‘Ag Days’ well attended

Organizers had to compete with sunny skies Friday but “Ag Days” at the Barwick Hall was well attended this year.
“We had over 100 people at the banquet,” said Shirley Morrish. “It was a feast and we had a good evening of visiting. The speakers were outstanding.”
At the banquet, Linda Armstrong presented the Bill Gibson Award to Rainy River residents Archie and Eleanor Wiersema for their outstanding contributions to the district’s agricultural community.
The award is given by the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture to an individual or group who has demonstrated outstanding service in their community as a volunteer.
Workshop speakers over the two-day event included Gordon Scheifele, research co-ordinator for the University of Guelph, who talked about research updates and new crop market developments.
There have been delays and difficulties getting industrial hemp into production but there has been a lot of activity in Canada, he noted.
“The Asian market’s huge,” he remarked.
Switch grass—a native prairie grass—is in its second year of a Dryden soil and crop project. The grass is processed and used as a substitute for wood pellets and, as an annual renewable resource, it can grown on marginal land.
Meanwhile, the hybrid poplar project taking place at the Emo Research Station “needs lots of moisture,” Scheifele said.
“They need to be cultivated and kept weed-free,” he stressed, adding the crop will be able to produce hardwood fibre for the lumber industry.
Other topics Scheifele touched upon were special cereal crops like malting barley, milling oats, organic buckwheat production, chick peas, soybeans, and special Omega-3 flax.
“The Omega-3 variety trials and feeding trials at New Liskeard will have an impact on cattle health and feed rations,” he said, adding flax already is being used to feed chicken and pigs.
Fred Tait, who said he’s been called the “evangelist of the woodpile,” spoke about woodlot management.
About 10 years ago, Tait bought a used sawmill. He said he looked at the community’s demands, its agriculture structure, and decided he could compete in the market selling green ash, poplar, and oak lumber, and some local spruce.
“Green ash is a lucrative lumber,” he said. “It’s in great demand for cabinets.”
Tait modified a farm tractor to pick up logs, and quickly learned through trial and error that he’d need a kiln to dry the lumber. He tried to dry some poplar in the small building he’d built for his hot water heater but it got so wet, it rotted the gyproc.
Meanwhile, forage specialist Don Green told the audience how to make the most of their pasture resources through grazing systems, renovating, and clearing land.
Increasing pasture production is necessary because livestock numbers are increasing, there has been a move toward extended grazing and crop diversification, and there’s been limited access to other land.
Dairy management specialist Tom Droppo spoke on how to manage dairy replacements from birth to calving. He explained the factors affecting colostrum quality, the quantity, timing, and method of feedings, post-calving care, and liquid feeding in cold temperatures.
As well, there was a panel discussion on leasing land for hunting. Chapple Coun. Rick Neilson moderated the discussion between outfitter Cecil Ogden, land leasers Colin Neilson and Bernie Zimmerman, NWOTA president Tom Pearson, and NWOTA member Randy Hanson.
The discussion dealt with the possibilities existing for leasing land. Ogden, from the Border Country Outfitters, started leasing land from farmers about two years ago.
He began with white tails and then expanded to grouse. He has pheasant licences and possibly will expand to turkeys. Eco-tourism also is a possibility.
Colin Neilson and his wife, Trish, are landowners who began leasing mainly to combat the trespassing problems they were experiencing. The leasor now helps patrol the bush.
Zimmerman’s property north of Emo is leased for waterfowl hunting—goose in early September and duck in early fall.
Also over the weekend, Geoff Gillon and Angela Halvorsen presented the Rainy River Future Development Corp.’s new video on the district to promote tourism.
“In our strategic plan, agriculture numbers highly in it,” Gillon said of the RRFDC’s community-based strategic planning.
The new video was produced in anticipation of the World Health Organization conference coming to the district next month. One thousand copies of the video currently are available.
Finally, winners of the seed fair were:
•Cereal grain—1. Elvin Taylor 2. Bernie Zimmerman;
•First-cut Hay—1. Ross Stafford 2. Wayne Flatt; and
•Second-cut grass/hay—1. Bernie Zimmerman 2. Wayne Flatt