Camlawrie’s Weblog

Funny Thanksgiving Joke
October 12, 2008, 9:37 pm
Filed under: All, Just For Fun

It’s become a reaction for me to automatically think of this class when I get jokes like these in my email…

Thanksgiving Trauma

One year at Thanksgiving, my mom went to my sister’s house for the traditional feast. Knowing how gullible my sister is, my mom decided to play a trick. She told my sister that she needed something from the store. When my sister left, my mom took the turkey out of the oven, removed the stuffing, stuffed a Cornish hen, and inserted it into the turkey, and re-stuffed the turkey. She then placed the bird(s) back in the oven. When it was time for dinner, my sister pulled the turkey out of the oven and proceeded to remove the stuffing. When her serving spoon hit something, she reached in and pulled out the little bird.
With a look of total shock on her face, my mother exclaimed, “Sonja” you’ve cooked a pregnant bird!” At the reality of this horrifying news, my sister started to cry. It took the family two hours to convince her that turkeys lay eggs!

…….. Yep ……………. SHE’S BLONDE!


The Centre for Applied Agricultural Communications

Imagine a place where you could go for enlightenment – Agricultural enlightenment.  Somewhere a lot closer than Tibet and the Dalai Lama.  If something about agriculture was confusing, simply by asking a question you could have more of an answer than you could ever have dreamed for.  Real honest to goodness answers from real honest to goodness farmers.

Such a place may exist in the not too distant future.  From what I understand, this place would be called the Centre for Applied Agricutural Communications.  A place where farmers and town folk could converge to reach agricultural zen.  Initial reactions to the proposal for the centre were positive.  A survey showed that upwards of 80% of respondents indicated the centre was something they’d support and use.  Representatives from surveyed agricultural companies and corporations indicated that they would even pay for a service like this.

But where would you put a place like this?  I’m concerned that it might be under utilized if it is in a fixed location.  I know that is a horrendously negative stance to take, but I think it might be a reality.  Us ‘urbanites’ can be pretty oblivious to agriculture in Ontario and Canada and to the Centre for Applied Agricultural Communications.  Let me bluntly illustrate this with a personal example.  I wouldn’t be in this agricultural communications class if I hadn’t been approached and recruited by Owen Roberts.  It just really wouldn’t have crossed my mind to sign up for it.  As a student, I became so focused on my chosen line of study that I was successfully blinded to other learning oppourtunities around me.  I think the same thing would plague the centre.  People just wouldn’t think to use it because it might be out of sight and out of mind.  While I think that a home base would be a good start, the operators (whoever they eventually are) should have the capability to take the centre to the public; the capability to make appearances at malls, plazas, schools, even special events in urban centres to give it the necessary exposure.  I present a lot of problems and don’t really give any solutions, but that’s because I don’t know exactly what a good solution would be.  I do know that being actively involved in promoting agriculture to my friends is a good start.

A Funny Comic
October 8, 2008, 7:04 pm
Filed under: All, Just For Fun

I found this comic and thought it was too good not to share. Hopefully no one thinks I’m quite this clueless. I originally stumbled across just the quote from this comic and then spent the next hour and a half of my life trying to find out a) where it was from and b) finding the comic. It was a bit of an effort, but I think it was time well wasted.

So that I don’t get in trouble, it’s from “Dilbert”. A popular comic strip about the mundane life of an office worker. It appeared in newspapers on December 23, 2002. I eventually found the whole strip on, in the archive of past strips. Hopefully that’s a good enough citation.

Adams, S. (2002). Dilbert Comic December 23 []. beta

What I know about farming: An excerpt

My name is Cam and I’m from Toronto.  My agricultural experiences can be counted on one hand.  In kindergarten, I watched a chicken hatch from an egg.  In grade one, I went on a school trip to Chudleigh’s Apple Farm.  My favourite part was the hay wagon ride.  In grade two, I went to the Royal Winter Fair.  I got this cool milk button, but I’ve since lost it.  In 2007, I lived on a small crop farm just outside of Listowel, Ontario for 8 weeks in the summer.  The most striking memory I have from that experience was how far apart driveways are in the country.  In fall 2008, after I followed Alice and that stupid rabbit down the rabbit hole, I clearly zigged when I should have zagged because I ended up in an agricultural communications class rather than Wonderland.

But all joking aside, let me tell you some things I don’t know about farming that might surprise you.  I don’t know how many acres an average sized crop farm is.  I don’t know exactly what a combine does.  I don’t know how many trees an orchard might have, and I don’t know how much fruit they might produce.  I don’t know how many head of cattle there are in an average sized herd.  I don’t know how many times a day you’re supposed to milk a cow.  And, other than ‘grain’, I really don’t know what to feed a cow… or a horse or a pig or sheep for that matter.

It’s time we had new leaders in agriculture.  I’m taking about real people.  Someone to step up and bridge the enormous gap between the city slicker and the farmer.  I get the impression the farmers think all city folks are idiots, and that’s true, when it comes to agriculture.  But how can you honestly expect a kid from the city to know anything about farming when his exposure to it is so limited.  I wouldn’t expect you to come to the city and know exactly how the subway works.  That’s unrealistic.  It’s time we had new leaders.  Someone to step up and start off by telling me that it’s okay that I know jack about agriculture.

