Sunday, March 30

Top Holsteins Live the High Life on Osler-Area Farm

Life is good for the 20 competitive Holstein cows on Bryce Fisher's dairy farm near Osler. He maintains the special group as his star exhibits, and as a result, has collected a mantle full of ribbons, including Grand Champion Holstein at the 2007 Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.

Fisher's national champion is Silverridge Leduc Noleta, a cow he has been showing for six years.

"I bought her when she was about 10 months old, and she's five years old now," said Fisher. "At the calf shows, she did well. Then when she calved as a two-year-old, she calved with a perfect udder. We showed out west and she was undefeated; we took her to the Royal Winter Fair, and she was first there at that age. She was second at the Royal as a three-year-old and a four-year-old. And now - Grand Champion!"

The Fisher family is now in its third generation of dairy farming. The operation began in the 1950s with Bryce's grandfather; then his father, and, now, Bryce and fiancée Raquel Dyck operate the 600-acre farm. They milk approximately 150 cows, averaging some 28 kilograms of milk per cow per day.

However, there is a special group at Fisher's farm - his exhibition stock. Those 20 cows are kept in separate accommodations.

"We keep our cows ready to show year round," said Fisher. "They are housed separately, fed separately, and looked after separately. The other cows are on total mixed ration with silage. These cows don't get any of that. They're on first- and second-cut hay, beet pulp and 16-per-cent dairy ration. They are fed and managed totally for show purposes."

Showing Holsteins is an important part of Fisher's life and work.

"We work hard at it," he said. "With different cows, we've been grand champions at just about every western show at one time or another. I think we're just really competitive."

This year's entries at the Toronto Royal Winter Fair were no exception.

"We had 11 head there, and they were all in the top 10," said Fisher. "Out of Saskatchewan, we're probably the most competitive herd on the international scene. I've been going to the Royal for the past 10 years."

Fisher transports the show stock himself, so the appearance at the winter fair meant some 18 days on the road to go out, show the cows and return home.

Showing the animals, of course, is not just about ribbons: it's about business. The sale of embryos to breeders is an important part of his operation.

"It's a huge network of people," said Fisher. "The only way you can do it is by exhibiting at big shows."

He estimates potential buyers from some 160 countries were at the Royal Winter Fair and had a chance to see the quality of his stock. However, he is careful in managing his genetics business.

"We don't over-extend ourselves," he said. "We won't contract until we have embryos to sell. We just notify people when we have some."

As for Silverridge Leduc Noleta, she's back munching and milking in her VIP stall.

"She's just a great cow and we've had a lot of fun with her," said Fisher, with no small amount of pride.

For more information, contact:
Bryce Fisher, Owner
R and F Livestock Inc.
Phone: (306) 239-2233
E-mail: rnflivestock@sasktel.net

Log On, Sip Coffee, Learn

Producers across Canada are upgrading their skills and knowledge in the comfort of their own homes, thanks to a series of "agriwebinars" offered by the Canadian Farm Business Management Council. The current series of Internet seminars are hosted by Regina-based agri-tourism entrepreneur Claude-Jean Harel.

"They involve a presenter who comes from across Canada, the United States, Australia, or even Brazil," said Harel. "These are made for agricultural producers who are trying to decide on which future trends they should tap into. Basically, I guide the session, introduce the presenter and the topic, and make sure everything is flowing smoothly."

The agriwebinar series is presented every Monday at 12:00 p.m. eastern time.

"The neat thing about the format is that you can be in your office, in front of your computer," said Harel. "Even if you have a dial-up system, you can log on. You are joining a community of about 100 participants, listening to a presenter with a PowerPoint presentation, and the participants can ask the presenter questions, as well."

The question and answer portion of the seminar is enabled through the webinar platform.

"There's a little [text] box in the system that allows them to type in a question, and the presenter will address the questions in real time," explained Harel. "It's a very interactive format."

The topics of the webinars are wide-ranging. Subjects that have been or will be addressed include grain marketing fundamentals, biofuels, beneficial practices from outstanding farmers and agri-tourism.

The list of agriwebinar topics and dates can be found at http://www.farmcentre.com/, the website of the Canadian Farm Business Management Council. The council was developed as a management resource for the industry. It is devoted to developing and distributing advanced farm management information.

The council receives support from Saskatchewan Agriculture, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and a number of private companies. It offers a virtual library of management education and information materials, including CD-ROMs, books and DVDs, as well as the webinars.

Harel, an agri-entrepreneur himself, said he enjoys being part of the series.

"I've been active in agri-tourism and rural tourism developments in North America. I deliver workshops, for instance, in places like Quebec, Alaska and Nebraska. I learn from it myself, and it allows me to stay in touch with producers who are looking to diversify their sources of income and develop greater awareness of what others are doing across the country."

If someone logs on for the webinar, they can slip into a virtual coffee meeting with other participants.

"There is a chat system that allows people to communicate with one another for about 15 minutes before the webinar starts," said Harel.

In addition, if the timing of the live presentation is not convenient, those interested can download the webinars at their convenience from the site. It requires signing up for a membership, but that comes without charge.

Harel said this learning resource is an evolving tool.

"We're all experimenting and hoping to stage a better and more rewarding webinar each time for the participants," he said.

For more information, contact:
Claude-Jean Harel
Great Excursions Co.
Phone: (306) 569-1571
E-mail: cj@greatexcursions.com
Website: http://www.farmcentre.com/

Border Opening Prompts Optimism for Saskatchewan Bison Industry

The recent re-opening of the American border is putting upward pressure on bison prices and a smile on the faces of bison producers'.

Saskatchewan Bison Association president Mark Silzer said the price increase was almost immediate.

"We had our national sale a day after the scheduled opening of the border. There were some American buyers up, and that saw the first breeding stock animals cross the border in years. Prices at the sale were up 20 per cent over the previous sale a year ago," said Silzer, who is also the Canadian Bison Association president.

Like the cattle industry, Silzer said the border closure had been taking its toll on the bison industry.

"I think that, ever since BSE, Canadian prices have lagged behind the U.S., both in finished animals and feeder stock. I think, with the border open, we are going to start to see Canadian prices come up and be more in line with U.S. prices," said Silzer.

The national bison sale was held at Canadian Western Agribition. Seven of the 32 animals that went on sale were bought by Americans, with two-year-old bulls averaging $2,442 - a 22.4-per-cent increase over 2006.

Silzer is cautiously optimistic that the upward trend will continue.

"It's hard to say. Meat prices have trended up over the past three or four years in Canada and the U.S., but Canada has lagged behind. There has been a significant investment in the marketing of bison meat over the last number of years, and we are finding ourselves approaching a situation where we are going to have to ration bison meat because we just don't have enough. That will see finish prices go higher. As those prices go up, I think you are going to see higher prices in breeder stock as well," said Silzer.

Price increases are not the only implication of an open border. It also affects the genetic diversity of the North American herd.

