Get Local Gaspésie

Encouraging Gaspesians to discover the bounty of their own backyard

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A response to CBC Montreal’s radio noon “dairy” edition

I listened to this afternoon’s CBC Montreal Radio noon call in with great concern, and realized that a myriad of misconceptions and misrepresentations are circulating about the Canadian dairy industry as a result of the disgusting footage that surfaced from a BC dairy operation last week.

For starters, let us address the simplistic and rhetorical line of questioning presented to Mercy for Animals spokes people by the CBC radio host. There is no doubt what answer you will solicit from this (or any other animal activist) group when asked if dairy farming is cruel. MFA’s mission statement is clearly stated on their website: “Mercy For Animals Canada is dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.” Animal farming of any kind is “cruel” in the eyes of this organization. Period.

I was equally taken aback by the discourse of SPCA Montreal executive director Nicholas Gilman, who repeatedly made allusions to the poor treatment of animals on farms, and repeatedly stated that farm practices were going to have to change as a result of this video. Let me be exceedingly clear. The treatment of animals in that video is NOT the norm on Canadian dairy farms. Nor does it respect our codes. We are not the wild west of the business world, somehow magically devoid of laws and regulations. Anybody who is actually interested in knowing the regulations that govern the care and handling of our animals may find a copy of the detailed Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals: Dairy Cattle at http://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/dairy-cattle. In fact, if you read all the way through to the end of the document, you will find a list of all the partner organizations that collaborated in the elaboration of the code. Included on that list of committee members is the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. I submit that Mr. Gilman’s assertions that our farms are currently devoid of appropriate regulations against animal abuse was either willful misrepresentation of the facts (as his organization helped build the code) or blatant ignorance of the very subject matter he was speaking to, as an “informed” expert on the matter.

There is no clearer evidence that the Canadian dairy industry has a strong handle on animal well being on our farms, than the rapid, uniform and pronounced disgust expressed regarding the farm in question and its implicated employees. Our national board, our provincial boards and individual farmers from coast to coast have been clear. This is not acceptable in our industry. Coincidentally, a caller to the radio program stated it was time for farmers to be proactive on the subject of animal welfare on our farms. Dairy Farmers of Canada, in conjunction with multiple industry partners have been elaborating our “Proaction” program for more than a year now. You can find an overview of this program, which encompasses everything from animal care to milk quality at: http://www.dairyfarmers.ca/what-we-do/programs/the-proaction-initiative-on-farm-excellence. Clearly, we are proactively (not reactionary) developing ever-higher standards for our farms.

A gentleman then called in, who was disenchanted by the modern dairy farm that he had taken his grandchildren to visit. The farm was milking 65 cows; I believe the term he used to describe the farm was industrial. He explained he was expecting a bucolic scene from his youth with cows in the pasture and farmer shoveling out the manure. I actually respect the effort this caller made to reconcile the operation of a modern farm in contrast to his expectations. He reasoned all the technology and new ways were due to an inability to attract farm workers. Dear consumers, please understand that farming is like every other industry in the modern world. Our facilities and operations can only continue so long as we are keeping pace with the developments, products and services that are currently available in our industry. In fact, modern milk quality and animal care laws imply that we must move to modern equipment and modern facilities. Our dairy farm still operates in the old original stable which is over 100 years old. I can tell you, we are reaching the limits of our capacity to adapt and renovate our old but treasured barn to accommodate modern technology.

That being said, dairy farms come in all shapes and sizes. We are all governed coast to coast by the same milk quality standards under the Canadian Quality Milk Program, but our operational realities are as diverse as the regions we all farm in. My dairy cows still go out to pasture for 5 months of the year. In fact many Canadian dairy farms still pasture their cows. In our case we are blessed with abundant available pasture, and a cool summer climate on the Gaspe Peninsula. This is the model that works best for us and for our cows. You may be surprised to hear me say that one of the nicest dairy farms I have ever visited was a free stall barn, where the cows stay inside year round, and are milked by robot when they feel like visiting the robot. (Yes, dairy cows like to be milked). Outside it had to be 32 degrees plus humidity. Inside the cows were as cool as cucumbers, the air was ventilated and moving even in the corners of the barn and there were no deer flies bothering the animals. For that farm, it was the best scenario for the animals.

Another clear misconception is farm size, which was perpetuated on this particular radio show by repeatedly referring to “large modern farms”. The national average number of dairy cows per dairy farm is 78 cows. The average herd size here in Quebec is 58 dairy cows. Our reality couldn’t be further from so called “factory farming”. If you are interested in more facts about dairy farms in Canada and their operations, you can visit: http://www.dairyinfo.gc.ca/index_e.php?s1=dff-fcil#farm.

In closing, I want to answer the question that radio host Shawn Apel put to several callers “what should consumers do about this”. If the practices on Canadian dairy farms are a concern to you, ASK A DAIRY FARMER how things are done, and why they are done that way. Here in Quebec we have an excellent opportunity to visit farms every autumn during the Portes Ouvertes sur les Fermes du Quebec. Even more conveniently we have an active presence on social media, via twitter or Facebook. Consumers can either direct questions to our national or provincial boards, OR they can even find and follow 1000’s of real dairy farmers who share their stories, videos, photos; their REALITY every single day. 

