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Introduction TCME August 2010

“The most important part of travel is when you come home, because that’s when you see your country with new eyes.”

August 13, 2010  By Ralph Pearce

“The most important part of travel is when you come home, because that’s when you see your country with new eyes.”

I know I have used this before in a web editorial but its veracity never ceases to amaze me, especially when I return home from away.

The line belongs to Lewis Black, American commentator and comedian, countering the stereotypical view of Americans that theirs is the greatest country in the world. Instead, he suggests that travel can be an enlightening and, as I interpret it, humbling experience.


In my time with the agri-food industry, I have been very fortunate to broaden my professional horizons. Granted, it has been “only” within the US and Canada, and no, Des Moines, Iowa and Widener, Arkansas, are not the most exotic of locales (although Arkansas can seem quite tropical in mid-July). Still, I have experienced agriculture in America enough to have built a healthy sense of respect for other perspectives. And each trip serves to whet my appetite for another chance to do it all again in another place.

My most recent travels took me to Memphis, Tennessee, on a private-sector tour billed as “Respect the Rotation” (check for a web exclusive on that trip and look for a full feature on the subject in an upcoming issue). The tour provided a first-hand look at what growers in parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee are doing to battle glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed. They are trying everything, from pre- and post-emerge treatments to residuals and physical removal to deal with this weed. The whole three-day experience helped me (again) to see my home, and Canadian agriculture, with “new eyes.”

Although we may not have the same degree of difficulty with resistant weeds here in Ontario, we do have a “heads-up” on the situation. We know we have resistant weeds of differing species, but not to the same overwhelming extent as down south, where they are dealing with a worst-case scenario.

This advance warning is giving us some time to reflect, as well as step back and admire our lush and full soybeans and a corn crop that is roughly three weeks ahead of schedule.

Yet there is always a reminder that all is not well across Canada or around the world. Western Canada growers have suffered through wet seeding conditions and crops that are faring poorly compared to those in Ontario. And in Russia, excessively hot and dry conditions are threatening millions of acres of crops.

Actually, that is where the humbling part of travel comes to light: seeing other farms and other impacts, listening to other perspectives, learning of other challenges, and sadly, seeing the plights facing others. It reminds me that a) I am not alone in life; b) I am not suffering the same ills nor enjoying the same successes as others; c) that such suffering or success could be worse or better, and d) that I am thankful for all I have.

This may sound more like an editorial befitting of Thanksgiving, but some lessons in life do not wait for the progression of days on a calendar.

Instead, they present themselves plainly, openly and unassumingly.


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