Colorful new crop attracts roadside paparazzi

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Local farmers never get so much public attention when they grow staple cash crops like corn, soybeans and wheat.

But there’s something about a dazzling field of bright yellow canola in full bloom that forces passing motorists to at least slow down, with many unable to resist parking and pulling out their smartphones for a photo.

“If only I could monetize all the selfies,” Harrow farmer Scott McLean said. The side road along his 45-acre canola field between Harrow and the village of Colchester was often blocked this month by vehicles belonging to amateur farm paparazzi.

“People were having photo ops with the kids,” McLean said. Another canola grower in the town of Essex planted an old rusty jalopy on the side of his crop with a sign urging people to ‘enjoy the view’, which included a sea of ​​yellow in the foreground and deep blue of Lake Erie in the background.

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Appearing earlier than normal this year, the brilliant yellow palettes that dotted the farmland of Essex County have largely disappeared, with the flowers now turning into pods that will be harvested in mid-summer and turned into oil for consumption. human (food or biodiesel), meals for the livestock – and money for the farmer.

Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of canola, but most of the valuable oilseed – 20 million tonnes harvested by 43,000 farmers from 21 million acres planted last year – is a spring variety. cultivated in the three prairie provinces.

Due to hot summers in Canada’s deepest south, along with agricultural history and the value of other cash crops, canola has been largely absent until recent years. For nearly a decade, scientists at Federal Research Center Harrow studied and experimented with winter varieties and planting times to try to find the best survival and yield rates given the local weather and climate.

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McLean, a part-time farmer, was one of the first to give the results of this local experiment to a commercial scale trial three years ago, and it worked. Since then, the local popularity of canola has only grown, with around 700 acres planted this year in Essex County.

Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk also took an interest in Essex County's new canola portrait craze when he posted this on Facebook on May 15: “And everything was yellow.  Shauna and I headed to the county to stretch our legs and pick up some fresh vegetables and flowers.  I am grateful to call beautiful #WindsorEssex home.
Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk was also interested in Essex County’s new canola portrait craze when he posted this on Facebook on May 15: “And everything was yellow. Shauna and I headed to the county to stretch our legs and pick up some fresh vegetables and flowers. I am grateful to call beautiful #WindsorEssex home. “

According to farmers, one of the biggest benefits of planting a canola crop here in the fall is that it can be harvested the following summer, in time for another food crop to enter the same. ground.

“It’s happening early enough that we can double the harvest,” said Leo Guilbeault, a Lakeshore farmer, who has set aside 45 acres of his 2,000 acres of cash crops to plant what his Western Canadian counterparts do. call it “the golden harvest”.

“We’re always trying to find new ways to improve results,” said Guilbeault, whose canola should be ready for harvest in a little over a month, and the soybeans will be planted after that.

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“It’s getting more interest,” said McLean, a part-time farmer who also works for ADM Windsor, which operates a year-round facility that grinds soybeans and canola for use in various food ingredients and feeds. animals. Locally grown canola, he said, is a non-genetically modified variety with “rotational advantages.”

The day after his 45-acre canola was released, likely around the end of June, McLean said his soybeans would come in. The best time to put canola seeds in the soil locally, according to agroscientists, is September 10. at 20, which means planting can be completed before the soybean is harvested, “spreading the workload,” he added.

A canola crop is presented on Lakeshore Route 113 on May 21, 2021.
A canola crop is presented on Lakeshore Route 113 on May 21, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Who would have thought that a great crop could be anything other than just something that farmers grow into food to sell?

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Mike and Tracey Cipkar, that’s who. The Harrow couple see canola as their golden crop to bring more visitors to their part of the county next year.

The cash crop growers and owners of Priscilla’s Presents on their farm at 1195 Iler Road, they will be planting canola on a 40-acre piece of land behind their gift shop and ice cream parlor where winter wheat currently grows.

“I hope it will be a good draw,” said Mike. Canola, he added, “works both ways – it can make money (as a crop) and attract a crowd (for taking photos).”

Essex County’s next canola crop is expected to reach its peak of flowering by mid-May 2022.

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A close-up of canola plants shown at Lakeshore on Friday, May 21, 2021. Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of oilseeds.
A close-up of canola plants shown at Lakeshore on Friday, May 21, 2021. Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of oilseeds. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

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