Filed under dairy farming gaspesie

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My 10 cents on CETA

CETA has been a hot topic this week, in the news, in social media, and if you’re a farmer, around the kitchen table. In broad strokes Canadian dairy farmers and artisan cheese makers took a serious hit. However Canadian pork, beef and bison producers will benefit from increased quota access to the EU.

I can’t say I’ve formed an opinion yet about CETA as thus far it has been difficult finding open and factual yet unbiased discussion about its contents. It will take time to digest and understand its contents, and even more time to appreciate its real impacts. I do trust the hard working professionals at the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec and Dairy Farmers of Canada when they say this will impact my bottom line as a dairy farmer.

I don’t work in a community vacuum. I know that this deal may bring concrete benefits to other sectors in my region and right across this country. I am particularly pleased to see there was good news for the beef sector; cattle producers have had a hard struggle since mad cow, it’s nice to recognize that we may have finally climbed out of that valley.

I am however seriously concerned for our Canadian artisan cheese makers. They face losing considerable market share to a flood of cheap Euro imports. This comes at a time when our Canadian artisan cheesemakers are coming into their own. I bet not many Canadians are aware that a Canadian cheese, “Lankaaster” (made by Glengarry Cheesemaking in Lancaster ON) just won top honours as “Supreme Global Champion” at the annual Global Cheese Awards.

I do have a clear opinion on one score however, and that the offensive and repugnant reactions of the anti Canadian dairy crusaders Andrew Coyne, Martha Hall Findlay and their minions. How an ECONOMIST can rejoice at news that farmers and business will be hurt financially, defies logic, and human decency. Andrew Coyne’s unbridled glee at finally having more access to cheap European cheese was also punctuated with a renewed battle cry against supply management.

May I suggest to Andrew Coyne, and all others whose priority in life is their personal access to cheap European cheese rather than the continued health of our own dairy industry, that you are very welcome to move to Europe and buy all the cheese you want. Everyday. You don’t get to dismantle lives and businesses just to serve your own selfish, and frankly petty desires. Nor do you hold some golden key of wisdom about the realities of the dairy industry that somehow eludes every Canadian dairy farmer who are surrounded in their operational realities everyday. You are fond of pointing out our seclusion in our “foxholes”. I suppose this is how you explain to yourself that you are somehow so much more informed about our industry than the people who actually work and make a living in it. 7 days a week. Often for multiple generations. That’s not to mention the hard working professionals at DFC, the FPLQ and all of the other provincial boards.

So do me a favor and fill your boots with cheap European cheese. You have your heart’s desire, just know that you have had it at the personal expense of many farmers and cheesemaking entrepreneurs, who can little afford it.

 

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Just a few of the woodland flowers and berries that are common in the Gaspesian forest. I’ve decided to actually take the time to know the true names of these plants that I share an ecosystem with! Some of them I already know by name; I’ll have to break out the old Audubon field guide to identify the rest! 

Click on the photos to see the names of each; any blanks mean I have yet to discover it myself.

Filed under gaspe shigawake forest wild flowers wild berries

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What would the Local Product Festival be without STRAWBERRIES?
Ferme Tradition Bourdages will be there with flats of their fresh picked local strawberries. These babies are sure to go quick! They are also bringing along a selection from their growing line of products, from bread to jams to their strawberry wine.
See you at the festival!

What would the Local Product Festival be without STRAWBERRIES?

Ferme Tradition Bourdages will be there with flats of their fresh picked local strawberries. These babies are sure to go quick! They are also bringing along a selection from their growing line of products, from bread to jams to their strawberry wine.

See you at the festival!

Filed under Bourdages local products shigawake festival Gaspesie strawberries

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The Irish Bastards played Cime Aventure last evening. What a great night! Note in the video people of all ages up dancing to the music.

This is my Gaspesie. Those who are blessed to live here love it. To those of you who don’t live here…. what is stopping you?

Filed under Cime Aventure Bonaventure Gaspesie Irish Bastards

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We Gaspesians have a reputation for being a little on the “wild” side, but Gaspesie Sauvage takes this to a whole new level! We are happy to announce that the Local Product Festival in Shigawake on July 14 will have Gaspesie Sauvage products for sale!

Come on out to the festival and see for yourself the variety of quality products that our forests and red earth have to offer!

Filed under Gaspesie Gaspesie Sauvage gaspe shigawake local products festival wild mushrooms

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mmmmm…. a tempting cold thought on a hot summer day. Carleton’s own microbrewery, Le Naufrageur will be serving up some cold ones on Saturday evening, (July 13) paired up perfectly with Québec artisan cheeses for your tasting pleasure!

Come on out, enjoy some live music and good company at the Trough on Shigawake’s fair grounds and savour the great taste of Québec!

Filed under Gaspe le naufrageur Shigawake local products gaspesie

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The essentials of the Local Product Festival

Most gardens in the Gaspé got off to a late start this spring / summer, so your fresh taters will not quite be ready by July 14. The good news is that Bonaventure’s Patasol will be back with bags of taters to sell at the Local Product Festival in Shigawake on July 14.  

Conserverie de la Baie jams will also be available in the consignment booth, where shoppers will find a wide variety of local products.

See you in two weeks at the festival!

Filed under Gaspesie Shigawake local products festival patasol