BRANDON - Farmers are encouraging Manitobans to cook all-Canadian meals Tuesday in support of Canada’s Agriculture Day.
Canada’s Agriculture Day offers an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the ag industry, canola and other home-grown products, said Wawanesa-area producer and Manitoba Canola Growers Association director Warren Ellis.
"It’s a celebration of Canadian agriculture," Ellis said, explaining he and his family are having a special meal at home on Tuesday using as many local Manitoba products as possible.
Ellis grows cereal crops and canola on his family-run farm.
They first began growing canola in the late 1970s — Ellis described he and his father as getting in on "the ground floor" of the new crop as it was bred from grape seeds.
They chose to embrace the new seed because they saw it as an opportunity to be involved with something that would transform the agriculture industry.
"We didn’t realize just how much it was going to affect and we had no clue of the broader application, but it was a new product at that time and we were excited about it," Ellis said. "We had no clue to the impact that it would eventually have."
It was a new crop at the time and had an oil profile that made it really good for use when cooking at home.
As pedigreed seed growers, when they first started growing canola, it was grown as a pedigreed seed so other farmers could introduce it into their crop rotations.
It has been amazing to see how canola has continued to grow and impact the agriculture sector, Ellis said, as it has been seeded and harvested on the family farm for almost five decades.
"It really put cash in our pockets. It was a huge source of income and it was really good for crop rotation — the crops that grew after canola always grew like 10 bushels better, whether you’re talking about wheat or barley, and so it was just a really good crop to put into our crop rotation," Ellis said.
The farm typically grows about 300 to 400 acres of canola each year, accounting for about 20 to 25 per cent of their crops. The plant is rotated through his farm to keep the crops and the soil healthy, along with weeds and diseases controlled.
Once harvested, the canola grown on the farm is exported out of Manitoba and across the world, with a small portion staying within the Keystone province.
"Agriculture is an export industry primarily. We don’t have enough people in Canada or Manitoba to take care of the supply," Ellis said. "A lot of it goes through Japan or China, and all over the world."
Every year, approximately 20 million acres of Canadian farmland is planted with canola, and the crop plays an important role in the economic sustainability of Prairie farms where it is primarily grown.
Ellis hopes people take a moment to recognize the producers who are dedicated to supplying high-quality foods to dinner tables across the world on Canada’s Agriculture Day. It takes dedication, responsibility and commitment to get products from the farm to the table plate at a reasonable price.
"Canada is one of the best places to source your food from," Ellis said.
Talking with urbanites, he can see the growing appreciation for producers and people taking the time to carefully choose homegrown products.
They may not always understand the process of getting the product from the farm to the table, he said, describing it as a compliment to farmers and the entire industry.
"It just shows you how sort of seamless the whole industry really is. It can be sort of taken for granted that people don’t think about it. That’s a really good thing," Ellis said. "In some countries, they have to think a lot about where they are going to get their food from, and we’re very lucky in that respect."
The Manitoba Canola Growers Association and local producers will be at select Co-op Food Stores in and around Winnipeg as well as all Heritage Co-op Food Store locations in western Manitoba on Tuesday handing out free canola recipe booklets and reusable shopping bags.
"The recipes are really fantastic. My daughter and her husband use them constantly. They’re very discerning people when it comes to food. They’re foodies," Ellis said with a laugh. "They really like the books."
In addition to local Co-op food store visits, social media will play a large part in this year’s Ag Day celebrations. Manitobans are encouraged to celebrate Canada’s Agriculture Day by cooking an all-Canadian meal with seasonally sourced ingredients and sharing photos of their creations on social media by tagging @CanolaEatWell and using the hashtag #CdnAgDay.