Grain on the Brain Podcast

Tune in each month as we’re joined by an industry expert and farmer to discuss important issues in organic grain farming.

We bring the resources, tools, and expertise you need to get growing

Tune in each month as we’re joined by an industry expert and farmer to discuss important issues in organic grain farming.

Podcast Episodes

Season 2, Episode 3 – Farming with Pollinators

Why should we be aiming to increase biodiversity on our farms? What role do pollinators play in improving our crops and the land that we as grain farmers manage? Our host, Scott Beaton, talks to native seed specialist Stephanie Frischie from the Xerces Society and farmer Allison Squires about why we should be thinking about biodiversity, and how we can start to go about doing it. Mike Killewald from the University of Manitoba tells us about the four-year pollinator project he’s working on with some of the results for its first year. Episode sponsored by SeCan. (46.15 minutes)

Guest Bios

Based in northwest Indiana, Stephanie Frischie provides pollinator habitat expertise to farms in Canada and the U.S. She also works with the native seed industry and researchers to plan and develop seed supply of important plant species for restoration of insect habitat. Before joining Xerces, Stephanie conducted research on the potential of native cover crops in Spanish olive orchards at Semillas Silvestres, S.L. through the Native Seed Science, Technology and Conservation (NASSTEC) grant. Previously, she was the plant materials and conservation programs manager for eleven years at the Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands restoration project in northwest Indiana. Stephanie volunteers as a rare plant monitor with Plants of Concern and is the secretary of the International Network for Seed-based Restoration. Her master’s of science is from Northwestern University/Chicago Botanic Garden’s Conservation Land Management Program and she holds a bachelor’s of science in international agronomy from Purdue University. Contact Stephanie at or call 219-208-5879.

Allison Squire was born in St. John’s, NFLD and grew up primarily in Southern Ontario. After completing her BSc in Environmental Toxicology at the University of Guelph (Guelph, ON) she moved to Saskatoon, SK to complete first her MSc and then Ph.D. in Toxicology at the University of Saskatchewan. Like Cody, Allison is very interested in promoting the organic industry, especially through on-farm research. Allison supports involving organic producers at the individual farm level and believes that it will contribute to the overall applicability of organic research. As such both her and Cody have implemented several on-farm research projects at Upland Organics. Allison enjoys managing the research programs for Upland Organics and is always looking for new opportunities to collaborate with research scientists, agriculture industry professionals, and other organic producers. Allison serves the national organic community as a director on the Canadian Organic Growers board and in 2020 was also elected to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) North America board of Directors.

Season 2, Episode 2 – Mechanical Weed Control

Mechanical weed control is one of the key tools in the organic farmer’s toolbox!
Join us as Scott Beaton, Manitoba Organic Producer, talks to Sam Hitchcock Tilton about tine weeders, interrow cultivators, finger weeders and more. They talk weed biology, timing, and soil health. Episode sponsored by Regen Ag Solutions. (50.31 minutes)

Guest Bios

Sam Hitchcock Tilton is a Horticulture Instructor at Lakeshore Technical College, just North of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He has a background in vegetable farming and earned a Master’s degree in Horticulture from Michigan State University, where he studied and conducted research on precision weeding tools. Sam was the Midwest Sales Representative for KULT-Kress precision cultivation tools. For this work, he designed weeding machines for all types of crops, developed new tools, and traveled through Europe and the US visiting farms. He writes for Vegetable Grower’s News and Growing for Market, and is the organizer of the annual Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day – the nation’s premier event for weeding tool demonstrations.

Season 2, Episode 1 – Cover Crops

Thinking about growing a cover crop this year? What are my #covercropgoals? How can I manage my problem weeds like wild oats and Canada thistle with cover crops? Can you use too much moisture when growing a cover crop? Will cover crops tie up all my nutrients?

Scott Beaton, Manitoba Organic Producer, asks Kevin Elmy all your burning cover crops questions in this episode. We also have Callum Morrison from the University of Manitoba telling us about a cover crop survey he’s been working on! Episode sponsored by Imperial Seed Ltd. (59.38 minutes)

Guest Bios

Kevin Elmy was raised on a seed farm near Saltcoats, SK. He moved back in 1999 after various jobs after convocation from the University of Saskatchewan. The land he bought was baled and burned for 50 years so needed reviving. So they changed their management to included forages, corn grazing, winter cereals, reduced tillage, and the use of cover crops. They got to where they have not added synthetic nitrogen for 13 years, reduced their use of herbicides, eliminated seed treatments, fungicides and insecticides, and now eliminated the rest of their synthetic fertilizer applications. “Our soil are now alive.” What’s Kevin’s top book pick? When Weeds Talk by Jay L. McCaman.

