The Grains in Action Experience

Blog post by Natalie Walt, Grains in Action 2016 participant

Over four days in February, I had the opportunity to spend time with 30 peers from assorted backgrounds from across the grain industry. We toured Southwestern Ontario learning about the grain production process and how it moves from farm to fork or a variety of other end uses.

We were given in-depth tours and presentations at Ontario grain elevators, port terminals, an ethanol plant, and a flour mill. I currently work in agribusiness in grain merchandising, so the information presented was highly relevant to understanding how my role fits into the bigger picture of the grain industry.

Most interesting to me was the flour mill in Cambridge, owned by Parrish & Heimbecker. We were given a top-down tour of the 200 year old mill, explaining the processes the kernels of wheat go through in order to be ground into a usable product for industrial, retail, and food service customers. I also learned about the various market classes of wheat within Ontario. Each of these classes have a unique set of traits that affect their milling characteristics Some are great for cakes and pastries, while others are more suited for crackers and flatbreads.

The most entertaining stop of the tour was undoubtedly Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. in Windsor. Master Blender, Dr. Don Livermore took us through a fascinating and lively presentation on the history of whisky and how Canadian farmers contributed to the rise in popularity of this beverage. He explained how Canadian grains are perfectly blended to create a flavour profile that is unique from other countries’ version of this drink.

Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 barley, corn, oat, soybean and wheat farmers. The crops they grow cover 6 million acres of farm land across the province, generate over $2.5 billion in farm gate receipts, result in over $9 billion in economic output and are responsible for over 40,000 jobs in the province.