Some of the most notable Calgary Stampede highlights from 2016

2016 was an eventful year for the Calgary Stampede: our bucking stock started and finished the year winning awards at international rodeos, we welcomed more than one million guests during the wettest Stampede since 1927, and Stampede Park hosted visitors year-round for many different ventures, including the Stampede’s first ever Fall Fair. Here’s a monthly recap highlighting only a few of the many milestones the Stampede saw this year.

The Calgary Stampede bucking stock brought in the new year in Denver with some big scores at the National Western Stock Show.
Read more…

NWSS photo by Sean Halverson, R-82 Reckless Margie

NWSS photo by Sean Halverson, R-82 Reckless Margie

The Calgary Stampede Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm flew to Australia for Destination Canada’s 2016 Canada Corrobree – a major tourism roadshow. Vanessa, along with other members from the Stampede and Travel Alberta, helped inform travel tour operators, wholesalers and media about all the incredible things Canada has to offer.
Read more…

February - IP in AUS

The Stampede’s Annual General Meeting was held in March. In addition to sharing the highlights from 2015, president & chairman of the board Bill Gray and chief executive officer Warren Connell gave insight into the Stampede’s future by speaking to the Stampede Park development plans. Connell noted that Youth Campus, the TransAlta Performing Arts Studios and Calgary Arts Academy were all well on their way, in addition to the future plans of expanding the BMO Centre, which would provide an estimated 500 full-time jobs and an added $73 million a year to the economy in Alberta and $87 million to Canada’s GDP.
Read more…

Bill Gray, president & chairman (L) Warren Connell, chief executive officer (R)

Bill Gray, president & chairman (L) Warren Connell, chief executive officer (R)

Aggie Days moved to their new home in the Agrium Western Event Centre. The lunchtime rodeo took place in the new arena and the animals and exhibits were arranged throughout the main level, in the exhibit hall and around the arena.
Continue reading

Baby goats, barrel racing and more at Aggie Days

Hey y’all, and happy Spring! You can sure tell it’s springtime when the horses start shedding and you can wake up to the “cheeeeeeeseburger!” call of the chickadee in the morning (I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s what they really say). Another sure sign is Aggie Days! We just finished a full week of spending time with the kids during the week and then the public on the weekend, and, just as I seem to say after every big event, I don’t know how it’ll be topped!

Stampede Royalty_Aggie Days_1

We’ve been looking forward to this week all year for the extra special reason that it would be our first event where we actually get to ride! Finally! We’ve been working hard all year with our princes, riding at least twice a week and building incredible bonds, and I don’t think it could have gone better. Of course the rehearsal run was a little nerve wracking, not knowing what exactly to expect, but I quickly discovered that my horse, Snoopy was just as excited as I was (if not more) to do his job and he took care of me the entire time. Turns out, O’Canada is his favourite song and he sure can dance to it (who can blame him), and as soon as we were out of the arena, I immediately wanted to turn around and do it again!

Aggie Days_Stampede Royalty_1

Our amazing horse wrangler, Jessica!

We got to help present awards of $2,500 to two deserving schools for the Aggie Days Art Challenge during the rodeos

We got to help present awards of $2,500 to two deserving schools for the Aggie Days Art Challenge during the rodeos

We even unexpectedly became volunteers to demonstrate the barrel race pattern for the kids, which may have become slightly competitive between the three of us and our stick horses. Princess Bailee did manage to show everything that you were not supposed to do by running the wrong pattern and then knocking over a barrel (we’ll say it was intentional, for educational purposes).

Aggie Days_Stampede Royalty_3

Every year, the Queens’ Alumni volunteer committee puts on their Giddy Up Aggie Days event: a free breakfast and exclusive access for special needs children. During the event, we got to spend some time hanging out at a photo booth with Darrel, the baby goat. We certainly couldn’t complain about cuddling that furry guy all morning! We then got to spend some time taking in Aggie Days, which was great! There’s so much to see and so many people passionate about what they do within the agriculture community that even the smallest visitors were excited to learn. We ended the weekend by spending Sunday afternoon at the Cowboy Up Challenge, presenting awards, and even getting to shoot the T-shirt gun…such responsibility. If you have never seen the Extreme Cowboy Challenges, I highly suggest taking one in; those horses are braver than I think I could even be!

