France, Flax and Family

Farm families all over the world work together to raise crops and livestock of the highest quality in order to feed the world. Although there are many differences in climate, equipment and best practices, there are a few things that are universal. This past week, Vallotton Farms got to make an international connection personal in a really cool and powerful way; we got to host the parents of a current, and past, trainee. Just like us, they are a multi-generational farming operation, but unlike us, they produce, process and promote flax fiber. Decock Flax Scutching Mill

Flax fibre is strong and durable, yet soft to the touch, and is commonly known as linen in clothing. As natural fibers regain popularity, spinning equipment is being refined enough for linen to be used via machine knitting to produce linen knitwear. Flax fibre is also being used for industrial applications (insulation) and packing products.

In contrast, Canada’s main market for flax remains the seed, either whole or processed. By meeting flax growers from France we now have a better understanding of how flax use, and farming, differ. Global connections allow us to expand our thinking and learn about agricultural similarities and differences, which benefits us all.

Our 2019 Canadian  family with visitors  Frederick and Anne.

Our 2019 Canadian family with visitors Frederick and Anne.

Learn more about Flax: July 18 September 13


As we have been talking about trials and tests this year, another new introduction was the use of Eco-Tea.

Eco-Tea is a biological that is either in dry or liquid format. This was year one of using it, so evaluating yields, impact and cost offset to current fertilizer programs is still a work in progress.

Eco-Tea was available through Ens Quality Seeds in Winkler, Manitoba. There are more pictures from their field trials and plot tours from earlier this summer available on their Twitter feed.

Trying new things, and developing a testing strategy for the next year starts in the fall. We hope you find some interesting ideas that you might try next year, from soil health to plant hormones to biologics enhancing field fertility and providing plants with the food and nutrients they need to grow most effectively helps. While not all tests are successful, we firmly believe that you learn through testing new products and applications on your own fields and in your own growing conditions.

Knowing your soil: Moisture Efficiency

As I drove through town this year, I saw several sign boards advertising soil sampling. As you move through harvest, perhaps it is a practice you are considering this year for the first time, or it is a practice you’ve already begun.

Earlier this year we posted several photos and videos of flax. This is one of the fields where soil sampling has been done for a number of years in order to determine soil health and to build soil fertility.

As I mentioned earlier this week, we are still working through our harvest yields, the monitor in the combine gives us an indication, but we always like to be as accurate as we can be, and it’s always a couple of acres over the actual field size. However, the thing of note that we were most interested in was in comparing approximate production this year, to production in 2015, the last year flax was grown on that same field.

The most interesting piece of information was in comparing the precipitation rates. This year, in total that field received 3 inches less rainfall than in 2015. However, yields were still higher than in 2015. So, even though the plants should have been short on moisture availability, our conclusion is that soil health and the focus on building the soil in the past 4 years have allowed the plants to more effectively utilize the available moisture.

As readers of our blog, you know we are firm believers in utilizing technology and demonstrating how modern agriculture benefits from the adoption of data. Soil testing is one of the best sources of information in understanding how to create the optimal growing environment, and while you can’t control Mother Nature, soil testing and establishing soil health did enable achieving yield growth even when Mother Nature limited her rainfall.

If you are interested in learning more about the soil sampling program used please contact us directly at

8-12" difference in the field

Harvest is the time of year when you get to see the results of the experiments you did during the year. One of those experiments this year was understanding the impact of Plant Growth Regulator (PGR) in the field. To be scientific about it, so as to measure a field, with the same precipitation, soil health, growth units etc. a test strip was left out from the application in the field of Tisdale wheat ( To be sneaky (aka scientific) about it to make sure we couldn’t tell just by picking out the pass without sprayer tracks, the sprayer still did the pass, just with the booms turned off.

Just prior to harvest we measured the difference in height between the test strip and the wheat with PGR applied. Between 8-12 inches of stalk is what we were able to determine in multiple measurements. The benefits to yield aside, in the plant not having to use it’s energy growing taller, the benefits of PGR include reduced lodging and less stress on your combine as it thrashes and chops your straw.

We first started hearing about PGR from the Brian and Darren Hefty of AgPhD a few years ago. Here is a link to the earliest mention we could find in their newsletter. This is not the first year we have used PGR on the farm, but it is the first time we have been diligently scientific about our approach.

With any trial, the proof will be in the yield monitors, and in the midst of harvest we have yet to fully analyze all of the JD Operations center data. We will provide an update in a couple of months once we have finished the analysis for the fall. Since the results were so noticeable, the benefits are more so than just the yield in terms of ease of straight-heading, harvest speed and stress on the machinery which all impact the profitability of the operation, we wanted to share that PGR might be a worthwhile test on your fields next year.

Throwback Thursday

Harvest time is busy - there is no doubt about it! And sometimes we get so caught up in the essentials, like fueling up (humans and equipment) and the keeping clean (bins, combines and humans) that we forget the whole process that got us here.

