Friday, March 30

Hot trend: Tap the humanitarian travel market

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Vacations with a purpose - or humanitarian travel or eco-friendly trips - are quickly catching on as the hottest new travel trend, according to various sources quoted in an article in TravelMole by David Wilkening.

"Volunteer vacations are a growing trend among individuals seeking to 'give back' during their time away from work and home," says

CheapTickets.com. The company, and United Way of America, have announced the launch of a new website to support consumers who want to book a

volunteer vacation. The groups call it "vacationing with a purpose." Travellers can dedicate a full week to their volunteer vacation of

choice or simply take a day or two out of an already pre-planned getaway.

"CheapTickets customers want the opportunity to support communities like New Orleans with their volunteer efforts during the day, while

experiencing attractions like Bourbon Street's jazz clubs and restaurants by night," said Steven Barnhart, president and Chief Financial

Officer of Orbitz Worldwide, which operates the CheapTickets brand.

A recent survey by CheapTickets found that almost half of travellers have heard of a volunteer vacation, and would consider taking a vacation

for the sole purpose of volunteering. More than half of would consider taking a day or two out of an already planned vacation to volunteer in

a city near where they are vacationing, and 68% of travellers would likely use a travel website to learn more about volunteer vacations.

Learning tour niche going mainstream

(Originally published in TOURISM)

A survey of US travellers taken last year by the Travel Industry Association found that 56% said they were interested in taking an educational trip and 22% said they were more interested now compared with five years ago, according to a report by David Wilkening (TravelMole February 22, 2007). Universities and museums have organized learning-oriented trips in the past, but the trend has been booming in recent years and is now becoming part of the mainstream business of the travel industry. An article in USA Today reports that, for universities, alumni travel programs offer another method of fundraising and "a means of tightening bonds with their alumni and encouraging future donations".

For travel companies, extra features like lectures from scholars help sign up customers for group travel, especially sophisticated baby boomers and people who have ever more options for booking discounted flights and hotels online.

Saskatchewan producers sweep Master Grower Awards

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It was an all-Saskatchewan show as the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) presented its Master Grower Awards for the 2006/2007 crop year during the recent Grain World conference in Winnipeg.

“The Master Grower program is our way of recognizing the achievements of Canada’s prairie grain farmers,” said CWB agronomist Mike Grenier. “It rewards top producers and allows their knowledge to be shared with the rest of the Western Canadian grain industry.”

Farmers are asked to submit a grain sample from the year’s harvest to the CWB. Samples are inspected by both the CWB and quality experts, and judged on visual quality, end-use market suitability and crop management practices.

There are various classes of cereal grains under which producers can enter, including malting barley, selected red winter wheat, hard white spring wheat and durum. Awards are not necessarily made in all classes every year.

Annual award winners are invited to the CWB’s Grain World outlook conference in Winnipeg, where they are presented with a commemorative plaque and a jacket bearing the Master Growers’ logo, and officially inducted into the Master Growers’ club. They are also invited to sit in on the various Grain World sessions.

When the CWB announced the Master Grower award winners for 2006/2007, it was a clean sweep for Saskatchewan: Paul Cherkas of Kamsack for six-row malting barley; Doug and Brenda Martin of Lumsden for two-row malting barley; Dale and Tracey Richter of Broadview for two-row malting barley; and Blain and Linda Haubrich of Glenbain for Canadian Western Amber Durum.

Brenda Martin says it was a tremendous experience. “They treated us very well, and it was really educational, a very good experience,” she noted.

Martin and her husband, Doug, have a 3,500-acre farm on which they grow wheat, barley, lentils, canola, canary seed and durum. They also run about 100 head of cattle.

“We seed malting barley every year. If it doesn’t go malting, we have feed for cattle, although we generally keep some back for feed either way,” she said. “Our barley has always been accepted as malt. In our area, conditions are usually just right for it.”

Regarding all of the Master Growers coming from Saskatchewan, Martin remarked, “It was kind of cool. We must be doing something right!”

She feels the excellent weather this past crop year made a big difference, especially when comparing Saskatchewan crops with those from Manitoba. However, Martin can’t help exuding a little pride in noting that the two-row barley she and Doug grew was chosen from among 85 samples submitted.

“I wish every farmer could go through the experience to see what the Canadian Grain Commission, Grain Institute and Wheat Board are doing,” she stated. “We listened to representatives from Brazil and China, and they can’t say enough about the quality of grain they get from Canada.”

Martin says that award recipients were also able to discuss different farming practices with producers from across the west, and to learn from their experiences.

Producers looking to enter the next round of Master Grower awards will need to have their samples to the Board by late September. Annual results and deadlines are posted on the CWB website at www.cwb.ca.

For more information, contact:

Brenda Martin
Lumsden SK
Phone: (306) 731-2892

Maureen Fitzhenry, Media Relations Manager
Canadian Wheat Board
Phone: (204) 983-3101
E-mail: maureen_fitzhenry@cwb.ca

Love of beef industry drives Saskatchewan researcher

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A passion sparked early in life ultimately led Dr. Bart Lardner to become one of Western Canada’s most respected beef researchers.

“I was born and raised in B.C., first in the Okanogan and then in the Peace River area where my father bought a farm,” he said. “We had a hay and beef ranch up there, and that’s really where the bug bit me.”

Lardner didn’t finish high school before he moved out into the industry, working in various ranches and feedlots for the next five to 10 years, and gaining considerable practical experience.

He eventually went back to community college and finished his Grade 12. From there, he completed a two-year diploma course in animal health at Alberta’s Fairview College. In 1984, he came to the University of Saskatchewan, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and finally a Ph.D. in 1998. “I got the bug to learn after I had all that practical experience,” Lardner said.

“Growing up on the farm and working at all those jobs showed me that I had a great passion for this industry. I wanted to become an intermediary between the industry, the producers and the researcher; to try to help advance the whole sector through the kind of work I do.”

Lardner is a Senior Research Scientist headquartered at the Western Beef Development Centre (WBDC), a division of the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI). He works primarily out of the Termuende Research Farm located east of Lanigan, a facility Lardner calls “a laboratory for beef cattle research.”

The focus of his work is applied cow-calf and forage management, “looking at the usage of annual and perennial forages in the management system of the beef cow, both in summer and winter feeding programs.”

In May of 2005, Lardner was named the Chair for Cow-Calf Research and Development under the Strategic Research Program (SRP) administered by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

The position has allowed him to take his work to another level. “I was with WBDC in more of an extension role. Now I’ve migrated to more of a research and extension role,” Lardner said. “The SRP has allowed me to build a very strong program as it relates to the cow-calf sector and the cow-calf industry in Saskatchewan.”

Lardner appreciates every opportunity he has to participate in outreach activities. Never shy about sharing his knowledge with others in the beef industry, he appears frequently as a guest speaker at various conferences.

“I thoroughly enjoy getting out and doing many, many talks, be it to producer audiences, scientific seminars, or even teaching at the university,” he said. “One of the ideal benefits of this position is that extension role, that ability to move the information directly to the industry through speaking engagements and field days and such.”

Most of the research projects Lardner undertakes are directly applicable to the average producer. Among his present activities is finding less expensive and more efficient approaches to the winter feeding of cattle.

“Winter feeding is 60 to 65 per cent of the cost of maintaining a cow every year, and if we can do that cheaper, all the better,” he said. “So we’re currently studying field feeding systems as an alternative to feeding cows in a dry lot or a pen situation.”

