Workshop to spotlight land stewardship

Peggy Revell

Farmers across the district are invited to come out and learn how farming and environmental stewardship can go hand-in-hand at a workshop next month being organized by the Rainy River District Stewardship Council.
“We hope that the workshop presents opportunities for mutual learning,” David May, the Ministry of Natural Resources’ stewardship co-ordinator, said about the workshop that will take place Saturday, March 5 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Emo Legion.
“Farmers will be encouraged to share their intimate knowledge of their land and how their skills may be applied to create solutions to environmental issues,” he noted.
Those attending the workshop will learn not only about what makes the district “special and rich with biodiversity,” said May, but also what programs—like Rainy River District Stewardship Council—exist that are interested in working with farmers on environmental stewardship.
Lined up as a keynote speaker for the workshop is award-winning beef farmer Brian Gilvesy, owner of Y U Ranch in Norfolk County, Ont., who will be speaking on “Redefining the Role of the Farmer in Environmental Wellness.”
Besides being a beef farmer, Gilvesy is chairman of the Norfolk County Alternative Land Use Services Pilot Project and co-chair of the Sustain Ontario Steering Committee, coalition for good food and farming.
“It seems to me we passed a threshold sometime recently where whatever we’ve been doing environmentally, as a society, to counteract the problems created by growth and our heavy ecological footprint has not been enough,” noted Gilvesy.
“The time has come to recognize that the farmers and ranchers of Canada must be considered key environmental solution providers if we wish to solve problems like wildlife habitat losses and species at risk,” he stressed.
Gilvesy noted this must include engaging the farm community and recognizing the skills farmers can bring to conservation.
“By merging the interests of the farmers with environmental interests, we can create ecological solutions beneficial to all the people of Ontario,” he reasoned.
For his work, Gilvesy was recognized in 2009 with the International Texas Longhorn Association Breeder of the Year award, was a recipient in 2008 of the Canadian Agri-Food Award for Excellence for Environmental Stewardship, and in 2007 received the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation.
The list of speakers for the day also includes John Van Den Broeck, a MNR Biodiversity/Species at Risk biologist.
Van Den Broeck will be speaking about the “unique continental position” of the west end of the Fort Frances District, and the species living here.
He also will speak about local species at risk which are relevant to farmers.
Dick Trivers, with the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, also is set to speak, as are local cattle farmer Jeff Pollard (on the local stewardship project) and May (about local opportunities for stewardship).
The stewardship council is hoping to get at least 50 local farmers, noted local farmer and Emo ag station researcher Kim Jo Bliss, who is helping to facilitate the workshop.
While there’s all kinds of talk about species at risk, when it comes to areas such as agriculture or logging, it can “get negative,” Bliss conceded, because people don’t want anyone telling them what they can do on their land.
“The idea of this is to realize that we can do this all together—agriculture can survive and so can species,” she stressed.
“[Gilvesy] has done a really neat amount of work—he’s a big farmer but yet has done all kinds of neat projects,” enthused Bliss, noting Gilvesy’s presentation will look at how land stewardship doesn’t have to be about “closing doors and cutting hay at strange times of the year.”
Having completed the Environmental Farm Plan in the past, Bliss noted that for the most part, farmers take very good care of their land anyway because it’s in their best interest.
“And Rainy River District is really unique and very interesting with all the species that we do have, just because of our location,” she noted.
“We have all kinds of really neat [species] here—obviously, we’re doing something right because we have all these species here.
“So let’s just keep them here.”
Lunch will be provided, and those who RSVP before Feb. 25 will be eligible to win a door prize.
Those interested in attending the workshop are asked to RSVP by Feb. 25 by calling May at 274-8637 or via e-mail at david.may@ontario.ca
For more information and updates on the projects the council is working on, visit www.ontariostewardship.org/councils/rainy-river/

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