"Voices of the Oldman" Kicks Off in Taber

The prosperity of the Taber region is linked to a few unique factors that make it an agricultural and economic hotbed of Southern Alberta. The well-drained sandy loam soils make it ideal for growing potatoes and the infamous Taber corn. It is one, if not THE sunniest regions in Canada. But these two factors alone are not enough to make our dry prairie land a food production juggernaut. The third, and arguably the most important factor is a steady supply of water for the irrigation of these crops.

The Perry brothers, Chris & Harold, with Jeff Bronsch, checking crops

The Perry brothers, Chris & Harold, with Jeff Bronsch, checking crops

Because of the amount of water used in irrigation, irrigators and all land managers have a responsibility to steward the land and the water resources that help their farms remain sustainable. Agriculture is a complicated industry, with many social, environmental and economical factors at play.

At the OWC, our role is to provide a forum for all voices - throughout the watershed - to be heard. As part of our Watershed Legacy Program, which focuses on rural watershed challenges, we identifying the challenges and help provide solutions to the most important of these issues.

That's why we are inviting you to our “Voices of the Oldman: Agriculture Matters” series of events. The first is in Taber on Tuesday, January 31st.

Participants will be discussing the future of agricultural watershed stewardship, what challenges we face going forward, and what can be done to help solve those problems.

We are happy to partner on this event with the Taber Irrigation District, who is providing funding for this event. TID Manager Chris Gallagher, Ed Vandenberg (PGA), Jamie Puchinger (Farming Smarter) and OWC's Shannon Frank  will start the day off with short panel updates on innovation in their realm of water management.

Chris Gallagher and OWC's Anna Garleff on set at the OWC film shoot.

Chris Gallagher and OWC's Anna Garleff on set at the OWC film shoot.

Chris, who is originally from southwestern Ontario, has been involved in irrigated agriculture for 15 years, first working with SMRID and UMA engineering before transitioning to his role at TID. Growing up in a farming community, he became fascinated by the relationship between agriculture and the natural world and came to realize that the stewardship of each is reflected in the success of the other. When asked about why it’s important to work together on water issues, Chris says: “We need to work together because we are all part of – and we all rely on sustainable agriculture to continue to harvest the bounty from this renewable resource.”

Ed Vandenberg, chairman of the Potato Growers of Alberta, owns and operates Sun Vista Farms, near Enchant. He is passionate about the potato industry, and is proud to grow the healthiest potatoes in the world. Ed believes the efficient use of the water and land, along with a clean environment is what has attracted the value added food processors like McCain and Lamb Weston to Southern Alberta to create many stable jobs. A fun fact that Ed likes to throw around, is that for every acre of potatoes that are grown, it provides 115,000 people with an order of French fries!

Jamie Puchinger is a familiar face around the OWC, as she has provided guidance on our Watershed Legacy Program team for years. She works for Farming Smarter, a non-profit that helps farmers make informed decisions on inputs, technologies and management practices on their farm. Jamie grew up in Lethbridge, enjoying our outdoors through camping and fishing. Knowing she didn’t want your average desk job, she went through Lethbridge College’s Renewable Resource Management Program before earning a BSc. In Environmental Science at the U of L. Working with the SMRID, she began to see the strong ties between stewardship and farming – something she and Farming Smarter work toward bettering to this day. The OWC is proud to work with a progressive group like Farming Smarter. As Jamie puts it, “If we work together to develop a clear vision of what we see as our future, we will have a better chance for success.” 

Harvesting potatoes at Mike Wind's Windiana Farms

Harvesting potatoes at Mike Wind's Windiana Farms

To round out our panel, our very own Shannon Frank will talk about what we have been doing to support agricultural stewardship and plans for going forward. Like Chris, Shannon is a transplant from Ontario, specifically the Thunder Bay region. She came west, ended up in Lethbridge to attend the U of L, then working for Multisar on grasslands projects before becoming the Executive Director of the OWC. She has a great ability to work with many different stakeholders to find solutions to these diverse and complicated issues. That is why we are hosting these discussions – to hear all voices and develop a clear vision for the future of stewardship that works for everyone.

With the input we gain from these sessions, a letter of recommendation will be sent to the Government of Alberta.

To register for the FREE event, click our Eventbrite page:



or Call Taren Hager at: (403) 849-1346

If you can't make it to the Taber session, don't worry...there are 2 other sessions being held in the watershed in February and March, see poster below for more details or click on the Eventbrite link above.