The WBDC is also initiating a three-year study to look at the difference between spring calving, which is traditional in the beef industry in Western Canada, and summer calving, which would take place in May or June.

“The idea is to try to have cows calve closer to when pasture quality is the best in that summertime period, and not have them calve in those cold winter months when farmers incur a lot of inconvenience, overhead and facility cost,” Lardner explained.

“So we’re looking at the differences in how we feed the cow or the calf, the cost for each of the two systems, and the effect on the reproductive performance of the beef cow.”

Lardner is very excited about a project on the horizon that ties beef production with one of North America’s fastest growing industries – bioenergy. “There are lots of by-products that are going to be coming from industries like ethanol, and we want to see how they might work into a beef cow feeding program,” he noted.

“So we’ll be starting a study this fall looking at supplementing beef cow winter rations with dry distillers grains. I think they’re going to work very well as an energy protein supplement to a low-quality roughage type of feed, and enable us to winter that cow quite economically.”

For more information, contact:

Dr. Bart Lardner, Senior Research Scientist and SAF Chair for Cow-Calf Research
Western Beef Development Centre
Phone: (306) 682-3139
Cell: (306) 220-9179

Can small producers play successfully with the big boys

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan is home to nearly 30 per cent of Canada’s cow herd, but the province continues to be a smaller player in the cattle feeding industry.

“Saskatchewan has many natural advantages to offer the cattle feeding industry,” said Bill Kowalenko, Livestock Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF). “We have lots of open space and abundant feed, to name just two of our advantages.”

One factor that has been considered a constraint to development is the notion of size. It is often assumed that cattle feeders cannot be competitive or efficient unless their operations are large – really large.

Economists refer to this concept as “economies of scale.” In the low margin business of cattle feeding, larger operations may have certain economic advantages over smaller feedlots. For instance, buyers of finished cattle look for uniformity when purchasing, and larger feedlots can more readily assemble liner loads of market-ready cattle. There are also opportunities to capture economic efficiencies associated with the purchase of feedstuffs and animal health supplies, and to more efficiently use human resources.

But what if the advantages of economies of scale could be realized without expanding your operation? If a number of smaller cattle feeders were willing to purchase feeder cattle of similar genetic background and adopt uniform processing, health and feeding protocols, could some of the benefits achieved by larger feedlots be captured?

Kowalenko feels this approach has potential for Saskatchewan’s cattle feeding industry.

“The animals might be located on a number of smaller feedlots, but the operation would ‘behave’ as if they were all placed in a single, larger unit,” he said.

Kowalenko notes that the concept could be expanded to include sharing the services and costs of nutritionists, veterinarians, marketing specialists or even a general manager.

“Using a common feeding protocol should ensure that enough of the animals reach market condition at any given time, allowing the producers to assemble liner loads of uniform cattle, much like any large feedlot.”

Minor adjustments to marketing programs may have to be made to make this concept feasible. If the distance between feedlots is not too great, the truck may have to load at more than one location, or producers may have to deliver to one feedlot to facilitate loading of the semi-trailer.

“Normally, cattle are pulled in preparation for shipment prior to the arrival of the truck, so the assembling of a load shouldn’t result in any significant time-delay in getting the animals on their way to market,” Kowalenko explained.

Kowalenko feels that there is nothing stopping Saskatchewan producers from pursuing the pooling concept more vigorously.

“We have seen recently where some cattle feeders are consolidating their cattle marketing efforts,” he noted. “Potentially, this could be expanded to include more areas of the operation.”

For more information, contact:

Bill Kowalenko, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 867-5559
E-mail: bkowalenko@agr.gov.sk.ca

Awards recognize young leaders

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Nominations are now open for the Young Leaders in Rural Canada Awards.

This is the fourth year that the Rural Secretariat of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has handed out the hardware to young rural Canadians (18 to 29 years old) who have demonstrated outstanding achievements and contributions to rural, remote and/or northern Canada, at the local, regional and/or national level.

Stephanie Clifford, Communications Advisor with the Rural Secretariat, says it is important to recognize the contributions that young people are making.

“We have incredible youth in our rural regions all across the country. These awards are about recognizing some of the achievements that are taking place,” said Clifford.

Clifford notes there are three categories open.

“The first category is innovation. That’s about trend-setting initiatives … things like green technology and so forth.

“The second category is leadership. We are looking for an achievement that has encompassed the spirit of leadership, something with a concrete outcome: for example, how a young person inspired people to develop and exercise their potential in their own communities.

“The final category is partnership. That’s about building and fostering partnerships in the rural community, whether it’s building a network to the provincial or federal government or other similar ties,” explained Clifford.

A more detailed description of the categories and the eligibility criteria can be found on the AAFC website at www.rural.gc.ca.

The competition has attracted considerable attention in the past. Last year, more than 80 nominations were received from across Canada.

The winners will get to go to Ottawa to receive their special honours, but Clifford says there are a number of other intangible benefits for award recipients.

“Everyone knows that our youth are the future leaders of tomorrow. Recognizing their achievements gives them a sense of self-gratification,” she stated.

“It helps to build their resumes and inspire other youth within the region, and that’s a very important initiative.”

The nomination deadline is April 16.

Eligible nominations will be assessed by a review committee representing the National Rural Youth Network, the Advisory Committee on Rural Issues, a rural/youth organization and the Rural Secretariat.

Nomination forms and more information may be obtained by calling the Rural Secretariat’s toll-free number, 1-888-781-2222, or by visiting www.rural.gc.ca.

For more information, contact:

Stephanie Clifford, Communications Advisor, Rural Secretariat
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Phone: 1-866-406-1100 (toll-free)

New brochure promotes benefits of Saskatchewan sheep industry

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A new brochure, “Why Raise Sheep in Saskatchewan?,” has been produced by the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board (SSDB) and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), aimed at promoting the growth of Saskatchewan’s sheep flock.

“Saskatchewan is a leader in Canada in terms of the innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and drive of producers,” said Tara Jaboeuf, Livestock Development Specialist with SAF. “The new sheep brochure is about those characteristics, and the kind of support that has been provided to the industry here.”

The brochure notes that Saskatchewan’s vast land resources and relatively low livestock density are distinct assets for sheep producers, providing a strong foundation for continuing expansion of the sector. It points out that land here is not only available, but also affordable. It quotes land prices of $139 to $225 per acre in Saskatchewan, compared to costs of $248 to $345 per acre in Manitoba, and $438 to $627 per acre in Alberta.

“The sheep industry has maintained its numbers and is poised on the edge of exceptional growth,” Jaboeuf said. “The industry is ready for this growth, and the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board is anticipating it.”

Information on the SSDB in the brochure describes it as a highly organized and productive association. The brochure also outlines the board’s involvement in the industry, including market development, research, promotion, extension and education. There is also discussion of the board’s marketing system, which connects with buyers and brokers across Canada.

In Saskatchewan, there is financial support for sheep producers from government, including the Livestock Loan Guarantee Program and Feedlot Construction Loan Program, which are intended to give sheep producers the opportunity to start and/or expand their flocks with loan guarantees. SAF also funds the Livestock Predation Program, which assists all livestock producers in the management of losses from predation. The program is administered by the SSDB. Saskatchewan Environment also funds the Guardian Dog Program, which assists producers in purchasing guardian dogs to protect their livestock.

“We are the only province to start a value-added lamb processing business to promote lamb products,” noted Jaboeuf.

Canadian Prairie Lamb Inc. was created to facilitate processing of lamb in Saskatchewan, and to add value to the meat by developing new products for the global retail market. The company currently offers eight different products, including seasoned lamb kabobs, two kinds of meatballs and a variety of sausages.

