Nicolea Dow

What inspires farmers and why is their job so important? Nicolea Dow explains:

Why did you want to be a farmer?

Growing up on a farm I always had a love for the land and a love for growing crops, but had never really considered farming as a career. I started university, planning to study math/science, but after spending my first summer as a student working on a research farm I transferred into the agriculture faculty. After graduating with an agronomy degree, I spent several years working in research for a seed/crop protection company. As much as I loved working in the industry, when the opportunity to come back to the farm presented itself. it was hard to turn down.

I wanted to be a farmer because it puts you on the front lines of producing food. Although my job in the industry involved working with crops and with farmers, it wasn’t the same as having your own crop and taking care of it all season to produce a safe and sustainable food source. I wanted a further challenge and coming back to the farm certainly in that!

What crops do you grow?

Currently on our farm we grow wheat, canola, corn and soybeans.

What impact do pests and diseases have on your crops and livelihood? 

Left unmanaged, pests and diseases are a real threat to our farming system, and we face this challenge in some capacity every year.

We have had several springs with heavy flea beetle populations, which feed on seedling canola. Even though we keep our canola on a crop rotation system and use seed treatments, high population pressure can overcome these measures. If left untreated, flea beetle feeding can totally wipe out a canola field and be cause for reseeding. Not only does this add expense for purchasing seed again, but often canola seeded late in the season doesn’t yield as well.

How do you protect your crops?

First of all, we maintain good crop rotations to reduce the risk of pests and disease from building up. We also use seed treatments on all our crops to mitigate the risk of seedling disease or early season insect damage. Throughout the season we would use an insecticide if there was pest damage to the crop and if the insect population reached the spray threshold level. For diseases, we monitor the disease risk and will apply a fungicide if needed. Canola and wheat will almost always be sprayed with a fungicide because diseases that affect them, such as sclerotinia and fusarium, are present in our area and our climate usually provides the weather conditions the diseases need to spread and infect the plants.

Why is your profession important in the challenge to feed the world?

Farmers are the boots on the ground when it comes to feeding the world. We are the ones that put the seeds in the ground and care from them all season long. We make sure that they are safe from pests and disease to produce a safe, high quality product at the end of the day. Farmers are the stewards of the land and the environment around us. We are the ones that manage our crops and our land in a sustainable way today, so that we can continue to feed the world tomorrow. For us, feeding the world isn’t just a far-off concept; it’s our daily lives.

What inspires you about your job?

Every time I walk into one of my fields and see the changes in the plants it amazes me! Even though I’ve seen the lifecycle of all the crops we grow many times, watching seeds germinate and emerge from the ground and the seeing those same plants burst out in flower still brings me joy every year! Ultimately though, harvesting the crop and watching the grain pour out of the combine is the ultimate. Not only do we as farmers take so much pride in what we produce, but seeing that product actually come off the field always reminds me of all the people that will be brought nourishment from it. Food is so much more than just a necessary thing to survive, it brings people together in a special way, and being a part of that process is the what most inspires me.

Who is your Food Hero?

My dad, who I farm with, is my food hero. Our farm has faced some major challenges in the past, and there were times where it didn’t look like our family would be able to continue farming, but my dad fought to keep to farm and to pass it on to further generations. Farming in a sustainable way isn’t just about producing a safe crop one year, it’s about farming in a way today that allows a future generation to farm tomorrow. It’s about caring about the land and ecosystem you work in. And it’s about preserving a passion for what you do and passing that on. My dad exemplifies this more than anyone I know, and that’s why he is my food hero.