KAP young farmers tackle efficiency

This year’s Young Farmers conference takes several angles on reducing waste and gaining a slight edge

Efficiency is the theme of this year’s Young Farmers conference, hosted by Keystone Agricultural Producers on March 5.

“It impacts every young farmer,” said KAP organizer Thea Green. “It doesn’t matter if you’re growing cows or canola.”

This year’s Young Farmers conference is separate from KAP’s annual general meeting, held February 4 and 5. This is owing to feedback from producers saying three days was too long to take from the farm, and citing “conference fatigue.”

The theme was chosen in part because, “efficiencies matter more than ever,” said Green.

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After a couple of tough years, those who can do more with less may be the ones left standing, she said. Reducing waste is important for young farmers, especially, since they don’t have as much equity and two per cent more in their pocket may mean everything at the end of the day.

The conference features three speakers, each tackling a different area of efficiency.

Evan Shout is president of Maverick Ag Ltd. and chief financial officer of Hebert Grain Ventures, a 22,000-acre grain farm in Saskatchewan. Shout has taken data analytics to innovative places.

“If we can cut costs and increase gross revenues just by looking at data analytics, we’re going to do that,” Shout said in a September 2019 article in the Alberta Farmer Express.

At Hebert Grain Ventures, Shout tracks everything from financials to employees and equipment in the field, according to the article. However, he said the first spot to apply analytics is “your own financial statements.”

“All of your decision-making for a year — capital expenditures, financing, when you’re going to buy inputs, when you’re going to sell — can be given to you by your historical financial statements,” said Shout.

The company has also taken data analysis to employee relations. When they hire a new worker, they do personality tests and determine the person’s work style — including their favourite and least-favourite tasks.

“Losing a very valued employee can cost a business upwards of two times that salary. We want to retain people,” Shout said.

Taking a very different approach to efficiency, Pierson-area farmer Brooks White will speak on regenerative agriculture.

Brooks and Jen White were named Manitoba’s Outstanding Young Farmer of 2018.

For White, regenerative agriculture means becoming more profitable on fewer acres.

“Can we be profitable and support multiple families on our farm on fewer acres?” White told the Co-operator in a November 2019 interview. He seemed to think so — in fact, it was part of his and Jen’s five-year plan to shrink their farm.

About 90 per cent of their 5,000 cropped acres include intercrops, companion crops and cover crops. Their herd of around 600 bison grace the land year round and are integral to the cropping system.

Mitch Rezansoff, executive director of the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers will lead those at the conference through a “whiteboarding exercise,” said Green.

This exercise helps identify different forms of waste across all seasons of farming, Green said. This can be used to help make evidence-based decisions.

Near the end of the event, a panel of four experienced Manitoba farmers will answer questions and give advice on issues like access to land, succession and how young and older farmers can work together.

Green said this is an efficient way to pass down a wealth of information from the older generation to the younger.

The conference is the day after FCC’s Ignite Young Farmer Summit, and held at the same hotel (Victoria Inn Hotel and Convention Centre). Green advised that KAP has a block of rooms reserved if farmers want to take in both events.

About the author

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Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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