The new “Why Raise Sheep in Saskatchewan?” brochure is available from the SSDB website at www.sksheep.com, or from SAF.

For more information, contact:

Tara Jaboeuf, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5099
E-mail: tjaboeuf@agr.gov.sk.ca

Thursday, March 22

Grappling with the experience economy

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Picture a stage with a Hollywood-style director’s chair and a table full of products commonly found in supermarkets in the foreground. Facing an audience packed with entrepreneurs, author and tourism thinker Joseph Pine launches the basic premise that “all economic offerings are fake” and that the producers of these offerings have much to gain from “rendering authenticity” in them.

Pine goes on to explain that “it is easier to be authentic if you don’t say you are authentic”. In essence, if you render authenticity effectively, your consumers or guests should perceive it. Pine compares products and companies; he asks the audience to voice its opinion on the authentic character of various brands. His assessment of how some brands do a better job of rendering authenticity than others is compelling. As an example, he displays a bar of natural soap, partially wrapped in minimalist packaging that allows consumers to feel its texture, to smell it.

Transparency is a key element in the journey to making fake offerings “real”. This is what Joseph Pine calls “being true to self”. Communication is at the heart of Pine's message, and he argues that the effectiveness of rendering an experience’s authenticity hinges on one’s ability to state one’s identity – as defined in the essence of the enterprise. The message he shares is about the importance of being what you say you are.

He points out that – as traditional goods and services increasingly become commoditized – businesses must stage experiences and guide transformations to establish differentiation and generate economic value: “By understanding this new reality, forward‑thinking enterprises can create entirely new ways of adding value to their offerings, their individual customers, and therefore their businesses.”

Pine – with colleague James Gilmore – is co‑founder of Strategic Horizons LLP, a US‑based think‑tank that focuses on what they view as a fundamental shift in the very fabric of the economy. He presented a session entitled Authenticity in Direct Farm Marketing and Agritourism at the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA) January conference in Calgary.

Spa tourism: understanding the competition

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The Canadian spa industry is still fairly young. However, as in many countries around the world, the industry is growing rapidly. As the industry has matured, operators have come to realize that there is far more to the market than just local visitors. In fact, the recently completed 2006 Canadian Spa Sector Profile indicated that 29% of all spa visits to Canadian spas in 2005 were from people outside the spa’s local market. Clearly, spa tourism is a key component of the Canadian spa industry.

The development of a coordinated spa tourism strategy is in its early stages. Recent research by the International Spa Association (ISPA) and the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) provides excellent information on the industry, the consumer and the spa traveller in North America. However, spa travellers and those who want to attract them can be found all over the world. Accordingly, CTC and its partners commissioned the Association Resource Centre Inc. to conduct secondary research to gain preliminary insights into the industry, the spa consumer/traveller and the spa tourism strategy in three of its primary markets – Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The specific research objectives in each market were to:
  • Gain an understanding of the size and scope of the spa industry;
  • Determine the degree of public‑sector support for spas;
  • Develop a preliminary profile of spa goers and spa travellers;
  • Determine the most common travel distribution channels; and
  • Determine from a competitive standpoint what these markets are doing to attract domestic and inbound spa travel.
Watch for this report to be available shortly at www.canada.travel/corporate.

2007 Crop Planning Guide now available

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The 2007 editions of the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Crop Planning Guides are available to producers through the Agriculture Knowledge Centre or the department’s website.

The guides are designed to assist producers in planning their crop choices based on a number of variables.

“It’s an annual publication designed to help producers calculate their own costs of production,” said SAF Provincial Crop Economics Specialist Joe Novak. “If they don’t have their own costs estimated, they can use the guides to do that.”

According to Novak, the department compiles the guide’s baseline numbers from a number of different data sources.

“The data comes from surveys done by SAF, Statistics Canada and Saskatchewan Crop Insurance, and from information obtained through discussions with farm input suppliers,” said Novak.

The most important factor in using the guides is to individualize your plan to stay up to date on the latest input costs, says Novak.

“Producers need to continually update their own numbers, especially now as spring approaches. Fertilizer prices have been climbing and are now higher than what is listed in the guide, which was a blend of fall 2006 and spring 2007 price forecasts,” he stated.

“It’s important because fertilizer prices are highly volatile, and ultimately may impact on crop selection based on profitability.”

Although there are guides for each of the three different soil zones, they do not specifically address local differences such as soil type and moisture. That is why it is so important for producers to plug in their own yield estimates for the various crops on their own farms.

Novak says that input costs and estimated prices are just part of the equation. “Crop planning has to look at diseases and crop rotation, chemical rotation and, finally, economics. So rotation may be as significant a factor in planning as the numbers themselves.”

In addition, farmers’ local knowledge of typical yields is an important variable for use with the guides.

“Revenue varies greatly among different operations, so producers should not necessarily rely on the guide’s yield estimates,” said Novak. “Producers must also look at crop prices to see if the guide’s estimates are applicable to their individual situations.”

One important difference between the 2006 and 2007 crop planning guides is that producers will be working with more positive numbers this year.

“What a difference a year makes,” said Novak. “The numbers for 2007 are a significant improvement over the previous couple of years.”

Novak stresses that the guides are simply a template, and that producers must bring their own knowledge to bear, along with the very latest information they can get on costs, yields and price forecasts.

The 2007 Crop Planning Guides are available by calling the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377, and online at www.agr.gov.sk.ca.

For more information, contact:
Joe Novak, Provincial Crop Economics Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-6613

Agrivision, ethanol and Alan Gregg all in one event

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan Agrivision has put together an action-packed event for March 30 that has appeal on a number of fronts.

The day-long session includes the annual general meetings of both Saskatchewan Agrivision Corporation and the Saskatchewan Ethanol Development Council.

“We’ve done that for the past couple of years, because the ethanol council grew out of Agrivision,” said Agrivision Executive Director Al Scholz. “It seemed to make sense that we would hold them jointly, because the president of Agrivision, Red Williams, is a co-chair of the ethanol council.”

Scholz says that this is an important annual meeting for the ethanol council because of recent developments.

“The ethanol council has finished its first two-year mandate and they’re moving on to a second mandate which will include a new president. They plan to announce the name of their new president, and a number of other initiatives, including incorporating the bio-diesel task force,” he noted.

“They may be looking at a name change to reflect the evolution of bio-fuels.”

Scholz expects to see the investors and partners that form the core of Agrivision in attendance for their meeting.

“There will be a reporting on last year’s progress, as well as presentation and approval of next year’s budget and the operational program that’s been developed by the board of directors,” he stated.

One of the benefits of collaborating on these meetings is to allow sponsorship of high-quality keynote speakers, according to Scholz. This year is no exception, as the lunch hour keynote speech will come from well-known Canadian public opinion researcher and political commentator Allan Gregg, the Chair of the Strategic Counsel, whose research touches on public policy, marketing and communications.

“Allan is going to talk about consumer trends in food and the environment,” said Scholz. “We very much look forward to his unique perspective.”

The entire event will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Saskatoon, with the Saskatchewan Ethanol Development Council annual meeting scheduled for 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., the luncheon with Allan Gregg’s keynote address at noon, and the Saskatchewan Agrivision annual meeting in the afternoon.

Both annual meetings are open to the public, as is the luncheon, which has an admission price of $30.

Further details on the event, including registration information, are available on the Agrivision website at www.agrivision.ca, or by phoning the organization at (306) 384-4491.

