The Current

How Canadian farmers are 'leading the front' on sustainable agriculture to protect food stability

In the wake of a damning UN-backed report about the links between climate change, land use and food resources, Megz Reynolds says Canadian farmers are "leading the front" on sustainable agriculture practices that curb greenhouse gas emissions.

No-till farming and educating chefs about food production could curb erosion

No-till organic farming is one way Canadian producers can fight radical changes to the environment and prevent onrushing threats to our global food supply, says Saskatchewan grain farmer Megz Reynolds. (Seth Perlman/The Associated Press)
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In the wake of a damning UN-backed report about the links between climate change, land use and food resources, Megz Reynolds says Canadian farmers are "leading the front" on sustainable agriculture practices that curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The southern Saskatchewan grain farmer suggested that no-till farming is one way Canadian producers can fight radical changes in the environment and prevent onrushing threats to our global food supply.

"What we're doing by doing that method of farming is we are allowing our organic matter to build in the soil and that sequesters more carbon and also makes our soil healthier," Reynolds told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch. 

"Our soil is our biggest resource, and we need to be able to have it as healthy as it is so we can do the best job possible."

Farmers who employ the no-till method leave their fields alone between harvest and planting. This results in 16 times the natural rate of soil erosion, compared to 380 times for conventional farming where fields are plowed while fertilizers are still breaking down in the soil, the report says.

[No-till farming] allows us to absorb and store more moisture, and allows us to create more off of the land that we have.- Megz Reynolds, grain farmer

For Reynolds — who grows green lentils, durum wheat, barley and flax seeds on her family-run farm near Kyle, Sask., a rural village roughly 200 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon — she only touches the soil every four years when she plants her crops.

"It allows us to absorb and store more moisture, and allows us to create more off of the land that we have," she said. 

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lists no-till organic farming as an "important strategy" for reducing soil erosion and nutrient loss by wind and water.

The IPCC released a special report Thursday that found climate change is exacerbating the depletion of farmland, forests and other landscapes that are already strained by human activities like farming and forestry. Both are jeopardizing the world's food security.

Agriculture accounts for 23 per cent of total net manmade greenhouse gas emissions from 2007 to 2017, the report said.

It explained that unsustainable farming practices can harm soil conditions, which amplify erosion and compromise the land's ability to absorb carbon dioxide

Educating the consumer

Kevin Petrie, head farmer at The Inn at Bay Fortune in P.E.I., believes educating chefs about sustainable animal-sourced food will result in a shift in Canada's eating habits and stop growing food waste. 

"The chefs are the trend setters," he told Lynch. "They're the ones who allow the industry to move forward."

The IPCC report found between 25 and 30 per cent of all food produced is currently lost or wasted, and the consumption of meat has more than doubled based on data since 1961.

In P.E.I., Kevin Petrie says he is working to educate chefs about more efficient protein sources like mussels that alleviate pressure on land and water use. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Replacing red meat with other, more efficient protein sources like mussels will alleviate pressure on land and water, thus combating the consequences of climate change, the report states.

"People don't understand what choices they have," Petrie said.

"People are willing to change, [they] just need to know where and what direction to change into."


Written by Amara McLaughlin, with files from Reuters. Produced by Idella Sturino, Ines Colabrese and Max Paris.

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