Compared to most farmers I meet, I came into the world of agriculture much later in life. I grew up in Vancouver where there is not a lot of farming. It was rare even to find a backyard garden. Lucky for me, the area I grew up in had an abundance of wild berries and natural landscapes.
After I met my husband, Steve, I was immersed in a whole new world. In the beginning, I followed him around everywhere on the farm, drilling him for answers about everything he was doing. I learned everything from cattle-handling skills, to fence repair, to water-system builds and maintenance, to soil health, and more than I ever thought I would want to know about dung beetles and other bugs.
Part of following Steve around included attending conferences and seminars with him throughout the winter. This was a huge blessing because the amount of information available at these events was extensive. There were engaging speakers and the networking sessions gave me a chance to speak with a variety of producers with many different perspectives. I found something to learn from every person with whom I crossed paths.
Most conferences, seminars and speakers are hosted by local agricultural associations. Applied research associations, forage associations or other similar groups all have a hand in hosting speakers and conferences. They are at the front lines of bringing unity to the many producers across the country.
The best part is that these groups are generally unbiased. The agricultural associations are usually led by a volunteer board of directors. This board typically represents the broad range of producers and growers that I have met throughout my farming experience. Every one of these people have a say in how the agricultural association will be run.
One type of agricultural association I think is unique to the farming industry — the idea of applied research. These groups spend their time and funds each year testing new methods and products to deliver relevant information and unbiased research to producers.
Agriculture is different than many other business sectors in that what works in one location may not work in the next. What grows in the Westlock. Alta., region may not grow in the Drayton Valley, Alta., region. This is where applied research comes in handy. By producing the error part of trial and error, and sharing the information, these research associations save producers time and money.
I am so thankful to the many terrific groups that are in place across the country keeping producers informed. Without them, I would have spent a lot more time learning and would have made a lot more mistakes along the way.
If you are not part of your local agricultural association, today is a great day to get in touch with it.
Most groups host tours of their research plots and are happy to have producers come out and ask questions.
If you are unsure where to find your local agricultural association, the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta is a great resource and can be found at www.areca.ab.ca.
Amber Kenyon is a farm energy outreach officer with the Gateway Research Association.