Your chance to spend some time on the farm this summer

AFA-Banack Open Farm Days Tent

Open Farm Days visitors learn about, and see, the grains grown on the Banack farm.

Consumers continue to be tremendously interested in how their food is grown. Getting farm producers and consumers together is one of the goals of Alberta’s Open Farm Days. This annual event provides an important connection for rural producers and their urban neighbours.

Open Farm Days also continues to be a popular event for farm producers, with a 28% increase in host farm participation when compared to last year. For 2016, a total of 90 host farms will provide real-world farm experiences for visitors on Sunday, August 21.

Once again, our Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Vice President, Humphrey Banack and his family will be participating as a host farm. Humphrey and wife Terry Banack will welcome visitors to their Camrose-area homestead and will provide information and demonstrations for those who attend.

“Open Farm Days is a very important event in Alberta,” says Humphrey Banack. “People come with questions and a real open interest in agriculture. Traceability and social license are hot topics for today’s consumer, and Open Farm Days allows us to have that important conversation with members of the public.”

8-AFA-Banack Open Farm DaysHumphrey and Terry say that Open Farm Days lets them provide visitors with a ‘mini-adventure’ with a hands-on look at how food is produced nearby in Alberta communities. This year, the Banacks hope to take visitors out harvesting and send them home with a bag of peas straight from the field that they can use in recipes at home. Check out this video for more information.

Host farms that offer Open Farm DaysFarm Experiences” showcase a wide range of farm businesses including honey and berry farms, petting zoos, flower farms, plus more traditional agricultural enterprises like livestock, crop and vegetable farms.

Open Farm Days also includes farm-to-table “Culinary Experiences” taking place on August 20 and 21. These events feature local chefs and producers that team up to provide unique field dinners, brewery tasting tours, cowboy gatherings and barbecues. Most of these events require ticket purchases in advance. Information can be found at http://www.albertafarmdays.com/.

“We understand how important it is to connect with the consumers of our product,” Banack says. “Open Farm Days gives us the opportunity to allow visitors to see exactly what we do, where we fit into their food system and how we are part of what they put on their tables everyday.”

This AFA video taken during Alberta’s 2015 Open Farm Days event on the Banack Homestead shows what visitors can expect from a farm visit.

We encourage you to make this fun event part of your summer plans!

Liability insurance can offer protection for farm markets and fairs

Liability insurance is, of course, important for every day situations that can occur on the farm—things like accidental property damage, unintended crop chemical drift and situations that arise from normal farming operations.

If an accident of this type occurs, much of the hard work of the farm business could be lost if you are not adequately insured. And it’s equally important that you are covered for risks that may occur when you are conducting business off the farm. iStock_000009114801Small

For example, if you transport your animals to 4-H shows or agricultural fairs, liability insurance can protect against injury to your animals. Do you plan to sell your product at a local farmers’ market? Many farmers’ markets may not cover individual vendors under the market’s group policy, and will require vendors to provide proof of liability insurance in order to participate in the market.

The Co-operators, an Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Corporate Partner, offers liability insurance options that can protect you and your farm business when you are conducting business away from your farm. Their off-farm liability insurance options include:

  • Animal shows and agricultural fairs liability: covering livestock when attending 4-H shows, plowing matches, or agricultural fairs
  • Farmers’ market liability: liability insurance protects your business against lawsuits in the crowded environment of a farmers’ market, where accidents can—and sadly do—happen

Beyond liability insurance, AFA producer members also receive exclusive benefits from The Co-operators that can help you save money, including:

  • up to 24 additional coverage options on your farm insurance
  • special travel and policy discounts
  • enhanced home insurance coverage
  • competitive plans for medical, dental, life and disability insurance

In addition to being connected to The Co-operators through our corporate partnership, AFA is proud of our long history as a member-owner of the company. Founded by a small group of prairie farmers in 1945, The Co-operators today continues to sponsor rural youth through 4-H and provide specialized farm insurance to producers across Canada. For more information on the liability insurance options offered by The Co-operators to farm producers in Alberta, contact your local Co-operators agent, or visit The Co-operators website.

To find out more about how you can become an AFA member today and save money through the special member benefits we have developed with The Co-operators, Mark’s Work Wearhouse and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA Canada), visit our website.

AFA Summer Meeting keeps finger on pulse of agriculture issues

The Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Board met in mid-June for their annual Summer Meeting, and were pleased to host a number of guests from key industries that are connected to agriculture.

Three groups presented on a wide range of issues that have the potential to significantly impact Alberta’s agriculture industry. AFA provided input and ideas.

Alberta Utilities Consumer Advocate

Established in October 2003, the Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) has a mandate to educate, advocate, and mediate for Alberta’s residential, farm, and small business electricity and natural gas consumers.

