COLUMNS: Producer-led research and extending the new and old knowledge

In a previous article I mentioned the possibility of farming and ranching stakeholders being involved in collaboration.

In a previous article I mentioned the possibility of farming and ranching stakeholders being involved in collaborating in developing a regional organization that would direct the keeping of research knowledge and hopefully local experiential knowledge.

It is happening, at least the feasibility of this collaboration is being determined.

Over the next six to seven months, agriculture interests will be approached to work with the consultants chosen by the oversight committee for climate adaptation projects in the region.

There are some 30 applied research organizations in Western Canada. Virtually all of them are based where there are many more farms and ranches than here in the Cariboo.

Some have been going for more than 20 years overseeing trials and demonstrations to investigate the local application of different practices.

With governments at the federal and provincial level backing away from the regional research stations and extension (seminars and field personnel etc.) it is up to us to take charge.

“Us” would be local food security groups, local farming businesses and organizations, educational organizations and collaboratives at the sub regional level: North, Central and South Cariboo.

Funding for the work leading up to this initiative is from the Federal Provincial Growing Forward Agreement.  The Cariboo region was one the first regions in B.C. to have a Climate Adaptation plan developed involving the regional stakeholders.

This project is administered by the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association with backup support from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.

The main project tasks are (taken from the proposal):

One: review various models of successful agriculture adaptation and research alliances/associations/centres in other jurisdictions that have made a positive impact on the agriculture and the local economy.

Two: Develop a digital inventory/database of the regional agricultural research information.

Three: Consider regional needs such as climate, transportation, current and potential crop production, demand, existing infrastructure, and local history.

Four: Host a workshop on the topic for gaining input from stakeholders of the region.

Five: Prepare a final report on the preferred alliance organization.

We have to bear in mind that the South Cariboo has a society which has existed since a feasibility study was done some years ago, but which has yet to receive the traction and funding necessary to meet its potential.

Also recently the Quesnel/North Cariboo region has completed a feasibility study which has led to steps being taken to seek funding from their area local government (CRD and City) for an Agriculture Centre of Excellence.

Needless to say with dwindling timber supply, and the ephemeral nature of mines, agriculture remains a mainstay of the economy.

Ranchers and farmers continue to spend to feed and manage their animals and crops even during slow economic times.

B.C. is only roughly 50 per cent self sufficient in feeding itself. Most towns have only three or four days of food supply on hand in the event of a disaster which would cut of the supply routes.

Let’s change that.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.

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