2022 Farmland Forum – A Recap

The 2022 Farmland Forum was held virtually on March 24, 2022, and we are pleased with the outcome to say the least! This was Ontario Farmland Trust’s 17th annual Forum and as hoped for, the day ran smoothly and according to plan.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still present, it was decided the Forum would be held online for the second year in a row. Once again we were able to reach a large audience of over 200 people from across the province, country, and even across the ocean, as we welcomed an attendee from Norway!

The theme for this year’s Forum was The Future of Farmland Diversification and presentations throughout the day discussed how humans, plants and animals work harmoniously to produce agricultural commodities, create ecosystem services, and combat climate change. Discussions throughout the day highlighted the important connection between farmland protection and climate change mitigation. Sara Epp, Assistant Professor, SEDRD, University of Guelph, acted as an amazing MC for the day, ensuring that we stayed on schedule throughout the entire event.

Our opening keynote speaker was David Phillips, CM, Senior Climatologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada. David started off his discussion by taking a look at how farmers addressed weather in the past and how climate change impacts agriculture today. He highlighted how farmers are more-so in tune with the weather than the average person because their livelihoods are dependent on it and mentioned you may even consider them “amateur meteorologists”. From there, he went to explore mitigation strategies, such as regenerative agriculture and other sustainable farming methods.

To branch off this topic, our second keynote speaker was Evan Fraser, PhD, Director of the Arrell Food Institute and Professor of Geography at the University of Guelph. Evan continued the conversation by exploring global food security, the imbalance in food systems around the world, and broke down the nutritional content of the foods we are eating. Additionally, he explored the advantages of precision agriculture and the challenge of sustainability.

After the tone of the day was set, we were excited to welcome the first panel to the table in a discussion on A Multitude of Ecosystem Services across Unique Farmland Uses. This panel included a diverse array of Ontario farmers who introduced their farms and shared the various ecosystem services their farming practices provide. With the theme of farmland diversification in mind, we welcomed Mitchell Good, the Livestock Manager at Good Family Farms to discuss regenerative agriculture, Rachel-Hope Hawkshaw, the Fencing Manager at Topsy Farms to discuss re-wilding a sheep’s wool farm, Heidi Brautigam, Flower Farmer at Stems Flower Farm to discuss locally and ethically grown cut flowers, and Dave Stotesbury, Head Beekeeper at Backed by Bees to discuss honeybee health and productivity.

After this panel concluded, we were equally as excited to welcome our second panel to the table in a discussion on Sustainable Innovations in the Agricultural Sector. This panel included brilliant innovators that introduced us to technologies that help increase efficiency in agriculture. Carl Frook, owner of Marl Creek Renewables discussed his on-farm biodigester’s capability of removing methane from the atmosphere, while creating energy. Peter Wheeler, Professor at School of Applied Technology at Humber College & CEO of Sun Pillar Inc. discussed Hive Health, a hands-free bee monitoring device that allows beekeepers to record data on their hives without interfering with them. Keith Warriner, Professor of Food Science at University of Guelph and Paul Moyer, Owner of Moyer’s Apple Products discussed their joint venture at Clean Works Corp., where they created a chemical-free sanitizer for produce that is more effective than water-based systems. This panel definitely sparked a lot of buzz.

Last, but certainly not least, our closing keynote speaker, Philly Markowitz, Economic Development Officer at Grey County, couldn’t have wrapped up the day better with co-presenters Linda Swanston, Climate Change Manager at Grey County and Leigh Grigg, Chair of The Sustainability Project. Philly, Linda, and Leigh collaboratively worked on climate change mitigation strategies, local food initiatives, and sustainability mapping in Grey County. Together, they demonstrated the value of strong community partnerships and narrowed the focus of the day from a global to a municipal scale.

Overall, the Forum was a great success, and we are most appreciative of our amazing presenters. Additionally, the event couldn’t have been possible without our generous sponsors, so a big “thank you” to Better Farming magazine, Ontario Professional Planner Institute, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Beef Farmers of Ontario, Jackie Ramler at Raymond James Investment, National Farmers Union—Ontario, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Pommies Cider Co., GoodLot Farm and Farmstead Brewing Co. and Earth to Table Bread Bar.

Lastly, thank you to everyone who attended, and we hope to see you next year!

If you would like to review the program, our view our keynote speaker’s presentations, click here.