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Standing Committee Reports

AgScape – Alan Kruszel

Created in 1991, AgScape is a charitable organization providing objective, evidence-based, curriculum-linked programs and resources about agriculture and food literacy to educators and students in Ontario.

The AgScape Annual Meeting was held on April 26th, 2023 in Guelph. There were representatives from several farm groups, government agencies and educational interests present. AgScape had a successful year; teachers from over 300 schools across Ontario received 636 Teacher Ambassador Program (TAP) lessons for their 15,000 students. 28,800 young people in 1,200 classes attended 16 Virtual Field Trips. AgScape provided nearly 800,000 educational experiences in 2022.

Mira Lyonblum joined the staff team in 2022 as the new Executive Director while Kathryn Doan remained chair of the Board. A financial report was provided and discussed. In 2022 , AgScape had revenues of ~$800K and expenses of ~$775 ending the year with a small surplus.

OSCIA was a “Champion” level supporter of AgScape in 2022.

For further information please visit their website at

Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show 2022 – Cathy Dibble on behalf of Steve Sickle

OSCIA was pleased to take part in Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in 2023. The three-day event was very well attended, and OSCIA and OMAFRA staff partnered once again this year to develop demonstration plots and displays both inside and outside our tent.

We were pleased to use the Mobile Soil Technology Suite (MSTS) LED trailer for various presentations, including the Soil Conservation Council of Canada special presentation of the LB Thompson Award to retiring OSCIA Executive Director, Andrew Graham. The on-board sound system provided great audio for the audiences as well.

OSCIA and OMAFRA staff were kept busy all three days with producer questions and interest in our demos, displays and opportunities available to producers. Almost 600 members participated in the free member-only breakfast event held daily. Soils at Guelph participated with a display in our tent as well.  

Thanks to everyone who helped plan, set up and deliver three great days with producers.


Farm & Food Care Ontario Year in Review – Provided by Jessica McCann, Communications Coordinator for F&FC on behalf of Eleanor Renaud

Thanks to the support of longtime members like the Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), Farm & Food Care Ontario (FFCO) and its partners provided opportunities for farmers, food producers, and agribusinesses to meet and interact with urban and suburban consumers in 2023, giving those customers the chance to know more about food and farming. FFCO appreciates the continued support of OSCIA’s continued Silver level membership as members like this are foundational to FFCO’s successes, and allow FFCO to continue working to build public trust in Ontario agriculture.

Breakfast on the Farm

Three Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF)events were held across the province. This year, BOTF events took place in Huron County (dairy and beef farms) on a Napanee dairy farm and on a Brussels sprouts farm near Chatham. Over 3,300 guests were in attendance at these events to meet farmers, view displays, see livestock and enjoy all-Ontario breakfasts. OSCIA attended the third event to share the great work it is doing using an impressive digital display. Feedback for these events continues to be exceptionally positive.

Farm Tours

2023 was an exceptional year for FFCO’s on-farm tours with a record 10 tours taking place across the province. These tours included hosting three tours for more than 70 food influencers and Registered Dietitians as well as four Culinary Student Tours that help form connections with more than 145 of tomorrow’s chefs and food influencers.

In September, 20 food influencers joined FFCO on a farm tour that took them to the dairy and beef research stations operated by the University of Guelph and wrapped up the day at the Soil Health Interpretive Centre. Participants of the tour had the opportunity to participate in several soil health experiments with facilitator Heather White. The group appreciated the information gleaned on soil in with one guest commenting “I know in my mind that soil health is important, even for my own little balcony planters. However, I don’t think about soil the way I would think about the dairy, beef etc. industries. So hearing more about soil health at the Centre was very interesting and makes me realize how vital good soil health is in the farming industry and for the environment. Hearing that some changes have been made, like crop rotation, and that there’s continual research being done for better changes is very positive.”

Heather White of Soils at Guelph conducts soil health experiments at the Elora research facility with Toronto food influencers during a Farm & Food Care tour in September, 2023.

