Hops talk highlights ‘Ag Day’ agenda

Ken Kellar

With the bitter cold in the rear-view mirror and warming temperatures ahead, it feels like spring finally has arrived.
And with it comes a shift in priorities.
For many in the district, that shift has to do with the upcoming growing season and the pressures local farmers face to maximize their crop yields and profits.
For others, it might have more to do with that stubborn backyard garden that just doesn’t seem to want to grow anything.
Lisa Teeple hopes to have solutions and brand new ideas for both groups during this year’s “Ag Day,” which is set for Saturday, April 6 from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Chapple recreation centre in Barwick.
Teeple has organized the event for the last few years and stresses the day isn’t just for farmers.
“It’s also for the home gardener, people with large yards,” she remarked. “You don’t have to be someone with 50 cows.
“It’s open to anybody who’s interested in agriculture.”
The “not just for farmers” approach can be seen in the selection of guest speakers, one of which Teeple says will be of particular interest to anyone with a bit of land going spare.
“Some of the speakers that we have coming, the biggest that we’re really excited about is Prairie GEM Hops from Manitoba,” Teeple noted.
“They are coming to do a presentation on the introduction to growing hops.
“They’re going to be talking about how they got started growing hops, and the land base that is required, the amount of dollar investment, where she found her market, that sort of thing,” she explained.
Teeple noted the Emo Agricultural Research Station has been experimenting with growing hops on its land–and has had some success. The hop plant itself grows vertically, making them an attractive prospect to those who may not have a large portion of land to devote to a crop.
“It’s not something that you have to invest 300 acres or 500 acres in,” she said. “This is something that could be a niche market for a small producer.
“It is opening up agriculture to someone who never, ever thought that they could do anything like that because of their land base or where they live.”
On the brewing subject of local hops, Teeple said another of the speakers attending “Ag Day” this year has a vested interest in the possibility.
“We have Lake of the Woods Brewing Company coming to discuss how they are looking for local hops,” she remarked.
“How they have specific types that they would like people to grow, how their marketing is geared towards local, regional hops, and there is a market available.”
Several other speakers lined up for “Ag Day” include Agricorp, Sight & Sound, and both the Nor-West Animal Clinic and Kingsford Veterinary Services.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs also is scheduled to deliver a presentation on soil compaction.
But Teeple stressed there’s more to do during “Ag Day” than just listen to the speakers.
“We have quite a few trade show partners coming in,” she noted.
“It’s a free venue,” Teeple added. “You’re welcome to come to all the presentations, and mill around and talk to the trade show participants.”
Mazergroup, Precision Land Solutions, AgScape, and Emo Feed will be among those with a presence on the trade show floor.
In the past, “Ag Day” has been held at the Emo Legion. This year, a move to the Chapple rec centre and the help of some sponsors, including Emo Feed, Norlund Oil, and the Rainy River Future Development Corp., has kicked “Ag Day” into overdrive.
“The venue we were in [last year] was a smaller venue and we had a packed house, and it was great,” Teeple enthused.
“This year, it’s a bigger venue with more room to move around and see more trades people and more comfortable seating, and we really hope that we get a packed venue this year, too.”
Teeple hopes anyone with a professional interest, a green thumb, or who is just curious will attend “Ag Day” this year.
“Come out and see all your neighbours you haven’t seen all winter,” she urged.
Snacks and coffee will be provided, with lunch also available for $5.