By Wendy Ell -
On December 6-7 in Lethbridge, Alberta farmers, researchers, consultants and ag specialists came together at the Farming Smarter Conference to discuss new market opportunities, branding, industry trends, research findings, innovative practices and on-farm management.
Farming Smarter is the newly formed association and amalgamation of efforts between the Southern Alberta Conservation Association (SACA) and the Southern Applied Research Association (SARA). The new association has committed to continuing on with fall ag conferences in the Alberta areas of Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. The organization plans to soon launch a new website, rich with resource materials and industry information. Their current website outlines their key directives and projects. Look for their new site, set to launch in January of 2012.
This year’s conference discussions included such things as: 2012 grain opportunities and challenges, new commodity markets to watch, recycling on the farm, how best to manage community diseases like the wheat streak mosaic virus and stripe rust (expected to hit Alberta in the spring), good stewardship practices and neighborly actions, the hydrologic response that is showing up from wetlands drainage in Canada, whether the abolition of the Canadian Wheat Board structure will truly bring marketing freedom, and how to use the various social media platforms to your advantage to better build your business. A lot of great discussion!!
Kevin Hursh, writer and ag consultant extraordinaire from Saskatchewan provided a nice statistical look at Canadian Agriculture and did a great job of identifying future opportunities for Alberta area farmers in the audience. He asked guests to take a close look at lentils, biodiesel grains like mustard and to start following along in the R&D process of canaryseed. Programs are currently in process to work with the canaryseed so that it can be made available for human consumption – and moreover, offer a healthy profile to consumers. Those looking for another gluten-free option might want to keep this on their radar. Possible canaryseed uses are sesame seed replacement, specialty starch, and vermicelli noodles.
Tom Droog, a passionate story-teller, gave guests a glimpse into the hurdles and hoops he encountered through the years as he developed his Spitz business into an empire worthy of purchase by one of North America’s most admired snack-food companies, PepsiCo.
Shaun Haney and Gary Chambers, social media participants with media/blog sites http://www.realagriculture.com/ and http://www.tractorview.com/ did a stand-up job of introducing and outlining the primary tools of social media to conference guests. I liked how they started off their presentation outlining the key differences between social media use/adoption (among the ag community) in Canada and the U.S. They explained how the platforms are being used for both animal and environmental activism as well as less intense information sharing about “what is happening on the farm” (marketing, issues, management practices, story sharing). It is successful social media users like Shaun and Gary (and AdFarm, for that matter) that help to shape the online ag discussion in a constructive, rewarding fashion. For those of you on Twitter, you may want to check out hashtag #Agchat, a weekly conversation for folks involved in the business of growing food, fuel, feed and fiber. Discussions take place every Tuesday, 8-10pm ET.
Thanks to Ken Coles and his team at Farming Smarter for a great conference. I look forward to the opportunity of listening in on the discussions again next year!