Tag Archives: onfarmresearch

Media Release! EFAO Recognizes Grant from Ontario Trillium Foundation for Farmer-led Research

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On Monday, June 26, 2017, Heather Coffey of Fiddlehead Farm on behalf of Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO), welcomed members of the public to a farm tour and plaque presentation to mark the growth of Ontario’s first Farmer-led Research Program. Local MPP Todd Smith and OTF Grant Review Team member Nancy Parks were on hand to congratulate the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario and the farmer-researchers conducting research trials this summer, and to hear more about how farmer-led research is a powerful decision-making tool that helps farmers innovate in the area of ecological agriculture.

“I am pleased to see this Ontario Trillium Foundation Grow grant go to such a worthy recipient,” said Todd Smith, MPP for Prince Edward – Hastings. “This farmer-led research project will bring vital information to Ontario farmers, for them to learn and share with one another and create an environment that is both economical and environmentally friendly. Congratulations to the EFAO on this successful application.”

Thanks to the $362,000 Grow Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Farmer-led Research Program is supporting Ontario farmers to conduct research trials that address their challenges and fit their farm and equipment. In addition, the program hosts webinars, supports farmer-to-farmer information sharing at field days and workshops and a publicly available online database of farmers’ knowledge (efao.ca/research-library).

“This grant has allowed us to grow farmer-led research in Ontario. The program is about cultivating a culture of science and curiosity that supports farmers to innovate on their farms”, said Heather Coffey, Eastern Ontario Research Coordinator of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario.

EFAO’s Farmer-led Research Program is committed to supporting farmers to generate and share evidence-based information about ecological farming practices and archiving farmer knowledge specific to Ontario. Visit EFAO’s website for more information on how you can join or support farmer-led research efforts in Ontario (efao.ca).

An agency of the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is one of Canada’s largest granting foundations. With a budget of over $136 million, OTF awards grants to some 1,000 projects every year to build healthy and vibrant Ontario communities. www.otf.ca.

Photo caption: Participants learned about farmer-led research at a field day hosted by Heather Coffey and Steve Laing of Fiddlehead Farm. MPP Todd Smith and Ontario Trillium Foundation volunteer Nancy Parks were also in attendance to help the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario recognize funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to expand farmer-led across the province. (Left to right): Ayla Fenton (Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario), Heather Coffey (farmer-researcher and Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario), Nancy Parks (Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant Review Team member), and MPP Todd Smith (Prince Edward – Hastings)

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Hargreaves, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario 226-582-0626 (cell), sarah@efao.ca

Is bird-friendly grazing ‘for the birds’?

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Rotational grazing is generally considered ecologically beneficial because of its potential to build soil and maintain diverse and robust plant communities. Grass-based farming (i.e. pastures for grazing and haying), however, can come in conflict with the ecology of other organisms such as grassland birds.

Some have suggested that refuges – areas that aren’t grazed by cattle during the nesting season – may help reconcile the use of these ecosystems by cattle and grassland birds including the threatened bobolink.

A Bobolink nest built on the ground in a cattle pasture. Photo: Gerald Morris, BECO

A Bobolink nest built on the ground in a cattle pasture. Photo: Gerald Morris, BECO

To assess whether strategically placed bobolink refuges can have meaningful impact on conservation efforts for this species, Bird Ecology and Conservation Ontario (BECO), a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of birds in Ontario through the use of ecological research, is teaming up with the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) on a 2-year study in the Ottawa Valley. The project is funded by the Government of Canada through the Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands initiative.

Starting in May 2016, wildlife biologists with BECO worked with 5 farmers on 8 pastures that are each rotationally grazed by 1 herd of beef cattle (herd sizes vary, as do stocking density, rest period, etc.). Across the 2-year study, each pasture has 1 year of treatment, when ~2 hectares remains un-grazed during the bobolink breeding season (mid-May to mid-July) to provide refuge habitat, and 1 year of control, when all paddocks are grazed during the nesting period. When possible, the order of refuge treatment vs. control was randomly assigned.

 

Grassland Bird Field Assistant with BECO, watches for signs of Bobolink nesting activity. Photo credit: Andrew Campomizzi, BECO

Grassland Bird Field Assistant with BECO watches for signs of Bobolink nesting activity. Photo credit: Andrew Campomizzi, BECO

In May, June and July, the BECO crew located and monitored breeding success in nearly 90 bobolink territories. In these territories, they found and monitored 32 nests, of which 15 fledged young while the others were predated or destroyed by cattle trampling. After year 2, they will compare the proportion of bobolink that fledged young in each pasture under treatment and control.

The conservation implications of this study are important and complex. If refuges are effective at supporting bobolink conservation in pastures, what does this mean for grass-based farmers who may already feel the burden of conservation efforts in an agricultural landscape composed primarily of monocultures and field crops? If refuges don’t improve bobolink reproductive success, then what does the future hold for this charismatic grassland species?

EFAO is hosting an Information Session about the new Farmer-led Research Program

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“What are you going to research?” is a question I get a lot these days. “I don’t know!” I reply enthusiastically, to an often-puzzled look.

Really, the question needs to be posed to EFAO farmers: “What are you going to research?”

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The heart of our new Research Program is highlighted in its title: Farmer-led. It’s about giving EFAO farmers support, resources and compensation to investigate reliable on-farm answers and solutions. This means helping you

  • Find the root of your question or challenge
  • Design, conduct and analyze trials that fit your farm
  • Share discoveries freely with other farmers

In this way, the Information Session should really be called an Information & Brainstorming Session.

Research is a flexible and powerful tool for evaluating new methods, varieties and enterprises, and tweaks to current practices, so the Session will review its “instruction manual” – that is, the What? Why? And How’s of on-farm research.

But we will also spend a lot of time generating and sharing research ideas and questions.

  • What are you curious about?
  • What questions do you need answered to become a more profitable, resilient and ecological farmer?
  • What synergies and commonalities exist among members’ questions?
  • What training do you need to feel confident to conduct your own investigations?

Please join us at the Information Session! We want to hear from you!

Jan 31: Farmer-led Research Program Information (& Brainstorming) Session

9am-12pm

50 Stone Road E, University of Guelph, University Centre, Room 334

Free, just pre-register here!

Contact: Sarah Hargreaves, sarah@efao.ca

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