A Farmer has Many Hats; Crop Scout
Our first series in this blog, we will be chatting about how "farmer", is a very broad term for what we do, and that we have many hats sitting on our shelf. On a daily basis, we can switch between many different roles.
This may not be the most exciting hat that we get to wear, but it is very important for the way we choose to farm.
'Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs' (OMAFRA) aka the big guys behind Ontarios agriculture industry, is very invested in promoting farms to have or to work with crop scouts. Every spring, OMAFRA hosts training sessions for people interested in becoming crops scouts for a very little cost.
Wait, what is a crop scout?
A crop scout monitors pests in field, fruit, & vegetable crops. They study many scenarios so that they can diagnose crop problems, and give suggestions on how to treat, prevent, or when a farmer should walk away from the crop. They are basically crop doctors. Scouts also gather alot of items for research, such as bugs, weeds, photos, mold samples etc. These help OMAFRA staff study insects and disease to further understand how these effect crops.
Crop Scouting at Coopers
We have our own crop scout, Kelsey, she looks after our 60+ varieties of fruits and vegetables. She works at Cooper's full time in the summer and scouting is just one of her many jobs. Kelsey walks the fields once a week & while scouting she;
Monitors levels of good & bad bugs.
Judges the effects weeds are having on the crops
Weather effects on plants (sun, temp, too much rain, wind knocked them over etc.)
Plant growth (is it close or ready to harvest)
Odd things happening to crops (ex big missing patch of corn that didn't grow)
Wild life effects on crops
At the end of her scouting, she sends her report to farmer Steve. Steve can now determine what actions need to be taken to keep the crops growing prosperously!
We like having a crop Scout because:
Pesticide use is controlled, we have the correct information that allows us to only use them when they are needed.
Spreads the Work load out: Like we said, farmers wear MANY hats, it is extremely mentally draining for one person to try and handle every thing we do at Coopers, there is not enough time in a day! Farmer Steve is the production manager of crops & livestock, so having someone else take care of scouting makes it a little easier on the brain!
Financial Benefits: Knowing exactly what our crops need and how they're doing takes the guess work out of it. This means we are using only what we need, the proper items for what we need, and the proper labour. This keeps our production costs down which is good for us and our consumers!
We have many different crops, we need to know how each is doing.
Good for our environment- Crop scouting allows us to also monitor beneficial bugs & soil quality. With pesticide control, we are not over using control methods which protects our land.
Harvest timing; With our customizable boxes, we need to have multiple items available every week. The scout helps relay what is almost ready, since she is already out in the field!
Better Growing: The scout learns news things every year, so the following year we can adjust & have even better crops.
Always Learning: Our scout is always attending seminars and chatting with OMAFRA professors, scouts, & researchers, so she is always up to date on new potential weeds, insects, and disease that we need to be aware of.
So as sustainable farming is important to us, having a crop scout as one of our 'hats' is an easy choice for us.
Just a little farm for thought for you all as we are not just 'farmers', we have a lot of roles to play between the few that work at Coopers. Stay tuned in the series as we chat about what these roles are!