"There's been a lot of American producers who would have liked to access genetics out of Canada. The bison herd in North America is only 500,000 head, and there is a need for producers to access genetics from both sides of the border," explained Silzer.

However, Silzer points out there are some challenges for the bison industry.

"I think our producers are being affected the same way that beef and pork producers are by the higher dollar - that is causing some concern and affecting prices for producers - and I think the other thing is the cost of feed. With grains and oilseeds up, we have seen feed prices rise dramatically, and certainly that is having a negative impact on our producers," said Silzer.

But Silzer points out that, on the whole, the industry is cautiously optimistic.

"I think prices will move up and fall in line with prices south of the line, and I think that, when you look at the supply/demand situation, it looks like this industry is poised to be looking at some pretty good times over the next couple of years," said Silzer.

For more information, contact:
Mark Silzer, President
Saskatchewan Bison Association
Phone: (306) 682-4933

Raising Sheep the New Zealand Way

You might think there is a not a lot in common between New Zealand and Saskatchewan. For starters, there is no such thing as "winter" as we know it in New Zealand.

However, Colleen Sawyer with the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board points out there is a lot Saskatchewan sheep producers can learn from their Kiwi counterparts. Sawyer said that knowledge will be showcased later this month at two conferences called "Raising Sheep the New Zealand Way in Canada."

"Well, the New Zealand way is different from us in a number of ways. One obvious example is that they have no winter. However, there are a number of New Zealand concepts, of lambing for example, that you can bring to Canada even with our winter this way," said Sawyer.

Mark Ritchie raises his sheep the New Zealand way. The producer from Amherst Island, Ontario, will be one of the speakers.

"Mark has a large flock of over 1,000 ewes and has worked in New Zealand and Britain, so he has a large base of knowledge of how they raise sheep in those areas. It's funny, but 1,200 animals would be a small flock in New Zealand. We call that a large flock here," said Sawyer.

The Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board is encouraging the province's 1,100 sheep producers to increase the size of their flocks.

"It doesn't take much more to run a larger flock when it comes to handling equipment, fencing and watering facilities, for example. Frankly, the pay-off is greater when you have a large flock. Certainly, though, you need to talk to people to learn about the techniques you need to be a large flock owner," explains Sawyer.

That is where the two workshops come in. The first will be held Friday, January 25, in Saskatoon at the Heritage Inn. The same workshop will be held Saturday, January 26, in Moose Jaw at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Registration begins at 9:30 both days, and the cost is $40 per person or $75 per couple and includes lunch.

For more information, contact:
Colleen Sawyer, Manager of Extension and Marketing
Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board
Phone: (306) 933-5200
Website: http://www.sksheep.com/

Fact Sheet on Revegetating Saline Soils Now Available

A new fact sheet put out by the Saskatchewan Forage Council (SFC) will help producers return land with saline soil to greater productive capacity by using grasses.

Saline soils are those which contain sufficient soluble salts to impair productivity. In Saskatchewan, saline soils are generally rich in sulphate salts, existing as compounds of sodium, magnesium and calcium.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) estimates that about 5.52 million acres of agricultural land in the province are at moderate to high risk of salinization. Depending on the level and type of salt present in the soil, the impact on crops can range from minor yield reductions to establishment failure.

Given those factors, SFC Executive Director Janice Bruynooghe said the fact sheet, entitled "Revegetation of Saline Soils Using Salt-Tolerant Grasses," serves an important purpose.

"We've got some pretty vast acres in parts of Saskatchewan which have saline soils with sufficient soluble salts to impair productivity. Sometimes it's not an entire quarter-section that is affected, but smaller chunks and pieces here and there," said Bruynooghe. "Producers struggle with these areas, getting them seeded down and being productive."

However, the good news for producers is that moderately to severely saline soils can be reclaimed using salt-tolerant perennial grasses. In fact, new grasses have recently been developed that have improved salt tolerance, yield and quality compared to grass species traditionally used for saline soil reclamation.

"If we can get those areas established, forages can work to mitigate some of the salinity within the soil," Bruynooghe said. "The land can be reclaimed, while at the same time providing a forage crop that can yield a financial return for the producer from land that might otherwise be unproductive."

The fact sheet gives an overview of soil salinity and the problems it poses for plant growth. It provides a comprehensive rating of grasses that are commonly grown in Saskatchewan, highlighting their relative salinity tolerance, growth and production characteristics, and resulting forage quality. It also contains management considerations for producers to bear in mind when using grasses for saline soil reclamation.

"It's an excellent summary of some of the challenges and the resources available that producers might look at using," Bruynooghe said.

Funding for the publication was provided through AAFC's Greencover Canada Program. Project partners included AAFC, Saskatchewan Agriculture and the SFC.

Copies of "Revegetation of Saline Soils Using Salt Tolerant Grasses" are available online at http://www.saskforage.ca/, or by calling the SFC office at (306) 966-2148.

The SFC was formed as a co-operative in 1987 to enhance the province's forage industry in terms of production, harvesting, utilization and marketing. It plays a role in communicating information to producers and others in the industry, dealing with government on production issues and marketing policies, and assisting in the identification and prioritization of important research.

For more information, contact:
Janice Bruynooghe, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Forage Council
Phone: (306) 966-2148
E-mail: jbruynooghe@saskforage.ca
Website: http://www.saskforage.ca/

Climate Change Research Looks to the Past to Predict the Future

Hearing the weather forecast for the coming week helps agricultural producers make decisions about regular farm activities like seeding, spraying, swathing and harvesting. But hearing the weather forecast for the coming decade could conceivably help them with all sorts of major decisions like seeding intentions, rotation patterns and insurance coverage, or perhaps whether to switch sectors altogether between grain, livestock and other agri-business opportunities.

That is the potential benefit of the climate prediction modeling being studied at the Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory (SIL), located at the University of Saskatchewan.

SIL researchers are using innovative chemical and robotic sampling methods to recover historical environmental records from items such as clams, trees and fish ear stones. This data will then be compiled to create models of temperature, rainfall and snow pack that will hopefully enable scientists to better predict regional climate changes and weather patterns.

The research is expected to lead to the most detailed quantitative climate reconstruction of the western provinces to date. Dr. William Patterson, the director of the SIL, is excited about the work being done.

"If we are able to get a handle on how the weather system evolved over thousands of years and the patterns that have emerged, it can give us a very good understanding of what happened in the past and what may very well happen in the future," he said.

"We are never able to say with absolute certainty what the future will hold, but, through probabilities and percentages, we may, perhaps, be able to determine whether a given period of time is ‘more likely' to be dry, or ‘more likely' to be wet, and those sorts of things."

The findings could have a wide variety of potential applications, including helping agricultural producers and government policy-makers prepare for what may be coming down the road.

"It has applications for the insurance industry, applications for farm subsidies, applications for infrastructure preparedness," Patterson said.