The Real Dirt on Farming

FFCO unveiled the sixth edition ofThe Real Dirt on Farming in November of 2023. The booklet is available in English and French. In early 2024, a digest version will be available, a digital educator resource will be released this winter by Agriculture in the Classroom Canada. A new 4-H manual is in development by 4-H Ontario.

Innovation and improvement in soil and crops continue to be major areas of focus in The Real Dirt on Farming publication. This edition takes to answering questions on the topics of food security, food costs and what makes soil different than dirt. It discusses livestock in relation to healthy soil, climate change and the preservation of grasslands. It also dives into agriculture in the North, different crop production strategies, plant breeding and carbon sequestered in soil. More than five million copies of The Real Dirt on Farming have been distributed since 2006.


This year was also a busy one for in-person events. In 2023 FFCO returned to the CNE with an ‘Ask-a-Farmer’ video booth, and spent the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair sharing FarmFood360 virtual tours with the public.

FFCO was invited to present to the Canadian Senate’s Committee on Agriculture and Forestry on consumer perceptions of soil and soil health. Also presenting to the committee on the work being done around soil education and awareness was Farm & Food Care SK, 4-H Canada and Agriculture in the Classroom Canada. These presentation prompted some good questions about the work being done, across many groups, on soil health.

Digital outreach

In addition to in-person events, digital outreach is a vital component of FFCO’s work.

Over the year, the online Faces Behind Food campaign told the stories of 79 individuals from a diverse cross-section of commodities and answered 38 Ask a Farmer questions while garnering over seven million impressions on Instagram and Facebook.

Two new FarmFood360 Virtual Reality tours were launched in December of an Ontario berry and dairy farm. These tours are the most recent additions to a growing collection of virtual reality farm and agribusiness tours available at Traffic to the website continues to grow, with the project generating more than 3.5 million impressions in 2023. 

In 2023 FFCO, in partnership with AgScape, hosted 17 virtual field trips. These virtual events continue to be a unique and accessible way to bring agriculture to audiences across Canada. FFCO and AgScape will continue to offer these tours throughout 2023 and are looking for farmers interested in hosting them.

Training and workshops

FFCO continues to offer media and Speak Up training. 46 presentations and training sessions were facilitated in 2023 and continue to be available for member organizations and industry groups with commodity-specific content created for each.


To learn more about all of FFCO’s initiatives, visit and subscribe to the monthly e-newsletter. Comments and questions can always be directed to FFCO staff directly at 

Toronto food influencers visited the the Soil Health Interpretive Centre during a Farm & Food Care tour in September, 2023.

Ontario Certified Crop Advisors Association – Brady Jones

On January 9th and 10th the Certified Crop Advisor Association met for their AGM in London, Ontario, with 189 CCA’s attendants. They had speakers across the US, and Canada talk about numerous topics. These Topics included drone use for pesticide applications, winter wheat, tree fruit production, herbicide resistance, phosphorus uptake in corn, and management of wire worms.

Kevin Van Netten was awarded the 21st CCA Award of Excellence at the conference. He was awarded this for his dedication to the CCA program and to the agricultural industry. They also had two new awards introduced and presented this year. The first award was named The Innovation Award which was present to Rob Miller. The award recognizes significant innovation or research within the Crop Advising field. The Second award called The Emerging Leader Award was presented to Saveetha Kandasamy. The Emerging Leader Award was created to recognize CCAs who have their CCA designation for less than five years, but have shown immense dedication and talent.

Susan Fitzgerald after previously announcing her retirement in 2023, returned to her role as Executive Director. She has been making sure all local boards are aligned and able to discuss challenges and achievements, with her new initiative to connect CCA administrators across North America, with quarterly calls.

