Farmer-led extension drives Ontario Soil Network

Ontario Soil Network member Eric Kaiser farms with his family at their Kaiser Lake Farms near Napanee, Ont.

The Ontario Soil Network (OSN), a farmer-led extension effort, now has a second group of 40 farmers from across the province who will work to adopt and promote soil-building best management practices.

The group kicked off the two-year peer-to-peer knowledge exchange in Kingston last month. Framed as a leadership challenge, the participants seek to increase the adoption of soil health enhancing practices such as cover crops, minimum tillage and soil amendments.

OSN will support the 40 ‘early-adopters’ in their soil health education and outreach efforts. Members will be challenged to host education events on their own farms, speak at farm events across the province, participate in media campaigns and mentor other farmers who want to take the first steps towards soil health. They will also be involved in evaluating the efficacy of their approaches in order to become more effective influencers in the future.

RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin attended the kick-off meeting and had an opportunity to talk with a number of the participants. In this video report, he asks OSN farmer participants Mark Richards, Charlene Whattam, Eric Kaiser, Tim Williams and Katherine Rothermel why they joined the network, what soil management insights they hope to learn from the group, and what soil health tips they’ll be sharing with their peers based on their own farming experience. (Story continues after the video.)

Tobin also talks with St. George, Ont., farmer Steve Sickle who participated in the first OSN peer group that was established in 2017. Sickle discusses how he’s established his own local soil health group, including neighbouring farmers, and how they share information and experience to improve soil health on their farms.

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