Category Archives: Member News

Dundalk Area Beef Farmer Wins 2017 Mapleseed Pasture Award

This entry was posted in Member News, News on by .

February 22, 2017 (Toronto, ON) – The Beef Farmers of Ontario, Mapleseed and the Ontario Forage Council, sponsors of the Mapleseed Pasture Award, are pleased to announce that Paul DeJong of Ventry Hill Farm from the Dundalk area in Grey County is the winner of the 2017 Mapleseed Pasture Award. The award was presented this afternoon at the Beef Farmers of Ontario Annual General Meeting in Toronto.

 

For his environmental improvements and exceptional pasture management, Paul received a cash award of $500 and a bag of forage seed courtesy of Mapleseed.

 

Ventry Hill Farm consists of 450 acres, 100 of which are in pasture, along with an additional 30 acres of rented pasture land. Paul runs 50 cow-calf pairs and currently raises about 70 stockers that are pastured during the summer months. In order to maximize pasture production and weight gain, he uses a strip grazing system to maintain a consistent forage height and improve forage quality. This method allows Paul to meet his herd’s nutritional requirements, contribute to calf growth, and ensure his cows are in optimal body condition.

 

“Pasture is the main source of feed for my herd and there is a high water table in our area,” explains DeJong. “We try to pasture at least six months of the year, and by grazing a fall rye cover crop, pasture can be extended by two weeks.”

 

To prevent excessive trampling of his forages, Paul installed a waterline to provide fresh water to each paddock, which is equipped with quick-attach couplers for a convenient water supply at all times.

 

“The weight gain and cost per pound of gain achieved by Ventry Hill Farm proves that effective rotational pasture management can have many environmental and economical benefits,” shares Lawrence Levesque, District Sales Manager, Mapleseed.

 

Ray Robertson, Manager of the Ontario Forage Council, commented that as producers try to maximize their net profit from every acre, the management decisions made on Ventry Hill Farm are a great example of how some producers can improve the overall profitability of their operation.
The deadline for applications for the 2018 Mapleseed Pasture Award is November 30, 2017.

EFAO Online Community Forum

This entry was posted in Member News, News and tagged on by .

EFAO Online Community Forum

 

The EFAO is proud to launch a new online resource built to serve Ontario’s ecological farming community: the EFAO Online Community Forum. This tool is meant to foster and facilitate the exchange of ideas, knowledge and expertise, as well as the pooling of resources amongst members of the ecological farming community.

 

As with any community, you get what you put into it. Therefore we encourage you to actively participate: ask questions, offer up opinions, and answer other members’ questions. The forum is open to anyone that has an account on efao.ca (members and non-members alike).

 

We know your time is precious, and with that in mind we made sure the Forum is easy and convenient for you to use. Some of its features are:

 

  • Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Yearly digests (you decide!)
  • Topic activity notifications
  • Reply-by-email
  • User preferences to customize your forum experience
  • Fully indexed and searchable content
  • Actively moderated by EFAO staff and volunteers

 

As far as content goes, you can expect the following:

 

  • Categorized content for all aspects of ecological farming
  • Input from the EFAO member base
  • Classifieds (buy/sell, jobs, etc.) section exclusive to EFAO members
  • Special content from EFAO events (presentations, workshops, etc.) and post-event discussion

 

In order to access the Forum, you simply need to use your efao.ca account username and password. If you don’t have such an account, you can create one for free and get access to the forum. So don’t wait and bookmark the link below.

The EFAO Online Community Forum is generously funded by Carrot Cache!

 

Join the discussion now at:

http://forum.efao.ca

Extreme Spring Weather

This entry was posted in Issues, Member News and tagged , on by .

It seems that last year’s wet spring may be the cause for this year’s drought. Learn why in this CBC Article Hot, dry summer causing ‘weather whiplash’

We’ve been archiving old newsletters and found this article from 1990. Both excessive rain and drought are frustrating,  but equipping yourself to handle both can be crucial to your farm!

LESSONS FROM LAST YEAR – The dangers of A wet Spring – by Bernhard Hack (February 1990)

Each year is a learning experience. We should take the opportunity to learn from mistakes, so that we can try to avoid them in the future. On my visits to farms last year as an advisor I noticed a number of things from which all could learn.

