What inspires farmers and why is their job so important? Michael Wollman explains:
Why did you want to be a farmer?
I wanted to be a farmer because that was the lifestyle I grew up with, consequently it grew on me. I like the close ties to nature, the smell of fresh, rich soil, the feeling of nurturing a crop to fruition, and the challenge of dealing with whatever Mother Nature deals.
What crops do you grow?
The crops we grow are hard red spring wheat, malt barley, canola, yellow peas and red lentils.
What impact do pests and disease have on your crops?
Pests and disease have a huge impact on the crops we grow. The conditions that are conducive to healthy crops are also the conditions conducive to disease. For example, this past year we grew durum wheat and the fusarium not only knocked 40% off the yield but made the crop virtually unsaleable. Fusarium also was a factor that half our malt barley had to be sold as feed. Sclerotinia took away half the lentil yields. Blackleg and Sclerotinia chip away at canola yields as well. Aphanomycies can wipe out a crop of peas in wet conditions. Seedling diseases threaten seeds before they can see the light of day.
Pests are a threat from the minute we put seed into the ground till harvest. Wireworms and cutworms feed on newly germinated crops and can clean up a field before it even gets started. Flea beetles love canola leaves and can devastate a stand if left unchecked. Wheat midge lay eggs in developing heads of wheat and the larvae feed on the seeds, leaving little for the harvester. Diamondbacks and Bertha army worms can populate a canola field so quickly that they can wipe out a crop in days. Grasshoppers can move in like a mighty army and devour everything green in their way, especially in drier years.
In general how important is it to have crop protection products?
Crop protection products are very important. The margin of profit is often slim. Farmers have enough to deal with the elements outside of their control like frost, hail, damaging winds, flooding and drought. To not have crop protection products to protect against what we can control like pests, weeds and diseases would very quickly and efficiently bankrupt us and put us out of business, in the need of the very food that we couldn’t afford to grow. Being a farmer makes me a steward of the land and as such makes me responsible for doing all I can to nurture the land that nurtures me. And that means replacing the nutrients that get taken out with the grains we produce.
Why is your profession important in the challenge to feed the world?
Farmers are at the start of the food chain; eliminate farmers you eliminate food. It’s that simple.
What inspires you about your job?
What inspires me about my job is the knowledge that what I grow can go across oceans and into the hands and bellies of hungry fellow human beings. That I’m a part of an ever growing world population that exists solely because a farmer goes out to sow.
Michael is a mixed farmer from Saskatchewan, Canada.