Soil health expert, Frank Gibbs, speaking to over 180 farmers at the Soil Health Conference in Chatham (Submitted photo)

Over 180 farmers came out recently to the Soil Health Conference co-hosted by the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority (SCRCA) and the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA) at the John Bradley Conference Centre in Chatham.

Support for the conference was also provided in part by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and 12 sponsor organizations.

Organizers say the conference offered farmers an opportunity to hear the latest findings from experts across North America as well as the practical experiences of local farmers on a variety of soil health topics.

“Farmers understand the importance of healthy soils for their crops and livelihoods. Our goal with this conference was for farmers to feel better equipped to improve soil health and reduce nutrient losses on their own farms,” said Jessica Van Zwol, Healthy Watershed Specialist for the SCRCA.

“An important message from the conference was to remember that there is no single answer to soil health and nutrient management – it takes a combination of best management practices and that combination will change from farm-to-farm and even year-to-year. As Conservation Authorities, we are here to support farmers in finding a system that works best for their farm.”

“The LTVCA recognizes the need to improve regional soil health as a means to improve the quality of our water and air,” said Colin Little, Agricultural Program Coordinator at the LTVCA, “We were extremely encouraged by the level of farmer attendance and discussions that occurred at the Soil Health Conference.”

Steve Arnold, Chair of the SCRCA, agreed, “It was great to see the overwhelming response from the farming community. It is a sign that farmers are – and want to be a part of – the solution to Lake Erie’s nutrient concerns. As a farmer myself, I am always looking to learn methods that will benefit my farm and this conference offered a great balance between research and on-the-ground experiences of local farmers.”

“We believe farmers can learn the most from each other’s experiences, which is why we organize these types of peer workshops and community events,” explained Van Zwol.

If you are a farmer or rural landowner that is interested in a project to protect rural water quality, be sure to contact your local Conservation Authority to find out about grant opportunities and future workshops.

The SCRCA and LTVCA offer technical and financial assistance on projects that include sediment traps, agricultural erosion control structures, wetland creation/enhancement, wildlife habitat creation, buffer strips, stream bank protection, windbreaks, reforestation, and native grassland habitat.

For more information on our programs visit their websites at scrca.on.ca or lowerthames-conservation.on.ca.