Aggie Days_Stampede Royalty_4

Aggie Days_Stampede Royalty_5

Only 87 days until Stampede!


Princess Chelsey

New adventures, new home for Aggie Days!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to kiss a llama? Or how a tiny bee can turn nectar into honey? At Aggie Days the answers, adventures and wonder await! And this year you will be able to find them in the Agrium Western Event Centre.

“The new location means a new way of exploring Aggie Days. As you walk through the Agrium Centre and wander through AltaLink Hall you will find new things to see and do,” says Aggie Days committee member Josh Traptow. “Our Aggie Days team has also been working hard to ensure there are brand new experiences for our visitors, many who join us year after year, but also familiar ones as well.”

Children can get up close and personal with a variety of animals at Aggie Days

Children can get up close and personal with a variety of animals at Aggie Days

Aggie Days is a place of wonder where children can see and learn about where their food comes from, how animals can be hard working helpers and of course, have a lot of fun. From farmers and ranchers, bee keepers to weavers, many different experts will be sharing their love for what they do and just how exactly it all happens. Continue reading

Highlights from 2015 Aggie Days

Thousands of city-slickers got a chance to learn more about agriculture, farming and rural life at Calgary Stampede’s annual Aggie Days. This beloved event embodies the Stampede’s initiatives to connect the urban and rural– Aggie Days is a unique opportunity for urban communities to learn about about how and where their food is made, as well as what producers actually do on the farm.

Guests were invited to submit questions and write about their thoughts on agriculture in Alberta

Guests were invited to submit questions and write about their thoughts on agriculture in Alberta

Continue reading

Agriculture in Alberta: A Brief History Part 2

We finish our series on the brief history of agriculture in Alberta by Terry James today! Terry is a mixed farmer who lives near Vegreville, Alberta, on the farm his grandfather first moved to in 1917.  He studied agriculture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and worked for a number of years in the crop supplies industry.  Currently he is a full time farmer. Together with his brother and son, they farm about 2000 acres of grain land, and maintain a commercial herd of beef cattle. For part 1 please click here

As the supplies of cheap land had dried up in the United States and areas further east, Alberta became the new frontier for people looking to acquire their own piece of earth.  One of the major technological developments that enabled successful grain farms to be established was early maturing wheat. The first of these varieties was called Marquis and was developed by the Dominion Experimental Farms Service. It wasn’t long before a wheat breeding program was established at the University of Alberta.Their first widely grown variety was released in 1926 and was called Red Bobs 222.

Heartache and heartbreak struck many farm families in the 1930’s. Prices for agriculture commodities plummeted.  In addition drought compounded the problem with the area known as the Palliser triangle being especially hard hit. So many farms were abandoned in East Central Alberta, that the government designated the region a “Special Area.” This region is still divided into Special Areas that have a different form of municipal government than other regions of Alberta.

The advent of World War II marked the end of the depression and meant that Europe needed to import large amounts of grain. This was the start of a long stretch of prosperity for Alberta farms. Rapid mechanization, and the introduction of synthetic fertilizers and pest control products led to vastly increased productivity. In fact, around the 1970’s the problem became one of overproduction and government programs were designed to take some land out of production. The cyclical bouts of shortages due to weather disasters here, or elsewhere in the world, and bouts of overproduction continue to be the bane of farmers today.

Canola is now Alberta's most important crop and Asia has replaced Europe as the most important market.

Canola is now Alberta’s most important crop and Asia has replaced Europe as the most important market.

Agriculture continues to evolve in Alberta. Europe, including Russia, has become self-sufficient in food, and a competitor in the agricultural commodity world. As a result, Alberta farmers have turned more of their attention more to the Pacific Rim. Japan is the biggest consumer of Alberta’s most valuable crop, canola. New mechanical developments have reduced the need for tillage and have helped conserve soil and moisture, and reduced the fuel costs of farmers. On the biological side, developments in the science of genetics have produced superior crop and livestock strains.

