About 70 people came out to the Emo Agricultural Research Station’s annual open house last Thursday evening to hear the latest on how the work there was going this year.
Station manager Kim Jo Bliss began by taking the group out to the performance trials, which the station may have trouble running in the future because the University of Guelph may cut its funding.
“These are called our performance trials, so we have oats, barley, wheat—and it’s just testing different varieties,” Bliss noted.
“But the university doesn’t consider performance and variety testing research,” she explained.
“We have to start looking at ways to bring in money,” Bliss stressed. “Ways that someone is going to pay us to put these plots in.”
Bliss feels that being in the north, these trials are beneficial.
“This is just one of the challenges that we’re going to have to correct to keep the station going,” she remarked.
“It’s not that we need to come up with all the money but we need to show some income,” she added.
“We have to look at things a little differently if we’re going to stay a station.”
Bliss said the university is looking for ways to cut costs—and one of the ways is to cut research in the north.
“So we don’t know what’s going on,” she admitted. “We know that we’re good for next year, but yet there will be some changes for next year.
“We really are out of the loop in a lot of ways because we are so far away.”
A committee was struck last month to brainstorm ideas, such as getting paid to plant different things by producer groups.
Bernie Zimmerman, who runs a district dairy farm, explained that if producer groups, such as cattle or dairy, donate money or pay EARS to test plants, then it will help the station remain open.
“We’re hoping to get commitments or ideas by Labour Day, so that we’re able to go to management in the fall and give them a presentation on the importance of the research station and the level of commitment that we have,” he explained.
“We want to have applied research that is relevant,” Zimmerman stressed.
“The University of Guelph is a scientific institution,” noted Amos Brielmann, whose district farm features a cow/calf
operation and cash crops.
“They want research done that is peer reviewed . . . [but] we can’t do that here because we don’t have the scientists,” he remarked.
“We want to do applied research, but applied research is nothing for the University of Guelph.
“We need that station. It is absolutely essential for us,” Brielmann reiterated.
“What [Bliss] does here we can bring out in the fields.”
Brielmann said EARS saves the farmers a lot of money since they don’t have to gamble trying out different varieties themselves.
He added the local ag station is necessary because results from Thunder Bay or Manitoba would not be as applicable here.
In addition to funding issues, all of the farmers on hand last week agreed this year’s late spring has affected the growing season.
“It’s been challenging because of the late spring,” noted Bliss. “It’s definitely been a more difficult year.
“It’s the first year for these students, and everything takes a little bit longer to figure out how to do and what to do, as well.”
Her students, Nick Donaldson and Luke Hudson, both are enjoying their first summer out at the station and agree that weeding is not the best part of the job.
“I’ve learned a lot,” said Donaldson, who just finished his first year of university studying English.
“It’s nice having all the different things to do,” he added. “It’s pretty much different every day,”
While Donaldson had some previous experience working on his grandfather’s farm, Hudson was brand new to the job, having worked in fast food and retail previously.
“It’s been really good. I really like being out here,” said Hudson, who plans to be a teacher.
“It’s different, I like working outside.”
The tour of the ag station continued around the fields to look at everything from barley, oats, wheat, alfalfa, and mithcanthus to chickpeas, soy beans, and quinoa.
Afterwards, the group convened inside to visit and enjoy some snacks before heading home.
The open house followed a well-attended soil and crop tour earlier in the day, where many farmers toured three different farms as well as the new community pasture in Pinewood.