Food and Farming

Different Methods of Agriculture

Organic Agriculture

A Growing Trend

Farmers who focus on sustaining the environment believe that a successful organic system begins with a healthy soil that fosters healthy plants, livestock, and people. Despite the higher costs of labour and relatively moderate yields, 1.7% of Canadian farms were certified organic in 2009.

Organic Farming - Learn More
(external link: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Farmers replenish nutrients in the soil by rotating crops and applying manure and compost.
Canada Science and Technology Museum: CN Collection

Courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

The 'Natural' Solution

Source: Natural Insect Control
This bag is used to ship ladybugs from the supplier to an organic farmer.

Farmers avoid chemicals with natural methods, such as using insects to attack agricultural pests. In this instance, a ladybug is being used to control an alfalfa weevil. This approach has no influence on a crop’s nutritional value.


Food scientists use microscopic analysis of genes (DNA) to isolate favourable plant traits.
Getty Images
A DNA model

Genetic Engineering

Crops of the Future

Farmers decide to grow engineered crops for many reasons, including increased production and the convenient management of insects, diseases, and weeds. Genetically engineered crops account for most of the canola, corn, and soybean plantings in Canada and the United States.

Technology Use Agreement

Farmers who want to buy patented seeds must sign an annual agreement with the seed supplier. One requirement is that the farmer cannot keep seed from the current year's crop for planting the following season.

Plant Double Helix

You can only see the difference between genetically engineered and conventionally grown produce when you compare the DNA of each plant.


Conventional Agriculture

Mainstream Farming

Most Canadian farmers focus on high productivity from a few main commodities, such as beef cattle, wheat crops, or greenhouse produce. They also grow additional crops or raise different livestock, although not as a primary resource. Crop rotation gets rid of certain pests and keeps the land fertile.

Automated milking parlours allow farmers to increase the size of their herds and overall milk production.
Courtesy of Bou-matic

Source: Alta Genetics

“Headstart” Colostrum Product

This dried product is made from natural bovine colostrum, and is fed to calves unable to nurse from their mothers. Colostrum contains many of the antibodies essential to keeping a calf healthy.

Canadian Nursette Distributors Ltd., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Artifact no. 1986.0918

“Pool” Feed Bag, ca. 1980

Milk replacer was used for baby animals that had been rejected by their mothers at birth. Government, university and company laboratories focussed on producing a product with the proper balance of nutrients.


Growth Hormone Injector and Pellets

Using this tool, farmers inject their beef cattle with an implant, which increases feed efficiency and weight gain, allowing the animal to be sent to market at the ideal time. Each animal receives one pellet of growth hormone — enough to last until it is ready for market.

Swift and Company, Chicago, U.S.A.
Artifact no. 2004.0093

“Swift’s Baby Pig Formula” Metal Pail, ca. 1950

The side of the pail lists the ingredients and nutritional value of this baby pig food. Farmers needed to know that it contained all the ingredients required for healthy development.

Farmers Are Consumers Too

When we buy food, we naturally give priority to our needs as consumers, not necessarily appreciating that farmers also have priorities. These interviews explore the bigger picture.

Organic Agriculture


Conventional Agriculture


Genetic Engineering


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