Due to last years extended rainy season in late spring and early summer, farmers became very nervous about cutting hay. Immediately after the first gleam of sunshine many started to cut their forage. Acceding to the date on the calendar they were starting very late. But plants depend much more on the available sunlight for assimilation and growth than on the calendar. Cutting this immature forage immediately following the rainy season had a detrimental effect in many ways.

The soil was too moist to stand the heavy hay cutting equipment. Cutting at this time delayed the soil’s drying because there was no canopy of living forage plants to use this moisture. The results were heavy tracks of soil compaction where all plants, mainly alfalfa were badly hurt and next year only dandelions will be seen. One could see dying yellow alfalfa plants regrowing on the tracks. Remarkably, the soil not only impacted downwards but sideways as well.

Another factor is that during that period of rain and overcast skies, the plant’s ability to manufacture carbohydrates, other nutrients through photosynthesis slowed down. If the plants were cut before they had a chance to use the sunny days to make these nutrients then the quality of the hay would be poor. This results in low milk yields while this poor quality hay is being fed. Farmers who allowed their hay fields to benefit for a week or so from the mature protein and a high content of nutrients (carbohydrates and sugars)/ Also trace minerals were incorporated in the forage during the blooming process. Also, leaving plants to use up the moisture avoided soil compaction.

The protein Question:

Protein in forage is measured through the nitrogen although we know that nitrogen is not necessarily protein.

Let’s consider a living plant. An annual emerges using the seed energy, while a perennial plant regrow this supported by energy stored in the root system. Both types of plants use stored energy to develop the first stages of growth. Then the green leaves assimilate nutrients and support the next stages of growth.  When the blossom stage is reached a plant’s growth ends and all assimilated nutrients are stored in the plant’s structure to foster, in a later stage, the development of seeds.

Indicators For Forage Maturity:

We have balance nutrients and fiber, remembering the fiber plays an important role in butterfat production. While the blossom stage is one indicator of when to cut hay, another one is the appearance of regrowth at the root crown of the blossoming alfalfa plant. Regrowth of the second or third cutting will have the same conditions at the first growth in spring. It is supported by nutrients stored in the root system.

Knowing these facts, farmers will be able to use common sense about when to cut hay, allowing their cows to be healthy and to grow older. In Eastern Ontario I met an old farmer 76 years old still milking 18 cows. He started haying only when all other farmers had finished. He was reported by his neighbors as having trouble drying up his cows. This extreme could give us some food for thought.

Yellow Barely:

Another very common problem for farmers this year was the yellowing of barely. Spring grain which were not planted before the heavy rain, was planted in very moist soil conditions causing severe compaction. Farmers complained about the yellow looking and poorly growing barley. They also observed the soil to be dry when tiling. A few rows of barley along the fence line proved the opposite. Tilling equipment is much wider than the tractor so a few rows of barley were saved from tracks and compaction. These areas showed healthy and vigorous growth of more than double the amount of suffering barely where the compaction has occurred. Another striking example was seen on a field that looked like a chessboard with very Small Square of barely. The farmer confirmed he had crisscrossed the field when tilling. This meant that some squares had not been compacted by the wheels. Remember compaction spreads sideways as well.

In this case another detrimental factor came into play. This field was the farthest from the barn and since clearing the land possibly never received the benefit of recycling organic matter in the form of manure which in turn is able to buffer adverse effects of compaction.

In cases of moist soil conditions that motto should be: “Work rather late than wet”.

Summary from Flower Growing Plans 2016 KTM

This entry was posted in Events, Member News and tagged , on by .

By EFAO Member Stephanie Scott

Started out by discussing what the EFAO is and how it hflowersssselps connect small scale organic and ecological farmers in Ontario.  We all hope that the EFAO will help connect Ontario flower growers so we can better share information that is applicable to our climate and growing conditions

  • Discussed certification vs. not being certified, how a lack of organic standards for cut flowers impacts organic flower growers, growing more cut flowers than other certifiable products results in little incentive to go through all the work and expense to become certified

Introduced participants:

  • Theresa Schumilas of Garden Party, St. Agatha ON (host) has been growing organic vegetables, bedding plants and running a CSA, expanded into cut flowers in 2014.  Sells to florists and DIY weddings
  • Stephanie Scott of Petals & Sprigs, Baden ON third year growing cut flowers part-time, has flower CSA and does a few weddings/year
  • Jennifer Penney – grows cut flowers for her son’s vegetable CSA near Neustadt, ON
  • Kerri-Ann Peet-Harris – Flamborough, ON, Mainly an organic hay grower, has a cut flower garden and is looking for ways to expand it around haying season.
  • Melissa Winkler – New cut-flower farmer, had a roadside stand last year, planning sales at her neighbour’s on-farm store this year.

