bison in field


OFCAF is Making An Impact at the Farm Gate: RDAR and the AAFC Tour Producer Farms in Central Alberta

RDAR opened the On-Farm Climate Action Fund (OFCAF) program to application in early August. On November 7th, 2022 OFCAF closed applications for the 2022 year one intake season. OFCAF will begin accepting applications for year two of the program starting on February, 13 2O23. On October 27th 2022, RDAR had the opportunity to host two federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)Program Managers on a full day tour of producer farms in and around the Central Alberta region that have started to implement OFCAF BMPs on their properties.

We sat down with OFCAF Program Manager Fiona Briody to talk about the tour and how OFCAF program funding is making an impact on Alberta producers.

Fiona Briody on the OFCAF program:

A highlight of delivering the OFCAF program has certainly been the opportunity to meet so many passionate, driven and forward-thinking farmers and ranchers that are focused on making improvements that will benefit future generations and the health of land they farm on. Many of the farmers and ranchers that we visited on this tour we met while working through their OFCAF applications only a few short weeks prior. The development of this tour is a testament to the warm and welcoming nature of the family farmers who opened their doors and welcomed us to their farms to have these important discussions.

On Thursday Oct 27th, RDAR had the opportunity to host a tour for AAFC staff. The two staff members that joined this tour were AAFC Senior Program Officer Abdullahi Keinan and AAFC Program Manager Luka Kovacec. This tour focused on OFCAF and gave our guests a chance to see real-life outcomes of the RDAR funded research that is taking place on farms here in Alberta.

The objective of the day was to connect with producers and give our AAFC guests a chance to have in person conversations about OFCAF, and give producers a chance to ask and answer questions about RDAR and on farm research.

Each farm we visited provided insights into what they do, why they made the BMP changes on their operation and what they had learned through the OFCAF application process. This tour gave RDAR and our AAFC guests the chance to see and hear many producers short and long-term goals for their farm operations. The farmers that we had the opportunity to speak to on this tour had a strong commitment to lifetime learning, many noted that they are consistently tweaking how they farm and continually building on the structure and systems that they currently have in place.

The Tour

The First stop on our tour was Groot Farms, a potato/cereal crop farm near Gibbons Alberta. This farm had applied to OFCAF to put in cover crops. Additionally, this farm brought in cattle to increase the health of their soils particularly on their potato land. Soil health and regenerative practices were the topic of conversation on this leg of the tour. Many farmers throughout the tour said that OFCAF funding will help to build out their long term goals — which is to preserve the health of the farm for their family and future generations.

Next, the tour held a lunch shop talk at RDAR Board Director D’Arcy Hilgartner’s farm where a few other farmers joined us for lunch to talk about their operations. The afternoon conversation was great!

The last stop on our tour was a bison farm in Hay Lakes Alberta. This farm is implementing rotational grazing and a water distribution system for their bison herd. Their plan is to move the bison herd every week. This is the first intensive grazing system, that we know of for bison. With the day coming to a close, the farm family insisted on feeding our group a delicious bison supper. It was a fantastic meal with engaging conversations that covered all we had seen heard and experienced throughout the day.

On behalf of RDAR and AAFC we would like to give a warm thank you to all of the families that welcomed us onto their land and opened their doors to us with such warm hospitality.