Since agriculture businesses can be greatly impacted by utility rates – especially large users like producers with hog barns, food processors or greenhouses – a UCA representative shared an overview and answered questions about Alberta’s Electricity Regulatory System.

New Agricultural Policy Framework

Alberta producers may be familiar with the Growing Forward 2 (GF2) programs that are part of a federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) partnership. These programs seek to help the agriculture and food industry reach its full potential by focusing on productivity, profitability and competitiveness in a global market.

The current program expires March 31, 2018, and federal and provincial policymakers are now gathering producer input on the future of the next agricultural policy framework (APF). Read more about this on our recent blog (link May AFA blog).

Representatives from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry met with the AFA Board at our Summer Meeting to discuss the impacts of potential refinements and opportunities for Alberta farmers in the new policy.

“AFA’s mandate of advocating on behalf of Alberta farmers and ranchers means AFA directors are integrally involved in policy development and feedback,” says Rick McConnell, AFA Interim Executive Director. “Helping to shape the next stage of the APF is just one example where AFA directors share their expertise to move agricultural policy development forward.”

Alberta’s Crop Insurance Programs

As changes and updates to crop insurance programs occur in Alberta, AFA is involved in consultations with Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) to provide the perspective of Alberta’s crop and pasture producers.

During this session, AFA provided feedback on crop damage compensation for wildlife and vandalism, on-farm best management practices, refinements to coverage and premium assessment, advancing electronic interaction between AFSC and their clients as well as the potential to expand use of weather-based products.

AFA’s Board and Directors will continue to be proactive with these types of discussions and ensure that agriculture’s voice is heard loud and clear.

Calling agriculture students: apply for the AFA scholarship today!

AFA is proud to help students who are using their talents to further their studies in agriculture with our annual scholarship. We’d love to add your name to the list!

Each year, the AFA Scholarship awards $500 for one student to use towards studies in a post-secondary agriculture or related program. The deadline to apply for this year’s scholarship is August 1, 2016. The scholarship is awarded each November.

To be eligible for the AFA scholarship, an applicant must be:

  • a Canadian Citizen or permanent resident of Canada, and an Alberta resident
  • attending a designated post-secondary institution in Alberta
  • enrolled full-time in the second or subsequent year of post-secondary study in a program related to the field of agriculture.

Applications are available online, but students can also call Student Aid Alberta Service Centre at 1-855-606-2096 for more information.

Students don’t have to be an AFA member to apply for the scholarship, but it helps since preference is given to applications submitted by AFA producer members, their children and their grandchildren. This is just one benefit to being an AFA producer member.

Congratulations to recent AFA scholarship winners!

Here is a brief overview on AFA’s last two scholarship winners. We are proud to help these students with their education!

  • Wilson Leung of Edmonton, Alberta was the 2015 recipient of our annual AFA scholarship. Wilson completed his degree in Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Alberta, and is now pursuing a degree in Environmental Health at Concordia University of Edmonton. Wilson is studying strategies related to agriculture including food safety inspection, risk assessment and environmental management.
  • The 2014 scholarship was awarded to Nadine Jensen of Claresholm, Alberta, then in her third-year pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Biotechnology at the University of Lethbridge.

Want to give a hand to the next generation in agriculture?

Tax-deductible donations are welcome and encouraged! AFA welcomes contributions from any business, group or individual to help keep the AFA Scholarship fund sustainable for years to come.

For more information, or to donate in the name of the AFA Scholarship, call the Alberta Scholarships Program at 780-427-8640. As we mentioned earlier, donations are tax deductible.

Alberta farmers get chance to have a say about federal-provincial policy

Many Alberta producers will be familiar with the Growing Forward 2 (GF2) programs that are part of a federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) partnership that seeks to help the agriculture and food industry achieve its full potential by focusing on productivity, profitability and competitiveness in Canada’s agricultural industry.

With the GF2 program set to expire on March 31, 2018, Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) directors want to make sure that Alberta farmers, ranchers and food processors are part of the discussion for the new agricultural policy framework (APF) that is developed.

“AFA is working with agricultural stakeholders all across the country to ensure that the unique views and circumstances of Alberta’s farmers and food producers are well represented in any new policy,” says Humphrey Banack, AFA’s 2nd Vice President. “The federal government is asking for feedback online, and since these programs impact many areas of agriculture, I would encourage all producers to take a few minutes to provide their input.”

Banack is referring to the May 9 announcement by federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay asking for stakeholder feedback as they draw up plans for the next APF. The federal government has set up a website with an online questionnaire designed to seek input from producers about where the program is working well and where challenges exist.

Banack is also the 1st Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), and has been part of a committee formed in 2014 to develop policy recommendations to inform the next APF. The committee tabled recommendations that were adopted at the CFA Annual General Meeting in February 2016. The full report with recommendations can be found on the CFA website.

