A farmer-to-farmer approach to soil health
A Soil Health Certificate program is part of a new project to promote agri-environmental stewardship in Ontario. With the support of funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the Ecological Farmers’ Association of Ontario (EFAO) is offering farmer-to-farmer based soil health training and mentorship.
“Soil is an extremely important component in a strong agri-food sector,” says Katie Baikie, training and resources program manager with EFAO. “This project builds on EFAO’s foundation of knowledge generation by farmers for farmers.”
The certificate includes farm tours, workshops and online learning for farmers new to ecological practices and those looking to expand their knowledge. It will also include soil organic matter testing to help establish baseline data, and training on sample collection. Additional education on various soil health topics will be offered through standalone workshops across Ontario. Two research and demonstration sites are showcasing soil health management strategies and are part of farmer-led soil health research studies.
EFAO is also adding several farmer-leaders to its advisory service as Soil Health Champions to offer soil health mentorship, advice and consultation to other farmers by phone, online or through a farm visit.
According to Baikie, the benefits to farmers will range from cost savings through lower input and fuel costs to increased soil water-holding capacity and infiltration.
“Overall, better soil health means improved resiliency in face of extreme weather, letting farmers increase yields and grow more nutrient dense crops,” she says. “The goal is not only to improve environmental sustainability but also the economic survivability of the farm for farmers.”
“This funding means we have the capacity to reach farther and do more with this program, and expand beyond our day to day activities to generate learnings that will be more broadly accessible and more widely felt,” she adds.
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