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By Phil Beard

Resource Planner Coordinator at MVCA

The workshop "Integrating Agriculture and Ecology on the Farm" was hosted by Martin and Corrie Pronk on July 9, 1994. The focus of the tour was to show how forests, fencerows and watercourses can be managed in an ecological manner. The tour was led by Jane Bowles, a plant ecologist: John Fitzgibbon, a stream ecologist: and Chris Hart, a landscape ecologist.

Approximately 30 people attended the tour. (Ed. -In an effort to create better links between farmers and environmental and naturalist groups, a few representatives from local organizations were invited to come along.) They enjoyed walking along the natural hedgerows and stream corridors that the Pronks has preserved on their farm.

Martin opened up the tour by explaining how his fields are now always under cover. He also outlined the rotational grazing system they're experimenting with.

Our three tour guides outlined how you can assess the health of your forest, wetlands and streams from an ecological perspective. They also presented methods for managing streams, and forests in a more ecologically-sound manner, and how you can actually improve their health.

One of the key points of the tour, as outlined by Jane, is that you don't always have to plant trees and shrubs to restore an area. Many times nature (birds and animals) will do a better job on their own, with more appropriate species and greater success. (Ed. -One idea Jane presented was to simply sketch out some wire between fence posts - perching birds are quick to "plant in" many shrub and tree species.) Jane also pointed out the importance of controlling non-native, invasive plants, shrubs and trees that are starting to get into our forests, wetlands and streams.

People on the tour were also encouraged to work with naturalist groups to help get a better understanding and appreciation of what is growing and living in the natural areas on their farms.

In summary, those who attended gained a better understanding of how and why we need to have healthy streams, fencerows and forests in our farming operations if we are to be real ecological stewards of our land. For more information on these areas, contact Phil Beard at MVCA (519-335-3557).

(Editor - In future articles we hope to detail some of the specifics outlined that day. Also, Phil is working on a "next step" workshop to continue this process of integrating natural areas of the farm. This maybe held in March of 1995; please contact him if you're interested. Also, the organizers of the Organic conference in Guelph plan to have this subject as one of the workshop topics.)

Copyright 1994 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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