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Kids ask the best questions

Your kids and students have curious minds, they want to know about everything! Good in Every Grain wants to help you answer their tough questions about where their food comes from, and how Ontario grains are grown. We are here to help! Submit your kids/students’ questions here and we will answer as soon as possible. Don’t forget to check back here for answers.

Questions will be answered in 1-2 business days.

My mom says the plants in our house make oxygen. Do plants on the farm do the same thing? ~ Franklin

Hey there Franklin,

Yes! All plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis. Humans breathe in oxygen and release carbon. All around the earth, humans and plants help each other and the crops on a farm contribute. Corn fields are a good example. During its growing season, one acre of corn absorbs about 16,000 kg of carbon dioxide (MSU Extension). That is more than what a school bus weighs!

In the summer, for about 11 days when it is at its tallest before it is harvested, the corn grown in Ontario produces enough oxygen to meet the breathing needs of the whole province.

For more resources about photosynthesis and Ontario’s corn, see the resources below:

How much wheat does it take to make 2 cups of flour? ~ Sadie

Howdy Sadie,

We can tell you love to bake! It takes about 1 cup of wheat seeds to make 2 cups of flour.

After the wheat is harvested at the farm, it is taken to a mill where the millers test it to see what it can be used for (e.g., pasta, bread, cake). Different flour uses require the wheat to have different qualities, like the protein amount. They clean the wheat and store it for a day, then grind it up with milling machines to make flour and blend it to make the flour blends bakeries want.

The milling process separates the shell—the bran part—from the wheat kernel, which is sold to a feed mill to be used to make feed for livestock. The whole process to mill and blend the wheat is very fast—in some mills, only an hour.

Here’s a fun fact: It only takes nine seconds for a combine to harvest enough wheat seeds to make more than 70 loaves of bread!

For more information on Ontario wheat, check out these FREE resources:
Flour Mills: All You Knead to Know
Recipes from Good in Every Grain
Wheat: growing, harvesting, process and making bread (6:05 minutes)

Do earthworms eat the roots of plants? Are they friends for farmers? ~ Lu

Hi there Lu,

Earthworms are good friends to farmers! They help our crops grow. On top of the ground, earthworms eat things like dead leaves and grass, vegetables and berries—the kinds of things you’d put in a compost bin. Under the ground they eat fungi, algae and bacteria. They even eat bits of the roots of growing plants, but mostly they eat bacteria growing on the roots.

Worms can eat their weight every day! And they pull their food down into their tunnels to eat it. After they eat, they poop—we call it casting. It has lots of nutrients and microbes that are good for growing plants.

As worms dig their tunnels, the mucous on their skin rubs off onto the soil surrounding their tunnels, making it strong so it won’t cave in. That slime also contains nutrients that are good for plants! Plants can often grow their roots a lot easier passing through the inside of worm tunnels instead of digging through the soil.

For more information about soil and earthworms check these out:

What does sustainable farming mean? ~ Rachel

Hi Rachel,

That is a very important question! Sustainable farming means using methods that protect the environment and public health and doesn’t waste money. It also recognizes that micro-organisms are important. Farmers who use sustainable practices look at things like whether they are using renewable energy and recycling, such as using crop waste or animal manure to make fertilizers that enrich the soil, instead of buying chemical fertilizers.

The Earth does not have an endless supply of land for growing things. We need to protect the soil we have. Sustainable farming protects the soil through methods like planting cover crops, which helps the soil retain its nutrients, supresses weeds and protects the soil from erosion.

People need soil to stay healthy. We may not think of that, but it’s true. Without healthy soil, free of harmful chemicals and with lots of plant nutrients, we wouldn’t be able to grow the plants that keep us healthy. Healthy soil makes good crops.

For more information check these out:

How do plants make our food?

Hey there,

Thanks for asking your question!

Plants need seven main things in order to grow, can you guess what some of them might be? Plants need the right temperature, light, water, air, nutrients, space to grow and they also need enough time to fully grow. When plants have all seven of these things, they can grow healthy and produce high-quality food for us to eat.