In 2022, the number of people taking the CCA exam declined, this was due largely to a move to on-demand format, which has now been transitioned to select testing windows. In 2023, there were four exam windows, with the first one between November 1-13, 2023. This year will determine if the change will increase the number of people taking the CCA exam. 17 people gained full CCA status in 2023, and 660 CCA across  Ontario, as of 2023.

Anita Speers continued participating in 2023, with the CCA mentorship program. Anita’s mentorship project has included the creation of a podcast, the podcast is called the The Crop Corner, which provides crop information to listeners, about fruit and vegetables. Anita also attends board meetings.

In 2023, many organizations and businesses applied for CCA CEU credits of there events. There were 140 meetings approved for credits, and CCAs used these meetings to meet their continuing education requirements.

One of the first initiatives of 2024 will be to promote CCAs at the trade shows by supplying CCA table signs with a QR code that directs to the CCA Ontario website. The CCA marketing committee is continuing to educate about the CCA designation and program, and also raise grower awareness.

The Research and Innovation committee was restructured in 2023, in order to define clear objectives for the members. CCA members sit on external agronomic committees, which often involved being in the latest industry research. The new Research and Innovation committee will provide a forum for the CCA representatives that are on those external committees to discuss the solicit input from other members, and activities of the committees. In 2024, the first initiative of the restructured committee is to gain insight into research needs within the membership, by re-launching a research priorities survey.

Ontario Forage Council – Dave Schraa

There is no report currently available.

Ontario Professional Agri-Contractors Association (OPACA) – John Poel

The Ontario Professional Agri-Contractors Association (OPACA) is an organization
that represents and supports Ontario’s agri-contractors. The association is committed to
environmental and social responsibility, leading the industry in best business practices
and the adoption of technology. It works with government, farm lobby and commodity
organizations, and acts as a representative for specific concerns related to transportation,
labour & environmental regulations, and agricultural support programs. It advocates for
OMAFRA’s Custom Rates Survey for Ontario contractors and developed its own to help
gauge the ongoing needs of its membership.

In early February 2023, OPACA organized the Manure Tour which had 250 participants.
The tour showcased the new Manure Innovation video series and discussed practical
steps to improve manure management. The sessions were highly engaging events
involving fifteen people as panelists and the touring of six farms. Each of the three
sessions were comprised of farmers, consultants, manure contractors, and Christine
Brown, OMAFRA’s nutrient specialist. The farmers consisted of those from each of dairy,
hog, broiler, and turkey production and the tours included Sigview Farm’s dairy pit
aeration, the Pit King Ltd shop, Phil Van Raay’s hog manure equipment from The Whole
Pig near Dashwood, Stonecreek Farms pipeline, bedding recovery on the farm of Lennert
& Jordan Steenbeek, Woodham, Delores & Ronald Foster’s in-corn manure equipment of
North Gower Grains presented in Kemptville to show video of tanker in action, and Robert
Thurler’s new anaerobic bio-digester from South Mountain area. Mel Luymes facilitated a
discussion that started with manure management in the barn focusing on bedding,
nutrient value of manure in storage and how off-gassing contributes to lost value, then to
land application timing and placement, and also to the buying/selling of manure. Two
Manure Innovation videos, Storage Matters and Getting Manure Off Farm were played
during the discussions. Due to the interactive nature of the sessions, panelists also learned
from the audience. In Moorefield, participants were largely dairy farms and there were
many Mennonite participants there; sand bedding, compost packs and aeration were big
topics at this location. Online, there were several researchers from across the US
attending, and the discussion was more scientific. In the Dashwood area, there are large
livestock operations and many cash crop farms, so the buying/selling conversation was
emphasized. In Eastern Ontario, there were many dairy farms, but they used straw bedding and there was plenty of discussion about agitation and how to deal with crusting.

