When you want to learn about a new farming practice, where do you turn? Yes, there are conferences and field days, but many farmers have also had great success with social media platforms that easily connect farmers over large distances.
We also know that some things are better discussed, explained, shared, and questioned in person, in small groups, peer-to-peer.
That’s the driving force behind the Ontario Soil Network, a dedicated, engaged group of farmers who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with cover crops, reduced tillage, and soil health management.
“These farmers were already doing this,” Mel Luymes, project coordinator for the network, “but we thought ‘why can’t we create a way to make it easier for farmers to connect and talk about soil health?'”
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Last March, a leadership and communications pilot project was launched to support the network. Guided by farmers with Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario, and Ecological Farmers of Ontario, the Rural Ontario Institute administered the one-year pilot project for about 30 farmers. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs funded the project.
After the initial two-day workshop and over the last few months, more than 100 farmers signed up through OntarioSoil.net and met with other farmers in their area at coffee shops and restaurants to talk about practices that improve soil health. “Some farmers drove as much as two hours to meet,” says Luymes. Farmers have also connected using the #letstalksoil hashtag across social media.
While the pilot project has wrapped up, there are still meetings happening, and there are plans to submit a proposal to expand the project to both central, east, and possibly northern Ontario.
Farmers interested in learning more or getting meeting information can visit OntarioSoil.net.