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Funding of $2.4M will help bring Island farmers and agricultural researchers to the same table

BEDEQUE, P.E.I. —

Andrea McKenna and the East Prince Agri-Environment Association Inc. are bringing changes to farming on P.E.I.
“We’ve set up an environment where researchers and producers can sit and the table together,” said McKenna, describing the work she and the group have done to date.
McKenna is the manager of the East Prince Agri-Environment Association Inc.

The association, now made up of 14 farmers, was formed four years ago in hopes of getting researchers and farmers to work closely together to get increased knowledge of best management practices and build relationships.

A major factor in that has been bringing the researchers to the local fields – exhibiting the varying conditions the Island fields could be subject to.
“We’ve taken it away from the Harrington Research sites and the farmers here have welcomed them into their fields that are under very different circumstances.”
On Thursday, the association received $2.4 million from Canadian taxpayers through Ottawa’s Living Laboratories Initiative.
“It’s a modern way of doing agricultural research, where the farmers are more closely involved.
“They help the researchers determine what the issues are, help identify them and how they will be addressed,” explained Scott Anderson, the Agriculture Canada Co-ordinator for the Atlantic Living Labs project on P.E.I.
Typically, he said, farming research is done at a base where researchers take information from their findings and then pass it along to Canadian farmers.
“But what [working with each other] allows are the new findings from research to be implemented as they happen because it’s not linear.”
Anderson grew up on a potato farm in Morrell, P.E.I.
He said it’s great to see this new way to go about agriculture. He added the Island project is referred to the Atlantic project because it’s the only one of it’s kind in the region. There is another project launched in Manitoba.
McKenna said the main point of the Atlantic Living Lab project is to gain more knowledge and information to make better farm management decisions.
Right now, the project involves mainly potato farmers, she said because of the industry’s presence in the East Prince area, but they are also looking at studying grain production and working with dairy farms.
The project will last four years and will develop eight best management practices (BMPs) along with five supporting activities to address critical agri-environmental issues identified by farmers and project partners.
The BMPS will focus on nutrient loss due to soil erosion and its impact on receiving waters, fertilizer applications for better nutrient management, declining soil organic matter, and nutrient losses due to improper water management techniques.
“We want to keep soils where they’re supposed to be (and) keep waterways clean and protect all habitats among the farmland,” said McKenna.
millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com
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