Weather patterns, with their effects on water quality and quantity, also have relevance for municipalities.

In fact, Patterson noted that some U.S. cities along the eastern seaboard have incorporated climate modeling to help them decide whether to stockpile road salt in winters that are expected to be particularly severe with an abundance of precipitation.

"Arguably, there is no issue of greater scientific significance than gaining an understanding of the earth's climate system," he stated. "It is critical to all aspects of human society, and to the health of global and regional ecosystems, that we gain an understanding of past climates to understand and prepare for future climates."

According to Patterson, there is no better place to do that than at the SIL. "We definitely have a world-class facility here," he noted. It is the only one of its kind in Canada, and is recognized globally as a leader in climate record research.

That is one of the factors that encouraged Talisman Energy Inc. to donate $300,000 to the facility recently, an investment that Patterson says will enable SIL researchers to delve deeper into the details of climate variation.

Talisman CEO Dr. Jim Buckee stated, "By unraveling historical climate change, we begin to understand both the natural and unexpected climates that have occurred in the past. The importance of this is not only how it places current changes within normal climate fluctuations, but also its impact on how we should react."

For more information, contact:
Dr. William Patterson, Director
Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-5691
E-mail: bill.patterson@usask.ca

Saskatchewan Students to Sell Tortillas to Mexico

There's an old expression to describe an excellent sales person: "She could sell sand in the desert." In the case of two University of Regina students, they're going to try selling tortillas made from Saskatchewan roasted barley to Mexico.

Students Chelsea Stulberg and Mathew Zook drew that assignment, thanks to winning the latest Bridges to International Practice competition at the University of Regina's Paul J. Hill School of Business. Associate Professor of Marketing Sylvain Charlebois stages the competition as an advanced marketing class, with real companies and real products.

"I meet with the executives of a company that is interested in getting involved with us before the semester actually starts," said Charlebois. "We look at what projects they want us to get involved with, and we design a course in accordance with that mandate. Every semester is different. We've had projects with five different companies, and the focus has gone from communications to channels to branding and market segmentation."

The latest project idea came from CanMar Grain Products of Regina. They agreed to sponsor the winning students' trip in exchange for their market research.

"They are in Mexico with their roasted flax, and they wanted to develop that market for roasted barley," Charlebois stated.

The class takes up a semester, during which students, generally in teams, do research on the product they've been given, and develop marketing proposals which are then presented near the end of the semester.

"They all submit their written proposals, and those proposals are read by me and the executives of the company," said Charlebois. "Then, a few teams are short-listed. Those are invited to present their proposals to a jury of six members, comprised of two representatives from the company, one from Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership, and three professors from the faculty of business."

Once the winning proposal is chosen, the students must go to work in the international market chosen, aiming to create real results for the sponsoring company.

"The idea of this advanced class is that they can actually travel abroad and collect some primary data by interviewing people and meeting prospects and consumers in a foreign country," said Charlebois.

In the case of CanMar, the students are proposing to market tortillas made from roasted barley as a more nutritional, and perhaps less expensive, alternative to the traditional corn tortillas favoured by Mexican consumers. The project means that the students, along with a faculty advisor and an executive from CanMar, will travel to the United States and Mexico in February.

"They will be meeting with potential distributors for their product in the southern U.S. as a launching pad to get into Mexico," said Charlebois. "They will move into Mexico to see whether there are potential retailers to market roasted barley."

Previous winners of the competition have traveled to China, Australia and Ukraine, among other countries, working on marketing products including Saskatchewan canola and pigs. In one case, the company involved ended up selling about 1,000 pigs through a joint venture in China.

According to Charlebois, in addition to finding new markets for the companies, the students are creating opportunities for themselves.

"We've had about 14 students who have had offers from the companies that got involved with us, so it's a great opportunity to keep our students here."

Professor Charlebois is looking for Saskatchewan companies with an interest in placing their products in offshore markets through his class. The sponsorship involves the time of the company executives and the payment of the winning students' travel costs.

"To my knowledge, this is the only program in Canada that brings students into a competitive environment where they get to travel free of charge," he said. "It's an equal opportunity for all of our students."

For more information, contact:
Sylvain Charlebois, Associate Professor of Marketing
Paul J. Hill School of Business
University of Regina
Phone: (306) 337-2695
E-mail: sylvain.charlebois@uregina.ca

Agri-Food Companies Get Student Research Help

Applications are now being accepted for the 2008 edition of the Student Assisted Business and Marketing Plan program offered by the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan (ACS) and the University of Saskatchewan. The program matches up agri-food companies with the research talents of U of S agriculture students.

"During the first year-and-a-half of the program, we had approximately 38 projects split evenly between marketing and business plan development," said Bryan Kosteroski, the Value Chain Specialist at ACS. "We just had students complete 10 marketing plans and six business plans."

The program is intended to assist companies in developing strategic business and marketing plans for their products. The companies are chosen by application to the council.

"We work with the U of S and look at projected numbers of students," Kosteroski said. "We normally have more projects than students, and we assign four students per project."

Kosteroski says the participating companies receive a high degree of professionalism and commitment from their student-assistants.

"They are either third-year or fourth-year students," he said. "They work on these projects for approximately three months. It's very intense, and a major part of their marketing program."

The students receive course credit for their work, and don't just spend time in the library or on their computers.

"They go out into the community," Kosteroski said. "For example, we have a lot of projects where they do taste-testing of products in restaurants. They talk to chefs, or to distributors, or go into retail stores and food service outlets. So the students are getting real life experience in what it takes to develop marketing strategies and business plans."

The program is particularly well-suited to start-up companies. Due the assistance of the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) program, ACS is able to pay half of the $500 cost of each project, leaving the companies to pay only $250.

"It gives small, entry-level companies an insight into where they have to go and what they have to do in the future," Kosteroski said. "Once they use the business or marketing plan to a certain extent, they will grow with it. We've had some companies that have used this program more than once, because they are looking at different marketing avenues, such as food service or retail. It could be into studies of consumer acceptance of products."

At this point, the program is accepting applications for projects which will be approved in August of 2008, with students getting down to work later in the fall. The applications are available on the ACS website at http://www.agcouncil.ca/.

Kosteroski says applying is not a difficult process. "We work with the clients. They'll put an application in, and we'll contact them and talk about expanding on their needs to make sure we focus on the highest priorities," he noted. "Then we can look at additional projects for that company."

For more information, contact:
Bryan Kosteroski, Value Chain Specialist
Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan
Phone: (Toll Free) 1-800-641-8256
E-mail: kosteroskib@agcouncil.ca
Nominations Open For Equine Welfare Awards

Mechanical Weed Control For Organic Producers

"Many organic growers say that mechanical weed control is more like an art than a science. Well, we are trying to find out what the science is behind the art." That is how Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) researcher Dr. Steve Shirtliffe sums up some new research into herbicide alternatives.

