Annual meetings of commodity groups could soon be more convenient and worthwhile for Manitoba farmers if a proposal for a joint meeting is accepted.
“I’m really excited about this,” said Ernie Sirski, a director with the Manitoba Canola Growers Association.
The idea would be to have one large event held over several days. Groups would pool their money to attract top-quality keynote speakers, but also have separate breakout sessions, including their annual meetings, said Sirski, who farms near Dauphin.
The Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, Manitoba Corn Growers Association, and National Sunflower Association of Canada already do just that during their annual Special Crops Symposium.
The sunflower and pulse associations expressed interest in including other commodity groups when the idea was broached at a recent meeting organized by the canola growers which attracted reps from sunflower, pulse, canola, winter cereals, flax, hemp and new cereal groups, Sirski said. There was no oats representative there, but their association wants to participate, said Sirski, adding he hopes corn growers will also join in.
A working committee has been set up to explore the idea and will meet April 9 in Carman, with an eye to making it happen as soon as next year.
“We want to get a good feel about making this go or not before spring seeding,” Sirski said.
In addition to having more money for top speakers, a large event would attract more farmers and be a great networking opportunity, he said.
“My pitch is it would be beneficial for all commodity group members in Manitoba,” he said.
It can be a struggle to get farmers out to annual meetings. For example, aside from directors, the recent Winter Cereals Manitoba annual meeting in Portage la Prairie drew fewer than 20 farmers. But the Manitoba Canola Growers Association has attracted a larger crowd by adding events such as a combine clinic or this year’s canolaLab.
Part of the problem is there are fewer farmers and more organizations, and even Sirski said he just doesn’t have time to attend all their annual meetings.
Alberta’s annual FarmTech conference could serve as a model, he said. This year, 1,700 farmers attended that meeting in Edmonton jointly held by Alberta’s canola, barley, pulse, wheat and seed grower associations.
FarmTech is similar to Manitoba’s annual Ag Days meeting in that it includes a large agricultural trade show, as well as keynote speakers and seminars. In fact, some of the same keynote speakers presented at both events.
Crop Production Week in Saskatoon also brings a number of commodity groups together for joint sessions, as well as individual commodity group annual meetings.