That History Book Will Need a New Edition
September 25, 2008, 5:58 pm
Filed under: All, Blog Posts for Class | Tags: , , ,

To most of the world, the name Dr. Robin Allaby probably doesn’t mean anything particularly important.  So then who cares about this Dr. Robin Allaby?  Well, For starters, the good people at the University of Warwick in Wellesbourne, England probably care.  Dr. Allaby is an assistant professor in the university’s HRI department currently studying plant evolutionary genetics, the evolution of plant domestication, molecular archaeobotany, molecular anthropology and phylogenomics.  I can’t tell you exactly what the initials HRI stand for, but a good guess, based on what Dr. Allaby studies, suggests it’s probably something along the lines of ‘Horticulture Research Institute’.  But I digress.

So let me enlighten you why Dr. Allaby shows up on agricultural radar.  Because he’s really no big deal except that he established a timeline and sequence of events for the domestication of flax crops, established the origins of domestic wheat species in the ancient world, established the interactions of ancient civilizations around the globe based on crop genetics and developed software programs to make all of this possible.  About half of his literature might as well be chinese to my human biology-based education.  The other half I partially comprehend, but I had to read the summary at the end of each piece, before it all came together.  This genetic mastermind is helping us learn the origins of agriculture.  And lets face it, agriculture is the entire reason the University of Guelph came to be in the first place.

His most recent work is perhaps the most fascinating.  The finding of plant remains in Syria pushed back the origin of crop development by some 10,000 years.  Just in case you were wondering, an additional 10,000 years on the previous estimate puts the origins of crop agriculture in the time period just before the last ice age as opposed to just after it.  In a news article published on the University of Warwick’s website, Allaby suggests that ancient Syrian civilizations began gathering and planting wild cereal seeds as early as 23,000 years ago.  Yikes, how did those historians miss by that much?  That’s like fishing with dynamite and still not catching anything.

It was also believed that the domestication of wheat through human artificial selection was a relatively quick process and spread rapidly through the Tigris-Euphrates valley and into Europe.  The historians got half the story right.  Allaby’s genetic experiments suggest that the domestication of certain wheat crops took much longer than originally speculated (in the ballpark of 3000 years) and was probably a result of multiple domestication attempts in different regions of the ancient world.    At least 3000 years is a little bit more respectable than 10,000 years.

Read the full article when you’ve got a moment, it’s one of those history lessons that are actually cool.

Link to: Research Pushes Back History of Crop Development 10,000 Years

We’re Running Out of Corn!
September 22, 2008, 11:33 am
Filed under: All, Blog Posts for Class | Tags: , ,

My Grandfather was a grain and feed dealer.  He owned a feed mill in Markham just north of Toronto, Ontario.  From what I understand he was a Shur-Gain and Purina dealer.  Despite having crop agriculture of some form in my family history I know virtually nothing about the economy of crops, in particular cash crops.  From working in a greenhouse, the physical act of planting a seed and tending it until it is an adult plant is hardly rocket science.  But, once harvesting begins, a discussion in plain English becomes gibberish to my ears.  On the Ontario Farmer website one of the top stories was one about corn yields and crop acreage.  After reading it several times, I think the main idea of the article was that the demand for corn was under-predicted and to make things worse, yields are expected to be low this harvesting season.  As a result, next year more corn will need to be planted on limited acres of land to maintain stock-to-use ratios.  Right on, things are starting to make some sense.  But, who cares? Is the world going to run out of corn syrup to sweeten up our Twinkies with?  Maybe I’m missing the point, but this really seems to have no impact on me as a consumer.  Is it the end of the world if we have to use a bit of the stockpile to keep everyone happy?  Are we spreading the corn loving too thin by allowing it to be diverted away from feeding North America when we put it towards other uses such as bio-fuel research?  Now that’s something to think about and look into so I can write about it later.

EDRD*3050 blog 1: “sustainable” food
September 11, 2008, 6:21 pm
Filed under: All, Blog Posts for Class | Tags: , , ,

Sometime last year I was approached on campus to participate in a survey about agriculture and farming practices. Initially I was drawn to the survey because it involved a voucher good for 5 dollars worth of food at any on-campus cafeteria. The survey did more than satisfy my hunger that day. It made me think more critically about where my food comes from and how it is produced. Organic farming and “sustainable food” versus conventional farming methods was the underlying theme of the survey. Sometime later an article in the newspaper reminded me of the survey I’d participated in. It outlined the provincial criteria that defined organic from conventional products. Sustainable food is, for all intents and purposes, locally produced organic products. Local Food Plus (LPF) is a non-profit organization lobbying and pushing the general public to accept sustainable food as the norm in Ontario. As defined in the article in the Toronto Star, organic crops and produce are those free from genetic modification (e.g. round-up ready crops) and farmed without the use of fungicides, herbicides and/or pesticides. Organic animal products are taken from at least partially free-range animals who are raised on organic feed not fortified with hormones, antibiotics and/or animal by-products. But when is enough, enough? Is sustainable food realistically viable in the Ontario food economy? Despite being a more environmentally sound choice, sustainable food still is more expensive and cannot meet the demand for product. The more labour-intensive farming practices involved with organic agriculture cannot compete with the yield and time-efficiency of conventional farming methods. As concerned citizens, we can make conscious efforts to improve our habits as consumers, such as buying locally, but at some point, we have to give a little to get a little. We need to trust our farmers that their conventional products are reliable, safe food choices.

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