From seed to sugar, Chatham-Kent 4-H celebrates the Sugarbeet!

By Stephanie Campbell

Chatham-Kent’s Sugarbeet Production Club sure knows a thing or two about a “Sweet” 4-H Club! From seed to sugar, this club learns about the process of growing sugarbeets, diseases their crop might encounter, preparing a sugarbeet sample, cooking with sugar, and more! Rob and Maureen McKerrall took it upon themselves to reintroduce the Sugarbeet Club to Chatham-Kent following its initial start in 1930 as the “Better Sugar Beet Club” where boys learned how to grow better sugar beets.

A trip to the Michigan Sugar Company processing plant in Croswell, Michigan to see the process of how beets are transformed into sugar, has been a highlight of this club! Members will wrap up their year by participating in the Highgate Fair by submitting a sugarbeet sample, consisting of three (3) hand picked “prized” beets! To compete, members dig the beets out of the ground, they are washed, clipped and mounted on a coat hanger for presentation at the fair.

The local sugarbeet seed sales representatives: the Dover sugarbeet piling station, agronomists and Michigan Sugar Company have assisted in the development of this club in the Chatham-Kent area. The Chatham-Kent Sugarbeet Club is the only Canadian Club to participate in Michigan Sugar Company’s Youth Project.

Whether these members are returning to their farms to push the sugar content of their beets, increase poundage or cook new recipes with sugar, this club has brought them together to celebrate a locally grown product that we all enjoy!

Dairy Sen$e

This year marked the third anniversary for 4-H Ontario’s Dairy Sen$e conference. With a full roster, the 2012 Dairy Sen$e conference was another great success. Delegates from across Ontario came out to learn about the business management side of farming from the experts themselves. Guest speakers for this year included: Dairy Farmer’s of Ontario Assistant Director of Communications and Planning, Bill Mitchell; Chris Buchner of Elmwold Farm Ltd.; Kim McKenzie from TD Canada Trust, Meaghan Holley and Elizabeth Strubbs from AgCareers.com; Bill West from CanWest DHI; and David Rose from CIBC. While I could go on and on about the conference highlights, it’s definitely better to hear it from a delegate themselves. Thankfully, delegate Brett Shantz was kind enough the share his Dairy Sen$e experience with 4-H Folklore. Check it out below.
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My Dairy Sen$e Experience
By Brett Shantz

My name is Brett Shantz and this year I got the opportunity to attend the Dairy Sen$e program coordinated by 4-H Ontario and Holstein Ontario. Dairy Sen$e is a three day conference held at the University of Guelph. I didn’t know much about the program until my 4-H Leader mentioned it to me and encouraged me to sign up for it, and I’m happy I did.  Dairy Sen$e gives you a lot of information about the whole business side of dairy farming. Along with meeting many great people who are as interested in dairy farming as myself, you get to visit a couple different successful farms and hear some great presentations.

Dairy Sen$e delegate jackets
Dairy Sen$e delegate rocking their jacket

All the business knowledge I gained made my choice of doing the conference very much worth it. As a young person who is interested in cows and equipment, I’ve known for a while that all I want to do is farm. However, the thought of running a multimillion dollar operation has always kind of made me nervous, because I know that simple mistakes can be very costly and it takes a good manager to run a successful farm. Throughout the weekend we were given breakdowns of many financial terms, we covered a lot of current dairy farming problems along with their solutions, and we were shown that along with the help of veterinarians, nutritionists, bankers and accountants, management of a dairy farm can be much simpler than I thought.

Dairy Sen$e Industry Tours
Industry tours are one of the highlights of Dairy Sen$e

We traveled to Summithholm Farms and met with Ben Loewith, who was more than willing to give us a tip or two on his management style. He was very friendly with the group and open to answering any questions we had. Later that afternoon we attended Bridgeveiw Farms where the Coleman’s gave us insight on how management is done there. Having the chance to connect with these two exceptional farm managers was one I am very glad to have had.

Dairy Sen$e Delegates
Delegate group shot

At the end of the conference we were divided into groups of five and were given the financial breakdown of a farm. We had to examine all the farm’s spending and incomes, and give recommendations for areas where they had been struggling. The groups then presented to a panel of judges on Saturday morning. Fortunately, my group was the winning group, and we have the privilege of attending the World Dairy Expo this coming fall; this is an opportunity that I am very excited about. All in all, it was a great weekend conference, and given the chance, I would do it all over again. I fully recommend Dairy Sen$e to anyone who is interested in dairy farming.
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Dairy Sen$e is co-managed by 4-H Ontario and the Ontario Holstein Banch. Dairy Sen$e is funded in part through the Agricultural Management Institute (AMI). The AMI is part of the Best Practices Suite of programs for Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.  The program is also generously supported by presenting sponsor EastGen, and additional sponsors; Dairy Farmers of Ontario, John Deere Limited, CIBC, Grand Valley Fortifiers, Holstein Canada, Ontario Dairy Youth Trust Fund, Ontario Joint Dairy Breeds, TD Canada Trust Agriculture Services, along with additional in-kind contributors.