"En 1995, le Conseil de conservation rassemblait un groupe de fermiers
très motivés pour participer à un projet-pilote de recherche par et pour les
Il y avait un équilibre raisonnable d'hommes et de femmes de différents
âges, ainsi qu'une représentation des opérations d'élevage et de
production de récoltes.
David Coon, le coordonnateur de ce projet, nous parle des buts, des
objectifs et des résultats de ce projet et de ce qui s'en vient.
Conservation Council of NB
In 1995, the Conservation Council assembled a group of nine highly motivated farmers to
participate in a pilot project in farmer-led on-farm research. Staff at Macdonald
College's Ecological Agriculture Projects provided technical advice and information. The
National Farmers Union agreed to collaborate. Funding for the pilot project was obtained
from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.
The group represented a reasonable balance of men and women, young and old, and a mix
of cash crop and livestock farm operations. Their farms are located in a 100 km stretch
from Woodstock to Grand Falls, New Brunswick.
(photo:Conservation Council of NB)
The group includes:
Conrad Toner, Grand Falls: 275 acres of seed potatoes in rotation with barley and
Wayne Sabine, Arthurette: 125 acres certified organic potatoes, turnips, grain, plus
Wout VanGaal, Aroostook: 260 acres corn silage/grass/ alfalfa for dairy and beef herds.
Shawna and Leighton Hayward, Woodstock: 100 acres potatoes, sweet corn, cabbage,
Darrell and Dale McLaughlin, Aroostook: 250 acres: potatoes/millet, ryegrass,
Betty Brown, Summerfield: 900 acres in potatoes/soybean/grain/hay/pasture plus beef.
Harold Culberson, Woodstock: 325 acres table, processing potatoes/barley, cow/calf,
Wayne Jamieson, Grand Falls:
One of the participating farmers:
Goals and Objectives
The group met regularly following the end of the 1995 harvest, each taking their turn
to host the sessions. The Conservation Council's David Coon co-ordinated and facilitated
During the first winter the on-farm research group members decided on their goals and
objectives, identified their information needs, and prioritized their on-farm research
1) to ensure their farms are viable for the long-term,
2) to be good stewards,
3) to minimize health risks.
a) to reduce reliance on purchased inputs,
b) to cut costs/ obtain better prices,
c) to reduce chemical use,
d) to build up their soils.
Over the winter the farmers prioritized the problems they wanted to address. These
included providing a potato crop with a natural source of nitrogen from the preceding crop
to avoid chemical fertilizers, stopping soil erosion and nutrient leaching after potato
harvest, avoiding herbicide use for weed control in sweet corn and pasture ground,
avoiding insecticide use when bringing old pasture into crop production, minimizing
fertilizer requirements for new ground brought into crop production, and renewing pasture
without cultivating it.
Information packages on each of these topics were developed by Ecological Agriculture
Projects at Macdonald College to provide the farmers with possible options. There had also
been considerable discussion within the group, drawing on personal experience and
A task list for the growing season was developed. In particular, Charlie McIntosh, an
agronomist, was hired on a consulting basis to help design, monitor and evaluate the
research trials. Roger Samson from Montreal-based REAP Canada provided some initial input
into the design of the on-farm trials.
Planning meetings were held with the participating farmers in April and August to
design the research trials. Where required, Charlie was present to assist with the
establishment of the trial. He then made periodic field visits to keep tabs on the
progress of each experiment. A newsletter called On-Farm was distributed to participating
farmers through the growing season when it was impossible to have face-to-face meetings.
In October, field visits were made to assess the results to that point. In early
December, everyone met together to share their experiences and results to that point.
Charlie MacIntosh presented his report and recommendations to the other farmers.
Those farmers who felt satisfied with their trials expanded and incorporated the
practices into their production system for the 1997 growing season. Plans for new on-farm
experiments had to be abandoned that year as weather severely delayed planting.
Despite their obligations and responsibilities in their respective communities, on
their farms and at home, meeting attendance by the participating farmers was very high.
The members of the groups shared a clear motivation to work collaboratively to increase
the viability of their farms and their capacity to be good stewards. This is a critical
element of collaborative on-farm research.
While the farmers are involved in different types of production, and were not all from
the same community, the collaborative approach and regular information exchange played an
essential motivational role. Everyone knew that everyone else was aware of their
particular concern, the on-farm trial they intended to carry out, and that the results
were to be shared back with the group.
Existing institutions within the agriculture sector are not encouraging this kind of
farmer-to-farmer collaboration. If anything there is a tendency to keep farmers divided by
commodity and in many other ways.
It is clear to the Conservation Council that to advance the cause of sustainable
agriculture in Canada, it must be tied to the hands-on experience of farmers themselves,
rooted in the local context, and integrated with the practice of farming. Appropriate
on-farm research would appear to provide the necessary mooring.
In the current political climate, this is not going to be fostered by government. Nor
are Canadian educational institutions predisposed to this kind of collaboration. That
leaves farm organizations as the most logical institutions to provide such a service to
Based on the success of the New Brunswick pilot project, the National Farmers Union is
in the process of developing a Sustainable Agriculture Transition Program for its members.