Farmers and visitors at a canola field in Montney on a tour with the BC Grain Producers Association.Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 18, 2022 at 16:16

By Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Peace region agriculture producers have secured $5,957,119 in federal funding for a new Living Lab program, which will bring farmers, ranchers, and scientists together to come up with ideas and best practices to tackle climate change over the next five years.

A Living Lab takes place on local producer farms, with 60 farms in the B.C. and Alberta Peace regions invited to take part in best practice studies to aid with carbon sequestration.  

The Peace Region Forage Seed Association is the lead organization for the lab, accompanied by the Peace River Forage Association of BC, NEAT’s Northern Co-Hort, BC Grain Producers Association, Fourth Sister Farm, North Peace Applied Research Association, Mackenzie Applied Research Association, SARDA Ag Research, and the Peace Country Beef and Forage Association.  

Nadia Mori, co-ordinator for the Peace Region Living Lab, says while pairing two provinces for a program is rare, Northeast B.C. and Northern Alberta are similar when it comes to agriculture, chiefly being grain and livestock producers.  

“The Peace region has been identified as an area where we have large potential for our soils to sequester carbon, and it’s a real exciting story because our Living Lab proposal was very unlikely to be successful,” she said. “Usually a living lab is only done on a provincial scale. Regionally, this is a better fit.”  

Mori said funding for the local lab has been provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the federal Agricultural Climate Solutions program. 

“The project will look at farms and ranches as a whole system, so trying to look at the whole operation and how it all comes together,” she said.  

Other practices that will be tested include inter-cropping, cover cropping, vermi-composting, lime applications, and rotational grazing.  

The list of producers is not exhaustive due to the limited funding, said Mori, but agricultural mentorship groups, workshops, and tours are planned to share the knowledge gained through the lab.  

“Ultimately, it’s about adoption of these practices to make farms more resilient and prepared for whatever the climate might throw at us,” Mori said. “The first year will be mostly baseline data collection, soil sampling.”  

The BC Grain Producers held a farm tour last week in the Montney area, giving farmers and the public a chance to see what work is already being done in the North Peace. 

Les Willms, a long-time grain farmer in Montney, has already planted a mixture of radishes and clover to break up hard soil and regenerate nitrogen for future crops. He had planned to go ahead with or without the lab funding, testing cover cropping in several of his fields.  

“Throw some legumes in, that’ll build nitrogen, and use the radishes to break up compaction – those are our two goals,” he said. “We also have four different varieties. We’ve basically got 50 per cent radishes and 50 per cent red clover. Using red clover is pretty historical for our area, that’s what the old timers used.”  

This item reprinted with permission from Alaska Highway News, Fort St. John, British Columbia