In 2004, Shirtliffe and co-researcher Eric Johnson with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada set out to explore the tolerance of oat, wheat and barley to mechanical weed control methods. Three years later, the research, funded in part by ADF, provided some interesting results.

Shirtliffe, an Associate Professor with the Plant Sciences Department at the University of Saskatchewan, said the research will benefit the growing organic sector.

"Weed control in organic crops is difficult. Mechanical techniques offer some options for farmers. When you use mechanical methods, they tend to be not nearly as selective as an herbicide would be. A lot of these mechanical methods cause crop damage as well as weed damage, so you have to balance it out to make sure that you are not making the matter worse," said Shirtliffe.

The research looked at several mechanical techniques, including in-crop harrowing, mowing and rolling. Shirtliffe said the biggest surprise had to do with oats.

"At the onset of our research, the thought was - and it was reflected in some production manuals - that post-emergent oat should not be in-crop harrowed. The information at the time suggested that wheat and barley were tolerant to this, but what we found out is that oat is indeed tolerant to it," explained Shirtliffe.

It's unclear why in-crop harrowing was previously not recommended for oat.

"We couldn't find any solid evidence, but speculate that because the position of the growing point of oat is closer to the surface, perhaps it was believed there would be damage. Our research showed oat, in fact, was often more tolerant than even wheat, which most people hold up as being a crop that is quite tolerant of in-crop harrowing," said Shirtliffe.

The findings provide organic oat producers with another option for weed control which previously was not recommended.

Another surprise came from the research into rolling flax as a weed control method.

Shirtliffe said the results there were pretty clear.

"We found out that it is probably not a good idea," but, he said, there was some anecdotal evidence that it might be effective.

"The idea was that you roll your flax with a roller that you would use for pulse crop production, and the thinking is that some weeds, like wild mustard, would be broken down by it and not come back, whereas flax with fibre in its stem would come back up and wouldn't be affected. Well, that never happened. It is something that we are not recommending at all. We looked at it for three years in a row at one location and it did not have any potential," said Shirtliffe.

Mowing to control weeds was an equal disappointment.

"We used wheat, oat and barley in the test, mowing them at different stages. The thinking was that the crop would come back quicker than the weeds - giving it a competitive advantage. In the end, we just didn't see any positive yield response or weed control benefit that would indicate that it is a practice that we would ever recommend," said Shirtliffe.

However, rotary hoeing did yield some positive results.

"My partner Eric Johnson looked at rotary hoeing. It looks like it might have some promise for organic growers - using a minimum-till rotary hoe. It is an implement we are not very familiar with in Western Canada, but it is used in the corn and soy bean belt. Multiple passes with a rotary hoe when the weeds are small is effective at killing some weeds, and there is quite good crop tolerance as well," said Shirtliffe.

While this research will benefit organic producers the most, Shirtliffe points out mechanical weed control techniques can also help non-organic producers reduce herbicide use.

A copy of the ADF report, Mechanical Weed Control for Organic Producers, project number 20030400, can be obtained by phoning Saskatchewan Agriculture at (306) 787-5929, or downloaded from the Saskatchewan Agriculture website at http://www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca/.

For more information, contact:
Dr. Steve Shirtliffe, Associate Professor
Plant Sciences Department, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-4959
Nominations Now Open For Rosemary Davis Award

Be It Cattle Or Crops, It All Begins With The Soil

Crop production and cattle production are often viewed as two separate streams in the overall agricultural industry. Although there are many differences between them, these two sectors have one major factor in common: soil quality is the basic foundation for a successful operation.

Adrienne Hanson, a Livestock Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, says soil is the starting point of almost every farm. "The soil determines productivity, fertility, plant growth, shelter availability, water availability and much more. The material beneath our feet is alive with fungi, micro-organisms and macro-organisms that determine how fertile and, therefore, how productive the soil may be."

Soil type varies throughout the province, but Hanson says there are many things producers can do to ensure the best quality soil possible for their area.

"Improving the soil is something everyone can do with just a few adjustments to everyday practices," she stated. "As the producer cares for the soil, many other production issues will also be resolved. Beyond stopping erosion, we can significantly boost the productivity and quality of soil by improving its health."

Good soil health depends on cycling organic material and nutrients. The traditional method of raising cattle in Saskatchewan consists of packaging up feed grown in the summer, transporting it in from the field, feeding it in a smaller penned area, and then hauling the manure out the following fall.

Considering our cold winters and traditional calving period, this process was necessary to protect the animals and ensure feed is available. But Hanson says it also removes nutrients and organic matter from the soil and deposits them in the yard.

"Not only does this practice generate large manure hauling bills, it puts farm families at risk of contaminating their water supply from infiltration and runoff by nutrient-loading at the yard," she noted.

Hanson points out that modern agricultural research has been strong in this area, bringing forward alternative feeding strategies for the field or hay land that eliminate the need to haul hay and straw, while improving organic matter and nutrient cycling. These technologies, including bale grazing, swath grazing, stockpiling forage and more, offer excellent opportunities for producers to promote soil health by more evenly distributing organic matter and manure than would be the case in a dry lot.

Soil health is also improved by promoting soil structure, and thereby water infiltration. According to Hanson, this means increasing the pore space in the soil, which provides a good place for water to accumulate. Surface condition is very important in retaining precipitation. Heavy, continuous stocking rates often result in crusting and the loss of soil porosityl, which means faster runoff, less infiltration and more erosion.

Expanding crop rotations to include perennial forages like alfalfa can likewise help to restore soil and root health, and provide nitrogen. But Hanson notes that the crop must be properly managed to ensure plant longevity.

"Proper supplement, water and shelter management, as well as controlled grazing, prevents animals from congregating in one location, thereby preventing the overgrazing of select plants, soil compaction and nutrient-loading," she said.

Given the strong link between soil quality and production quality, Hanson says it makes good sense for producers of all types to incorporate strategies for soil improvement into their farming practices.

"Basically, good soil grows better plants that produce the best beef," she noted.

For more information, contact:
Adrienne Hanson, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture
Phone : (306) 848-2380
E-mail : ahanson@agr.gov.sk.ca

A prestigious national award recognizing outstanding Canadian women in agriculture is now accepting nominations.

The Farm Credit Canada (FCC) Rosemary Davis Award honours women who are active leaders in Canadian agriculture. FCC said these are women who give of themselves in their communities or beyond - producers, veterinarians, teachers, researchers, agribusiness operators and more.

"The award is intended to promote agriculture as a viable career option for women, and to highlight the contributions that women have made over the years to the agricultural industry," said Edward Mulrooney, FCC Project Manager for the Rosemary Davis Award.

The distinction will be bestowed upon five women from across Canada, who will each receive an
all-expenses paid trip to "Dialogue and Discovery," the Simmons School of Management premier leadership conference for women, being held May 3, 2008, in Boston.

