Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week goes virtual for the second year

·6 min read

GREY-BRUCE – Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week, Jan. 4-11, 2022 is a go, thanks to the communications technology wizards from CTRE Productions. The only thing missing is the wonderful scent of roast beef at the Elmwood Community Centre.

Organizers made the difficult decision to go virtual for the second year in a row, rather than chance last-minute adjustments in response to the ever-changing COVID situation. It proved to be a wise decision, with the appearance of the Omicron variant. Even in the virtual format, the variant is creating headaches, and gave organizers a bit of rearranging to do in the hours leading to the start of the conference, according to co-ordinator Lorie Smith.

“I’m so happy we decided to go virtual,” she said, adding that it’s important to “do whatever you do, right.”

GBFW 2022 will take place entirely online. The educational content is being delivered right to producers’ farm officers, kitchen tables or tractors.

The continued partnership with CTRE Productions – so successful for the 2021 edition – will ensure the success of this virtual event, with new features, based on learnings from the first-ever virtual conference.

Smith said, “There were things I wanted to polish.”

And that’s what’s happened. The Exhibitor Hall is a lot easier to access, and there are door prizes to encourage people to do so.

Check Your Tech Day gave people a chance to get comfortable with the format and technology before the actual conference got going. Smith noted a lot of people had trouble with tech last year – not because of any glitches, but because they weren’t familiar with attending a conference virtually.

It also encouraged people to register early, something that’s not usual for GBFW, where last-minute registrations tend to be more the rule than the exception. Smith said registrations have gone well this year.

This year there are 20 minutes between presentations, enough time to break for coffee and visit the Exhibitor Hall.

She noted that the virtual conference is in no way a compromise; it’s a different type of conference, with its own advantages and disadvantages.

The virtual conference removes the distance barrier, so producers can attend from across the province, country, or even internationally. Smith said she’s pleased to see registrations coming in not just from local people but from across the country.

Networking with fellow producers and agribusiness representatives is not limited by the online platform. Morning Mingles, Afternoon Exchanges, and speaker Q and A sessions facilitate the interactions that everyone is missing with COVID. It’s not the same as being at the conference in person, but it has the potential to be rewarding.

“I hope people take advantage,” said Smith.

The decision was made not to have Horse Day this year – it wasn’t well-attended last year. When the conference returns to Elmwood, so will Horse Day.

Virtual Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week (#GBFW22), in its 56th year, began Jan. 4 and runs until Tuesday, Jan. 11. This seven-day agricultural conference is packed with an impressive and informative line-up of speakers.

Beef Day was on Wednesday, followed by Dairy, Goat, Sheep, Ecological, and Crops Days. The week will include live and pre-recorded sessions. Presentations will be available in real-time on the commodity day, but importantly will also be available during the 30-day encore access, so that participants can engage in the sessions on their own schedules, at their own pace. Each day starts with a 10:45 a.m. welcome, with the presentations concluding around 4 p.m. (it varies, according to the day). Of note, there is no programming on Sunday, Jan. 9.

The conference offers over 47 sessions covering a vast array of topics targeting the issues and challenges facing the farming community today.

Panel discussions

As always, exciting discussion panels have been developed for 2022.

As an on-demand feature, Jackie Ralph from CMHA Grey-Bruce, and Deborah Vanberkel, a registered psychotherapist with Cultivate Counselling, will have a fireside chat about Mental Health in Agriculture. The Mental Health discussion is sponsored by Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

On Beef Day, Jan. 5, four producers, one who is also a veterinarian, shared their Calving Tips.

On Dairy Day, Jan. 6, three panelists will share their perspectives on the Sustainability of the Dairy Industry.

On Goat Day, Jan. 7, three goat producers will provide tips about Year-Round Breeding.

On Sheep Day, Jan. 8, one producer and two nutritionists will tease out Reducing Feed Costs.

On Ecological Day, Jan. 10, four panelists with delve into the Carbon Countdown. This discussion is sponsored by Grey County Economic Development.

On Crops Day, Jan 11, there are two discussion panels. Watch the Soil Health Panel in real-time, when three members of the Ontario Soil Health Network will divulge their on-farm soil health tips and tricks. Watch the on-demand session when three researchers and an agronomist will participate in the panel, Cover Crops, Digging Deeper, to answer submitted questions pertaining to cover crops.

Keynote speakers

Each day features excellent keynote speakers and presentations. Some of them are as follows, with the complete list available on the GBFW 22 website.

On Beef Day, Jennie Hodgen from Merck Animal Health spoke on Meat Matters, what is happening in the beef industry?

On Dairy Day, the GBFW committee welcomes keynote speaker and veterinarian with Zoetis, Dr. Elad Ben-Ezra to the virtual stage, where he will present, The Immune Challenges of the Young Calf.

Goat Day welcomes Terry Gipson from Langston University in Oklahoma, who will delve into Genetic Improvement in Goats.

On Sheep Day, GBFW puts the powers of a virtual conference to great use by streaming speakers from the U.S. and U.K. Dr. Don Höglund will teach registrants The Anatomy of Skill Learning, how sheep and handlers learn. Dr. Chris Aukland, joining from the U.K., will dive into Homeopathic Remedies in the Treatment of Sheep, and how they are being applied on-farm in the U.K.

On Ecological Day, Chris Wooding of Ironwood Organics will share Growing Ecosystem Services, Cost or Benefit? He will challenge producers to think of their farms as ecosystem services that could improve yield, mitigate the effects of weather extremes, and improve the sustainability/value of the farm. Kim Delaney from Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds will shine the spotlight on seeds – Seed Matters, Do you Know Where Your Seed Comes From? This presentation is sponsored by NFU Bruce Local and NFU Grey Local.

GBFW22 ends with Crops Day on Tuesday. Scott A. Shearer from Ohio State University joins the conference to speak to Ag Tech: Disruption or Distraction? Perennial favourite, Peter Johnson, will wrap-up the week with, Ag Myth-Busting.

Smith said the commodity groups decide the topics people want for the conference; trends this year appear to be genetics and genomics, and reducing feed costs. The other trends are in the area of sustainability, carbon, soil health and market updates – all timely topics of concern to producers. “There’s a ton of information,” said Smith.

During the week, the Exhibitor Hall will include supportive sponsors from across the province. “We couldn’t do this without our sponsors,” said Smith. “They’ve come on strong this year.” To give them more visibility, there’s be 30-second commercials this year. In addition, there are opportunities for sponsors to do hosting.

For details on registration, full daily agendas, a list of speakers, and lists of sponsors and exhibitors, please visit the Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week website, www.gbfw.ca. If you have any questions, please call 519-986-3756, or email info@greyagservices.ca.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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