The seeds of a new organization aimed at protecting farmers’ rights have been planted.
The group, Ponoka Right to Farm Society, was created partly in response to Ponoka County’s quick proposed changes to its municipal development plan related to confined feeding operations (CFOs), explained co-creator John Hulsman.
He and co-creator Karen Pierik met with Ponoka News to explain what they hope to achieve with the organization.
The society’s mandate is: Striving for cooperation between all rural residents of Ponoka County to produce sustainable and responsible agriculture and future development for the benefit of the entire community.
Organizers are only just getting the society off the ground and Hulsman says they are currently working on becoming registered.
“Our membership consists of people from the farming community but also people that support us — whether it’s industry or business and beyond Ponoka,” said Hulsman.
Pierik added that they have members who own land that is registered as country residential and don’t have any work with CFOs.
She said members understand the goal of the society and feel working together will ensure everyone in the county can move forward.
Pierik added that modern farming and other land uses can co-exist. “We see it well done in Fraser Valley.”
“Agriculture can be mixed right within country residentials (land designations) but they are somehow co-habitating together,” she added.
Her hope is the group will be able to look at ways to make it work. Pierik recognizes that there are challenges that come with living next to a farm such as manure spreading. “But it is well regulated by the Natural Resources Conservation Board. (NRCB).”
She suggests that part of being a good neighbour is by keeping the lines of communication open. This would be helpful in instances where manure spreading needs to occur and the farmer could contact the neighbour stating as much. On the other side, a neighbour with wedding plans could call the farm operator and ask to hold off spreading manure on that day, suggests Pierik.
“Everything’s about creating a balance and having open communication,” she said.
To find out more about how things work in Fraser Valley, Pierik says the society is reaching out to groups in that area.
When it comes to provincial legislation, Hulsman says there are several areas where CFOs have to operate and they include NRCB and Alberta Environment guidelines.
“We are closely monitored in virtually everything we do,” said Hulsman.
“The recent CFOs are far more monitored than anything previously”
Hulsman pointed out that despite the size of some of the CFOs in the county, the majority are still family farms.
Pierik advocates for more communication with the general public with open houses to allow people to see exactly how farms operate.
Hulsman feels the demand for food is only going to grow, which will increase production at intensive livestock operations as well as other farm operations.
However, within the society’s mandate is to work together with others, said Hulsman. Working closely with neighbours is an important piece of this issue and those very neighbours end up having their kids work at his dairy farm.
“I’ve got countless high school students that will have me as a first job on their resume,” he explained. “I’d hate to be pushed away and expect these kids to drive from who knows where to do this.”
Pierik added that sentiment and said the high school kids will work early in the morning to make some extra cash while their parents are pleased to see them being productive.
The goal is to find a way to work together with residents in Ponoka County.
For those looking to get in touch with the Ponoka Right to Farm Society, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.