Once the plants get are fully grown, farmers will harvest the plants and sell them to be turned into the food we eat. For example, lets look at wheat: once the wheat plant is mature a farmer will harvest the wheat using a combine. The harvested wheat seeds will then be sold to a flour mill where the wheat will be ground into a flour. That flour is then used to make things like bread, crackers or pasta! Other Ontario grains are used to make food items like oatmeal, corn chips, soup or even Jell-o! Find out more here.

What is the process of it growing?

What a fantastic question!

The process of growing grains really depends on what grain we are talking about. Each grain (barley, corn, oats, soybeans and wheat) will have very similar growing patterns but are slightly different. Grains have different needs in order to grow, which will impact what their process is.  

What is the process?

  1. Plant- before grains can begin to grow, they must first be planted into the ground. Farmers use equipment to plant the seeds of barley, corn, oats, soybeans, and wheat into soil.
  2. Growing- Grains start off as seeds in the soil that sprout. The shoots and roots push up and down out of the seed- the sprouts will turn into seedling that we will see above ground, and the roots will spread out below ground to absorb water and other nutrients from the soil. As the seedlings grow above ground it will grow tall, and start to develop leaves, seeds, pods, cobs etc. depending on the grain. This process takes between 4 and 5 months for each of Ontario grains to grow. During this time, farmers will make sure their grains are growing healthy.
  3. Harvest- once ready for harvest Ontario grains will turn colour to either a golden yellow or brown. Then Ontario farmers will harvest the grains using a combine harvester (combine for short) to cut and take the seeds off the mature plant.

Check out this great video from Backyard Science that walks through how seeds grow to become a plant!

Can animals eat grains? ~ Mike

Hi Mike!  There are many animals both on and off Ontario farms that can eat grains like barley, oats, corn, soybeans, and wheat. 39% of Ontario grains that are used locally, are to feed animals like beef and dairy cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. Other animals that can eat grains are sheep, goats, llamas, bison, horses, rabbits, deer and even birds can eat a lot of grains!

A lot of the time the grain is mixed or processed into a form that the animal can eat – corn is chopped into a flour or small pieces to be consumed, a lot of wheat and soybeans can be made into pellets to be consumed as well.

Even our pets can eat grains! Studies have shown the benefits to feeding grain pet food to our dogs and the FDA has linked grain free dog foods to cancers, read more here.  

Do you like eating the grain you grow? ~ Priya

Hi Priya,

We love eating what we grow! In Ontario, farmers grow barley, corn, oats, soybeans and wheat. That gives us lots of opportunities for good food for every meal. We eat them all the time in things like bread, porridge, pancakes, muffins, soup, polenta, and cakes and cookies. Don’t forget corn chips and tofu!

You can have healthy food made from grains at any meal and for snacks. If you wonder how many good things you can make with grains grown in Ontario, visit the Good in Every Grain website and check out all the recipes, like the one for Oat and Berry Granola Bars. All this talk about food is making me hungry—a granola bar made with two types of grains would be a good snack!

For more information about Ontario’s grains, check out these resources:

What is the most important thing for growing grain? ~ Rashad

Hey Rashad,

That is an excellent question, because there are so many important things that go into growing grain. You might think it’s the sun or water, but the most important is the soil. The nutrients plants need come from the soil and plants can also put nutrients back into the soil. If the soil is not cared for, it becomes unhealthy and can erode or blow away in the wind; nothing can be grown in it. A healthy soil means we have healthy grains and healthy food.

Farmers protect the soil in lots of different way, like rotating their crops. They grow a different grain or crop on the each of their fields each year. For example, corn uses a lot of the nutrient nitrogen, which helps corn grow tall and make the cobs. Soybean plants add nitrogen back to the soil as it grows. So, a farmer will plant soybeans one year and leave the plant parts (pods, stems, leaves) in the field after harvest to break down and decompose over the winter and put the nitrogen into the soil. The next year, the farmer will grow corn in field where the soybeans were grown so the corn plants can use the nitrogen the soybeans left behind. They rotated between two crops over two years, so the grains could work together to keep the soil healthy, and the two crops growing healthy.