The award is named after the first female board chair of FCC, herself a successful agribusiness owner and operator. Davis was first appointed to the FCC board of directors in 1995, and served as chair from 2000 to 2006.

Mulrooney said that candidates for the award are judged on a variety of criteria.

"Do they demonstrate leadership? Do they give back to their communities and to Canadian agriculture? Do they show a passion for agriculture? Do they have a vision for the future of agriculture? These are the kinds of qualities we look to celebrate in our award recipients," said Mulrooney.

To be eligible, nominees must be at least 21 years of age and actively involved in the agricultural sector in some manner. Candidates may submit their own names for consideration or be nominated by someone else who believes they are well-suited for the distinction.

"People can nominate themselves or someone they feel is deserving of the award. People often don't feel comfortable putting their own name forward because they feel like they're bragging, or they don't feel they deserve an award," Mulrooney said. "So other people can nominate their friends, sisters, mothers or any other women who really work hard towards building the industry."

Application forms and instructions can be found at http://www.fccrosemarydavisaward.ca/. The deadline for online applications is January 21, 2008. Recipients will be notified sometime around mid-March.

Anyone with further questions about the award or the application procedure can visit the award's website or contact FCC at 1-888-332-3301.

Headquartered in Regina, FCC is Canada's largest provider of business and financial services to farms and agribusinesses through a network of 100 offices located primarily in rural Canada.

For more information, contact:
Edward Mulrooney, Project Manager for the Rosemary Davis Award
Farm Credit Canada
Phone: (306) 780-3991

Rosemary Davis Award
Farm Credit Canada
Phone: 1-888-332-3301
Website: http://www.fccrosemarydavisaward.ca/

Christmas Tree Farms Bring Smiles To Many Families

Santa seems to get all the credit at Christmas time, even though he has many helpers who pitch in to make the season bright. Among them are Saskatchewan's two dozen or so commercial Christmas tree growers, who can spend a decade or more nurturing tiny seedlings into the perfectly shaped conifers that eventually find their way into family rooms around the province.

One such operation is the Come See-Come Saw U-Choose Christmas Tree Farm, located just a few kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway east of Moose Jaw. Like all commercial growers, the farm's owners, Henri and Aline O'Reilly, work hard all year long preparing for the magical month leading up to the most joyous of family holidays.

"My wife and I both worked in Moose Jaw, and we bought this piece of land in the 1970s hoping to move here after retirement," said Henri O'Reilly. "A number of years ago, we felt we should do something with the land. We used to go down east a lot, because we had some children going to university there. They have a lot of Christmas tree farms there. It sprung into an idea for us, and we thought, ‘Yeah, let's try it!'"

The O'Reillys planted their first trees around 20 years ago, and began selling about 10 years ago. Today, Henri estimates they have between 10,000 and 12,000 trees at various stages of growth on 20 acres of land, planted to allow roughly a 10-year rotation.

"When we first started, we planted Scots pine. They probably take about nine or 10 years to grow from a young tree into one that's ready for market," he said. "They make beautiful trees, but the trouble with Scots pine is that they tend to grow a little bit crooked, especially if it's windy - and we all know what Saskatchewan weather is like."

As a result, the O'Reillys are in the process of switching their farm over exclusively to balsam firs, which come from northern Saskatchewan. "Some members of the Saskatchewan Christmas Tree Association are from the north, and they go out and collect balsam fir seedlings, which we purchase from them," he stated. "In about four years, it's all we'll have."

The Come See-Come Saw farm uses a drip irrigation system to make sure the trees get the moisture they need to grow strong and healthy. As a result, dry weather is not a problem. Instead, it's an abundance of precipitation, particularly in the springtime, which can pose a challenge.

"Wet springs cause the soil to become very soggy, so the roots don't hold well. When the wind blows, it can tilt the trees over, so we have to straighten them out again," said O'Reilly.

"The other big challenge is the deer. We ended up erecting an eight-foot high page wire fence around the property to keep them out," he added.

"The only other problem we sometimes run into is bad, blustery winter weather at selling time that prevents people from coming out to get their trees."

O'Reilly estimates that the most amount of work required on the farm is the tree shearing. Shearing is the process of cutting off the tips of the branches at a certain time of year so that more buds grow along the branch, resulting in a fuller, more shapely tree. For Scots pine, he says growers have about a one-month window from late June to late July to trim. For balsam fir, there is more leeway, and growers can shear right into the fall.

O'Reilly says the best part of the job for him and all other members of the Saskatchewan Christmas Tree Growers Association is the thousands of smiling faces they get to see each and every year.

"It's really more than the tree, it's the whole experience," he stated. "We've had some people who have been coming back now for 10 years. They make an annual family tradition out of it."

Patrons of Come See-Come Saw are given a saw and a hauling sled, and sent out into the plantation to look around at their own pace and find the tree they want. When they return with their tree, Henri uses a shaker to hoist it up and shake any dead needles out to avoid a mess at home, then employs a wrapper to wrap it in netting so it is easier to transport and haul into the house.

"We also have some real live reindeer here, which the kids absolutely love. We have a store where we give the people a complementary cookie and hot chocolate, and they are welcome to purchase any other assorted treats and crafts and jams they might want," O'Reilly said.

The Come See-Come Saw U-Choose Christmas Tree Farm is open seven days a week from November 24 to December 23, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day. For more information on the operation, visit their website at http://www.comesaw.com/ or call their info line at (306) 693-9845.For more information, contact:

Henri O'Reilly, owner and operator
Come See-Come Saw U-Choose Christmas Tree Farm
Phone: (306) 693-2062
E-mail: comesee@comesaw.com
Website: http://www.comesaw.com/

Corporate Leadership From The Horse’s Mouth

Using horses as teachers is the foundation of the program offered at the Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre, located near Lumsden. The ranch provides skills training using an approach called
Equine-Assisted Learning.

"Your reaction with the animal is the same in your approach to people," said owner and instructor Brenda Clemens. "We use horses as a barometer to tell what a person's energy is like, and then to help people understand that if they change their approach in handling the situation, it can lead to a better effect."

Clemens and co-instructor Lisa Larsen are both Certified Equine-Assisted Learning Specialists, a designation earned through a course offered at the Cartier Equine Centre in Prince Albert, which is the first of its kind in Canada. The program puts participants in direct contact with the horses on the ranch, and through their interaction, the participants learn how they are being perceived by others.

"Horses are really intuitive," said Clemens. "They are really sensitive to someone who maybe is approaching them under false pretenses, or who isn't authentic."

The focus of the Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre is on providing innovative solutions to enhance team effectiveness in the workplace. Clients are using the centre to help develop leadership skills.

"Horses look for leadership," said Clemens. "So you could be awfully nice to the horse, and pat them, and say please do what I ask, but the horse still won't move. You have to be appropriately assertive. So that becomes a metaphor for the workplace. If you were nice to everybody in the office, would they co-operate? You have to be assertive but you can't be a bully."

