Ontario farmers—check out the Best Management Practices Survey

Ontario farmers—check out the Best Management Practices Survey
Feb 08, 2022

A survey for farmers that will provide advice on the best management practices for your farm. Your input is invaluable.

By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Image courtesy of Dr. Michael Drescher.

Ontario farmers… you have complained that sometimes policies and programs are made with little input from yourselves, which leads to bad policy. Here is your chance to be part of the solution, where the results from this survey will help you inform policy for best farm management practices.

The Best Management Practices Survey is part of a study directed to farmers, called “Overcoming barriers to adoption of environmental best management practices in the Ontario farm sector during times of structural change”.

Farms.com talked with survey organizer Dr. Michael Drescher, Associate Professor, School of Planning, at the University of Waterloo.

“We are trying to understand how to support Ontario farmers in implementing best management practices. Prior work by Statistics Canada suggests that best management practices are not applied as much as they could be. Of course, we have ideas why this might be the case, but we have to measure it,” explained Dr. Drescher.

“We are focusing on three best management practices: windbreaks, riparian buffers or buffer strips, and farm woodlots. We are using these three best management practices because one can see them on the landscape from far away," he continued. "This will help later in the study when we are going to use satellite images or aerial photography to measure actual landscape changes.”

He said that the results garnered from the survey will be extremely important to farmers.

“There is evidence that the three best management practices we focus on—windbreaks, riparian buffers/buffer strips, and farm woodlots—can provide on- and off-farm benefits,” noted Dr. Drescher. “These benefits include increased water quality, reduced soil erosion, lower livestock morbidity, more wildlife habitat, reduced building energy use and so forth.

“We think these benefits would be an advantage for farmers and we hope we can help farmers make more use of these benefits.”

Dr. Drescher has ample experience in this area of study, having been trained as an animal and plant ecologist in Germany, The Netherlands and South Africa, and has worked for more than a few universities and for the provincial government in Ontario.

“A few years ago, I worked on experimental farms in The Netherlands and South Africa, where I studied the behaviour of different cattle breeds. My main focus was on how the growth form of grasses can be a defense against being eaten, how this affects cattle’s nutrient intake rate, and how cattle adapt their foraging strategies to maximize nutrient intake when forage is scarce,” he related. “Lately, I have worked a lot on landowners’ land management activities.

“I try to better understand what landowners do, why they are doing it, what this does to the landscape; all in the context of sustainable land use,” he continued. “All of this comes together on farms where people manage the land and its nature, but where the land also hugely affects what people do.”

The Best Management Practices Survey is funded by OMAFRA’s Ontario Agri-Food Research Initiative, and includes research partners: the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, National Farmers Union-Ontario, and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario.

The survey is divided into seven sections, and each section has a several questions. Overall, there are just over 50 questions, and can be completed in under 15 minutes. Dr. Drescher provided Farms.com with a few examples of the questions for your consideration, to show how easy it is to complete.

Questions include:

  • How many acres of land did you own in 2021?
  • What type of livestock did you have on your farm in 2021?
  • On the lands that you own, do you have any of the following: windbreak, riparian buffer, or farm woodlot?
  • Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements: Windbreaks can provide reduced soil erosion - Strongly Agree; Agree; Neutral; Disagree, or; Strongly Disagree.
  • To what extent do you feel you have the resources required to grow or maintain windbreaks: I have the time to do this - Strongly Agree; Agree; Neutral; Disagree, or; Strongly Disagree.
  • If there were any programs that provide financial support for windbreaks, what proportion of the cost for adopting them do you think should be subsidized?

“We have no knowledge of who is filling our survey,” noted Dr. Drescher.

“However, survey participants can give us their contact details if they agree to be available for an interview or if they would like a copy of the research results emailed to them. Alternatively, survey participants can also go to the website of our research group (https://nrcpm.weebly.com/) where we will post a summary report at the study’s end in spring of 2023.”

The survey’s results will be shared with farm organizations, other organizations that have an interest in farming landscapes, and the provincial government (OMAFRA), as well as other researchers. Dr. Drescher said he hopes that the results will help in improving policies and programs that can support farmers in implementing best management practices.

“The work of farmers is hugely important for our land and our communities,” summed up Dr. Drescher. “Farmers have so much knowledge to share.

"Farmers need to be on board to help make better policies and programs.

“That is why we are reaching out—to learn from farmers, and to help improve policies and programs.”

To take part in this valuable survey, please visit:  https://uwaterloo.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_djzyecIsvf55bVk

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