Farming in the Urban Shadow

I can help you identify some of the issues you might be faced with before non-farm development occurs across the line fence from your farm. Future farm-harm might be avoided by better planning ahead of time. I don't need to tell any farmer how difficult farming in the urban shadow can be, where farmers are vastly outnumbered by non-farm neighbours. I've worked my entire career helping farmers deal with the unique issues this creates just in order to make a farm living. Compared to more rural areas, these issues are magnified with respect to: nuisance complaints about noise and odour; traffic safety; vandalism; theft; trespassing; encroachment; dumping garbage; spraying crops; liability; labour; nosy neighbours; and critical farm mass.

Mediation of farm nuisance complaints

I can help you sort through difficulties you may be having with your farm neighbours about nuisance complaints, or even your Municipality about your farming operations, because there are fewer and fewer people who understand farming. I have an Executive Certificate in Conflict Management from the University of Windsor after several courses offered by the Stitt Feld Handy Group. I have 25 years experience solving nuisance issues between farmers and neighbours on the 7 nuisances listed under the Farming and Food Production Protection Act (FFPPA) and authored Worksheet 12 on Nuisances in the Ontario Farm Coalition's Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). I use a combination of shuttle diplomacy and sit-down face to face mediations. I've appeared under subpoena as an expert witness 11 times at the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board. I have a lot of experience at clarifying Best Management Practices supporting Normal Farm Practice and I have assisted farmers in new forms of agriculture, such as medical marijuana growing, to get the agricultural recognition they deserve .

On-farm technical expertise

I might be able to help you with some technical writing or other technical topics that needs some outside-the-barn brainstorming. I've completed many on-farm applied research projects; authored and co-authored about 50 Factsheets and Technical Papers while employed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA); surveyed and collated responses by farm producers on technical topics, and facilitated farm meetings on technical subjects. There's very little I haven't seen happening somewhere on a farm in Ontario: from traditional crops such as corn, beans and wheat, to new ones such as medical marijuana and miscanthus for biomass; from traditional animals such as dairy, swine and poultry, to new ones such as ducks, quail, game, even insects; from traditional on-farm processing such as cheese or seed cleaning, to new ones in working with wineries, or biogas energy production from manure and other organic materials.

Minimum Distance Separation (MDS)

I can help you sort through particularly complicated Minimum Distance Separation II (MDS-II) issues. Until 2015, I was the Provincial lead on development, application and interpretation of the MDS II formulae for siting livestock facilities away from incompatible uses such as homes. I co-authored the new OMAFRA Publication 853: The Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Document (Formulae and Guidelines for Livestock Facility and Anaerobic Digester Odour Setbacks) which was effective March 1, 2017. I also co-authored the previous MDS version OMAFRA Publication 707: Minimum Distance Separation Formulae Implementation Guidelines.

Guest Speaker

I can speak at your agricultural meeting. I'm an entertaining speaker because I can identify with farmers, speak farm language and inject lots of humour. I draw on my background having grown up on a dairy farm, and on the thousands of Ontario farm operations I've visited and advised. I’ve given hundreds of presentations over my career, but I tailor each one to the specific audience, demographic and time available. Some topics include:
  • Swing Beam Barns of Niagara, Ontario, Canada; Stories about 50 existing barns built before Canada's Confederation in 1867 by 1st and 2nd generation immigrants to Upper Canada/Canada West'. (I am writing a book on this topic)
  • Farming in the Urban Shadow (How and why farming with lots of non-farm neighbours is difficult)
  • The Funny Farm (Funny and not-so-funny things I've seen over 40 years working with thousands of farmers)
  • My Goofy Hobby (How making hundreds of duct-tape wallets has opened up a world of fun and meeting interesting people)

Certified Auditor for the Ontario Viticulture & Winery Sustainability Program

I have audited several wineries and vineyards under this new program and I will sit down with you at your winery or vineyard and spend plenty of time thoughtfully going through the program's hundreds of self-scoring questions with you. I am a certified auditor for the Ontario Wine Council and the Grape Growers of Ontario. This program was adapted from other grape and wine regions around the world and integrated with Ontario's Environmental Farm Plan to encompass all three pillars of sustainability: Environmentally Sound; Economically Feasible; and Socially Equitable. Audits include; homework ahead of my visit by operators preparing paperwork for me to see at my visit; the visit itself where I verify what operators have indicated they do; seeing specific things with my own eyes; then my follow up depending on what I heard/saw/verified at my visit. Give me a call and we can set up an audit around your busy schedules. From what I have seen to date, participants learn about things they can improve upon and the experience was 'less painful' than they anticipated!

Old Barn Obsession

I am well into writing a book about old barns. The title is not fixed yet, but it will be something like 'Swing Beam Barns of Niagara, Ontario, Canada; Stories about 50 existing barns built before Canada's Confederation in 1867 by 1st and 2nd generation immigrants to Upper Canada/Canada West'. I've always loved old barns and Niagara is lucky to have property owners who have preserved some of these beauties from the mid-1800's. The plan was to publish in 2017, Canada’s Sesquicentennial (150 years old!), but writing a book is more difficult than I originally thought! When the topic is about barns that are over 150 years old, what's a few more months to prepare a thoughtful product? This will not be your traditional coffee table book of pretty pictures of the outside of old barns, although it will have a lot of pretty pictures. It is a collection of stories about the unique features and builders of about 50 barns built between ca 1825 to 1867 all mostly within the old Townships of Louth and Clinton in the former Lincoln County of Upper Canada/Canada West. Swing beams were large horizontal beams crossing the width of a barn 6.5-8 ft above the floor, providing a large, clear-span work area that would also allow a team of horses to 'swing' back around a wagon after it was hauled into the barn. Only end posts supported them. Swing beams were always the thickest and widest beams, although perhaps not the longest, and could be uniform in cross-section throughout the entire beam, or tapered so they were thicker in mid-span where the stresses on the beam were greatest. I've found swing beams range in length from 20 to 36 ft (6 to 11 m) and with cross-sections ranging from 100 square inches (650 square centimetres) to one ginormous one of over 300 square inches (2000 square centimetres) at its thickest section! In Niagara, all swing beams were made from white pine that grew to massive heights and girths during the earlier part of the 19th century. Swing beams were unique to North America and all barns in my book have at least one. This has been an incredibly fun project and I have unearthed some barn gems and some interesting stories! I can't wait to share it with you.

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