I live in Saskatchewan. If you only know ONE thing about Saskatchewan, you know it’s flat. Yeah, yeah…I’ve heard…. You can see your dog running away for three days. Having owned a whippet, I can vouch that it’s true.
If you’ve travelled in Saskatchewan you know our roads are straight and flat. Gravel roads are laid out in a grid with North-West running every mile and East-West every two. That’s why the guy at the corner gas station gave you directions in miles…. not because he wanted a chuckle while you did mental math at 60 miles an hour (oops I mean 100 km).
Our land ownership fits into this grid road system. A “section” is 1 mile by 1 mile and has 640 acres. What’s an acre? Technically – it’s 1 rod by 1 mile. Practically – it’s a nice sized yard. We measure the yield of our crop in bushels per acre (see I told you farmers talk funny).
I’m a long distance runner. If you’ve participated in this “sport” you know runs oscillate between intense self-therapy and painfully boring. I started in on some mental math to pass time the other day. As I ran my mile intervals, I thought about how much barley we harvested from the section I was circling. Last year our barley ran about 80 bushels/acre… or over 50,000 bushels…. or over 1100 tonnes. (Ok. I admit I checked my math with excel when I got home).
We have a super-B on our farm (yes, the guys are particularly proud of the Nascar stripes) that hauls about 40 tonnes a load. So John made 30 trips from field to bins this fall. Most of our bins are 5000 bushels so the barley crop filled 10 bins. Now that it’s winter and too cold to do anything else we are busy hauling all that barley back out of the bin.
This year our barley went malt and will end up as Great Western Beer…..yeah! With the help of Google and Excel I figured out that the average case of beer contains about 1 lbs of barley. That means that in half an hour I ran around enough barley to make 3.5 MILLION bottles of beer.
AND WE DIDN’T EVEN THROW A PARTY!
I won’t nauseate you with how many steaks were produced from our feed barley the year before or how many children in India ate supper from our lentil field. Obviously we farm more than a section and are not the only farmers in Saskatchewan. In fact, Saskatchewan has over 33 million acres of farmland. That’s a lot of beer, steak, and hummus!
But on a serious note, stopping to consider the amount of food produced on our farm is a sobering. As growers we have to be attuned to food safety concerns because each decision we make affects thousands of people. We rely on our government ensure that our crop inputs have been closely examined to show they are safe. Safe for the producer. Safe for the environment. And safe for consumers. We know the process to license and register products in incredibly intense. This partnership with the government is one reason why we can confidently say that Canada has the safest food supply in the world.
If there are any other runners out there reading this – what do you think about when you run? Do you put the world into context like me? And by the way, if you see my dog please send her home. Cheers!