Local delegates enthused by innovative ag conference

Four district residents returned home from London, Ont. last week with their heads reeling with innovative ideas from the “Diversification and Management for Profit” conference they attended.
Eric Busch, an agriculture intern in the district, was one of the participants, along with Greg Stahn, David Loewen, and David Nussbaumer.
“Each of us were there for different reasons and I’m sure everyone got something out of it,” noted Busch.
He said there was a really neat speaker—Brent VanKoughnet from Winnipeg—who spoke about new and innovative ideas in agriculture.
VanKoughnet is the owner/manager of Agri Skills Inc., a company that specializes in agricultural innovation and human resource development services.
“It really re-affirmed my previous hunches about the added value end of things,” Busch remarked, noting VanKoughnet brought the business aspect to farming.
“Of course, farmers are businessmen,” he added. “But Brent spoke about the skills helpful in thinking outside the box.”
Busch said the speaker got the participants thinking about farming in the years to come.
“In order to survive in the future, farmers have to be more independent adventurers staying away from commodity markets,” he remarked.
He also said they learned about making strong relationships and how it is important to keep thinking ahead of your neighbour.
“It’s about capturing opportunities no one else has captured,” he stressed.
“We play it safe here in the Rainy River District. We do what we’re comfortable with, but we need to expand our thinking and not be afraid to fail,” agreed Nussbaumer, who, as a high school student, was the youngest of the four local delegates.
Nussbaumer said there was a lot of information provided at the conference which could be put to use here. For instance, he suggested the abattoir, and possibly a feedlot operation, would help establish a new market in the district.
Loewen, who owns a greenhouse business in Stratton, agreed VanKoughnet’s presentation was very informative.
“He spoke about what innovation is,” he noted. “How we have to be daring and look beyond our current problems.”
He said he could apply this information to his own business by thinking about a different way to operate, a special service to offer, or something unique to grow.
“I learned that being in an isolated area doesn’t have to be a negative thing,” Loewen stressed. “Some crops are needed here that a market could be created for.”
While most of the delegates at the conference were from southern Ontario where farming is quite different, Loewen said some showed genuine interest in what is being done in Northwestern Ontario.
“I did get to talk to a lot of people and share ideas,” he added.
Nussbaumer said he felt encouraged by the challenging ideas presented at the conference.
“I see a lot of hope in farming in the future,” he remarked. “If you have the determination, you can go far. You just have to take risks and step out of your comfort zone.
“These things will be good to invest in for young people, who are the future of the district,” he stressed.