Alberta farmers have been quick to adopt new technology such as no-till which has increased productivity and reduced environmental impacts.

Alberta farmers have been quick to adopt new technology such as no-till which has increased productivity and reduced environmental impacts.

Agriculture is not without its controversies though. Some have raised objections to modern production practices, while others have political objections, especially to the tightly managed dairy and poultry sectors, sectors in which supply is carefully controlled. Still the future looks bright. World population continues to grow, and greater economic wealth has created the opportunity for better diets for hundreds of millions of people. Alberta farmers are well poised to take advantage of this.

The story of agriculture in Alberta is an ongoing one, and Alberta farmers would like nothing better than to continue their story of success by providing a stable and healthy food supply to a hungry world.

Thank you, Terry for sharing your knowledge and your passion with our Aggie Days readers!

Encana Common Ground Community Garden

Aggie Days is sponsored by Encana, and today on our blog we wanted to showcase the Encana Community Garden at the Calgary Public Library, which is described as “a truly organic process, there is room for the growth of ideas as well as carrots, a place to sit and ponder or read, an opportunity to learn, to care and to share with one and all.” Please watch the video to learn more about this project. Don’t forget to come join us at Aggie Days THIS weekend from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM at the BMO Centre, it’s FREE for the whole family!

Bringing the Farm to the City: Don’t miss Aggie Days

Aggie Days is back for another exciting year! The free, family event takes place this weekend, April 12 and 13, at BMO Centre in Stampede Park. Presented by the Calgary Stampede Agriculture Education committee and sponsored by Encana, Aggie Days is a great opportunity to learn about the wonderful world of agriculture. From farm machinery to farm animals – Aggie Days has it all. Come on down and take in all the interactive displays. And of course there will be several new exhibitors and new displays this year.


The Reynolds-Alberta Museum will have a 1912 antique tractor on display for you to sit on and snap a photo with. Their exhibit will also feature other educational demonstrations of machines such as a grain grinder and butter churn.

From antique tractors to antique fire trucks. The Fire Fighters Museum of Calgary is bringing its antique horse drawn fire truck to Aggie Days.

And of course there will be plenty of cute animals. You can find different breeds of sheep at Aggie Days including hair sheep, which have a mixture of hair and wool that sheds naturally in the spring, therefore they do not require shearing.

Besides having dairy goats and their adorable kids on display, there will also be Boer meat goats at this year’s Aggie Days. The Boer goat is a breed raised for meat production.

Let’s not forget about the horses. Check out the new life-sized horse that you can rope from, as well as hoof health demonstrations, horsetails to braid and much more. And the blacksmiths are back to teach you how to trim horse hooves and explain why this is done.

Ever wanted to climb onto the seat of a chuckwagon? The Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon committee is bringing a chuckwagon to Aggie Days and giving you the opportunity to climb aboard.

This year there will also be a brand new Incredi-Pull, brought to us by the Calgary Stampede Draft Horse Town committee. Test your “horsepower” as you harness up and prepare to see if you can pull more weight than everyone else.

And don’t miss meeting Lady, the star of the 2014 Calgary Stampede poster. Lady will be walking the red carpet and giving out hoof print autographs.

2014 CS poster

New to Aggie Days this year is the Calgary Horticultural Society. At this display you can find a wagon filled with veggies and herbs that you can grow at home no matter how small your space is.

Slow Food Calgary will also be joining Aggie Days this year and will feature interactive seed starting activities at their exhibit.

The Calgary Corn Maze and Fun Farm is back and they’ve kicked it up a notch this year. The maze will feature new scarecrow décor and quizzes to test your knowledge about Alberta crops such as corn.

Finally, the Alberta Canola Producers Commission will be launching a new children’s book called Cut! To the Chase. The book promotes healthy foods including oils low in saturated fat such as canola oil. And Jump with Jill, the World’s Only Rock ‘N Roll Nutrition Show, will be at Aggie Days to teach you about healthy eating.

