For me, the first telltale sign of spring is the sound of the ground squishing under my feet when I’m out for a run, or the little puddles splashing on the sidewalk as I walk out to my mailbox. Squish, splash, spring is here! And after a decade in the big city, I’m excited for my first “small-town spring” since I was a child. In particular, living in the county known as “Ontario’s garden,” I know that will mean the sights, sounds and (naturally) smells of spring farming. The smell of spring spreading will waft in from the farms – a smell I am sure I will have to get used to.
But the smell of manure spreading is not only something we can all eventually adjust to (after all, as a child I grew up around sulphur mills and rendering plants) but also the smell of productivity and progress. Much like the industrial aromas present in my small town growing up, the smell of spreading means that we will eventually reap the benefits at a plentiful harvest. It’s important to remember that as consumers when we’re going out to the farmer’s market to pick up crunchy corn that we’re going to grill, or the succulent strawberries we share for dessert. This didn’t always look or smell pretty, and applying manure is not a job everyone could do. We should think twice before we turn up our nose at it.
And we must always remember that farming is rarely a straightforward, uncomplicated or even linear venture. The whole reason we created an issue on whole farm management is because farmers wear more hats than ever nowadays – animal care has become an increasingly complex task with recent innovations (see page 16 for our feature on enhancing calf health). There’s increased pressure – nay, need – to be loyal stewards to the land (on page 8, we discuss how 4R nutrient stewardship is growing in popularity). And as community engagement – whether that’s through in-person tours, Zoom networking or on social media – becomes more important, many are also tasked with feeling like a one-person marketing team (see Chrissy Wozniak’s column on page 22 about marketing farms and products responsibly).
All that is to say, there’s always more to the stink than we think.
And being open-minded when it comes to manure is not just a lesson for people driving through the countryside. Plenty of growers are just now looking to manure due to the exorbitantly rising costs of commercial fertilizer. This is not only good news for those who have manure and are looking to capitalize but also potential good news for those looking to use manure for the first time. For more information on how to guide those new users through the switch and communicate the benefits of manure, check out our Q&A with nutrient management specialist Melissa Wilson on page 8.
In the meantime, I’ll be eagerly counting down the days until I can buy some roadside corn to throw on the barbecue – and so I’ll know when a certain smell wafts over my neighborhood that the day is getting closer. •