Free ag workshop brings in farmers, ranchers and landowners

Farmers, ranchers and landowners alike descended on the Ramada Inn on Thursday, March 24 to attend the County of Stettler's Promoting...

Farmers, ranchers and landowners alike descended on the Ramada Inn on Thursday, March 24 to attend the County of Stettler’s Promoting Possibilities – Land Stewardship workshop.

The free workshop, which was planned and organized by the counties of Stettler and Camrose, saw about 20 people attend between the two sessions, as one was held in Camrose the day prior to the Stettler workshop.

The two counties work on several projects together because not only do they border each other, but they also share several topographical features, such as Buffalo Lake.

The day started with a presentation about cows and fish by Norine Ambrose, followed by an agro-forestry presentation by Toso Bozic.

“These people really know their stuff,” Stettler County assistant agricultural director Ryan Hallett said in reference to the speakers. “We were lucky to have them.”

After a brief break, there were discussions about agriculture equipment specifically designed to help in the conservation of the environment on agricultural land, and a presentation by Tanya Rushcall about invasive aquatic species.

Quagga and zebra mussels are the major aquatic invasive species in Canada, with all provinces except Saskatchewan and Alberta showing signs of the invertebrates. Quick to multiply, the mussels literally coat the bottom of lakes and ponds and any other surface they can. In Ontario’s Great Lakes, where both types of mussels have been present for decades, colonies have grown so heavy on floating buoys that they’ve been sunk under the weight of mussels.

Last summer, Rushcall said approximately 20,000 boats were searched at checkstops, and in a few instances, mussels were found hitching a ride. Those boats came from Manitoba or Ontario, Hallett said. It only takes a few moments to inspect a boat and be sure there’s no mussels along for the ride.

After a lunch break, Nicole Kimmel spoke about invasive plants, and Mike Hittinger lectured on “growing forward,” an Alberta Agriculture and Forestry initiative that offers programs to help farmers and ranchers adopt new technology, information, and cost-sharing opportunities to better the agriculture industry.

Scott Meers spoke last, revealing that last year’s drier weather and the lacklustre winter has combined to provide a favourable crop pest forecast for 2016.

“He’s fantastic,” Hallett said. “He really knows his stuff, and we were lucky to get him for this.”

The day ended with an open forum where attendees were able to talk and ask questions.

While the Camrose workshop was better attended than the Stettler one, Hallett said that everyone who attended came away with a wide variety of knowledge in several different topics, and hopefully if the county holds a similar workshop in the future, it’ll grow in size.