Cut! To The Chase

For more information on all that Aggie Days has to offer visit

Don’t forget to Like Aggie Days on Facebook at, Follow Aggie Days on Twitter @CSAggieDays and Follow Aggie Days on Pinterest at

If It Doesn’t Neigh, Is It Still Horsepower?

This is the last week before Aggie Days starts! We are thrilled to have the Alberta Horse Industry Association of Alberta as our Featured Exhibitor this week! You can follow them here on Facebook and on Twitter. I thought it would be fun to share another post from “Heifer In Your Tank” on some of the history of horses and horsepower!

The horse was brought to North America in the early 1600s and was quickly adopted into the aboriginal culture, becoming known as a symbol of power and wealth. The buffalo hunting Plains tribes saw the horse as sacred, with supernatural powers to help in hunting, medicine, and other aspects of tribal life. Cree First Nations Elder Jerry Wood, from the Aboriginal Student Services Centre at the University of Alberta, commented on how the horse replaced the dog.

He jokingly admitted that the horse became more valuable than the woman, who was responsible for making and moving teepees. The horse eventually took over the task of transporting teepees, which allowed the Plains Tribes to follow the buffalo with greater ease. Elder Jerry Wood also spoke of the “Sundance Horse”, a poem dedicated specifically to the horse. This poem shows that the horse was respected, honored, and loved because the horse helped the people to live and to continue on for generations. Nevertheless, with the arrival of settlers and the buffalo herd collapse, the traditional Plains tribal life transformed dramatically.

The use and symbolism of the horse diminished—their monetary value decreased due to a sudden increase in the horse population and they became inadequate for use in the hunt. The use of the horse increased among the settlers, and their main purpose was to improve farming techniques, where they proved to be more flexible, faster and easier to handle than the oxen used previously.

Heifer in Your Tank Horsepower

By the 1900s, horses were used for everything, from riding into town to powering large machinery like reapers and threshers. Such horse-powered machines multiplied man-hour production of wheat eighteen fold! However, the time it took to care for the horse limited its efficacy, thus farming proved laborious and demanding for the farmer and his horses. Furthermore, World War I demanded farmers to increase production, which led to the rapid replacement of horses with such horsepower equivalents as the tractor. To help the transition, the Canadian government contracted to buy 1000 2-plow tractors and sold them to farmers at cost (about $800), thus further expanding the popularity of the tractor. Unfortunately, farmers were becoming anxious about the now un-saleable horses eating their valuable grass. In 1943, the end of the horse in horsepower was signaled by the shipment of roughly 100,000 horses from Alberta to the Chicago killing yards. Although horses remained for odd jobs unsuitable for the tractor, their numbers continued to decline throughout the 1950s.

Horse vs. Tractor

Today, the tractors used in agriculture dwarf the tractors of old. With the plethora of luxuries found in them, you would be hard-pressed to find farmers returning to the old standard of horse-driven power. Presently, Lewis Farms Ltd. has a couple of horses, which Corrie Lewis states, “are used just for pleasure riding and occasionally for moving cattle,” and other farms have horses for this use or no horses at all. Nevertheless, the term “horsepower” does stem from the very thing that neighs; yet today, it is used for the very thing that roars, a tractor, which has replaced the standard horse.

Heifer in Your Tank

This post was originally posted here and was written by Kelsey Bourgeois, Abrya Suthendran, Alexia Hoy, Julie Mitchell, Robyn Thrasher and Gina Vivak. Thank you for sharing your agriculture knowledge and passion with Aggie Days!

Teaching Kids About Alberta Canola

Can you believe Family Fun Days for Aggie Days is only 10 days away!? This week our Aggie Days Featured Exhibitor is the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. They are very involved in education for all ages and their main goal is to maintain awareness and to develop understanding of the role that canola plays as one of Canada’s major agricultural commodities. You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter. Let’s learn about their books for kids!

Chase Duffy is an upper elementary student living in central Alberta with his mother, father and younger sister, Amelia. He’s on the school track team, vying for a position as the region’s top long-distance runner – and he’s well on his way to achieving that goal. His friends already call him Superman. When he isn’t practicing with Coach Taylor, Chase is running alongside his Grandfather’s canola field – always looking for a leg up on the competition.