Resources Discussed in this Episode

Season 1, Episode 1 – Crop Rotation Strategies

Scott Beaton, Manitoba Organic Producer, and Katherine Stanley, Organic Extension Specialist at the University of Manitoba’s Natural Systems Agriculture, discuss strategies for designing organic crop rotations that build soil fertility, manage weeds and prevent disease and pests. (32.31 minutes)

Guest Bios

Katherine Stanley is a Research Associate at the University of Manitoba’s Natural Systems Agriculture. She has a MSc. in plant science from the University of Saskatchewan and a B.Sc. in Agroecology from the University of Manitoba. Her research focuses largely on organic agronomy and weed management and extension work has allowed her to work with agronomists and organic farmers across the prairies.

Season 1, Episode 2 – Marketing Organic Grain 101

Scott Beaton, Manitoba Organic Producer; Ian Cushon, Saskatchewan Organic Producer; and Scott Shiels, Organic Grain Procurement Manager, Grain Millers discuss the key principles, considerations, barriers, and opportunities to marketing transitioning and organic grains. (27.11 minutes)

Guest Bios

Ian Cushon has farmed organically for 30 years producing a wide variety of field crops including row cropping organic sunflowers in the 1990s to soybeans in 2016. Ian has used mechanical weed control including rod weeders, tine harrows, tine weeders and rotary hoes. Mechanical weed control is an important option in some crops, but strong crop rotations and cultural weed management are the foundation of productive organic crops on the prairies. Ian and wife Jo-Anne, operate Moose Creek Organic Farm near Oxbow, in Southeast Saskatchewan. They have two children Liam 16 and Anna 14.

Scott Shiels works with Grain Millers as the Procurement Manager and has experience as a grain buyer handling the procurement of grains into the mill in Yorkton. He works with the US procurement team on other commodities that they source from Canada.

Season 1, Episode 3 – How to Take Soil and Plant Tissue Samples

Organic grain expert Joanne Thiessen Martens talks about taking soil samples and plant tissue samples and how it can help you make management decisions on your farm. (33.25 minutes)

Guest Bios

Joanne Thiessen Martens grew up on a small mixed farm at Austin, Manitoba. She earned a B. Sc. In Agroecology at the University of Manitoba in 1999 and has since been working in the area of sustainable and ecological agriculture. For much of this time, Joanne has been a part of Dr. Martin Entz’s research team in the Department of Plant Science at the University of Manitoba. Her recent areas of focus include cover cropping, integrated crop-livestock systems, and farming systems design.

Season 1, Episode 4 – Managing Weeds in Organic Crops

Brenda Frick, organic expert on weeds in organic cropping , talks about practical and helpful tips for managing weeds in organic cropping. With host Scott Beaton, she discusses how to prevent and manage those tough weeds like Canada Thistle and Bind Weed. (37.31 minutes)

Guest Bios

Brenda Frick is a partner in Resilient Solutions Consulting. Brenda has a wealth of experience in organic research extension having authored many resources for organics along with an expertise in managing weeds in organic cropping systems. She shares this as an instructor of an online organic weeds class through the University of Saskatchewan Brenda is also one of the experts behind Pivot and Grow’s 1-800 ‘Ask an Expert’. Call her with your questions about organics.

Resources Discussed in this Episode

Season 1, Episode 5 – Organic Grain Transition: If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Transitioning organic grain farmer, Alex Boersch from Elie, MB, interviews Alan McKenzie, an experienced organic grain farmer from Nesbitt, MB. With host Scott Beaton, they discusses strategies, perceptions, challenges, and opportunities of transitioning into organic grain. (53.11 minutes)

Guest Bios

Alex Boersch has a bachelor and Masters in Agri-Business and science from INP Purpan (University in Touluse, France). He has worked for two years in Toronto for DG Global Inc as a grain trader and moved back to the farm July of 2017. The farm was founded in 1988 by his father Andreas Boersch, who emigrated from Cologne, Germany. They farm 5000 acres and are transitioning 500 acres of land into organic.

Alan McKenzie farms in Nesbitt, MB on a 4000 acre mixed cattle and grain organic farm. Alan began transitioning his farm to organic production in 2002 and since 2011 his whole farm including his cattle operation are certified organic. Alan works for diversity on his farm, growing a variety of grain crops including inter-crops, hemp and other cereals. His cattle are used to graze cover crops on the farm.

Resources Discussed in this Episode


Grain on the Brain Season Two:

Host: Scott Beaton | Producer: Karen Klassen

Season two of Grain on the Brain Podcast is a podcast of the Manitoba Organic Alliance

Grain on the Brain Season One:

Host: Scott Beaton | Producers: Dana Penrice, Iris Vaisman, Cari Hartt, and Tierra Stokes

Season one of Grain on the Brain is a podcast of the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative