District farm site of greencover project

PINEWOOD—The recent work at Amos Brielmann’s Pine River Ranch in Pinewood was more than just a bit of tree-planting—it was a $70,000 demonstration project aimed at protecting water quality, controlling erosion, and enhancing biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
The project was funded by the Greencover Canada Program, which is meant to “showcase farming practices that offer environmental and economic benefits to farmers.”
Pine River Ranch was selected as one of 10 sites in Ontario to receive the financial support.
“An [Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association] representative brought the opportunity to our attention,” noted local agriculture intern Eric Busch.
Using several of Brielmann’s previous environmental efforts, such as grassed waterways and solar-powered remote watering systems, Busch prepared and submitted an application back in December.
“I was so excited because this was the type of thing I want to do,” he remarked. “I even went to work on Sunday to write the proposal.”
Still, Busch said he didn’t get his hopes up about receiving the funding and so was ecstatic when he found out they had.
“I was really surprised. I was really thrilled,” echoed Brielmann. “It’s funny that they would award it to kind of a forgotten part of Ontario because usually they want to do these projects in highly-visible places where people will see it.”
Brielmann noted the previous owner of his land also planted trees about 15 years ago.
“He started taking some of the areas which were really prone to erosion and moved the fence up to the top of the hill and planted trees along there,” he explained.
“They’re 15 or 16 years old now, so somehow you can see what these will look like after 15 or 16 years,” he added. “Everything made sense to look at it that way.”
The Pine River Ranch demonstration project included the establishment of shelterbelts and riparian buffer zones, with two streams receiving an upgrade of their riparian zone establishment (2,200 m) and an additional 500 m of riparian zone being established to complement what already was in place.
As well, 2,500 m of shelterbelts were developed along two laneways, around the north side of farmstead buildings, and around a spring-fed pond.
The second part of the project involved establishing a riparian buffer zone along both sides of a waterway located in a cattle over-wintering site.
“It will improve the farm first visually,” Brielmann noted initially. “When the trees grow, it’s going to look nice. It’s going to be a mixture of different species.
“The other thing I’m mostly excited about is the riparian area along the creek.”
Brielmann added he hopes the work also will conserve a lot of energy and eventually will shelter the feedlot.
The Greencover Canada website explains trees and shrubs are a natural part of the agricultural landscape and that shelterbelts provide wind erosion control, snow trapping, micro climate enhancement, wildlife habitat, as well as aesthetic value.
“It’s extremely important to maintain clean water,” stressed Busch.
He and some helpers also have been continuing work on the grassed waterways, solar-powered remote watering systems, and fencing for livestock exclusion along streams, which go hand-in-hand with the demonstration project.
Each focuses on the same core purposes—clean water, reducing erosion and sediment loss, and preserving aquatic habitat.
Once Busch found out earlier this year that they had been awarded the funding, the hard work started. Colin Neilson from Timber Ridge Land and Forest Services was hired to assist.
“He took care of everything,” Busch acknowledged. “He was able to find our trees and find tree-planters.”
Groups of students from Rainy River High School and the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program helped out by planting and watering. Beginning in mid-May and working for about four weeks, almost 16,000 tress were planted.
Due to the dry conditions this spring, they had to start watering right away and Busch said it was difficult trying to round up enough kids to dump pails of water.
“Last year was so wet, we could have never predicted a dry, hot spring,” Busch added. “We had to do everything we could to get water on the trees.”
As in any demonstration project, Busch and Brielmann hope other farmers will learn from the work done at Pine River Ranch. They plan to conduct tours and have a firsthand information manual available.
“First, I hope other farmers look at creeks and riparian areas [the area between the creek and the top of the land] and say, ‘Is it worth keeping in production or should I donate the part of land back to nature?’” Brielmann explained.
“If they are not getting a lot of production out of it, they could plant trees, encourage wildlife, and discourage erosion.”
Busch would like to see those interested in making a change to their water quality to first fence off the stream and provide an alternate source of water.
“I hope to provide the information to farmers who want to do this kind of project,” he added, noting he’d like the manual to provide a firsthand account of the work—what they did, what worked, and what didn’t work.
“It will give people a chance to look at it and say I like that or I don’t like that,” echoed Brielmann, who went to Manitoba to look at projects there. “If you don’t have a place where you can look at it, you don’t know how they are.
“Take what works and copy it. What doesn’t work, we won’t do.”
Regardless of whether any others launch similar projects on their farms, the Pine River Ranch demonstration project was a big step for Rainy River District.
“It’s important for the farming community to realize we aren’t forgotten,” said Busch. “They [Greencover Canada] had many farms to choose from and it’s nice to see they were willing to develop here.
“It reinforces that people do know where we are.
“And it isn’t just a farm topic,” Busch added. “It is a topic of clean water and clean air—both of which affect everyone in the district.”
Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff even finds it hard not to get excited about potential from the funding and the project.
“I think all of this draws attention to the fact that there is significant agricultural business and the potential for significant agricultural research right here in the northwest, so it’s a double plus for us,” he enthused.
Boshcoff noted the Greencover Canada program was a Liberal program that has not been cut.
“I’m glad to see it continue because its value is very evident,” he noted. “People can take a great source of inspiration from what is being developed here in Rainy River District.”
“Environmental stewardship is critical for the industry’s long-term health and vitality,” federal Agriculture and Agri-Food minister Chuck Strahl said in a recent press release.
“By providing funding for on-farm environmental initiatives, Canada’s new government is supporting producers’ efforts to adopt practices that make economic sense and protect ecosystems.”
“Ontario’s farmers are stewards of the land and environment, and the McGuinty government is helping them continue that tradition,” noted Leona Dombrowsky, the provincial minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
“With this initiative, farmers can gain important hands-on experience with new technology. Farmers benefit and so does Ontario’s environment,” she added.
(Fort Frances Times)