Through his weekly adventures, Chase is learning all about food and agriculture and its importance in his everyday life – from canola’s earliest harvests (as told in the educational storybook Fields of Home) through to the nutritional needs of active kids. To date, Chase has witnessed the world’s first biodiesel jet engine car race (Gotta Jet!), explored space with astronaut Robert Thirsk (It’s a Blast!), learnt about bugs (Amelia Xerces Duffy) explored recipes with grandma (Tasting My Story), and understands a bit more science for the future of the country’s only “Made in Canada” crop (5-7-5 Errand Boy).

Cut! To The Chase

This year, as part of Aggie Days, Chase introduces young Calgarians to another book, Cut! To the Chase…- a re-write of Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. On Thursday April 10, all students who are in attendance at the 11:00 AM reading at Scholastic corner will receive an autographed copy of this new book. The author, Dawn Ius, and the illustrator, James Grasdal, will also be in attendance. The book’s messages focusing on healthy eating for active kids, will be supported by rock dietitian, Jill Jayne, who will be performing twice daily throughout Aggie Days.

Throughout the days leading up to Aggie Days parents will have the opportunity to win a copy of one of Chase’s books, after answering a skill-testing question on canola on the Aggie Days Facebook page. So why are we talking about Chase? Because he’s young, he’s the future, he’s someone children and students can relate to… And because he’s learning and teaching others about canola from others who know canola, agriculture and food – all of which is important to the mission and vision of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission (ACPC).

The ACPC’s vision is to be a valued leader and partner in growing a vibrant canola industry for the benefit of Alberta canola producers. This includes the goal: to maintain awareness and to develop understanding of the role that canola plays as one of Canada’s major agricultural commodities. Chase Superman Duffy is one more way that we can meet our goals.

Chase Running

You can follow Chase weekly on his blog, where he talks about writing, running and what’s happening in his life each week. Or, if you are a teacher check out his Facebook page or daily tweets for tips and resources that can be of use in your elementary classrooms.

From Tractors to Combines: The Equipment Used on the Farm

Growing up on the  family farm in southern Manitoba, my brothers and I spent many hours playing with farm toys. While we were inside playing with our toy farm equipment, our parents were outside working with the real farm equipment.

Each piece of farm equipment performs a certain function. Red, green, yellow, blue – it doesn’t matter what colour it is.

While driving outside the city limits, have you ever noticed a piece of farm machinery working in a field and wondered what that was and what it was doing? Well, no more wondering. Read on to learn about a few key pieces of farm machinery.

Let’s begin with a tractor. Most of you have probably seen smaller tractors working in the city. Most farmers have a few different sized tractors that serve different purposes. For example, on my family farm we have a smaller tractor that is used to feed hay bales to the cattle. We also have medium-sized tractors which pull equipment such as a baler, which compresses a cut and raked crop such as hay and straw, and forms it into a bale. And we have large tractors which are used to pull various pieces of farm equipment such as a cultivator, which tills the soil.

A tractor pulling a cultivator.

A tractor pulling a cultivator in a field.

A tractor also pulls an air seeder, which is an important piece of equipment on the farm. An air seeder is used to plant the seeds that will grow into crops.

A tractor pulling an air seeder in a field.

A tractor pulling an air seeder in a field.

After the seeds are planted and start to grow into crops, the crops are sprayed to protect them from insects, diseases and weeds. A sprayer is used for this. A sprayer can either be pulled behind a tractor or is self-propelled.

A sprayer in a field.

A sprayer in a field.

The crops continue to grow until they can be harvested. A swather is sometimes used at harvest time to cut the standing crop into swaths or rows. It’s only used for some crops such as canola.

A swather in a field.

A swather in a canola field.

Finally, a combine is used to harvest the crop. The combine picks up the crop, which is either in swaths or still standing, and then separates the seeds from the waste, which includes straw, stems and leaves.

A combine in a wheat field.

A combine in a wheat field.

These are just a few key pieces of equipment you’ll find on a Canadian farm. Of course, there are others that I haven’t mentioned. I hope this helps you better understand the basic purpose of these pieces of farm machinery.

