wheat acreage on the Prairies dropped 19 per cent to 14.8 million acres. It is the lowest level since 1970, but still just enough for spring wheat to keep the title for the biggest crop on the Prairies.

But for how long?

Darin Egert, the president of the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association, says the increase is welcome news to crop advocates who have been working hard to boost its production.

“The Canola Council of Canada rolled out a program where they wanted to significantly increase the amount of canola being grown. This is a good step towards that goal,” he stated.

The Canola Council of Canada has set a target of boosting annual production from 9.1 million tonnes in 2006 to 15 million tonnes by 2015.

Egert says consumers are helping to drive the amount of canola acres seeded each year.

“Producers are responding to the market demand. Part of it is food demand, but the biodiesel industry is also starting to grow. To fill that market, we are going to have to increase production,” he noted.

A big jump in production this year could put downward pressure on the price, but Egert predicts the dip won’t be serious.

“It may hurt the price in the short term, but we’re hoping to build more and more markets, so that it’s not an issue,” he said. “I’m confident those markets will be there. The futures market is pretty strong right now, even with the record number of acres that went in this year.”

Egert says both the marketing and production side of the equation may be benefiting from canola’s new high profile.

“There has been a lot of attention to canola. The trans fat issue is an example, where large fast food companies are adopting canola, or in New York, where the city banned trans fats. Canola has been in the news quite a bit,” he stated.

With both foreign and domestic demand for biofuels increasing, Egert and others are predicting that more and more producers will be putting canola in their rotations.

“I think the amount of acres seeded is going to keep going up. I can’t see the record being broken every year—there are going to be some ups and some downs based on market and crop rotation—but I do think the acreages will increase,” he said.

Moreover, not only is the popularity of the crop expanding, but so too is its capability. “Canola is grown in areas now that haven’t had much production in the past. The Rosetown area, for instance, has seen some significant increases,” Egert noted. “With the different varieties that are now available, you are able to grow canola under many different conditions.”

For more information, contact:
Darin Egert, President
Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association
Phone: (306) 937-2005

On the lookout for Bertha

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

In war, battles can be won or lost based on the quality of the intelligence about the enemy. Knowing your enemy’s position and strength can be a huge advantage.

Saskatchewan canola producers will have that advantage this year when it comes to a costly pest – the Bertha Armyworm.

Dale Risula, Integrated Cropping Management Systems Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, says there are a lot more people participating in the provincial monitoring program this year. This program monitors adult moths emerging from their pupae. The monitors use pheromone traps to catch the moths as they emerge from the soil.

“The number of people who are monitoring for us is up by 50 per cent, so that’s a pretty good indicator that there was some concern about this problem because of last year’s fairly wide-spread impact on canola growers,” Risula said.

Last year was a particularly bad year for the Bertha Armyworm, with significant crop damage in the northeast and east-central parts of the province.

Risula says the more monitors they have, the better the intelligence that is gathered.

“You get a better indication of where the outbreaks are taking place and a better representative sample of the moth counts that are out there,” he stated. “That will give us a better idea of what might take place this year, because it seems as though the moth count corresponds with the outbreak of worms. All of those things will add to the accuracy and understanding the intensity of any particular outbreak that might take place.”

A map of armyworm hotspots is prepared by SAF from the data collected by the monitors. This gives an early warning to producers in areas of potentially high risk. Knowing that information can help in many ways. For example, chemical companies will be able to have insecticide readily available in particular areas where an outbreak is likely.

“It’s important that people are aware of these pests when they show up, and then properly assess the numbers on a field-by-field basis to determine whether or not action needs to take place. Spraying for the sake of spraying may be more costly than beneficial.”

Of course, Mother Nature herself may help win the battle before the war begins. Risula points out that there are a number of environmental and biological factors that could dramatically cut armyworm numbers either before or after they emerge.

“The worms are subject to different types of predators, parasites and disease that are out there. In particular, there is a type of fungus that affects the larva. If that fungus happened to be fairly severe last year, in the worm population nearing the end of the season, then it could be that the outbreak is reduced,” he noted.

“The other factor is the survival rate of the pupae over winter. A cold winter and a lack of snow cover could reduce the number of moths that emerge.”

Risula says that the intelligence being gathered through the monitoring program should soon reveal what producers will be up against.

More information on Berth Armyworm moth counts and risk map is available on the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food website at www.agr.gov.sk.ca.

For more information, contact:
Dale Risula, Integrated Cropping Management Systems Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 694-3714
E-mail: drisula@agr.gov.sk.ca

Recognizing agricultural excellence

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan has witnessed some outstanding achievements in agriculture from its producers, organizations and businesses over the years. You can help celebrate these accomplishments by putting their names forward for a prestigious national honour.

Nominations are now being accepted for the seventh annual Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence. The awards recognize extraordinary contributions in six key areas vital to the ongoing success of the agricultural sector: innovation, environmental stewardship, export performance, volunteerism, agricultural awareness and youth leadership.

The youth leadership category is being offered for the first time this year. According to Christine Moses, the project leader for the awards with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), it is an important and very welcome addition.

“The youth are the next generation of farming. You can see the energy level of the young people who are involved in agriculture, and it’s a terrific dynamic,” she said.

“The recent farm census showed that the average age of our farmers is now over 50 years old, and we need more young people to revitalize the industry and keep it vibrant. So it’s important that we recognize and promote the young champions who are involved in this sector.”

Moses says the awards help to educate Canadians about farming and agriculture in general. “When we conducted consultations with the industry surrounding the Agricultural Policy Framework, there was a very strong sentiment that the public needs to know where their food comes from, and that we need to do more to celebrate this industry,” she stated.

“People are very eager to tell the story of agriculture, and to explain the good things that they’re doing. That’s part of what we’re trying to accomplish through these awards.”

The awards are sponsored by AAFC and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, one of Canada’s premier agricultural showcases held each year in Toronto. Winners receive a trip to the fair, where the awards will be presented during a ceremony on November 5.

While it’s a tremendous credit to be recognized by your peers across Canada, Moses says winning an agricultural award as a top performer in this country is really a lot more than just a national honour.

“Canada’s global reputation in agriculture and agri-food is second to none. We’re stars in the international world, and our name really holds that up,” she stated.

“When our agricultural exporters are traveling around the world and promoting Canadian products, they know they have a good thing going. So to win an award in this industry in this country really puts you in an elite class across the globe.”

The deadline for nominations for the Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence is September 7, 2007.

Selection criteria and nomination forms are available online at www.agr.gc.ca/awards, or by contacting AAFC by phone at 1-800-410-7104 or e-mail at info@agr.gc.ca. Information on the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair can be found at www.royalfair.org, or by calling (416) 263-3411.

For more information, contact:
Christine Moses, Project Leader, Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Phone: (613) 759-7938
E-mail: mosesc@agr.gc.ca