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Chinese delegates visit environmental farming operation

Trade tour -Chinese Consul General Fang Li chats with Mayor Bruce Whale during a visit to Whale’s Mapleton farming operation. Li was part of a delegation that toured Wellington County on June 13.  photo by Kris Svela

Chinese delegates visit environmental farming operation

by Kris Svela

MAPLETON - Dairy farmer and township mayor Bruce Whale welcomed a Chinese delegation to the farm he operates with his son Korb and his family on June 13.

The family’s philosophy is not just to take care of the land, but to improve it, and they consider Clovermead Farms a living example of what happens when the “triple bottom line” is considered – environmental responsibility, social equity and financial viability.

“A lot of farms in Ontario and Canada are family farms,” Whale told the delegation, which included Chinese Consular General Fang Li and Deputy Consul General Xu Wei.

A long list of environmentally-beneficial practices have been undertaken at Clovermead Farms. In 2012, the Whales installed an anaerobic digester that turns cow manure into biogas, which in turn produces electricity and transforms the dry matter into a source of clean bedding and/or high quality fertilizer that has fewer weed seeds and pathogens than regular manure. They have also committed to maintaining a minimum of 10 per cent of their land base as wildlife habitat and forest, with wildlife corridors made of tree rows to connect woodlots and streams.

In the last 40 years, the Whales have planted roughly 50,000 trees as part of their forest management and efforts to stabilize stream banks and reduce wind erosion through windbreaks.

Practices to reduce waste, water consumption and energy use are also considered at the farm every day. For example, the water that is used to pre-cool milk is used as drinking water for the cows, and the waste heat from cooling the milk is used to heat water.

Buildings are designed with the idea of function and longevity in mind; built to last and flexible enough to be added to or renovated if farm needs change. The Whales also use natural ventilation, as well as energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling.

On the 450-acre farm, the family has about 135 milking cows that produce about 3,500 litres of milk daily.

“With 450 acres we can feed 150 to 180 cows,” Whale told members of the delegation. “That was my philosophy, but what my son does will probably change things. It’s a matter of feeding the cows and harvesting the milk.”

The operation also involves breeding to sustain the herd, Whale added.

Delegates were interested in the processing of milk and silos located on the Whale farm where feed is stored and fermented. Li presented Whale with a two-disk set of traditional Chinese music, joking it might “increase production.”

The visit was organized by Erin Mayor Lou Maieron who is hoping the delegation’s trip will generate business with the Chinese.

Maieron said the trip was an invitation from a visit he took to China late last year. The delegation had breakfast in Erin and made several stops at businesses in the southern part of the county. It also stopped at the University of Guelph’s bioproducts discovery and development centre. After the Whale visit, the delegation toured and had dinner at the Grand River Raceway in Elora.

Li said the visit allows him and other Chinese officials to get to know Canadian culture.

“I want to reach out to meet the Canadian people. If you visit more you can find more opportunities,” he told the Advertiser of business potential between Ontario and China between Ontario and China, which is Canada’s second largest trading partner.

June 20, 2014


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