For more information, contact:

Al Scholz, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Agrivision Corporation
Phone: (306) 384-4491
E-mail: al.scholz@agrivision.ca
Website: www.agrivision.ca

Cattle marketings pick up after slow period

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Across Saskatchewan, cattle are on the move. After months of lower trading volumes, a number of factors have combined to create a spike in movements.

Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s Beef Economist Sandy Russell is reporting a significant increase in the number of feeder cattle coming to market in the past weeks.

The movement started in the second week of February, with 18,500 head being traded, compared to 8,400 the week before.

The strong numbers continued, with subsequent weeks seeing cattle trading volumes of 21,000 head and 25,000 head.

Russell says there are a number of factors driving the increase.

“Coming into these past weeks, we hadn’t moved as many cattle as we traditionally see in the fall, or even in the early part of 2007. So it was overdue to have these larger numbers coming through,” said Russell.

Russell says a big reason for the lower numbers was market prices.

“From about the first week of September to the end of the year, prices were on an almost continual decline. So that was sending signals to producers, who decided they just didn’t want to market their cattle at the prices being offered. Prices were pretty steady in the first few weeks of the year and volumes were small, as is usually the case,” explained Russell.

Then, in mid-February, prices started to rise and producers started to respond. “That is what started pulling cattle to town,” said Russell.

But weather was also a key factor. “If it’s minus 40, neither the handler nor the cattle want to move. When it is cold and storming, that affects the ability to move cattle to the market, but it also affects those who are buying the cattle,” she stated.

“When the weather is good, more cattle will move.”

The larger volume may be a considerable increase, but is still well short of what the market can handle. Russell points out that, during the peak of the fall run, Saskatchewan auction markets typically handle more than 40,000 head a week.

But she says the bigger issue is the market impact of large volumes of cattle coming to town at the same time.

“Any time supply is great in a marketing situation, you do not want all the cattle coming to market at once. One must always consider the number of buyers on the market,” she said. “An abundance of cattle for sale all at the same time can put downward pressure on price.”

For more information, contact:

Sandy Russell, Beef Economist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5570
E-mail: srussell@agr.gov.sk.ca

Producers help themselves by answering phone survey

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

There is a survey underway with which farmers will want to assist because it will provide important information for their businesses.

The 2007 Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) land lease rate survey is now underway.

The survey is done every two years, according to SAF Agricultural Economist Terry Bedard. “It surveys farmers about lease rates for farm land,” said Bedard. “The results are used to provide rental rate guidelines to those looking at leasing land.”

The survey is being conducted by the Arcas Group of Regina, a statistical research company. SAF wants all farmers to know that this is a legitimate, official survey, in case they happen to be among the respondents receiving a random call.

“We are looking only for people who have cash rental arrangements in place for either cultivated land or pasture land,” said Bedard. “Crop share arrangements are much more difficult to measure in terms of establishing lease rates, so the survey does not deal with those.”

The survey will be seeking answers to some pretty specific questions, such as: with whom is the rental agreement? Possible answers could be: family, neighbours, a financial institution or government.

In the case of cultivated crop land, farmers will be asked: How many acres are cultivated? What are the rental rates? How much are the taxes on the average quarter? Who pays the taxes?

The survey will also ask for information on leased pasture, such as: How many quarters are leased, and from whom? What portion of the land is native and what is improved? Is the pasture used to graze for cow-calf production or yearlings? How many head are being grazed, and what is the average size of animals within a given range? Again, farmers will be asked who is paying the taxes on the land. Are there capital improvements, such as dugouts or fencing, and is the landlord or lessee paying for them?

Bedard stresses that all information gathered by the survey is confidential.

“We will be asking respondents for their RM number, so that the results can be regionalized, by crop district if possible,” she noted. “The aggregate results are released on a province-wide and regional basis, but individual farmers’ responses are never made public.”

The survey is being conducted in a period overlapping March and early April, with results expected to be compiled and published sometime in May.

Survey respondents will have the option to provide an e-mail address so that results can be sent directly to them, but everyone will have access to the final report via the SAF website at www.agr.gov.sk.ca.

For more information, contact:

Terry Bedard, Agricultural Economist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-5956
E-mail: tbedard@agr.gov.sk.ca

Friday, March 16

UNIGLOBE promotes carbon offset program

(Originally published in TOURISM)

UNIGLOBE Travel's Green Flight program is being touted as a way for Canadian companies to purchase carbon offset credits, calculated on the number of miles flown in an aircraft generated by a company's business, conference or employee incentive travel. According to UNIGLOBE's website, the monies collected from the credits are then invested into environmental programs supported by Environment Canada.

Air travel accounts for approximately 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that by 2050, emissions from global air travel will account for 5% of the total human climate change impact. Air travel causes the release of more than 600 million tonnes of the world's major greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

All emission offset projects are registered with the relevant government and non‑governmental agencies. The UNIGLOBE program is audited on an annual basis by third party auditors to ensure compliance with the Environmental Choice Program standards.

Tourism Vancouver has signed onto the program, planning to offset approximately 220 metric tons of emissions resulting from the organization's air travel. The DMO will not only offset flights taken by staff travelling for sales and marketing business, but also those flights purchased to bring travel influencer clients, customers and media to Vancouver.

For information visit: www.greenmyflight.com.

Groups and meetings: unexpected opportunity

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Companies seeking the next big travel opportunity need to explore the groups and meetings arena, according to a new report published by PhoCusWright Inc. This complex but steady marketplace, valued at over US$164 billion in the US alone, is one of the next frontiers and key competitive areas for e-commerce and one of the last major revenue streams to move online.

The US groups and meetings marketplace is projected to reach $175 billion by 2008, with travel (air, hotel, car rental, ground transportation, cruise and tour) representing 54% of the total, according to PhoCusWright’s Groups and Meetings: Market Opportunity Redefined. Non‑travel expenses (e.g., meeting rooms, catering, audio/visual equipment) represent the remaining 46%. By 2008, 41% of all groups and meetings travel revenue, or $39 billion, will be booked online. But the online opportunity will be even greater for small leisure gatherings (under nine rooms), a segment which has fallen outside of

the traditional "group" definition. This segment, which includes family reunions, weddings and religious groups, will have online penetration of 53% by 2008, nearly three times the rate of larger leisure groups.

PhoCusWright Inc. is an independent travel, tourism and hospitality research firm specializing in consumer, business and competitive intelligence. This article comes from Hotel News Resource and is available at www.hotelnewsresource.com/article25926.html

Canola convention looking to long term

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The big players in one of the most significant Saskatchewan crops will be meeting at a national conference this month to strategize on the future of their industry.

More than 200 people representing all facets of the canola industry, including growers, input suppliers, crushers, processors, exporters, researchers, regulators and marketers, will converge at the national “Canola – Growing Great 2015” conference to discuss a strategic plan for the booming crop between now and 2015.

Canola is a multi-billion dollar industry, the impact of which continues to expand in Saskatchewan. Canola production last year in the province was nearly four million tonnes.

Saskatchewan Canola Growers President Darin Egert will be attending the conference in Victoria, B.C. from March 20 to 23, and says it will be an important event for the industry.

“This convention will attract the whole industry, from the growers to the crushers to the grain companies to the final product producers, so you are mixing with everyone in the entire canola industry,” Egert said. “It’s the place to be.”

The convention is focused on exploring the mega-trends in food and fuel in North America and around the world.

Egert says developing a strategy that looks as far ahead as 2015 is the right approach.

