“Food” is often the first thing that comes to mind when we think about farming and agriculture; things like fruits or vegetables or commodity crops such as wheat, barley and canola. Food is an essential part of our every day lives and we are fortunate to live in a part of the world where we can enjoy a variety of foodstuffs sourced from our ‘friendly farmer’.
But did you know that farming and agriculture is more than just “food”? Whether you live in the city or the country, products of agriculture are all around you. And you just might be surprised the shape and form those products take!
Take, for example, biocomposites. A biocomposite is a material formed through the combination of a polymer with natural plant fibers such as hemp or flax. Biocomposite materials can be easily molded into things such as car dashboards or car door panels. (See the biocomposite specs on the “Kestrel” car developed in Alberta by Motive Industries). Biocomposites are also used not only in the manufacture of weed control materials or textiles but also in the development of ‘green’ building products such as biofibre insulation and cement and fibreboard panels (see the Alberta-based company, TTS, for information on their biocomposite products and innovations).
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have agricultural goods used in the manufacturing of hair and skin care products as well as cosmetics. Emolient oils (EOs) are extracted from the seeds of crops such as flax, palm, soybean, sunflower, hemp or canola. EOs can penetrate the skin and bind to the membrane of the skin making them useful additives to a variety of beauty products such as skin moisturizers, anti-dandruff shampoos and even permanent waving agents. Cornstarch, derived from corn, is often used in eyeshadows and blushes.
Peas have been known to be used in facial masks. Oats and oat products serve as effective moisturizing and skin protection agents. And let’s not forget “Royal Jelly”. Royal Jelly is secreted from the glands of worker bees to feed larvae and queen bee within a bee colony. Not only does Royal Jelly have anti-biotic and anti-inflammatory properties (and pharmaceutical application), it is also widely used in cosmetic and beauty products. Lanolin is a yellow waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep. It is used in a variety of products from cream make-up to lipgloss to hand and skin moisturizers. Even bull semen is used as an additive in hair care products!
These are just a few of many examples of how agriculture is all around us. Agriculture is more than just food… it is an essential part of our everyday lives. No matter where we live!
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Cami Ryan is a researcher with the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan. Her family farmed and she grew up as a “townie” in rural Saskatchewan. Farming and agriculture has always been an important part of her life – both professionally and personally. Cami lives with her family and a collection of critters on an acreage just south of Calgary.