The discussions included some of the following highlights: phytase supplements can
significantly reduce the phosphorus in hog manure to the point that pork producers are
buying commercial phosphorus for field application. Beef feedlots that rely on corn-based
diets for finishing have quite different manure than other beef producers with foragebased
rations. Eastern Ontario dairy farmers use more straw bedding than their Western
counterparts, resulting in thicker manure and unique issues in breaking up the crust on
their manure pits. These farmers want more water in their pits for practicality’s sake.
Contractors discussed whether the crust could be lifted off and broadcast through a dry
spreader. They wondered what the nutrient content of each portion was. Sand bedding
improves dairy herd health but can be difficult to deal with in manure pits and is hard on
equipment. The sand has no nutrient or organic matter value and takes up storage space.
As it settles, much of the solid portion of manure goes down with it, resulting in little or no
crusting. Proper agitation of these storages with a manure crawler is critical to get
uniform nutrient application across the field. The extra time and wear on equipment is a
surcharge that nearly all custom applicators bill back to farmers. Sand bedding as part of
an anaerobic digester or pit aeration system is not recommended unless the sand can be
recovered before storage through a sand lane or screw press type separator. Bedding
recycling can work quite well in larger operations, as the bedding needs to be
heated/composted to eliminate disease issues. From a production perspective, however,
it still doesn’t beat sand bedding in terms of reduction of somatic cell count. During the
meeting, there was a comment on the slides about the size of storage and that OMAFRA
calculations are not realistic for dairy operations and lead to undersized manure pits.
Several farmers use additives and a few swear by them for making their manure
consistent and pumpable, despite their cost. There was a lot of interest in additives as the
lowest hanging fruit and people wanted to see research on which products worked well
for what – understanding that there is no catch-all additive. There was a lot of interest in
aeration and seem to be claims that it increases nitrogen, although some research would
indicate it actually may be releasing ammonia and reducing the available nitrogen in the
manure. There was discussion about aeration in manure pits with sand and whether it
would keep solids in suspension. In discussion after the meeting, contractors indicated
that it does not work and the sand still settles at the bottom, also decreasing the aeration
pathways. There didn’t seem to be much interest in acidification from the participants
because of the dangers associated, and in Eastern Ontario, it may not be an issue where a
thick crust covers the manure and reduces methane losses. There was interest in
anaerobic digestion but farmers knew that it was a whole new level of management to
take care of a digester, though there was interest in bedding recovery potential after
digestion. There was interest in Thurler’s digester because it will collect their neighbours’
manure and farm waste, allowing them to take back their digestate for application, but
storage will remain a concern and the pH of digestate in the Nitrogen off-gassing potential
was discussed. Most of the conversation focused on manure into standing corn. Farmers
that have drag hosed manure pre-emerge or before 4-leaf stage say that it works well, but that in a no-till system, the drag hose can pile up field residue and create issues. After 5-
leaf stage, the corn’s growth point has emerged and it will not recover as easily from
trampling, although Fosters drive a tanker with skinny tracks between their corn for later
manure application and Kraayenbrink’s tanker also had success. The Cadman CMA system
was discussed as an option for later in-corn application but no one knows if anyone uses it
in Ontario yet Other systems in Ohio or the Netherlands (Veenhuis) are more simple, with
the drag line remaining on the spreader, but contractors thought those would be too
heavy for Ontario conditions. Contractors that have done in-corn manure for customers
don’t often get to hear the results but the rumour is that in-corn manure application can really improve yields and they’d like to see Ontario research on this. Hayters and other poultry farmers have broadcast
solid manure on corn as well, and incorporated it with a scuffler unit immediately. It
improves yields but takes a lot of time and smaller equipment, so can be impractical.
Application on winter wheat in the spring was discussed, and on rye. If the plant is small
enough, on-crop application can work without trampling damage, but early application
can mean running before April 1st or working in non-ideal weather and soil conditions.
Dribble bars and injectors work well only if the manure quality is good, with no large
chunks and no debris in the pit. In-line macerators are a solution but there is a cost to
them as well. A contractor in Eastern Ontario was the first to install John Deere’s
HarvestLab 3000 manure sensing technology but says that despite the ability to let
customers know the as-applied NPK values, his customers still only care about gallons/
acres at this point. From his perspective, though, he is able to see the wide variation of
nutrient values from the top of the pit to the bottom. There was some discussion on the
application of manure to a cover crop in the summer. AgriSuite does not account for the
added benefit of cover crop growth to soil health and the nutrient forwarding potential
because this is not yet well understood. In Dashwood there seemed to be the most
interest in buying and selling manure, with farmers wanting to have a definitive value for
it, instead of ‘it depends on how much you need to have it/get rid of it.’ A farmer say he
paid 50% of both the P and K values, or the full value of the P, although in livestock dense
areas, some said they would just give it away for the cost of haulage.