 

DIY weddings – cut your own flowers offer a lower cost option for brides, but may require more time and help than the price reflects

Talked about potential for other pick-your-own flower events to provide flowers for weddings, funerals, as a memorial event, as a party idea.  On a farm with a good set-up to host events could offer an additional revenue stream. (Good idea to keep a separate garden for pick-your-own flowers, and expensive and high effort flowers kept away from the public)

 

The discussion came back to the problem of finding customers that value locally grown flowers, that may be more expensive, several times.  How that changes during the seasons and how awareness of conventional flower growing methods is increasing slowly.

  • Mother’s Day is first holiday Ontario growers could easily have flowers for (if you don’t have a greenhouse) but demand may be higher for potted plants than bouquets of flowers.
  • Thanksgiving biggest holiday that we experience for flower sales
  • Possible year-round of long-term customers could include restaurants, offices, realtors (that stage houses for sale), hotels

Discussed different flowers for different needs, shorter stems for posies or small tabletop arrangements, longer stems for florists and hand-held bouquets.  Large woody stems needed for large scale arrangements eg. big urns in a hotel lobby

 

Touched on the difficulty of managing cooler space with flowers and veggies in it, as many flowers are ethylene sensitive and can’t be stored with anything that releases ethylene gas.  If managing both at the same time need to know the sensitivity of the flowers you are dealing with.  Best source we have found is the book ‘Specialty Cut Flowers’ by Alan M. Armitage and Judy M. Laushman

 

List of favourite perennials:

  • Daisies
  • Phlox
  • Yarrow (can pinch some of each variety to spread out flowering times)
  • Rudbeckia
  • Coneflowers
  • Bleeding heart

 

Favourite vines:

  • Sweet peas
  • Clematis
  • Hyacinth beans

 

Everyone agreed getting cockscomb celosia to germinate and thrive as transplants is much more difficult than the plumed version.  No one had any brilliant tricks for guaranteed success.

 

Early and late season flower ideas:

  • Flowering shrubs
  • Fruit trees
  • Dogwood
  • Pussy willows
  • Flowering Kale
  • Winter greenery, woody branches

 

Favourite Seed Sources:

  • Geo Seeds
  • Swallowtail Seeds
  • William Dam
  • Vesey’s
  • Johnny’s
  • Since the flower industry focused seed houses only have large volumes of each variety, we should work together to pool orders.  Can be hard to be a small grower.

 

Raker’s Truck plug orders:

  • Also mostly in large volumes, makes sense to pool orders, but wholesale prices are very low, even after importing from USA.
  • Easier to go through a broker
  • Has huge variety

 

Business Growing Ideas:

  • On farm event on how to arrange flowers, would pay for flowers (possibly pick-your-own) and the instruction time
  • Theresa sometimes hosts Herbal Tea events, has many herb beds, people go pick things to try out the flavours as a tea, just need a tent, hot water and lots of tea pots
  • Workshop educating potential DIY brides about how to do your own wedding flowers
  • Growing starts or a few specialty flowers to sell to other flower growers who do more arranging work
  • Connecting with wedding planners to get more bridal customers
  • Propagating perennials to sell to other growers and the public (perennials need dividing every few years anyway so it’s a good way to make money out of a task that needs to happen anyway)

 

We talked about the growth of the local flower movement, Slow Flowers in the USA, and educating customers.  Flowers are slowly following in the broad awareness of local food.

 

Best foraged material ideas:

  • Goldenrod (buds, still green, before flowers open)
  • Milkweed pods
  • Pinecones and tamarack branches with cones on them
  • Spindle bush
  • Burning bush seed pods

 

Mistakes and learning experiences:

  • Spacing, getting the right spacing for the size of flowers you want to produce, and so plants can support each other
  • Staking musts: Bells of Ireland, dahlias, delphiniums, foxgloves (sometimes), peonies.  Need to account for the wind at your location

 

Transport and display strategies:

  • Tall straight sided buckets for transporting in car or van best.  Or if flowers are chilled dry packing in flower boxes (best for those with shorter cars)
  • Places to find display buckets; garage sales, thrift stores, dollar stores, flower supply warehouses

 

We think more flowers are sold at the end of the week, before the weekend, than earlier in the week.  People want them for entertaining on the weekend, or to take to the cottage in the summer.  Might get better sales with a later week market, or having a roadside stand filled at the end of the week.
We all hope for more flower-focused events from the EFAO in the future!

