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Thunder Bay farm conference allows networking and education

Farmers are ready to adapt as the mild winter has left uncertainty for the upcoming season
Local farmers attend the Spring Farm Conference at the Kakabeka Legion

KAKABEKA — An annual farm conference serves as more of a social event and an opportunity for local agriculture businesses to meet. 

The Thunder Bay Spring Farm Conference took place April 2-4 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Kakabeka Falls.

"Because of our geographic location, as farmers in Thunder Bay we're quite isolated from most of our inputs," said Jason Reid, chair of the Thunder Bay Soil and Crop Improvement Association and organizer of the conference. 

"So they all come in from southern Ontario or Manitoba, from wherever their businesses are based out of, and we get to have face-to-face meetings here with them. So it's our opportunity once a year to get together with those that we do business with and really build on those relationships."

With 20 commercial farms and an estimated 30 to 40 medium- to large-scale farms, Reid said the event is highly anticipated by attendees each year. 

As a beef and lamb farmer himself, Reid is concerned about the lack of snow from this winter's season. 

"Everything's easier when it's -10 instead of -30. I still don't personally feel we totally recovered from two years ago or three years ago when we had a widespread drought in this area. 

"The water table is very low and so a lack of snow cover this winter is concerning. Our moisture levels and wells are very low, and if we go through a summer with as little precipitation as what we've had this winter, it's very concerning."

Dairy farmer Bernie Kamphof said he embraced the learning opportunities from the two-day conference. 

"We have a tradeshow, so meeting with vendors and local suppliers that supply the agriculture community is important and also getting together with other members of the agricultural community is a big part of the two days here.

"And learning about some of the research that goes on at our local research station, learning about new products from vendors."

Commenting on the mild winter, Kamphof said it's been easier for his animals that are housed outside. 

Although he is concerned about the coming growing season. 

"We're looking a lot better now for the start of the growing season because of that snow than we did get a week-and-a-half ago. I think the lower precipitation that we've had has been a bit of an anomaly just this past year. I don't know if that's a long-term trend. 

"We are constantly adapting the varieties of the crops that we grow to best match what our growing conditions are."

Both farmers said being able to adapt is key, as they rely heavily on the weather and to best manage the upcoming season. 

— TBnewswatch