“I think the canola industry has always had a long-term view. The goals have to be pretty long-term to get all the steps that have to be taken, such as increasing yield, increasing oil content, and increasing the amount of acres that can be seeded through different agronomic practice and different varieties,” Egert stated.

“So it’s something you don’t want to rush into. We want to make sure we do everything in the right order so that we are not oversupplying.”

The conference speakers’ list is both distinguished and international. Laurie Demeritt, president of the Hartman Group, and David Hughes, professor emeritus of food marketing at Imperial College in London, will address food trends.

The editor of Oil World, Thomas Mielke of Hamburg, Germany, and Greg Webb of Archer Daniels Midland, will lead the discussion of biofuels, present and future.

Jim Williams, president of WTRG Economics in Arkansas, will talk about the relationship of the petroleum and renewable fuel industries in North America.

Syngenta is the lead sponsor, with partner sponsors BASF, Bayer CropScience, Cargill Limited, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, Monsanto Canada, and Pioneer Hi-Bred. Other sponsors are Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Louis Dreyfus, Dow AgroSciences, Mitsui and Company, RBC Royal Bank, and TD Canada Trust Agriculture Services.

More details, as well as registration information, can be found on the conference website at www.canola-council.org/conference/index.htm.

For more information, contact:

Darin Egert, President
Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association
Phone: (306) 937-2005

Diane Wreford, Assistant Vice-President, Public Affairs
Canola Council of Canada
Phone: (204) 982-2108
Email: wrefordd@canola-council.org

2007 crop insurance deadline approaching

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The deadline for producers to apply for 2007 Crop Insurance is fast approaching. Applications, changes, or cancellations must be made by March 31.

This year’s crop insurance program has some new options and a significant increase in coverage for producers.

Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) General Manager Stan Benjamin says one new feature of the program is the Variable Price Option. Benjamin says the idea is to provide customers with an opportunity to receive compensation that reflects current market values.

“The price option that we pay for any bushels that are lost is set in July, rather than the price that we offer as a fixed price option, which is based on a January forecast,” he said. “So the intent is for producers who want to have the flexibility that if they do lose a bushel, they can be paid a more current price.”

Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Wartman announced the details of the program last month.

“The 2007 Crop Insurance program has been improved and enhanced in many ways,” he said. “With this year’s program, Saskatchewan Crop Insurance continues its commitment to developing and delivering insurance products and services that meet the needs of Saskatchewan’s diverse agriculture industry.”

That diversity includes the introduction of a Wild Rice Insurance Pilot Program, developed to support the expanding number of wild rice producers in northern Saskatchewan.

Benjamin says the new program is a recognition that the wild rice crop is growing in significance, with more than 55,000 permitted acres of production and more than 100 wild rice producers.

“For the last number of years, wild rice producers in northern Saskatchewan have been contacting us about having access to the production risk management that farmers in the south do. So we have developed an area-based program. There will be an area production value set, and if there is less harvested production than the production guarantee in that region, then all those who signed up for the program will be paid a loss,” Benjamin said.

“This is the type of program that we usually develop when we first bring a crop into the program, because we are inexperienced with insuring the crop, or do not have sufficient data to provide insurance on an individual basis.”

The 2007 Crop Insurance program has also added coverage for identity-preserved canola, expanded the Crop Averaging Pilot Program to the entire province, and expanded the establishment benefit to cover gopher damage.

For the second year in a row, program debt has been reduced, improving from a deficit of $627 million in 2004 to $340 million going into 2007.

Benjamin says the bottom line for producers is that coverage will increase while premium rates will decrease.

“The biggest news is that we have a significant increase in coverage, from an average of $64 per acre in 2006 to $87 in 2007, and premium rates are going down,” explained Benjamin.

Program and contract information is also available in person at any Crop Insurance customer service office, online at www.saskcropinsurance.com, or by calling 1-888-935-0000.

For more information, contact:

Stan Benjamin, General Manager
Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation
Phone: (306) 728-7287

True fish story: from Lucky Lake to Brooklyn

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Chances are if you happen to be sitting down to a meal of fresh steelhead trout in Brooklyn, New York, the fish was hatched, raised and harvested here in Saskatchewan.

Steelhead trout, a variety of rainbow trout, are the exclusive product of Wild West Steelhead, an aquaculture farm on Lake Diefenbaker in the Lucky Lake area.

“We are shipping about 80 per cent of our fish straight to the U.S.,” Wild West Steelhead General Manager Dean Foss said.

“We have a very large customer in Brooklyn who is a distributor to the Jewish community. Typically, for the New York market, we are shipping by truck on Thursday evening, and it arrives there Sunday.”

The aquaculture farm has been in operation for about 14 years, and the name Wild West Steelhead came into being when an Edmonton company purchased the former Saskatchewan Wheat Pool operation in 2004.

The fish are raised in growing pens in the waters of Lake Diefenbaker.

“We take the fish from fertilized eggs hatched out in our hatchery, and after three months, they are moved to the growing cages in the lake,” said Foss. “They spend 18 to 24 months out there and are ready for harvest at about the two kilogram size. We process them on site and they are shipped out fresh, packed in ice.”

Wild West Steelhead employs 25 people from the local area full-time, with up to five additional staff added during their busiest periods. They produce approximately 1,200 tonnes of live-weight fish per year, representing some 600,000 fish.

“We have made application to expand our operation, because markets are growing faster than we can increase production,” said Foss. “That will add up to three new sites, because the original location has reached capacity.”

Foss says the Canadian market demand for their product is primarily Saskatchewan, with some shipping to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

Wild West Steelhead trout are on sale at fresh food and health food stores in Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert and Osler.

While there is no current certification standard that would label their fish as organic, Foss says there are no antibiotics used in the operation.

The trout are an excellent source of protein and omega fatty acids, and as a long-recognized part of a healthy diet, fish is not subject to the market fluctuations that sometimes affect products caught up in fad diets.

“Like any farmer, our biggest concern is weather,” said Foss. “The metabolic rate of fish is set by the water temperature, so in the winter they grow very little. Spring, summer and fall are our growing period. If it gets too hot, that will also slow them down.”

Among the skill sets required for their company are certified scuba divers. A number of employees are certified so that they can dive into the fish pens to remove mortalities and to inspect the containment nets.

Wild West Steelhead is profitable and looking forward to expansion. However, growth of the acqaculture industry in Saskatchewan will require significant capital, according to Foss.

“To grow fish for our markets, you require inputs for two years before you have a source of revenue,” he noted.

For more information, contact:

Dean Foss, General Manager
Wild West Steelhead
Phone: (306) 858-2208
Email: dfoss@wildweststeelhead.com
Website: www.wildweststeelhead.com

Carbon trading antop priority for SSCA president

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The president of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA) says the creation of a national carbon credit trading system will be a top priority for his new term.

Edgar Hammermeister was recently re-elected to a second term as president of the SSCA, and says he wants to build on the association’s previous successes.

“We have a very strong brand name for what we have done in the past. We are known for our work on direct seeding, and assisting producers in adopting the new technology that improves the land, protects the water quality, and improves our air,” said Hammermeister.

The Alameda producer says carbon trading policy is an all-important issue for his group, which they will work on going forward.

“Carbon issues will continue to be a very high priority for SSCA. Agriculture can make a large contribution to mitigating the impact of greenhouse gases. As a Canadian policy evolves, we want to be directly involved in shaping policy that makes it practical for implementation and rewards the farmers for participating,” he stated.

“It all comes down to how complicated the federal government makes the system, and whether farmers would be willing to participate. We don’t want to see it die under mounds of paperwork and red tape.”

