Twenty-four Canadian growers will see their funding applications be successful in this first-of-its-kind cost-sharing grant structure to support adoption of regenerative practices and technology.
In October 2022, McDonald’s Canada and McCain Foods Limited announced the creation of the Future of Potato Farming Fund, a $1 million investment in education, demonstration, and cost-sharing grants to support potato farmer adoption of regenerative practices and technology.
The Fund’s objective is to build soil health and farm resilience as climate change continues to impact crop yield and quality as well as our potato growing communities. The first round of grants was open to more than 130 Canadian farmers, representing more than 76,000 acres of potato farmland. Growers applied to the Fund for cost-sharing from a list of priority regenerative practices and technologies, such as cover crop seed, flower strip seed, lower intensity tillage equipment, decision support systems, organic soil amendments, and more.
“We are really pleased to announce that 24 Canadian growers will receive funding to financially support various projects focused on building climate resilience. I want to thank the expert selection committee comprised of representatives from McDonald’s Canada, McCain Foods, The Soil Health Institute, and a representative from one of our national potato growers associations. We are hopeful that the next funding round which will start in August 2023 will attract even more candidates,” says Jeremy Carter, director agriculture for Western Canada with McCain Foods.
Here is a sample of projects that received funding across McCain’s Foods growing regions:
Perry Produce, Coaldale, Alta.
The Perry family came to the Coaldale area in 1909 and have been farmers across four generations, soon to be five! As they explain it, plant is the best soil builder: cover crops and multi species play a key role in cycling carbon and building diversity in the soil.
The McDonald’s McCain Future of Potato Farming funding contributed to the purchase of a new disc air seeder which seeds at a more even depth while disturbing less soil. This makes for a soil that retains nutrients and water, prevents soil erosion, and compacts less. It also keeps more carbon in the system which increases soil resilience by providing food and habitat for microorganisms.
Beaver Creek Farms, MacGregor, Man.
Beaver Creek Farms started in 1968 and have been partners of McCain Foods since 1978. As the owners put it: “sustainable soil is a goal because it is our livelihood and how we feed our families.”
Last year, their trial to reduce tillage led to a five per cent improvement in corn yield. Reducing tillage creates a healthier soil for growing potatoes. This year, the McDonald’s McCain Future of Potato Farming Fund will allow them to double the size of the trial. The main goal is to repeat last’s years success and see the same positive yield response to confirm the merit of investing in tailored equipment.
Soil that’s tilled a lot will suffer from compaction, be fine and dry and won’t have much structure or life evident in it. Since reducing tillage, earthworms are everywhere on the farm! And a healthy soil structure improves water holding capacity and reduces risk of soil erosion.
Improving soil takes time, it’s certainly not an instant thing. McCain, McDonald’s and Canadian growers are all working on this together to increase soil health for the future of farming.
Stephenson Farms Ltd, Florenceville, N.B.
Stephenson Farms Ltd. has been in operation for over a century and a McCain partner since day one in 1957. Climate change occurring in the last 10 years has called for changes in some of their practices on how to prepare the land and the timing of planting and harvesting.
Leveraging regenerative farming practices helps prevent erosion, armour the soil better in the off season and cover crops reduces nitrogen and increase organic matter in the soil. The McDonald’s McCain Fund was used to purchase a new type of chisel plow that’s more versatile, causes minimal disturbance of the soil while leaving residue on the top surface. This helps reduce erosion in winter months, especially given New Brunswick’s rolling hills topography.
“We are fourth generation farmers. Farm sustainability is very important, we want to make sure that we have what we need and that what we have is still here for the time the next generation wants to start farming,” says the owner.
As we’re getting ready to launch the second round of funding, McDonald’s Canada and McCain Foods continue to work with the Soil Health Institute to measure progress throughout the program, specifically increased soil organic carbon and total nitrogen, increased bulk density and aggregate stability and plant available water and better drainage capacity.
“We are excited to support Canadian farmers with the tools they need to trial regenerative farming techniques, with an aim to future-proofing the land, and ensuing quality potatoes to share with Canadians for generations to come,” says McDonald’s quote.