Voices of the Oldman: Agriculture Matters

Title Photo Credit: Andy Hurly

Please join us in Taber January 31, Twin Butte February 10 or Stavely March 1!

The Oldman Watershed Council is excited to introduce a new brand of events called Voices of the Oldman.  These events are an important opportunity to have your voice heard both locally and provincially. What we hear at these events will shape our projects and also the advice we give to the Government of Alberta. 

Over time we will host many of these events about different topics but the first 3 will be about agriculture and we invite you to participate! We are interested in hearing from those directly working in the ag. industry on what challenges agriculture is facing currently and what they foresee the future looking like. Of course we also want to know what are the best solutions and how the OWC could support those solutions. 

How do YOU See the Future of Agriculture in the Oldman?

Agriculture has been a dominant part of our culture in southern Alberta for well over 100 years now. From the open range grazing of the late 1800’s to the first sod-turning wheat farmers around the turn of the 1900’s, the way that we produce food in 2017 is vastly different from the way of our forefathers.

 

 Lethbridge harvest, 1910 - Photo credit: Lethbridge Historical Society

Lethbridge harvest, 1910 - Photo credit: Lethbridge Historical Society

We’ve strung thousands of miles of barbed wire, took to using massive diesel powered machines that replaced the horse and plow. We are now entering an era of not only GPS directed tractors, but tractors that will be able to be operated from your smartphone while you watch Netflix. “Cultured” meat, grown in labs has the potential to alter the livestock industry as we know it. 

 Self driving concept tractor - CNH Industrial

Self driving concept tractor - CNH Industrial

It’s too early to say whether or not these advancements will be truly beneficial, but we do know that despite these improvements to technology, we will still be using the land to grow most of our food. In southern Alberta, this relationship of working the land, whether it is livestock or crop production, to produce food provides an economic foundation that has allowed us to weather the ups and downs that the rest of the province rides like a rollercoaster. We have been able to do this while maintaining habitat and open spaces for wildlife. We can certainly take pride in this. But change is constant, and adaptation to that change must be constant.

At the OWC, we’re looking ahead to see what these challenges are, and planning for it accordingly. Even though we’re seeing glimpses of a change in our climate, we don’t exactly know what that looks like in the long term. But we do expect precipitation will be highly variable, which will become more of a concern for the extensive irrigation industry in our region who rely on reservoirs filled with water.  There is a constant decline in rural populations which means there are increasingly more people living in cities who don’t know or understand how their food is grown. This puts pressure on producers, as it is the masses that dictate how agriculture can operate – we now see the term “social license” used everywhere.

We want to help with these challenges. Your participation is needed. 

Over the next few months, we’re hosting 3 events throughout the watershed that will give producers and watershed stewards a chance to voice your views on what are the most important challenges facing the future of agriculture in our area. We will start off each event with a panel of experts within the ag/stewardship community, who will give insight into what challenges they face and what is currently being done to solve those problems. From there, we will break into round-table discussions where folks can let us know what are the most pressing issues facing the future of agriculture.

What we want to know is, in your opinion, what are the biggest challenges (AND solutions) facing agriculture in these 3 categories:

1.     Social

2.     Economic

3.     Environmental

The results from these events will be used to craft the future of how the OWC and it’s partners support agriculture in our watershed. Our Watershed Legacy Program has supported our agricultural friends since 2009, but we feel it's time to re-tune the program to the current and future needs of land stewards. If you care about the future of agriculture, we want to hear what you have to say.

The sessions are free, and of course, beverages and snacks will be provided!  The OWC would like to personally invite you to join us at the session closest to you! See poster below for details:

 

We ask that you do please register on our eventbrite link below for the session that would be most suited to you. Here you can find more details, including agendas for each of the 3 discussions. 

REGISTER HERE:

 https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/voices-of-the-oldman-agriculture-matters-tickets-30869942830

or contact Taren Hager at (403) 330-1346 or email: taren@oldmanwatershed.ca

Please share this email widely with your networks, friends, co-workers, anyone in the ag. community who you think would be interested in having their input heard about the future of our ag. progamming. See you soon!