Want to see some of this impressive farm equipment in person? Stop by Aggie Days, a free, family event taking place April 12 and 13 at the BMO Centre in Stampede Park. There you’ll find a big tractor, baler, sprayer and combine. And the kids can play with the smaller, toy versions in the Aggie Days sandbox. Don’t miss it! 

Factual Facts From Actual Farmers

Today we are so happy to be sharing a Heifer in Your Tank video on our blog. Heifer in Your Tank is a program at the University of Alberta where students teach the public answer to questions you never knew you had about animal agriculture. You can follow them on Twitter and you’ll learn things you never knew you wanted to know from them! Don’t forget Family Fun Days for Aggie Days are April 12 & 13 at the BMO Center and they’re FREE!

The video contains questions posed by real consumers are answered by real farmers and agriculturalists. Produced by Chelsea Geiger, Dustin Banks and Jessica French.

Heifer in Your Tank


Get To Know Your Chicken Farmers

This week our Featured Exhibitor is the Alberta Chicken Producers, so let’s learn about chicken farming! Guest blogging today is one of my Calgary blogging friends, Jo-Anna, who is a brand ambassador for #ChickenDotCa. Jo-Anna is a career-gal-turned-busy-mom!  In her quest to raise a family at home, she traded power lunches for play dates, and fast food for fresh food!  She is the blogger behind A Pretty Life in the Suburbs, an online hub where she writes about things she loves to cook, bake, create and decorate.  Through her blog, Jo-Anna hopes to inspire a love of living life in a simple and delicious way! You can connect with her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Let’s get to know a bit about our Canadian chicken farmers and the chicken they raise!

Chicken Farmers of Canada

When you sit down to a chicken pot pie or a bowl of chicken noodle soup, or a good old fashioned roasted chicken, have you ever wondered where your chicken came from? Have you thought about the families and farmers behind the scenes? The farm to table process?

If you ate chicken this week (or if you’re planning to), thank a Canadian chicken farmer.  In Canada, we have over 2,700 chicken farmers from coast to coast, who pride themselves on raising safe, fresh, high quality chicken that Canadians can trust.

A snapshot of some of our Canadian chicken farmers!

A snapshot of some of our Canadian chicken farmers!

We live in a time where people want to know more about their food, where it comes from, and it’s safety. Thankfully, we can rest assured that our Canadian chicken is safe, fresh and well cared for! Here are some good-to-know facts about our Canadian raised chicken:

  • From the moment chickens arrive on the farm, to the time they’re shipped to the consumer, the quality and welfare of the chickens is the farmer’s biggest concern.  Chickens are given nutritious food, clean water, and are set to roam freely around the barns.
  • To ensure good flavour and high nutritional value of our chicken meat, chickens are over 88% grain fed. That is, the main ingredient of all chicken feed (over 88%) is grains and grain by-products, protein-producing seeds, and meal made from them such as canola or soybean meal.  In much smaller quantities (around 10%), various other protein sources such as meat and bone meal/vegetable fats, are added to improve the nutritional content, taste and texture of the feed. In much, much smaller quantities (1.5%), mineral and vitamin supplements are commonly added to prevent any nutrient deficiencies.  Click here if you want to know more about what chickens eat.
  • Chicken farmers across Canada are subject to an auditable Animal Care Program, which monitors and enforces the high animal care standards on Canadian chicken farms.  Our government-recognized, mandatory, on-farm food safety program also emphasizes animal health, cleanliness and safety throughout each step of the production cycle.
  • No chickens are ever given hormones or steroids in Canada. The practice has been illegal since the 1960s.
  • The chicken that you buy in grocery stores or in restaurants does not contain any antibiotic residues. Government-verified withdrawal times and random testing ensure this. The chicken industry proactively manages antibiotic use in order to provide continued confidence to consumers and government.  Antibiotics can be used help to maintain healthy birds or treat sick ones, thereby ensuring a safe food supply for consumers and to prevent any potential food safety problems.  More information on antibiotics can be found here.

Safe. Fresh. Well cared for. That’s Canadian chicken.

