In this video, Trevor Scherman will walk us through a typical year in the life of a prairie grain farmer. From seeding to harvest you’ll learn about the steps farmers take to bring food from their fields to your table.
You may already know that canola is the second-most commonly grown crop in Canada after wheat and that we export billions of dollars worth of it around the world each year.
You might also know that it’s heart-healthy, and that many Canadians always keep a bottle of it in their kitchens because of its health benefits, versatility and affordability as a cooking oil and culinary ingredient. In fact, it is the number one cooking oil in Canada.
But what you probably don’t know is that canola is a purely Canadian ingredient and one that wouldn’t have been possible without decades worth of innovation, adaptability and world-leading science and research.
In the 1970s, some of that research identified concerns about the high level of erucic acid in rapeseed oil which may cause heart issues. The researchers decided to see if they could adapt the composition of the plant to take out the erucic acid that caused negative effects.
They found rapeseed plants from other parts of the world that had the nutritional properties that lowered erucic acid and saturated fat and increased good fats such as omega-3s and high monounsaturated fats. They used these to breed new, healthier varieties for human consumption (these were called low erucic varieties). Canadian farmers started growing the new varieties and soon after, agriculture industries in other countries followed our lead.
Now that they had successfully created new and improved varieties of rapeseed oil, it was time to give this new crop a name. And one that reflected its heritage.
“Canola” was chosen. It is an abbreviation of “Canadian” and “oil, low acid” to reflect the changes in the new varieties.
Because of all these decades of work, these new, Canadian-invented varieties of canola became a major crop for Canadian farmers, and one grown and in demand all over the world.
Two particular scientists have been recognized as leading much of this amazing work: Dr. Baldur Stefansson from Manitoba (who passed away in 2002) and Dr. Keith Downey from Saskatchewan (now in his nineties). Both of these men received numerous awards for their service to Canadian agriculture and have been recognized in the Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame.