AFA scholarship helps next generation of agriculture students

AFA is proud to support students who are using their talents to further their studies in agriculture. The AFA Scholarship annually awards $500 for one student to use towards their studies in post-secondary Agriculture or a related program.

AFA ScholarshipAlthough you don’t have to be an AFA member to apply for the scholarship, it does help. If you are an AFA producer member, preference is given to applications submitted by you, your children and your grandchildren. This is just one benefit to being an AFA member.

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

  • a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident and be 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.

The deadline to apply for the upcoming scholarship is August 1, 2015. You can apply online or call 780-427-8640 or email: scholarships@gov.ab.ca for more information. The scholarship is awarded each November.

Recent AFA scholarship winners

Here are two of the most recent AFA scholarship winners.

  • 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.
  • The 2013 scholarship was awarded to Michelle Cradduck of Taber, Alberta, then in her third-year pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Lethbridge with plans for a career in agricultural research. Since that time, Michelle has put her AFA scholarship to good use, and will soon be finishing her Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Lethbridge. She has worked in research studying the genetic make-up of wheat and related opportunities for that crop, and she is so excited about where the research is heading. She is very grateful to her university professor for opening the door to her current research project, and for the help she has received from the AFA scholarship. We will be watching with interest what this emerging agricultural researcher will bring to the table!

Apply for the AFA scholarship today! We’d love to add your name to the list!

How can you give back to agriculture?

Any business, group or individual can donate to the AFA Scholarship fund to ensure its sustainability for future years. Donations are tax deductible. For more information, or to donate in the name of the AFA Scholarship, call the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund Endowment Program at 780-427-8640.

To Verlyn Olson, with our thanks

With the provincial election now wrapped up, and a new government on the horizon, it’s hard not to jump into speculation about what’s next.

Before AFA goes down that road (and we will), we want to pause and thank Hon. Verlyn Olson, Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, who lost his bid for re-election in the riding of Wetaskiwin-Camrose.

AFA had the pleasure of working with Mr. Olson since May 2012. During this time, our Executive and Board enjoyed a positive relationship with the Minister, and appreciated his contribution to this province’s agriculture industry.

AFA President Lynn Jacobson shared his thoughts while taking a break from spring seeding on his farm in the Enchant area.

“Our relationship with Verlyn was really good,” says Jacobson. “He always came with an open mind and was willing to work with people. We appreciated that he didn’t have pre-conceived ideas, always listened and gave AFA the benefit of a two-way communication.”

Jacobson said he knows AFA 2nd Vice President Humphrey Banack feels the same. Banack knows Olson well, as both live in the Camrose area.

Regardless of political affiliation, those who give of their time and talents to build the industry deserve respect and appreciation. AFA’s Board and Executive wish Verlyn Olson all the best in his future endeavors.

New water project welcome news for farmers

It’s no secret that water-related events can have a devastating impact on agriculture. Whether it’s a catastrophic flood, wet fields at seeding time or extended drought, farmers are often faced with either too much water or not nearly enough.

What’s more, science lacks a solid understanding of why these events occur. For Camrose-area farmer Humphrey Banack, it’s hard to pick an issue of more direct importance to farmers.

“With recent disastrous water events in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, we all know how devastating flooding can be,” says Banack. “Although the attention sometimes centers on the impacts to urban properties, water-related events can be a major risk for primary agriculture, too.”

As a farmer managing 5,000 acres, Banack has had his share of battles with insufficient or excess moisture. He recalls the wet spring of April 2011 in the Camrose area as one of the worst.

Now, as 2nd Vice President with the Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA), Banack is involved in a new, large-scale effort to remove some of the mystery surrounding water events in rural Alberta.

On March 17, 2015, Member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin Blaine Calkins, on behalf of Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, announced $1.3 million in federal support for AFA to develop a unique computer model that will better identify the risk and impacts of overland flooding and drought in agricultural areas. Federal funding is being provided through the AgriRisk Initiatives program.

The project’s focus will be to construct and showcase a suite of complex hydrologic models to assess interactive water movement throughout the South Saskatchewan River Basin. Under each water‐related risk assessment, the model will build maps that define risk zones within the study area. The model will then quantify the frequency, geographical extent and severity of water-related events.

To execute the project, AFA will team up with private consultants experienced in agriculture risk and with world-renowned hydrologic and climate change scientists to generate the computer simulation model. The three-year project will begin April 1, 2015 and continue through March 31, 2018.

Banack notes that this project fits perfectly with AFA’s mandate. As Alberta’s largest producer-funded general farm organization, AFA supports a sustainable agriculture industry with viable farm incomes. The data collected under this project could contribute to better flood risk analysis and eventually lead to the development of overland flooding insurance products. Spearheading effective farm risk management tools for farmers is a key priority area for AFA.

“Many people don’t know that Canada is the only G8 country where overland flooding is not an insurable risk,” Banack says. “The federal funding provided to AFA will allow us to begin immediately in addressing the important area of water and risk assessment in agriculture, potentially paving the way for practical insurance solutions for producers.”

Healthy water starts with healthy rural wells

How’s your well working? Ask rural Albertans this question, and their answers will range from excellent … to not so good.

Over his 36 years as an Agricultural Water Specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Ken Williamson worked on the front lines of rural water quality. Now that he’s retired, Williamson is on a mission to spread the word about sound practices for effective water well management.

Rural water management and water quality are important issues in the eyes of Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA). That’s why we invited Williamson to speak at our Annual General Meeting in Red Deer in January. In a conference with an overall water theme, Williamson’s presentation was clearly one of the most popular.

Over 450,000 Albertans rely on privately-owned well water for their households. Provincial water specialists like Williamson are part of a province-wide Working Well Program that hosts workshops to show farmers and rural well owners how to properly care for their wells.

“We really want to help people to do a good job of keeping records on their wells, testing their water regularly, and if they have problems, using the standard maintenance techniques to solve those problems,” Williamson says.

The workshops are offered for free through the joint efforts of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Alberta Health Services, Alberta Health and Alberta Water Well Drilling Association. Since 2008, the program has delivered over 187 workshops and has reached 5,000 Albertans.

Workshop topics include the basics of groundwater, proper well construction, contamination risks, the importance of well reclamation and best management practices.

Williamson says that the workshops also identify several common well problems in Alberta. In his eyes, two of the most common and significant problems are:

  • unused wells that are abandoned, that then attract small animals, or corrode and leak over time, and
  • well pits and basement wells that are not properly capped or are susceptible to sewage back up or flooding.

“There are thousands of abandoned wells around the province,” says Williamson. “People are reluctant to spend the money to get rid of them or properly plug them, but they can cause real problems. For example, the steel casing of the unused well can corrode and flow undesirable water back into the aquifer that supplies the new well.”

Williamson recommends that farmers remove or plug abandoned wells, and cap or decommission well pits. While well plugging can be done without a professional, he recommends talking with a licensed water well contractor or water specialist to determine the scope of the well issues.

Williamson also points out that funding help is available to farmers for well projects through the Growing Forward 2 On-Farm Water Management Program.

The 2015 Working Well Workshops are currently running through to the end of March in many locations in the province – click on the link to see the workshop schedule and find additional well resources.