Ontario’s minister of agriculture visits Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week

ELMWOOD – Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week had what organizer Lorie Smith called “phenomenal attendance” on Crops Day – the final day of this year’s conference and trade show.

One of those who attended was Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s agriculture minister. It was not the first time Thompson has attended the event, although previously, it was as a goat producer.

“It was the best (in person) attendance in years!” Smith commented.

The delicious noon meal on Crops Day was attended by 243 people.

“The room was packed,” Smith said, commenting on the incredible energy. “This conference is back!”

Smith said she’s grateful the decision was made to “go virtual” during COVID – it kept the momentum, and allowed the return to an excellent in-person event this year with plenty of new speakers and livestreaming opportunities for those unable to be in Elmwood.

The mild weather meant a lot of people who might otherwise have taken advantage of livestreaming hopped in their pickups and drove to Elmwood. The chance to listen to a speaker, and then meet with the person face-to-face to ask questions, was too good to be missed.

“People really appreciate that,” Smith said.

She spoke of the resilience of the conference, and commented that is what farming is all about – resilience.

While she’s still recovering from a marathon week of operating at top speed – and the weeks of preparations prior to the conference – Smith said all the speakers were “really well received,” as were the ever-popular panels. She noted that hearing information from an expert is good, but hearing from local agricultural leaders who share the same challenges and opportunities as you do, is even better.

“Local panels are always the best,” she said.

Smith said presentations can’t all be “futuristic.” Getting a couple of ideas “they can take home and use” is what makes a presentation both memorable and appreciated.

In all, there were 105 speakers, including 21 “on demand” presentations. Those presentations offer educational opportunities for producers who may be interested in learning about other commodities, she explained. After attending their own commodity day, they can learn about other aspects of agriculture.

As for attendance – the meals served – 1,127 over the entire conference – indicate attendance was on par with 2020, said Smith. Crops Day saw the highest attendance since 2018.

People enjoyed the fact the conference is well organized, both polished and down-to-earth.

Highlights included Mike Hutjens on Dairy Day, Steve Kell on Crops Day, and of course, Peter Johnson, who always closes the conference. But there was a feeling that the entire event was what appealed to people.

“It’s great when they walk out thinking the whole day is great,” Smith said.

A highlight for Smith was when Thompson visited the conference on the last day, and offered positive comments on the future of agriculture.

Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week is one of the province’s last OMAFRA-led agricultural conferences. Grey Agricultural Services took it over in 2000, and despite COVID, it’s not only surviving, it’s thriving – a lot of work for Smith and fellow organizers, but rewarding in its success.

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