Funding sought to send four district farmers to conference

Rainy River Federation of Agriculture president Trish Neilson approached the Rural Economic Development Committee of the Rainy River Future Development Corp. last Thursday night to ask for funding to send four local farmers to a conference in London, Ont. next month.
And the REDC recommended to the Local Initiatives Committee that the funding be approved, which is scheduled to be determined at the RRFDC board’s next meeting Jan. 17.
“They’ve always been extremely supportive towards us,” Neilson said, citing how the RRFDC agreed to pay the wages of local agriculture intern Eric Busch when his internship was extended.
“[The conference] is about innovative farming and putting more dollars in our farmers’ hands,” Neilson said. “We’re just starting to get our legs and talk innovatively, and we’re going to have to go up the marketing ladder to find niche markets.”
The Feb. 21-22 conference, entitled “Diversification and Management for Profit,” will focus on several topics—many of which Neilson said will benefit the district’s farming economy.
Some talks include “Alternate sources of energy on the farm,” “New tools and new rules for success in an emerging marketplace,” and “Farm opportunities in Northern Ontario.”
Neilson said about $5,000 is needed to send four people to the conference.
“This is a really exciting time,” she enthused. “Local farmers are starting to work together. The enthusiasm and research are growing.
“We’re going to learn to invest so we get something in return,” she added.
Neilson said she has a few people in mind regarding who the four local participants will be—one being Busch, who already has been approached about the opportunity.
“He would be really capable of articulating what went on and would be prepared to go to meetings and spread the word,” she indicated.
And Busch said he is excited to participate.
“It should be cutting-edge,” he remarked. “The mandate is innovation and innovation is needed for every farm to survive.”
If the RRFA gets the needed funding, Neilson said they will be looking for others—both young and old—to join Busch at the conference. She said she’d especially like to see more young people get involved in activities such as this.
“Young people care about the environment and look at it as a treasure,” Neilson stressed, noting input and ideas from the younger community is always welcome.
In fact, Busch is considered one of the younger people within the district’s agriculture community—and has been conducting research recently for the RRFA.
“I’m providing information about companies who are marketing niche markets or co-op alliances,” he noted. “Some are growing and have huge demand.”
Busch is looking into marketing cows, hogs, greenhouse products, and vegetables outside the district in a way that will make consumers want the products.
“Organic is the furthest extreme,” he noted. “But there are also others, including pasture-finished beef for example.”
Busch said alliance marketing would make the farmers price makers, instead of price takers. “Niche markets give farmers the power to set their own prices, which is quite important,” he stressed.
These were some of the ideas discussed by the RRFA as part of its 2005 strategic planning process, which was completed in September.
“Back then, it was difficult to see it in the process,” Neilson admitted. “But now things are starting to happen and come together.”
The three pillars of the agricultural framework that were established include:
•the introduction and support of alternative crops or products;
•the necessary measures to add value to products; and
•a better communication within the agriculture community.
“It’s nice to see everyone wanting to work together,” Neilson added. “We need to do what we can to make farming more profitable here.”

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