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Signs to promote local agriculture

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You might call it a sign of the times.

The first of two signs promoting agriculture in Rainy River District was hoisted into place late last week just west of Fort Frances on a piece of land owned by Leon DeGagne.

The second sign is set to go up just east of Rainy River on one of Rudy Sinninghe’s fields sometime in the next week or so.

The project is a joint effort between the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture, the Rainy River Future Development Corp., and just about every commodity group in the district from cattle to elk to buffalo.

Consequently, that’s what is painted on the sign--a cross-section of barnyards and livestock from farmers across the district, as well as a 1-800 number for people wanting more information.

“Hopefully, it makes incoming traffic, whether they’re tourists [or locals], aware of what kind of agriculture is in the Rainy River District,” noted RRFA president Linda Armstrong.

“We’ve got a number there [people] have the liberty of phoning--and maybe it will help to produce some income,” she added.

“The idea is to put tourist traffic in touch with the agricultural market,” echoed Bill Darby, a former RRFA director who spent much of his two-year term working on this project.

Darby said the RRFDC provided $2,500 towards the project, about half the cost for creating the two signs. He added it also would be fielding all the calls made to the 1-800 number.

“They’ll have a directory of all the contact names and addresses for all the agricultural commodity groups,” he explained. “So when someone calls . . . they’ll have a contact name.”

Geoff Gillon, community investment manager with the RRFDC, said increasing the diversity in the agricultural community is one of its major directives.

“We support this because what we want the signs to do is increase the awareness of the agricultural industry in the Rainy River District,” he noted.

“It also works to show travellers the diversity in the agricultural sector in the [district],” he added. “They know we’re into cattle, they know we’re into elk, and they know we’re into sheep.”

The sign was painted by local artist Peter Spuzak, who also is president of the Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association. He said the finished product is more of a mural than a sign.

“When I first saw the project and we got the design going, I kind of wanted a sign that stands out really in the district,” he said. “I didn’t want to see it as a graphic statement. There’s some artwork up there.”

Spuzak also said it wasn’t hard to get the different commodity groups in the district to back this project. “Everybody got on the bandwagon quite nicely for it,” he noted.

Armstrong agreed it’s become more and more common for all the agricultural associations to consolidate their efforts on projects.

Ralph Hunsperger, an RRFDC board member who also has served on the executive for both the RRCA and the RRFA, said he was encouraged to see the agricultural groups working with them. And hopes to see more of it in the future.

“The business development corporation is to be district-wide, and this certainly includes agriculture,” Hunsperger said, noting the RRFDC has helped on many west-end projects, such as getting a ring scale for the sales barn in Stratton and helping with a lot of the research on the abattoir project.

“We wish--and I feel most of the directors on the [RRFDC] wish--we could get more active people throughout the district,” he added. “My little line is ‘There is life west of Crozier.’”

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