The corporate training sessions normally involve two-person teams that work with an individual horse.

"First we explain that we're going to guide the people through the exercises, and, after the exercises, we talk about how they reacted to the horse, how the horse reacted to them, and how they worked as a team," Brenda Clemens explained. "The beauty of it is that it involves you in a real-life situation, rather than a lecture."

Team building takes place as participants work together with their horses to achieve some simple objectives. They are encouraged to do things like unifying their efforts, working as allies and sharing available resources to break down the barriers that can prevent people from working together.

"All of the exercises are team-oriented, and can be as simple as catching the horse with someone else," said Clemens. "The last exercise will usually involve the whole team, so everyone is in the arena at the same time."

Corporate clients that have used the Beaver Creek facility include the Saskatchewan Communications Network, the law firm McPherson, Leslie and Tyerman, and Athol Murray College at Notre Dame. The equine-assisted learning program provides a bonding experience for the groups, which usually consist of no more than 16 people.

"At the end of the day, we'll have supper, or sit around the campfire and have a round-table discussion about what they think they learned from the horse, and how they can apply those lessons to the workplace," said Clemens.

The Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre also operates a bed-and-breakfast, and holds western-themed group dinners on their property. As well, Brenda Clemens and husband Barry are working ranchers, running about 150 head of cattle.

Complete information on the Beaver Creek Ranch learning programs is available on their website, at http://www.beavercreekranch.ca/.

For more information, contact:
Brenda Clemens, Certified Equine-Assisted Learning Specialist
Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre
Phone: (306) 731-2943
E-mail: bbclemens@beavercreekranch.ca
Website: http://www.beavercreekranch.ca/

Demand for Western Canada on the rise in France

Recently, TOURISM caught up with Sandra Teakle at Canada’s West Marketplace in Whistler. Teakle is managing director of the Canadian Tourism Commission's office in France, and she was upbeat with growth opportunities for Western Canada in the market she oversees: “With the introduction of direct Paris‑Calgary‑Vancouver flights with Air Transat in 2008, the Zoom Airlines service in 2006 with 21 rotations and 42 in 2007, things are looking great."

"And it is all happening just before the Olympics," Teakle notes. "At the Salon Mondial du Tourisme 2007, I would say that one out of every six inquiries received was for Western Canada. In France, the region is perceived as a new part of the country that is in demand and it is doing very well.”

Teakle pointed to results from focus groups CTC France conducted this autumn to gather more intelligence about the campaigns and elements French consumers are seeking in their holiday experiences: “It is all about nature and wide open spaces; What is important for the French is communion with nature, a theme which has consistently emerged from consumer consultations. At the heart of these findings is a longing in consumers to nourish their spirit."

"Canada is the ideal destination where travellers can do this," says Teakle, "and is a place where travellers can also engage in health and well‑being types of travel activities – which are emerging as key considerations. So the ability to tie in nature and open spaces with the possibility of undergoing spa or other types of treatments in exceptional places and settings are influential motivators.”

And there is also a kind of traditional pattern in visits to Canada from French tourists, Teakle explains that the classic first trip to Canada usually involves an entry through Toronto and an exit from Montréal. Tourists go to Niagara Falls on an itinerary that includes Toronto, The Thousand Islands, Ottawa, Montréal and Québec City, and they may go down the St. Lawrence all the way to Tadoussac to engage in whale watching activities.

Teakle points out that for French travellers, cultural and historical elements are very important: "Generally, French tourists to Canada tend to be highly educated and they undertake a significant amount of research before going on a trip. They seek to validate their research through their experiences while on holiday."

After Eastern Canada, Western Canada is an emerging destination for French tourists. Teakle stresses that Canada remains the dream destination for the French travellers; however, she points out there is no rush in coming to Canada because we are not a country that is changing at the same pace as places like India or China, which are undergoing rapid transformation though globalization: "Our role is to help ensure they buy Canada today, instead of waiting until tomorrow.”

When asked why there is this increased appeal for Western Canada in France, Teakle notes a number of French travellers have already visited Western United States. The influence of Hollywood cannot be understated, combined with a strong attraction for the Pacific coast: “There is a myth in France around everything California, Nevada and New York, all that glamour related to the movie, television and entertainment industry," she notes. "In 2006, there were 805,000 French travellers who visited the US despite the fact there were all kinds of passport issues with biometric identification that made that trip more difficult than before. Now that they have been to the US, why not try Western Canada which is consistent with the appeal of wide open spaces and also very different from the American West.”

Western Canada remains relatively unknown, explains Teakle. It is perceived as “unconquered territory” in a way, and less commoditized than the Western United States. “This is our advantage. It is inconceivable for a French traveller to believe they might encounter a black bear while travelling. The other day in Whistler, there were two black bears at the base of the mountain."

"Now that is out of the ordinary," Teakle says. "And talk about an experience!”

Canada's appeal: a perspective from a French tour operator

Canada and Alaska product manager Dominique Albouy of Grand Nord Grand Large (GNGL) is a familiar figure on the floor of Canada’s travel marketplaces. Her Paris‑based company has cut its own trail in a highly competitive industry by focusing on active holidays, enrichment and polar themes.

“We have always proposed programs around nature, of which dog sledding is only one. This is how we started our activities in Quebec; we then turned to whale watching, hiking and canoeing. Through a process of natural evolution we have come to Western Canada seeking different activities than those featured in Eastern Canada, but along compatible lines. These attract French consumers who may have gone to Quebec before and realized there are other experiences worth enjoying elsewhere in Canada.”

While it is true that French consumers are seduced by the type of welcome they get in Quebec (enhanced by the linguistic context), Albouy notices that French is spoken more and more in all provinces, where it is no longer unusual to meet industry people who express themselves in the language French travellers understand more readily.

“Still,” says Albouy, “nature is the magic word which best sums up what will motivate a French tourist to go to Canada. Consumers are seeking to travel, yes, but they also seek to derive something more lasting than the impression left by the journey from one destination to another. Even if the history of Canada is not quite as multifaceted as the longevity of European civilization, people are still interested by all that is associated with history and culture. Not the least of these is the realm of First Nations; now that we see them re‑emerging, we wish to understand their journey.”

"Fortunately," says Albouy, “we see a much wider aboriginal product‑offering now than we used to in Canada. However, we still face some challenges in making the experience accessible because, while aboriginal products appeal to classic clients, they might not always be interested in living an aboriginal experience in a primitive context. Still, more and more consumers now wish to get a taste of this aboriginal dimension of Canada,” she notes.

There are pricing issues: the product often implies less accessible destinations and they can be more difficult to integrate into a package. But consumers will increasingly consider this type of product, Albouy feels: "It is perhaps a sign of the times. More French travellers are attuned to issues of global warming and other phenomena which prompt them to ask themselves if they shouldn’t consider more active vacations that are perhaps more simple in nature. They might seek to rejuvenate their spirit, to find new meaning beyond those encountered on a trip to the Caribbean islands, surrounded by palm trees.”