The greenhouse gases most directly related to farmers are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane.

“Carbon dioxide comes from the emission from burning fuel in our tractors and trucks. Nitrous oxide comes from how we apply our fertilizers. Methane, for the most part, comes from the livestock industry,” explained Hammermeister.

Management practices like direct seeding reduce fuel consumption, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrous oxide is a very strong greenhouse gas, but Hammermeister says producers can reduce the impact by fine tuning how, when, and where they apply fertilizer.

It is estimated that Canadian cropland could sequester about 22 million tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year by using current best management practices. The big question is what structure will be put in place to measure and credit reductions?

Hammermeister says the current interest in the climate change issue is helpful when it comes to expediting the process of setting up a national carbon trading system. However, getting the system right is more important than getting the system right away, he said.

“The concern I have is that perhaps the decision-makers will want to move too quickly. It is very important that a system is set up that considers all aspects, and a system set up in a hurry just creates headaches later on,” he stated.

“In one way, it’s positive. There is action and interest. But first, the time must be spent to make sure the system is very robust.”

For more information, contact:

Edgar Hammermeister, President
Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association
Phone: (306) 483-7289
Website: www.ssca.ca

Saskatchewan organics on the world stage

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The business of organics shows no signs of slowing down.

A delegation of 10 Saskatchewan organic and natural product companies has just returned from the largest organic trade show in the world.

The trade mission to “BioFach 2007” in Nuremburg, Germany was organized by the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP). The group was part of the Canadian Pavilion, which was organized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

STEP’s Director of Agri-Value Trade Development Jennifer Evancio says that, overall, the results are very positive.

“Companies are going for different reasons. Some go to reinforce their position in the market, some are there to scope out the market, and some are there to make sales,” she said. “This show was a success for all of the companies that participated.”

BioFach is an enormous event, with more than 116 countries represented. The World Organic Trade Fair saw more than 2,500 exhibitors, and roughly 45,000 trade visitors.

“That’s the great thing about this show – it’s trade focused. It is not a consumer show: it is a trade show for business-to-business,” Evancio said.

She said Saskatchewan is in a unique position when it comes to the organic industry. In other industries, buyers and distributors think of Canada as a whole. However, in the organics sector, Saskatchewan itself is well-known internationally as a leading exporter of high-quality organic goods.

“In the organics sector, our companies have done an excellent job pushing forward their capabilities to supply products. Some of that ties back into our key strengths in the organics and natural foods industry – grains, oilseeds, wild rice, hemp, flax and bison,” she said. “But in addition to that, you are also seeing some of the value-added food ingredients and finished food products that people are looking for moving up the chain.”

In fact, Saskatchewan had the largest number of Canadian exhibitors and participants at BioFach. Saskatchewan also has the largest number of certified organic producers at 1,245, and the largest acreage of certified organic farmland in Canada at 700,000 acres.

Evancio says that having a national organic standard is also a market advantage, especially for the European market.

“Europe is one of the key markets for our organic products. There is an interest in healthy living, safe and healthy foods, environmental responsibility, and animal welfare,” she explained.

“All those kinds of trends have contributed to their interest in organics and natural food products, and sourcing them from trusted suppliers.”

One of the highlights of the BioFach show for the Saskatchewan delegation was the cooking demonstration using Saskatchewan organic and natural food products. The demonstration was made possible through funding from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

Chef Tim Wasylko cooked up some tasty recipes using products available from Saskatchewan’s organic and natural food processors, including roasted flaxseed, flour, breakfast cereals, pulses, pea fiber, pancake mix, soup mixes, hemp products, wild rice, wild mushrooms, bison, pure oat food alternatives, and processed oil products.

“The cooking demonstration was another level of interaction between buyers and suppliers. It’s one thing to sample a product; it’s entirely another to sample the product in a finished recipe,” Evancio said. “It was really the organic cherry on top.”

For more information, contact:
Jennifer Evancio, Director of Agri-Value Trade Development
Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership
Phone: (306) 537-3877

Sunday, March 11

Kick-starting a destination region


(Originally published in TOURISM)

Professional secrets about strategies to achieve tourism goals may be closely guarded in some industries, but the Government of Alberta’s Tourism Development & Services Branch was gracious enough to share with TOURISM how they have tackled the major challenge of creating a new tourism destination in that province.

Two of the leading proponents of the recently‑formed Canadian Badlands region are branch executive director Louise McGillivray and destination & product development director Kevin Crockett. Says McGillivray. “Our colleagues at Travel Alberta, who had been monitoring the evolution of markets like Japan, were constantly being told by buyers that – despite the iconic Rockies – Alberta needed new products and destinations.”

Alberta Economic Development has a mandate to work with entrepreneurs and not‑for‑profit community groups in the province to develop tourism products with a view to dispersing the economic benefits of tourism more broadly across the province. “We interpreted this in the context of wanting to get something happening in Alberta that was capable of generating international attraction," said McGillivray. Her team then looked critically at a number of Alberta's resources and came to the realization that Alberta’s badlands region offered the best opportunity to become that international attraction.

Previous experience had taught McGillivray that for any development to succeed there had to be ‘buy‑in’ from regional communities. She travelled through the region in the summer of 2003, meeting with operators and representatives from seven municipalities to invite interest in a destination tourism project, at the same time carrying out some brand testing around the Canadian Badlands theme.

Kevin Crockett continues the discussion: “That testing helped assess the potential. We tested in virtually all the major markets we thought had the potential to produce visitors— England, Germany, the rest of Canada and the US, particularly in Texas and California. We tested both the brand name (Canadian Badlands) and a multi‑themed concept that incorporated other aspects like aboriginal resources, ranching history, and the recreational mix that could be offered in the region.”

Crockett believes this new tourism region needed a much broader concept than simply ‘badlands and dinosaurs’. The testing yielded convincing arguments to help engage the local municipalities: “This is how they became aware there was more potential than perhaps they initially thought. We also shared with them the view that this region needed to be big geographically (a large area of, in this case, southeastern Alberta).”

The next step would be to establish an official municipal steering committee, enriched with representatives from Travel Alberta and other tourism destination region personnel, that would be tasked with the development of a researched‑based strategy to create a multi‑faceted, multi‑themed destination. “In conjunction with the CTC and one of the local municipalities, explains Crockett, “we undertook an opportunity assessment for the whole area, and as a result of what we learned, we embarked on a series of community tourism action planning projects for five sub‑regions (groupings of communities) that would make‑up the Canadian Badlands.”

“This was an important milestone because the municipalities had been brought together and had manifested a will to be part of this," continues Crockett. "They were asking: ‘How do we fit in? We are just a little agricultural community’. In my opinion, they really needed that extra research and guidance. Those community strategies were very helpful in getting people mobilized and to understand the Canadian Badlands concept.”

Crockett uses as an example to illustrate the progress made by one of the five sub‑regions (two municipalities associated with Dinosaur Provincial Park, the Town of Brooks and the County of Newell): “The Park is located 30 km outside of Brooks. We brought together representatives from the municipalities, the local tourism industry (hoteliers and other businesses) and representatives from Dinosaur Provincial Park. The process led to a number of initiatives now being implemented within the area park system, enabling all the players to integrate into the tourism infrastructure.”

