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Monday, October 19, 2015

Environmental Farm Plan Workshop held in Pincher Creek

Josh Davis

On Wednesday October 7, a workshop was hosted for the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) in the MD of Pincher Creek Administrative building. The purpose of this workshop was to help farmers begin their own EFP, and educate attendants about funding opportunities and programs under Alberta’s Growing Forward 2.

Lindsey Cockerill and Barb Archibald help local producers with their EFPs

“The Environmental Farm Plan is a means for producers to come up with an inventory of all activities that they do within their operation,” said Lindsey Cockerill, the facilitator who spent the morning helping those in attendance work through a portion of their workbooks. “So that’s everything from annual cropping to raising livestock. Basically any agricultural practice.”

“It’s a good opportunity to identify anywhere we might be able to improve upon our current practices,” Said Cockerill. “Essentially we’re trying to identify all of the best management practices available. Some of them may be currently in practice now, and some of them we may be adopt and implement in the future. So whether it be something like establishing an off-stream watering source to keep cattle out of a riparian area, or implementing a batter rotation system for their cropping, so we’re not taking so many nutrients out of the soil.”

“Beyond that it is a prerequisite to apply for some funding opportunities under Alberta’s Growing Forward 2 program, so a lot of times we see that as being a really good incentive for people to come in and complete an Environmental Farm Plan,” continued Cockerill. “Another good reason is thinking along the lines of succession. For a lot of ranchers and producers in our area their knowledge of their operations is very extensive, but it’s all just in their head. So essentially, if they were not to be here tomorrow there’s no one else that knows the ins and outs of everything on their property.”

“For this particular workshop I have myself and Barb Archibald with Alberta Agriculture,” Cockerill continued. “Barb’s our Growing Forward 2 extension specialist for the southern Alberta area. Today we’d like to get our producers in and get them started on the workbook. We familiarize them with how the book is set up, how the questions are worded, what sort of answers are expected, and how to write each farm plan item. That way when they do identify something that may be a potential issue, we can help them write a plan to prioritize these issues, and set up a timeline to help them resolve them.” Cockerill said there isn’t necessarily a date the plans must be completed by, but said she would be happy if they were completed between two weeks and a month.

Cockerill then gave a little bit of information on the Growing Forward 2 programs. “We are into Growing Forward 2 at this point in time. It’s just kind of a budgeted amount of money. Its divided up into various programs, which cover everything from the business management aspect of agriculture to things like on farm water sources, and on farm stewardship projects, like riparian fencing off-stream watering, and that sort of thing.'

'Basically it’s a cost shared program, which makes funding available to producers who want to implement some best management practices and new projects within their operation. Many of them are different, but for the most part they offer a 50/50 cost share. Producers do an application, which is then reviewed and approved by a Growing Forward program, they’re allowed to start work on a project, and then upon completion of the project they get to submit receipts and invoices for reimbursement. It’s a really great incentive to get some of these best management practices into place.”

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