Questions and Answers Regarding National Standards for Organic Agriculture

This entry was posted in Issues, Member News and tagged on by .

The link below contains proposed answers to questions, raised by organic stakeholders, regarding the National Standards for Organic Agriculture. The proposed responses are subject to a 30 day comment period. All comments regarding these answers should be sent to OPR.RPB@inspection.gc.ca

Questions and Answers Regarding National Standards for Organic Agriculture

NEW COMMENT PERIOD – March 7 to April 7 2016

 

 

 

KTM Summary: Small Scale Vegetable Growers Exchange

This entry was posted in Events, Member News and tagged , , on by .

Summary by EFAO Member Rashel Tremblay

Radishes-lines-up.-jpgOn February 15th, nine people gathered for a potluck and an informal idea exchange. One member drove over 3 hrs to attend! We came up with a large list of topics to talk about and the meeting could have gone on for several extra hours.

With the mix of beginner and seasoned farmers in attendance it was a great discussion and everyone left having learned lots of new information. Some of the topics we covered were: CSA start-up questions; the best veggies to grow for a CSA or for a market; studying and learning more about one’s own unique market needs and wants; the importance of adding fruits and berries to a CSA mix; permaculture methods to help with various soil conditions; invaluable farm tools and “best practices” for harvesting veggies such as beans; variety details and best growing practices for crops such as corn (especially when done organically), spinach, beans, lettuce (head vs leaf; washing + drying), tomatoes (heirloom vs hybrid; greenhouse vs field), and peppers; the pros and cons of growing lesser known crops such as Asian vegetables and strategies for introducing these to the public; the proson  buying in certain crops, like potatoes, vs growing them yourself; overwintering and season extension; pollinators, especially native ones, and how to attract them.

Interested in hosting a similar kitchen table meeting in your area? Contact naomi@efao.ca for more details.

Tools and Design for the Market Garden

This entry was posted in Member News, Uncategorized and tagged , , on by .

Tools and Design for the Market Garden

Summary bstock-exchangey EFAO Board Member Denis Heraud

 

Having only started our farm operation in 2015, I thought this workshop came at an ideal time when I am currently building and planning to build tools to improve my own efficiency. The inspiration contained within was a courtesy of Ken Laing (of Orchard Hill Farm) and Jeff Boesch (of Cedar Down Farm), with both presenters sharing some of their custom tool building that aims to increase efficiency on their respective farms.

Jeff seems to be operating a farm very similar to our own, only greater in size and scope. He talked about his bed maker and row marker (very interesting as we also work with permanent beds, however we do not have a bed maker/marker at the moment). His design is simple and cost effective, though I personally wondered why he used a steel plate as a level instead of a cage roller (or similar roller), which I think would be lighter in weight and better at breaking soil clumps. Regardless, we were certainly inspired by this design, especially the row markers he built on a set of spring at the back of the implement. We also recently built a row cover and drip tape spooler that borrows ideas both from Jeff’s and Ken’s designs which works rather well. Speaking of the latter, his low cost hoop house design was interesting with its roll-up door that allows for easy ventilation of the structure. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference, such as how Ken welded small metal hooks onto his caterpillar tunnel’s posts to hook the rope onto, or the hooks that hold up the plastic cover to aerate the tunnel (an idea he himself borrowed from another farmer). However, Ken’s best work lies in his custom built horse-drawn implements that are so well thought out as to think they were commercially made. Some of the tools he uses are built from scratch, some are existing implements that he modified to fit his production system and equipment. One could say he has taken the plunge in terms of no-till soil management as he has already created or modified several implements in the last couple of years in order to reduce the amount of tillage that he typically would rely on. There are countless examples on Ken’s farm of ingenious contraptions that were built from scratch or subtle modifications to pre-existing implements that have greatly increased their efficiency.
Choosing Ken and Jeff as presenters was an interesting choice as the former could be considered a well-seasoned farmer (with over 30 years experience) and the latter as a younger farmer (with about 10 years of experience). Their approach to farming may be different, but the resourcefulness that farming requires reveals a kind of universal truth. Both use limited means and materials to solve a problem that is specific to their own production system, giving birth to ideas and corner-of-the-table sketches that, at the end of the day, they find their farm could not live without. This is perhaps best exemplified by Ken’s simple but effective wheel stirrup hoe, created 30 years ago with some wood and metal, and still used in his fields to this day.