Louise McGillivray gives details of the changes that occurred: “Years ago, Dinosaur Provincial Park offered guided bus tours into the restricted area of the park, on a first‑come, first‑served basis. In the height of the season, visitors would get out there and often couldn’t get on the bus until 3:00 p.m. People in Brooks knew this, so the normal practice at the time, when someone checked into a hotel, would be to tell them: ‘the tours are too busy, you won’t get on until late afternoon, don’t bother’. People would get in their cars and keep driving to Calgary. Three things happened: the park didn’t get the visitation, the hotel in Brooks didn’t get two nights’ accommodation, and the visitors didn’t get the exceptional tour experience.”

McGillivray says as a result of the discussion initiated by the Canadian Badlands development process, Dinosaur Provincial Park now has a reservation system for its guided tours, and visitors can be assured that if they go to the park, they are going to get the guided tour.’

Another step taken was the development of touring routes in the region, adds Kevin Crockett: “Once you get people into that landscape they love it, but the distances between major attractions are a challenge. We hired a consultant who suggested touring routes be developed to tie in secondary attractions between those major stops. That approach 'shortened' distances, while telling stories of the badlands and around the various themes. There were six routes originally; now they are working on six more, focused on historic walking tours and short loop tours in some of the key areas.”

It was soon recognized that some form of "champion" organization was necessary to further the development of this new destination. As of August 15, 2006, 35 local municipalities have come together to form a not‑for‑profit company called Canadian Badlands Ltd.; the company is setting out to develop and promote the region as a tourism icon destination.

McGillivray notes, “our department will continue its strong involvement in this initiative, (but) if the region is to achieve its full potential, it must become demonstrably driven by the local people.” This new company – just out of the starting blocks – will be hiring an executive director to look after administration and help move implementation forward.

For regional information visit: www.canadianbadlands.com.

Young Aussies seeking cultural connections

(Originally published in TOURISM)

According to a report in News.com.au, an online youth travel survey commissioned by Contiki Holidays has revealed that a new breed of Australian traveller is emerging. These young tourists rank cultural sites and events as their most important considerations when travelling overseas. The study, conducted in December, surveyed 460 people between 18 and 34 years old about their travel habits in the last four years;

90% ranked sightseeing as their favourite activity when travelling, while experiencing the local culture came in second at 73%. Sixty-three per cent said shopping was an important consideration when choosing a destination, while only 53% said socializing was their number one activity.

“Travellers these days are looking for a deeper connection with their host country,” says Joyce DiMascio from the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia. “The pattern tends to be that they're looking for things that will change them in some way, that will open their minds, that will enlighten them.” The iTravel Report also showed 69% of people had visited a cultural site or event while travelling, with the favourites being museums, sites of historical significance such as castles, and art galleries.

Source: www.news.com.au/travel.

Saturday, March 10

Competing for skiers down under

(Originally published in TOURISM)

A sustained effort by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) and its partners to keep Canadian ski destinations prominent in consumers’ minds has seen three Canadian ski resorts nominated among the top 10 in the world by Australia’s Luxury Travel magazine. From all nominees, Whistler has been chosen number one for the third consecutive year, while Big White ranked fifth and Banff sixth.

The CTC’s Asia/Pacific executive director, Donna Brinkhaus, says Canada has run promotions for a number of years, working with wholesalers and journalists to keep Canada front and centre for consumers. She points out, however, that competition for the Australian outbound ski market has never been greater. “Canada was Australia’s number one ski destination for about five years. About two years ago, Japan and Colorado started heating up. Japanese ski resorts have only a two hour time difference with Australia and ski enthusiasts can get to Japan on a nine hour flight,” she says. “Japan came on hard with promotions, offers and opportunities; these were countered by Colorado with deals where kids would fly free or ski for free, and the Canadian ski resorts can’t compete to that level.”

There is also competition from European and New Zealand ski resorts, according to Brinkhaus. New Zealand, albeit a short‑haul destination, has a different season from Canada because of its location in the southern hemisphere. So, the lure of Canadian ski experiences in the heat of the Australian summer has a powerful resonance and Australians are willing to travel great distances to seek the cooler climates. “Australian skiers will go away to ski for three weeks, and in some cases they will go to two different resorts," she points out. "There is high awareness of Canada; our ski destinations have consistent snow and we have an absolutely spectacular and diversified ski product. Interestingly, 99% of Australian skiers coming to Canada will head for Alberta and BC slopes."

“Canada’s share of the outbound ski market has suffered some slippage in the past few years,” she says. “When the competition goes in with a value proposition of the kinds offered by Japan and US destinations, and when the overall outbound ski market remains reasonably static, there is inevitably an impact on the (leading destination's) market share.”

The good news is that Canadian ski resorts are still very aggressive and Brinkhaus feels there are substantial opportunities. “The wholesalers are getting behind us, putting a good word out for us, but the competition is strong," she notes. "So we just have to be smarter and capture the consumer’s attention with our offers. The brand initiative will help us do that, absolutely! It is all about experience and our new brand is right up where we want to be when promoting skiing and the experience that Canada has to offer.”

There has never been a better time to capitalize on the relationships the CTC and its partners have built over the years in the Australian market. Brinkhaus recalls that she accepted the number one ski destination award from Luxury Travel magazine on behalf of Whistler when they won it for the first time three years ago. “Whistler has been chosen the top international ski resort in the world for the third year in a row. It is a prestigious award; it is with these kinds of achievements we will be able to convince consumers about to choose a ski destination that – if they go for a Canadian product – they will get a level of quality that is next to none, whether it is Whistler, Big White, Silver Star, Sun Peaks, Jasper or the Fairmont resorts in the Rockies that they choose. These are just a few of the spectacular products and experiences that can be enjoyed in Canada.”

Manitoba fishing lodge operators are getting younger

(Originally published in TOURISM)

In many regions of the country, it has often been hunting and fishing activities that gave tourism entrepreneurs their first taste of an economic sector that excels at creating jobs in remote locations. The rewards can be great, but owning a fishing lodge can wear out your back after a while; as many long‑established lodge owners put their business’ succession plan into place, a new generation of younger, savvy operators with a fresh outlook on marketing are picking up the ball.

That is what Travel Manitoba’s product and market development manager for outdoors, Don Lamont, is finding. For instance, if fishing lodge operators used to be reluctant to offer commissionable products to the travel trade, this is no longer the case: “I have been in the industry for 25 year, and in my experience, it tended to be that way. But I think we are getting younger operators in the business now who are trying to find more ways to make ends meet. Among other marketing tactics, they will initiate intensive direct mail campaigns and they will offer commissions. We recently convinced 18 Manitoba lodges to offer commissionable products for German writers and tour operators to sample in September.” He adds: “We have at least one lodge operator, who has a solid background in marketing, coming to Rendez‑vous Canada this year.”

Lamont believes these operators increasingly understand how providing commissionable products can be a valuable solution to attracting new clientele. As an example, in the European market, consumers know that going through an operator is the best way to ensure their holiday investment is protected because of the provisions in the legal system there: “The tour operator has to make good on the trip or he is liable. Germans consumers know that, which is why they book through tour operators.”

This route may bring some market‑readiness challenges at first, but this new breed of lodge operators knows it is the only way to remain competitive in an industry that is also evolving. “Lets face it, the traditional customer base is getting older,” notes Lamont. “Some may be retiring, and some may even be dying. Lodge operators must access younger demographics, and that takes more aggressive efforts. At the recent All‑Canada show in Chicago, we had 20 Manitoba lodge operators, and I noticed their average age had come down considerably. Most of them also understand that outdoor sports shows are not the end‑all and be‑all anymore.”

According to Lamont, this new generation of lodge operators is venturing into specialty markets like US long haul as a way to recruit new clients: “They may go to a high end boat show, for example, to try to attract more of a corporate clientele.”