So this Throwback Thursday is not way back - it is just a few months ago. But in some ways it was a lifetime ago (at least the lifetime of a canola seed).

Connected, Protected, Respected

If you have been following us for a while you know that we have written about Connected, Protected and Respected before, and each time has a bit of a different twist, but the main message is the same: relationships are key to a successful family farm and people feel safe, physically and emotionally, when they are Connected, Protected and Respected.

In concrete terms for harvest time, what does that look like?

Connected (physical and emotional safety)

  • Everyone in the team has a way to communicate with the other team members as they plan the day and as they work. This can be high-tech, low-tech or anywhere in between (morning meeting, group text, CB radio, whiteboard, supper meeting).

Protected (physical safety)

  • Everyone in the team knows how to do their job safely and what to do in the event that something doesn’t go as planned.

    • Discuss any dangers or special considerations for the location(s) where you are working each day as well as along the routes to and from the location(s)

    • Have access to and know how to use the fire extinguishers and first aid kits

    • Keep your phone with you when you exit equipment. Know who to call for help and how to tell them where you are (emergency sign number, legal land description, latitude and longitude)

Respected (emotional safety)

  • Everyone in the team feels that there is a culture where questions are encouraged. Asking a question is better than proceeding when you are unsure - it is safer, and generally more efficient, which means it is more profitable to be sure of the answer.

Wishing you all a harvest where your family relationships are strengthened as you work together, feeling Connected, Protected and Respected.

Read past Connected, Protected, Respected posts: March 2017 May 2018

The 3Rs - Farm Family style


Roles - Responsibilities - Relationships

Harvest is a time when farm families need everyone to help out in order to get all of the jobs done.

Roles: Roles can be tricky to define as they can be less concrete than responsibilities. Roles might include things like, advisor, consultant or final decision maker. Family farms typically involve multiple generations, and harvest is often the time when people are asked to step into new roles. This also means others may need to step back to make space for these changes to happen. Navigating role changes can be complex and there is no one, best or right way to switch roles.

Responsibilities: Responsibilities refers to the tasks that need to get accomplished - cleaning combines, making meals, ordering fuel, paying bills. Harvest time challenges even the best organizers and time-managers. The time-sensitive nature of harvest dictates that families need to decide which tasks are put on hold and which tasks need to become a different person’s responsibility during the harvest crunch time.

Changing roles and responsibilities can lead to stress in relationships!

Relationships: In farm-family life business and personal life lines are sometimes blurred. Changing roles and responsibilities can lead to hurt feelings or misunderstandings - especially if these changes happen “on the fly”. A pre-harvest meeting can help to set expectations for the season and ensure that everyone is aware of what their roles and responsibilities will look like this year. Open communication reduces assumptions that things will remain the same and ensures that everyone understands any domino effects of shifting responsibilities. Pre-harvest meetings may be one-on-one meetings or involve the whole team at the same time; they can be formal or informal. No matter how they happen, doing the hard work up front helps to set farm teams up for the most successful harvest possible.

Remember 1978? Me neither, but...


We are back from vacation and ready to jump into harvest! But rather than ag or tech or even harvest stories, this week we are focusing on relationships. Family is what makes having a family farm so impactful, meaningful, motivating, and memorable.

To start off the week we want to say Happy 41st Anniversary to our parents! Any relationship that has lasted since 1978 deserves to be celebrated. Our parents have built a successful marriage, and a successful farming operation, because they are are a good team. They have a flexible give and take, they know how to divide and conquer and they respect each other’s strengths. They have figured out when to hustle and when to be still and they know the importance of making time for fun.

Congratulations to Mom and Dad! Wishing you a great harvest to start of another great year.

Digital scouting record

Every year we choose 5-10 new data capture technologies to see if they improve our ability to capture actionable data that increases yield potential.

We also are very focused on tools that enable generational transfer of knowledge, which is to say realizing that the notebooks full of past years data can now be integrated into digital farming platforms. We have created ‘data test plots’ in several fields. You can see some of the intro videos here: canola and flax.

One of the platforms we are trying is Farm Dog, which is a digital scouting app that works to capture what you are seeing while you are in the field. There are other digital scouting apps, so we will give you what we liked about this one and a few opportunities that challenged us.

What we like:

  1. It has a simple user interface

  2. It works even when you don’t have cell reception - and uploads as you gain reception

  3. It integrates with John Deere Operations Center, so the scouting reports are right alongside the applications we have done in the field

  4. It has GPS pinning in the field so we can go back and check the before and after of applications, and be consistent in where you are scouting so you can pair with what you are seeing in other imagery (drone, satellite etc.)

What has been challenging:

  1. Finding the camera on the user interface when using forms tricked us for a bit - after you scout the crop the camera is behind the 3 ellipsis on the right hand side - in case that saves you any time in finding it

  2. One of our field boundaries on Operations Center would not come through on Farm Dog - just took a bit of time to figure that one out.

We have included a sample scouting report below. Farm Dog has great tutorials that show the full range of the application here.

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