Show Me the Money: A Conversation with Lenders

This entry was posted in Member News and tagged , , on by .

Show Me The Money: A Conversation with Money Lenders

In this session questions were posed to money lenders that provided on the spot answers. The session was chaired by the Founder and Executive Director of FarmStart, Christie Young. The money lenders also offered a 5 minute presentation each on the lending products that their organization offers. Here is a summary of that presentation:

Options for farmers with experience:

Scotiabank offers three products: Scotia Flex for agriculture, Scotia Farm Legacy, and OFA partnerships. The also promise the services of a small business advisor who has farm experience. The Flex line of credit services offers credit for a mortgage, equipment purchase, credit line and credit card. However for a new farmer the requirement of a minimum of two years of experience in farming can prove to be a barrier. There is the option to get over this barrier through finding a co-borrower with farming experience that can provide the bank with the assurance that the new farmer has the support and advice needed to be successful.

Scotiabank also offers bonus rates and discounts on agricultural accounts through a OFA (Ontairo Federation of Agriculture) partnership. There are GIC bonus rates, a 15% discount on account plans for agriculture, 0.25% interest rate reduction on farm credit products and reduced legal appraisal costs.

Libro offers farmer services in current accounts, farm mortgages and lines of credit/term loans. What comes with all of these services is the local management of your account, financial advice, local decision making and a fast turnaround on loan decisions. With their commitment to building south western Ontario communities they offer not-for-profit community accounts without monthly fees. They also boast further investment in the community through a Prosperity Fund, Student Awards, and a youth leadership camp (CYL) plus sponsorship and donation programs.

Options for retiring farmers:

Scotiabank’s Farm Legacy Program offers successional planning for retiring farmers to pass a business onto new farmers. The program mostly deals in family wealth management needs. The Scotiabank advisor will assess the financial situation and develop personalized recommendations and present solutions to the farmers. After this the advisor will assist with the implementation of this strategy.

Options for new and young farmers:

FCC offers a young farmer loan for producers under 40. The FCC boasts their lending strategy is in developing strong partnerships with clients that lends eventually to long term success. Clients are judged on character, capacity, commitment, conditions and collateral. A strong credit score and a well-developed business plan can help you purchase up to $500,000 in farm assets.

Farm Credit Canada (FCC) has a farmer Transition Loan that allows new farmers to purchase an existing farm and build equity fast. Through managed cash flow the new farmer pays off a fraction of the total loan each year making payments easier. For example through the program if a 500,000$ farm is purchased the current landowner will receive $100,000/year and the new farmer pays for a loan of only $100,000 for the first year. The loan will increase $100,000 each year as the current owner is paid out. Sellers must be willing to agree to the arrangement and are guaranteed by the FCC to eventually receive the full amount.

Scotiabank also offers a mortgage with a 5% down payment and up to 80% financing. You eventually have to make up the 20% over the years to the current farm owner.

Q and A:

Why is it that someone can receive a mortgage for a recreational property but someone applying for a mortgage to develop a farm on the same property is rejected?

Libro – credit union would consider the application but the applicant would need an excellent credit rating, some cash flow and a business plan that includes off farm income that is sufficient to pay the loan.

FCC – would also consider the loan if you have demonstrated that your cash flow is sufficient to make payments. Unfortunately southern Ontario land is often over valued because of its location which makes it hard to produce a business plan sufficient to pay off these loans through farming alone.

What makes a strong business plan?

A basic business plan should include your assets and liabilities, your projected cash flow and a great communication piece (description of your plan).

