By Jacqueline Johnson, AAg, Agriculture Programs Specialist, Prince Albert
Robin Lokken, a researcher in the agriculture industry, understands the value of building public trust in the agriculture industry. Robin is the manager at the Conservation Learning Centre located 18 kilometres south of Prince Albert Saskatchewan, which is one of eight Agriculture Applied Research Management (Agri-ARM) sites across the province. Agri-ARM sites receive support from the Ministry of Agriculture through the federal-provincial Canadian Agricultural Partnership agreement. These sites replicate research projects in the field to demonstrate the effectiveness of new practices and technologies. Researchers then share their findings at field days, producer meetings, workshops and online. Agri-ARM sites are not-for-profit entities that provide unbiased, third-party information on current and new cutting edge agricultural practices and technologies.
“What’s really great about the Agri-ARM sites is that producers are able to get results that are applicable to their specific region,” Robin said. “If we can show them that those practices work and that they have an economic return, they’re actually more likely to adopt some of these best practices that are coming out.”
While conducting research and sharing results with producers is the main focus of the Agri-ARM sites, they offer a tremendous value to the general public. Each site hosts field days for producers and the public to learn about research initiatives and the practices that farmers use. Field days also provide an opportunity to highlight the agriculture industry’s commitment to continuous improvement so the public can feel confident that the agriculture industry is constantly evolving and innovating.
“While some projects are focused specifically on environmental stewardship practices, typically every project has some kind of environmental stewardship component,” Robin explains. “Whether it’s looking at right rates, source, timing and placement of fertilizer, there seems to be some part of the project that relates back to environmental stewardship.”
Besides hosting field days, producer meetings and workshops, the Conservation Learning Centre also runs a school program that teachers, parents and students from primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions can attend for a hands-on learning experience about agriculture and the environment.
“We have so many wetlands, shelterbelts and different wildlife around,” said Robin. “[Participants] get a real view of how agriculture interacts with the environment.”
Agri-ARM sites are positioned well to be a reliable source of information on modern farming practices.
“Transparency in agriculture research is important for better understanding and to build trust with the producers so that they will be more willing to adopt best management practices,” Robin said. “It’s also important for us to have producer support for future research funding and identifying research priorities.”
The staff at the Conservation Learning Centre are always happy to talk about their research projects, and their publicly funded research results are available to anyone online. Producers are also welcome to reach out to their local Agri-ARM site to learn more about current and past projects, as well as to get involved in the research. Collaborating with producers is important for developing research projects relevant to the Agri-ARM region and in some instances, producers have provided the idea on which a research project is based.
“The whole idea is that we’re doing research and demonstrations that are of interest to local producers.” Robin says.
For information on upcoming events, or to get involved with research projects, please contact your nearest Agri-ARM site or visit www.agriarm.ca.