For more information about planting and soil health in Ontario, check out these resources:
How Does a Farmer Decide What To Plant?
Fields to Fork 2019
Life in the Soil, virtual field trip from Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
Why are earthworms important? (4:21 minutes)

Besides earthworms, are there other things living in the soil that help plants grow? ~ David

Howdy David,

Would you be surprised to know that that there are lots of live things moving around in the soil? They’re so small you can’t even see them, but they’re very important. They’re called soil microbes and they support soil structure and help keep soil healthy by promoting nutrient cycling, helping with disease and pest control, and limiting plant stress by helping balance pH levels, salt, moisture and temperature.

Soil microbes include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and micro-arthropods, such as mites. We see how important microbes are when there is a drought– when soil runs out of moisture, dying bacteria produce a tiny bit of extra water that can be sucked up by the plant’s roots, keeping the plant alive just a little longer—maybe until the next rain comes.

There are also bad microbes that cause disease or damage or kill other soil life. Farmers know how  important it is to manage soil to keep it healthy.

For more information check out these resources:

Why do farmers’ fields have wild, grassy edges? ~ Darriel

Hey Darriel,

We are glad you asked because that is actually a sustainable practice that protects the soil. Farmers use windbreaks or field edges to encourage plant diversity and provide wildlife habitats for animals like birds, pollinators, rabbits, foxes and turkeys. They also help keep the growing grain healthy because they limit the spread of disease spores, harmful bacteria and harmful insects. Those things get trapped in the wild areas. For example, if aphids get into a soybean field, the field edges will slow them down from getting into the next field and eating the crop. By using a natural border, the farmer won’t have to use pesticides to stop the aphids.

The field edge can also prevent wind and water from eroding the soil and protect water quality in the area by keeping soil particles and pollutants within the boundary. And depending on where the farm is, the field edge may also block the wind and prevent snow buildup on roads and around homes and farmyards.

Find more information by taking a look at these additional resources:

What is the best part about driving a tractor? ~ Tira

Hi Tira,

Thanks for the questions! The best part of a driving a tractor is how fun it is to drive it! Tractors these days are so modern with lots of technology to help drive itself and use GPS’s in the field! Technology can be so fun especially when it is helps to plant grains in perfectly straight rows. It can be incredibly fun to drive a big machine that works a bit like a video game with all the technology in the cab.

Why do soybeans need partial shade?

Hi there,

Thank you so much for sending us in your question!

Soybeans belong to the legume or pea family (they belong to the same family that the green peas you eat at dinner!), much like humans below to the mammal family. , They are about 3 feet tall (that’s the height of the average baseball bat). And while soybeans plants can tolerate partial shade, they grow the best in full sun!

Full sun means that the soybeans get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day and partial shade means that the sun’s rays get blocked before they reach the plant for the most part of the day. When soybean plants get the full sun they need in order to grow healthy grains, they are able to produce the most soybeans that they can!

Plants like soybeans use the sun’s energy as a food source, and without sunlight grains would not be able to grow.

Why are my soybean plant’s bottom leaves turning yellow? ~ Zuhair

Hey Zuhair, thanks for the question!

There are two possible reasons our soybean plant’s bottom leaves are turning yellow.

Soybean plant and other grains are great at showing up when they are sick by adjusting their appearance. Grains will sometime have their leaves, stems, seed, pods change colour or can take on a wilted appearance if they aren’t healthy.

Yellow leaves are a good indication a soybean plant may be healthy- if it isn’t ready for maturity! Soybean leaves turn yellow and brown, and eventually drop off the plant the soybean plants are ready for harvest. This generally happens about 4-5 month after planting.

For more information about healthy grains, and mature soybeans check these blog posts out:

When did people find wheat? ~ Mike

Great question Mike!

Today wheat has evolved through thousands of years of domestication from humans. Wheat was one of the first domesticated crops and has been in global diets for over 8,000 years.  There are reports that wheat was first domesticated in Southwest Asia, and this domestication spread across Asia, Africa and Europe.  Other reports say that what was found and first domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, an area on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, Ancient Egyptians were among the first civilizations to modernize farming, in their staple food production of wheat and barley.

In North America, wheat was first introduced in the late 1400’s or early 1500’s. In Canada, wheat was likely first grown in Port Royal, Nova Scotia in 1605. In Ontario, red fife (first grown in Peterborough by Dave Fife and family in 1842) was developed and was very popular due to its good yield and excellent milling and baking qualities.