At FCC clients are judged on character, capacity, commitment, conditions and collateral. This can all come out through your first meeting and business plan. Capacity can be shown through the clients pre-existing knowledge of farming and the ability to pay back the loan. They are also judged by how realistic their business plan is presenting realistic numbers providing a business projection with optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic numbers. Commitment for every $1 in debt you have you should have $1 net worth debt = equity. You should also show through a thoroughly prepared business plan to prove your investment in success. Conditions refers to marketplace conditions. The FCC likes to make sure that you are viable in today’s markets, not future markets. They would also like to see proof of how you will solve your crop failure problems. Collateral means that for every loan there must be security. For a land loan this can equal land security for equipment loans this can be equipment security. Loans for seeds etc. can be hard to acquire because there is no security in this type of loan.

A safe investment for the bank (i.e. a loan likely to be approved) would show that the ratio of debt:net worth = 1.5. Additionally banks would like to see that the ratio of income available:debt payments = 2.5 (5% of your available credit cards and line of credit is considered debt and is included in your debt)

 

OMFARA doesn’t have metrics for unique crops, what can farmers do to make money lenders understand?

Libro – is always willing to listen be taught these metrics

FCC – learns about the industry all the time and if you present a good plan and teach the lender about the business they are open to it. However they need to feel assured that you are viable in today’s market.

There are new opportunities in peer to peer crowd sourcing platforms to launch a business.

Capacity can be shown through the clients pre-existing knowledge of farming and the ability to pay back the loan. They are also judged by how realistic their business plan is presenting realistic numbers providing a business projection with optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic numbers.

Commitment for every $1 in debt you have you should have $1 net worth debt = equity. You should also show through a thoroughly prepared business plan to prove your investment in success.

Conditions refers to marketplace conditions. The FCC likes to make sure that you are viable in today’s markets, not future markets. They would also like to see proof of how you will solve your crop failure problems.

Collateral means that for every loan there must be security. For a land loan this can equal land security for equipment loans this can equal equipment security. Loans for seeds etc. can be hard to acquire because there is no security in this type of loan.

Summary by EFAO member Skye Vandenberg

Conference Sneak Peek: Spotlight on Natalie Lounsbury, researcher, cover crops and no-till vegetable production

This entry was posted in Events, Member News and tagged , , on by .

natalie-212x201Natalie Lounsbury is the extension coordinator for a University of Maryland project on Low-Residue Winterkilled Cover Crops for No-till Vegetable Production.

She researched this system for her M.S. and is currently is continuing research and outreach from her family’s farm in (much colder) Maine. Prior to graduate school, she worked as an organic inspector and a vegetable farm manager.

You can keep up with her work at www.notillveggies.org.

Why do you want to join us Orillia?
I have been working for the past few years in Maryland and most of my work with farmers has been in the mid-Atlantic, but I’m excited to take my research on no-till vegetables and cover crops farther north!  

What can attendees expect to learn/take away from your workshop?
Some people have dubbed me “the radish lady” because I end up talking a lot about the primary cover crop we’ve used in our research: forage radish. Attendees will learn a lot about forage radish. But I also hope to present information that will help people start to think about tillage differently and how we can get cover crops to do some of the work for us in farming systems.

What do you enjoy/love about your work/research?
I love sharing a tool with farmers that really works and shows measurable advantages. I also just really love cover crops.

Are there any other fun or interesting facts or a story about your work that you’d like to share?
Even though forage radish is a cover crop, it is delicious and can be prepared many ways. In fact, I like it better than the cash crops like spinach that we work so hard to grow.

Natalie’s workshop:

December 6, 2014: No-till Vegetables: Harnessing the Power of Cover Crops
8:30 am – 10:00 am
Vegetable production generally involves numerous tillage events each season both for weed control and soil conditioning, but tillage has detrimental effects on soil quality. In some cases, cover crops can eliminate the need for tillage prior to vegetable seeding or transplanting. This workshop will give an introduction to both high-residue winter-hardy and low-residue winterkilled cover crops that can facilitate no-till production without herbicides. More detailed results and information on using forage radish as a cover crop prior to early spring vegetables will be presented. Topics of discussion will include: equipment, nutrient cycling, cover crop establishment, and soil quality.

Don’t miss the ecological conference of the year!
To learn more about Natalie, the other presenters and workshops, and to register,
visit https://conference.efao.ca/.

Celebrating 35 years of Learning, Farming and Sharing!