In early 2022, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) released
Ontario’s 2021 Custom Rates report. However, due to rising fuel and equipment prices,
the report was already outdated by the time it was published. In early 2023, the Ontario
Professional Agri-Contractors Association (OPACA) conducted a survey of their members’
current custom rates and compared them with OMAFRA’s report. Although there was a
smaller sample size, on average, their rates were twenty-five percent higher. Over 20% of
OPACA members work on over 15,000 acres in a year and invest in the latest equipment
and technology. In the same 2023 survey, the majority of OPACA members indicated that
they have row-shut offs and variable rate technology. Many also have Central Tire
Inflation Systems (CTIS) that reduce soil compaction. On average, OPACA businesses had
been operating for 20 years and their operators are trained and experienced, often with
in-house agronomists and mechanics. They have up-to-date licenses for spraying and manure application, with the necessary insurance so that farmers can have peace of

The August Car Tour was an interesting day that started at ADS in Thorndale touring the
drainage pipe manufacturing facility. That was followed by a visit to the Upper Thames
River Conservation Area’s Controlled Drainage demo farm down the road. The day
wrapped up at A&L Labs in London for lunch and a tour of their facilities with a glimpse in
soil testing in the future.

OPACA is currently working on finding ways to improve insurance rates and coverage for
its members, creating a costing spreadsheet for contractors, organizing a bus tour to
Eastern Ontario, as well as improving government relations.

Ontario Agricultural Conference Committee – Mary-Margaret Mcdonald on behalf of John Poel

The 2024 Ontario Agricultural Conference was held both in-person and virtually, with concurrent sessions and TEC Talk Tuesdays to provide a variety of learning opportunities for participants. The virtual kick-off on January 3rd had 230 viewers, while the Southwest Ag conference in Ridgetown had about 1000 attendees over the days of the 4th and 5th. The Eastern Ontario Crop Conference in Kemptville had about 180 in-person attendees on January 14th, and the Midwest Ag Crop Conference at RIM Park in Waterloo hosted approximately 235 in-person participants on the 19th. All sessions from each of the live locations were recorded and made available for viewing on the Ontario Agricultural Conference website within a few short days. The conference was a culmination of effort from a big team of individuals drawing from their experiences of previous years to ensure that the best of virtual and in-person experiences as possible were delivered. The sponsors have been a critical partner in the #OAgC24 success, and without them, the conference would not have been possible. 

“TEC Talk Tuesdays” resumed on January 9th and will continue through to the end of February to provide seven evenings of engaging discussions. Conference attendees have the opportunity to explore, discuss, and ask questions about conference sessions and topics. Each Tuesday evening will focus on a specific topic area that was addressed in the conference lineup. The sessions have been well attended so far, and approximately 700 virtual attendees joining the discussions are anticipated in total over the course of the TEC Talk Tuesdays webinar series. For those who missed the live sessions, registration is still open. All 59 on-demand sessions are still available, as well as the Exhibition Hall, Conference Resources, and even a Conference Workbook for viewing until March 31, 2024.

Planning for the 2025 Conference is already underway, and evaluations will help to continue to shape the conference’s future.