Compared to the majority of farmers that I meet, I came into the world of agriculture much later in life. Having grown up in the city of Vancouver, BC, there was not a lot of farming to be had. It was rare even to find a backyard garden. Lucky for me the area that I grew up in had an abundance of wild berries and natural landscapes!
When I met my husband, Steve, I was immersed in a whole new world. Originally I just followed him around everywhere on the farm, drilling him for answers to the ‘why’s’ of what he was doing. I learned everything from cattle handling skills, to fence repair, to water system builds and maintenance, to soil health, and even more than I ever thought that I would want to know about dung beetles and other similar types of bugs! Part of following Steve around included attending conferences and seminars with him throughout the winter. This was such a huge blessing, the amount of information available at these events was unlimited. Not only was there a plethora of engaging speakers at every single one, but the networking sessions throughout (lunch, dinner and meetings) had me speaking with such a wide variety of producers that all had so many different perspectives. I found that there was something to learn from every person that I crossed paths with, and usually more than just one something.
The majority of these conferences, seminars and speakers are hosted by local agricultural associations. Whether they are applied research associations, forage associations or other similar groups, they all have a hand in hosting speakers and conferences. They are at the front lines of bringing unity to the many wonderful producers across the country and the best part is that these groups are unbiased. These agricultural associations are generally led by a volunteer board of directors. This board typically represents the broad range of producers and growers that I have had the pleasure of meeting throughout my farming experience. Every single one of these people have a say in how the agricultural association will be run.
There is another aspect to agricultural associations that I found to be unique to the farming industry. The idea of applied research. To think that these groups spend the majority of their time and funds each year testing new methods and products to bring their producers relevant information and unbiased research is amazing. Agriculture is incredibly unique in that what works in one location may not work in the next. What grows here in the Westlock region of Alberta may not grow in the Drayton Valley region. This is where the applied research comes in so handy. By producing the ‘error’ part of ‘trial and error’ and sharing that information, these research associations can save their producers both time and money.
I personally am so thankful to the many terrific groups that are in place across the country keeping producers informed and on the same page. Without them I would have spent a lot more time learning and would have made a whole lot more mistakes before I ever made it to the point in agriculture that I am now. If you are not a part of your local agricultural association, today is a great day to get in touch with them. Most groups host tours of their research plots and are happy to have producers out asking questions. If you are unsure who your local agricultural association is, ARECA (Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta) is a great resource and can be found at www.areca.ab.ca.
Gateway Research Association