Is there an opportunity to find these new meanings to life while on an active holiday in Canada? One that is just as rich, inspired by greater authenticity? For Dominique Albouy, the answer is: "Absolutely."

Mexico is becoming a high yield market for Canada

We heard recently that the Canadian Tourism Commission’s Mexico office earned a “Best tourism marketing campaign” award in Latin America from Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI). The campaign (deployed in February 2007) included elements like internet banners, clickable ad words on Google and a CTC website where visitors could enter their name for a chance to win a trip to Canada. What may have gone unnoticed is just how significant a market Mexico is becoming for Canada.

Jorge Morfín is the CTC’s managing director in Mexico. “Canada is becoming a trendy destination,” he says. “There are reports of double‑digit increases every month in the number of passengers coming to Canada. Mexicans really appreciate the landscape, the friendliness and the people of Canada. Mexicans do not require a visa to enter Canada, and the country is perceived as friendlier towards Mexicans than other countries such as the US.”

Hence, Mexicans have been seeing a lot more “Sigue Explorando” (Keep Exploring) lately on billboards, fences and bus wraps. The CTC’s winning campaign in Mexico was inspired by a clever play on contrasts: “Canada: Hotter than you think; Canada: Cooler than you think”.

“Mexicans’ perception is that Canada is cool because of the snow," says Morfín. "We wanted to play with the ‘cool’ and ‘hot’ words to let them know that Canada is hot full of thrills with its indoor activities like shopping, the nightlife of Canadian cities and the fine dining; yet it is equally cool when it comes to activities like the soft adventures visitors can participate in north of the 49th parallel."

For Mexicans, culture, soft adventure, icons such as Niagara Falls or the CN tower and other Canadian icons – like the Canadian Rockies – are important, Morfín continues. Mexicans also enjoy major Canadian cities for the shopping opportunities they offer; they may not come to Canada specifically for shopping, but it is an activity they enjoy once they are here. "Canada is a good place to shop, and Mexicans, on average, spend more than Europeans when they come to Canada; we are good tourists to have over!” quips the CTC's man in Mexico.

Kanata 2007 makes a splash!

The 2007 edition of the Canadian Tourism Commission's Kanata media event and marketplace achieved every objective it set out to accomplish, according to CTC Japan's managing director Simon Pitt: “We had some great feedback, and two things stand out: the media event with over 200 members of the media attending (we had seven partners join us for ‘Come to Canada Night’), and we had a great venue which allowed us to showcase different experiences from around our five focus regions.”

Pitt says the event featured blended teas and hand massages from BC, Anne of Green Gables, shrimp and a quilting experience from PEI, wine from Ontario, maple desserts from Quebec, and country music and Alberta beef for the Icefields Parkway.

“We also had musicians from Northwest Territories and a whole range of experiences along with the new branding of Canada. We shocked a few people in terms of giving a new face to Canada. It wasn’t what they were expecting; Canada is famous for its red and white flag and great nature landscapes which are very important to us, but in terms of creating some excitement about Canada, this new approach and branding is really helping.”

Pitt points out that people can still see the Rockies and Niagara in most of the CTC’s Japanese market promotions, “but the vibrant colours, people, faces and expressions aim to make people look again. Come to Canada Night was also used to launch the ‘Clever Woman’ campaign in Japan, and just from that night alone, we had five offers from members of the media wanting to get involved with the project.”

For a moment that day, Pitt confides, his team wondered if the event would be able to accommodate all the guests because more attended than were anticipated. “We found a venue in a Tokyo’s Roppongi neighbourhood: Honey’s Garden. It is a mixed indoor‑outdoor environment with different floor levels, well‑suited for the Keep Exploring theme. People could work their way around the venue, the stage, different lighting and music and we were able to showcase our new brand and experiential video along with the different components.”

Kanata is CTC Japan’s flagship event for the whole year: two days in Tokyo, one day in Nagoya and two days in Osaka. “About 50 Canadian organizations joined us; we probably met about 120 travel agents and tour operators through the week."

“People like the opportunity to meet people in an efficient way," says Pitt. "The business environment Kanata provides is conducive to that efficiency because doing sales calls in Japan can be arduous work. Giving a high profile to Canada for one week in the year is an efficient model for tour operators and Canadian sellers to do business, while backing that up with good networking events,” explains Pitt.

This was the 18th edition of Kanata, he continues: “Every year it evolves further. One of the things we have concentrated on in the last couple of years is flexibility. We have different accommodation options and different participation levels so we can accommodate as wide an audience as possible, because coming to Japan to do business can be expensive. For first‑time organizations, we still offer a $500 dollar discount, so we really do want to be as inclusive as possible for people promoting Canada in the Japanese marketplace.

CTC‑US launches campaign to promote ski and snowboarding

With the Canadian ski season fast approaching, the Canadian Tourism Commission is kicking off a campaign to entice Americans to stunning Canadian destinations for their next ski and snowboard holiday. Developed by DDB Canada, Tribal DDB Canada, the CTC, and in partnership with the Canadian Destination Ski Consortium, the campaign includes national US print and online advertising and various out-of-home elements in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. markets.

“The new campaign communicates that skiing and boarding in Canada is not just one thing, it’s the sum of parts – the hospitality of the people, the amenities at the resorts, the contrast and variety of activities, the culture, the amazing terrain and the abundance of snow – that make Canada the ultimate ski experience,” says Yolaine Dupont, marketing specialist US Leisure Marketing at the CTC.

The creative online ads first reveal snow‑covered peaks and entices users with the line, “See why everyone comes back. Then comes back again. And again.” The ad expands to expose a mountain and trail map that prompts the viewer to fold it up. Once folded, the trails converge and form one of five shapes on the mountain, each representing a different element that makes the Canadian ski or snowboard holiday experience fabulous. A snowflake signifies the excellent snow conditions, a snowman for family fun, a martini glass for the après activities and more.

“The trail map is a creative and interactive way to connect with skiers and encourage them to start planning their next ski vacation to Canada,” says Cosmo Campbell, Creative Director, Tribal DDB Canada, Vancouver. “Not only does the piece communicate the message of amazing ski runs and conditions, but the folded trail map reveals an additional element to the Canadian ski experience for skiers to look forward to in an intriguing way.”

The out‑of‑home and print executions also create intrigue by highlighting various elements of the Canada ski experience by showing arresting images accompanied by questions. For instance in one ad, an inviting outdoor hot tub is shown with the question, “what’s a black diamond run without a hot tub to finish?” In another, a photo of an idyllic cabin blanketed in powder snow with question, “ever experience 5‑star living under 6 feet of snow?”

