I’ve just rounded the corner on a full year as editor of Manure Manager. Before this job, I had never even been on a farm. Now, I’m fully immersed in manure (is it a sign of comfort with a new subject when you can confidently make jokes about it?) and livestock farming. As my understanding of the industry has evolved, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for how it affects our daily lives and the broader economy – which I think is true for many “ag outsiders” who suddenly find themselves inside.
It’s interesting learning about an industry that is evolving so rapidly – like trying to jump onto a train while it’s already in motion.
Farmers are dealing with new challenges every day. Sometimes they’re economic issues, such as labor shortages, price fluctuations and supply chain disruptions. Other times, they’re regulatory or environmental challenges – which can lead to devastating losses (like the fallout from this summer’s droughts; see page 12). There are also physical and mental health challenges. As such, conversations have been elevated as we rise to meet those challenges.
In our recent 2021 IWCA Summit, Claudia Wagner-Riddle of the University of Guelph remarked in an on-demand session that 10 years ago, it was difficult to discuss climate change with the ag community – it was still contentious, and many farmers felt singled out or accused of not doing enough to help. Now, says Wagner-Riddle, that conversation has elevated – all parties are now more open to creating solutions without pointing fingers. Similarly, in one of our panels, East Prince Agri-Environmental Association executive director Andrea McKenna says one of her main missions in ag is to help the public understand just how much farmers are doing, rather than rely on their preconceived notions. And Loft32 co-founder and CEO Crystal Mackay highlighted the ways she handles dissenters and activist groups who have misconceptions about farmers – by finding common ground and picking her battles.
One great example of farmers who are working with others to create solutions is brother-sister team Chase and Danielle Goodrich (page 20). The siblings have been awarded for their progressive on-farm practices, including agreeing to be a host farm for a new digester – making their business more circular.
If you take a peek behind the curtain, there’s also creative solutions coming out of the labs. A team at Cornell University has been hard at work harnessing the power of solids through heat and fire (page 8), turning it into fertilizer.
Speaking of fertilizer, Chryseis Modderman and Melissa Wilson are back with more knowledge in their Manure Minute column (page 26) to discuss how producers can cope with rising fertilizer prices by using manure effectively.
Solid manure is a great metaphor for the agriculture industry. When the heat gets turned up, it proves its mettle. Under pressure, great things happen. •