I hope you enjoyed this information, and maybe learned a bit about your chicken farmers that you might not have known before!

It Takes 21 Days for a Chicken to Hatch

Visit or follow the Chicken Farmers of Canada on Facebook or Twitter.

From City Girl to Agriculture Reporter

Family Fun Days at Aggie Days are April 12 & 13 at the BMO Center and they are FREE and fun for the whole family! Today guest posting on our blog is Alexis Kienlen, she grew up in Saskatoon and currently lives in Edmonton. She is the author of two books of poetry “She dreams in Red” and “13″. Alexis has a degree in International Studies from the University of Saskatchewan, a Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Concordia University and a Certificate in Food Security from Ryerson University. Alexis is currently a reporter with Alberta Farmer newspaper.   She spends a lot of time reading, writing, watching movies, and belly dancing. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter.

Alexis Kienlan

I didn’t grow up on a farm, or even in a small town. I grew up as a city girl, oblivious to the world of agriculture. My early experiences with farming involved visiting a horse-owning friend who lived on an acreage, attending riding camp when I was a teenager, and driving in the countryside around Saskatoon, my hometown.

Some days, I still find it strange that my livelihood is so directly tied to agriculture. I’ve been writing about agriculture for seven years now, ever since I came back to the prairies from the west coast. I studied journalism in Montreal, which seems as far from a prairie farm as a person can get. Since then, my journalism jobs have taken me all over Alberta, from Wainwright to Grande Prairie and now Edmonton, where I currently work for Alberta Farmer newspaper.  As part of my job, I read agricultural news, talk to people working in the industry, go to farm conferences and visit farms.

When I first started my job at Alberta Farmer, I couldn’t believe the amount of information a person needed to know in order to farm. Six years later, I’m still amazed by all the work needed to put food on the table. In order to do my job, I had to immerse myself in the world of agriculture and learn a whole new vocabulary. Since I cover all aspects of the industry, I had to learn about each sector. Years later, I’m still learning new things every day. But that’s part of the reason why I still enjoy what I’m doing.

I get to learn about things that I had never considered before I started working with farmers. Before starting this job, I had never considered the shortage of rural firefighters, how cold weather can directly affect a farmer with new calves, or how a big harvest, a grain backlog and problems with the railroad can affect the entire western Canadian economy.  As a city kid, I’ve never done half of the stuff I have written about.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from talking to farmers is the importance of listening and being open. Like everyone, I have preconceived notions about farming and food and there are still a lot of things I don’t know. The only way that I’ve been able to learn all about aspects of farming is by letting others teach me. In return, I am rewarded by their knowledge and their passion. Passion and people are the true heart of agriculture and they make the industry a great one to work in.

People outside the sector might think that agriculture is dull but this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always something happening- new advancements, new science and threats from both environment and the markets. There are frequently high stakes issues in one sector or another. I think it’s impossible to work in agriculture and not become passionate about farming and farmers. Agriculture may not always make a person a lot of money, but there’s a different kind of wealth the industry, driven by people’s love of the land and the work that they do. My life has become richer since I started working in agriculture and I’ll always be grateful for all that I’ve learned.

Wheat’s Up!

Don’t forget, Aggie Days is less than a month away! Family Fun Days are April 12 & 13 at the BMO Center. Today guest posting for us is Brian Kennedy. Brian comes from a farming background, has a BSc in Agronomy from the University of Manitoba and is currently the Grower Relations Coordinator with the Alberta Wheat Commission. “Wheat’s Up” is the AWC producer newsletter and can be accessed on the AWC webpage. You can follow Brian on Twitter.

Believe it or not, but not all wheat is created equal. Nine classes of wheat are included under the umbrella of the “all wheat commission” or Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC). The AWC is a farmer-funded, farmer-directed organization that works to improve the profitability and sustainability of wheat production.

Alberta Wheat Commission

Wheat was first domesticated over 11000 years ago in the ”fertile crescent” of what is now the Middle East and it’s cultivation led to the development of centralized living in towns and cities. The Egyptian pyramids were constructed by people who ate wheat and, even today, wheat is the most important source of vegetable protein on the planet. Wheat is grown on more land than any other food in the world. In Alberta alone, there are approximately 11000 wheat growers producing over 7.6 million tonnes of wheat on 6.6 million acres of land.

