Prairie forage and soil health groups team up on resources, events

The organizers of conferences on soil health, grazing, and regenerative agriculture are joining forces to offer a one-stop-shop of events and activities.

The Western Canada Conference on Soil Health and Grazing, Saskatchewan Forage Council (SFC), and Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA) have connected their annual events and organizational activities via a jointly-signed memorandum of understanding, with the intent to “ensure the interests of Prairie farmers and producers are front and centre.”

The new effort will be called the Prairie Region Soil Health Network.

Duncan Morrison, executive director of MFGA, says the pandemic has affected conference organizers ability to plan, host, and engage producer audiences via gatherings across the Prairies.

“Our agriculture conferences are critical lifelines for each of our smaller-sized groups. We need them for the attendance gate and financial reasons, but more of all, we need them as a place and opportunity for producers to network and learn and share knowledge among each other,” says Morrison.

MFGA has hosted three different formats in their three years of hosting an event.

In Alberta, under the leadership of Nora Paulovich and Laura Gibney, the biennial Alberta Soil Health and Grazing Conference grew into a well-attended event — 550-plus attendees at their 2019 conference — for those interested in what goes on below and above the soil surface.

Paulovich says the Alberta conference team felt the pandemic made holding an event in 2021 uncertain and have moved planning for their event to 2022. “It makes total sense to support each other with a collaborative Prairie approach,” says Paulovich.

According to Morrison, the new agreement broadens the collective wingspan for all three provincial groups to promote the conferences, in whatever format — online, in-person, or webinar-based.

SFC chose to cancel their inaugural 2021 event but Shannon McArton, executive director of SFC, says the decision was the right choice.

“We haven’t stopped planning since we were forced to postpone. SFC partnered with the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association to deliver the first Saskatchewan Soil Health and Grazing Conference just as soon as we can. Working with this prairie group to share ideas and networks and cross-promote our events will be a great boost for us and the other two organizations, and ultimately all the producers we represent and network with,” says McArton.

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