They are hungry for success and they know the value of the tourism industry and its resources at their disposal.

Forage seeding made easier with new interactive CD

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Matching the right forage species to your land and your needs is the task taken on by a project of the Saskatchewan Forage Council. The result is an interactive CD which guides the producer through the process.

“It’s a tool for producers to take a look at different forage species, and make selections based upon their specific characteristics,” Saskatchewan Forage Council Executive Director Janice Bruynooghe said.

“It looks at their land and soil characteristics, and also if they need something for pasture or if they want something for haying. They can basically define all the criteria for their specific circumstances.”

Bruynooghe says the CD was made as user-friendly as possible in order to allow a series of choices that will lead to options.

“There is a whole database of information that will sort through all of the different species that we have adapted to Saskatchewan, and pull out a list for them that says what is suggested based on past research and recommendations from agrologists,” Bruynooghe said.

“It’s a nice way for producers to try to sort through a ream of information. We’ve put it all into a very user-friendly tool.”

Most of the information on the CD originated with the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Forage Crop Production Guide, which is updated annually by a Provincial Forage Crop Specialist. That base was combined with other scientific research compiled from across western Canada.

The CD allows the user to make their choices based on a long list of selectable criteria.

“There are up to 10 criteria that a producer could input. They could select all 10, or they might only use one,” Bruynooghe said.

“They input their considerations and it will provide them with all the different species, whether it’s for pasture or not.”

In addition, the CD also provides a seeding rate calculator. Once the user has selected the forage species they want to seed, it will indicate the pounds per acre required of each species in the mix, and calculate a projected cost per acre.

Bruynooghe says the CD is not the “be-all-and-end-all” of forage crop planning, but it is one more tool to add to producers’ other contacts, research and personal experiences.

Funding for the compilation of the CD came under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s “Greencover Canada” Program. However, a long list of partner groups participated in the technical committee, which advised the forage council on content, including SAF, the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA), Saskatchewan Crop Insurance and Ducks Unlimited.

“We’ve been at it for almost two years now,” Bruynooghe said. “Those technical review committee members have been very important. We’ve filtered through the information a number of times, ground-proofing it and testing it so that the information is as accurate as we could possibly make it.”

The CD will be available free of charge by mid-March, and can be obtained simply by calling the Saskatchewan Forage Council at (306) 966-2148. A downloadable version will also be offered on their website at www.saskforage.ca.

An additional feature is the Forage Establishment Fact Sheet, a guide to the establishment of forage crops, which will be offered in a PDF format on the site.

For more information, contact:
Janice Bruynooghe, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Forage Council
Phone: (306) 966-2148

Ag-West Bio to hold business planning workshops

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Ag-West Bio Inc. will once again offer a complete business planning workshop this spring.

The workshop is in the form of three two-day sessions, scheduled in April, May and June. It provides expert instruction and hands-on support to entrepreneurs, whatever their stage of development.

“The material is relevant to new start up companies or existing businesses that are launching a new venture,” Ag-West Bio Investment Analyst Tyler Bradley said. “It is aimed at companies based in agriculture, with a technological component.”

The first of the three workshop sessions deals with the tools to get started in building a business plan. Participants receive a comprehensive binder of resources, including guidance on business planning and financial modeling.

From that starting point, attendees are asked to work on a more detailed plan before the next workshop.

About a month later, the second session provides feedback on the work done so far, and adds in information on business-to-business marketing, as well as some of the more advanced aspects of financial management and accounting.

The third workshop component provides time to adjust the financial pro-forma that has been developed, and on the last day each participant actually presents their own business plan to the rest of the group.

“We do everything in a very confidential, one-on-one environment,” Bradley said. “We are aware that business people are very concerned with the confidentiality of their business concepts.”

The three workshop sessions are scheduled for: April 16 and 17, May 15 and 16, and finally June 11 and 12.

The course outline promises plenty of time to be spent on the fundamental steps of how to prepare a business plan, and on financial planning and management.

Bradley says it is useful if participants can flesh out their business idea as much as possible before beginning the workshops.

“The more prepared you are going in, the further you are going to get,” Bradley said. “If you can come up with a two-page summary of your concept, that’s a good starting point.”

The final session even deals with how to work on your new idea, while continuing in current employment or running your existing business. A seminar entitled “I can’t quit my day job” will be kicked off by a guest speaker who has been through the experience.

The business plan workshop costs $575 for Ag-West Bio members, and $600 for non-members, and is eligible for coverage under the Canadian Agricultural Skills Service program. That price includes information binders and CDs, as well as lunches.

Bradley points out that, in addition to the learning opportunity, the workshop also provides exposure to potential sources of investment capital for entrepreneurs.

You can learn more at www.agwest.sk.ca.

For more information, contact:
Tyler Bradley, Investment Analyst
Ag-West Bio Inc.
Phone: (306) 668-2652
Email: tyler.bradley@agwest.sk.ca
Website: www.agwest.sk.ca

Water considerations key for intensive hog operations

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

In the diet of a pig, like all living things, water is the most important nutrient. It makes up between 50 and 80 per cent of the animal’s body weight. Water is also used to produce new tissue in growth and pregnancy, produce milk, and compensate for losses through respiration, evaporation and elimination of waste.

As a result, the amount and quality of water available to new and expanding pig operations is a very important step in the planning stage of an intensive hog barn. It can also be one of the most significant cost factors, both in terms of initial capital investment and ongoing operation.

“Water is a major influence in site selection, and should be considered early in the planning stages,” said Troy Donauer, Livestock Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF).

Today, more efficient pig barns use fewer resources to create the same volume of product. Water requirements will also drop as animal, equipment and nutritional efficiencies continue to improve through research and development.

Even so, Donauer says that the water needed for hog operations will always be a major factor. “Including sanitation, the average daily water usage in a farrow-finish operation is around 85 litres per sow,” he noted. “Its importance can’t be overstated.”

Pigs perform best on good quality water, but are quite tolerant and can adapt well to various water sources. Animals of varying age and health status will react differently to the same water, with younger animals generally requiring a better product.

The quality of ground water in Saskatchewan is variable and site specific. The most common issues are high levels of iron and sulphates. Surface water is at a higher risk of microbial contamination from bacteria, viruses and parasites. Therefore, location is critical in order to avoid infiltration from manure, pesticide, herbicide or fertilizer. Water pipelines are becoming more widespread in Saskatchewan, and are increasingly becoming an option for hog operations.

“Testing the proposed source during the initial planning stages and routinely afterwards is the only sure way to monitor water quality changes,” said Donauer.

But he notes that water considerations also factor into intensive hog operations on the waste disposal side, too. “The location of surface or ground water can affect site selection when considering manure storage and barn location,” he said.

“Also, hog manure is made up of close to 90 per cent water, so its efficient use is critical in reducing the cost to haul it onto the land. With proper equipment and management, most hog barns can reduce the amount of water consumed by 25 to 30 per cent.”

Because of their ability to affect water supplies through both volumes required and waste produced, intensive hog operations, like any developmental project, face a number of regulatory, licensing and approval provisions.

“Producers should definitely not begin construction or get too far advanced in their plans until they’ve checked out these requirements and obtained the necessary authorizations,” Donauer said.

SAF has an Environmental Engineer and Livestock Development Specialists that are available to assist with the process of developing a hog operation, including site selection and navigating the approval process.

More information can be obtained by calling the SAF Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

For more information, contact:
Troy Donauer, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5096