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Breaking barriers at University of Guelph

by

Tomas Nimmo

Organic Farm Services Heidelberg, Ontario

Saturday, February 3rd saw REAP Canada and Guelph Agricultural Alternatives stage a smashing conference, setting new attendance records for the 9-year event and gently penetrating the existing conservative bulwark at Canada's premier agricultural institution.

The conference "Priorities in Sustainable Agriculture Research" attracted over 350 attendees from all walks of agriculture, including 35 private and public sector exhibitors in the 'Sustainable Ag. Expo' trade show plus at least a dozen press representatives running the gamut from the CBC Food Show to mainstream agricultural reporters to the consumer avant-garde Toronto ``NOW'' Magazine.

At issue was the way that agricultural academia will conceive, document and implement research targets in the 1990's. On-farm? Topdown? Systems? Farmer/academic/extensionist partnership? Or... new concepts?

Farmers, researchers, professors, students and the general public all got their money's worth! The line-up was tops and included Dr. Charles Francis, noted extension specialist from the University of Nebraska, and the Thompsons from Practical Farmers of Iowa.

In keeping with the underlying theme of academic-farmer equality, several local farmers co-presented in the workshops. These individuals included Doug Smith, the intercropping specialist from southwestern Ontario, Carl Cosack, the 11 00-acre beef rancher from Shelburne, Ontario and Ted Zettel, well travailed EFAO lecturer.

REAP was very well represented at this Conference with REAP Board member Dr. David Patriquin, Associate Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, giving one of the morning keynote presentations highlighting his on-farm, farmer-enfranchising 'systems' approach to on-farm research.

REAP also staffed a display booth in McKinnon Hall, a very lively place, which saw close to 400 people pass through the trade show from noon to 5.30 pm. In the afternoon, Roger Samson participated in a "weeds" workshop with Dr. Rhonda Janke of Rodale Institute and Harry Wilhelm, a REAP co-operator/farmer from Tavistock, Ontario.

The conference reached a strong finale with as first-ever wrap-up banquet attended by 85 people at which Dr. Stuart Hilts of the University of Guelph, a member of the University's newly formed Sustainable Agriculture Study Committee (SASC) officiated at the fine-tuning of the days extensive findings and reporting.

REAP earned valuable recognition as a continuing and involved major player in the sustainable ag. systems marketplace by co-organizing this important event. A 40+ page proceedings is being prepared at this moment, selling for $7.50, orderable from the REAP-Canada office. Guelph Ag. Alternatives also shot 10 hours of high quality video footage of the whole evens, to be edited into a fast-paced 45 minute class-period length teaching video. Price and availability to be reported in "Sustainable Farming". Stay tuned.

Copyright 1990 REAP Canada

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


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