Conference Sneak Peek: Spotlight on Abe Collins, grazier & keynote speaker

This entry was posted in Events, Member News and tagged , on by .

abe-212x159Abe Collins is a Vermont-based grazier, educator and consultant with a passion for topsoil formation and farmer leadership in achieving grassland productivity and environmental security. He has milked cows, herded sheep, and finished beef cattle. Abe’s company Collins Grazing focuses on new topsoil outcomes for producers and communities. This is accomplished via farm design and construction, accelerated gains in soil, and grass, livestock, farm, and watershed environmental monitoring. Abe is the co-founder and a board member of the Soil Carbon Coalition, a board member of the Grassfed Exchange, and the Chair of the Soil and Water Task Force of the Vermont Farm to Plate Initiative. He has helped clients on ranches and farms in the US, Canada, Mexico and Australia to grow more and better grasslands, improve topsoil health, design scientific research initiatives, design and build farm infrastructure and deploy advanced soil and environmental monitoring technologies. In his presentations, Abe offers clear windows into grazing management, topsoil creation, environmental monitoring and modelling technologies and the environmental security benefits of management for topsoil formation.

Why do you want to join us in Orillia?
The question of how to grow food, topsoil and water security at the same time has been the primary one in my life.  Graziers and farmers are the people who can do this, and our skillset for achieving a deep topsoil future is growing as our community experiments, learns and shares information.  Embracing our expanding job description and honing the skillsets needed to grow food, topsoil and water security is a significant shift that can bring new opportunities for our children and our communities.  Every grazier and farmer I’ve worked and visited with has taught me, and I aim to learn more and share what lessons have stuck at the Orillia gathering.

What can attendees expect to learn/take away from your workshops?
The needs of human nutrition, livestock, soil organisms, plants, watersheds and farm businesses are shared ones. We’ll drill into practical grazing and cropping management that yields meat, milk and crops while also growing the soil aggregates that infiltrate and purify precipitation.  Good grazing management, grazing and cropping integration and Keyline soil formation and landscape design will be our focuses.  We’ll also touch on opportunities for accelerating our learning as land managers, for tracking and quantifying our progress via environmental monitoring technologies and policy examples and suggestions that can help us to gain ground.

What do you love about your work/research?
I love everything about working with people who are fully engaged with each other and with soil, water, grasslands, croplands and livestock to grow great food and environmental health.  I’m continually impressed by the commitment, creativity and passion that farmers have for making their landscapes and businesses work to their full potential.

Are there any other fun or interesting facts about your work that you’d like to share?
I believe pure water and flooding regulation are some of the most important crops that we can grow.  That is to say, growing clean and regulated water at the watershed scale by growing topsoil on our farms is a prominent opportunity before us that we should work to reliably produce and profit from.  Society needs what we can offer like never before.    New technologies and methods for monitoring soil, water, weather, biodiversity and agricultural yield — relative to our land management — are key to increasing our ability to manage for topsoil formation and to providing a performance basis for payment for watershed services.

Besides being our Keynote Speaker in a presentation called “Growing Clean Water: Managing For a Deep Topsoil Future” (Friday December 5 from 10:30 – 11:30 am) Abe is facilitating the following workshops:

December 5, 2014: Curious Grazing 
8:30 am – 10:00 am
In this workshop Abe starts with the assumption that “by attending to the needs of plants and soil organisms we can achieve improved livestock performance, per-acre production and continual improvement of soil health.” Abe will review the basics of plant physiology and soil ecology and how we can meet the needs of forages and soil organisms. He will share grazing, cropping, and soil treatments that producers around the world are working with in their whole-farm systems and succeeding with, including cocktail cover-cropping and mob grazing.

December 5, 2014: Keyline Design and Water Management 
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Keyline Farming is a whole-system approach to accelerated topsoil formation and broad scale farm design and management developed in Australia beginning in the 1940s by the late P.A. Yeomans and family. Yeomans’ innovations yielded conversion of infertile subsoil to topsoil within a matter of years via sequenced subsoiling and grazing management. His development of the Keyline Scale of Permanence included logical water-harvesting systems that stored water first in soils and then in large, linked dams that served as irrigation for dry times. This workshop will outline the Keyline soil improvement process and Keyline landscape design. Abe will cover Keyline through the outline of the “Keyline Scale of Permanence,” including the specifics of Keyline landscape design, earthworks management and soil improvement, with illustrations from his experience.

 Don’t miss the ecological conference of the year!
To learn more about Abe, the other presenters and workshops, and to register,
visit https://conference.efao.ca/.

Celebrating 35 years of Learning, Farming and Sharing!