Farm groups urged to change with times

March 26, 2014 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is challenging farm organizations to inject new blood and new ideas into themselves to confront coming challenges facing farming.

“Just as many Ontario farm families develop plans to transfer their farm from one generation to the next, farm organizations must do the same,” Drew Spoelstra, a federation director writes in a commentary on the OFA’s website.

“It’s time farm leaders get to work on a succession plan of our own,” he said, noting the OFA has recently brought new and younger members into its ranks.

“Today’s agriculture landscape is different than it was even one generation ago,” Spoelstra writes.

“Less than 2% of our population has a direct connection to agriculture. Rural Ontario is changing too – we’re seeing prime farmland give way to subdivisions, and more people than ever before are migrating to urban centres.”

The new generation has a unique set of challenge to handle, Spoelstra says.

“We’re fierce advocates of farmland preservation so that when a new generation is ready to farm, there will be land to work.”

In recent years, Spoelstra notes, the OFA has held a Young Farmers’ Forum to make way for the new generation of farm leaders and signal to them that the OFA is interested in what they have to say.

That was followed up with a young farmers’ summit.

Spoelstra challenged farm groups at the local level to engage with younger audiences through social media, online accessibility and special events, such as tailgate gatherings.

He said farm groups must be committed to strive for relevancy and pursue the common goal of enabling prosperous and sustainable farms.

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More than 900 students and teachers from public, Catholic and private schools across Brant County, Brantford and Six Nations will gather at the Burford Fairgrounds for the 19th annual Bite of Brant agricultural education program on April 9 and 10.

“The purpose of the event is to increase awareness of the agri-food industry in Brant County and its vital role in our economy and society,” said program spokewoman Jean Emmott.

“It is important for students to gain an appreciation for the high quality of Ontario food and to have some knowledge of how it is produced, since they are already consumers and they are our future decision-makers. “

At 20 stations of hands-on learning, representing various commodities from the agri-food industry, students get an opportunity to gain an appreciation of the source of some of their food.

They will also learn about the quality and benefits of food produced by Ontario and Canada.

The format features the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide, with an overall pizza theme.

Schools have the opportunity to be introduced to agriculture with a visit to the classroom by the Brant County Dairy Educator, prior to or following the half-day program at the fairgrounds.

Again this year, there will be a poster competition, using the theme of illustrating food production in Brant County.

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The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is urging members to embrace a new publication in the Best Management Practices series that gives tips for saving and generating on-farm energy.

The booklet, entitled On-Farm Energy: A Primer, outlines ideas for improving energy efficiency and reducing energy costs.

“Energy represents a significant input cost for farmers, and our new resource covers simple on-farm measures that can reduce energy use and cost,” says Steve Clarke, energy and crop engineering specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Topics covered include: farm energy audits, tips for improving energy efficiency n the home and the farm across all sectors, and an overview of on-farm energy production systems.

Those systems include biomass, solar, wind and geothermal.

The publication is available online at www.publications.serviceontario.ca. Search for “Best Management Practices.

michael-allan.marion@sunmedia.ca

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