Introduced in April 2013, GF2 focuses on three priorities for the agricultural sector: innovation, competitiveness, and market development. The programs within GF2 aim to help the industry respond to future opportunities and challenges and to achieve its full potential as a productive and profitable sector of the Canadian economy.

As part of AFA’s mandate of advocating on behalf of Alberta farmers and ranchers, AFA directors are integrally involved in policy development and feedback, through their interactions with national and provincial government representatives and agricultural groups. The Growing Forward programs are just one example where AFA directors share their expertise to move agricultural policy development forward.

“In Alberta, Growing Forward 2 represents a federal-provincial cost-share investment of more than $400 million for risk management, research and development,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson. “AFA is representing Alberta’s farm and ranch owners at the government level, but it’s important that the policy makers hear directly from producers, too. These are all critical pillars of our industry.”

2016 Census of Agriculture coming to your mailbox & online

Canadian census information is used in a wide variety of applications: to set policy, for governments to develop farm programs and to get a glimpse into the broad trends in agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture, completed every five years, is due to roll out again in May 2016. Farmers and ranchers are busy any time of the year, but especially in the jam-packed spring planting season. Even so, our Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) President is encouraging all producers to fill out the census questionnaire.

“It’s completely understandable that when farmers and ranchers are asked to complete surveys, that request is not always heartily embraced,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson. “However, the census is an essential tool for Canadian agriculture. It allows policymakers to ensure that the plans they are creating are based on the facts.”

As the President of Alberta’s only general farm organization, Jacobson is familiar with the value of agricultural census information. He attends many meetings – local, national and international – where politicians, farm leaders, agricultural organizations and policymakers constantly refer to the information gathered in the most recent agricultural census. As Jacobson says, quality in means quality out.

“The census covers information from crops and livestock to land management and farm labour,” notes Jacobson. “Some of these areas – like farm labour – are high-profile topics right now. Up-to-date information helps keep agriculture groups better informed on issues that affect everyone’s future.”

Early in May, farmers and ranchers in Alberta can expect a letter in the mail from Statistics Canada that has a secure access code and information about how to complete the questionnaire online. Statistics Canada says that this year’s process is 30% more streamlined than in 2011, with features like auto-totals and the ability to skip information that does not apply to your operation. Respondents are also no longer required to provide detailed farm expenses.

The questionnaire can be completed by anyone who is knowledgeable about the farming operation. Information gathered by Statistics Canada is kept confidential as required by the Statistics Act.

“At the end of the day, I know how hard it is to find the time to provide this information,” Jacobson says. “A lot has changed in agriculture since the last census in 2011, so our organization is encouraging everyone to make the time to complete the questionnaire. Farmers are legally required to participate, but we feel the more important point is that the census captures much-needed information to ensure future planning for the agriculture industry is on target.”

More information on the 2016 Census of Agriculture can be found on the Statistic Canada website: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/ca2016#features.

March 13-19 is Canadian Agricultural Safety Week

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Agriculture has been cited as one of the more hazardous industries in which to work. The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) reports on their website that in an average year, around 100 farm-related deaths occur nation-wide. Marion Popkin, Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Director, thinks that number is too high.

“Agriculture is an industry with unique safety challenges because the farm family is so closely tied to the business,” she says. “When you live where you work, the risks can be magnified.”

As a passionate agricultural safety advocate who represents AFA at a variety of industry safety meetings, Popkin says farm producers care deeply about safety, but there are always improvements that can be made.

To that end, Popkin applauds the efforts of one annual farm safety initiative: the Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW) that strives to make safety on Canadian farms a priority through their yearly public awareness campaign.

This year’s CASW theme is: ‘Be an AgSafe Family’ by ‘Keeping Kids Safe’. The campaign focuses on empowering farm families with the information they need to help keep kids safe while preserving the farming lifestyle.

In Popkin’s view, although the Canadian Agricultural Safety Week campaign brings an important focus to the issue of agricultural safety each year, farm managers need to make farm safety a year-round goal.

“A good on-farm safety plan evolves as the farm business evolves,” she says. “It’s not something that you do once and put aside. It needs to take into account how the people living and working in the environment grow and change, too.”

Popkin says there are many valuable resources available to farm families to help them manage the issue of farm safety. She notes the CASW website is a great place to find guidelines for safe play areas, a safety contract and many other resources to ensure the family farm remains a safe place to work and live.

Popkin also points to the Alberta Government website for those looking for safety workshops available in 2016. This government website offers links to on-going initiatives like online safety resources for children of different ages, plus funding options available for education or training support.

Farm safety is an area that AFA has been actively involved in for years. Visit the AFA YouTube Channel for a video featuring AFA Vice President Humphrey Banack speaking about the importance of farm safety.

For more information on the many activities taking place during Canadian Agricultural Safety Week from March 13 through 19, 2016, visit these websites.