The annual Eastern Hub Field Conference is a golden opportunity for the ALUS team to share experiences, troubleshoot issues, and plan for continued success.
By Casey Whitelock, ALUS Canada Eastern Hub Manager
ALUS Canada’s annual Eastern Hub Field Conference brings together ALUS program coordinators, ALUS community PAC members and ALUS Canada staff to share experiences, troubleshoot issues, and plan for continued success.
With eight ALUS communities from Ontario and Quebec represented around the table last year, in Cornwall, Ontario, our training sessions focused on grant writing, the New Acre™ Project, building community partnerships, recruiting farmer liaisons and more.
The Raisin Region Conservation Authority hosted a welcome dinner at the Cooper Marsh Visitors Centre on our first night, where we learned about the organization’s ongoing projects and partnership with ALUS Ontario East.
We also welcomed Leah Blechschmidt, from the University of Guelph, to speak about her research on the economic benefits of farm pollinator habitat.
On the first full day of the conference, ALUS Ontario East Program Coordinator, Brendan Jacobs, led a tour of several ALUS project sites in his community.
The whole delegation explored a perennial drain buffer project on ALUS participant Lawrence St. Denis’ cash crop farm. This ALUS project is a zone along a drainage ditch planted with a mixture of grasses and native trees and shrubs. It serves to reduce soil erosion by filtering rainwater that runs off the fields, thus protecting local water quality, an important ecosystem service for the community.
We visited a second ALUS Ontario East participant, Kurt MacSweyn, who has approximately 20 acres of ALUS projects on his hops and cash-crop farm. We saw some projects where MacSweyn maintains a riparian zone setback, or buffer zone along the river, as well as some hedgerow projects that produce excellent wildlife habitat on the farm.
The third stop on our tour was Cedar Croft Farm and Apiaries, where ALUS helps participant Stephen Burgess maintain his extensive wetland and reforestation projects, including sizeable pollinator-friendly plantings.
We were also impressed by the projects on ALUS participant and PAC member Marc Bercier’s farm. ALUS Ontario East helps Bercier establish and maintain a series of wetlands to collect field run-off and tile drainage from his large cash-crop operation. These wetlands help remove excess sediments and nutrients from the water before it enters the groundwater table, helping to provide cleaner water for the whole community.
The final wetland in the complex not only filters water, but also provides habitat for amphibians. During the tour, Bercier shared that bullfrogs can be heard calling throughout the spring and summer months.
Refreshed by the field tour, we resumed intensive planning and training meetings. After three days of networking, knowledge-sharing, and planning for continued success, conference participants returned to their home communities with renewed inspiration, skills and excitement to funnel into their ALUS programs.
Look for new opportunities, increased awareness and innovative projects in ALUS communities across Ontario and Quebec as a result!
Thank you to ALUS Ontario East Program Coordinator Brendan Jacobs for hosting the conference, to Raisin Region Conservation Authority for hosting the dinner, and to ALUS participants Lawrence St. Denis, Kurt MacSweyn, Stephen Burgess and Marc Bercier for showing us your ALUS projects. Thanks also to Leah Blechschmidt for presenting your fascinating research, and to all attendees from across Canada for your participation.