Reporter’s Notebook: Foolish footwear choices — and other crop walk lessons

I learned a lot on my first crop walk four years ago. No, I can’t remember who presented or what they spoke about, but I learned a lesson that day that has carried me through every crop walk since.

There I was, standing at the edge of a field just outside of Lacombe, a few days after a rainstorm had come through. The fields were still muddy… and I was wearing flip-flops.

Trudging through gumbo in boots is bad enough, but flip-flops are way worse. Especially when you’re wearing plastic biosecurity booties.

The crop walk veterans had a good laugh at my expense, and I figured I had learned my lesson: No flip-flops on crop walks. Easy.

At my next crop walk a few weeks later, this time near Barrhead, I proudly displayed my brand-new rubber boots. The veterans just shook their heads, and before long, I understood why. You see, the conditions at the Barrhead site were very different from the ones in Lacombe. Very dry, and very hot.

I could have got away with wearing flip-flops on that tour, or at the very least, running shoes. Instead, I spent my morning tramping about with big sweaty boots chafing my calves and storing every bit of heat that the day produced.

That’s when I finally learned my lesson: Be prepared for anything.

I like to think I’ve learned a lot since those first catastrophic crop tours. I’ve learned what time of day to spray for weeds (midday), how to identify ascochyta in pulse crops (tan leaf spots with tiny black specks), and which wheat varieties respond best to plant growth regulators (AC Harvest and CDC Stanley, to name two).

And I’ve learned to always bring my crop walk survival kit. It includes sunscreen, bug spray, water, map, hat, and jacket, but also two recharging devices: one for the cellphone and one for me (granola bars are my preference).

And there’s always a choice of rubber boots or comfortable shoes. But the flip-flops? You can leave home without them.

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.

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