Targeting avid American skiers and snowboarders, both online and offline elements communicate the positioning statement, “you haven’t skied, until you’ve skied Canada” and direct them to experience a Canadian ski adventure by visiting www.canada.travel/skinow. Developed by the CTC, the site explores ski destinations from the powdery slopes of BC and the pristine high alpine of Alberta's Rocky Mountains to the majestic hills of Québec. Ski travel packages are also available on the site as well helpful travel tips and a ski newsletter. Skiers and boarders can also enter the "Canada Ski Experience of a Lifetime Sweepstakes" for a chance to win a free 12‑night/13‑day Canadian ski vacation for six people at three ski resorts (one in Québec, one in Alberta and one in British Columbia).

The online ads will appear on OnTheSnow.com, TripAdvisor.com and Travelocity.com. The print campaign will appear in Outside Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Departures, Food & Wine and in‑room Fairmont Hotel publications. Both online and offline elements launch in November and will run until April with OMD Vancouver and the CTC responsible for the media buy.

CTC Japan launches its own version of Clever Woman

Tourism marketers draw many of their ideas from successful practices elsewhere in the world. That is precisely what CTC Japan did when it launched its own version of the Clever Woman campaign recently, according to managing director Simon Pitt:

“When we were doing our planning for 2007, the importance of media in our promotions – and the importance of celebrity recommendation – emerged as key considerations. CTC Germany had been running a very successful promotion for some time. We looked at the components of what we understood the Clever Woman promotion to be, and we believed they would meet the needs of the Japanese market if we could find the right way of executing a similar campaign.”

Pitt says his team set about creating its own version of Clever Woman in Japan last spring. Elements like design became very important, getting the right web platform with interlocking components that allowed for the integration of partnerships.

Who would be the right media partners to work with? Which airline and trade partners might benefit from it? Which Japanese celebrity should be brought on board? All these considerations mattered.

“(It all came together) in a trip to Alberta’s Icefields Parkway at the end of August with TV personality Mitsuyo Kusano. After that, the crew went up to Yukon to capture another story. Between early September and October 15, we did all the hard work of incorporating and lighting up the materials, and editing the videos for the launch of the websites.”

In an attempt to leverage media partnerships, Pitt says Clever Woman also brought on board Sotokoto, a leading lifestyle magazine in Japan. “So when we launched on October 15, the December edition of Sotokoto featured six pages of articles and photographs of Mitsuyo Kusano in Alberta. Getting all these integrated components to come together can be a real challenge. For instance, we have HIS, a Japan‑based travel agent partner, working with us; as a result, visitors are drawn to the website, where they can learn about the original tour taken by our featured celebrity. They may book the trip though HIS’s website (which is linked with Clever Woman). Visitors can also take the information and book the trip through retail outlets.”

CTC Japan is working on a number of media projects at the moment, and Simon Pitt is quick to point out that getting more TV exposure matters. “We are working on developing a TV drama and it was through our connections that we were introduced to Mitsuyo Kusano. Her enthusiasm for Canada was contagious; she had been to Banff on a previous Christmas holiday, and she found the experience rewarding. So helping us and coming back during the summer was an attractive proposition for her. She gave us many ideas in terms of the design of the website, and she did write all of her blogging pieces herself.”

The challenge for a project like this is getting introduced to the right celebrity, and for them to find time slots in their diaries to make it all come together. “We were fortunate with Mitsuyo Kusano,” Pitt gleefully acknowledges. “We wanted people in Japan to be surprised about Canada. Clever Woman is all about lifestyles because there is much interest in healthy lifestyles in Japan. It has allowed us to deliver this program in a market that has been declining for 10 years. We need to try new things and take risks; this is one of the ways we are doing this.”

CTC‑Germany’s Canada Whale Night partnership to close with panache

The Canadian Tourism Commission office in Germany has been working with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and other partners to promote sustainable whale watching in Canada for the last five years. It is time to move on to new initiatives, according to managing director Karl-Heinz Limberg, but not before one last “whale” of a celebration: “We are planning a fundraising event which will take place November 25 at one of Germany’s most impressive outdoor clothing and equipment stores, Globetrotter," says Limberg. "It is perhaps the equivalent of Tilley in Canada, but with tents and backpacks as well; it caters to a very high-end clientele. They have a huge store in Cologne with a water basin and a climbing wall, and this is where our last Whale Night will take place.”

Limberg expects about 800 people to attend, including many print and TV media representatives, celebrities and VIPs. The intent is to raise funds for the organization while also promoting Canada as a whale watching destination which abides by ethical considerations, through practices that minimize the impact of this activity on the whales themselves.

“We want to ensure that people know, if they go to Canada, these principles will not be taken lightly. Whale watching is a very popular product here in Germany. Thanks to Globetrotter and many sponsors who provided prizes for the auction and raffle, the night will be a memorable event indeed.”

These partners include natural cosmetics products maker Logona, an organic food chain, department stores, and even two famous German chefs who will be doing an outdoor cooking show. “Singer Katja Ebstein will be performing with her band for free, which will be a major lure for people," says Limberg. "We are selling tickets for 60 Euros, which could be perceived as expensive, but will ensure we have the audience we are looking for. Most of our Canadian destination partners offering whale watching have bought into the initiative, which means we will be featuring them prominently. There will even be whale scientists from Canada on hand to ensure the evening is as rich as can be for all participants."

CTC‑Germany masters the art of the celeb and media FAM

The cult around celebrities can be a very powerful resource, especially with the right star. The Canadian Tourism Commission’s team in Germany certainly hit the jackpot when it approached well-known singer and actress Katja Ebstein with the idea of using her as a representative of those “best-agers” (she is in her early 60s) who might just find Canada an ideal all-around destination for them.

“We travelled with Katja Ebstein to Nova Scotia last year for 7 days to stage and photograph different experiences in the province,” explains managing director Karl‑Heinz Limberg. “Katja wrote a blog about her journey. As a result the whole initiative was quite successful because FTI (our partner tour operator for this promotion) generated 14 bookings for a brand new best‑ager product.”

This year Katja Ebstein and her husband were taken to Alberta and BC, along with a photographer who closely documented their journey. “When we came back, the photographer sent out a press release with his pictures. So far, we have had six articles published in the German press and many more will follow," says Limberg. "And again, Katja will be writing a blog on this website: www.generationkanada.de. She is an extremely credible celebrity in Germany.”

Limberg notes that 92% of Germans are familiar with her name. An accomplished singer, she is regarded not only as a model, but also as a serious artist. “She has become our tourism ambassador for Canada. Wherever she goes, she promotes Canada. She is really an influence‑multiplier for us.”

He estimates this press trip (just for the photographer) will generate a media value of roughly $300,000. “On top of that, we had a media FAM going to Alberta, with seven journalists who met and interviewed Katja in Calgary; they will also be writing a number of articles about Alberta,” Limberg explains.

In light of its success, Limberg expects this program to continue with other provinces next year. “The province to be featured is either going to be Quebec or Ontario; this depends on the provinces’ willingness to come on board as funding partners,” Limberg quips with a smile, “because we need their support.”