Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week plans ‘the best virtual conference possible’ for second straight year

·4 min read

GREY-BRUCE – The Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week (GBFW) committee has made the decision to deliver, for the second year in a row, “the best virtual conference possible” in 2022, said Lorie Smith, conference co-ordinator.

That doesn’t mean organizers don’t want to be back in Elmwood, enjoying a hot roast beef dinner among friends – exactly the opposite! But with COVID-19 still with us, and the as-yet-unknown impact of the Delta variant on this area, the decision has been made to keep everyone’s safety in mind.

“GBFW has been there for local producers and beyond for 55 years. It will continue to be there in its 56th year but delivered online only,” said Smith in a press release.

She explained that co-ordinating an excellent conference, be it in-person or virtual, takes time and planning. As with the conference in 2021, the decision was made to start planning early for a virtual conference rather than throw one together at the last minute.

“GBFW is recognized as one of the most well-organized conferences in Ontario. By pivoting to virtual now, co-ordinators can ensure that that reputation is maintained,” she explained.

But that opens the doors to some exciting opportunities. Smith said in an interview that the organizers are going to take what’s always made GBFW the best conference of its kind – wonderful speakers who talk about what people in agriculture want to hear – and combine it with lessons learned from the 2021 virtual conference.

“Without the limitations of long-distance travel, and wintery weather, GBFW is available to anyone, from anywhere. Additionally, without the requirement for speakers to travel, the conference can draw from a broader pool of presenters,” she said. For example, Sheep Day on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, will feature a veterinarian from the United Kingdom. There won’t be a repeat of last year’s highly successful simultaneous presentation by two speakers, one in the U.K. and the other in New Zealand, but there will be the same level of dynamic speakers from both the local area and much further afield.

There will still be plenty of industry updates, opportunities for produces to speak with each other, question-and-answer sessions, producer panels, “and of course, the top-notch educational content that is expected of GBFW,” she said.

Smith explained that one of the lessons learned from GBFW 2021 was not everyone is comfortable with the technology used to present – and enjoy – a virtual conference.

“Check Your Tech Tuesday (CYTT on Tuesday, Jan. 4) will be presented free,” said Smith. The day will serve to get everyone comfortable with the platform, make sure their technology works, and enjoy two panel discussions. Anyone with a ticket for any of the days will get a complimentary ticket to CYTT.

“We have to improve the comfort level with tech,” she said.

Smith outlined some of the highlights of what promises to be a dynamite first day of the conference.

CYTT features a presentation on the Future of Agriculture by the Hon. Rob Black, a member of the Canadian Senate; Marty Seymour of FCC (Farm Credit Corporation); and Andrew Campbell, “the Fresh Air Farmer.”

That’s on the morning’s agenda. In the afternoon, Sgt. James Hunter, Grey Bruce OPP, along with a speaker from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, and Rob Kirkconnell as moderator, will discuss Farm Implements on the Roadway.

Smith made note of a presentation that is of interest to everyone in these challenging times – a pre-recorded Mental Health Fireside Chat with Deborah Vanberkel and Jackie Ralph.

The remainder of the conference will feature the various days that have proved so popular. There won’t be “booths” to visit virtually this year, Smith said, but there will be ample opportunity to visit and discuss.

“Unfortunately we did not have the attendance on Horse Day last year to be able to run it virtually again this year. We will look forward to bringing it back in 2023 when we can be in person once more,” Smith said.

“We didn’t expect to be going virtual two years in a row,” she continued, but GBFW 2022 will make the most of the format. The agenda for the week includes discussion on the carbon offset program, genetics and genomics, and much more.

To find more information about Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week 2022, including speaker profiles, daily agendas, sponsors, exhibitors, and how to register, please go to the website,

Don’t forget to mark the GBFW 2022 dates on your calendar – you sure won’t want to miss them!

Check Your Tech Tuesday – Jan. 4

Beef Day – Wednesday, Jan. 5

Dairy Day – Thursday, Jan. 6

Goat Day – Friday, Jan. 7

Sheep Day – Saturday, Jan. 8

Ecological Day – Monday, Jan. 10

Crops Day – Tuesday, Jan. 11

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

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