Alberta Wheat Commission

Ever since wheat was domesticated, humans have been breeding and selecting for improved varieties and developing new management practices, or ways to take care of the growing wheat plants. One of AWC’s main priorities is to invest grower check-off dollars into both varietal and agronomic research. It is important that new varieties be developed to stay one step ahead of evolving pests that threaten world food supplies. It can take ten years and millions of dollars to develop one new variety that is suitable to Alberta and is desirable to end users. Different varieties and different classes of wheat have different uses. The varieties grown in Alberta produce some of the best quality wheat in the world.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Wheat and whole grains make up a very important part of the human diet. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that children should eat three to six servings per day of whole grains, and that adults should eat six to eight servings per day of grain products. Some examples of grain products include bread, noodles, couscous, pasta, and cereal. Besides being a healthy source of protein with vital micronutrients, wheat and wheat straw have many other uses. Some of the non-food uses of wheat include adhesives, paper, packaging, cosmetics, beer, and ethanol used as biofuels.

AWC also invests in market development initiatives both domestic and international. Our aim is to ensure farmers have accurate market information to achieve maximum value for their wheat. In addition our funding for transportation studies works to support solutions to logistics issues facing farmers.  Internationally we work to attain a sound understanding of the global wheat market to keep Alberta’s producers aware of new market opportunities.

If you have any questions about the AWC, please visit our website, or if you have any concerns regarding the importance of wheat in your diet please visit the Healthy Grains Institute.

Cows and The Cold: What We Do To Help

Aggie Days is coming! Family fun days are free and are April 12 & 13, 2014 at the BMO Centre. Today we have a guest post from farmer Jill Burkhardt of Crooked Lake Farms near Edmonton, where she and her husband are 5th generation farmers raising Angus-cross cattle on grass land with their two children. You can follow Jill on Twitter and their farm on Facebook. I found this post very appropriate to share right now as we’re still in the extreme cold temperatures in Alberta!

With the somewhat extreme weather that we have been experiencing this fall and winter, a lot of people ask how to the cows deal with this weather? While it’s easy to bring the farm dog in to sleep on the porch in the winter, for us it’s difficult (and would be quite cost prohibitive) to build an indoor area large enough for the cattle to go.

Cow with her winter coat

Cow with her winter coat

First, I always remind people that cattle have been living outside for thousands of years and have natural defenses that help them survive in the winter. All summer long the cattle graze on lush, green pastures; gaining weight and putting on a nice layer of fat to help keep them warm throughout the winter. As the days and nights cool off in the fall, the cattle also begin to develop their winter coat. Thick, dense hair protects them from the winter elements.

Once they are off summer pastures, they are kept on a winter pasture on our yard. We have an open front barn they can go in to get out of the wind, as well as several areas of wind breaks which serve as shelter areas for the cattle to go behind and get out of the wind. To encourage them to “hang out” there, we also place their straw bed-pack on the leeward side (the side where there is no wind). When it is very cold out, the cattle will naturally huddle together and they stay warm by doing so.

The bed pack with wind breaks

The bed pack with wind breaks

During the cold, the cattle require more feed to eat and we meet their needs by feeding high quality hay to them. Our hay is sent to a lab, the nutritional content is evaluated, and the data allows us to select the right feed for their dietary requirements. We also will feed the hay near their bed pack so they don’t have far to travel and can conserve energy and focus on staying warm.

Steaming waters means they are working

Steaming waters means they are working

Cattle also require fresh water all the time and they have waters that are heated so they don’t freeze. In the winter this can cause some issues as pipes freeze, elements go out of watering devices, etc. We are always checking the waters making sure that the animals have fresh water at all times.

Jill Burkhardt

The cattle are our livelihood, and during the winter we spend lots of time checking on the cattle and caring for them. By making sure they are warm and happy when the weather is inclement keeps them healthy and ensures our cattle herd is around for years to come!